My Financial Story – Chapter 8 – Dream Jobs Left

This is the eight and last chapter in my financial story series. In the previous chapter I became rich, moneywise. Here I’ll show you why I’d like to become rich timewise.

Disclaimer: This chapter will be different from the others. This post is not about my past or present, but about my ideal future(s). If you only care about facts, you can skip this one.

So, I’ve been extremely lucky so far: I’ was born with some talent and a lot of curiosity, I’ve escaped the poor neighborhood where I was born, I got a master degree, I’ve done whatever job I dreamed about, I’ve been traveling the world and now I’m in the top 0.07% of the world by income.

Am I in the top 0.07% by happiness? I don’t think so. I can’t complain about my life today, but I’m sure I can improve it by a lot. A giant leap, a new paradigm.

How’s my life today: I wake up, go to work, come back home usually between 6 and 7pm, when 70+% of the day is gone, and then – in the few hours left – eat, cleanthehouse, read, write, play, makelove, kiss, hug, visitfriends, dochores, doerrands, study, dreamaboutplayingtheateragain, gotogrocerystore, attachitemstomyendlesstodolist, followmypassions…

How about Weekends?

  • Saturdays: wake up usually a little bit later – unless we have a trip planned in that case the whole weekend acts as short adrenaline boost to make my Sunday evening suck even more – do chores, maybe take a walk, try to relax but still feel the work-related stress, go biking or swimming, meet friends, have dinner together.
  • Sundays: wake up later, finally feeling temporary relaxed, take it easy, meet other friends, spend time with Miss RIP, start complaining that the weekend is over at around 5pm, watch a movie together or play boardgames with friends, pretending you don’t have to go to work tomorrow.

stonehouseIt’s not that bad, is it? Well, it can be improved. It’s like having a giant stone in your house, that takes 50% (70% in weekdays, 10% in weekends) of your living space. You can adapt and live in the remaining space, but you’re lying to yourself if you say it’s as good as it can get.

So, let’s imagine we can remove the giant stone, that we could go for that long uninterrupted picnic. Let’s pretend that you can design your own future and money are not an issue. This is one of the main questions one has to ask themself to find their passions. What would you do? I don’t know yet what I will end up doing – you don’t know how you’d adapt to such a change – but what I do know is that I have tons of passions and dreams I would like to devote more time to. They are not mutually exclusive with the classical notion of “work“. Following these dreams may actually end up in another career step or somewhere else, where money are not at the centre.

Here’s an unordered list of my next dreams.

I dream about launching a startup, creating the next big thing.

I like coding. I made a career out of it! I still enjoy telling a machine what to do and watch it doing what I told. I like software engineering, i.e. the process of transforming ideas to computer programs/apps. I like the creativity behind software design and algorithmic solutions. I like to dream that my idea will revolutionize the world and help so many people out there. I like to try to be in charge of the entire thing and to switch from “coding in my basement” to “being invited to a TED conference because my idea is worth spreading”.

I dream about contributing to space exploration.

I’m a big fan of human space exploration and astronomy in general. Well, physics in general. Actually science in general. What about philosophy (if science can be considered part of it) in general? I’ve spent more than a year studying and watching videos about Big History (the history of everything). If you’re interested as I am, I recommend you to start with the Microsoft sponsored Big History Project (take a look at this TED talk by Professor David Christian, plus few more links). I love that these days space exploration is a popular topic with not only Nasa planning to take a trip to Mars, but private companies like SpaceX.

I dream about teaching Big History.

Yes, BH is a topic I love. It’s everything essentially. I would love to see BH taught at every school. If you’ll let your mind explore the infinitely big and the infinitely small, you’d see this small green and blue ball we all live in for what it is: our shared home. Fights, racism, even borders will be insignificant. BH is my religion (joking, FSM, ramen!) and I would like to see it widely spread.

I dream about getting lost in science.

A generalization of the previous point. Science. I would like to study (and eventually teach) pure and applied science. I love Chemistry, Physics (and their intersection, physical chemistry), Math, Biology. I’d spend a lifetime on Khan academy, Coursera, Edx and on actual books. Why? For no specific reason, just because I’m curious and I’m a learner. Knowledge is both my leisure and my luxury.

I dream about revolutionizing the educational system.

I don’t really believe in politics or revolutions to change the world. I believe education is the key to improve the society. I believe current education system is bugged. I got interested in Montessori and Steiner educational systems, but I still think there’s room for an educational revolution here. I like the vision of Sir Ken Robinson (link, link, link) and I’m here to announce I’ll found the “why school”, where kids are encouraged to ask questions and go looking for answers!

I dream about becoming a professional writer.

I love to write. I can’t judge if I’m good at it, but I love doing it. I’ve always kept a journal, I’ve written stories, I’ve written trip reports and software design docs. I wrote a live RPG story, a couple of Dungeons&Dragons settings and few poems (that I’m not very proud of). I love to think of myself writing essays or copywriting or I don’t know, the only thing I know is that I’m getting passionate about it. I have tons of role models here, essentially all the blogs I follow (Leo Babauta, MrMoneyMustache, FinancialSamurai,…), but one above others for his writing passions: James Altoucher. One of his posts made me dream very high. This blog is an attempt to get better at it!

I dream about reading for the entire life.

I have a problem: I really love to read. The problem is: I buy more books than I can afford reading, given the limited amount of time I can devote to it (train rides, travels and maybe half an hour every night just before falling asleep). I love sci-fi and I’m lucky enough that there’s never been such an incredible production of very high quality sci-fi books! The Martian, Ready Player One, The Expanse series, The Silo trilogy, The Fourth Realm trilogy… I love reading popular science books, like Penrose’s, Einstein’s, Hawking’s, Susskind’s,… or self help books like Dyer’s, Goleman’s,… No, there’s no end to the list.

I dream about traveling slowly around the world.

Who doesn’t? I guess it’s the first answer that comes to mind when asked “what would you do if you win a lottery?”. Well, I never liked to be a tourist: I’m a traveler. I don’t care about visiting place X I care about going from here to place X, in the slowest way possible. By bike, by foot. Maybe hitchhiking a little, or local trains. But feeling the distance needs to be the main dish. Slowly and cheap. Maybe sleeping under the stars, or in a tent or couchsurfing. I need to feel like I’m doing something frugal, sustainable, social and fun. I’d do that forever. I’ve had some amazing experiences with bike trips (south of France, Donauradweg) and hike trips (Basilicata coast to coastItalia coast to coast and I’m planning to walk the Appian Way for a week in October 2016). I need to do more of that. Role Models here are Rolf Potts, Paolo Rumiz and obviously David Henry Thoreau.

I dream about volunteering in poor regions of Africa.

