Something Happened

The Ninja household is going to be changed forever.

Something happened which was so unexpected, so alien, and yet so perfectly aligned to the current and future goals that I’ve mused about on this very blog. So, strap in and brace yourselves for…the news.

One blustery morning 3 months ago I was contacted out of the blue by an internal recruiter for a certain company. Said company was one of those companies, you know, one of the companies that I’ve been training for. No, no, no, it wasn’t the actual Google, but they get pretty close to Google in fame, world-wide offices, and difficult interview notoriety.

We think you’d be a pretty good culture fit and we’d love for you to apply for our central team!

Omg, I thought, I’m not ready!? Yeah sure, I’ve done a year of training; I’ve completed an algorithm module on Coursera from Stanford University; I’ve got a Kanban board in my spare room with about 100 algorithm sticky notes on it; I’ve read The Algorithm Design manual and Cracking the Coding Interview; I’ve had a session with programming all-star RetireInProgress; BUT I’M NOT READY!

Wow, you guys are like…my dream company, I would love to apply!!

Two Months of Hell

What followed were probably the worst two months of my life. As I’ve learned from University, there’s only so much brain intensive work I can do in a single day; if I go over that boundary I end up getting pretty severe headaches which seem to never go away.

With my first set of 3 interviews arriving 4 weeks after the initial screening interview, I studied every morning and evening until bedtime, I worked all weekend – non stop! Soon I needed to start trying to relax as my head was exploding, but I was determined to give this my best shot.

It’s just training, I thought; I’m never going to ACTUALLY get the job, I know I’m not that good and I’ve met plenty of people way better than me.

My brain exploded again when I was told that I’d passed the first 3 interviews and they’d like to invite me to 5 more interviews all in one day in another 4 weeks time. OMG! I thought, but also; ooohh nooo!

I’m not going to lie, mostly what I felt was dread. After going through what would happen in the 5 different interviews with the recruiter I knew that I would be getting no sleep for the next 4 weeks. I had a ton of studying to do; I basically had to rewrite a whole project using a different language, and study like mad for subjects that I haven’t spent much time on like System Design.

My amazing teacher-wife set me up with a study schedule so I would not feel as overwhelmed, quizzed me every day on trivia, and watched me fumble my way through System Design explanations. TheFIREstarter even gave me an hour mock interview one Friday night!

28 sleepless nights later and the big day arrived. Normally they would bring me to their office for this interview day, but of course, it was all remote due to COVID. Magically I felt fine and ready to go on the actual day.

When it All Changed

A few days of suspense later they told me that not only did they want to offer me the job, but that I had also done so well on all of the interviews that they had no negative feedback and due to this they wanted to offer me the position of Senior Engineer (<– this is HUGE!)

This was the perfect role for me! It was on a central team where I’d be shepherding in new technologies and advocating developer standards whilst learning how the infrastructure works in one of the most well-known companies in the world for best-in-class infrastructure and tooling.

They also saw my passion for communication and leadership, along with my desire to build and lead teams so they agreed to train me specifically toward an Engineering Manager role that I could hope to achieve within 2 years.

The company and position held would also be a shining star on my CV; afterwards, if I moved on, I’d be super desirable.

But for both me and Mrs SavingNinja, the thing that added the most to the excitement (which begot more nervousness) wasn’t any of the above.

It was the fact that the position I was applying for wasn’t located in the UK.

A new life, in a new Place

I’ve written about my wanderlust before; my ever-increasing desire to leave the UK and go on an adventure; to seek greener pastures in a faraway land. And now that opportunity is finally here…

My new job will be located in Stockholm, Sweden!

Yes, you heard it here first, I’m moving to Sweden in about 2 months time. It even feels strange to say that myself.

I’ve been talking about moving away for so long that it feels strange to think that I’ve not actually done it before. This will be the first time! And it’s kind of terrifying. Will the reality of moving live up to my dreams?

Both Mrs SavingNinja and I are so excited! We’re finally going to be in a place where we can go snowboarding every season; enjoy beautiful hikes every weekend; and celebrate Christmas like there’s no tomorrow!

