few months ago I’ve been contacted by Gisela Enders (klunkerchen.wordpress.com) for an interview about my Financial Independence journey. She said “I’m writing a book about FI and I’d like to share your story”. Wow, will my words be printed on an actual book? A paper one? One I could brag about for the rest of my life? Something I could go to mama and tell her “hey mom look here, I’m on a book”? So I replied to her showing my willingness to answer her questions and then patiently waiting for the book to come out.
That time is now! The book is ready and my interview is there! Look mom! What? You don’t understand English? Ahem, that’s not even English mom…
Here it is: Finanzielle Freiheit
The book is in German – meaning I can’t actually read my own interview 🙁 – but apparently an English translation is planned.
First part of the book is an explanation of what is FI, followed by a second part with interviews to those who’ve already made it, including the White Family (whatlifecouldbe) – member of the special circle of RIP’s bloggers family – and a third part with interviews to those who are on their way uphill, including me and Oliver (frugalisten), another member of RIP’s bloggers family 🙂
You can buy it on Amazon for 9.99€ but but but till February 26th special price ‘only for you’: 4.99€! (holy sheet how much I hate commercial speak)
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Hi RIP friends,
Few weeks ago I’ve told you that I started waking up early, thanks to several input signals last of which was reading first pages of Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. I’m still waking up early, finally made the switch to 6am (still aiming to 5am) and it’s been great so far. It’s amazing how things go smoothly and quality of life improves once you overcome initial costs of installing a new habit.
I kept reading ToT as one of my daily routines. Essentially, the whole ToT book is about offering you a vast amount of options in terms of new habits to install. Tim says he wrote this book as a collection of life gems / advices / habits given by successful people he had as guests on his podcast: The Tim Ferriss Show. I truly love the idea of squeezing roughly a hundred of two-hours long interesting interviews in a sort of “collection of life directives“.
I knew little about Tim Ferriss before buying this book. I heard about the 4 hour workweek, of course, but neither I purchased it nor I researched about the author and the messages he wanted to communicate.
Then I saw this book recommended by so many people I follow, including James Altucher (James’ podcast with Tim, Tim’s podcast with James), and I wanted to try it out. I knew I loved the format, the interviewees and the topics: how to become healthy, wealthy and wise.
So that’s my Christmas gift to myself: 700 physical pages of amazing life lessons!
I’m a scientific person who does things in the most structured way possible. When I read a book I want to know everything about the author, the story behind, related works and so on. I want to explore further concepts I liked, I want to build on top of the ideas I’ve read about. This book is a gold mine for a person like me. It could keep me busy for a century. Read a chapter, get interested about the topics, go listen the whole associated podcast, get to know the podcast guest more, repeat with next chapter.
Trying to read between the lines of Tim’s comments within each podcast, it seems he did almost the same, but at the next level. Listen, interact with the guest, ask questions, experiment techniques on himself, repeat with next guest. It’s like cooking: once you have so many ingredients you can then start to mix them up for unique recipes. A lot of them won’t work – who cares – some of them will rock. I love Tim’s experimental approach to life!
Inspired by him, I’m writing my own “Life Directives” doc too. It’s not meant to be a book, just a life cookbook for myself. I’m parsing articles, videos and blog posts I saved in last years and extracting gems from them. Obviously ToT is one of the sources!
Must say that extracting ideas from an already compressed book like his is not simple. It’s like a juice of another juice.
My process is: read a chapter with a black pen on my hand, underline the concepts I want to export, transpose them to my doc once in front of a computer.
I don’t usually like to underline on a physical book, but who cares! That’s not a normal book: it’s a trip, an experience. I want to feel I’m physically consuming the book. I want it shredded at the end of this adventure, like a backpack after a hiking month, as a sign of the fatigue and toughness of the adventure itself.
About the content. The book is divided in three sections: healthy, wealthy and wise. Each section is mainly composed by “podcasts extracts” but there are special chapters written by either Tim himself or someone else that don’t follow the standard podcasts extract scheme. In the healthy section there are two very interesting special chapters on workout and meditation that I took as they are and started implementing straight away.
I’m roughly at 30% of the book, started moving first steps in the wealthy section. I must tell I’m not onboard on every chapter. The healthy section dives into subjects I don’t want to experiment with (for now) but it’s good to know what’s around, which variables one can play with in the game of life. More on this in the next part of this multi-post book review.
Do I recommend the book?
Totally! You won’t agree with everything but I guarantee that, even if you just take the 20% of this book that resonates with you the most, it would be worth 10x the money and time you spent on it.
To whomever wants to improve the quality of their life. To those who are struggling to get things done. To those who have a researcher mindset and can’t just sit and repeat meaningless actions for the entire life. To those who want to overcome procrastination and laziness. To those who have an entrepreneurial mindset and want to build something. To anyone who is less than 25 years old.
Is that an affiliate link?
No, not yet. Well, I guess I’ll setup an affiliate account on Amazon,.I think there’s nothing wrong on making few dimes on such heartfelt recommendations!
A case of study: myself
Ok, how has the book influenced me so far? How is it worth the 15 USD I paid for it? I already said I started waking up early also thanks to Tim. Reading thru the pages of ToT I found that many successful persons have some sort of morning routine, usually including some form of meditation and physical activity. So I decided to have one. Reading Tim’s deep personal struggle on one of the special chapter (no spoiler!) I rediscovered the importance of uninterrupted blocks of focused work on a single task. So I decided to organise my time to allow for such blocks.
I’m trying to structure time following a simple pattern which is essentially a variation of what James Altucher suggests in his Choose Yourself book (which I didn’t read btw): trying to make yourself 1% better each day by doing something that improves life on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.
My structure is similar, but my levels are slightly different:
Physical: do some kind of workout each day, at least get myself out of breath each day.
