Introduction part 9 – Family changed my life
This post is part of the introduction series. If not read already, I recommend to start with the Introduction part 1
A couple of years passed since I learn about this FIRE movement (see my previous post) and faster than I can prepare it, I moved from my 2 rooms apartment not so close to my work in Geneva (I was in between Lausanne and Geneva more or less), to another 2 rooms in Lausanne to be with my soon to be wife. Less than a year later we got happily married with 1, then 2 and shortly after 3 kids. In between we moved to a larger, better and cheaper apartment a few meters away from the previous one, everything was going well. These first years starting a family passed extremely fast. You have so much (more) to do, you have much less hours of sleep and you have to adapt your life to all these changes and set priorities. Before the born of our third, we were both working, me and my wife, always commuting between our home, our work place and the day care. The place at public daycare that we finally got was at least 20min, if not 30 to 35min in case of heavy traffic, in the opposite direction of both of our job. Despite the fact that we choose to live in the city center of the largest city in the French speaking region of Switzerland, 10min walk from the train station connecting all major cities directly and 15 meters away from a public daycare where we never got any place after more than 4 years of waiting, if you count that we register 6 months before birth of our first child, as early as it was possible. You see how much priority has families in cities plans. On top of that my job was outside the city center of another large city, Geneva, in the most crowded place in Switzerland (more than 12’000 people per kilometer square, 3 times more than Zurich, 4 times more than Lausanne). The commuting time by car was between 45min and 1h30 depending on the traffic (mostly 45min to 1h to go in the morning but never less than 1h15 to 1h30 to come back in the evening) so I end up commuting by train and bus, even if it would be 1h30 one way door to door, I would have some of this time more or less free to do other thing on the train.
With the third kids coming, this became no more manageable. We were spending most of our working days in the car or public transports, forced to wake up the kids very early and getting them back just on time for supper and bed. On top of that the cost of daycare for the 3 kids, even at 40 or 60%, would cost a large part of the extra money earn by my wife salary, add up extra taxes, transportation, lunch at work and it was close almost insignificant compare to all the stress and the hassle. After discussion, as my wife didn’t like her job much more than that and I was making more money per hours as I was working for more years, we were facing the harsh reality that we would be forced to adopt the traditional family type, with the husband working 100% and the wife staying at home with the kids. But taking car of kids and household, even more with 2 or 3, is more than a full time job and my support was necessary and also wished by me as I wanted to spend time with my family.
We looked for an apartment near my job but as I explained above, it was in the most expensive area in Switzerland, no 3 bedrooms apartment would be affordable with my salary and our family to support, and even if we would be willing to pay the high price, that would have been 3000CHF per month at the very least (average monthly rental price is above 30CHF per meter square in the area), they were dozen of others fighting to get the apartment before us. Even if they would have been other solution, we gave up on the idea to leave closer to my work. So the only other option is to get a job closer to our home. I have been searching and searching for months. After refusing some underpaid jobs very close to our home, I got within a few weeks two good offers both in different areas of Switzerland. The first one in a smaller city, not far from our home one, with slightly more affordable housing but the job itself was slightly less attractive, came with lower salary and more importantly limited to 2 years only with vague promise to convert it to unlimited contract eventually but not necessarily in the same city. The second one was much further, in another region, where people speak another language (Switzerland the country of 3 languages, even 4 officially) but with a much higher salary, a fixed position and a job that I was much more interested in with possible evolution. On top of that the area was quite rural, with only relatively small cities close by, and housing was among the most affordable in the country with very high vacancy, so it is extremely easy to find a nice apartment or even a house (but of course then a bit more difficult to leave or sell). A decision was needed, and it will affect the whole family on many positive and negative aspect. While I was looking for a new job, I got some opportunities abroad. We were quite open to discover new places and new countries. Here this would be 1h30 away from our home region, quite far but no big deal, it’s what I was doing every day to go to work, we can do it a couple of time per month to see our family and friends. And if we would have end up abroad, we would have seen them much less, it’s win-win I was thinking.