Even the schooling system is much better over in Sweden, which is great for Mrs SavingNinja with her teaching degree. They have free education (we might get Masters degrees), free childcare, and 6 months of fully paid maternity and paternity leave (you never know.)

The one drawback to this move will be…our FIRE goals.

Happiness in Exchange for Money

Even though I will be getting paid more in my new position, the potential for matching my current savings rate will be severely reduced. This is because Sweden has some of the highest taxes in the world.

Stocks which I will receive as a big part of my compensation package will be taxed at 60%, and then a further 30% will be taken off any growth since they vested…ouch. This is a huge difference to countries like the US or UK where equity-related bonuses get taxed at a lower rate than income!

Sweden is also notorious for being expensive with a lot of things needing to be imported and an additional 25% VAT burden. All of these taxes along with a housing crisis which sees Stockholms flats match central London prices, along with no ISA equivalent and no capital gains allowance (and a 30% flat rate tax to boot) make Sweden absolutely terrible for a FIRE-pursuer.

As we’ve orchestrated our current life specifically for FIRE we have seen our essential household expenses drop to under £15k per year; Our mortgage only costs us £100 per month in interest and we spend under £150 per month on food. This will go completely out of the window in Stockholm, we’ll be spending a minimum of £1,500 per month on rent alone.

But…I’m still happy to be doing this.

One of my goals for 2020 was to spend more money and be happier, and I feel that this is the perfect opportunity to achieve that goal: I will gain unequivocal experience and improve as an engineer and person beyond what I thought capable of; my wife and I will be able to go on an adventure and explore the Nordic regions whilst pursuing our favorite sport; The company has offices in New York and San Francisco which brings me one step closer to achieving my American dream with an inter-company transfer. These things are worth taking a savings cut for.

SavingNinja no Longer?

I actually have no idea how much I am going to be able to save. I don’t truly know how much everything is going to cost and I’ll have to rediscover all of the financial tricks that I have learned over the years. There isn’t even a way to invest in Vanguard! I’m really going to be starting from square one again.

From an initial perspective, I’d hope to be able to save at least 50% of my salary. This will likely depend on how quickly Mrs SN can get a job. We are also selling our home in the UK and plan to buy one in Sweden after 1 year which would see our savings rate increase further. So, hope is not completely lost.

Where does this Leave the Blog?

Well, I guess I’ll have to change the name of the post series ‘My Journey to Financial Independence in the UK.’ SavingNinja will instead have to become more international. I may even have to change my savings to be shown in dollars rather than pounds as I have no intention of ever moving back to England.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot to think about with adapting to a new lifestyle in Sweden and I’ll want to share what I’ve learned along the way. For this I’ll create a new tag called ‘Sweden’ so for those of you that aren’t interested can skip it.

I’ll continue of course to blog about my quest for happiness and saving. I’m hoping that the move will allow me to gain a little more insight by experiencing life in two very different cultures.

Moving to Sweden will also mark the revival of the long-dead SavingNinja Instagram account, as this time I might actually have some things to take pictures of! I will also be partnering with Mrs SN who has a lot more Instagram knowledge than me; so make sure you follow us if you want to see our adventures play out.

Follow SavingNinja on Instagram here.

A lot of Planning to Come

I’ve now got a new Kanban board in my living room with all of the things that I need to research before I move to Sweden in about 2 months time! These cover topics like where should I invest my money? Can I leave my UK bank accounts and investment accounts open? How do you live frugally in Sweden? 

Sweden doesn’t even have services like Amazon or eBay, there is going to be a lot to learn! I’ll be making a blog post about everything along the way.

If you know anyone in Sweden or in another Nordic region who can offer me some advice, especially around how I can find a Vanguard-esk alternative, please comment and let me know below.

Have you ever been to a Scandinavian country? What should I expect? The first time I visit will be on a one-way flight!


43 thoughts on “Something Happened

  1. Congrats — you’ll never regret the opportunity to live in another country. And opportunity breeds new opportunities.

    In my late twenties, I went to NY for a few years, and it was a brilliant adventure that I look back on fondly.

