DivGro is one of my top 5 favorite sites. I’ve always admired Ferdi and his approach to investing. Ferdi is a very active trader. Additionally Ferdi has a strong presence on Seeking Alpha, where he is a regular author. I’m really enjoying this series of posts. I always assumed Ferdi was an international blogger. It turns out he lives in the states, but he’s still an international man of mystery with a really cool day job :-). To my surprise we’re pretty much neighbors, living just a few miles from each other. We also share a common workplace location. In my past life I worked in the office next door to his current employer. I hope you enjoy learning more about Ferdi and DivGro.
21 Questions with DivGro
Where do you live?
What are your hobbies?
Investing and blogging about my portfolio of dividend growth stocks, DivGro (no kidding!) and working on various projects around our house with my sons. Last year, we build several terraces for a vegetable garden and planted 9 fruit trees. We also did extensive landscaping on one sloped area in our back yard. There are several more projects to do, if and when I get the time!
Which countries or major cities have you lived in or traveled to?
I was born in South Africa and lived in Pretoria and Johannesburg. One year, when I was 10 years old, we lived in Seattle while my father took a sabattical from the University of Johannesburg. That year introduced me to American life as well as Saturday morning cartoons, which later-on would prove to be the seeds for what I now do for a living.
Which sports or teams are your favorites?
I love rugby. My teams are the Golden Lions (a regional team from Johannesburg), the Springboks (South Africa’s national team). I also love cricket, a sport that most Americans are not familiar with. My team is the Proteas (South Africa’s national team). In the US, I support the San Francisco Giants (baseball) and The Golden State Warriors (basketball).
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
This is a tricky question to answer, so I’ll cop out and give you three. Last year we took our parents on a cruise to Alaska. That was super special. Another best was traveling in our travel trailer with my wife and our three sons to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Death Valley and Yosemite. Finally, as a child, we crisscrossed America in a small camper during summer vacation, visiting so many beautiful spots its impossible to mention all of them. My favorite vacation spots are Yosemite in California and Kruger National Park in South Africa.
When you are a child, what profession did you want to be?
I never really thought of a specific profession. I loved drawing, filmmaking, computers and math. I experimented with animation and claymation from age 11, finding the tedium of the process frustrating. Then computers became affordable and I started using those as tools to create simple animations. I learned to program and the rest, as they say, is history.
What is your career today?
I’m an effects supervisor and technical director at Pixar. We recently completed a short film called Piper, which is screening in front of Finding Dory. I supervised the effects on the short film. It was a very challenging project but thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m very proud of what my team accomplished with Piper.
What is your primary motivation to reach financial independence and retire early?
Unlike many dividend growth investors, my goal is to reach financial independence but NOT to retire early. I want to keep doing what I’m doing because I’m really passionate about my work. Financial independence for me means being free to pursue what you love doing, without worries about the financial implications of doing so.
At what age are you planning on retiring?
I have no firm plans to retire — it would probably be when I’m kicked out of my current job. I’m hoping it won’t be for another 13 years.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you retire?
We’ll probably lease our house for 2 years, rent or buy an RV, and crisscross America. And I’ll continue one of my hobbies, investing and blogging about my dividend growth portfolio, DivGro!
If money were no object, but you had to have a job what would you do for a living?
Exactly what I’m doing now. I think I’m very blessed to be able to say that.
If you could go back in time, what investment advice would you give to your past self?
Definitely it would be to start earlier and to live more frugally! I waited way too long to start, despite knowing about the power of compounding. I argued (with myself) that it is of no use to invest while I still had debt. Now I know better. Just the discipline of investing a little while paying off my debt would have been immensely useful.
If you could only use one metric to evaluate a stock, which one would you choose?
Mmm, this is a tough one! Just one metric? As a dividend growth investor, I look for companies with the willingness and ability to pay increasing dividends every year. The so-called chowder rule would probably be my first choice. If I could peek at something else, I’d probably consider the free cashflow-based payout ratio history of the stock.
How do you stay the course when markets are down?
I used to be a little depressed when the markets go down, not knowing if I should stay the course or sell to protect my investment capital. This was before my days as a dividend growth investor, when I was a much more active trader, doing technical analysis and ignoring fundamentals. Now I see down markets as opportunities to dollar-cost average down and to the boost yield-on-cost of stocks I own.
What’s your favorite aspect of blogging?
Blogging helps me to be disciplined. Before acting on an investment idea, I think about how I would present (and defend) the investment. I do the necessary research to steer my decision-making. Of course, blogging would be meaningless if it weren’t for the interaction with readers through comments. I’ve learned a lot from the comments and questions my readers post. They quickly point out something I may have missed, or suggest other ways of doing things.
Why should people read your blog?
I like collating and presenting information in graphical form (charts, tables, etc). A picture is worth a thousand words, right? I capture information in this way because it is helps me in case I need to look back at the reasoning behind an investment decision. Hopefully, what is helpful to me would be beneficial to my readers, too.
Why do you blog?
See my answer to “What’s your favorite aspect of blogging”. All I can add to that answer is that blogging helps me to create a track record of my investment activities. I often use the search function on my own blog to look up something I’d written about a particular stock or idea.
There you have it. Another fantastic interview with a popular DGI blogger. Ferdi has a great story. I’m jealous of how lucky he is to have found his passion and followed it. I’m 43 and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. How cool that he works at Pixar and makes movies that are hands down the best in animation. On Father’s Day, my kids took me to the movies to see Finding Dory. I saw the short film Piper before Dory, and I remember thinking how cool it would be to work on a creative team that made short films. I didn’t know at the time, that I blog with one of Piper’s creators. It’s a great short film, one of my top 2 favorite Pixar shorts.
Ferdi can also be found on social networks. Here are links to his social pages:
How do you like this interview series so far? Are there better questions I should ask? Do you want to be interviewed?
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