Advise to a friend

I decided to share this on my blog as well – some advice I gave to a colleague when he expressed interest in what I was investing in.  People are stunned when I come up with this in conversation, but it’s not that I’m an investing guru – I’ve just read lots of great blogs on the matter.  And I’ve had many years of practice and making mistakes – ever since my Dad got me started with a decent sum of money in an investment account for me to work with (Thanks Dad!!).

I started off with sharing the best investment series I’ve ever read.  I love Jim’s blog – he’s got heaps of great advice and a fantastic writer. 🙂

His full series on investing

If you don’t have time to read all of that (it’ll take a while, don’t blame you), read through these first:

What I invest in

Advise below is from a New Zealand point of view, where I mention FIF or taxes, review your own country’s policies on foreign investment.  If you’re from AU, UK or US you can invest in Vanguard directly and then you just need to follow standard investment tax information.
My hubby and I invest in Vanguard ETFs – VAS (Aus 200 index) VTS (US index), VEU (world index) and NZ index SmartFunds

 

NZ SmartFunds are an easy place to start, but they have quite high management fees
 0.75%.  It doesn’t sound a lot, but it adds up over many years!!
Inline image 2
Vanguard – yay! VEU is only 0.13%
 Compare to Vanguard which is from 0.05% to 0.20%

 

Inline image 1
SmartFunds – 0.75% – not so smart 😦

 

 

Smart Funds allows you to sign up and invest a small amount monthly, like $100 or $500 – might be a good way to start saving and investing, then the investing bug might bite!

 

Downsides to direct investment in AU Vanguard:

  1. International investments over $50k (single account) or $100k (joint account) will mean you’ll have to pay FIF tax.  Below this you’ll need to pay tax on the dividends you receive.  Over $2500 a year in RIT kicks you into provisional tax regardless!
  2. You’ll have to be disciplined to not sell your shares if there’s a market crash, and you’ll be tempted to fiddle with the assets – buy/sell when you think the market is high or low.  It doesn’t work – you just have to leave it X)
  3. Each purchase incurs broker fees, so you have to do the math (And save up enough) for a purchase that’s enough to meet the minimum brokerage fee, else you’re leaving money on the table.
  4. The US and world index funds don’t re-invest the dividends for you.  You’ll be sent Australian cheques that you then have to cash in at the bank where the tellers need to work out every single time how to process an international check!  You can pay your broker to handle that, but it’s more money on the table you could be saving instead.
  5. You need to do the purchasing of shares every now and then – can be anxiety provoking.

Alternative to investing in the market directly yourself:

If you don’t feel confident to tackle the stock market just yet, sign up for a managed fund like SuperLife – they charge lower fees than most fund managers, as they in turn invest in low fee ETFs themselves.  They’ll diversify your portfolio for you across international and local markets, plus they handle all the tax for you as it’s a PIE fund – WIN!  They are pretty much investing in Vanguard like ETFs and Smart Shares on your behalf.

 

 

If I didn’t know too much about the stock market already, and didn’t really enjoy managing my portfolio and tracking it myself, I’d sign up for this.

 

Alternative, alternative to investing:

Simply increase the percentage you save on the Kiwisaver you’re on (You are signed up for it right?? ) [Note this is the NZ equivalent of a employer match saving scheme into a fund that you can’t withdraw on until a certain age/retirement)

 

It’s got tax incentives (I think…) and it should be a fairly decent investment.  You will need to just…
  1. Check what fees your Kiwisaver company is charging ( SuperLife was the cheapest when I signed up)
  2. Make sure your Kiwisaver is going into a “growth” fund or similar that invests mostly in the stock market.  You don’t want it in a “income” or “conservative” type fund – that’s for seniors who are about to cash out 🙂

Kiwisaver is awesome because the employer contribution is like getting a 100% ROI right off the bat.  There is no investment that will give you 100% back for your contribution.  I think my company matches up to 3% or so, but there’s nothing stopping you from paying in more to save up.

