March 2020 – COVID-19 comes to Europe

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March 2020 Update

These are troubled times. In March 2020, the new coronavirus, COVID-19, made it to Europe. And now, European countries are trying to fight off the virus. Some are doing a good job, but most are not faring too well.

I hope all of you are healthy and safe in these weird times! Health is the most important thing these days.

Regardless of all this madness, it is time for another monthly update, a constant in this changing world!

Because of the increased cases in Switzerland, I have been working from home most of this month. And I will probably work from home most of the next month. You probably heard more than enough about COVID-19, so I do not want to talk about it too much. Aside from it, the month was very uneventful.

From a financial point of view, it was a good month. I received my bonus, so our income is very high this month. Our expenses are also quite high because I had to pay extra federal taxes since I did not pay enough last year. With that, we were still able to save 75% of our income this month.

March 2020

March 2020 has been weird. I guess it has been strange for most of you. Switzerland is now in partial lockdown. Only five people can meet at the same time. And people have to respect a distance of two meters. Many people have been working from home.

As a result, a lot of people have been working from home. And some people have not been working at all. All public places are closed.

So, from a personal point of view, there is not much to report this month. We are in good health, and so is our family. Health is the most important thing for now.

I still have an appointment next month for my knees and back issues. But given the current situation, it will probably be postponed. It is not great news for me. But I understand that a lot of people have much more urgent issues than I.

We are still looking for a house. But this will probably not be possible during the coronavirus crisis. We are quite high on cash right now because of that.

From a financial point of view, it is a bit particular month. Our general expenses are quite ordinary. But they have been increased because we bought a few things for the future (a friend was selling very high-quality baby stuff). Also, I had to pay the state insurance on my car. So even with the coronavirus, we spent slightly too much this month.

Also, I had to pay 2600 CHF in federal taxes for last year. Since my income significantly increased, I did not pay enough last year. So this year, it hit me. And of course, my monthly payments will increase this year. And the same thing will happen for the state taxes and the county taxes. I am going to have huge bills coming soon.

The Poor Swiss family and COVID-19

We cannot complain too much about our situation in the COVID-19 situation. We have it better than a lot of other people. We are both healthy, and we have no financial issues.

I have been working at home for most of March 2020. As a software engineer, I can work at home without any issues. However, there is also the motivation factor to consider. In normal times, we are going out during, and we see people during the week, and there is something to look for.

But now, with social isolation, we do not do anything on the weekend. And we only go out for groceries or for helping older members of my family. So motivation is not at an all-time high. And unfortunately, these days the work we have is pretty bad. Usually, I like my work. But these days, when you had the quarantine and the bad work, I do not think that great of it.

One good thing is that we did some extensive cleaning and sorting through our items. I will have several things to sell soon. And we can throw away some things. We even had time to go through our cellar. Doing that is something I have wanted to do for a long while.

We have to stay positive and weather these times. It will go better eventually as long as everybody follows the protocol.

Expenses

Here are the details of our expenses in March 2020:

  • Insurances: 795 CHF. Average. Just our health insurance.
  • Transportation: 604 CHF. Well above average. We had to pay the state insurance for the car. This is a once a year expense.
  • Communications: 99 CHF. Average. Internet and phone and some internet subscriptions.
  • Personal: 521 CHF. Average. I had to pay a bill for my knee. We bought some baby stuff from a friend. And I had to replace some computer accessories that broke on my main computer.
  • Food: 425 CHF. Above average. Before the beginning of the virus in Switzerland, we had a big party at home. Also, we had quite a few things to restock at home.
  • Apartment: 1481 CHF. Above average. Our rent and power bills.
  • Taxes: 2679 CHF.  Well above average. I had to pay extra federal taxes from last year.

Overall, we spent 6606 CHF in March 2020. Before taxes, we spent 3927 CHF. This is not so bad but still too high than what we want to aim for. The state taxes for the car and the power bill make quite a big difference in the month.

We had some unexpected extra expenses this month. One of my friends was selling some very good baby stuff. So we took the opportunity for the future. At the very beginning of our isolation, the SSD on my second computer died. So I had to order a new one, and I also order a few spare pieces to fix some parts of my system.

At the beginning of the month, before the isolate, we had a big party at our home. This inflated our food budget for the month. Also, Mrs. The Poor Swiss is now making cakes and dessert very regularly (not good for my weight goal!). Since we spend little on food, this makes a significant difference.

Other than that, our expenses are quite uneventful. It should remain the same next month unless the isolation measures are lifted, which is unlikely.

