Episode 03 – The European FI Community

Episode 03 – The European FI Community

Hello and welcome to the third Financial Independence Europe episode! We interview the Whatlifecouldbe couple about the real deal of financial independence in Europe, how cool geoarbitrage is and how to live waste free. An interesting episode; listen to it, read it, share it!


Who are the Whatlifecouldbe couple?

Their names are Mr and Mrs White (nice and mysterious) and they currently live in Romania. They met in Germany, where Emma was working as a translator and Robert was an Erasmus student. Now… they are financially independent and are still figuring out how to answer the everyday question ‘what do you do?’ (as many FI people). They manage FIREHub, a very cool Facebook community which brings all European FI people together (go check it out asap), they also manage their website (whatlifecouldbe.eu) and are the founders of Financial Independence week in Romania. Today we dig deep into the FI world.


Their FI journey

They have now been FI for 3 years! They started in Germany, and by the end of 2015 they reached the glorious number of freedom. They then moved to Romania, where their costs dropped, cash flow increased and they really got to take advantage of being financially free.

The big question: how did they do it? Emma explains that they have property in Germany with no mortgage, meaning some nice passive income every month covering expenses. Robert also manages an online business (the website), which he considers more of a hobby. The money is made from adsense, advertising, etc. They also mention some dividends. More snazzy passive income right there.

Although they didn’t decide to live in Germany and then Romania for money reasons, they do admit that a cheaper life in Romania helps sustain their FI life. So we’ve got a bit of accidental geoarbitrage going on here. Thanks Europe.


Why FIREHub?

One of the reasons our own podcast started is because of the lack of information for people who want to reach financial freedom in Europe. A large part of the community is in the States and is focused on their tax code, financial services, lifestyle, etc. Robert and Emma started FIREHub for the same reasons: to build up a similar community in Europe. This way, people can find information about their own country and compare with other countries (ding ding geoarbitrage).

There is huge potential to ‘life-hack’ Europe. Best countries to live in, invest in and retire in – and communities allow that to happen. Did you know you can start a business paper free in Estonia? Did you know of all the tax cuts on families in Germany/France? There’s a lot of info out there, and this is why blogs and podcasts are created. Robert and Emma are one of the first to get started, and indirectly thanks to them I got to meet tons of other FI people (including Alvar and Mathias!). Thanks FIREHub.


The Zero waste journey

Another big part of FI: optimizing your life. Optimizing your life also means optimizing the world around you. Robert and Emma work towards living a zero waste life, meaning less plastic, less buying and less food waste.

Cool things they do:

  • Bring their own cutlery and cups when eating out (NOT restaurant though lol)
  • Not buy bottled water
  • Buy unpackaged food
  • Not buy cosmetics
  • Sell plastic bottles and aluminiums


Robert is also now working with local authorities to keep his city clean(!)

Why this is important to FI: the less waste in the world, the less there is to clean up, the less it costs to take care of the Earth. Nice and simple. Plus we live here, let’s take care of it.


Why FI is emerging in Europe

Alvar and Mathias then moved onto the topic of FI especially in Europe. Why now? Why are people interested? We have two answers:

  1. The American Influence
  2. People are looking for a more meaningful life

Financial Independence is something that started in the States, world of innovation, entrepreneurship and Huge Things. As mentioned in the interview, people over there only have 2 weeks of holidays, expensive healthcare and higher salaries. So the American FI community began when people realised there was much more to life than just work and 2 weeks holidays (like seriously?). Tons of American blogs started appearing (hum hum Mr Money Moustache) and when the Europeans heard of the FI idea, some of them were hooked.

Europeans may have a better work-life balance and free healthcare, but there is still a need for a more meaningful, healthier and happier life (thanks to all our philosophers). So people started looking into investing, real estate and moving to cheaper living standards. That combined with the American influence gave birth to European FI. Still a very young concept, but with people like Robert and Emma and more blogs appearing, we’re sure more Europeans will get hooked.

The best part of the community: meetups. Where FI nerds get together and discuss financial freedom. More and more are happening around Europe, and the Edinburgh meetup is briefly discussed on the episode (I was there!). Go to one of those meetups and you will be hooked on FI for life, trust me.


Some cool tips

As the episode draws to an end, the Whatlifecouldbe couple share some nice tips on how to reach FI:

  • Focus on costs and track expenses
  • BEWARE OF RECURRING EXPENSES (coffee shops for Mathias)
  • Get creative with solutions (pijama bottoms for bags?)
  • Get a side-hustle: it’s amazing what you can earn extra in a month to then retire earlier (they cleaned a staircase for 1 hour and earned an extra 200€/month!)
  • Get into Facebook groups: crowdsourcing information is the best way to figure out the best investment brokers, index funds and even places to live. (we’ll have the Facebook groups on a Resources page soon)


Top Takeaways

This episode covered a lot of stuff about FI, how it’s coming about in Europe and some ‘optimize your life with zero waste’.

The important stuff:

    • European FI is different to American FI because of all the different info on different countries. That’s why a community is so important.
    • Cutting down on your waste can be fun and doesn’t have to be complicated – try it
    • FI emerged in Europe thanks to the Americans and the need for a more meaningful life (do you agree?)
    • Go to a FI meetup!
    • Reaching FI tips: track expenses, be creative and get yourself a side-hustle.

Cool links




Social Media:


FireHUB Facebook group


A question for you:

Have you ever done accidental geoarbitrage? Moved to another city and accidentally benefited economically? Comment below!


Have a question? Want to be interviewed? Send over an email at: financialindependenceeurope at gmail dot com and we’ll be happy to respond.

Also, any ounce of support is very helpful and encouraging (especially as a new podcast)!

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3 thoughts on “Episode 03 – The European FI Community

  1. Very intresting insight. Difference in the costs of living between EU countries is a tremendous opportunity to FIRE earlier, especially when you come from poorer country and earn in the rich West. However, in US I think it’s also the case, let’s take e.g. Nebraska and California, at least the language is the same 😉

    1. Hi waz!,

      good point! You can also leverage some arbitrage effects in the the US, too! Have you experience with this in the states? How huge is the difference in living costs?



  2. Living in the neighborhood of Romania the situation is similar here (however, Serbia is not part of the EU) in terms of expenses and taxes.
    One difference I picked is that while there is also a lot of plastic here and there and recycling by the company who handles the trash is questionable collecting PET bottles, paper and aluminium cans became an unofficial job for the poor. You see all kind of people wandering around in the town a searching the trash for it, then transporting on very “creative” (read dangerous) ways. Still this is a more probable way of recycling so we collect these materials separately, then I place the bags at places where I know the folks will find it. I like to thinking of it as a donation 🙂
    On the other hand I see geoarbitrage at work every day. According to my experience (especially in my industry, web development) there is not a single company which could be called successful (and not gust getting by or slowly agonizing) work for the local markets. Even the company I work for is under US/UK ownership. It does not solve every problem, but makes living here a little bit easier.
    Kudos to Robert and Emma for being so disciplined in this Zero waste thing, we are working towards reaching your level of awesomeness one day. Hope we will see you again soon 😉

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