Social: connect with new people, re-connect with old friends, enjoy the presence of friends, family and my partner, do something that makes at least a relationship better.
Creativity: do something that’s expression of my uniqueness. Write, code, play guitar, whatever stimulates my mind and makes me do something.
Curiosity: learn something new. Read blogs, watch youtube videos on topic I want to learn more, taking a coursera class, watch a TED talk. Whatever stimulates my mind and expands my knowledge and brain capacity. P.S. I love TED talks! I’d like to host a TED marathon with friends, watching the top25 TEDs of all time plus someone I personally loved, and following up on each one with a discussion within the attending crowd. And obviously one of my dreams is giving a TED talk!
Spirituality: I’m no religious but I do consider myself a very spiritual person. My daily spirituality routine includes some form of meditation, journaling exercises (write down your anxieties, what scares you, what you’re grateful for, what’s important for you, how you see yourself in 5 years…), decluttering (both mentally and physically) and finding new ways to improve my happiness baseline.
Pleasure: enjoying a videogame, wasting time on Facebook, browsing the internet, watching a movie or a tv series or just doing nothing.
Well, not everything is doable every morning! My goal is to do at least a single step on each ladder each day. So far I’m devoting time to Creativity, Curiosity, Spirituality and Pleasure each morning. Social is tough at 6am, but I see room for improvements: I could write an email to an old friend I don’t see much anymore, connect with a new person, prepare a handwritten letter for Miss RIP (or prepare her breakfast, she’d love it). I’d prefer in-person social things but I could still do something.
Physical, don’t hide. You’re next in line. As soon as temperatures will allow a morning run there would be no valid excuse.
January 2017 is gone. It’s been freezing cold here in Switzerland with temperatures below zero all the time.
Anyway, new year new spreadsheets! 2016 monthly reports have been very long full of boring details. I want to simplify from now on. The main NW spreadsheet for 2017 has been simplified and assets in the same class collapsed (except stocks/ETFs investments).
Before we start, here’s a note about 2017 Net Worth: I won’t take into account virtual earnings, i.e. “vesting” stocks, 13th month, yearly bonus. I used to consider them, a fraction each month. I have quarterly, by-quarterly (semesterly?) and yearly vesting stocks. I used to put into my NW respectively 1/3, 1/6 and 1/12 of the “vesting stocks” each month. I used to account for 1/12 of expected net 13th month and yearly bonus each month. Now I don’t. Those are not guaranteed until the money is on my checking account and the stocks are in my brokerage account.
What does that mean? While NW growth due to earnings used to be regular, it will now be spiky. March, June, September and December will be stellar months while the other eight will look poorer. In the end the yearly delta will not change.
The only credit I allow myself is the yearly bonus credit: issued in December and paid in January. Once issued it’s guaranteed unless you quit the company or get fired between Christmas and end of January. Not a wise decision to quit in January. That’s why January is not a stellar month given that paycheck contains yearly bonus. That’s why I expect December 2017 to be ridiculous in terms of NW delta: 10-12k net vested stocks (4 stocks packages, at today’s stock price), 7k base salary, 6k 13th month, 15k yearly bonus. All net, not gross.
This month NW delta is +6,624 EUR. Not that bad given that the USD dropped 2.5% compared to EUR, and US – where I invest a good portion of my wealth – has been downgraded to a Flawed Democracy.
Till the European morning of January 30th the delta was in the 5 digits world but then Muslim ban’s market reactions, dollar dropped and, yeah, 4K burnt to ashes.
Here are the major wins for January 2017:
Market’s still doing good! Well, I started drafting this post before The Psychopath signed the Muslim ban, right before market dropped. Anyway, all our ETFs went up, gold medal being the Tech US ETF (+2.77%). That’s to remind me that I did a stupid move last month by selling 40K of it. Never try to time the market again.
(Expected) Ridiculous saving rate,87.3%. 2016 Yearly bonus + January salary = very high income. As I said, if you wonder why NW delta is small (+6.6K) given 23.8K CHF absolute savings and a favorable market, I already accounted for my 2016 yearly bonus under the “Other” (row 13). Expected 17K net, probably received a little bit less (I can’t tell exactly, but salary + bonus + extras = 24K).
Low expenses, less than 3500 CHF. A month below 4K is a good month! Well, there are some wedding expenses not included here, like Miss RIP’s wedding dress (she paid with her account but we will share total expenses). Actually there will be several wedding expenses in the following months that mess up our finances, but that’s how life goes.
Another small bonus at Hooli. 500 CHF to be credited in Feb for my amazing performances, cool!
Losses of January 2017:
Lower than expected net salary. 26K gross bonus + 10K gross base salary + unknown extras (complicated and boring to explain) = 24K net salary. Who said Switzerland is the land of low taxes??
USD dropped 2.49% compared to EUR (and 2.77% to CHF).
Wrote my IPS. Took time to write down objectives, strategies and asset allocation.
Invested more money. 13th month and Yearly bonus went straight to InteractiveBrokers! I’ve sent 35K CHF to my brokerage account and extracted 10K EUR to my Italian EUR bank account to cope with wedding expenses. A nice side effect of using InteractiveBrokers is the amazingly low currency conversions costs. I can buy EUR on the market at its price (actually buying EURCHF currency pair) and pay between 1.50 and 2.50 CHF trade fee. No costs on deposits to IB and no costs on your first withdraw each month from IB. Beat it if you can!
Rebalanced my investmentsaccording to the IPS. I didn’t fully adhere to my newly written IPS since it’d require a lot of trades. I’d like to aim to perfect balance with time, with new money being invested in assets lacking funds rather than selling current assets and buying new assets. The more money you move the higher you pay in trading fees. With 40k USD cash sitting on my brokerage account after the sale of half of my Tech US ETF and the extra 35k CHF invested I purchase 50k EUR worth of STOXX600 ETF and 15k USD worth of SWX:CSUSS-USD, an ETF tracking the MSCI USA Small Cap index. Extra 10k have been sent to my Italian EUR bank account as previously explained. My portfolio looks better to me but still not perfect.