I see myself building that school or library or hospital. Or better: teaching math to kids and have their mothers pay me with small gifts, food and smiles. Or help them learn coding and be creative. That would be a life worth living on its own. I’ve met few people who did that, none regrets it. I can do more than simply support charities like Roomtoread, like I’ve been doing in last few years.

I dream about becoming a farmer.

Yes! I love nature, I love self sustainability, I love frugality (even extreme) and I love healthy food. Why not become a social farmer, a farmer 2.0? I’d live in an ecovillage or cohousing (I’ve written about it few days ago), I’d ask for help on wwoof and helpx, I’d sell my products via sustainiverse or via local ethical purchasing groups. I’d open the farm to kids, it may even become a teaching Farm. I’d have wine and artisanal beer tasting evenings in my cellar, while playing boardgames. I could become an ecological activist and fight to preserve the environment (but not saving the planet). If I close my eyes I’m already there!

I dream about exploiting sharing economy.

While living in my ecovillage/cohousing, if becoming a farmer is too much for my tired and old limbs, why not host tourists with airbnb? Why not cook for them with home restaurant services like Gnammo or Bonappetour (hint: a killer app is needed here, too much fragmentation). I like cooking pizza and pasta and like every average Italian I’m reasonably good at it. Come and taste RIPcousine!

I dream about owning a boardgame café.

I love boardgames. I’ve spent an incredible amount of time playing. I’ve been at conferences like Essen Spiele, Lucca Comics&Games, Modena Play,… I’ve attended play marathons like Gobcon Lagna for 4 years in a row. I love Agricola, Caverna, Terra Mystica, Dominion and so on. I’d love to own an activity where people can come and play games, relax, make new friendships. I’d sleep there if needed.

I dream about designing a boardgame.

Why not? I love numbers, statistics, balancing… I’d love to design a boardgame. I actually designed a Card game. It was fun. It was never meant to be published, it was for friends. It’s named “Il Gatto e la Volpe” and no, you won’t find anything on the internet. Design a boardgame is a challenge I need to face, sooner or later!

I dream about playing the whole time.

Did I say I love boardgames? Yes, I do! Did I mention I also love videogames? I’d like to dream about a future where I will play guilt-free for hours, even days in a row! Boardgames with friends, videogames, mostly alone. I love Strategy games, both real time (RTS) and turn based (TBS). I also love RPG and Massive whatever. I’d both play and help develop open source games like Battle for Wesnoth, my preferred open source game.

I dream about becoming a professional theatre actor.

Yes, I’ve been doing that in the past and I was completely drained by it. Playing, acting is… the true essence of life. I can’t describe with my own words what it means to study something written hundreds of years ago, try to shape the character you’re playing, become one thing with them, interacting with friends on stage, entertain an audience and make them both laugh and cry. I remember it was the night after 2 fully booked weeks of both matinées (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and evening shows (La Folle de Chaillot). When both shows were over, I felt like dying. What am I going to do next? I can’t live without acting! I want to go back then. I also want to write a monologue and play it in front of my friends. I’d love to explore the improvisational theatre too.

I dream about becoming a stand up comedian.

In acting, I’ve frequently played the Shakespearian’s fool. I think I’m good at making people laugh. And SUC is about storytelling, originality, creativity and being fun. I love StandUp Comedians like George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Louis CK, Ricky Gervais. I’d love to write a piece. Did I mention I like writing? And creativity? Hell yeah…

I dream about becoming a filmmaker.

Not only a filmmaker, I’d love to write a script, direct the scenes and play it! I’ve tons of ideas written down that are sitting on my hard disks. I love the comedy genre. I dream about becoming the next Rowan Atkinson or Jim Carrey.

I dream about becoming a personal finance advisor.

I studied a lot. My finances are in very good shape. I devoted more or less the 10k hours one need to spend on any topic to be an expert on it. I love teaching and I love helping people. I’d love to help those in financial trouble or those seeking for financial independence. I’m already trying to do it with this blog 🙂

I dream about becoming a life coach.

I spent most of my 31st year on Earth learning what was wrong with me. I went deep. I became a better person. I now now what is fear and how to beat it. What is anger and how to control it. What is anxiety and how to stop it. What is guilt and how stupid of a feeling it is. I’ve studied Emotional Intelligence and meditation techniques. Did I say I love teaching? I think so. Anyway, I don’t think I’m ready to be a life coach yet, but I’d love to get there. To help people that are struggling with their lives and can’t find their passions or get rid of unhealthy habits. My role models here are Leo Babauta, Daniel Goleman, Wayne Dyer, Derek Sivers, The Dalai Lama, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I dream about exploring my spirituality.

Like I said, I invested a lot of time in my Emotional Intelligence. I’m agnostic, I don’t believe in any God but I’m fascinated by religions and their social and spiritual aspects. I like Zen Buddhism and in general Eastern religions. I consider agnostic spirituality way more attractive though. I like the idea of Truthism. I’d like to ask myself more philosophical questions and to devote time to find the answers.

I dream about exploring my creativity.

Creativity means *everything* to me. My definition of “depression” is “lack of creativity”. I consider myself a very creative person. I trained my creativity every day thanks to science, games, readings and movies. As James Altucher says: “Creativity is a muscle. There’s no such thing as inspiration” (here’s another amazing post of his on how to become an Idea machine). I dream about becoming a creator. Creativity can be expressed in so many ways: from cooking to blogging, from vlogging to coding, from writing down your company’s mission statement to design an artificial intelligence. Creativity requires space and time. And disconnection.

I dream about exploring my curiosity.

As you can see, I’ve got things to do. I’m pretty busy for the next dozen lives. I want to follow a lot of dreams, a lot of passions. But most important of all, I know nothing (like Jon Snow) about myself. Till 2005 I didn’t bike, then I bought a bicycle and I can’t see myself living without one. I’ve been traveling with it, I go to work everyday with it. What I want to point out here is that I don’t simply want to follow my today’s passions: I want to follow the passions I don’t know anything about them yet, because I didn’t discover them so far!

I dream about becoming an amazing parent, lover and friend.

Yes, that’s probably the most important of all my dreams, the one I’m going to regret the most at my death’s bed in case I hadn’t followed. I’ll be there for my children. I’ll be there playing with them, reading for them, teaching everything I know to them. I’ll be there to stimulate their curiosity and creativity. I’ll bring kids into nature. I’ll devote time, a lot of it, to them. Same is true for my relationship with my SO and my friends. I’ll be there. I want to live a socially intense life, but not one full of bars & pubs. I do want to live in a community that I really feel mine, that’s why I dream about creating one. I strongly believe in the human and economic benefits of the social capital.

I dream about being lazy and doing nothing the whole time.

