Hi RIP readers,
Another journal-style entry here on RetireInProgress. Last one was on Day 29.
Day 38 since the market peak of February 19th.
Let’s start with the most important thing: we’re all healthy and safe. Both our immediate family, i.e. the three of us, and our families in Italy.
As I said few other times we care much more about our families in Italy than about ourselves. We’re all “young” and healthy, we don’t fear getting the virus. Of course it would be hard to manage a 2yo if one of both of us will catch the virus. Better to avoid it, but it won’t be the end of the world.
We care about our families in Italy because Italy is locked down since more than two weeks. Hospitals are facing shortage of ICU beds, medical materials, and also shortage of personnel. Sadly doctors and nurses are getting sick and dying. We can’t even go visiting them if one of our parents must go into ICU. It’s a horrible scenario, and we couldn’t do much in case it became reality. We try to live with this constant menace, and do our best to tell parents to stay at home all the time.
About us: we would like to avoid the virus. And most importantly, we would like to not help it spreading. Which means in case we get it, we don’t want it to spread thanks to us.
That’s why we’re taking increasingly unordinary measures to reduce the risks, while still conducting an acceptable – actually very fulfilling – life.
We’re socially distancing to the extreme: meeting almost no one. Ok, just a few exceptions, but keeping safety distance and not inviting people at home.
We’re washing our hands frequently.
We’re going to grocery stores less than once per week.
We’re enjoying the sunny weather in our park, but avoiding entering the 2 meters sphere that surrounds everyone. That makes me stressed a bit. I’m doing whatever I can to take the other side of a sidewalk when I meet someone, waiting until the other person crosses my way before moving on, and many more measures to never enter the virtual sphere surrounding the other person. But that’s not what others are doing! I see people gathering close together, kids playing together, and fucking old farts walking like zombies, in a cosplay of what they’re going to become in a few days if they don’t change attitude!
We use our flat corridor as cleaning zone for every indoor-outdoor transition: we put on “outdoor” clothes before going out, and undress as soon as we get back at home. After that, we wash our hands and put on “indoor” clothes.
All of this while our daughter doesn’t give a fart and touches everything. It’s like having a walled garden with an open door 🙂
Anyway, self isolated life is both good and bad.
The good part is that I’m spending an extraordinary amount of time with my family! No social obligations (which we’re realizing we should slow down anyway after the world recovers), no duties, just the three of us playing, dancing, hugging, kissing, and then playing, playing, hugging, singing, dancing, making up stories, and then playing, playing playing… until we adults are both destroyed while our daughter has some energy left to mess up with the apartment.
The bad part is that I’m spending an extraordinary amount of time with my family… No social contact (I miss a beer with a friend!), very little time alone for reading, writing, thinking, sleeping. Sometimes I joke about the fact that the first thing I’ll do once the world resumes is go in real isolation somewhere in the woods for a week! I’m envy of those friends who are reading books, watching TV series, and getting bored. Plus unemployment duties. More on this later.
Anyway, I’m still optimistic about the overall situation. I think we, the human species, will get rid of this virus pretty quickly and without millions of deaths.
The best article I have found on the virus topic is this one named The Hammer and the Dance. It’s a rationale for a limited (in time) lockdown, and a controlled phase afterward. It’s like South Korea and China are doing, assuming we can trust their numbers. Go read that post!
I don’t think the virus will make millions of deaths. I actually think infected with mild symptoms or totally asymptomatic are many more than official numbers, which lowers mortality rate and makes the infection peak closer to today.
I’m not suggesting we should not care about it. Let’s hammer it, and then dancing around R, but just to put things in perspective: every year 150 Million humans are born, and 60 Million humans die. Let’s say Covid19 kills 1M people (which is a pessimistic scenario in my opinion), that’s 1.67% of regular death toll, or 0.012% of world population. Not a Thanos event.
I have several friends who got the virus. Tested positive. Young and healthy. And they’re ok. And some old people as well. Needed hospitalization, but they’re doing ok now.
I don’t even think the economic impact will be as brutal as first stock market month seemed to imply. And I know this is a controversial topic. Of course Q1 and Q2 GDP will suck all around the world, and a tough recession is coming for sure… but my bet is that it will be quick, and all the economic stimuli by governments and central banks will make the recovery fast everywhere. Plus, the permanent effects of this crisis will have a net positive impact on productivity, remote working, and preparation to future pandemics.