I started a healthy routine of waking up early. Still not at it’s final permanent stage (and I skipped a morning), but waking up early in a consistent way is bringing more quality time into my life.
Free Fridays. 80% is here and it’s awesome! I don’t work on Friday anymore and the life balance of a 4 days workweek / 3 days weekend is a step toward acceptability. I guess 3 / 4 would be even better but in my “Hard Accumulation Phase” working 60% would unacceptably slow my FIRE journey.
Health emergencies in both Mr. and Miss RIP family. Both RIP Sr. and Miss RIP’s brother had surgery in Italy. We had to travel at the very last minute to visit our relatives. They’re ok now, but they have both seen better days. So yeah, January nomination to “first month without international trains or planes since I-don’t-even-remember-when” had to be withdrew.
Wedding budget finalized. It won’t be a frugal wedding and I’m not happy with that. What makes me happy is that Miss RIP cares about a perfect wedding and I’m doing my best (not much though, just avoid complaining too much with pricey extras) to make her happy. I won’t put many details here, like individual wedding related expenses, because few close friends of mine read my blog. I’m ok with throwing totals here though. Initial budget was 20k EUR, current forecasts say 23k but I guess we’d end up above 25k. It’s a shitload of money, I know. I don’t feel comfortable with it. I made the mistake of showing Miss RIP my yearly bonus… Anyway, wedding expenses will mess up our finances this year. Regular monthly cycles no more apply in 2017 and bills will come at random till June. Combined with spiky income months, I expect expect negative saving rate when the stars align.
Finished reading the Healthy chapters of Tools of Titans (Tim Ferriss). Want to blog about it. It’s awesome. It’s very inspiring.
Mr DIP found a job and he’s no more unemployed! I guess he needs a new nickname now 🙂
Numbers & Detailes
Total Income for the month was 27,227 CHF (cell E36).
~24,300 CHF my Hooli salary + 2016 bonus. Expecting less taxes but it’s ok.
~2,000 CHF my Pillar 2 contribution.
1,000 CHF Miss RIP contribution to shared economy.
Total Expenses for the month were 3,448 CHF (cell E37). Nice one! Anyway, I’m trying to change the way I report expenses. I added an expenses sheet to my NW spreadsheet. I won’t go into details here, take a look at the sheet if you want.
New health insurance, costs went up from 426 to 490 CHF.
Several Trade fees (64 CHF) for investments. roughly 0.08%of capital moved (70k) plus some currency conversions.
Milan condo fees 120 EUR. We pay condo fees in Milan 5 times per year in July, September, November, January and March.
Paid 180 EUR as deposit for our next group hiking trip along the Via Francigena! It will be 5 days during Easter with Walden Viaggi a Piedi, an italian social trekking company. Both I and Miss RIP will take this break right after my theater plays and before turning 40 and getting married. Yes, it will be a pretty intense Q2 2017. Anyway, this trip will be a super frugal group hiking with a guide and seeking for hospitality in hostels and monasteries. Have you ever heard about Via Francigena? Canterbury (UK) to Rome? It’s our Camino de Santiago! Well, we’ll just walk 5 days in Tuscany, from Florence to Siena, first time together (I’m used to hiking trips). looking forward!
Total savings are 23,779 CHF (cell E38), very good. Saving rate is 87.3% (cell E39). Do not worry, we’ll be back to normal in February.
Net worth is 558,597 EUR (cell E15). Crap. Delta is +6,624 EUR (cell E16), percent 1.20% (cell E17). Very bad. As explained above it’s mainly due to USD drop and lower than expected net salary.
The progress bar changed accordingly:
With a small step toward of +0.46% toward the big goal. We were used to 2% jumps, it’s ok. There will be better months. And worse for sure! If Mr. Market will get irritated w may end up reusing some of the old logos…
Forecast for 100% FIRE: 33 months left (+1 months, calm, breathe), i.e. forecast Fire Date is October1st 2019, (cell U19). What the hell! A month has passed, net worth increased by 6.6K and FIRE date moved away from us by 2 months? Just for fun I tried to play with linear forecasts. What if our NW increased every month by 6.6K EUR during 2017? We’d be doing steps toward FI, I expect to get closer to the goal. Let’s take a look at the FIRE date:
Whaaaaaaat?? If our NW increased by 6.6k per month in 2017 we’d end the year with 56 more months to go. How depressing 🙁
What if it increased by 5 digits per month from now on?
Holy sheet, 10k NW increase per month and at the end of the year we’d still be 34 months far from FI? Carrot and stick. Actually 10k per month is above my expectations for 2017. I don’t think the Market is going to positively surprise us in 2017 and let “exponential growth” or “compounding magic” happen.
All forecasts are linear forecasts over a 12 months window.
Current Monthly allowance: 1,552 EUR(+19 EUR, cell U25). It represents how much I could withdraw indefinitely per month (at my desired WR) in case I decided to call myself FI today.
Current Withdrawal Rate – Real: 9.75% (-0.35%, cell U28). This represents the WR I need to support current spending regime with today’s NW. It got better this month because we increased our NW and reduced yearly expenses compared to previous forecast.
Current Withdrawal Rate – Ideal: 5.97% (-0.05%, cell U31). This represents the WR I need to support my desired spending regime (lower than current, since I plan to retire in Italy and not in Switzerland) with today’s NW. When this number will meet the desired Withdrawal Rate (cell U10) we’ll be FI.