    Look forward to hearing about you you get on.

  2. OMG WHAT??!!

    The waiting was definitely worth it. I was not expecting at any time that you’d move up to Sweden. What to say? Well basically a HUGE congrats! This is a big change for you but I am sure you’ll love it. Hope you’ll be posting stunning nature pictures on Instagram, right?

    Has this experience showed you that aiming for personal growth and development is more fulfilling than saving a lot of money with sole aim or retiring early?

    All the best moving on 😀

    1. Haha! I’m glad it was worth the wait – sad about our walking trip though! :'(

      I am hoping that Instagram will start getting a bit more use. It will also be a new excuse to buy a phone with a good camera? 😀

      I’ll let you know if it was more fulfilling in a years time 😉

  3. Wow how awesome! Sweden is a beautiful country and the people are so friendly so I’m sure you’re in for a fantastic adventure.

    Don’t have Amazon or eBay? That is a surprise for a country that has embraced tech more than most and barely uses cash anymore.

    1. I think they wanted to keep things more authentic and not kill off little shops, also I heard there is a struggle for Amazon with delivery in rural areas. They have eBay alternatives I think, we’ll see!

  4. Congratulations SavingNinja! Very exciting news.

    One word of advice from someone who has country hopped a number of times: pace yourself, enjoy the experience, and don’t rush.

    Go live life to the full, but leave your bank and brokerage accounts open in the UK for now. Rent out your flat for the first year rather than selling it.

    You will hopefully love your new life. Your very supportive wife will hopefully love her new life too. Having a safety net of being able to return “home” can take a lot of the pressure off when settling in to a new place, where you will undoubtedly feel like a Martian for the first six months (new language, new laws, new culture, new definition of what is normal/acceptable/cool/etc).

    Once you’re settled and comfortable in the knowledge that it is going to work out, then start thinking about winding up your affairs back home. Give it 6-12 months, there is no need to rush.

    Sweden is a beautiful country and a lot of fun. I used to work there 1 week in 6 for a couple of years. You’re about to have the adventure of a lifetime! I’m more than a little jealous.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Indeedably.

      Regarding the house, we would rather move back to a different location, there is nothing keeping us in our current one (we don’t like it very much and were going to sell soon anyway.) So we are trying to opt for simplicity; although if the house doesn’t sell, we may be forced to reconsider renting.

  5. Hi or should I now say Hej, I lived in sweden for a while and still travel there very regularly. If you want to continue with your uk funds surely you can just transfer money back to your uk accounts and invest like that without issue. With regards to amazon i used to use the german version and get stuff sent to sweden although I was under the impression that amazon has started building warehousing close to stockholm, the issue is delivery infrastructure is no where near what we have in the UK. Good luck on the journey

    1. Hej Spike, thanks for the tips!

      I’ve read into doing this, but some people said the exchange rate and costs would be too high; do you have any knowledge of this? Or is there a certain transfer account I can use which doesn’t charge any fees? Great that I can still get stuff from Amazon!

  6. Congratulations Saving Ninja. We say that sometimes the best opportunities come out of nowhere. However, if we are honest with ourselves, most of the time it is due to hard work and dedication. Well done!

    Very exciting times ahead. I studied with someone from Sweden. Sounds like a very expensive place indeed but you have the correct mindset to still make FIRE a possibility.


    Ps. I need to go google what a Kanban keyboard is and if I can make an excuse to buy one.

    1. Very inspiring 🙂 It’s hard to forget how much work was done once it is over.

      Haha, it’s an agile technique, not a keyboard!! It’s used widely in the software industry to track progress, looks like this. For big projects (like our wedding or moving country), they’re the best to help manage everything!

  7. Woah!! Massive congratulations to you both!!! Well done and all the best with your new adventure! Sounds like it’s what you need.

    I’ve travelled a fair bit in the past (over 70 countries now) but Sweden is one of the next on the list! Wonder when that may ever happen now…

  8. Congratulations SavingNinja!

    You deserve it!

    Stockholm is a very different city from London and I am sure you’ll enjoy it.
    I would love to have the same opportunity that you have !!!!