I think I’ve had a ROI of 110% so far with the employer and government contributions, and the investment growth – WIN!

Downside is you can’t withdraw until a certain age, except for when you want to buy your first home.  Not being able to withdraw the money could be a good thing!
Hopefully this was useful, and good luck with starting out in investing!!
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How to come out ahead of house buyers when renting

I’ve just done a very interesting calculation tonight on my trusty rent vs buy worksheet.

Common wisdom says that you should rather pay a mortgage than throw money away on rent, no matter how expensive the mortgage is (after all, houses always go up in price right?).  Well here’s a nice example of why that doesn’t work so well when your country has a high interest rate compared to the US!

I am comparing a house valued at about $475 000 against a weekly rental of $490.  This is what we’re currently considering moving to! I had thought the rental very expensive taking into consideration the size (smallish) and area (lower decile schooling).  We are currently getting away with $415 a week on our current rental, but it’s quite far from work for both of us.  We should save about $50 a week on petrol, so it’s only a small bump up (Trying to console myself here, but anyway).

If we were to buy the house, we’d need to have a deposit of $95 000, selling shares to do so.  And leaving aside the fact that I would *never* sell all my shares just to invest in a single house… (Wow, the diversification on that would be horrendous!).

We would have to take out a 20 year mortgage to afford the monthly repayments.

Expense Monthly cost
Mortgage Repayment $2722
Interest repayment (part of mortgage payment) $1139
Rates and Body Corporate (if applicable) $158
Maintenance $148
House insurance $67
Total monthly cost (Buying) $3095
Total monthly cost (Renting) $2123

I’ve estimated the house would be worth $743,430 after 20 years, at a conservative 3% increase per year. If Auckland continues at 10% over the next decade then God help us all. 😉

With selling costs of $37600, that comes to $705,830 money in the bank at the end of it.
You’ve also actually spent a total of $653,385 paying off the mortgage.
So you could say you’ve come out ahead $52445, and you have a house/pile of money worth $705,830.

So the secret to renting is this…

And this is the key, because apparently not many people realise this or actually do it… Take the difference between what you would have paid on mortgage, rates and maintenance, and save it instead. Invest in shares preferably rather than stuffing cash into a bank.  In this case, the difference saved per month would be $972 per month, invested for 20 years.  Initial investment amount would be $95,000 (deposit amount that you still have), minus bond of $2000.

Compounded monthly, at a conservative rate of 7%, that’s about $884,897.08 at the end of 20 years. You would have spent $509,520 on rent.
That means you come out ahead $375,377 and you have a pile of shares worth around $884,897.

So some small tweaks that can affect these figures:

  • House price increases – could be a lot worse than 3% over the next decade and unlikely historically to be more.  Taking into account inflation it’s likely your house is worth not much more than when you bought it.
  • Stock market returns – very likely to be worse than 7% over the next decade since the market is a bit expensive at the moment.  But over 20 years we can expect to see 7% on average (Actually, I think it’s more like 11%, but taking into account *inflation* here.
  • We could move into a cheaper rental, or we could buy a shed or fixer-upper to save on housing costs.  It’s unlikely we’ll do either!  My husband doesn’t like the “Live in a RV” idea 😦

 

So what do we live on when we’re old and grey??

Well, firstly, you can’t eat your house. So if you’re banking on living on your house, you’ll need to save something every month anyway.

Secondly, that pot of $800k will be able to pay out about $32,000 (4%) if you have a mixture of shares and bonds. That will pay for a seriously nice rental!

Or you could move somewhere a bit cheaper, buy a decent house, and live off the rest.

 

Gaaah, I want a home to call my own!!

In the end, it’s a personal choice. It’s the luxury of knowing you belong somewhere, that you won’t be kicked out by the landlord, that if you dent a wall you can just not care.