Next Steps & Other Updates
I have extra money to invest in February, roughly 13k USD from Hooli stocks sale. Need to finish rebalancing my investments. I may sell another portion of Tech US (17k) to kick off Emerging Markets and Pacific.
Since we’ll do joined tax declaration in 2017, I’m thinking about opening a Pillar 3a for Miss RIP. She holds her Swiss savings in cash, what a waste of money. She’s totally not into investments and I may consider suggesting “safe” investments to her.
This wedding project has been so far the most complex project we’ve been involved together. So much effort for “a single day”. I’m talking about the wedding day here, not about the fact we’re starting a family and the long term project. Just the wedding day.
Miss RIP is handling roughly 90% of the details, while I take care of bureaucracy. She’s doing an amazing job with location, invites, hotel for guests, transportation for guests, menu details, church details, flowers, rings, photos, videos… I’m just caring about my dress, whose hunt didn’t start yet while she’s already purchased it.
Anyway, expenses are coming. A lot of trips to Milan are coming too. In February we’ll purchase tons of train/plane tickets to Rome/Milan to cover until end of June 2017. Purchasing in advance lowers ticket costs by up to 90%.
That’s going great! I’ll be on stage end of March – beginning of April with at least 7 performances. The theater company is amazing and I already love all my new friends! I took over minor IT responsibilities and now maintain the company website and Facebook page. Feb & March will be super intense with full weekends of rehearsals and then it will be “on stage” again!
I was (again) close to rent my apartment starting February but the tenant declined (again) at the very last minute. It’s getting really depressing.
January has been a page view record month. After few stable months PVs spiked! That’s not due to an “awesome day”, just the daily basis kind of doubled and… it feels good 🙂
Engagement followed the same pattern: more people interacting, commenting and it feels good too! I’m active in Rockstar Finance Forum, which probably helped a little.
I technically have more time to blog so I may end up writing more. I still love writing but I’m thinking about kicking off a coding project with my free time that might erode time to my beloved blog. I don’t know. No, I won’t switch to full time Stardew Valley farming, do not worry 🙂
Today I want to tell you 2 stories. One of them is a story of incredible success and the other one is a story of a miserable failure.
Let’s start with the failure. Yes, you guessed right, the failure story is mine, 100%.
Wait, no, it’s not that I gave up on my journey to Financial Independence! Guys, I said “small” failure… I’m not even talking about giving up on waking up early, even though I didn’t set my alarm at 6am as planned (yet).
The story is the following one: yes, I did wake up early last Friday and – empowered by the fact I don’t work on Friday – I spent an entire day… playing a videogame! One of first hard earned Fridays – that’s costing me roughly 500 EUR of missed earning – wasted playing videogames.
I don’t feel guilty though 🙂
What do I feel? A little bit “is this right?“, a little bit “I’m an asshole, what am I doing?” and then “that’s super cool!“. What scares me is when I go like “Am I sure I want a life like that? I talk about life purpose and then I waste time with such a short term leisure?“. Yes, that scares me. Freedom doesn’t imply happiness, for happiness one has to work hard on themself and results are not guaranteed.
They say “the devil will find work for idle hands” and while I don’t like this sentence (I’m not hurting anyone, go away devil!) it is true that we humans are lazy and greedy beasts and we naturally follow the path of least resistance. Defeating our natural default behavior is very hard even considering we all know how much more rewarding it would be.
Anyway, I enjoyed the experience and, as I’ve previously stated, at the beginning of this 80% experience I’ll use my free Fridays to decompress and try to relax. The real problem is that I’m not done with this videogame! I just started, I want to play more!
“RIP, you’re a loser, we all know that. What’s the second story? Wanna brag about a success of yours. And btw, what videogame is this? Is it really that good?”
Yeah, let’s move to the second story. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but no, it’s not a success of mine. The success story is all about the videogame itself.
If you’re following me since the beginning (or if you read my story) you know I moved from Rome to Milan in 2007 to follow one of my dreams: become a Videogame Developer. I’ve always loved videogames since I was a child and apparently it’s not something that’s going away with age. I’ve spent so many nights awake playing 2D strategic PC games of any kind: TBSs, RTSs, RPGs. I never bought the 3D graphics story, the console wars, the mobile whatever… I still consider myself an hardcore PC gamer even though I almost don’t play that much anymore (till last Friday).
“Yeah RIP, you nerd with your SCUMMy Day of the Tentacle. Shame on you. Cmon, what’s this new game name? Candy something? What-the-hell Birds? Is it at least a MOBA?”
No no no, it’s an Indie game 🙂 Developed by a single guy in the good old fashioned way. Here’s the game name: Stardew Valley (wikipedia, game site)!
“RIP, a farming game? In 2017? Are you joking? Wait, is this advertising??”
No advertising, I don’t get a Rappen for this post. I’m serious about this game, let me explain: the game is about you inheriting a farm from grandpa, quitting your cubicle and becoming a farmer. You get to your land – which is in a very bad shape – and are supposed to try to fix problems and grow crops, breed animals, get to know your rural new friends and see what happens!
“RIP. It’s a farming game. A f*cking farming game. A boring game for kids, c’mon…”
No, it’s not! It’s the perfect game for me! Listen to me, here’s what I love about this game:
First, I like this genre. Managerial game where you need to plan what to do with your resources, better if the pace is not too fast, I’m too old for action games.
Second, I love the style. 2D games are terrific. I don’t care about cutting edge graphics or other bullsheets. The game is graphically perfect, tons of 2D sprites, animations, a lot of care on details. You should see autumn leaves…
Third, I love the gameplay. I love the game mechanics: how you perform actions and how you get rewards out of them. It’s a never-ending game.