Beside the relative distance to our contacts, the language was one negative aspect from our point of view. As we came from the French speaking region of Switzerland, we would have to move to a 100% German speaking Canton (some are bi-lingual around the virtual border), and the worst if that despite the official language being German, people mostly speak Swiss German (and even write by SMS or sometimes in email), a dialect that vary more or less from region to region that is sometimes even difficult to understand by native German speakers from Germany or Austria. So integration would be a challenge. With the positive side that our kids would be bi-lingual by learning German and a some Swiss German as well, from School and their friends. On the other positive side, on top of the job itself, we would have a chance (more or less difficult) to improve our German and more importantly, we could finally have a larger apartment with a garden for the kids for less than a small one with a tiny balcony in Lausanne (and I would not even speak about Geneva an surrounding). On top we could leave 1km from my work place and do most of the commute to school and work by bike or even by foot. We were sold on the idea of much simpler life and started the adventure.
Starting a family was really the trigger that would quite quickly change our priority to living in a big city with restaurants, bars, cinema, nightclub and shopping and spending most of our money on travel, to make our life easier and simpler in order to have more time to spend with our kids and less in transport or at work. We had to make this hard choice to leave our home region and living further from our family and friends, in order to be able to afford this. The down side is that social contact more rare now, even more for my wife that stay at home all day and have no friends close by. So we, and my wife even more than me, spend a lot more time traveling by car on weekend. Of course the pandemic situation that happen shortly after we moved, didn’t help in any aspect, with less possibility to socialize outside of per-existing groups, German classes cancelled and some leisure closed down.
Whenever we would get use to this new area or decide to move back to the French speaking area, that start only 30 minutes away from here, again no big deal, even more with possibility to to even more easily home office than before, we faced another challenge. We increased our housing cost in the upgrade (as our previous apartment was way below market prices and much smaller) and increase our car usage (but not by a lot, we were using the car quite often even by living in a huge city as all family and most friends were living in small villages around us), everything else were supposed to be reduce. Less taxes, less restaurant, bar, city activities, less travel (thus we manage to travel more or less like usual in 2020 with one long and one short holiday but only by car this time), less time to spend on gadget and video games,… Still our finance were not changing much, never going negative but never increasing much our main account. How could we save if money is never increasing on our account? Where is all our money going this time? After a failed attempt around 2017/2018 to track our expenses (initiated by my wife at the time but I was not enough supportive as I didn’t realize the difficulty of the task), I was this time determined to do it properly and in long term. I get prepared end of 2020, open our first third pillar accounts, update the budget/expense tracking file and start fresh on 1st of January (the only time I make a kind of new year resolution) and see what will happen. Now 6 months to go, we had some bad but also good surprises. We are still not saving a lot but we are saving some at least. We made some mistake, I didn’t took into account a buffer large enough, had too some investment that should not be used short terms and for some complicated reasons end up paying almost twice more taxes this year as we were always one year behind since the move. Still I have learn a lot thanks to blogs, website and books about personal finance in Switzerland and in general. As we continue our journey to track and improve our finance and create a reliable budget. I would like to share on this blog, what tools and services I used, tips I would like to learn much earlier and even general personal finance knowledge that should have been taught at some point during my long years of studies or from my parents that were in fact in a kind of similar situation as we are, moving outside a big city to a smaller one and then to a village with a mom at home and father taking care of the family finances (even more as he as he was actually working in the finance sector).
This conclude my very long introduction. I didn’t intend to write a book about my life but first I wanted to write this introduction for myself, I think I needed it to be honest, as my love for writing. My autobiography would have been much much longer, maybe interesting, maybe not, but definitely not relevant here. In this introduction I selected stages from my life that were necessary to make my readers understand my point of view, my situation and the one from my family, as I intend to write on various topics more or less related to my life experiences. Some posts will be more focus on family life, life in Switzerland, life choices in general, some will be on personal finance, investments, including cryptocurrencies as I have already some experience in it and some will be on digital tools and privacy online as it is topics I strongly care about.