Yes, yes, yes! I miss laziness so much! I’m being too much productive these days. I feel like I always have to do something. It’s a kind of a drug. I dream about detoxing from it. I dream about living as if everyday were Sunday.

Ok, let’s stop here for now.

It’s not just what I’d do, I’d probably change the when, where and how too.

I’d go deep for 16 hours per day for a full week if I wanted to, then I may do nothing for a month if that’s what makes me happy. I’ve been enjoying sabbatical trips, where walking was my main activity and at the same time I’ve been working 48 hours straight during a Global Game Jam back in 2011!

digitalnomadI could open my laptop while on a beach in Sardinia, or a white pod in Switzerland, and coding my videogame, launching my startup, writing on my blog… Or I can try to live where the sun is, half of the year in the northern hemisphere and the other half in the southern. Or join a 3 months session with HackerParadise or coworking or working while traveling,… It doesn’t feel like working does it?. The sky is the limit!

I know, I’m doomed to fail on some of my dreams, probably most of them. Not even trying a significant portion of them. But I need to explore as much as I can. How to do that? I need time. How do I get more time? Buying it with financial freedom.

That’s the whole point about it. That’s why I want to reach FIRE. That’s what I’m going to do after. That’s why even though Hooli is awesome, I won’t work there forever.

My Financial Story – Chapter 7 – Dream Job Number 4: Hooli

This is the seventh chapter in my financial story series. In the previous chapter I became free. Here I’ll show you how cool is a golden cage. In next and final chapter I’ll show you what the future looks like.

I’ve split this chapter in several pages to keep them shorter than the total 3000 words I ended up writing. At the end of the page you’ll find links to other pages.

Note: I have stolen copied been inspired by “the job experience” post series by livingafi. I loved reading his series and I’m trying to do something similar here, where I analyse both my work and finance history/goals.

Disclaimer: This chapter will be different from the others, since I still work at Hooli and I don’t want to compromise work relationships I have established here. I won’t tell much about Hooli, sorry about that!

We closed last chapter in summer 2012 with “life was amazing back then…”. It really was! I was working 2.5 days per week in Tuscany and some weekends in Veneto. A lot of money to be ‘stashed. I kept spending very little, I was still car-free and never purchased expensive clothes or gadgets. I was (and still am) fully detached from consumerism. I don’t feel joy in spending or in fancy new stuff. I’m actually proud when I cut an unnecessary expenses. I feel true power when I don’t spend.

Anyway, I saved a lot during the exponential growth of 2012. All those extra money went directly in my bank account. No complex investment strategy, I was not good at it. Just cash or short term CDs.

The only problem in sight was the VAT thing. I had few options:

  1. Work till end of June, reach 30k euro of revenues and stop working till end of the year to keep the same fiscality for the next year.
  2. Work till end of September, reach 45k euro of revenues and stop working till end of the year (or eventually take a 3 months sabbatical during summer and then work Oct-Dec) and face the issue next year.
  3. Work the whole year and retroactively adapt to the normal VAT regime. Very bad.
  4. Reach 45k, get hired by someone (NavalCompany?) and then close the VAT account and become employee again. Very very bad.

I would probably had gone for option 1 or 2. I wasn’t caring too much, I hadn’t Financial Independence in my mind. This lifestyle of working 6-9 months per year and taking long sabbaticals seemed the best I could have. Anyway, the convenient fiscality was only allowed for 5 years, then you’ve to switch to a normal one, which means my lifestyle was unstable anyway. But who cares? Something will surely happen!

And it happened.

hooliIt was beginning of April 2012 when my friend and former magic door coworker Virgil called me: “Hey RIP, Hooli is amazing! We are hiring a lot. Why don’t you try to join me? Send me the CV and I’ll refer you internally. You will skip a phone screen but you’d still have to pass 5-7 interviews… let’s try! You’re smart, you can do it!

I: “I don’t know Virgil, I’m really happy with my life as it is today. I don’t know if I can go back to work for a boss again. Well, Hooli is Hooli and I always dreamed about working at Hooli! I don’t actually feel skilled enough! I’m getting old and I know you hire the best of the best.

Virgil, for example, he was very talented. He was the definition of software engineering. Super smart and resourceful. I was not as good as him. Virgil: “what the fuck are you saying? Send me that CV! You’re one of the most solid and talented engineer I’ve ever met!

I: “Ok, let’s give it a try…

I sent the CV, I was contacted by a recruiter, I did a phone screen, I won an onsite interview and that was my first trip outside Europe. It has been an intense couple of months, where MissRIP had a lot of patience, having to deal with me spending time in Tuscany, in Veneto and weekends and free time studying Algorithms and problem solving. Two amazing months culminated with a phone call on a Friday night: “Hey RIP, you did it! You passed the interviews! You’ll soon be contacted again for the actual job offer!

I couldn’t believe it. I was in Pisa, couchsurfing, and I couldn’t believe it. I knew 4 out of 5 onsite interviews were very good but the very last one was not. I did it! I really did it!!!

I prepared myself for negotiation anyway. Even though I knew the offer would have been very generous, I knew too that the Hooli interview process is very tough and the few who passes it are very desirable by the company. I did prepare myself studying Swiss salary range for my job description, both at Hooli and in the country. And yes, it was going to be a six digits one! I never had a six digits salary!

I looked up expected salary range on glassdoor for Hooli employee and I ended up expecting something around 110k Swiss Francs (CHF) gross per year. Given the CHF to EUR currency exchange proportion was roughly 5 to 6, it would have been a close 6 digits in Euro too.

swissflagOk, how did I came up in Switzerland and not outside Europe? I thought about that very deeply and I’m still very proud of my decision. I didn’t want to move too far from family, friends and my lovely Miss RIP. Plus, the feeling after the 10 days visit of Hooliland was not super good. They had this office in Switzerland, country which I knew very little of, that excited me. I’ve always liked the Swiss mindset: precision, cleanness, peace. As a plus, it’s closer to both Rome and Milan. Let’s move to Switzerland!

My Financial Story – Chapter 6 – Dream Job Number 3: Freelance

This is the sixth chapter in my financial story series. In the previous chapter I tried to level my life up. Here I’ll show you what freedom looks like. In next chapter I’ll be back in the cage, but a golden one.

I’ve split this chapter in several pages to keep them shorter than the total 6000 words I ended up writing. At the end of the page you’ll find links to other pages.

Note: I have stolen copied been inspired by “the job experience” post series by livingafi. I loved reading his series and I’m trying to do something similar here, where I analyse both my work and finance history/goals.