Next, I love the game complexity and level of details: you plant seeds that become crops, than you harvest vegetables and fruits then you can process them and create other ingredients that you can use in advanced recipes so that you can eat or give them as present to other villagers… then there are animals, you need to feed them, pet them, protect them and harvest their products… and that’s just the surface. The game has skills that level up, quests, maps, monsters and combats, mines and caves, desert and mountains, minerals (tons of them), fishing (hundreds of fish types), foraging plants, fruits, shells. There’s a village, with NPCs – 40 of them, local shops, a community center with… ok no spoiler, a quarry, a SPA, a Bar, a calendar with birthdays and social gatherings, weather conditions, time of the day, seasons (fish, crops and fruits are season dependent), an enemy corporation, ghosts, mummies, a dwarf, a wizard and an adventurer guild where you can buy swords and go fighting. Did I mention a gender respectful way to build relationships and family and kids? It’s just about farming eh? Each aspect of the game is extremely curated and deep. Nothing is poorly executed.
Next, this is an indie game, meaning a videogame developed by a small team, with a small budget. A game you could have made! In an era dominated by few huge companies with billionaire budgets, making every year the same game with more graphics (EA, I’m looking at you) indie games are romantic resistance. Like in the game itself the villagers with their local shops are romantic resistance against the mega corporations who wants to “corporatize” our lovely Pelican Town.
Finally, we’re not talking about “a small indie company“. This game was developed by a single guy. Everything: code, game design, character design, level design, graphics, musics. There are tons of assets in the game: 2D sprites, animations, items of any kind. hundreds of items, check the official wiki. Take a look at the crops! There are 40 different types, each one with 5-8 hand made, pixel art sprites! What about NPCs design? Quests? Minerals? I don’t know if you ever worked in the videogame industry (I did) but trust me: that’s an unbelievable amount of work for a single person, and the quality is excellent on every aspect.
This guy, named Eric Barone a.k.a. ConcernedApe, started all of this alone 5 years ago, at age 22, right after his graduation in Computer Science. Being pissed off of sending CVs around he accepted a minimum wage job as a usher at a Theatre. In the meantime he decided to start this pet project “using the opportunity as an exercise to improve his own programming and game design skills“. He loved and played a lot a similar, older game named Harvest Moon. That game had some shortcomings he didn’t like so he designed the perfect game he would like to play. Applause. Be the change you want to see in the world!
After 4 years of hard work, in February 2016, the game launched on Steam and Gog. The game sold more than a million copies two months after launch and is now way above two millions just on Steam. The game’s price is 15 CHF per copy (I guess it’s 10 EUR / 10 USD outside the rich Switzerland) so the game earned north of 20M, just on Steam.
And we’re not talking about those super simple random mobile games that inexplicably become successful out of nothing, we’re talking about a game whose metacritic score is 88/100.
It took 4 years of very hard work, working 60-80 hours per week without a boss giving you priorities and keeping you focused. He had to find motivations inside himself and the strength to keep up when, inevitably, morale went down. For 4 years. His story is in my opinion a great lesson for anyone who wants to achieve anything so let’s dig a little bit deep here.
Lesson 1: Passion, Hard Work, Commitment and Integrity are more important than Talent
I don’t have any doubt that this guy has a lot of talent too, but I’m pretty sure that the base ingredients for Barone’s success are:
Passion: he loves video games, specifically this kind of games.
Hard work: he put 60-80 hours per week on this project, doing and redoing stuff several times.
Commitment: 4 years. As a solo developer. It takes a lot of consistency and faith to keep up and not quit.
Integrity: He delayed the release date even when publishers and marketplace wanted it out because he was not satisfied and the game was not feature complete according to his plan. He didn’t succumb to business rules. And he won. Amazing! But there’s more: Barone wanted to create an immersive farming experience, with the ambition “to have real-world messages” (that probably weren’t very business friendly) like cubicle sucks, you should pet and not butcher farm animals, love has no gender limitation and dwarves, wizards and mummies are real things and live in caves and mines… ahem, ok.
Talent is overrated.
Lesson 2: Emotional Intelligence is more important than Rational Intelligence
Why am I mentioning Barone’s EI skills? I don’t know him and he’s probably an introvert anti-social geek (just watch some of his rare interviews). What I know though is that his game is a collective story begun 5 years ago with an announcement and it’s not ended yed. Barone leveraged the power of internet and social networks, sitting on the shoulder of the giants.
How? Barone made the development of his game completely public, releasing previews and test versions of the early game, listening to feedback and engaging in discussions on reddit and twitter.
Roughly 1 year after his announcement a producer jumped him and offered to help and raise Eric from any non-development responsibility.
Engaging with the community and being present generated an immense hype around the game and a growing fan base that showed an unprecedented respect and love for the game and his creator. Listen to this story: the game is completely an offline game and you can easily find it on torrent, download it illegally and play it for free – I stil remember the time when software companies went broke thanks to piracy. This game could have easily been a similar story. But I read that some of those who pirated the game, after playing it for a while, planned to get an actual copy and pay for it. I’ve read stories of fans that offered to help paying the game for those that can’t afford it. Things never seen before! These stories (unconfirmed, but they are on wikipedia) show a tremendous amount of respect and love for Barone’s hard work, social attitude and devotion to the community. The community’s involvement is greater than this, though: take a look at the modding community!
I’ve been into videogame development. A month before a game launches it’s already dead from a development point of view. You’re already working on the next game. Yeah, a patch here and there, if we didn’t delete the entire codebase from the repository yet… What about this game? It was launched a year ago and Barone recently said he’s spending more time than before on the game – not coding anymore – replying to fans and being present in the community. And, I guess, playing his beloved game!
