Update: take a look at the new options 8, 9, and more importantly 10 added on May 9th 🙂
Table of Contents
A deep personal post today.
My head is exploding, and I have to write things down.
I haven’t had a lot of time in the last two months to breathe, sit down, and draw a plan. I’ve been in reactive mode, pushing content on my blog and my YT channel, working on my services, and also enjoying the moment and having fun.
My current company, the Academic Institute I’m employed with, is an amazing company. My “boss” (he doesn’t like to call himself “boss”) is an amazing human being who – when I told him I’m seriously thinking about quitting – offered me paid time off to think about my future: “Wait RIP, don’t add a word. Today it’s March 19th… let’s meet on May 19th! Take two months off, we’re not a corporation 🙂 ”
I spend my days working on my projects, thinking about my projects, taking showers while thinking about new ideas for my projects…
I realized recently that what one thinks about in the shower in the morning is more important than I’d thought. I knew it was a good time to have ideas. Now I’d go further: now I’d say it’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.
Must admit that having started a YouTube channel has ben a game changer. It provides a very short feedback loop (so far incredibly positive), and an order of magnitude more human connections. I must admit that my current shower thoughts are 90% around ideas for my YT channel, not around my blog.
Anyway, let’s not go off topic, we have a flow of consciousness to drop here. Back on topic.
I’m having fun.
And my passion projects are earning some money: 3027 CHF In April. Gross income, probably subject to Pillar 1 contributions and taxes. Say 2k CHF net.
Problem is that May 19th “return to work or not” deadline is coming.
What should I do?
I love what I’m doing with my blog and YT channel, my passions are generating some income, the income is growing, we have a lot of money already stashed away… It seems a no brainer, doesn’t it?
But there’s more to that.
Let’s address the Elephant in the Room.
Our expenses are also growing.
When I moved to Switzerland alone in November 2012 I was spending ~3k CHF per month.
When my then-girlfriend-now-wife joined me in spring 2014 expense grew to 4k CHF per month on average.
A child later, before moving into the larger apartment we live in today (late 2019), we still managed to spend below 5k CHF per month.
We moved into a larger flat, sent our daughter to childcare 3 days per week, and we’re now spending 7k CHF per month (as a baseline, excluding vacations and large one-offs).
New Challenge(s) are coming
Now… as I’ve announced in April Financial Live Update video on my YouTube channel (in English Language), and as I’ve Easter-Egged in my 2021 Q1 Update post… Mrs. RIP is pregnant, and she’s expecting twins 🙂
We’re now at the beginning of the second trimester of a high risk pregnancy. A monozygotic (single egg), monochorionic (single placenta), luckily diamniotic (two amniotic sacs) pregnancy. Until a few days ago the gynecologist suspected this to be a MoMo twin pregnancy which has a 1/40000 occurrence and it’s very very high risk. Few days ago she saw the two thin amniotic sacs and the pregnancy has been classified as a MoDi, slightly less risky but still rare, 1/400 occurrence.
First trimester was a coin flip, 50% of risk of things going bad. End of First trimester visit went perfectly. We’ve also splurged in a 720 CHF NIPT (non invasive prenatal test, bill yet to come and hit our finances) that went perfectly as well. A lot of genetic problems are off the table… and as a side effect we now know we’re expecting two more girls 🙂
Now we can “relax”, and “celebrate” with moderation. It’s still a monochorionic pregnancy, with higher than normal risk (5-10%) during the second and third trimesters as well. Main enemy to keep an eye on is fetus to fetus placental transfusion syndrome, i.e. one kid sucking life from the other since they share the same “food circuit”. Plus my wife is 41 years old, turning 42 during this pregnancy. My wife needs to be constantly monitored until the delivery date which is supposed to be in early November, but it’s common for twins (especially MoMo and MoDi) to come earlier. Doctors might also decide to anticipate the whole process to reduce risks. We’ll see, we’re in good hands.
So… we’re expecting twins again.
We already lost twins in September, in the early stages of pregnancy… which were the odds of having twins again? And here we are 🙂
Now this can turn into a nice happy ending if thins go well, but it will also be a mockery, adding insult to injury if things go wrong.
We’ll do our best, and keep fingers crossed.
So far I’m incredibly grateful and happy for the news!
One of my favorite anime when I was a kid was Occhi di Gatto (Cat’s Eye).