2020 Goals

We can take a look at our 2020 Goals as of March 2020:

Goals as of March 2020
Goals as of March 2020

Overall, my goals are going quite well.

There are only three goals that are not doing really well:

  1. Our before taxes expenses are still higher than 4000 CHF. This month, we were only slightly lower than 4000 CHF. We spent slightly more than I would have liked.
  2. I did not write enough new articles. I now realize that the goal was not great. Since I try to republish one post per month, it lowers the number of new articles. This is not a big deal.
  3. I did not go to the gym this month. My knees are still bad, and all the gyms are closed because of the virus.

The other goals are going pretty well! I am already in advance for most of the goals. The blog goals are the ones doing the best. But our income and net worth goals are well on the way as well.

Next month, we will need to have to work on our expenses to improve our goals. This should be possible to reduce our average since we do not expect large expenses next month. But we may be surprised as we often do.

Net Worth

Let’s take a look at our net worth at the end of the month:

Net Worth as of March 2020
Net Worth as of March 2020

We just reached 275K Net Worth this month! This a very nice milestone to reach. If this continues well, we should be able to reach 300K by the end of the year, even if we buy a house.

The massive increase in our net worth this month is mostly due to receiving my bonus as every March month. This should be the highest income month of the year.

As you can see, our net worth did not move down much this month. But the stock market has gone down a lot. We have been quite lucky, actually. We sold most of our stocks at the end of last year. We did that because we are looking for a house, and we did not want to depend on the stock market for our ability to buy one. This is quite good timing. But this is entirely luck. Nothing else!

Next month, there should not be much happening with our net worth. Our income will be average again.

The Blog

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After an excellent month of February 2020, the blog did not do as well in March 2020. I did not expect the traffic to get higher than February 2020. But I was expecting the traffic to get slightly higher than January 2020. Unfortunately, traffic remained the same. But given the current situation, I do not think I can complain.

The overall traffic declined on the blog. It may be because of the current crisis and people shifting their interests to other areas. We will see how traffic does next month. If it continues to decrease, I will decide if I need to do something different.

What do you think? Am I doing something wrong?

I was able to keep a good rhythm in writing on the blog. And I was also able to do many updates of older articles. I have quite some extra time on the weekend compared to my regular routine.

As you may have seen, I have changed a bit the design of the website. And thanks to Mrs. The Poor Swiss, I have changed all the featured images of the articles to something soberer. I hope you will like the changes. I still have to redo the home page. But things are getting where I want them to be.

Here are the three most-read posts of the month:

  1. TransferWise vs. Revolut: This article did really well. But it lost about 25% of its traffic.
  2. DEGIRO vs. Interactive Brokers: This post did extremely well this month. I am glad because this is an article I really like.
  3. Degiro Review 2020: I did an updated review of DEGIRO this month, and it did quite well.

What about you? Which article did you prefer this month?

Next Month – April 2020

I honestly do not know what to think about what will come in April 2020. From a personal point of view, I do not think there will be many events. I believe that most things will remain closed for the entire month. Hopefully, the situation will start to solve itself. There is no way to know but to wait and see!

As for our finances next month, I do not see much that could happen. Our expenses should be kept low. But there will not be any special income next month.

What about you? How was March 2020 for you?

Mr. The Poor Swiss

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

20 thoughts on “March 2020 – COVID-19 comes to Europe”

  1. Hello Mr. the poor Swiss,

    Thank you for your very useful blog. I want to invest in ETF and found your page by searching Degiro. It is fun to learn so much in detail. Just wanted to say thank you.

    Best regards and please stay healthy and safe.

  2. You bought baby stuff already?!? What a planner :D I hope to hear good news from you when the time is right ;)

    I like that you added some colors to your site! It does make everything pop, but I would add some pictures too (I’m biased though since that’s what I do on my blog). Also, my traffic has gone way down too. What’s helping me is really Pinterest as I started to really work on it since March and I purchased a course to learn some pinning strategies.

    On a separate note, I was wondering if you plan to write an article about what happens when an expat leaves Switzerland? With this covid situation, we are really considering to move back to be closer to our parents and help them more. I’ve been researching a lot already but one thing I can’t find the answer is how to transfer our 2nd and 3rd pillars from here to vanguard (for example) without paying taxes.

    Anyway, congrats on another great financial month! Stay safe and healthy!

    1. Hi Mama Bear,

      Haha, yes :) Not that much of a planner but more of an opportunity grabber! And also, if I can avoid shopping for it, I am happy!