    Well done.

    Regarding the cost of living in Sweden – focus more on the quality of life that you’ll have and remember that those taxes go to pay for the fantastic public infrastructure there!

    Lycka till!

    1. Tack, GFF!

      Yeah, it will be nice to compare the differences between Sweden and the UK, I’ll try very hard to not grimace at the taxes 😉

  9. Amazing news, Saving Ninja! Congratulations on working very hard to achieve this.

    Like Indeedably said, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the beginning, so remember to enjoy the moment! Time will fly by before you know it.

    Looking forward to following your progress and learning more about Swedish FIRE :).

    Good luck, and all the best!

  10. Congrats mate!!! Well deserved!

    I’ll miss your appearances in the Foxy meetups, who will be stealing my readers now?? 😉

    Make sure you update us on life in Sweden!! I’m sure you’ll find a way to live frugally and also invest. Savings rate may take an initial hit but think of the long game. Better career, faster FIRE. Also, think of free childcare as a (20%?) bonus on top of your Swedish salary vs the previous one. Enjoy

    1. You’ll have to make a rogue appearance at the first SavingNinja, Stockholm meet up to steal all of my Scandinavian readers 😉

      Yeah, I’m hoping the future career prospects will outweigh everything. Even being excited again is worth it as I don’t feel like I need to retire in 2-3 years anymore! (Let’s hope that lasts.)

  11. Massive congrsts, its a big jump but sure you will smash it. Senior Engineer is a huge role, well done. I swear from the email intro it was going to be a baby!!

    1. This is exactly what most of our family said when we told them that we have an ‘announcement!’ We did just recently get married 🙂 I’m hoping I smash it, I don’t want to be having to come back to the UK with my tail between my legs 😀

  12. Wow, congratulations. Been following this blog most of the time its been going, that is big news!

    All the best with your big move! One thing I’d say is you need to keep at least open one UK current bank account open for life. It will make it much easier when/if you return home, transfer money, when you sell investments, also in the distant future UK pensions will want to pay into a UK bank account.

    Sweden sounds super expensive but worth it as it sounds like a great opportunity. If it was me I’d put saving on ice for a couple of years and invest solely in your career as you are doing. You’re doing well.

    I’m in my late 40s, FIRE is a easier when you have a higher salary, company car etc, so making your job the priority is a good thing, and saving can wait. Take care, and good luck both!

    1. Thank you Adam, yea, I’ve researched a little more and we’re definitely going to be keeping some UK accounts open. Do you have any recommendations? We’ve heard that accounts like Monzo are the best as they won’t ever ask you to come into a branch (as there are none!)

  13. Hej SN! 🙂

    I’ve said it already, but a massive well done and congratulations to you! Shows what can be done when you aim high and pursue with focus, determination and hard work. It’s been a tough few months for you and some manic months ahead as you plan your move but what an adventure!

    As you know, I worked in Stockholm for 6 months and I loved it there – it’s a beautiful city, not crowded, and the people are polite and friendly. Costs of living are eye-watering (not least the price of a pint of beer!) but as you say, massive bonus with the slopes not too far away for you to go snowboarding!

    Winter days are really dark (less than 6 hours of daylight!) but the longest day of the year (21st June) doesn’t turn to night at all.

    I was really fortunate that my last employer gave me the opportunity to experience the city and I would love to make a return visit.

    Also, I’d agree with @Adam about keeping at least one UK current bank account open for life – my ex-pat siblings haven’t lived in the UK for decades but still have need of their UK bank accounts.

    All the very best with your plans and I look forward to reading all about it.


    1. Hej Weenie!

      Thank you for all of your support along the way 🙂 I’ll be asking for Stockholm tips through-out the move!

      What do you think my next goal should be?