Now the risks are coming from governments, and economies. Sadly stupid people govern many civilized countries around the world, and their behavior, their slowness to respond, is what’s causing most damages today.
I hope the trend changes direction. I mean the trend of electing stupid people, of course. I’m less optimistic about that though.
Anyway, being an optimist when everyone is calling the end of the world is not easy.
First, I had to quit the MP Forum thread that has been a good companion during the first few weeks of the crisis. It started as a civilized discussion between long term investor, it’s now become fear-mongering and market timers paradise. GG.
Second, I kept investing while the knife was falling. The risk of being remembered as “the dumb one” is non-negligible. Add to that that I quit my job, and my plan to stay in Switzerland are bound to some sort of financial success and you have an easy recipe for failure.
Third, I started “second thinking” my irrational optimism. Am I doing the right thing? Am I just a dumb person? Isn’t it obvious that “the market is going to bottom in 3 months” like everyone else is saying?
Since I quit the public forum market went up by 12%. Maybe that was not the bottom, or maybe it was. Who knows.
Time will tell.
How are we doing finance-wise?
Not so bad, after all.
I still feel guilty for buying discounted stocks from panicking inexperienced investors. I’m a long term investor, with a solid cash buffer and I’m sure we’ll see a new market high within 2 years.
We touched bottom on Monday March 23rd, where our NW delta for March was close to -100k EUR.
On that Monday I purchased another 200 shares of VT at price 54 USD per share, same price of May 2013, just 8% above inception value of 50 USD per share in 2008, and I regretted not having pushed harder. It went close to 53 USD per share, and my next 200 shares limit buy order didn’t trigger. I didn’t buy anything else during last 9 days.
Then it went up for three consecutive days, something like +15%. It’s now sitting at 61.77 (price was 83 on Feb 19th). Tue-Thu was the best 3 days return for S&P500 since the 30s.
On Thursday evening, I stared at my NW document.
What’s that? The world is ending and I’m at -28k EUR? In 2020 I’m at -25k, or a 2.14% decline of our YTD Net Worth? I still have way more than a Million EUR?
Was that it all??
Cmon, my mother hits harder than that!
Ok, yesterday I got punched in the face with another -20k day, but I’m very ok with that. I have liquidity to invest, more or less 80k USD sitting in IB – which zeroed cash interest rate after FED zeroed interest rate as well – and a lot of bonds ready to be sacrificed to the rebalancing gods.
I don’t have a short term strategy, and I don’t want to optimize for that. I’m working on my long term strategy. The execution of my long term strategy leaves some room for short-termism, and controlled greed/fear/regret/overconfidence. I’m poisoning myself with small doses to get to know myself better.
Current Asset Allocation is roughly 50% stocks 50% bonds and a huge cash buffer of 176k EUR (higher than target).
Looking at AA over last few months it seems now I’ve been a genius in hindsight by selling a lot of stocks in November 2019 and buying them back today:
In terms of Target AA I’m working on it.
I feel more confident now, and ready to switch to a more aggressive 60/40, with 150k (or less) cash buffer.
Whomever I talk to, they say I’m not aggressive enough. But that’s my tolerance for risks since I’m no more earning an income.
Anyway, I’ll be buying mostly shares of VT and maybe EIMI if EM don’t recover fast enough.
Part of me hopes that the market goes down again, to buy at discounted prices, but part of me prefers to see new “all time highs” soon, and grumping a bit by not having gone all-in at the bottom.
Need to balance my rational and irrational self!
But when I see market going down…
Anyway, March is coming to an end, one of the worst month in Wall Street history, and the weirdest month in all our lives.
Plus, on Wednesday April 1st I’ll be unemployed.
How far is Ravenna?
Almost 100k far today.
Time to unpack the luggage 🙂
Mr. RIP Unemployment
Yesterday was my last Friday at Hooli. The last THIF, “Thanks Hooli is Friday!”.
Tuesday March 31st 2020 will be my last day of work. Then I’ll have no badge anymore, no corporate laptop, no corporate phone.