Previous chapter ended with me accepting an offer from BiggerGameCompany (BGC) and a plan to go to work in UK in early 2010 and almost 2 months of sabbatical coming. Seems like a good plan!

hagarAnyway, apart from being grateful to BGC, I didn’t actually like to go live there. The place was in the middle of nowhere, with shitty weather 365 days per year and a not a stellar salary. The only other guy I knew working in BGC was Hagar, former coworker in GameCompany, which on his linkedin profile claimed to have been part of GameCompany R&D but he hadn’t. He was a game engineer, a cheater! He had a passion for rendering but zero math background and skills. A practitioner, not even a good one. I knew I’ll not be happy there. The only positive aspect would be having this work experience in a better company and in a foreign country. I knew that I didn’t want to go there.

To make things more complicated, in January I started dating a girl I met in a theater acting course – forgot to say I played theater for ~7 years in Rome and Milan. There’s been a nice connection with this girl and obviously everything would have fallen apart in case I’d go to the crappy place where BGC headquarter is. In the meantime I found an apartment in UK and payed some fees to reserve it.

notukFirst 15 days of February were full of internal fights: pros and cons lists, listen to the heart vs listen to the head, enjoying the freedom vs go lock myself into another company (although a better one) that will drain my life for a misery.

I remember it could have been the last Thursday morning before the relocation, at home, on my couch, kinda relaxed and at peace. I looked around and I realized I won’t be in that flat next week, with my girlfriend. Even in case I won’t go, I’d have to leave the flat in 2 weeks. Whatever I’d pick, everything was going to drastically and suddenly change. I panicked and felt sad about it. No, that was the final signal I shouldn’t go in UK. I took my girlfriend and told my decision to her. We cried and hugged each other. I sent soon an email to BGC explaining my decision and they were (rightfully) pissed off. I was aware of the gigantic opportunity I was letting go and I was happy for that. We went the following Sunday, February 14th – both St. Valentine and Carnival Sunday – to Venice to celebrate my decision and had a spectacular weekend.

I was able to pick the option that I wanted thanks to my savings. Were I living paycheck to paycheck I wouldn’t have been able to choose. My bathtub was full enough that I could have survived 3-4 years without having to work. I was spending ~1200 per month, 700 of which due to rent. I could downsize and go renting a room in a shared apartment or a single room apartment. I could cut whatever necessary to make the money last longer. I was full of hope and so proud of the freedom I had gifted myself thanks to my savings!

Folks around me said I’m crazy though. Hagar blocked me on social networks and wrote a long post on his blog about how asshole I have been. People asked “ah, so you’re not going to BGC… and what will you do now? Ah, you don’t know yet…” followed by a worried gaze. Almost no one was interested in the motivations and the fact I had enough ‘stashed for few years doesn’t seem to be a fact. People need to simplify, what they elaborated was “RIP is crazy, he rejected an offer by BGC – I wish I could get one – because of his new girlfriend“. It can’t be less true.

My girlfriend too started soon to be not ok with that. She felt responsible for my enormous mistake and she actually started looking at me like a lazy guy who wants to live by his wits. Things started to fall apart, but we kept up for another year.

It’s Monday February 15th 2010, instead of sitting in my new office in UK I’m relaxed at home staring at the ceiling and thinking about the amazing week end I had when suddenly I felt the urge of time: in 2 weeks I need to leave the apartment, I need to move out and I have no idea where to go. I called the landlord asking for a contract extension and he agreed for a month by month extension, since he was trying to sell the apartment and had no buyers now. I was good at least for another month.

Breathe.

Second (kind-of) urgency: what to do now. For the first time in my life I had a clean future. A zeroed agenda. The sky was the limit. I already had 2 months of sabbatical, less than 4 months after previous 45 days of sabbatical. I didn’t need extra resting time.

Just before Christmas 2009 I’ve been contacted by Brofessor, the one who wanted to launch a Master course on Videogame Development: “Hey RIP, we’re launching the course and we need someone who can teach Network Programming. Are you with us? It’s 6 lessons of 4 hours for 2000 Euro total“. At that time I was sure I’d be going to BGC so I declined but suggested my former Networking boss for the job and he accepted it.

Luckily, as soon as he knew I wasn’t going to BGC he contacted me to check if I may need the job now that I was unemployed. It happened on February 21th, first lesson scheduled for February 25th. I’m still so grateful for his offer, a lot of things happened thanks to my come back to the Master. Thanks C.M!

In the following 20 days I focused in preparing lessons, answering students’ mails and feeling still employed, but without a boss. It was terrific! I had to start handling in my economy disconnections between actual work and payments. This job had a single payment in June, while the actual job (lessons + exams + mails) was spread across February-June. I “gave myself” 500 Euro per month in March, April, May and June booked as credits on my Net Worth document. When the payment was received, I canceled the credit and that resulted in a no-op.

Everything was fine, until in mid March my landlord called: “RIP, I sold the apartment. We cannot extend the agreement any further. I need the apartment free by Easter – Sunday April 4th. Consider the 4 days of April a gift“. This was really happening: nothing would have been the same.

My Financial Story – Chapter 5 – Dream Job Number 2: Videogame Development

This is the fifth chapter in my financial story series. In the previous chapter I tried to help robots conquer the world. Here I’ll show you how the funniest job in the world actually sucks. In next chapter I’ll go alone and conquer the world.

I’ve split this chapter in several pages to keep them shorter than the total 5000 words I ended up writing. At the end of the page you’ll find links to other pages.

Note: I have stolen copied been inspired by “the job experience” post series by livingafi. I loved reading his series and I’m trying to do something similar here, where I analyse both my work and finance history/goals.

I relocated to Milan in July 2007 with my former girlfriend. First task: find a suitable flat. Rents in Milan were expensive and my salary borderline. I did some research in May and June and picked 2 towns in the hinterland that were both well connected and very cheap. Acceptable range: between 400 and 600 Euro per month. In Milan you have to be lucky to get a non-shared room for that amount. In June I went couchsurfing in Milan to visit the apartments. I tried to avoid those handled by renting agencies due to extra costs and went visiting apartments rented directly by landlords. The rent market in Milan is not as aggressive as I’ve seen in other European metropolis, especially in the suburbs and the hinterland. You usually visit the flat, take your time, eventually negotiate the price and in the end it’s your decision (given that you can afford the flat and have a job proposal).

The visits were depressing. All the flats in the price range were crappy and far from train stations. The only one that looked somehow ok was a spacious 3 rooms apartment priced 400 per month but with a lot of infrastructure problems and far enough from the train station. I was going to take it when the landlord mentioned +200 Euro per month as condominium fees. I walked away.

I kinda wasted two entire days and still didn’t know how to proceed. If I had to spend way more for renting, what would I bring home at the end of the month? Would my monthly expenses be less than my paycheck? I need to be able to answer this question with a “hell yeah!”, else I have no choice but decline the job offer.

