Location Independence – the lifestyle of Mark and Svetlana Alexander

by Mark Alexander

20:17 PM, 19th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Location Independence – the lifestyle of Mark and Svetlana Alexander

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Location Independence – the lifestyle of Mark and Svetlana Alexander

This post is far more about lifestyle and mindset than property. Nevertheless, our passion to help others with our knowledge of property, finance, tax and law has been the basis upon which we have achieved location independence.

If you ever wanted a sneak peak into our lifestyle, or to ask us questions about it, then this is it. You can also follow our travels on Instragram or either of us on Facebook.

We see many people talking about and striving to achieve financial independence on Social Media, but that is something very different. My wife and I are not financially independent (by our definition) and it isn’t something we strive to achieve either. We commit around 40 hours a week to managing our business affairs and we will probably continue to do so until the day we die, or become incapable of travelling. Allow me to explain why:-

Location independence enables us to reside wherever we choose and to help our friends and family to share that lifestyle with us. The perfect temperature for us is 75 to 85 Fahrenheit and with as little rain as possible for the most part of the year. That said, we do like to mix things up from time to time, because we also like snow.

We chose to make Malta our main home for several reasons, not least of which are:-

  • the close proximity and easy access to the whole of Europe
  • 300 days of sunshine a year
  • one of the best NHS systems in the World
  • tax advantages
  • English speaking
  • extremely low unemployment, hence low rates of crime and high quality of life

That said, August in Malta can be hotter than hell, so that’s when we choose to visit relatives in Russia and England. January in Malta can be a bit grim too (nothing like the UK though) but windy, rainy and cold nonetheless. We choose to swap that for dressing up like Eskimo’s and having BBQ’s in the snow in rural Russia.

The downsides to Malta are that the fishing is poor, there are no rivers or lakes, and there isn’t much greenery or wildlife either. To compensate for that, we also have a holiday home in Central Florida. Neil Patterson recently described our back garden as being like a wildlife reserve. We regularly see aligators, eagles, osprey, egrets, pelicans etc fishing and we too are also able to go fishing for largemouth bass in the lake at the bottom of our garden. We avoid the hurricane season between the end of May through to early October.

It’s not all about money

Lot’s of landlords reading this article will be far wealthier than my wife and I, at least on paper and possibly in terms of both cashflow and money in the bank too. However, most of them are trapped by their own mindset.

15 years ago my net worth was probably four or five times greater than it is now. However, I was in a dead marriage and a business I had grown, which made me responsible for the financial well being of nearly 400 other families. I didn’t choose to cut those ties, circumstances did it for me, and for a while I was in a dark place in my own mind. My property portfolio had shrunk as a result of my divorce, along with my bank balance and especially my income. I had a few relationships and business ideas that didn’t go to plan too. I considered them to be setbacks or learning experiences.

That’s when I met and married Svetlana and my new life began to unfold.

However, it was George Osborne’s announcement of Section 24 restrictions of finance cost relief which inspired us to change everything. That’s when we began to define what was really important to us, i.e. location independence and our ability to help and inspire others to improve their own lives.

Rather than building another empire, which is what traps most financially successful entrepreneurs and had previously trapped me, we focused our efforts on systematisation and building relationships with like-minded individuals. To this day, Property118 has only two employees, and neither Svetlana or myself are either of them. I head up the Property118 tax team, which is a role I can do from anywhere in the World so long as I am able to connect to the internet. I had founded the Property118 blog to to facilitate the sharing of best proactive and nothing has changed in that regard.

The Propery118 tax team is made up of a team of self-employed tax consultants, accountants, estate planners,  solicitors, a barrister and an outsourced IT business. The day to day management of our own rental property business is outsourced to LettingSupermarket.com and my accountants, but my wife and I still spend a considerable number of hours a week overseeing all of the activities we remain accountable for.

We communicate with all of these teams using a Voice Over IP telephone system, which still has the same telephone number I have used throughout my entire business career. The same number works all around the world, both on my iPhone and my laptop. We also use Zoom video conferencing for face-to-face business meetings as well as email and social media.

Time zones are less challenging than we first anticipated, because people we choose to work with respect what we do and are happy to work around us. For that we are truly grateful.

Common Q&A’s about our lifestyle

QUESTION – Don’t you miss your friends and family?

ANSWER – We actually get to spend more quality time with friends and family than most people. Before we had this lifestyle we would see our parents, siblings and friends for a few hours every week at best. Now we spend quality time on holidays together. When we are not in Malta our parents, family and friends are welcome use our home as their holiday homes, likewise for our holiday homes in Florida and Russia.

