Hi RIP readers,
It’s May 2nd 2020 as I start writing this post, which is:
- A Coronavirus Journal, Day 76. Btw, I started counting the days since Market top (Feb 19th 2020), so it’s not strictly Covid related, but more “financial impact of the Covid”-related
- A (quick) April 2020 Financial Update. It’s been a funny and crazy month, the first one as unemployed.
- The first Unemplyment/StupidiFIRE Update, Day 35.
A lot of things to talk about, take your time.
Let’s start from the numbers!
First: we didn’t make it until the end of the month. Last few days were not covered by our income 🙁
A negative saving rate (though contained), for the first time in my lif…
“False! I dug into your docs and you had a negative SR in May 2016 as well!”
Oh, well, yeah you’re right. I took a sabbatical month between Hooli Maps and Hooli Shopping to go hike the Italy Coast2Coast. But that was different of course, it was a planned break and I would have returned soon to my desk. Plus I started blogging in July 2016 so it doesn’t count 🙂
This time is different.
There’s no desk to come back to.
This is the new normal, at least for a while.
[Note: I’m accounting for ZERO unemployment money in April and May, even though I’m essentially working at least a 40% job on unemployment duties. If I’ll get some money, cool. Else, less cool but fine]
April 2020 income came thru:
- Mrs RIP unemployment benefits (that we’ll shut down if I can get unemployment benefits): 2.7k CHF gross. Mrs RIP was the breadwinner in April 🙂
- Mr RIP last Hooli bonus: 2k CHF gross. Please Hooli, stop sending me money 😀
- Dividends: 219 USD.
- Some family gifts for Baby’s second Birthday (both mine and Baby Birthdays this month): 350 EUR. We still need to decide how to account and what to do with monetary gifts for Baby. For now I’m keeping a separate spreadsheet.
- Migros Blue Coupons: 25 CHF.
Excluding expected income taxes, total income has been 4385 CHF.
While expenses have been 4974 CHF.
“Oh, shit RIP… how did you survive last few days of the month? And I’m sorry for your daughter, you had to use her monetary gift to feed her 🙁 Are you going into debts?”
Well… not exactly.
In fact this has been the best month on record for our Net Worth Growth!
+63k EUR, which brings NW at a new all time high! And that’s considering April 30th into account, where our portfolio lost more than 10k and USD dropped compared to EUR, our reference currency. On April 30th morning, before market opened, we were close to +80k EUR. I can’t complain though 🙂
That’s weird. I didn’t work in April, didn’t earn a dime, had negative cash flow… and we just experienced the best month on record.
Anyway I don’t feel comfortable again with the magnitude of current daily swings, which even in a lower volatility environment compared to March – my portfolio entered the Dance phase after the Hammer – are now back into the 5 digits due to higher stocks exposure. I’m tuning my risk tolerance, and it seems I’m close to the right spot.
“RIP, you’re bragging for something you’re not responsible for, c’mon!”
Well, not really. I decided to keep purchasing stocks while the market was falling in February and March, while everyone was screaming and there was blood down the street. I think I deserve some credits.
But I think the real test has not happened yet.
There will probably be a second wave of market fall, maybe it already started at the end of April. During the first crash I was scared but I also felt a lot of adrenaline, like when you get an injury while doing sport. You can keep going, you can postpone the pain for a while, even a -47k day (March 12th).
Now it’s different, I perceive that there’s a scar that’s hurting, and falling again on the same bruise hurts more. I don’t know how I’m going to hold on if a slower descent into market darkness happens. Something like a “normal” bear market driven by current inevitable recession, lasting a couple of years. I don’t know, last time I experienced that with my money it was the dotcom bubble. And I didn’t behave very well. Purchased at the top, sold at the bottom.
“Are we already in speculation mode?”
Oh right, I forgot to brag about our low expenses 😀
It’s a below 5k month, which is awesome!
I know many readers (not living in Switzerland) can’t comprehend it, but I don’t think we’ll see another #below5k while living in Switzerland anymore (ok, maybe this month as well – May 2020).
Fixed costs in our household are ~4.1k CHF per month: Rent (2.3k), Health Insurance premiums (0.7k), Child Care (0.9k), Utilities (0.2k). This month we didn’t pay for child care (reimbursed by the government, won’t happen again). We spent 700 CHF in groceries and extra 700 CHF in medical bills for a very deep January lungs check after I got a Pneumonia. Doctor didn’t know what the hell I had. This strange lungs infection that seems viral, reduced my breathing capacity, and it was not Asthma. Don’t say it! it was January, before it was cool 🙂
And that’s it for our April expenses. Ok, we lived isolated, but you know what? Even if I didn’t need to validate this hypothesis, we had great time together as a family. Lived in simplicity, spent time together, and saved a lot of money!