  14. Huuuuuge congrats SN!!
    Looking forward to having another technical chat with you 🙂

    I totally understand your fears for the inevitable “lifestyle inflation”. It won’t be in stuff – you’re frugal by design – but it will be in environmental expenses. More taxes, more rent, maybe more babies 😀
    I KNOW how this works.
    You can’t decide right now where you’re going to be FI – if you’ll ever want to be FI – so don’t destroy your spreadsheets yet. As a personal recommendation take absolute savings as your reference metric. Probably this is going up with the new salary, even considering expenses.
    I know I know, “saving rate is all that matters”, but 75%+ SR is an exclusive club for the young & single 🙂

    Welcome among the oldie 😀

    Joking, I’m really happy for you 🙂
    Your “interview preparation” period reminded me my 2012 before joining Hooli. Two months and half of coding each and every algorithm from Skiena’s amazing book, while still working and traveling a lot. I loved it, even though I was planting the seeds of my burnout.
    Take your time to relax a bit before you start.

    Have a great weekend!


    1. Thank you RIP! You were an inspiration 🙂

      You’re just like all of my Italian relatives pushing us towards babies 😉 😉

      I think like you said, I’ll focus on my career for a while and have FIRE take a back seat. As long as I still save something I’ll be happy. I feel a weight off my shoulder for reaching my six-figure goal and knowing that will be earning too.

      I will try not to become complacent; I’d like to continue doing algorithms each week and studying, as I know that with little study, but persistence, it will come easier than trying to ram it all into a few weeks like this time! 🙂

  15. CONGRATS! I have always wanted to live in another country. We just moved from NY to FL — not nearly so glamorous as your move:) I look forward to hearing all about the transition. It will be interesting to see how much you can save in such an expensive country. We lived in very expensive NYC for 40+ years, and there are still ways to save. That will bring an interesting angle to your blog!

  16. Incredible mate! Such a great achievement and an experience to have! You’ve worked bloody hard to get there so reap your reward!

    Good luck to you out there! I hope you’ll keep updating the blog!

    PS – I’ll have a free [censored] Subscription as soon as you have them 😛

  17. Hi SavingsNinja!

    Actual swedish person here, even born in Stockholm, although I’ve since moved 🙂 tought I would chip in with some tips regarding FIRE in Sweden. Sometimes it amazes me how large the movement has become (I used to read Jacob @ ERE over ten years ago and remember when he nominated Mr Money Mustache as his successor).

    – I would keep my online brokerage accounts in the UK, and possibly open additional ones in Sweden. There are a couple of good online brokers (Avanza, Nordnet) but they sometimes take the easy way out with foreigners in order to not run into compliance issues. You are probably best off opening accounts with Nordea, a traditional big bank, they offer cheap investing in many markets.

    – There are plenty of swedish FIRE-blogs, like “miljonär innan 30”, “enkelboning”, “iblandgormanratt” and “FruEfficientBadass”. They host meet-ups!

    – Easiest way to access the large ETF-providers of the world is to buy the versions registered in Ireland, and traded in the german stock market. (For example, iShares Core S&P 500 UCITS ETF USD (Acc) can be bought with the ticker SXR8).

    – Stockholm is actually very FIRE-compatible; there are plenty of cheap condominiums (all is relative I guess :)) if you buy, excellent public transportation (a car is only needed to leave the city), good food and plenty of opportunities to live frugally if you shop at the right places.

    Swedes can be hard to get to know – we keep tight family units and don’t often make contact with strangers. Don’t let that make you believe you’ve done something wrong! We are actually pretty nice once you establish a friendship :), which usually happens through the workplace.

    Lastly, I am guessing [censored] 🙂

    Good luck and welcome.

    1. Hey Karl,

      Thank you so much for all of your advice!! Do you know where I can invest in Vanguard via an ISK? Probably via an Ireland ETF like you said? There is some kind of law blocking Scandanavia from investing in US stocks, right?

      Could you elaborate on the cheap condominiums? How much do you think I will need for a 2 bedroom place for me, my wife, and cat? Any areas you recommend? We were going to look out of the city a little (30 mins or less commute) so we can get a nicer place.

      I’ve read that it will be harder to make friends, we’re generally quite loners anyway 😉 Where are you living now? Why did you leave?

  18. Wow, congratulation, that’s amazing. I’m guessing that the company might be [censored]? If so I’m very jealous, they do some seriously cool agile stuff. They also have an office in NY if you want to go on another adventure and save a bit.