I am right there with you, wanting a place of my own. But please recognise that renting is not throwing money down the drain….

… As long as you invest the difference!

Credit to my wise Dad for the advice, to myself and Excel for the calculations.

Also see:

Buy vs Rent comparison

Note this doesn’t take into account investing the difference!  In my case, it worked out renting is better than buying for less than 7 years.  After that we would break even.

Investment Savings calculator:

http://www.moneychimp.com/calculator/compound_interest_calculator.htm

Mortgage repayment calculator:

https://www.sorted.org.nz/calculators/mortgage-repayment

Rental/Buy price comparison:

http://www.trademe.co.nz

Or use local statistics – I couldn’t find any for my suburb so I used a 3 bedroom house for sale in the same area, compared with the rent our landlord is asking.

The worst advice I ever heard

I was wasting time at lunch this week, when I stumbled across this gem. Diane Foreman makes some bold statements, preaching to the choir of New Zealand Herald readers about how to best use your money.
Herald financial advice for 2014

Diane Foreman, owner of Emerald Group: Beg, steal or borrow to buy your own home, then pay off your mortgage as quickly as you can.
Home mortgage interest rates are cheap money and by paying off your mortgage you have the advantage of secure home ownership and the ability to remortgage your home for other investments, such as starting a business or investing in the stock market.
Residential real estate continues to offer a really secure investment base.

To be fair, it’s slightly better than just spending all your money on daily lattes, electronics, or other cupboard-filling gadgets/stomach filling niceties. But only slightly… Let’s go through this wisdom shall we?

Beg, borrow or steal to buy your own home.

Begging indicates that you are basically going in “over your head” to get a mortgage. If you have to beg a bank, or family, to support you, you are clearly doing something wrong. What happens when the interest rates rise and the just-breaking-even weekly payments gets too much for you? Do you know how much you’ll lose in a foreclosure? Not to mention the psychological impact of borrowing up to the hilt to get some real estate in this inflated market!

then pay off your mortgage as quickly as you can

Well that’s actually pretty good advice. Don’t go for the 30 year option – the banks love it! It means a guaranteed flow of delicious moneys for them for the next 3 decades of your life!

Home mortgage interest rates are cheap money

5-7% on a $300k mortgage (if you’re lucky! Maybe $600k if you want something decent!) is not what I’d call “cheap money”. 1% in the US – now that’s cheap money! But mostly I’d call this interest. Interest that you will be paying for 15-30 years, and will end up costing you about half of your mortgage amount.

A $350k mortgage paid over 15 years at 6% interest (Being highly optimistic here), will set you back $681 per week, and cost you $181k in interest. The same mortgage at 8% over 30 years will set you back a slightly more palatable $592 per week, and a total of $573,000 in interest. Yes, at this point, you would be *paying more in interest than for the house*.

Good luck, hope your house appreciates better than inflation! Have a play with the mortgage calculator at Interest.co.nz mortgage calculator and weep.

So to conclude, no, not cheap money at all.

By paying off your mortgage you have the advantage of secure home ownership and the ability to remortgage your home for other investments, such as starting a business or investing in the stock market.

Yes! After you have paid off that fat mortgage, remortgage it again so you can continue to pay interest! What a great idea!! And all for another investment, like a odds-are-it-will-fail business, or stock market! Oh hey, did you know that you can actually borrow money to invest in the stock market, without putting up your home as collateral? It’s called “buying on margin”, and is generally a stupid, insane idea!
This is how you invest in the stock market. You save up your money, right. And then you buy a good quality, low fee, index fund or ETF. You leave the money in there and automatically re-invest dividends. You continue buying shares throughout the good times and the bad. After 30 years, you are sitting on a massive pile of shares that are now paying out a quarterly dividend. You start moving money out of the volatile stock market, and invest it in bonds that give you a regular payout. You then use this money to fund your rent. There you go – you are set for life, and you don’t even need to worry about maintaining your own home.