QUESTION – How do you find the time?

ANSWER – We all have the same amount of time in every day. We spend around 8 hours a day working on weekdays for around 45 weeks a year. However, we work when we choose to work. Sometimes this is during office hours, sometimes it’s in the middle of the night. Flexibility is key. We travel at weekends. We play tennis and go out for meals in the evenings and we sleep for around 8 hours a day. Sometimes we sleep in the day, sometimes at night, sometimes both. If we fancy a few cocktails in the afternoon on the beach or a boat, followed by an afternoon siesta, that’s what we do. Nevertheless, we endeavour to respond to all business related matters within 8 hours at maximum. We also outsource more things than most people. For example, we don’t care much for DIY tasks such as gardening, cooking, cleaning, pool care, washing and ironing etc. and it costs us less to outsource those tasks than we can earn in the time it would take us to do them less effectively for ourselves.

QUESTION – What cars do you own?

ANSWER – We don’t own a car. We use taxi’s, public transport or hire cars. It isn’t economically viable for us to own, insure and maintain cars in all the places we travel to. Instead, we prefer to hire a car that suits our mood and the circumstances. Sometimes it’s a sport car, sometimes its a big SUV, sometimes we hire a chauffeur driven luxury car, but for the most part we use the likes of Uber/eCabs/Lyft/Bolt/Wheely/Yandex taxi or equivalent taxi company Apps.

QUESTION – Are you not concerned about the carbon emissions associated with all your travel?

ANSWER – Yes, which is why we endeavour to be carbon neutral

QUESTION – What is your work philosophy?

ANSWER – We treat our tenants like we would treat people we want to stay friends with and we look to save our professional clients significantly more than we charge. We are also great believers in sharing best practice.

QUESTION – Are you religious?

ANSWER – Not particularly, but we do believe in higher forces and treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We passionately look to embrace and learn from other positive cultures.

QUESTION – What are your hobbies?

ANSWER – We both enjoy tennis but neither of us are not very good at it, likewise for fishing. Svetlana is an award winning artist and florist. I enjoy any being a spectator of all Motorsports, but especially Speedway Grand Prix. I have also been fascinated with martial arts since I was a teenager. My nunchaku are never far away. At least once a year we enjoy a road-trip with friends. We did the Cannonball Run Europe in 2017 and 2018 and a road trip around all the best places in California this Summer. We also love eating out, especially when we are also being entertained with live music or a show.

QUESTION – Are you buying or selling property?

ANSWER – We stopped buying quite a while ago when we made a conscious decision to enjoy what we set out to do in life.  We are gradually selling off properties to reduce our commitments. However, we wait until tenants decide to serve notice and move on before making any such decisions. We then look at what the net sale proceeds would be if we were to sell the property and divide this by the average profit we have made over the last few years. If we have a need for cash we are more likely to sell, but if the net profit expressed as a percentage of capital invested is upwards of 10% then we are more likely to hold onto them.

QUESTION – Have you ever been arrested, bankrupted, struck off as a Director or had a CCJ?

ANSWER – No. I have included this because some hateful people have implied that we have. Our view on ‘haters’, by the way, is that all successful people have them. If you don’t have any, then you’re either blissfully oblivious to them or have nothing for others to be envious of. The people with the most haters in the World tend to have more control of it!

ANY MORE QUESTIONS?

If you would like to ask any more questions about our lifestyle please feel free to do so via the comments section below. If we consider them to be too personal we reserve the right not to answer them or even delete them if we consider them to be inappropriate or abusive.

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Comments

Richard Adams

12:33 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Sounds great Mark. But didn't you couple of years or so back say you were considering moving your main home base in Malta elsewhere. Portugal wasn't it?
Most of us in Property118 from its outset will be forever grateful to you for setting it up which was instigated mainly as I recall from the fight you successfully led against the West Brom. Quietly confident throughout you were while negative gainsayers posted all over the place you were on a loser. I often wonder how many West Brom BTL borrowers who disgracefully funked joining the action yet benefitted from the victory, have thanked you and admitted they were wrong to doubt you and not contribute. There were plenty of them. Sadly I suspect the answer is zero.

Frederick Morrow-Ahmed

13:16 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Hi Mark, great stuff.
Who/where do you outsource your IT to and what server side language is your website written in?