Given sales numbers I assume the publisher hired a team to keep the development alive. They ported the game on all consoles and announced a cooperative multiplayer experience sooner or later. FIRE seekers out there, I can’t wait to play together on our minimalist & frugal farm 🙂
Lesson3 : In the risks vs rewards spectrum, investing in yourself is the best choice
Now… this guy knew nothing (I suppose) about publishing, contracts, money, marketing… so maybe he got a very bad deal, we don’t know. But let’s assume he negotiated his life changing deal so badly that he’s earning only 1$ per copy sold. That’s more than 2 Million dollars in his pockets! He reached Financial Independence at age 26. If you’re brave enough and choose yourself you may get 1000% return and more on your investments, not just that miserable expected 7% long term with stocks!
That’s the success story that inspired me the most in last few years! Thanks Eric for this incredible game and for inspiring me and so many others!
But let’s talk a little bit about my gaming experience, so maybe we’ll transform my failure in something else. At least a funny story that will gladly crack a smile out of your face!
The game starts with main character design. You can customize your aspect, name, gender and other things. Here’s Mr RIP, the spreadsheets lover from Hooli land 🙂
The game starts with an intro where you receive a letter for your dying grandpa accompanied with those wise words
I’m ready grandpa, I surely am!
Then you’re teleported into your current cubicle life at Joja (which is the evil company in the game) and you can experience how miserable it is.
Your environment is sparkling energy in every directions! A lot of fun! Yeah, someone has been terminated and your colleague on the extreme right is apparently not feeling very good today, but life goes on, doesn’t it?
Then one day, luckily, you get fired!
… or you reach FI 🙂
Anyway, you find the guts to read that letter:
Oooh, I’m totally bought in grandpa…
And here I started, in Hooli Land! Cleaning up the land and getting started with seeds, plants, vegetables, animals: I have a dog named ETF and few chickens named S&P500, STOXX600 and SmallCap and my farm is doing great!
Joking aside, I’m learning which plants grow in which season, funny real new vegetables names (what the hell is a Parsnip?) and most important of all: I felt like being there, in a smaller community, living a simpler life (with wizards and skeletons, though). That’s my dimension, in my future ecovillage, a day hopefully not too far from now.
Facilitated by some recent extratime purchases, as promised to myself (and publicly committed), I’ve finally allocated time last weekend to redact my IPS.
What’s an IPS? IPS stays for Investor Policy Statement, essentially an investing guideline you define for yourself that helps keeping you on path when situations may trigger your instincts. The market crashes? You have a money surplus? You’re having kids? You lost your job? They say this year Emerging Markets will rock? What did you write in your IPS for those cases?
I wanted to write it down after having read this amazing post on PhysicianOnFire several months ago. I strongly recommend you write your own if you’re going to invest money (and you should). Btw, invest 5 minutes of your precious time and go read PoF post.
One of the first rule of investing is “define your goals, priorities and strategies”, that’s almost all an IPS is about. The level of details of your IPS should match your desired complexity level. A too detailed IPS may end up being edited too frequently or going soon out of sync with reality. A too generic IPS is mostly worthless. I use the CV rule: it should never be longer than 3 pages.
In writing your IPS you’ll be challenged to think about your values, your long term strategy and your exit strategy. You’re forced to ask yourself if you really understand what you’re investing in and why you’re investing in such categories and specific assets. You may start researching and gathering more information, refining your asset allocation and diversification strategies and, if you’re a nerd like me, you end up engineering your lifelong economic algorithm.
I chose to make mine a little bit longer than I’m comfortable with (whaaat? 5 pages??), since I wanted to embed in it my FIRE algorithm too.
Mr. RIP Investor Policy Statement
Terminology NW = Net Worth WR = Withdraw Rate SR = Saving Rate FU = Target NW to call it FI
Reach FI (NW >= FU) before age 45, i.e. before year 2022.
FU = 30x yearly expenses (desired WR = 3.33%).
Yearly expenses to be estimated not based on current ones but considering factors like: 1) moving out of Switzerland 2) having 1-2 kids 3) buying or not a house.
Once FI is reached, Yearly expenses (thus FU) updated each year based on forecasts and actual spending.
Reach 150% FU before age 50.
Stay above 80% FU forever, after having reached FI.
“Hard Accumulation” phase while NW < 100% FU.
Save at least 50% of income (SR >= 50%).
Save at least 50k EUR each year.
It’s ok to not go beyond if it would impact well being (80% or even 60% is ok if previous 2 conditions are met).
“Self Sustainability” phase while 80% FU < NW < 120% FU.
SR >= 0% – Don’t touch the principal, keep working sporadically or find other ways to bring money at home to cover for expenses and let the principal grow.
Note that between 80% and 100% there’s a so called hysteresis: keep behaving according to the rules in current state.
Below 80% (Oh Crap percentage – cit LivingAFI) restart accumulating (probably via frugality and hustling more).
Below 60% (Oh Shit percentage) get back to work unless some form of social security is triggered or I am above conventional retirement age.
“What’s income?” phase while NW >= 120% FU.
make all work and income decisions as if the wage were 0 – cit MMM.
Stop caring about having to earn money, It’s ok to withdraw from the principal.
Stay in this phase while NW > 100% FU (hysteresis between 100% and 120%).
“What’s money?” phase while NW >= 200% FU.
make all spending decisions as if the price were 0 – cit MMM.
Stop caring about budgeting, expenses, earnings. Just avoid plain stupidity.
Stay in this phase while NW > 150% FU (hysteresis between 150% and 200%).
Note that the FU% will decrease if yearly expenses increase.
Invest mainly in stocks (>50%), secondary in bonds (<30%), maybe real estates (<15%), might consider p2p lending or angel investing.
Max out stocks investment at 100% FU. If my asset allocation says 60% stocks, once that 60% NW = FU (NW = 166% FU) then don’t over-invest in stocks, take extra money out of market ready to be reinvested in case of market drop.
Buy and hold stocks strategy.
stay invested (extra invest if possible) if the market crashes.
Stay low on costs in the “costs vs efforts” spectrum.
