Anyway, setting the compensation aside, the skills I’ve learnt and developed here are invaluable and made me a better software engineer and probably a better person. I’ve been able to start donating on a regular basis. I’ve been financially helping my family and occasionally few friends. I can’t be more grateful to Hooli for the amazing opportunity I had and still having.
But more important that everything fro my bigger goal: I was able to resist to lifestyle inflation. On a certain degree. Obviously I couldn’t keep up with the borderline cheapass lifestyle I had in Milan, but… almost there! I fully exploited the two free months of paid accommodation and then I found a cheap 2 rooms 55 square meters apartment on rent at 1500 CHF per month, including condo fees and heating. Did I mention that Switzerland is expensive? Today, the same 2 rooms apartment within the city boundaries costs no less than 2000. Mine went down to 1440 since my rent is bound to inflation rate that went down during these almost 4 years.
For Italian expats in Switzerland it’s pretty common to move to a bigger apartment after a while. My colleagues that joined Hooli with me were moving to a 4+ rooms apartments that are priced no less than 3000 per month. I’m super ok with my cozy-but-amazing apartment, with a magic view over a city park, with birds, horses, donkeys and farm animals. From my south-west balcony you can stare at the sunset and listen to braying donkeys, while still 10 minutes far from one of the most expensive streets in the world. I shopped around for the cheapest internet company, cheapest mobile phone company and cheapest health insurance.
Before MissRIP moved in, I was able to live with less than 3000 CHF per month. ~2000 of which for fixed costs like rent, health insurance, bills, transportation,… and most of the remaining 1000 were train tickets to/from Milan and dinner out when she was here. Plus, obviously, some exaggerations when in Italy, where things seemed to cost nothing compared to here!
I was (and I still am) car-free and try to bike to work as much as I can, which is 3-6 months per year, depending on the weather. I’m not yet a true Mustachian badass, I know, but I’m getting there.
I had no idea back then what to do with these extra money. I told myself: “well, let’s be honest… this is not going to last. Let’s accumulate as much as possible so that when the free lunch is over I’ll take my time and relax a little bit“.
I know, I’m a lucky man. I’m here discussing Financial Independence and the opportunity to retire early because of my huge salary and the fact that I don’t have kids. I couldn’t even have been thinking about it if I were still a wannabe researcher or a videogame developer. Or could I? Yes I could, we’ll discuss this another time 😉 In any case, living in the most expensive country in the world doesn’t help in terms of FIRE. We all know it’s just a matter of saving rate. The more you spend the higher Nest Egg you need. It’s not a surprise that no one that I personally know is aiming to retire early here in Switzerland.
After one year and half living few hundreds kilometer apart, MissRIP finally quit her job in Milan and joined me. She spent time studying the language, making friendships and looking for a job. She’s now very proficient in both English and German, she has built strong relationships here and she finally found a job too. I’m not revealing her salary, but it’s sensibly smaller than mine.
We are lucky to have found a lot of friends here, mostly Italian and other foreigners. Few locals, they are usually not so inclined to deep friendship as we Italians do 🙂
Monthly expenses since she joined raised a bit. We’re now spending 4000 average per month, excluding extras like holidays. We’ve indulged in vacation quality. Several weekends in European capitals, few intercontinental trips like New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. Last year we reached 60k CHF as total spending. Quite too much for our FIRE goals (4% rule implies a Nest Egg of 1.5M Chf to keep spending 60k per year). This year we’re at 32k so far, end of July… we’re on track for 60k, since we plan on going “somewhere below the equator” for 2 weeks in November.
As I said, we didn’t inflate too much our lifestyle, but still costs skyrocketed with respect Italian life.
So, did you see what an amazing golden cage I have? Why a cage? Well, Hooli is really the best place where to work, but it’s still a workplace:
- I still have alarm clock waking me up in the morning – even though at Hooli you can be extremely flexible with your time.
- I still have to go to work 5 days a week – even though at Hooli you can sometimes work from home or from wherever you want.
- I still have to limit my vacations to 25 days per year – even though the standard in Switzerland is 20 days and I thanks Hooli for the 5 extra days.
- I still have to work on things I’d probably not work on if I had to choose and money were not an issue – even though at Hooli we’re really making the world a better place.
In this framework, my passions have to fit the spare time left after work and that’s not what I love. A good visualization of how I perceive my passions and my free time is pictured in this amazing quitting story. “This is how time feels with a full time job. Meanwhile you’re trying to plan a picnic“… even though at Hooli you can take extended (unpaid) sabbatical, like I did for 40 days in April-May 2016 for a hike across Italy, to organize your picnics!
So, Hooli is the best one can have as a job, and I still like working there. But simply I don’t see myself there forever. I’m lucky enough that if I won’t like working at Hooli in the near future I can still find a job in other tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft,… This thanks to the skills I’ve built during my career.
Anyway, one day I’ll surely want to get rid of my golden cage, reclaim my time back and do something else.
Given my frugal attitude and lucky financial circumstances (living alone for a while, having no kids, earning a nice salary) my Net Worth skyrocketed in last ~4 years. But if I hadn’t been training my frugality muscle for my entire life, than I wouldn’t have saved so much.
As I’ve said already, I was ‘stashing money aside with no particular purpose, just because I felt comfortable with financial safety. Just because if I’d lost my job, I could have survived N years before hitting ground zero.
In 2015 I discovered the world of Financial Independence: what if N == entire_life? How to do that? Can I achieve it by just saving a lot of money? The answer is MAYBE, but you need nonstashable-in-a-lifetime-unless-you-win-a-lottery amount of money saved, possibly in several currencies to limit currency crash risks, and btw inflation can still screw everything up.
You need to invest. investing edges against inflation, currencies, risks. Yes, it seems absurd: investing looks like playing the Roulette but it’s actually the safest way to preserve and grow your wealth.
So I started investing in early 2016, not the best moment ever.
I was lucky enough that I jumped in in February, after the 10% drop of January and so far, since than, my investments are performing very well. This is the necessary shift to aim for N = ∞.