We should do this on a regular bas… what?
“RIP, quarantine is over, you can do shits now”
Maldives I’m comiiiiing aaaaaah I need a car and new clooothes!! Open this f***ing restaurant that I’m hungry!!
About expenses again.
Mrs RIP few days ago “Honey, are we really spending so much less during this lockdown? I don’t think my behavior has changed since it all started… On what were we spending more money on before?”
Me: “My love, it’s easy: if we’re not exposed to stuff, we don’t buy stuff. If we don’t go shopping, we don’t shop.”
Mrs: “I don’t buy things because I hang around things! I go to stores because I want to buy things, and I’m buying things (groceries, some toy for Baby, some basic clothes) even during a quarantine. I don’t understand”
Then we sit together and took a look at our previous credit cards statements, and compared them with last one from April.
It used to be 50-80 entries each month before. More frequent visits to grocery stores, transportation tickets, more stuff.
April 2020: 11 entries. We both stared at the CC statement in disbelief. 900 CHF total CC expenses in April, while on an average month before the virus it was 2k. The 900 CHF amount in April could have been 700 (just groceries) if I hadn’t paid Internet and TV bills via CC, because PostFucknance blocked my account in early April. So it would have been 10 entries and 700 CHF total. 5 of these entries have been my guilty trips to a small local market to buy ice creams. I know, I like to live on the edge.
Marketing exists for a reason.
We spend money without being aware of it, by simply being exposed to stuff.
If we remove exposure, we’re all much richer.
Mrs RIP: “wow… that’s undeniable. I’ll try to be more intentional with our money once the world reopens!”
“Mrs RIP never said that, right?”
It’s been an amazing April overall, sunny since mid March until April 27th. We spent a lot of time in our neighborhood (alone), witnessed nature in its magnificence: naming all the flowers, monitoring insects and bees activity, playing with mud and water, tracking the blossoming of cherries directly from our balcony!
We enjoyed a slower life, tried to install some routines with partial success. I’m fighting everyday against my desire to be productive and against the temptations to just fuck around, play, sleep, and binge read/watch things.
I wonder what would have looked like if we hadn’t had a daughter. Or if I were alone.
I’m pretty sure I’d be more productive if I were alone but probably living a life of inferior quality and satisfaction overall. The frustration and lack of focused time I’m facing right now are the thorns of an amazing rose I wouldn’t drop for anything in the world.
A bit of struggle with going to bed early, a bit of struggle with doing sport as well… it seems time is always scarce, even in a slow life like this one we’re living.
Didn’t blog much during April. Some of you have asked directly to me if everything was ok. Yes, everything is ok. I’ve been focusing on several overlapping things:
1) Doing interviews and sending CVs.
I don’t know why I am doing this. Well, on one side it’s for unemployment duties, on the other side it’s fun. And I’ve passed more technical interviews than I was expecting, even if I didn’t put much “care” in doing everything right 🙂
2) Going deep down on Personal Knowledge Management.
I’m reading a lot, extracting notes, putting a lot of material into my temporary PKM solution which is Roam.
Not sure I’ve done the right thing though: Roam is being pretty unstable these days, experiencing data loss, syncing problems, general slowness, and hours-long unavailability blocks.
I love the features, but I’d rather have a standalone offline software solution for my PKM, Productivity Management, Journaling, CRM and more.
Looking into Zettlr, ConnectedText, Obsidian, Tiddywiki and Notebag. Or just drop everything and switch back to Google docs or text files.
3) Reading and learning a lot (and extracting notes in Roam)
I’m digging into rabbit holes miles deep 🙂
I’m more interested in meta-learning (learning how to learn), productivity, organization, decision making, Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain (only the free material, the course it too expensive), Scott Young guides to Memory and Working Memory (this guy is amazing), and so on.
I’m immersed in the meta. Not only meta, though: also re-reading good stuff like all livingafi posts (and sending mails to Doom, into the void), reading all moretothat posts (I love this guy, seriously. Take a look at the last three, they’re talking about me in a timely manner: on writing and wisdom, on self doubt, on taking the leap), Tomas Pueyo posts on Medium about Covid, 3Blue1Brown Lockdown Math videos (guys, the imaginary interest rate one… what a perfect teacher!), Cal Newport posts on The Deep Life concept: do less, do better, know why.
