31 y/o german getting started on FIRE

Hello Everyone,
I’m turning 32years old a few months and started looking into Investment etc. and through that, found the MP website and forum.

My current situation:
I’m currently working as a Cabin Crew in the Middle East. Something I have been doing for about 6+ years with a little gap due to Covid and family related reasons. The money I have been able to safe, I invested into my Masters degree.
However, with my new Job at another Airline I’ve noticed that I am no longer able to safe as much as I used to before and don’t even treat myself as often.

Currently, I have nearly 5k € in my bank account, and I am currently in the process of moving to Switzerland. At the moment I make approximately I make 2800€ a month, depending on the flying hours.At the moment, I live in a company provided Accommodation so the only expenses I have is: Wifi, phone, food ( incl. on layovers) and beauty things ( which I am required to maintain for a certain standard).
I almost never go to eat out or go drinking at bars. Through this I have been to save about 1200€.- per month for the past year.
However, Since my flying hours aren’t always the same and layover allowance have been decreased, I earn less and had to go to my savings.
I feel incredibly under pressure since the majority of my friends are settling down and seem to have their life in order and I never imagined myself being in this financial situation at this age.Hence, i think I should start making the money work for me while trying to optimise my savings further!

This is where I’m now unsure how to continue. I have absolutely no idea how to get started and also have no experience in this field. Additionally, my time that I do have is quite limited because I usually fly a lot.I was thinking of keeping about 5k € as cash in my bank account, as an emergency fund if I were to need it. as I originally intended it, kind of like an extra retirement fund. I would like to start investing longer-term with part of the salary I have into a Broker. Preferable maybe even getting help by someone who does things for me, if that even exists. I have contacted IB for more information but they’re more independent and I don’t feel confident enough to do this myself since I am completely new to this field. From reading, I am unsure what the best option for me is at the moment. Obviously, I don’t want to take much risk but also would like to multiply etc my money. How do I find out which suit me risk-wise? What should I look out for? What are my best options and how much should I invest and in which way? Can you recommend an Portfolio manager at least until I am confident enough to do this myself?

I really appreciate your advice and thank you for being part of this community. :slight_smile:

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Hi and welcome!

“seem” is the operating word, here. Chances are some are happy and feel fulfilled, others are envious of you and of the image you project. If you come to revisit them in 10 years, some will still enjoy their lives while some will probably have messed up a few things. The bottom line is: we can only measure our own happiness/fulfillment relative to ourselves. Comparing to others is bound to have us feel inadequate as there will always be people who seem (not necessarily are) more succesful/fulfilled than we are.

I know it’s easy to say and way less to imprint on ourselves but the pressure you are putting yourself under doesn’t help. Assess your situation with a calm mind, determine where you want to go, find a way to go there and walk one step at a time.

You seem to have an income/expenses problem, investment returns won’t help one bit if you have to dip into your savings: you first have to have a positive balance on a regular basis that allows you to save consistently. The saving rate is the best indicator of investing success, money working for you while you sleep won’t carry you if you can’t get there.

2800€ isn’t a lot to live on in Switzerland, I see two paths going forward:

  • If there’s a reason you want to live in Switzerland specifically, find a way to increase your income. You mention a Masters, have you finished it? Are you using it in your current field of activity? Are there other companies that would pay you more for the same job?

  • If you are not specifically tied to Switzerland, then living in a cheaper country would affect your ability to save immediately by lowering your expenses. Living cross-border could be an option if you still want to have activities within Switzerland: both Zürich and Geneva airports should be within commuting distance of either Germany or France. It doesn’t have to be a long term accomodation but it could help getting you kickstarted and building your starting nest egg.

You’re on the way, trust yourself, don’t compare yourself to others and keep progressing toward the life you want to live.

As for investing:

The nice thing with passive investing using index funds is that it doesn’t require much time at all once you are started. Take one hour a year to rebalance and handle the tax declaration and you should be set.

An emergency fund helps giving you a sense of security. It helps building confidence in life and feeling at peace with the risk otherwise present in your portfolio. We don’t know your situation (B permit?) so it’s hard to assess the social net you have to support you and tailor the emergency fund to that. Most advice is usually 3 to 6 months of expenses. If you don’t have dependents and want to be agressive, I’d go for 3. If you have a more conservative mindset, as you seem to let perspire when stating that you do not want to take much risk, 6 months might be the better fit. It may seem like a big amount to set aside but once you manage to save regularly and start building momentum, it should build quickly enough and allow you to start investing in a matter of months/1-2 years.

Sounds like a robo-advisor might suit your needs. We like fully “do it yourself” solutions but going through a risk assessment questionnaire and having your financial provider pick an allocation and maintaining it for you might be worth the fee to you. You can search on the forum for “robo”, it should bring up threads with discussions about the various ones that make sense at this point in time in Switzerland.

It is possible you would be better served with an “ETF Sparkonto”. Some members here like the solution from DKB for that.

I don’t know what tax advantaged solutions are available to you. If/when you are domiciled in Switzerland, you should be able to contribute to a 3a solution. You may have other options available to you in Germany, depending on your actual domiciled status (and other factors, I don’t know the first thing about German retirement vehicle options). Once you have built your emergency fund, I would start by that: it’s very straightforward and you are handeld through it so it could help build your confidence and familiarize you with investing for when you have more assets to invest and tax advantaged space is no longer sufficient. The solutions usually advised around here are VIAC, Finpension and Frankly. You might want to take a look at Truewealth since it might synergize with what you are looking for in taxable investing handholding (for a fee). There again, a search through the forums should lead to interesting and helpful reads.