And no paycheck.
Just more or less 50 Hooli t-shirts and other swag grabbed in 7.5 years of work.
“Yeah RIP, let’s talk about that!”
Next post will be about the Hooli Goodbye for sure.
Today I want to tell you about the unemployment experience so far.
“Hey RIP, you’re not unemployed yet! What are you talking about?”
Well, on one side I’ve been “kind of unemployed” since early February, when I sent my resignation letter to my manager and Hooli HR. I’m not going to the office since… I don’t know… end of February? And that’s a bit sad, leaving in such an anonymous way…
On the other side, I registered myself for unemployment on mid March, and started doing their paperwork. RAV (Regionale Arbeitsvermittlungszentren, i.e. unemployment office) offices are physically closed, so everything needs to be handled via phone, something via post, something via email.
Everything in German, of course.
I’m almost regretting having tried that, since I won’t be paid for probably a couple of months because I quit on my own.
Having to print useless documents without a printer at home, and without any public place with a printer open, is a hell of a task. I had to convince lazy government employees that it should be ok if I send a digital version of a picture I took of my AHV number with my phone instead of having to print it, send it via post, and than have an employee on the other side scan it and put into some folder on their computer.
My days are filled with unemployment duties so far. Did I quit Hooli for “working” as an unemployed? Nope.
But once the setup is completed (hopefully by mid of next week), I only need to apply for jobs and eventually do interviews and see what happens.
“So RIP… you’re cheating the system?”
We already discussed that, don’t we? I’ve paid unemployment insurance for 7.5 years. I’ve left my job because it was destroying me from the inside. I’ve been depressed and burned out for 6 months, and after having come back to work I started having same symptoms again.
“So you should have gone to the doctor again and get a sick leave”
That, in my opinion, would be “cheating the system”.
It doesn’t make sense to go in and out of medical leave for burnout.
I’m permanently sick and disgusted of my industry and my field.
“So you should sick for a permanent disability pension”
Oh cmon, I’m not THAT broken.
There are people who get invalidity pensions, even from mental health problems. But I really don’t want to go there. I felt much better during my last medical leave, when I focused on myself, my family, and my passions. I’m not invalid. Getting a AHV pension for that would be cheating the system in my opinion.
“So you realized you don’t want to work anymore and want to receive unemployment money, where you must apply for jobs and eventually accept their offers. Isn’t that cheating the system?”
Well, of course there are applications that will be sent just to meet the obligations, but I’m open to a new job if it meets some of my desired criteria. I’m not excluding that a priori.
“But you said that you don’t want to work anymore, that you want to try something on your own.. why didn’t you announce yourself to unemployment office as someone seeking self employment?”
That’s a good point.
I don’t know… my brain is full of fog right now.
This self quarantine time is changing my perspective.
I can’t do much if we’re all the time all together. Our daughter used to go 2 days per week in Kinderkrippe (childcare) but now she’s not going there anymore, and we’re paying the monthly fee anyway (this needs to be changed soon).
I haven’t been able to even think about ideas for my own business so far. I decided to spend more time with my family, which is awesome! We’re creating long lasting memories every day, and one day we’ll look at this time as a gift we had.
But I’m not as productive as I wanted to be. And I have no clear directions. Many ideas, but not a clear direction right now.
So I told myself maybe it’s better to “be unemployed” and apply for jobs while I clear my mind.
But this thing is sucking all my free time right now, I envy those friends who are reading books and making jigsaw puzzles in their spare time!
“So RIP, you’re complaining that you’ll get generous unemployment benefits while enjoying time with your family?”
First: I don’t know when (or if) I’ll get some money, and how much I will get from unemployment.
Second: I don’t want to be what I’m being right now. This is a temporary uncomfortable state of being of mine. But I accept it as part of the overall Covid weirdness. When we talk to friends and family in Italy, I feel not alone in feeling “strange”.
Third: it’s not all roses. It’s actually pretty frustrating.
I’ll try to explain myself better, via a dialogue I had with a recruiter few days ago.
Btw, I just stopped ignoring recruiters for a week, and now my inbox if full of shit.
“RIP, are you complaining that everybody want to hire you?”
No, and no!
No, I’m not complaining about that.
