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!