Residential real estate continues to offer a really secure investment base.

No, no it doesn’t! What sort of insane idea is this? Where you under a rock in 2007-2009 during the US housing melt-down?

Let me drop some links to better people than me. Robert Shiller, insanely brilliant and very experienced economist says, “Your house is not an investment

JCollins, who writes a blog full of wisdom, says “Your house is a terrible investment

And how about Mr “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” : Your house is an asset scam

Why is it not a good investment base?

  • It’s illiquid – hard to get rid of, especially if the market is down the plug hole.
  • It can be wiped out in a few minutes by an act of God.
  • It needs constant maintenance to keep it’s worth, or perhaps you prefer to run it into the ground and sell it at a loss as a “fixer-upper”?
  • It requires yearly fees.
  • The price you sell it for will incur a ridiculous 5% sales commissions from your real estate agent.
  • It invites you to *spend more money* to make it look pretty and accumulate *stuff*.
  • It barely appreciates above inflation level.
  • It does not provide any cash returns on a yearly/monthly basis (unless you’re renting out a granny flat – great idea!).

The sad truth is, this is the majority opinion in New Zealand. I wait for the day for a rude shock to the market, or the retirement crisis, when retirees realise that they cannot afford to stop working, since “you can’t eat your house”.

If you really want to own a house, and can afford to do so without endangering your financial position. Then by all means, have at it. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s an “investment base” or a great “investment”.

Into 2014

2013 Review

1. Get more bad-ass at programming, more programming on my own projects, learning new technologies and techniques, and learning from the masters.

Yeah… well I guess I’ve learnt a lot. Wouldn’t say I’m any *better*, I just know how to use more technologies. Still getting some “flak” at work, but mainly because of constantly changing requirements/scope which makes the old design look ridiculous in the light of the new software requirements…

2. Get a qualification or two (Microsoft certification), and then start applying for senior development positions.

Nope… I started learning for the HTML5/JavaScript certificate, and I’m 50% there. Cancelled my exam in January because I thought I wouldn’t make it. Plus I’m thinking of a career change.

3. After a year, we’re going to start looking at the housing market, hopefully by this time it will have cooled down, and not gone into crazy bubble territory.

Nope… Market has gone insane and there’s no chance of us sinking $400k+ into a 3 bedroom shack. Our rent is less than the amount of interest we’d pay on a mortgage like that, plus it’s considerably overvalued, so any correction would be leveraged down to biblical proportions.

2014 Goals

On that note, let me outline my goals for 2014.

1. Spending much less time reading news, blogs and forums posts. My goal for January is no news at all (Newspaper, online or TV), and I’m only reading the blogs that I’m subscribed to. I’m hoping I’ll use the time for more productive activities.

2. Consider a career change into software QA. I used to be a hot shot QA a few years back, before I moved into software development. I thought at the time that development was my real “passion”. The first few years, I was relieved at having nice projects to work with, not being crunched at the end of the software life cycle, and the status of being a developer. It was a lot less monotonous developing than testing software.

Now after a few years in, I’ve noticed a distinct lack of passion in my work, I’m lagging behind my peers in skill and knowledge, and just feeling generally like a washed out developer.

Here in sunny (at the moment) New Zealand, QA resources get paid about 20% more than developers on average, so moving into QA would be both a boon to my wallet, as well as a potential boost to my confidence and happiness.
I think that the lower stress, lower pressure to be creative might be better for my nerves. I want to see if I’m more passionate about being a great Tester.

3. Wake up earlier in the morning – during the week I force myself out of bed at 6:30, sometimes 7, to get to work by about 8 – 8:30. On weekends, I generally sleep in until 9, I just can’t get myself out of bed before that. I hate the waste of 4+ hours on the weekend that I could be doing something, even just reading.

4. Start reading more – there are so many books I want to read, but because of items 1 and 3, I haven’t had much “time” to do so. Hopefully I will now!