He’s pushing a post a day on this subject. Loved his “Deep Work cabin in an apartment” and guess what… I have a sauna in my studio! Time to pivot 😀 !!
4) Helping famous influencers 😀
I’ve met him few times, and also met the guys behind the crappy investment company for a two hours fight (you can find funny notes on my post). It’s not been a nice experience to fight against active fund managers with shitty performances but aggressive marketing techniques, but it’s been an interesting experience overall, and I got to meet and talk to Shy, explaining the benefits of passive investing to him 🙂 – I devoted a full week on this “project”.
5) Thinking about what to do next, on a longer time horizon
I’m fighting with my newfound freedom.
I acknowledge I can’t really “relax”. I’m not FI and I wouldn’t just relax even if I were FI. I want to do something productive.
I’m conflicted between the desire to “take it easy for a while” and the need to jump into a new project or eventually take a new job – but it has to be completely different from what I used to do in last N years.
Why can’t I simply relax for a coupe of months?
Why can’t I just unbox and enjoy Gloomhaven, that’s sitting in my shelf since months?
Why can’t I binge watch all the series I wanted to watch like Stranger Things S03, Westworld, The Good Place, Afterlife, Altered Carbon… (do you spot a pattern?)?
I was actually considering seriously to drop the blog and focus on coding again.
I took some time to list all possible futures (similar coaching exercise I gave to most of my coachees), and all the things I can do with my time.
After reading More To That posts on Self Doubt, and Taking the Leap, plus the amazing post on The Risk Not Taken by Andy Dunn, I decided (on April 29th) to kick off a RIP 2.0 project.
(Of course I’m procrastinating on the official kick-off. Let’s take it easy and leverage my Structured Procrastination)
RIP 2.0 means rethinking my role in this universe, moving away (for a while) from coding and toward writing, blogging, maybe podcasting, probably teaching, maybe public speaking, probably coaching/mentoring, maybe taking a certification (CFA or CFP), maybe managing other people’s money and more.
And maybe coding again, maybe launching my own Personal Finance App, Net Worth tracker, Budgeting software, retirement planner, investment dashboard or whatnot! But not in the short term. In the short term I’d focus on writing and rethinking the structure of the blog.
So far I’ve been only “writing next post”, without a schedule, without clear intention.
Blogging has been instinctive, a way to drop my thoughts, a form of journaling. I’d like to change that, while keeping my unique voice intact. But expect more structure, a greater design behind, some plans.
Although I’ve been through a general lack of time (which is fun to say as an unemployed, almost locked down at home), lack of focus, lack of cash flow, internal struggles on what to do next, April has been one of the best months in my recorded history. I’ve been more calm and “relaxed”, looking forward to the next day and not being stressed by “need to go to work tomorrow”.
I wonder if the work-from-home folks feel relaxed as well to not having to go to work. I mean, it’s just because I don’t have to physically go somewhere or is it because I don’t have a boss and duties? I bet it’s the latter, but maybe it’s the former and I’d be happy with a remote job with flexible schedule.
I won’t ever know. Maybe.
Aaaand we’re 100% “Italian FI” (whatever it means)!
“Congrats RIP, you can finally relax for good! I’m sure this time it will stay forever above the line! How is it going in May so far?”
Thanks for asking… This was on May 1st -.-
Ok, let’s talk about this thing now: Mr Market and my risk tolerance.
As I anticipated above, I’m feeling stressed again by daily swings greater than few months of spending.
I acknowledge that I’m playing my financial endgame here: I’m closing my money game. Few good moves and I’m done with the need of money forever. The problem is that those moves are slow, and being tempted to accelerate the timeline doesn’t help.
What I mean is that it’s easy to be aggressive and enjoy the ride while you’re in your 20s with 30k Net Worth (like mine during my early 30s…), but once you’re moving a million every shackle hurts a lot.
Ok, there’s still a lot of volatility in the markets these days (not like March though), but I can’t expect this not to happen in the future as well. I’m testing my market related stress resistance, and it’s not holding up very well. I think there’s a correlation between my mood and market swings. I don’t want to admit but… it seems to be there, and that’s not good.
Ok, I also suffer from meteoropathy, and just by chance we’ve had amazing sunny weather until April 28th (while the market went up), and then the market bounced and it’s raining since then. It’s the weather? it’s the market? It’s the “stay at home” (we’re not going out much with this weather)? Hard to tell.
To further test my risk appetite and volatility resistance, I’m playing with individual stocks.
