When I started this blog in September last year, I did so with the thought there weren’t much Dutch or even European finance bloggers out there. Little did I know.
I’ve connected with the world of #FIRE through 2 top-notch bloggers out there, Jason Fieber (formerly known as Dividend Mantra) and MMM. When Dividend Mantra was no more, I quickly ended up looking for other blogs and found sites like Dividend Diplomats and later on some others as well. But it wasn’t for after I started Divnomics when I learned how big this community really was.
Still, it looks like the growing flow of FIRE and personal finance blogs has much more ground in the US than in Europe. How could that be, and is it really the case?
It’s very interesting to learn how tax systems work in other countries, how governments view change when it come to retirement planning and the value of money can be so inherent to the place you live. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the same the other way around?
Over the past month, I’ve met several other Dutch bloggers (in digital and real life) and continue to find more and more blogs from Europeans talking about money. What really helps are the blogrolls on various sites I follow, which eventually was the reason I’ve put up one of our own.
I have no clue on how long this community already exists, or that it just magically appeared when the number of interested people reached a certain point. There are some among us that retired more than a decade ago and others that are just starting out. I count us to the latter, obviously. And there are some which don’t write but only read. And are fueling this community with their views and opinions. The number of blogs might only be the peak of the iceberg you see floating above the surface. The true community is much bigger than that.
Related: there is a beautiful post on the history of F.I.R.E on Rockstar Finance
The Personal Finance blog directory already contains 1050 personal finance blogs from all over the world. Because of this directory I now know the following things:
There are many registered blogs on money and personal finance and still counting.
And only 7 of them are from Dutch bloggers….
The biggest source of EU blogs is the UK, with almost 60 sites in the online blogosphere. What is going on there? Somebody knows?
But the biggest chunk of the blogs is originated from the US, with 779 registered blogs.
This means that the majority of Personal Finance blogs is written in English. Which are not limited to US and UK blogs only.
I know there are more blogs out there than there are just in the PF directory, and more people involving with early retirement than only bloggers. Thanks to the meet-ups from Cheesy Finance and Amber Tree Leaves, the fire is spreading already.
However, if it wasn’t for this directory… how long would it have taken me to found out about these blogs?
It’s a great thing that so many people are sharing what they know and are openly talking about their numbers. And it’s even a much greater thing to reach an audience that gets something out of your writings.
But for some reason, on this side of the pond, it still feels a very small thing. A movement that just didn’t get totally off the ground yet. And I have no idea on how this came to be.
There a few reasons I could think of on why this might be so:
Scattered languages and regulations
Across Europe, we don’t all speak the same language or are living under the same governmental circumstances. For example in the Netherlands, you only pay 15% taxes over dividend income. In Belgium, this tax bracket is 30% which is the double then I’m used to. Also the ages on when you would have to retire differ per country, and even more importantly: the way you build up a retirement fund through work or on your own varies a lot.
The US is much bigger in the sense of the rules and circumstances are more equal. So more people face they same opportunities and limitations and are also more likely to share them with each other.
One of the regulations that are really different than in the Netherlands is that you have to invest into your own retirement account, and therefore need a pro-active attitude in order to retire with a soothing mind. In the Netherlands, you’re directly enrolled into a retirement fund when working, you don’t have to add anything yourself. The input for this fund is automatically being arranged between the employer and the pension fund. So it’s made very easy for us to just relax, work over a lifetime and have a very decent retirement waiting for us at the end.
A big reason to start with FIRE in the Netherlands is the ever pushing backward retirement age (currently 71 for me) and the negative pressure on retirement payments due to the low-interest rates set by the ECB. These were the reasons that made our decision to pursue FIRE much easier. So yes, we notice a trend that more people are looking for alternatives. But many don’t go past the frugal living stage or as we call it: “consuminderen” (consume less). But then without the idea of getting out of the corporate world earlier.
Who doesn’t know the stories about the mediocre guy that build up 1 million dollars before 30? Or that couple that managed to assembled $500.000 and started traveling the world? Or the one blogger that earns masses of money with working from home?
Almost every story I read that covers something like the above is about people living in the states. In the land where you build your own dreams and build your golden mountains these stories help to inspire many others to realize it can be done within a lifetime. Of course, I’m talking about retiring early here. There is far less regulation in the US, causing it to be more interesting to just do it.
Besides the media in the Netherlands barely touches this subject, where investing can still be a scary thing and your retirement is planned for you. The shareability of these stories are less interesting here, or so it seems.
Due to fewer media coverage, there is also less information available for the average John Doe. How would they know that something like a FIRE or Personal Finance movement is on the rise?
We have a fairly well social system here, and some other countries in the EU as well. I can imagine the intrinsic motivation to pursue entrepreneurship or FIRE might be less. However, in the Netherlands, there are numerous of entrepreneurs who start their own company each year. And there are numerous people that like to live more simply and maintain a meaningful life and perform the stealth wealth method.
So maybe we’re not that openly about our ambitions, online there is. I still feel restraint when I talk to others about it. And I would rather not at all. What if my co-workers find out that this is what’s going on? Building up a career seems contradictory with aiming for financial independence, and early retirement even more.
Sharing our stories is important. The internet provides an anonymous corner were I and many others can let out our money chatter to the other side, our readers.
I can’t speak for all of Europe, but only for my own experience from the Netherlands. So if you live in Europe and think of FIRE, speak up. Is FIRE something you can easily achieve in Europe? Is it bigger than I think? Care to share your own experience, no matter where you live? Would love to hear!