Not really a goal, but I’ll be helping my husband get a job now that his studies haven’t panned out, and hopefully he’ll be happy for a few years before he starts burning out again. Ah, the joys of working in IT!

Summary

1. Spend less time reading news, blogs, forum posts.

2. Consider a career in QA – apply for a few jobs, read a few books, see how it goes.

3. Get up earlier on the weekends, at least 7AM.

4. Read more non-fiction and fiction books, 1 fiction a month and 1 non-fiction every 2 weeks.

Why are we obsessed about houses?

I’ve been pondering this question for the last couple of days.  I’m starting to think that it’s a combination of massive social pressure, and our own human delusions.

For instance, I read an article recently where a journalist made a very reasonable argument about why she was happy to have sold their house, relieved to be renting, and why.  The comments were mainly frothy mouthed internet trolls repeating the same old “houses are an investment” lines.
It makes me wonder what’s driving people to blinding only accept “the Truth” – that it should be everybody’s ultimate life goal, to own their own house, and to spend the rest of their lives paying the mortgage, and “upsizing” every 10 years or so.

Firstly, the financial reasons.  The main argument is that renting is “throwing money down the toilet”, and that paying $1500 a month on a mortgage is far better than $1500 in rent.  This argument is a bit of a misdirection – they are not comparing apples to apples.  A $1500 a month rent is probably for a nice 3 bedroom house.  The $1500 a month mortgage might be for a unit or apartment.  Depends on where you live of course.  In my case, $1500 gets you the house rental, and $1500 a month mortgage a dingy, shed of a multi-family unit, that’s leaky and uninsulated.  Chances are it’s in a dodgy area as well.  Houses here are ridiculously overpriced, obviously that’s not the case as much in the US anymore.

But even if you do manage to find a fair comparison, what about rates/taxes?  What about maintenance?  The inflation lifestyle that drives you to buy more furniture for your new house, that encourages you to build on, renovate or modernise, under the mistaken impression that it’s adding capital value to your house.  It may do so, it may not…

Secondly, the happiness/contentment reason.
Studies have shown that home owners aren’t even happier than renters.  I’ll have to find that one sometime tomorrow when it’s not almost midnight.  But a study showed that when income and age are taken into account (since increased income increases happiness to a point), home owners weren’t happier – in fact, they experienced more “unhappy”/depressing moments during the day than renters.  And bizarrely, they spent more time on housework.

Thirdly, the social reason – my own theory. I think that since it is socially accepted to always buy a house and raise your family, most people try and buy a house at some stage of their life (or are saving up to do so). The ones that are paying off their house are seen as successful. The ones that do not, are “generally” bad at saving money, or have run into debt or other personal problems. They are the reckless ones, the youngsters living the high life, wasting all their money on themselves. The logical fallacy is then made that people without mortgages are therefore irresponsible, reckless spendthrifts. Just the immediate image you may see of a “dirty, careless renter” vs a “white picket fence, mortgage owner” shows the social biases we may have.

I personally would love to own my own home, however I have reasoned that it won’t make me happier (it may make me unhappy), it does not financially make sense. And now I’m just getting tired of having it shoved down my throat all the time. I’m getting to the point where I’m making a point of *not* buying a home, just to go against the grain of “common sense”.

Ah, and the best part of renting vs owning a home – no unforeseen expenses (Landlord takes care of breakages/natural disaster accidents etc). And freedom to move whenever you want – good job opportunities elsewhere, or the local job market dries up, or say an earthquake wipes out your city – no problem!

To conclude, owning a house will not automatically make you happy.  It will probably encourage you to spend more.  And it might not even be financially the best option compared to renting.

So why all the froth in the mouth?

Never trust your brain to make the best financial decisions

So I had a bit of an epiphany today, which I’m sure I’m had before over the same topic, but this time it really sank in.