There was only one apartment left in my list, slightly out of range (700 Euro per month) but with extra expenses included, like heating and condo fees. It was close – walking distance – to the green line of Milan Metro and it was recently refurnished and painted. 2 rooms, 60 square meters. I liked it at first sight and blocked it.

Half of my salary for rent, it took me a while to accept it. Setting money for rent aside, each month I’d take home less than the PhD salary I was escaping from. Plus, my girlfriend relocated with me and she had no job. We would be living on my salary alone until she finds a job – which she never did.

moderncppI started working as a R&D engineer in GameCompany on July 1st 2007. R&D is the team responsible for building the game engine and the production tools. In this team I joined half a dozen superlative teammates. We were spending days discussing latest shading techniques, GPGPU, PS3 and XBox360 libraries, design patterns and good C++ coding practices. I was ecstatic! That magic room was full of Sutter, Meyers and Alexandrescu books, both in the shelves and in the air. I felt part of the elected guys who will build next-gen game engine for our future games, while a horde of “normal coders” in our building were developing today’s games. Rumor of a hellish life in neighboring rooms spread in the first weeks of my heavenly experience.

I had a chat with Charon, who worked in the game rendering team and started showing first stress signals: “well, RIP, I can’t actually tell if I really really like what I’m doing… what I know is that I’m working a lot. Saturdays, Sundays,… I never leave the office before 8pm… I’ve been here till 11pm last Wednesday for a very hard-to-reproduce bug. Game1 must go under submission in 2 weeks and we’re so behind, we are fixing less bugs than the amount of new ones that are being opened these days. Game2 has still 3 months of development scheduled but we didn’t even start, it will be a true hell.” Poor Charon, he was so enthusiast a couple of months ago!

logoLet’s quickly explain what is a submission (aka “the sub“): A videogame published for the main consoles (Playstations, XBoxs, Wiis,…) must pass a series of tests performed by the console manufacturers (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo,…). This process is called “submission“. When you think your game is ready, you “go under sub” and if the game passes, then you have to publish it as it is (no further changes are allowed). If the game doesn’t pass the sub, you need to try again after a month at least (it depends on the manufacturer’s feedback). Another sub is necessary for each DLC, Patch, etc. The sub process is painful and very strange. They are interested in everything but the gameplay.

[Fun Story Once they discovered an hilarious bug on one of our games: a vehicle was riding clearly outside the designed track. They didn’t reported this problem as: “hey guys, a motorbike had been teleported within the walls of a building, and it can’t move and the game is flickering and behaving crazily“. No, they blocked the game because having the camera in that point of the game world made a t-shirt of an NPC (in a supposedly far-from-view crowd) with a copyrighted logo visible with sufficient details…]

Life outside the lucky island of R&D seemed horrible. Arrays of game testers, Q.A., that on their first day they couldn’t believe they were “paid to play games all the time” while after 2 months you can spot them at the coffee machine crying “I was told to repeat the same boring maneuver on all the 20 game levels once per each of the 30 characters and log the visible glitches… I don’t want to live on this planet anymore!

But on the island? Time for experiments, no weekends, no extra hours, very smart people around me. Anyway, I couldn’t be fully relaxed: I was the weakest one on the island (mostly due to lack of rendering experience and company related knowledge) and the smell the rotten world outside the magic door scared me.

gpg1One day, the malevolent dictator of the company, that we’ll call Shittone, approached me: “RIP, we are in the big shit, the real big shit. We are behind schedule and we don’t need all these people on our next-gen game engine. I have these options for you: 1) Menu/2D UI (that’s shit of the worst quality, a framework written by a mad man based on a Finite State Machine article seen on Game Programming Gems 1 that wasn’t designed to scale on a supposed AAA game), 2) ingame rendering, cause we are behind (that’s not super shitty, I’ll be working with Charon. Things break everyday and you can’t even fix all of them, in the meantime new higher priority issues appears). Which one do you want to pick?

I: “Well, Shittone, I’m having fun working on our tools, game editor, game engine,… I was hired to be part of R&D and I would like to work on some longsighted project. I don’t think I’ll be productive quickly – as you need – on none of your projects. We all know I’m not good with emergencies and bugfixes while I’m better with infrastructure and design.

Shittone: “We need to fix this. We can’t guarantee you’ll be working on ‘nice coding’ forever. You need to get dirty and learn how to quickly fix broken things because we are in the big shit.

I: “It’s not that I simply like ‘nice coding’. It’s more that as you can see we are in a urge and need 10 engineers ASAP on UI because we designed it poorly 5 years ago. I want to be the one who’ll make you save resources by improving the design of things.

Shittone: “Uhm, mumble, uhm… actually we need to implement the multiplayer version of game2 and the framework that we’re going to use for essentially all the games for now on. All from scratch. There’s a lot of design required. It will be a team of 5 in the grey area between ‘game’ and ‘R&D’. That’s the best I can offer, since we are in the big shit.

I: “Ok, it sounds fun!

I knew it was my first step out of the magic island and I may had never crossed that door again, but it was a matter of time. I didn’t have rendering skills and being a good system engineer wasn’t enough to keep me into R&D. I wrote threading systems, memory management libraries, texture streaming systems, new STL-like containers,… but that was not enough.

My Financial Story – Chapter 4 – Dream Job Number 1: Research in Robotics

This is the fourth chapter in my financial story series. In the previous chapter I became an engineer and engineered my first financial failure. Here I’ll show you how dream jobs are not that dreamy. In next chapter we’ll destroy another dream.

I’ve split this chapter in several pages to keep them shorter than the total 4000 words I ended up writing. At the end of the page you’ll find links to other pages.

Note: I have stolen copied been inspired by “the job experience” post series by livingafi. I loved reading his series and I’m trying to do something similar here, where I analyse both my work and finance history/goals.

So far in this series I’ve been restricting the focus on the financial aspects of my young life. From now on, the focus will be on both finances and jobs. This blog is about money, work, passions and happiness as I see them: reaching Financial Independence in order to Retire Early and follow your passions. (Un)Happiness at work is one of the key ingredient here, so I think going deep with my work experiences can be both fun and insightful.

I’m going to call this sub-series Dream Jobs because hey, guys, I’m a lucky man and I’ll tell you why: a lot of my dreams became true. Problem is that they happened to be waaay less dreamy than expected. What was I dreaming about? Well, any decent dream of mine revolves around doing something to make the world a better place, having big impact following one of my passions. I’m not that kind of guy who dreams a mansion or a Ferrari. I dream about a better life, an ideal life, for me and my fellow earthlings.

robocopAs a kid, my dreams were guided by role models. Factory of which, before the great venue of the Internet, has been the Cinema. One of the movies that impressed me the most, that I watched two-digits times, was Robocop. I loved robots. I spent my youth staring at Goldrake, Mazinger, Steel Jeeg and many others. I grew up thinking/hoping that one day, finally, robots will be among us for good.