I purchased stocks from three companies on April 20th, 10k EUR each. So far I’m up by more than 20% in just two weeks in this mini Value Investor portfolio. This is just a personal experiment. I know you would like to know which stocks I invested in but I won’t share it here. This is mainly a psychological experiment.
I didn’t even put the effort to pick stocks on my own: I listened to many Value Investor friends who are doing a lot of work in terms of analyzing companies, reading balance sheets and so on. I collected their suggestions and purchased stocks which have been recommended by more than one friend. This is not something I’m proud of – even though I’m 20% up in two weeks.
I don’t plan to hold individual stocks for long: I hate 10% daily swings, I’m not comfortable with it. The upward jumps make me smile, but the downward ones take my breath away. This is loss aversion 101. But you need to know your enemy, right? And I didn’t do all the due diligence before buying stocks, I just exploited friends’ knowledge and value investing work.
And I don’t think investing in individual stocks is what would definitely satisfy one’s greed! there’s always something riskier to do. Look at these people on r/wallstreetbets (nicely summarized by user Cortana on MP Forum). These are the kind of damage that chasing higher yields can do to your wealth.
Investing should be boring. And that’s why I’m exposing myself to slightly more than I want to handle, to asses my optimal boredom point. Problem is: if you want to reach FI you gotta accept at least X risk. And my personal appetite seems to not be ok with X. I’m pushing a bit further to see if coming back to X feels ok then.
Anyway, I wrote a deep note in Roam on May 2nd, and I’m going to conclude this post by sharing it almost verbatim. There will be some repetition with what I’ve already said, but hey, this is a corona (not really) – financial – unemployment – personal update mashup, so that’s what you get 🙂
But before that, I want to thank you all for all the encouragement and nice words both for my “bravery” of having quit Hooli (more about that will come soon), and for my work on this blog, which is generally perceived as of good quality. Thank you all! I don’t know why, but the blog is growing even if I didn’t put out much content in April. Another all time high.
Here’s my personal “Where I am” note from May 2nd.
I think I’m a bit lost in organization.
I have urgent things to do, but I don’t care. Sometimes I chase urgency, but that’s when I feel empty.
I want to move up.
I want to create, write, blog. I guess. I also want to code. Maybe.
But before writing and blogging, I want to have a blog schedule. I want to know what I’m doing, not just following immediate creativity flow, which is awesome in the short term but it doesn’t give me a sense of accomplishment.
But before having a blog schedule, I want to define the whole Project: RIP 2.0. I mean, the blog should be a component, but not the only output. I want to write a book, write the EERG guide, maybe start a Podcast, maybe a YouTube Channel, probably do some affiliate marketing (I hate it though), probably improve my social media presence, probably find blogging communities, probably offer some Coaching and other financial services, maybe create an online course, maybe take the CFA or the CFP, maybe coming out with my real identity. It’s not just having a blog schedule.
But before that I want to have a PKM system in place. I want to set the ground for a successful long term intellectual working career. Without that I’d be The Chaotic Factory. I want to adopt a better note taking system, build a second brain, use Roam to its full potential (or decide not to). Take the Roam Course by Nat Eliason that I already paid a month ago! Also take the Farnam Street “The Art of Reading” course I paid a year and half ago… Plus there’s a lot of free material around on Roam, PKM and Productivity (like the entire Zettelkasten blog).
Define “MyPARA“, and implement it. Then define my Areas, Projects, Resources and add all the other fields to MyPARA. Candidates: goals, values, principles, icebox and whatever will come out of MyPARA project kick-off.
So I have a hierarchy of intellectual needs to satisfy. I want to start creating content with a purpose and start consuming knowledge with a purpose. More intentionality to sharpen my thinking, build wisdom, and (hopefully) add more value to the world.
But at the same time I have responsibilities and other desires.
I have a family 24/7 around during this Coronavirus “stay at home” time (forced “home office” for me, no Krippe for Baby). One one hand I want to spend time with them, on the other hand it’s becoming too much time. All the time. Carving out few hours of Deep Work each day is hard. I’m able to set aside maybe two or three four-hours block per week. Not enough. And I also want to spend time with my family. Sometimes I overhear Mrs and Baby playing and I can’t help but come out of my studio and play with them. I think in the long term I’d need a place to work which is NOT at home. Or wait until Baby goes to school full-time.