    Out of curiosity (and this might be a topic for a separate post) how many total hours did you spend studying and how interesting did you find it? I’m in the same career. It’s clearly worked out well for you but I don’t know that I’m interested in it enough to do the work. I also don’t know if it’s worth the extra work to aim at a Google tier company vs working on in work projects that could up my salary within a solid local tech company. I’m not keen on London (Edinburgh based) so aiming at FAANG doesn’t seem worth it. Are there any other career strategies you considered?

    1. You’re right! And I’ve also got my sights set on NYC after I become an engineering manager 🙂

      It’s hard to quantify how many hours I spent studying as they occurred over the course of about a year. I found it frustrating at the start as I struggled with a lot of the core CS problems (as these are things that would potentially help in your day job, but they’re not needed to complete your coding,) but once I started grasping the concepts and being able to complete medium level problems on a whiteboard on Leetcode, I started feeling like I was making progress. The thing that helped the most was focusing on a certain area of Computer Science, say, binary trees, and sticking with that topic alone until you’re a rockstar with all of the problems. Doing that was a lot better than jumping around as I wasn’t reinforcing my knowledge until it was learned.

      The strategy I’m going to take going forward will be to study less, but persistently. There’s so much to learn and it’s so stressful that it’s difficult studying every day, but if I do, say, a leet code problem a week, and a mock System Design/coding interview a month? I think that would be a less stressful route to mastery in 3-4 years; I think that’s the only way I’d feel ready for a Google interview; real life mock interviews with colleagues is the key too!! Start a weekly club 🙂

  19. Hi Ninja,
    Just want to put my 2 cents in.
    I moved to Sweden about 3 years ago now, and am still trying to work my way around the systems here!

    The taxes here are much higher, but you get so many benefits for what you pay. You mention that you get paid for 6 months maternity/paternity leave, however, if you have been working for longer than 9 months, then you actually get 9 months maternity leave, AND 9 months paternity leave (but paid at 80% of your salary). In total that is 18 months that you are able to take off. Additionally health care is free for children under a certain age (think its 25?), schools are free, and university is free. Its good to actually be able to see where your taxes go!

    In relation to banks and investments, there are hardly any options in English, so it can be very difficult. Having the Google translate extension is a must have. However, most people are able to speak English, so if you have issues, you can always email support. If you open an investingsparkskonto (ISK) (or Kapitalförsäkring (KF) account) you only pay a flat tax each year on your portfolio and you are not charged on capital gains – If shares rise on average 7% each year, then you will come out massively ahead than if you paid 30% on capital gains.

    In addition, dividends on the KF account wouldn’t be taxed at 30%. You are also able to invest in markets such as America, Canada, Germany and many others. However, you can’t purchase American Funds (such as vanguard) through the KR or ISK account. You can buy German Vanguard Fund alternatives though.

    Anyways, look forward to seeing what you write about.

    1. Hey Matt,

      Thanks for your insights!

      I actually get 6 months off from my employer 100% paid even if I wasn’t in Sweden, so that’s kind of taken away this tax benefit. I’m also unable to take any part-time study (I wanted to do an MBA) as apparently it’s only covered if you’re a full-time student. Health care is also free in the UK with much lower taxes; it’s actually cheaper, in Sweden I’ve found that I still have to pay a small fee for medicine and visiting a doctor; I’ve ended up using my companies private health care anyways.

      So, all in all, it seems I’m getting very little for the extremely higher taxes. I’ve also been pretty unimpressed with having to walk for 10 minutes to dispose of my recycling and it often being overflowing and on the floor, the postal service is HORRIBLE, I have to walk for a total of 30 minutes to pick up my parcels! Things barely ever get delivered to the door. Yeah, it’s great that you get free education when you’re younger… But we’ve already got student loans, being in Sweden just makes them harder to pay off 😛

      The banking services seem absolutely terrible aswell (coming from the London banking industry,) my existing bank, Nordea, I almost don’t want to give them my money! I will try Handlesbanken next.

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