I reached age 25 and they were not around yet. Where are they? There should be a Fermi Paradox for robots, shouldn’t it? So when it was time to choose my Master Degree curriculum I picked the most AI / Robotics oriented options I had in Software Engineering.

I had no idea what to do after my master degree, so why not try to follow my dreams? In spring 2002 I met my future supervisor and it was “love” at first sight: “our research group attends robotic competitions… Robocups… Autonomous robotic… exploration… mapping of an unknown environment… there’s this conference in Acapulco next year… we are hiring…”. Acapulco?? I had to look it up on a map where it is! I cannot not apply for a position that’ll bring me to Acapulco to talk about robots and Caipirinhas. So I ended up starting my academic career. Just, as a good Italian does, following my gut feelings instead of my brain.

At first, the research group seemed exciting: there were young and fun researchers to work with, with whom I quickly connected. So I decided to join the lab in summer 2002. I was still missing 3-4 exams before my master thesis but who cares? It took more than expected to complete my curriculum but in the meantime I started working on actual robots! I picked SLAM problem (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) as my Master Thesis topic. I lectured a couple of courses – computer vision and reinforcement learning – while I was still a student and it was fun. I started seeing a pattern here: I like to interact with students, I like to teach, I like to share. And apparently students like me too.

pioneerBeing myself a student in our research group was awesome: no responsibilities, robots availability, freedom to experiment, freedom to code. Heaven! Well… not really.  When I joined the team was deeply committed with building their own robot, so there were several mechanical and electronic engineers in the lab. They designed a super-ultra-uber-powerful robot they were not able to build and so they never finished. This project lasted till my graduation in September 2003 when finally the supervisor fired them all and we purchased a true mobile robot.

padovaFun Story: well, actually it’s a very sad story. It involves my master thesis and my first Robocup competition in Padova (Italy), summer 2003. I had completed my master thesis and eager to experiment my algorithm on our work-in-progress robot. The robot never moved more than a meter in the lab in last 9 months. I wrote a simulator for the robot as sandbox to test my code, but I wanted to see the code in action on the real robot. We were not sure it was going to work. In crunch time, just before the Robocup, we (actually, they) worked 3 consecutive days and nights in the lab. The very last day, after few blackmailing yells by the supervisor, she decided we’d go to the Robocup and fix the robot there. We rented a van and reached the luxury hotel, with swimming pool and spa, just to drop off the luggages and then headed directly to the competition area. Another 3 frustrating days trying to fix the robot, when everything was clearly broken: a robot designed to weight 20kg that ended up slightly below 100. Actuators that were undersized. Batteries that were too heavy. Sensors that were damaged. No way. acapulco-beachesWe never took part of the competition, we slept on the paddock area, working 24h a day. Well, they were doing this, the mechs&electronics. I was just waiting, waiting, waiting,… then the competition was over and we went back to our hotel to grab unused luggages, and headed back home. I’ll never forget the sight of the swimming pool, my smell, my sleeplessness in the same decadent picture. The day after, in the lab, the supervisor fired all the m&e engineers and blamed everyone in the room. Bye bye Acapulco. Fuckapulco.

The supervisor claimed that the last year was a waste of time and her own money. We will never do it again. Let’s buy real robot and let’s focus on research instead. I bought it and after my graduation (end of September) I tried to join the faculty as PhD student (mid October).

My Financial Story – Chapter 3 – University

This is the third chapter in my financial story series. In the previous chapter I was a high school student with millions in my bank. Here I’ll show you how I survived through University years without piles of debts. Next chapter will be about my first steps as researcher.

In 1996 my monthly allowance raised to 200.000 Lira. Now that I think about it, I find ridiculous that my parents continued giving me a monthly allowance. But that was how things worked in Italy in late 90s.

I decided to get a Master Degree in Software Engineering. My father was clear on this: university costs were on me. Universities in Italy are essentially free. We can get a (not high quality though) passe-partout that enables all kind of career for free. Yes, ok, taxes… but as a student I think every Italian student should only be thankful for what we are getting without having to bury ourselves below tons of debts. Close to zero tuition costs, but still people complain about high fares.

A full year costed something around 1.000.000 Lira (500 Euro) with discounts based on family income (the poorer you are, the less you pay) and, but only in my first and second year, based on performance. If you keep a high average score on your exams you win next year free. The target was not even that high. For the first 2 years I was able to achieve it so I didn’t pay 2 years of University tuition costs. Then they shot down this opportunity and I had to pay my million per year. Italy is not the land of meritocracy. Being above average is something you should feel guilty about.

I continued with private math lessons (I actually made the business grow a little) and I found a part time job as tech assistant at one of the many computer laboratory. It paid poorly but it was fun. I had access at high speed internet! Internet was not a real thing in late 90s, there were nothing to do there. I, as anyone at that time, used it to download music on Napster. Yes, at the lab. I also supported practical programming lessons and it was super fun. I forgot to mention that I started coding at age 9, on a Commodore64, and never stopped until… well… it’s my daily job. The lab was big and it was mainly used for programming lessons for big crowds. Only first or second years courses had such big crowds. First and second year courses of every faculty in the campus used that lab. I got to attend Pascal language coding sessions for Lawyers, Introductory C++ Programming for Economists, Java for dummies for Architects. It was extremely fun.

For the record, here the all time high score! 10 Millions!
For the record, here the all time high score! 10 Millions!

Anyway, earnings was always more than spending. I decided I want freedom from my dad, so I opened a true bank account with special conditions for students and started moving my money over there. I planted the first seed toward one of the biggest financial mistakes I’ve done insofar.

University years flowed financially ok till year 2000. I structured my private lessons business, working with with 4-5 kids in parallel and dreaming about making it a full time job. Did the math: I can work for 8 hours a day on 10.000 Lira per hour (well, I could raise this factor a bit). It’s 80.000 per day = 1.600.000 a month (800 Euro, a good salary at that time) if I work 20 days per month! Expenses could be close to zero for this job (if the kids come at my place). Forgot to mention that paying income taxes on private lessons were not very popular at that time, and it still is not.