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, I need more pictures, I agree! Especially, in this kind of posts!
      I think people have other considerations than personal finance optimization these weeks. Which makes sense. Hopefully, it will go back up. Or we are doing something wrong :)

      I never planned something like that no. The problem is it would highly depend on which country people are going to. I am going to consider doing that, but I am not sure I would be the best person for the job, sorry.

      Stay Safe and Healthy!

  3. Hi Mr The Poor Swiss,

    Personally I don’t like the new front page layout, I like more with pictures but this is me. I think the latest article should always be the first thing on the page so we don’t have to scroll around to find it.

    Also I miss the search capability. Now that you have many article is useful if you need to find some particular article of yours like already happened to me.

    Another thing, and this is related with my personal interest, some of your articles that you are updating are not interesting to me and it is really important that you refer that is an updated article so we don’t become confused if we already read it before but I think I already mentioned that in a previous comment.

    Either way thank you for your blog and stay safe with your family. This covid thing is new to all of us and I hope this is the closest we will ever get to something similar to a war, although in the end this is a war with an invisible enemy that is claiming many life and being fought in many hospitals around the world. If it gets that bad maybe it will be known as World War 3… I hope not for humanities sake.

    Regards,
    Luis Sismeiro

    1. Hi Luis,

      Thanks for your honest feedback :)

      The blog page is still present if you want to use it, you can access it from the home page.
      The search page is also still available. But I need to add a link to it somewhere, probably on the main menu.

      Yes, you mentioned this already. I will see what I can do. However, WordPress has no integrated way of adding an update date or notice. And I do not want to add this at the top of the article.

      I am not sure if this will be the last. I am pretty sure we are going to see that again in my lifetime. But I hope that people will be more prepared next time.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Hi there,

    Nice reading your article and it keeps me motivated as well. I like that you are learning Chinese, but my husband has no motivation to do so, and I am aiming for German C1 level in this year.

    Our biggest expense is rent+garage, looking at your rental expense, it really puts into shame. It is very easy to fall into the lifestyle inflation trap. And also given the Covid-19, my company has slashed my position, it gives me more motivation to grow multiple income streams.

    All the best and greetings from Kanton Schwyz.

    Yasi

    1. Hi Yasi,

      Sorry to hear about your situation with your company :( Hope it will get better!
      Yes, I completely agree with the multiple income streams. I want to improve that as well.

      Talking about our rent, do not forget that we have a small apartment just for us two. If you have a larger apartment with children, it would be more expensive. How much are you paying for your rent?

      I am trying to learn Chinese, but it’s not going really well! Good luck with German, it’s not easy.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. We are a 2 people household, and we pay 2.5k per month. and 2 garage places adds additional CHF300 per month. It is 3 times the space (indoor and outdoor) compared to what we had in Kanton Zurich. The struggle is always to find the balance between ‘enjoy now’ vs. ‘for the future’

        Can you write an article about Investing for people living in Switzerland? I am investing in ETF and constructing an ETF investment strategy for long term, but I see some elements consist of US bond (mid and long term) and other US indexes. I wonder if for people who live in Switzerland, how should the ETF portfolio differ.

        Yasi

        1. Hi Yasi,

          Thanks for sharing :)
          If you are happy with your place and it’s big, 2800 may not be that bad. I know people that spend more than that in big cities. But it’s indeed not cheap.

          It’s very difficult to find a balance for housing. We always want more and it’s difficult to stop for budget reasons.

          I have a post about getting started with investing, does that help?

          My current portfolio is very simple:80%VT and 20% CHSPI. But it may not be the best portfolio for everybody.

          Thanks for stopping by!

          1. My main concern is how to hedge FX risks while still having a diversified portfolio. I guess investing in iShares CH ETF is great, but they don’t have a lot of products to offer.

            Till now I have invested in VTI and VOO on IB, a couple of other ETFs on Trading212, it is 0 commission and I can easily use it from my phone. And SMI on Swissquote, I didn’t find out how I can buy SMI on IB. I find IB interface is a bit confusing.

          2. Hi Yasi,

            Yes, it’s an important concern. There are several ways to hedge, swiss cash, swiss bonds (not great right now), second pillar in Switzerland and Swiss stocks.

            SMI is the name of the index not the name of an ETF. You cannot invest in indexes directly. You can look for CSSMI for instance for the SMI or CHSPI for the SPI index. I think ishares have enough ETFs. You only need one good Swiss ETF, not more.

            Thanks for stopping by!

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