Coaching – who asked for my help?

Hi RIP friends,

Two weeks ago I launched my free coaching project for early 2020, knowing that the remainder of 2019 would be ultra packed with a move (about which I’ll write soon), child care acclimation for Baby RIP (with accompanying infections and sicknesses, first of which didn’t took long to happen, and it’s still around), job intensification, and life in general. I wanted to launch this project and place it in a more convenient time interval (Jan-March 2020), avoiding the mistake I made with EERG – which is not dead, promised!

Here I want to give you an update, and share a few things I learned while reading your emails. Do not worry, nobody’s personally identifiable information (PII) is going to be shared, but I want to publish some aggregated data. I hope nobody gets offended by that. Reach out to me if you want something to be removed from this post.

First or all, thank you! Right after I launched my project I thought “what if nobody applies? What if I receive less than five applications?”

Two hours later, I already received six applications. Wow, cool, at least the experiment is happening!

Another two hours and I’m at ten applications. By the end of the day I hit 25. The day after I had to ask you to stop. Including the 3-4 that arrived within few hours after the deadline, I counted 44 applications. Plus one that arrived waaaay after deadline, that I’m going to consider anyway (relax, Harvey πŸ˜‰ ).

I finally finished processing all the coaching requests. Except Harvey’s.

I replied to each one with a personalized email, sometimes asking for more details, clarifications, or simply leaving some comments about the application content. If you didn’t receive an email from me it means for some reason I didn’t receive your application. Please, send it to me again (forwarding the original one).

It’s hard to explain what I felt while reading your emails. A strange mix of feelings, some of them aliens to me.

I felt honored that you asked for my advice. I felt proud during the 5-10 seconds before impostor syndrome kicked in, then I felt scared of not being able to handle all of this.

Then, the more I dug into the details of your emails the more I felt emphatic with your personal situations, most of which I could perceive as mine. I’ve been thru many of your challenges. Then I felt grateful, because I learned new things about myself, and for myself (like some of your recommendations on financial advising certifications). I also learned that my doubts are more common than I thought, that my passions are also pretty common, that my struggle are not so unique. Each situation is unique, but we tend to be similar. I felt connected. Less alone. Not that I suffer loneliness, but sometimes I think I live in a fantasy world that nobody could understand. Isn’t it normal that we all tend to see the world like we are at the center of it, and that everybody is here just for us, like NPCs in an RPG?

No, it’s not

Ok.

Then I perceived how unsuitable generic knowledge is for those who have peculiar conditions. Then I started to see common patterns by age range, nationality, stage of life… And I wanted to share what I learned with you, here, today.

For those not interested in this experiment: do not worry, I still have 10+ “urgent posts I need to write as soon as possible”, that I’m going to work on after this one. Coaching won’t take over the blog πŸ™‚

As I said, I received 45 applications, latest one not included in this post statistics. So the base here is 44 applications. Five of them lacked the very basics to be considered for a follow up. Something like “pliiis help me!!1!“. Nope. If you didn’t put a bit of effort to write me a structured email don’t expect me to carve out words from your mouth.

So we’re down to 39.

Let’s start with some demographics.

Age Range:

A nice range, from “right out of school” kids to people approaching retirement. Cool

Gender:

After 3.5 years of blogging and meeting 100+ people thanks to this blog I realized a thing: I’ve only met men. Are there female readers? Well, the pac-man shaped chart above says that 6 applicants are female. What an improvement!

What about family/relationships?

The vast majority of applicants is in a relationship or married. The say we tend to attract whose who are similar to us. Or maybe those who are in a relationship need more help? Who knows πŸ™‚

Children?

Most of the applicants don’t have kids. This is the metrics where me and my crowd differ most. Good. I mean, good for you!

Nationality:

Holy crap, all Italians! These bunch of freeloaders πŸ™‚

Same attracts same, they say…

Btw, a couple of you have more than one nationality. I only counted the most uncommon one. Like if you are German&Surinamese I’d count you as Surinamese because it’s more cool πŸ™‚

But wait, where are the Swiss?? No Swiss person applied for my experiment? What a bad day for my integration project πŸ™

What about country of residence?

Oh come on! All Italians who live in Switzerland! I’m a slave of my niche πŸ˜€

Anyway, it was expected that most of the applications were from foreigners living and working in Switzerland.

Actually there are even stranger situations like “working remotely for a company in country A, while living in country B and being citizen of country C”. Amazing mix.

What do you do for a living? What’s your profession?

Again, my identity haunts me! But I can see a nice spread of professions. I tried to do my best to classify what you do based on what you wrote to me, but that’s hard since “manager” is such a buzzword… Anyway, engineers and scientists for the win!

In which field?

Ok, engineers in IT. Same attracts same.

Again, extracting field and profession has not been easy, and I might have made some mistake. I tried to do my best.