It happened while I was reading this interesting post about your subconscious brain, and how investing decisions, for most people, are made to secure their social status rather than for good financial reasons – I don’t think you invest the way you think you invest.

For the past year I have been somewhat obsessed with planning on buying a house. Last year we simply didn’t have enough for the deposit which fortunately stopped us from buying a very beautiful but far too expensive house. This year we’re in the middle of a rental contract until 2014, so again it is stopping me from rushing in. I’ve been struggling to understand why I’ve been so interested in doing so, when the previous year I couldn’t care less, and actually preferred the freedom of not having a house. Now I’ve realised the problem – everyone around me owns one or more houses, the general consensus is owning a house is “the best investment eva!11!”, and renting is a dead-end road to nowheresville.  One colleague in particular has been a big source of my subconsciousness monkey going bananas (hehehe) – “Oh you should rather get a house now, than save up for a deposit.  There’s no way you can catch up with savings the way the market is rising every year.  Better to get what you can now.”  “Oh yes, I’m buying a house for my son [What??], but the auctions are completely crazy.  It’s really difficult to find a house at a decent price nowadays.  The Asian investors are really pumping the prices up.”  “Why waste money on rent when you could be paying towards a house”

So a bit of context into why buying a house would not be in our best interests here in New Zealand :

  1. Housing prices are crazy at the moment, like “Just before it hit the fan in the US” crazy.  As in “house prices can never go down!”, and “Get into the market before you lose out, otherwise you’ll never be able to afford it!” crazy.  Housing is so unaffordable the government is starting to think about taking steps to cool it down somewhat.  Our country’s personal debt is getting staggering, even if the government’s debt is fairly decent at the moment.
  2. There is also a bit of a housing shortage in Auckland at the moment, so the good houses are not only expensive but also get snapped up really quickly*
  3. It all tastes a bit like a bubble’s in the air about to burst. Banks are competing against each other to offer the lowest mortgage rate, and the lowest deposit required.  100% mortgages aren’t that difficult to acquire.
  4. Mortgage rates aren’t that great anyway – with good credit you can get 4.99% for a 2 year fixed loan if you have a big enough deposit.  5.7% to 6% for a floating term is more common.  In the US, I know you can get much longer fixed term periods for a lot lower interest rate.
  5. Rent isn’t too bad at the moment.  It’s crazy compared to other countries, but compared to housing prices, and it hasn’t risen too much.**
  6. We’re not sure what our future holds. We may stay in New Zealand for a few years to get our permanent residency, and then move on to Australia for a few years.  Or we may take a stab in Europe, or maybe even a low-living-cost but politically stable 3rd world country.  Or we may want to move to the South Island where living is easy and the winters are freezing 🙂  My husband is thinking about changing career track since he’s feeling bored and frustrated at work.  Buying a house would at worst be dangerous, at best a huge ball-and-chains keeping us in a city we might not want to stay in for very long.

I’ve been justifying that I want a house, thinking that it will give me the stability I crave, or some sense of belonging.  Or I feel that with a house, I’d finally get around to doing some gardening and start a veggy patch.  But to be honest, I haven’t had the willpower to do so now, I’m not going to start when I’m in my own house.  I’m really hating “wasting” money on rent, but I was happy before to pay for the housing “service” without the hassle.  And that financial stability we’re currently enjoying, may go down the tubes if the mortgage rates skyrocket and house prices plummet.  Buying at the top of the market will make me a very unhappy little camper.  Watching prices go up even more…. well I’d probably just shake my head and continue plugging my money into the stock market.

So every time that inner subconscious boss wants me to look at houses again, or badgers me to calculate yet again how much “better” it would be to own a house, I’m going to stick to the reasons above for why it’s not such a good idea for us to buy into the housing market at this point in time.  It really is school all over again, and once again I *don’t* have the latest Docs that my friends are all wearing, and everything within me wants to fix that so I’m with the “in crowd” again.  Thanks subconscious brain!

