A last post from Korea

As I write this I am sitting at my strangely empty desk at work, next to my bags that are stuffed with the last remaining bits (mainly clothes!) that I will take with me out of Korea. It is officially our last contracted day. We have handed over the keys to our apartment, are wrapping up final things at work and then getting on a bus to Seoul to spend the weekend with friends ❤  I will do a post on this week’s spending and a big wrap up of our financial year in Korea but that will probably only happen once we have left. But before we leave I just wanted to do one more post from Korea. It’s a bit different for this blog – it’s an extract from a book (the most wonderful, beautiful book set in South Africa pre-Apartheid) that I have just finished reading. But I thought this extract offered so many themes that speak to the values and ideas behind early retirement, financial independence, self-sufficiency and worth that I thought I should share it with you, dear Reader:

[Mid-1920s on a Karoo Farm]

“In the dim pantry, their mother… notices the sorting that her fingers are busy with and it comes to her that this inessential work with the fruit is all that is left in this hour of the day to hands that once smoothed the clay, dung and blood of the very floor of this room. Her strong pale legs and feet, bared to the thigh, had tramped and mixed the mud for this room’s bricks. The food her children ate, and the clothes they wore, and the letters they learned to recognize, and the shelter over their heads, all had come at least in part, and often in large part, from her, but in the course of her lifetime this great round of work, the labour that had placed her at the core of her family, had been shared out to a hundred or more men, men she will never know, whose goods arrive in trucks in the town to be fetched by the farm – butchered beef and ground meal and packaged coffee, milled soap, loomed cloth, sewn shirts, machined boots and stamped tin. In her imagination the factories radiate from her home, busy as they are on her behalf (and that of a thousand thousand other women) with the tasks she once did.

And at the core of this system of energy and product are not her body and capable mind, not the skills, from honing a needle to building a house, that live in her, but the cash box in the farm safe. The flimsy pounds, the coins and half coins, these are at the centre now, and where is she? And if she, a woman on a working farm, knows her labour to have been usurped – sees her daughter and daughters-in-law cast about for occupation, for value in their days, sees the mothers among them turn from their own lives to fold themselves around their children and draw from them more meaning than motherhood can bear – how much less valued must be the women of the cities?”  (p. 97 – 98)

  • The Magistrate of Gower by Claire Robertson (2015)

Chat soon, dear Reader! Much love,

Xxx

 

My Beginner’s Understanding of Investing – Part 2: I’m not a financial advisor…

The other thing I keep reminding myself is that I am not a financial advisor. This is brilliant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it removes a kak load of pressure. I am not an expert. So I cannot be expected to understand things like an expert. I am aiming for bare basic fundamentals. I do not need to know about every nuance of the investing game. Secondly, I am not alone. If I want to get shmansy-pants with my investing then I can pay an expert to do this for me. There is support out there and I can access it if I need to. And thirdly, it reminds me of my limits. Put simply: I should never mistake my googling for a qualification in finance and investing.

So why try to learn anything about investing at all then? Why not just march straight to a financial advisor and have them do it for me? Good question, dear Reader. The main reason is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Research shows that people who know nothing about a topic know so little that they don’t even know that they don’t know. The world of social media and the mass of ignorant, but weirdly strongly felt, opinions suddenly makes sense now doesn’t it? Knowledge and your awareness of your knowledge basically works like this:

  1.  I know so little that I don’t know that I don’t know.
  2.  I know enough to know that I don’t know.
  3.  I know what I know and what I don’t know – but it’s quite new and uncomfortable.
  4.  I know what I know and what I don’t know – and it feels like a comfortable part of my knoweldge base.

For example, my brother is an engineer and he works at a plant that makes petrol. For the life of me I cannot figure out why they need engineers on call 24 hours a day… Surely, they have developed a recipe for petrol by now?! So surely this recipe can just be automated and rolled out? Easy peasy.

This is a PERFECT example of someone who knows so little that they don’t even realise that they don’t know. And you can see why it’s a very dangerous position to be in. Well-intentioned actions can have horrific consequences if the ignorant person has any power (for example, if I was in charge of my brother’s company the first thing I would do is probably send half the people on holiday because I cannot imagine how making petrol with fancy machines also needs so many fancy people).

The problem is this:

I (the financially ignorant one) am the person who ultimately has all the power with regards to my finances.

And I’m terrified that I know so little that I’m going to well-intentionally but ignorantly completely balls things up. So I suppose that we can celebrate at least that I know enough to know that I actually don’t know anything at all 🙂 I also want to learn about investing because if I do get a financial advisor I want to know enough to be able to make an informed decision about whatever the financial advisor recommends. For example, prior to The Brat Experiment if a financial advisor had said to me that I can only retire at 60 it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind that they might be wrong. So I guess, what I’m saying, is that I’m trying to teach myself the basics about investing so that I can be informed enough to make sure the experts are giving me what I want.

Also, who am I kidding? I love the self-empowering, self-sufficiency of it all 🙂 And the more I read about it the more it BOGGLES my mind that the bare basics of financial hygiene isn’t taught at school…

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My final trip to the dentist yesterday (South Korea, 2016)

Xxx

The beginnings of self-sufficiency :)

Before the weekend begins (55 minutes and counting!) I thought that I would do a quick post about our slowly-slowly, gently-gently beginnings of self-sufficiency. It’s all happened in the last 3 weeks or so, not out of any conscious decision but simply because we happened to want to at the time (a result of The Brat Experiment or simply a coincidence of timing?!) And so I thought that I would share our experiments with you:

Apricot Jam 🙂

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A co-teacher invited me to go apricot picking. On top of it being fun it also resulted in my bringing home 4kg of (free!) apricots. There was no way the two of us were going to get through them all so we came up with a plan: “a jam plan!” (Any Friends watchers out there??) Not only was the jam MUCH easier to make than we ever imagined, it was also WAY cheaper and more fun than buying jam and it tastes delicious 🙂

Mandoo-Guk (Korean Dumpling Soup)

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We love Korean food. But up until now the only way we could eat it was to go out to a restaurant or order in (read: pricey). The bigger problem with this though is that when we leave Korea it will be REALLY hard for us to eat Korean food because there won’t be the abundance of Korean restaurants that there are here. The clear answer is that we need to learn to cook it ourselves 🙂 So I started asking my co-teachers for tips and eventually soup seemed to be the easiest starting point. Also, it’s a massive part of Korean food (there is usually soup with breakfast, lunch and dinner) and so it’s also a good cornerstone to get right. What really surprised me though was how EASY it was to get right. The hard part was the shopping (trying to identify the ingredients in the shop – no small feat when everything is written in Korean!) but it was all downhill from there. And way cheaper than cooking our (Western) food (with Western = expensive ingredients) at home. And really tasty 🙂

Gimbap 🙂

This is delicious, healthy and one of our favourite Korean foods. It is technically a rice roll with veges and whatever else you want to put inside but is best described to Westerners as street food sushi. It’s amazing. It takes some time to prepare (have to cook some fillings beforehand) but the hardest part is getting the roll right… but after eating a few gimbap salads (as opposed to beautiful, tight rolls) we finally got the hang of it:

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The ingredients (the floor seemed the best place to do it!)

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This was our first attempt but we found that it rolled (stuck) better if we spread the rice thinly over all of the seaweed

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Stick whatever fillings you want on the rice

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We like mayonnaise too (also it helps it stick!)

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Paint the seaweed join with sesame seed oil

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And (after a few tries!): ta-daaaaaaaa! 😀

Have a fabulous weekend, dear Reader 🙂

Xxx