It’s fun to see that the professions and the fields who are traditionally considered “successful” score at the top of “need help” statistics.

If you tell an Italian grandma that her grandson is going to be an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor for a bank, a hospital, a huge tech company she would cry for happiness, while he would cry for burnout.

Ok, let’s move to financial aspects. I received data about earnings, spending, savings, net worth, saving rate… Most of them are raw data that would need a deeper analysis, and some of the verticals are scattered and use different unit of measurement. Guys, “salary” should always be gross per year in a main currency. It’s extra brain work for me to convert “Rappens for fortnight, net of half health care contributions but before taxes and social security” into something readable πŸ™‚

Given the quality and quantity of data, I decided to only post here aggregate data on NW and SR.

Net Worth:

Only 19 out of 39 reported their NW. It was not necessary of course, but a good conversation starting point. Those who reported cover the entire spectrum below 2M. The most populous bucket is the 50-100k, which means “ok I have an emergency fund and some more. Now what?”

Well done though, nobody is full of debts. I should have guessed since we don’t have any American in this experiment πŸ˜€

Saving Rate:

You’re awesome!

Even though only 9 out of 39 reported their SR, those who did are doing great, saving too much!

Relax guys, enjoy life a bit (says RIP, who’s in the 70-79% bucket…)

Ok, what kind of topics are you interested in?

I saved the best graph for the end (click to enlarge):

These are the topics you’re interested in exploring with me, and that’s awesome! I don’t know if I’m qualified to help you on such a huge spectrum!

On top of the list we have investing. Ok, predictable. Especially those who don’t have money, they care about investing πŸ™‚

Next there’s reaching FIRE. Also predictable. If you’re here, you want to know how to reach Financial Independence and retire early. Well, let’s say reach FI. The whole “retirement” thing deserves a series of posts on its own.

The 4-5 topics that followed kind of surprised me.

In third position we have career change. This is common among people in the age range 35-45. I think we can open a small parenthesis with some findings age related. No, let’s do that at the end of the post πŸ™‚

Career change. Some of you (many of you, 12 out of 39) are explicitly dissatisfied by current career (career, not just job or employer) and are thinking about a huge change in their life. Must admit that at the top of my secret ranking there are applications in this category. I love to talk with people who are facing this dilemma.

Then we have burnout. I feel your pain. I’ve been there (am I still there?), I know what you mean. I’m surprised to see how many want to talk about this with me. I hope I can help. I think burnout is a very personal problem, and it’s hard to find common traits. I’ll try to help anyway. Luckily, not all of the applicants who mentioned burnout are suffering burnout, some of you just want to know how to prevent and eventually avoid it. Usually burnout is paired with career change, and I can totally empathize with that as well.

Life Philosophy. Take a career change option, add few drops of burnout and a glass of midlife crisis. Shake it with “what to do after FIRE” and add a slice of learning. Here you have a Life Philosophy cocktail. RIP unique recipe! This also attracts me a lot. Let’s talk about how to live a good life, and why are we not doing it right now! What’s “happiness”? What’s “work”? What’s “money”? Well played, you know how to catch my attention!

AfterFIRE is not an amazing name for a bar (holy shit, that’s an awesome idea… Quick, note it down!), but a short word for “what to do after FIRE”. this is a common issue among those who are close to FI. It makes me sad to see people focusing on the financial aspects of FI but struggling to get rid of a toxic job because they don’t know how to fill their time without a job. This is sometimes paired with workaholism and boredom. Focusing on the financial aspects of FI without taking care of the psychological ones. I guess this is what happens when you keep grinding on a miserable job just for the money long enough to have erased your other passions and interests as well.

What?

No no no, for me it’s different! I don’t have problems with After FIRE, I’ve tons of things I want to do πŸ™‚

All the above topics have been mentioned by at least 10 people (25% of applicants).

Let’s now address the long tail, which is full of “strange things”.

Career Development means “how can I improve my skills in my current career?”. This is a common questions among the 20-25 years old, and it makes sense. A couple of people asked for my support in career development in fields I’m not an expert of, which doesn’t sound like a smart idea.

Anyway, I was expecting more of this. Cmon guys, I work at Hooli, I have such a BIG career!

How can you not ask for my help with making yours bigger??

RIP, this is creepy…

Ok, ok, let’s move on.

Midlife Crisis. A classic. Maybe it’s a duplicate of other topics, or the sum of a few of them. But people are facing this hard-to-define time of their life when essentially you ask yourself “is this all there is to life?” Should I keep going on autopilot until I die? This is a somewhat terrifying question you can’t escape from. Time will come when you face your mortality, and revolutionize your priorities. In my case, it’s an ongoing process that started around age 40. Your mileage may vary.