They also need some kind of stability and predictability from me. I can’t show up at random times. Am I up for lunch? Am I interruptible now? If I show up in the living room and disappear randomly five minutes after it’s going to confuse them. But sometimes I’m in the living room with them and I have an idea I want to write down, or a thought that’s being explored in my brain. And Mrs complains “if you’re here with us, I want you to be fully present”. And she’s right. It’s hard to juggle intellectual work and concrete duties.
And don’t get me wrong: I do care about the emotional aspects, being in the “here and now”, hugging, singing songs with Baby, playing all of us together. I can’t live without that. A week-long retreat – if Covid weren’t here – won’t work now. I’d miss them. I want them to be available when I need them.
I care about both immediate things and all the things that are in my brain, essentially creativity and curiosity. Learning and producing. I’d love to spend all my time in those two extremes. The immediate and the intangible. I don’t give a fuck about everything that’s in the middle. Materialism, planning next vacation, buying a piece of furniture. Even clothing. I’ve only maybe 2 pants and 4 socks left. And no pajamas. I have no idea where are my shoes. I don’t care. I want to play with my daughter and study mental model from Farnam Street, biking undert he sun with my family, and read the Elephant in the Brain from Kevin Simler and Bob Hanson. And read Plato, Seneca, and Eliezer Yudkowsky. And also cook a pizza and watch a movie with my wife after having had a 45 minutes run. That’s all I need. Yes, It would be great to get back a larger social life than my immediate family, but I’m not missing the times when we planned to be busy every evening from Wednesday to Sunday, each week. And I don’t miss all the stuff we’re not buying. And I should stop starting sentences with “and”.
So I don’t care about what’s in between immediate and infinite. Except for that thing called Money. Having financial obligations forces me to care about money and investing outcomes. If we were retiring in Italy, I (maybe) wouldn’t care that much. Spending 2-3k per month would be sustainable forever. Problem solved. Forever. But staying in CH means we need to find a way to produce money again, to make it sustainable. Which either put pressure on me to monetize my endeavors (I’m not FIRE, maybe I should admit that I’m just FIE, or that I made a FFLC), or look for another job.
Which is what I’ve done so far. I’m working at another job. The Unemployment job. It’s relatively well paid, on paper. I don’t know yet when and if I’ll get paid, but in the meantime I’m putting the hours in. I’m not sure that’s how I want to fragment my time. Ok, unemployment money buys us more time in CH after my Ravenna plans, but if I’m not working “full immersion” (at least 40 hours per week) toward my long term goals I don’t know if it’s worth doing. It’s just a form of procrastination.
I’m doing interviews, and I’ve passed two of them. Technical interviews. I still rock at coding. I had to play aggressively to NOT pass the final interviews, to NOT get an offer. I don’t want an inferior job compared to Hooli. But social pressure, and a lack of real Free Will, will push me into a new job. Like it always happened. We take the average job among the five we sent our CV. If I hang around companies and “amazing opportunities” long enough, I’ll take a job. It’s a fact. The only way for me to be more intentional is to stop looking for one. But then losing unemployment money. Which is painful now. Even though unemployment money are not here yet.
I know whomever I’d open this though to he or she would kick my ass for many reasons:
- I’m being greedy and selfish in taking unemployment money (on paper).
- I’m being a coward by still putting money at the center of our plans. I’ve accumulated a lot of it, why still care? To my defense I’m not levitating around money, else I’d still be working at Hooli.
- I’m a weak person for not having the will to be intentional. What do you mean by “if I hang around long enough I’ll get a job”? If you don’t want one you won’t get one! And stop taking unemployment money that you don’t need. Greedy parasite!
Intentionality is a struggle. Freedom is a burden. The world around you tries hard to lock you in. And your supposed strongest ally, your brain, is not always playing on your side.
Plus, I’m not doing enough sport. I’m not focusing on my Spaceship Me. Why the hell? I have a lot of time! And my body needs movement, at least some stretching. And my brain needs more calm. I want to meditate. I started it so many times, but you know what? I feel like time for meditation, sport, and sometimes even sleep is wasted time that can be used toward my goals. It’s unhealthy to think like this, I know. It’s Anxiety talking? It’s Stress? It’s Fear? It’s not a positive emotion to think that every single second must not be wasted.
This is also preventing me to fully enjoy Leisure time. I’m not watching a single TV series, or playing a single Videogame or Boardgame. I perceive them as a waste of time, but sometimes I stop and think “I should enjoy time more! I deserve it! Let’s fucking unbox Gloomhaven, it’s been months that’s sitting on my shelf!”
Freedom is hard.
Hope you enjoyed 🙂
Have a nice day!