No individual stock picking (super low costs, high effort).
Yes Manually diversificate among regional Index Based ETFs: US, Europe, Emerging, Pacific (low costs, medium effort).
No world ETFs (medium costs, low effort).
No robo-adviser (high costs, zero effort).
Avoid investing in specific sectors (like “travel”, “consumer goods”, “technology”, “banks”).
Accept territorial home bias, i.e. invest heavily in the market where I live.
To keep up with local currency inflation and economic situation.
Avoid professional home bias while in accumulation phase (avoid “tech” investments).
To diversificate, i.e. avoid making a tech industry crash a double loss.
Optimize for tax efficiency over small variations (<0.2%) of costs (TER).
Prefer Distributing over Accumulating ETFs given same costs and tax conditions.
Let’s steal half of the famous Benjamin Franklin’s quote for today’s post.
Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. (Benjamin Franklin)
The second half is reserved for for Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans book review, which will take some time.
Tim, seriously, 700 pages??
Ok, straight to the point. After so many signals on books (like the above mentioned ToT), videos, blog posts – check out this amazing post by ESIMoney – I decided to give it a try: I’m waking up earlier than usual since Tuesday January 10th, weekends included.
No, it’s not a procrastinated “new year resolution that won’t make it to February“. I’ve always told myself the following story: “I’m not a morning person, I like to stay up till 12am, 1am, 2am“. I was convinced by that. But that’s just a story that you can and should change. I was not fully satisfied with going to bed so late, spending too much time in front of a computer after 10pm and always feeling I was missing quality timewith just myself.
So I tried it. I challenged the status quo and started experimenting something new. Let’s see what happens, I started without a plan. The goal is to install a new good habit.
I used to wake up at 8.30am. I know, it sounds ridiculous. Shame on me! I moved the alarm clock at 7 and after few days moved again to 6.30. Next goal is to reach at least 6am, planned to happen on Monday January 23rd, but I’m secretly aiming to 5am. 5am gives me roughly 3 hours of morning time. Plenty of time!
Wait… what? They say the magic hour is 4am? Ok, one step at a time…
How did I do?
One of the biggest challenge of every time I try to install a new habit is the beginning. The first step. Not the biggest challenge though, that one is consistency, i.e. not giving up after a while. But still the first step is a major blocker.
To help making the first small step a giant leap for myself (in your face, Neil Armstrong!) there are two ingredients that I discovered they work well for me:
Strong Motivation, backed by concrete goals (desire to reach something) and some form of discomfort in current settings (desire to leave something).
A Brain Blocker, a way to stop thinking and put myself in autopilot. I discovered that my mind is my worst enemy in such situations. Should I go to the swimming pool? Mmh… why? It’s cold outside… I don’t know… maybe I can do something else instead. No. Stop thinking. Just do it. Yeah, I know these words look cliché (and a company logo) but it’s how it works for me! Wanna jump from a 10 meters high springboard? Let’s see… ouch, it’s so high… let me think… I may get hurt… and so I spent five minutes staring at the pool’s water, among preteens laughing at me… Then I blocked my brain, assessed that there were no risks, and then I just jumped.
My bed is the springboard. When I tried this in the past, the brain blocked me from actually leaving the bed. Snooze the alarm, just stay another 5 minutes in the warmth of my blankets, silence the alarm, goodbye! I had to silence my brain instead and just go out of my bed as soon as the alarm rings.
Then I discovered that this is an actual technique, known as the Heroic Minute:
The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up!
(Saint Josemaria Escriva )
Well, I transformed it into the Heroic Five Seconds. A minute would be too long 🙂
I discovered there’s a whole community behind this idea, both on Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t, but feel free to join the #HeroicMinuteChallenge if it helps you staying committed.
I never risked going back to bed once awaken but it seems to be an issue with someone. To avoid this you can get dressed soon (you’re less likely to undress to go back to bed), light all the lights in the room (your brain will adapt to the new normal), move to another room (get far from the bed), drink a big glass of cold water, do some stretching exercise, wash your face with cold water, do some awakening meditation or quickly go for a walk.
Going for a walk excites me enough, but given my current balcony view and the fact that current forecast’s maximum temperature for the upcoming week is -5 I’d rather skip it for now.
Waking up early is amazing, but every rose has its thorn: I have to go to bed early too. That’s the hardest challenge now. I used to go to bed late, very late. I don’t remember when it was last time I went to sleep before midnight. Usually spending a lot of time in front of a computer or my smartphone, rarely reading a book. It’s still time with myself since Miss RIP goes to bed earlier than me, but it’s not quality time. I’m tired, I’m low in energy level and most of the activities I’d like to do in the morning simply can’t be done at night.
In previous attempts to move my wake up window a couple of hours earlier I tried (and failed) to work on my bedtime. Intentionally trying to go to sleep earlier. Failed. Even if I tried to turn off lights and pretend to be ready to sleep I’d stay awake forever.
This time I forced myself to not care about bedtime and just force wake up time and see what happens. It happened that the first night I slept something like 5 hours instead of my usual 7. I was not very fresh that Tuesday at work!
Coincidentally we – the RIPs – had a very intense social second week of January: Wednesday to Sunday evening all booked with my Theater rehearsals on Wed, dinners at friends’ houses on Thu and Fri, a surprise party on Sat and a boardgame evening on Sun. Going to bed early is going to be a tough challenge. I may need to give up something I’m not sure I’m actually ok with.
Anyway, so far it’s working fine. I left earlier than usual evening events and set a hard rule of no digital after 10pm. Wasting my attention on videogames, mails, facebook and whatever else late in the evening makes sleeping harder. I can tolerate watching a movie though. Let’s rephrase the rule in “no digital device closer than a meter to my eyes after 10pm“.