No, it’s not true that everybody want to hire me.
What’s happening is that everybody want to talk with me and see if I’m a good match for their position(s).
All the recruiters in the world (which all of them work in UK, I don’t know how is this possible btw) want to “have a chat” of an hour (!!) with me, and then to better understand my skills gently ask me to complete a assessment test on their platform that takes 2 hours, where very important questions need to be answered, like picking the exact syntax for “C++11 Template Aliases” construct among five very similar statements. Something you can easily look for on the internet, and that doesn’t happen to be anybody’s daily job to remember it by heart.
At question 5 out of 48 I quit the test and mailed the recruiter:
Hi recruiter with a strong British accent who speaks at 975 words per minute,
I would like to have a chat with TechCompanyThatMaybeDoesntSuck that you were mentioning yesterday.
Attached you can find my CV full of the buzzwords you’re looking for.
Please, let me know what are next steps.
Yesterday evening I was taking your C++ test but I had to stop for a family emergency.
I don’t think I’m going to complete the test, it takes a lot of time and in my opinion is not measuring what really matters: it’s focused on syntax details, it’s like asking a philosopher to remember the dictionary by heart.
If a company cares if I know the exact syntax of constructs like “C++ template aliases”, something that could be looked up in 3 seconds, I don’t want to work for them. At Hooli we don’t care about such specific nitpick knowledge.
“Ha Ha Ha RIP you’re so funny… is this the dialogue with a recruiter you were talking about?”
Oh no, that’s even funnier 🙂
British Recruiter: “Blah blah Scrum Agile blah blah challenging problems blah blah TURBO MODE ON! blahblahcompetitivesalaryblahblahdynamicenvironmentblahblah SLOWING DOWN A BIT so… Mr RAIP, you work at Hooli… Cool! You know Framework X, Y, e Z of course!”
RIP: “No, I don’t”
“Cool…. well I imagine at Hooli you had incredible responsibility! What was your typical day like Mr RAIP?”
“Writing some code… a bit of troubleshooting… (then free food and massages most of the time)”
“Coool, coooooool so Mr RAIP you’re an expert in Z? T? W?”
“No. I have no idea what you’re talking about”
“Cool… what about Machine Learning Mr RAIP?”
“Cool… Cloud? Cloud of course! You work at Hooli cloud Mr RAIP! so you of course know Kubernetes, Kafka, AWS, Spark, Hadoop,…”
“Kubernetes is the guy who wrote The Catcher in the Rye?”
“Cool… let’s talk about money. What’s your current salary Mr RAIP?”
“2019 yearly total compensation, according to my end year statement is more or less 280k CHF before taxes.”
“Cool… well, companies in my portfolio offer salaries in the range of 120-150k… with yearly bonuses of 5k… what do you think about it Mr RAIP?”
I think that you can go fuck yourself Well, I’m open to consider that. I know Hooli salary is hard to match, but if the environment is challenging and I can have a true impact in the world via high frequency trading… why not? And Dublin has always been my preferred destination!”
(I’m sweating and I can’t even believe to my own words)
“Cool… I’ll forward your CV to FinTechStartup and let you know, Mr RAIP”
“Have a nice day”
“Cool… have a nice day you too Mr RAIP”
“Hey… before you leave… let me tell you this: I don’t even know why I am talking to you. Maybe it’s because I need to prove that I’m putting some effort in looking for a new job, because if they call you to verify that I applied for this job I shouldn’t have pissed you off. That’s why I’m not being fully honest with you, sorry.
“No, shut up and listen! I don’t give a fuck about your buzzwords! I’m smart! I’m a fucking problem solving machine! I don’t give a fuck about your fucking “frameworks”!”
“Shut up! Guess what? Someone was – and still is – willing to pay me a shitload of money because I can think outside the box, not because I know how to fucking write a template aliases without looking it up on stackoverflow!”
“And speak slowly, British motherfucker! And I’m Mr RIP, not RAIP! Where did you learn English??”
Ah. Sorry. I thought I was still talking to… Nevermind.
The problem is that I’m unemployable today.
I’m trying to prove myself wrong, but that’s simply the truth.
“But RIP, you’ve been working at Hooli, everyone will want to hire you no question asked! With a CV like yours…”
Oh go f*** yourself, and not the r/fi way!