* As an example of the crazy market, we went to an open home at a 2 bedroom unit today – it’s been nicely renovated and newly painted, but it’s in a complex of really dumpy units.  And the occupants seemed loud and not very happy, and had a faint air of desperation around them.  Trash littered the lawn, along with occupants’ discarded and rusting junk.  The estate agent said they already have an offer for $225, 000 from the previous day!  Someone wanted it badly enough, to pay that sort of money.  And this is not in the best suburb, not the worst, but definitely not great and a busy 30 minute drive from the CBD.

**  We’re paying $415 a week for a large 3 bedroom house in a nice neighbourhood (not the super fancy expensive suburbs, but average), that has an estimated value of $390, 000 (CV value), but in this market would probably go for up to $450, 000.  That makes a Price-to-rent ratio of 21, putting it into a “much better to rent than buy” .

Who will I be in 10 years time

Still on the Dan Gilbert bandwagon, I’ve been pondering this article tonight and wondering where I’ll be in 10 years time.

“Middle-aged people — like me — often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin.  What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.”

— Daniel Gilbert

Looking back on my life, 10 years ago I was in my last year of a Biomedical Science degree, dating my future husband, looking forward to a future in my home country South Africa.  I had gained so much more self confidence during my degree, I loved the course and was excelling at it.  But looking forward to my perceived future career, I was having major doubts.  The feedback from the lecturers was that graduates would file into low wage laboratories around South Africa, and most would decide to rather continue studying to do Honours and Masters.  The feeling I got, was that you had to complete another year or two to get any useful experience.  The lab vacancies had many applicants, and affirmative action was heavily in place, favouring black and Indian applicants over the non-pigmented variety of human.  Even some of my Indian friends were considering another two or three years at a Technikon, to get a more hands-on course and hopefully better chances of securing a job.

Right, so to cut a long story short, I though to hell with this, I’m going to try something else for a year and see how it goes.  Turns out it was the best decision I ever made.

I signed up for a bit of an “elitist” programming course.  It was ridiculously expensive, but fortunately funded by my Grandfather’s generous education funds for me (I whipped through University mostly with scholarships).  Thank goodness I didn’t have a study loan from the BSc to drag me down.  The course was very well run, with a knowledgeable lecturer, and at the time put me in a great position to get into programming.  I entered the workforce as a “QA” with no experience, and clawed my way into a development team, again with little experience, but having studied a second University programming course part time.

So what did my 21 year old self know about the future?  Darned little I’m afraid.

Didn’t know she was not going to head off into Biomedical science, but into computer programming.  Didn’t know she was going to land a lucrative job at one of the most drool-worthy IT companies in Durban.  Didn’t know she would get married at 27 to her University sweetheart.  Didn’t know most of her friends would goof off overseas.  Didn’t know that she should would decide in 2011 that she would much rather work in a first world country, and successfully plan and execute a fairly risky move to New Zealand!  This coming from a 18 year old that didn’t want to study away from home, because she’d miss her family too much!

Other than that, life hasn’t changed too much.  Was briefly addicted to an online multiplayer game, which I think set back my career quite badly.  Got into horse riding enthusiastically for a few years – that was a surprise.  Started investing in the stock market in 2003 and rode it all the way up, lost some money on some ridiculous stock picking, and made a mistake in investing in a South African Retirement Annuity, which I will now lose 20% of because of the Retirement Annuity company sharks taking their “early surrender fee” (I’m not even kidding, this is legal! And was somehow signed into my contract back when I signed it as a tender and naive 23 year old!)

So what do I have in store for myself in the next 10 years?  Well, planning on getting my career on track to become a better software developer.  And planning on a few overseas trips while we’re young and restless.  And trying to save like mad so we can retire in 12 years time.

And maybe when I get there, I won’t even want to stop working?  Or perhaps I would have started my own company?