I attended University in Rome, in my hometown. Rome Universities are still popular among south Italians. There were (and I guess there still is) a huge community of resident students, living in shared apartments (no, we have almost no dedicated campus or housing), studying in libraries, attending events, hanging out together, partying,… I totally missed that side of the college years. I kinda regret it a little bit. I used to go to college like it were a high school: attend lessons, coming home, studying, prepare exams, getting high votes, repeat. No true academic life. No deep connections. No secret projects in a garage. No startup dreamed. If I could go back in time, I’ll be more present in the student world, trying to find professional connections and start true profitable projects. I think not having exploited these academic years, not having pushed a little bit outside my comfort zone, prevented me from ramping up early in my career. Unlike MrMoneyMustache, Livingafi, MrRoG, Jacob (ERE) and few others, who were able to boost their income at a very young age, I had to wait a lot – till age 35 – before earning 6 digits and dreaming about retirement.

Year 2000 came and my bank convinced me to put some money on the stock market, via an obscure same-bank managed Italian stock-based fund that had zero apparent costs (all fees were embedded in the fund value). How many mistakes can you recognize in this? Let’s run though them:

  • I had no idea what were my short and long term financial goals.
  • I had no idea how long I was going to hold the positions.
  • I was investing on something that I don’t understand (never invested in stocks before).
  • Financial adviser was making money on my subscription, so my wealth was not his best interest.
  • Bank, adviser and fund were the same entity.
  • It was an actively managed fund.
  • It had obscure costs. tracking the Mibtel index (Italian main stock index) and the fund performance the fund was always behind. Everyday.
  • We are talking about Italian stocks… Italian economy
  • It was year 2000
  • I put all my savings there

Long story short: I invested 16 Millions on the fund and after 2 years of continuously losing money I sold my positions for 8 Millions, 2 years later, just before the bull market years. I bought very high and sold very low with 50% loss. I didn’t sleep very well for a while. Years of earnings thrashed. Due to that experience I built a kind of repulsion toward stocks and the market in general. For the following 13 years I only invested in low revenue CDs or Postal Bonds.

I don’t have economic tracks of some of the years between 2000 and 2003, but a graph of my Net Worth between 1996 and 2003 looks like this:

dotcom

Putting all together since 1991:

alltogether

Btw, it took time to digest the stupid investment I’ve done, but looking things in perspective it didn’t take too much. During my Master Thesis development (2002 – 2003) I had three parallel jobs: private lessons, lab and research assistant (and lecturer) for my supervisor, which paid very well. I was earning more than 1500 euro per month (yes, true Euro, finally!). Apparently I was good with students of any age and I loved doing applied research on robotics so… why not accept my supervisors offer of becoming a PhD student and join the robotic lab over there? A dream job… (poor Mr.RIP, what a reckless dumb!)

Follow me to the next chapter

My Financial Story – Chapter 2 – High School and Maturity

This is the second chapter in my financial story series. In the previous chapter I discussed the preteen era and first contact with money, here I’m going to show you how my finances evolved during the 5 years of High School. Next chapter will be about University years and the taste of actual jobs.

High school years are both jonesesthe worst and the best of your life. The best because you’re young and full of hope, the worst because you face the teenager years and the need of approval by the crowd. For a young frugal guy like me it meant balancing my instinct to save and the challenge of keeping up with the Joneses’ kids.

First of all, daily allowance didn’t make sense anymore (but I kept going to the arcade room, till its death in 1995… RIP baretto). My father announced the big revolutionary change: a monthly allowance of 100.000 Lira (50 Euro) for the first year of my high school (1991-1992). It’s a great improvement with respect the 1000 per day, plus I get to access the whole budget at the beginning of the month so… amazing! The problem is: I just underestimated how expenses grow _A_LOT_ when you’re a teenager.

I would like to write a small disclaimer here: I don’t agree with giving children unearned money, even for kids. When I’ll be a parent I do my best to be sure that my kids earn their money. Via small chores, errands, whatever… I just don’t think free money are the right way to go. In early 90s, in Italy, it didn’t work that way, so every kid got free money.

Second, to attend high school you have to buy student books that are not super cheap. I don’t know how it works today, but at that time there were a huge underground market of used books for half price. As incentive to earn more money my father proposed the following deal: I’ll let you keep half of the money you make me save on face value of every book you need to buy. Wow! So here’s my first job: try to buy used books to earn extra money! If a book’s price is 100 and I manage to buy used for 50 then I make my father save 50 that means I can keep 25 for me! I took this challenge very seriously, actually pushing it to the limits! For a couple of books I bought used copies of out of print older versions! World History didn’t change since last year, so why should I accept the professor’s blackmail of printing newer versions to kill the used books black market? On one book I saved up to 80% of its tag price!

Third, I started accumulating money in physical form and it was not a very scalable solution. My father offered a better and more adult-like solution: he’d be my virtual bank. It looked fun so in 1991, November 24th we started this virtual saving account in the form of a notebook (that I still preserve):

libretto
Note that amazing 10% interest rate? Italy’s inflation rate in the 90s… let’s print money!!

This virtual account lasted till year 2000. I started draining it in 1996, when during University years I opened a true bank account and moved savings over there, but that’s another story.

The virtual account helped me a lot in getting confidence with digital money (even though there were nothing digital in it!). I measured the size of my Net Worth without having to keep physical money somewhere. It was nice to picture all the money I had at any given time all over my table. I learned how to decouple earning and spending. I already had a grip on it, but now it was crystal clear that money were like a bathtub with two taps: one (earning) there to regulate the input and one (spending) there to regulate the output. Opening the output tap (making a spending decision) can now be based on the available water in stock instead of the input flow.

I felt rich, with a lot of money saved! Financial life weren’t easy though. Discussing with other guys was hard. None seemed to have spare money. Everyone complaining about everything about the money subject. None seemed to understand the concept of saving some of the money you have in your pocket. “Why should you do this?” or “money are meant to be spent… do you want to bring them in the coffin with you at the end of your life??“. Their money model was not like mine, the bathtub, but a public fountain with no way to store the flow.

Anyway, as time passed in high school I didn’t quite understand what was going on around me. None had money, sometimes not even to buy an ice cream or to take a bus for a single ride. I felt like everyone was extremely poor, always… but with better clothes. On Mondays, every Monday, few had new shoes. High quality shoes. Those that cost three times the monthly allowance of mine! It simply didn’t make sense. The same guy, whoever he was, could be switching from “guys, no, I can’t go to the comics bookstore, I don’t have a dime” to “I need to buy a new pair of shoes, I was thinking Nike Air Jordan or, better, Reebok Pump?“. It didn’t make any sense at all. The question I never asked was: “wait, but how can you buy a 200.000 Lira pair of shoes if you don’t have the 500 Lira for a Nathan Never comic? And, btw, since both seem to be cool shoes, why not to pick the cheapest one? At the order of magnitude of their absolute prices the difference should be in the order of some 10.000 Lira, just cash that difference so that you won’t ruin our group plans to go to the comic bookstore for the next 20 times at least!”. Their fountain of money didn’t allow to stock, but their flows were way bigger than the one flowing out my small tap.