Time Management. I was surprised about this. And it got 6 points! I don’t hide my struggle with a huge inflow stream of feeds, tasks, emails, social activity, work, family, blog… I now have three identities (i.e. mail addresses) that are exploding on a daily basis:

  • the Hooli Employee, who receives hundreds of emails per day and is supposed to be 100% focused on the job for at least 8 hours per day
  • the Human Being: who’s handling a family, a flat move, personal struggles and so many minor bureaucracy issues thatyouhavenoidea…
  • the Blogger, who’s taking over the other two in terms of mail load and commitments!

I’m juggling and I’m barely keeping up, but I need to be structured and avoid wasting time if I want to achieve at least 20% of what I planned to achieve. I sometimes feel like I can’t keep up, but apparently you’re telling me that I’m a virtuous example of “time management mastery”. Wow! I know people who can waste hours like they were going to live forever, but I never figured myself as a master of this trade. I’m honored!

Anyway, helping you in this challenge is something that excites me, since I expect to learn a lot as well.

Workaholism. This is something that makes me angry. I see people (more in real life than in the blog) that are working their asses off but can’t stop because they perceive themselves as addicted. One of my potential best friend is in this bucket. I say potential, because when we spend time together it feels like I want him in my stoa, and I’d move to a rural area together to start our community. It seems he’s excited as well, full of ideas. But also stressed out of 80 hours workweeks (he’s a colleague, several levels above me, earning probably 3-4 times what I earn)… but once the dust settles he can’t help but keep pushing even harder, for money he doesn’t need since he’s FatFI already (also pretty frugal). It makes me sad because I’d follow him if he were to revolutionize his life and willing to plan next steps together (sometimes we fantasize about it), but that never happens. What happens is that our meetings are getting less frequent due to his always increasing commitment to the job, and the frequent intercontinental travels it requires. We live half an hour apart in Switzerland, but we aren’t able to meet more than once per quarter. And guess where we were able to schedule a meeting last time? In NYC!

I know you read my blog, my friend. Let’s break the chains together!

Workaholism makes me angry the same way other addictions do. Like chain smokers, gamblers, and so on. Maybe it’s because I also hate when I perceive myself as an addicted to something. Like eating unhealthy food or procrastinating. But I think workaholism is one of the worst. It’s good to hear that you, readers, think I can help with this πŸ™‚ Yes, I can!

Learning. Awesome! One of my long term goals is to devote my life to learning. And to teach how to better learn. And how to revolutionize education system! I’m happy to open my meta and meta-meta learning ideas with you!

Home ownership. This is a recurring theme in Switzerland among colleagues and wealthy people. Everything seems overpriced today. Where should I put my money? Stocks? Noooo, they are all time high! Bonds? No, they have negative yields. Cash? Negative interests! I think it’s the right time to buy a house… I’m having these discussions every other day with colleagues and friends. I still think it’s not the right time, but I can help you navigate into this complex, personal, important decision that has huge financial implications. But I’m no expert here, just a lot of speculation (and spreadsheets!)

Ok, I covered all the “5 points and above”. What else? Let’s group the remaining topics:

The social sphere (parenting, onboarding partners, networking). How to teach kids about money? How to be a frugal parent? How to convince my husband/wife/GF/BF to get in good financial shape? How do I improve my networking skills? These are amazing challenges, and I’m facing all of them right now! It’s enlightening to see how similar we all are. How similar the questions we want an answer to are.

The financial sphere (geo arbitrage, entrepreneurship, passive income, taxation, spending). Ok, we got these covered.

The self improvement sphere (stress, motivation, boredom, habits, simplify, thinking, blogging). Usually connected to midlife crisis, burnout and life after FIRE. I’m happy to help, not sure I’m your best mentor around though.

Ok, this is a recap of who you are, and how you want me to help you.

Let me also share what I learnt from this first pass on your applications, and which patterns arose:

  • You suck with spreadsheets. Seriously, most of the spreadsheets I saw are completely messed up and unreadable. This made me think that I should review my own spreadsheets and maybe simplify them as well. And maybe I should write about it, how to track your NW, cash flow, retirement planning, investments, spending and much more with spreadsheets. A post series. Ok, note taken.
  • Burnout is the new normal. Maybe it’s because FIRE seekers are more “retire from” people (want to stop doing something) than “retire to” (what to do something), maybe it’s because of confirmation bias, but I’d say that more than 75% of the people I talk with (and the 39 applicants make no difference) can’t figure themselves in 5 years from now doing what they’re doing right now. It’s nothing new, books have been written on this topic. Simon Sinek built his fortune around it.
  • Young millennials (20-25 years old) want to conquer the world! I love your energy level! I love your broad view and your entrepreneurship attitude. It’s good that you know what you want. Awesome. But don’t aim to FI at your age, else your career would be an horror movie. Love what you’ll end up doing. Don’t follow your passion, get so good they can’t ignore you. Unless you’re one of the lucky 1% that will be successful with a startup and jump directly into the stratosphere, you’re going to have a career for at least 10 years. Come to terms with that.
  • Mid Millennials (25-33 years old) are already burnt out. Probably because you were one of those kids who wanted to change the world at age 23, and then realized you have to get a “normal” job. It sucks to be a well paid individual and not able to tolerate your job at age 27. I’m 42.5, I had to swallow so many shit sandwiches before calling it mental. I know it’s epidemic, but you have to do something to cope with that or depression will make more casualties in this century than the third world war!
  • Old Millennials (33-37) is a generation I have hard time relating to. They are so different from me. I don’t fully understand their challenges. It’s a wealthy generation with an addiction to always be doing something. I get anxious when I’m around you. That’s why I’m attracted by your requests for help πŸ™‚
  • Young GenX (37-43) is the midlife crisis generation. 15-20 years long careers that start to feel heavy. A desire to change but also a fear of throwing away a nurtured career, which is giving some fruits. Some money stashed away, a family, older parents… You’re my crowd! I feel at home. We are all half broken and burnt out by a career we don’t know if we love it anymore. And so many responsibilities we can’t take a break. Time management is key. Pruning our todo list should be another one as well, but we believe we still have time to do everything (false, but let’s keep believing it for our sanity of mind). Welcome home, my friends πŸ™‚
  • The others (43+) are uncharted territory for me. The more you advance on the arrow of time, the more your problems dwarf mine. Health, family, job loss at age 50, a divorce, loss of one or both parents, teenager children with their bag of problems… and what am I complaining about? Free food quality at Hooli? I feel intimidated by your problems, and that makes me think “how will I face two orders of magnitude more complex problems when they come?“. But I want to get out of my comfort zone and try to help someone here as well.

Ok, now what?

Where am I in the selection process?

Well, it’s complicated. I’ve been parsing 45 applications, extracting some info, asking more questions and generating “a score” in the range 1 to 10 for each application. But I’m not going to just select the “top 5 or 6” in this ranking. I saw I gave top scores (8-10) to those I feel similar to me, which would lead to a pack that would lack diversity. I want to have a 20-25 years old kid fresh from school, and maybe a mid millennial burnt out, and maybe someone with challenges I never faced.

I didn’t expect to have so many interesting applications. I feel honored! Six of you mentioned “I’d be willing to pay for such a service”, I wasn’t expecting that!

RIP… 3000 words wasted. You said 6 people willing to pay, so the auction is closed! We have the winners! Congrats, now wait for RIP’s IBAN

Haha, no, seriously πŸ™‚

I’m not considering the “willingness to pay” into account for this experiment. You can’t bribe me πŸ™‚ I don’t want to take more responsibilities other than the self imposed one. Thank you for your offer, I really feel honored, but I’m doing this for free to see if I’m good at it.

Of course, if this goes well I might one day ask for a fair compensation, but it should be in the form “I’m willing to get a share of the money you’re going to earn thanks to my help“. It must be a win-win situation, I won’t want to leave anyone with less they had before meeting me.

Anyway, back on track.

Where am I in the selection process?

I started reviewing applications and scoring them, not taking any final decision. But somewhere in the mid of the pack I felt the desire to help an applicant I felt strongly connected with. So I told them they’re in. First slot is taken πŸ™‚

Reviewing the applications I think there are another 2 cases I don’t see myself saying no to them, so we’re at 3.

For the remaining 2-3 slots I want some diversity.

I’m actually thinking about having two groups. First one, 5 people, with standard support (as announced), and second one, another 5 people, an informal support, more directed toward those living in my city, that I can meet physically a couple of times and exchange emails. Then all the others, with whom I’d still like to have at least a conversation, or a deeper mail exchange.

It’s complicated, and I haven’t make my mind yet. I’ll let you know.

Stay tuned πŸ™‚

 

Update: I got 2 extra late applications while writing this post πŸ™

2 comments

  1. The β€œYou suck with spreadsheets” tidbit hit me: my net worth spreadsheet has so many useless columns and sheets that I added with time trying to β€œtrack” worthless metrics. Time to clean it up I guess πŸ˜€

  2. Hey MR RIP

    I was very entertained by reading this article. Its an exciting project, what you started.
    You wrote very precisely how I (we) feel in my age. I also wanted to conquer the world after university and I found myself doing a normal job and asking myself if it was all. Will I do the same thing for the next 40 years, tolerating an “ok” sallary and get paid for the time and basic knowledge which I put in.
    And Im sure, that it is not an individual, but a general problem among “Millenials”. So we have to find our way to either deal with it or find something we’re passionate about and dont focus that much on money.
    I did not apply for the coaching, because I think there are people who need much more your help than I do, but Im looking forward to meet you again. Its always a pleasure.
    See you soon πŸ™‚

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