I’m the Mr Satan of software engineering.
I used to be good, very good at my job. And I knew that. I am proud of my career, and all the things I learned up until maybe 5 years ago.
In Spring 2015, after only 2.5 years at Hooli, when SuperBoss left the company, I started spiraling down. Passion died pretty quickly. I devoted zero energy outside of working hours to get better at software engineering, to get to know what was going on in the industry, new technologies, ML, Cloud… I gradually detached, and made myself obsolete. intentional planned obsolescence. I stopped putting even the hours at work toward my career, the hours I was paid to be doing what they wanted me to do. Nope.
it’s more than detachment, it’s resentment.
I’ve grown angry towards my field, angry towards software engineering, angry towards internet, the sharing economy, all the promises of “making the world a better place” that are turning out to be just “mass surveillance and ads targeting”.
I dreamed about a tech utopia, and I contributed to create a Wall-e like future.
I’ll write much more about that in the future, I don’t want to give you the impression of oversimplification. If I were feeling happy, competent, autonomous, and skilled enough I’d still be doing my business with corporations – not giving much of a fuck about the bigger picture. Sisyphus all the way down.
But I dug my own professional grave, most of it being intentional (maybe not smart), blinded by the goal of a life where “work” was no more necessary. I threw the anchor at the right distance from the shore, just to discover the tide was exceptionally low when I did that.
And here I am, complaining that I forgot how to swim…
So my unemployment will be like “The Dance and the Hammer”.
“RIP, you misspelled it. It’s the hammer an the dance. Amazing article btw!”
Yes but my unemployment adventure is going to be the other way around.
First I’d dance around “I’m very motivated!”, “I have always been in love with your company”, “yeah, years of experience at Hooli, I know a lot of stuff!”… then I’ll get hammered by the actual interview, where I don’t even remember how to write a hello world program in my favorite language! It will be brutal 🙁 At least I’ll make you laugh, which seems to be my top skill right now.
About the “dance”… listen to this!
A week ago I was asked by a recruiter “why I’m leaving Hooli”.
I don’t know how to honestly answer this question in less than 2 hours – it’s very complicated and I’m going to write walls of text about it in the future – but the short answer I came up with is “I wanted to take a sabbatical and travel the world with my family, but then the Covid happened and now there’s no reason to do it. So I’m looking for a job again“.
But that’s the answer I decided to use AFTER that interview.
During that Britishy “Mach 3” phone call I had to pretend something on the fly.
1000WordPerMinute Recruiter: “SoMrRAIPwhyareyouleavingHooli?”
It’s not the same recruiter of the story above, but they all look the same
RIP: “Well… you know what? I used to be in love with Hooli (true, and part of me still is), and over time I grew detached because of ethical concerns! Yes, we used to be a good company, caring for people. Now I see my company doing… less good! I guess you read some of the public news about it over the last 4-5 years, don’t you? So I want to make a change and try to “make the world a better place”, and that’s why I want to apply for a position at… at…”
30 seconds of silence, while I didn’t want to believe what I just heard. I though I was talking to a Medical startup in California.
“EXACTLY! Huawei! I think I can make a world a better place by working on Huawei Cloud… wait a minute… I have a family emergency SORRY SEE YOU LATER BYE!”
And then I went for an Elliot wipe ritual on all my devices. And changed phone number.
And there’s something even darker hanging above.
I see all this shit like another dance, seriously.
A dance in the dark, a meaningless waste of words and time, a piece of acting and telling them I’m excited about X, and Y… and my dream has always been to join your company, and how cool is that the environment is thrilling and exciting? And competitive compensation, wow! And solving this important problem (high frequency trading, or targeted ads, or keeping up a cloud for a government)…
And I would simply hammer it and tell them: “seriously? You asking me how I see myself in 3 years from now? And… what am I supposed to answer to this? And you want me to say that I can’t wait to relocate to Dublin, like I don’t have a family, dreams, life goals… and maybe you want me to relocate as soon as your shitty it’s-just-a-flu government stops the lockdown? Oh, fuck yourself!”
Everyone is pretending to like this game.
I wanted to quit it.
Why am I still participating?
Time will tell.