Mark Alexander

14:50 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Richard Adams at 20/11/2019 - 12:33
Hi Richard

We did indeed consider Portugal as an alternative to Malta and from a tax perspective it is arguably even better. We are certainly not ruling it out for the future but for the meantime we prefer Malta. I wrote a follow article following our recon trip to Portugal here >>> https://www.property118.com/recon-trip-portugal-nhr-tax-residence-purposes/

The West Brom case certainly put Propery118 on the map but it was running for at least four years before then. I have been amazed at the positive recognition we got from that case and we even won a very prestigious Property Investors Award. Winning the case also significantly enhanced our credibility among lawyers and accountants. Very few of those who attacked us and suggested our crowd funding was a money making scam to prey on the victims ever apologised, even after we also won a refund of 100% of every contributors legal fees. Those same people still attack everything we do to this day. They are incapable of understanding the law or innovating, so they choose to attack those who do.

Mark Alexander

14:52 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Frederick Morrow-Ahmed at 20/11/2019 - 13:16
Hi Frederick

Property118 is built on a WordPress platform. We rarely use external plugins, pretty much everything is developed on a bespoke basis, including additional layers of security, by Accent Design Group >>> https://accentdesign.co.uk/ - our main developers are Dave Fuller and Nick Thompson.

Monty Bodkin

15:47 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Hello Mark,

What happened to the dogs?
I travel and live in Europe and find having large dogs very lifestyle restrictive with travel, the local climate, vehicle type, accommodation, going out etc.
Plus dogs need stability and routine.

(feel free not to answer if too personal, I don't doubt you did the right thing by them)

Dancinglandlord

20:07 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Hi Mark and Svetlana,
A very timely post for me - having bumped into a dear friend and semi-retired landlord colleague today, who said his only regret was leaving it too late to retire. That set me thinking. As I approach 60 after 25 years hard slog building my portfolio as a landlord, I have faced year-on-year challenges and reconfigurations of what the market and government expect and take from us... Today we are faced with bringing our properties to carbon neutral by 2030. I fully endorse such an aim, but I'm tired. I've done everything expected of me to the letter so far. It's time for the next generation to take the mantle. I have worked hard for my living, I have invested into my pension (my houses) and I have worked smart (which involved keeping abreast of a lot of diverse information). I face new challenges: - taxation of my gains without regard to index linking and taxation of my profits without regard to my costs in mortgage interest repayments (and now carbon improvements). In addition I face taxation of my estate if I try to protect my offspring against the negative economy we now live in. Thus the taxation of my profits is in direct opposition to the taxation of my capital growth. Until my portfolio reaches sufficient capital growth I cannot walk away, as taxation on selling will lose me everything I have worked to earn. However, if interest rates increase, I will be forced into paying tax on a loss!! This is the conundrum of our industry for those caught in the middle. One of the only ways to resolve this dilemma is to move to tax-gentle countries (I have my eye on Portugal). The current political climate is terrifying - as landlords we are political punchbags, and yet we are increasingly being asked to fill the void for hard-to-house tenants that local authorities cannot accommodate. We are being asked to fund the cashflow of the DSS system of vulnerable tenants in the hands of a bureaucratically broken system. I personally am so grateful for your lead, your braveness and clear thinking on the persecution we now face. I don't wish to 'run away' from taxation, I am not google or Amazon, I don't want to evade tax per se, only unreasonable tax. I just want to reap the reasonable rewards of my lifetime of investment - not just of mortgage money, but my time for my tenants in creating good quality housing and services. I want to semi-retire and give work to others to keep what I have worked so hard to create going. Without those like you finding their way through the maze, it would be a difficult journey right now!

Mark Alexander

20:58 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Dancinglandlord at 20/11/2019 - 20:07
If you haven’t already done so, please book a tax planning consultation with us. You have nothing to lose because they come with a guarantee of total satisfaction or a full refund.

Moving abroad is just one option to consider. However, there may well be far more options which are far less radical you could consider too. Our tax planning consultation will identify these for you.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Dancinglandlord

21:19 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Hi Mark, You and monsieur Smith have already helped (thanks) and I'm working towards my next phase/s of planning. I will be in touch.

Gurdeep

21:46 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Hi Mark & Svetlana,
Brilliant article. Keep enjoying life my friend and catch up soon.

Mark Alexander

22:33 PM, 20th November 2019
About 3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Monty Bodkin at 20/11/2019 - 15:47
Thankfully, a friend of ours adopted the dogs and has been great with them. We get pictures all the time.

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