On Monday January 16th, after a week of experiment and with less social events in sight, I moved my alarm to 6.30am and conquered the last (for now) 30 minutes of territory.
What does it feel like?
So far so good: I’ve finally found the time I was missing in my life. Time for my projects, time for myself!
Not enough, though (yet). Waking up at 6.30 gives me roughly 90 minutes of peace before the world (Miss Rip) wakes up and destroys the atmosphere. I guess there would be even less time available with kids around. I’m joking, though. Before this experiment I used to keep sleeping for another 30 minutes after Miss RIP’s alarm clock rang. Never been there to kiss her or hug her when she awakens. Now I hear her alarm from the other room, acknowledge my time is over, and run to her to wake her up with hugs and kisses. It’s amazing how this simple small practice boosts her happiness (and mine too).
Anyway, 90 minutes of myself every morning is an amazing gift. I actually crave for it when going to sleep! This, combined with The Fridays, gives me plenty of time to enjoy life in my way.
After the mentioned long social weekend was gone I was finally able to go to bed very early for my standards. On Monday I fell asleep at 9.30pm! I hope I won’t feel guilty with Miss RIP and friends for trading my evening social time with my egoistic morning time.
What do I do with this extra time?
These first 10 days have been very experimental. I focused on enjoying whatever I wanted to do, without much structure. I’ve been reading (Tools of Titans), planning the day, writing, blogging, meditating, stretching, playing videogames, washing dishes, stared at the outside snow, completing a jigsaw puzzle, watching youtube videos and reading other blogs. Unstructured time just to see how it feels, to try to destress, to simply enjoy life.
Free lunch is over though. I want to follow some kind of structured routine that involves:
Physical (10-60 minutes): walking, biking, do some workout routine at home, go to the swimming pool. The goal here is getting my body challenged.
Curiosity (10-30 minutes): read nonfiction (or mind challenging fiction, like The Silo Trilogy or Hyperion), study, watch youtube videos and TED talks. In general: getting my mind challenged.
Creativity (30-90 minutes): write a blog post, code for a pet project or a new software idea, write down 10 ideas, enjoying thoughts experiments (like the dinner table series on waitbutwhy) and/or create new ones. The goal here is to put myself at work on something I’m passionate about.
Spirituality (5-20 minutes): daily meditation, weekly reflection about where I am in life, where I’m going and what makes me happy. This is to find my purpose in life and remind myself to not forget that there’s more than living in survival mode and chasing pleasures.
Planning (5-20 minutes): planning the day, scheduling the duties (errands, bills, social events), play with the Eisenhower Matrix and set morning time for the “important but not urgent” items. This is to try to keep some sort of control over natural life chaos.
Leisure (0-30 minutes): whatever I want that makes me pure short-term pleasure like watching an episode of a tv series, playing a videogame, solo play a boardgame, waste time on facebook…
I don’t want to be too broad though. I’d like to focus on few projects, ideally just one at a time for each category.
Yeah but this blog is about Personal Finance and FIRE. Is waking up early related to money?
Personal finance is a journey. You may jump in after a tough awakening from your financial nightmares, then you start tracking pennies to get your head above water. You become financially awake/aware. You install good habits and reach integrity, right direction, wealth.
Then at one point money start fading into the background. You have enough of it. You can finally focus solely on how to improve your life. I don’t care about money, I care about building a happier and better life. Follow your passions, find your purpose, seek happiness, improve well being, connect with others. Money is just a means to these ends.
So yes, waking up early perfectly fit my Personal Finance framework: it’s a way to improve my life using my resources (time here, not money).
Plus, as an amazing positive feedback loop, waking up early makes you a more organized and productive person. A person with excess of quality time available to work on side projects, learn a new skills, plan and prioritize things in your life, remove some physical and mental clutter and explore your inner self. All of these will somehow find their way to improve your wealth.
Not convinced? Let’s ask Kobe Bryant:
Thanks Kobe 🙂
Wake up, don’t be lazy! The world is awesome when the others are sleeping! That silence, the hidden sunlight, the frosty winter… I can’t imagine what will it look like to go for a long walk before dawn in spring or summer! Coming back at home after hours of walking in the woods… and it’s still 8am!
And it all started with setting an alarm clock and waking up within a minute!
One of the goals of this blog – as stated in the About Me page – is to meet like minded people along my journey to FIRE.
How to do that? Easy: join forums, communities, social networks, physical meet-ups, read other blogs…
Simple to say, hard to do. My life is getting ultra busy in this first half of 2017: getting married, planning (and then doing) the honeymoon, playing in theaters, planning for another hiking trip during Easter, getting 40 years old (sic!), working (80%, thankfully).
I don’t have much time left for this human interaction thing. I skipped few European meet-ups and I don’t plan to attend expensive (scammy?) Chautauqua. Sad, super sad!
“So RIP, are you going to dig a hole and stay forever alone?”
No, no, wait my imaginary friend. I’m still doing my best to be as much social as possible!
Second, I read a lot of other blogs (probably too many) and join the discussions in comments when I think I can add some value.
Third, hey, I’ve done my MBTI test and ended up being a ENTJ, clear? There a big E (extrovert), not a I! I strongly recommend you do the test. It’s free, it takes 15 minutes and it’s fun! Check out this amazing post by FIRECracker (Millennial Revolution) about “MBTI and Money“. If you like it, go ahead and reach out this deep “average human vs FIRE blogger” post on freedomthirtyfiveblog.
So yeah, I’m a proven social person, backed by solid data!
“Hey RIP, you mocking us? I heard you’re wasting your time making jigsaw puzzles in your spare time…”
It’s just a rumor, cmon! Who does puzzles in the third millennium??
Anyway, ok, I may not be the most social blogger out there, but I’ve established strong connections with several bloggers that are now officially part of my blogging family.