Another disclaimer: I’m using “he” to refer to third person singular not because I’m a sexist but because there were no shes at my school… Technical school with some computer science… zero girls for five years. Very very though days, bear with me.

It took me years to understand why people (not just teenager) think this way. At first I was disappointed. I felt rich no more. If I summed up the assets of anyone of them, just the visible assets like jeans, jacket, shoes,… they were richer than me. All of them. I couldn’t have afforded their shoes all at once. Or maybe I could, but then what about their Scott leather jacket? Am I doing something wrong? Aren’t my parents spoiling me hard enough? It was a problem. Age 15, I’m the only one not wearing a pair of shoes above 100.000 Lira and people are making fun of me. Girls don’t even think I’m worthy their spare gazes.

pumpSo there came my first impulsive splurge. Just to be accepted by the crowd. I wanted a pair of Reebok Pump! It was a lot of money. Although I could have afforded it with my savings, using most of them on a pair of shoes didn’t make sense to me so I went begging to my grandma and she bought it to me as a present. It caused fights within my family, since none had ever spent all these money on a f*cky pair of shoes that exist only to show off, to brag. Regret caught me three days after the purchase. All the happiness about the shoes disappeared, leaving my family with less money and few wounds. Avoid luxury, it’s worthless.

During my second year in high school (1992-1993) I found my first job! Private math lessons. Yes, forgot to say I was very good at it :). My first student was older than me but was repeating first year for the second time. It wasn’t awkward, I felt very confident and I think I did a good job. 10000 Lira per hour, for ~10 hours total. It felt good!

zip

Then a new era of temptations came: the Scooter bikes / moped era of the 90s. Almost every 14-17yo kid owned one at that time. It was a 4.000.000 Lira Thing, i.e. 2k Euro of 25 years ago. Accounting for inflation it should be something like 10k of today’s Euro. Not something you get by adding up spare changes of your mother’s grocery list… It’s another incredible bad example of how to spoil kids with umbrella money. A lot of them. Joneses’s kids were getting harder to keep up with. Now that I write this post, 25 years later, and now that I know in what kind of economic hell most of the shortsighted neighboring families had fallen into in these recession years I wonder how useful that 10k Euro would be in their pocket right now. Was it worth those wheelies?

nomotorino

But I was a kid and a kid asks. Even though my net worth was growing, I was nowhere near to the amount needed to buy one. It was unfair. So I asked my parents to buy one but they rejected my requests. I felt poor this time, angry with my parents. I had to pretend something to not appear different. I told one of the classic story poor kids used in defense to not own a moped: “My parents think it’s dangerous so they don’t want to buy one for me. But they are going to buy me a car as soon as I turn 18!“. It was a lie, it just bought me 3 more years. I knew purchases were on my own control. I knew my salary, I ran my forecast, I knew I won’t be able to buy my shiny new car (a 10.000.000 thing) in 3 years, even though my “salary” raised to 120k Lira.

The fact that none of my friends seemed to have a vague idea of the value of money made me sad and lonely. I was the one pushing to go having a pizza out together on Saturday night, a 15.000 Lira thing that I valued a lot at that time, but none had money for this. I had plenty. They’d rather spend the entire evening sitting on some bench talking about their mopeds, trying to gather 5000 Lira for the gasoline to use one of them. They had tons of money on demand but no control over them. I had a different relationship with money, but less of them in total. Now I know it was the right way to go, but back then? Nope, it was frustrating.

I was in charge of decisions such “which extra curricular sport/course do I want to follow?”. I had to pay for my Basketball course, Swimming course, karate course. Discussing with friends was awkward: “hey guys, why don’t we try Volleyball? It’s 30.000 per month, not so much, and it seems fun!”, “oh cool, nice idea. Let me discuss with my mom and I’ll let you know”. What the fock… do you really need to have an approval for such an expense?

Money kept growing till I become a multimillionaire! Yes, in Italian Lira though 😀 A million is just 500 Euro. Grandparents helped with that. My Grandpa used to give me 50.000(100.000 Lira) for every vote 9 (10) out of 10 at school. With Math & Physics it was an easy win. Sadly my grandpa died in late 1992, RiP dear grandpa. My grandma kept the habit till my master degree in 2003 and somehow till her death in 2013, even though I was already earning in a month more than her yearly pension. RiP beloved grandma. The bottom line here is that I loved those prizes more than unconditional salary that came from my parents. I was pushed to perform well at school and it definitely helped me a lot.

In 1994 (age 17) I did my second big splurge, but this time it wasn’t an impulsive purchase. I loved leather jackets, but branded versions were at around 700.000 Lira (350 Euro, more than 20 years ago… it was crazy!). I could have afforded, I had enough money saved but it seemed too much to me. I did some research, I went to second hand shops, local shops, several of them till I found the one I loved priced 240.000. I negotiated with the merchant and I brought it home for 200.000! It is a high quality copy of the famous-at-that-time Avirex. Yes, it still is, since I wear it every year since then. This time no regrets, no guilt. I’m still proud of my purchase. I learned that if you let impulse go and you still really want to buy something then you should get it. Saving is not meant to make your life miserable. Sure, once you decide you want that item, it’s very wise to invest time to optimize your purchase and get a good deal. As Trent Hamm suggests as rule of thumb: for every $100 I spend on an item over the item’s lifetime, I try to devote an hour to researching the purchase before making a move. Your actual value may differ.

Next big economical experience was the windfall of turning 18yo. Before turning 18, my net worth looked like this (Y axis shows Euro, even though Euro was not yet a currency):

before5k

cinquekappaYou can see a steady growth in the first months and a plateau due to increasing life costs of a soon to be 18yo.

Then my Birthday came and my parents gifted me with 1.000.000 Lira while My grandma gave me a stellar 5.000.000 Lira to help me building my future. I suddenly had the money for my car. But I didn’t buy it. having close to 10 Millions in the bank made me feel extremely powerful and I moved on the moped thing so I didn’t need a shiny new car anymore. I could drive my mother’s old car, who cares?

At the time of my Diploma (end of high school) in July 1996, my net worth looked like this:

high school

Note that the portion before the 6 million spike is the same as shown before… Ok, yes, I had a drop after the windfall, but my 18yo summer was legendary (and not super cheap). No regrets!

Bottom line here is: once you learn to model your money as a stockable commodity, once you learn to decouple earnings from spendings, once you resist the urge to lifestyle inflation then a windfall is what it really is: more ‘stash into your bank account. I never understood those question like “how would you spend a lottery prize of XYZ?“. Why spend it out?? Just store them (I didn’t know how to invest at that time).

In 1996, 19yo, I was ready to step into the adult life of a University student. Let’s go to the next chapter.