Unfortunately, that’s a personal assessment. Most of us truly realize it only when actually confronted to the risk. I like the “need, ability and willingness to take risk” framework. See this message for my latest iteration on it: Advice needed on Portfolio/ investment expert - #2 by Wolverine

You can find questionnaires online, for example from Vanguard. They’re very imperfect but can serve as a starting point: Investor Questionnaire | Vanguard

Another option is to play with different allocations and see the fluctuations and drawdowns you’d have gone through up to now. I like Portfolio Visualizer for that: https://www.portfoliovisualizer.com/backtest-asset-class-allocation?s=y&mode=1&timePeriod=4&startYear=1972&firstMonth=1&endYear=2023&lastMonth=12&calendarAligned=true&includeYTD=true&initialAmount=10000&annualOperation=0&annualAdjustment=0&inflationAdjusted=true&annualPercentage=0.0&frequency=4&rebalanceType=1&absoluteDeviation=5.0&relativeDeviation=25.0&leverageType=0&leverageRatio=0.0&debtAmount=0&debtInterest=0.0&maintenanceMargin=25.0&leveragedBenchmark=false&portfolioNames=false&portfolioName1=Portfolio+1&portfolioName2=Portfolio+2&portfolioName3=Portfolio+3&asset1=TotalStockMarket&allocation1_1=100&allocation1_2=60&asset2=TotalBond&allocation2_2=40&allocation2_3=100

I’ve taken the liberty to start you up with a display of a 100% US stocks, a traditional 60/40 (US stocks/bonds) and a 100% US bonds portfolios. I would also try checking off and on the “logarithmic scale” box on the graph to get a better grip of the actual fluctuations that have been experienced. You can change the allocations and get a feeling for how tolerable the fluctuations feel to you. That’s the purpose of the exercise so you shouldn’t focus on the fact it’s only using US assets. They have the longest available modelled history and are mostly representative of the broader market for the scope of roughly determining risk tolerance. For the actual funds you’ll select when you’ll be set on your future allocation, I’d go global for stocks and in the currency you expect to spend for bonds.

Have fun and success on your journey!


How much debt do you have, if any? Do you have any savings/investments other than the €5k in your bank account?

You say you managed to save around €15k this last year, but only have €5k due to having to dip into your savings. If you make 2800 a month and can save 1200, then your living expenses should be around 1600. So using up 10k is approximately 6 months of unemployment. Is that right?

I think the first thing to do when starting out is to map out how much you make, how much you want to spend and how much you want to save.

A useful exercise is to add up all the money you ever made and then look to see what is left over and what you spent it on (things, experiences, etc.) and see if you feel the balance is right. In the end, we spend everything, the choice is really whether to spend it now or later and for those falling into the later category, you have the opportunity to invest it so that it will grow to be a bigger amount later when you want to spend it.

Thank you so much for your reply and advice.

I don’t have any debts nor other savings or investments.
The majority of savings I have had with my previous Airline and invested this in my Masters degree which i finished.
So i am literally left with 5 k.

I haven’t moved to Switzerland yet, however I know my Income will be more than what I earn now in the Middle East.

Thank you so much for your kind words and advice.

I haven’t moved to Switzerland yet, however my income will be more.
I have finished my Masters but I am not using it in my current field, neither would be when I move to Switzerland, at least not full time since i plan to join the private Aviation.

I don’t have any dependents and wouldn’t object to a more aggressive approach depending on how much i can afford to invest.

Eventually, I’d like to do everything myself as well but since I am new in this field I simply don’t want to make any mistakes.

Regarding Tax:
Since I currently gave up my residence in Germany, I don’t pay taxes there and there aren’t any where I currently reside.
What I do is pay monthly 100€ in a private pension plan and also set aside an extra bank account which I didn’t want to touch until it’s time to retire but recently had no other choice.

Thank you again so much for your help

Everyone makes mistakes, mistakes are the best thing to learn something :slight_smile:

I’d advise to do your own research on investing and read through the forum which has lots of valuable information, especially about the most common mistakes such as the 3a life insurance “scam”. And once you understand the basics, you can come back and let us challenge your plan.

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The ethos here on the forum is to do it yourself approach. And it’s not hard to start with and begin a simple two or three fund ETF portfolio.

I‘d recommend against a portfolio manager. Many, probably most of them are salespeople - and not independent ones. They want to sell products on commission. If not, if they’re truly independent in their advice, they’ll probably charge quite a lot for their time.

Same is true for the robo advisors…

You’re right about the risk assessment and allocation. But I feel that their benefit can be had for free - especially at the (at this point meagre) net worth and investable amounts mentioned.

You can get a reasonable (and similar) suggestion for a simple portfolio for free by reading a book, the newspaper or summoning the collective wisdom on this forum.

How much is a robo advisor? About 0.5% of your portfolio - every year. That’s twice the costs (expense ratio) of well-diversified global stock or bond ETFs.

Ask yourself this: Would you spend twice the amount on an advisor (that will probably only shuffle around your portfolio allocation a little bit) than om the investment products themselves that actually earn money for you? On a recurring basis?

It certainly beats doing nothing and not saving and investing at all. It may provide some peace of mind - and sure, they don’t (usually) lock you in to their products - but I consider it quite expensive for what many of the actually do for you.

I concur. Open up a cheap securities account at a decent bank, create a monthly or quarterly ETF savings plan (70/30 equity/bond split or similar) If you continue paying in the money on a regular basism you can basically forget about it.

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To add to the previous insightful comments, I’d suggest you to read the various “Neon” posts.
It’s a good online bank and they are starting also an investment account for free. You still have to pick which funds and it will (probably) cost you 0.5% to sell.