Three sisters… I never suspected I could one day be on top of the pyramid! 🙂
Anyway… two more kids in RIP household will have an impact on our plans and finances.
Expenses will keep growing. We’re chatting with a nanny recommended by friends who had twins. She seems very skilled, and has experiences with twins. She asks 30 CHF/hour (net, i.e. ~36 CHF/Hour gross). We’re setting a time & spending budget, thinking about 10 hours per week – which is the bare minimum. 360 CHF per week on top of Baby#1 childcare.
And that’s just the entrée, the appetizer.
Expenses are expected to grow more, and more, and more… to the moon!
Meanwhile, what am I thinking of doing? Quitting a high-paying low-stress job? What the fuck am I doing? Why am I acting so childish? I’ve a large family (hopefully, fingers crossed), I’m the sole earner, we’re living in the most expensive place in the world and… I want to be a “YouTuber”? How the fuck can I be so irresponsible??
… But we saved close to 1.5M CHF for what? When am I going to use the freedom our money was supposed to buy? I’m 44, how longer should I postpone my happiness for?
I burnt out, I can’t take “jobs” anymore… or can I?
“What are you complaining about? Grow the fuck up! Put your shit together and do what everyone else in the world does, i.e. work their ass off under much shittier conditions than yours!”
But I’m wired this way. If I can’t complain because “I’m lucky” then you can’t complain that I complain because my brain fucks up with problems like this. “I’m unlucky” when it comes to having a non-anxious brain. It’s all relative. You can’t even complain because you work 18 hours per day flipping burgers at a McDonald to be able to just pay the interests on your student loan while sleeping under a bridge because in Middle Age people were tortured all the time… what a crappy argument!
For the first time in the last ten years I’m truly enjoying what I’m doing and I’m generating an income with my passions (small at the moment for a family of 5 in Switzerland, but growing) and we’ve accumulated 1.5M CHF.
I feel the desire to go all-in with my passions so strong. Never felt that strong. And we have backup plans like moving back to Italy if things go south. And a shit load of money.
We could remove the dust from the StupidiFI plan, resume it, and enjoy life in CH while we’re above the Ravenna Threat… then eventually move back to Italy or reconsider standard employment. At current “burn rate” the Swiss Buffer could last… 3-4 years? Well, this assumes market & currency neutral (no crash), and zero income from my “passion job”.
But let’s be honest: it will be really hard to break-even with my passion + passive (investments) income. Maybe the StupidiFI plan is very stupid, and we’d be waiting for the inevitable to happen, burning a lot of money in the meantime.
Plus, the Ravenna Threshold was acceptable to feel FI as a family of 3 in Italy, not sure if it holds for a family of 5. As a first measure I increased inflation adjustment from 2% to 3% per year. The shit will hit the fan earlier.
Add to that that yes, passion income reached 3k (gross) last month, but I don’t want to push hard to grow passion income fast. It’s reassuring to see my endeavor bringing some money though.
Plus, in 5-6 months we will have 3 kids around… Those of you who have kids already know what I’m going to say: how can I even think of being able to do any knowledge work in such situation?
Do I have any idea of my sleeping quality for the following 3 years? Do I really think I’ll be able to lock myself in my home office while my wife juggles with 3 kids in the other room?
It’s already borderline on those two days when BabyRIP (to be rebranded Baby#1) is not in child care, I can’t imagine what the implications on the quality of my work will be in 5 months from now. I will have to bet that Baby#1 grows very quickly, jumping from wearing
Pampers MBudget Nappy (she’s a bit late on this, learning these days to control her needs) to changing nappies to her sisters.
P.S. also hoping that she manages the arrival of her two sisters gracefully, and not with a gigabyte of envy and resentment for having lost her “princess of the house” status. So far so good. She’s half aware of what’s happening and she suggested to name the sisters “Gesso” and “Rogna”. Not exactly nice Italian names, maybe she’s telling us something 😀
And YES, if you don’t have kids you can’t understand, sorry. I was part of the crowd complaining against those who kept saying “you can’t understand if you don’t have kids“. Now I have kids. And you can’t understand what it means, sorry. It’s a Mary’s Room thing. Myself of 5 years ago had a vague idea, but actually living it is 3-4 leagues away.
As a corollary I can’t understand what having MORE kids means. I must accept it, and do my best to try anticipating the mess even tough it’s probably unanticipatable.
“Yes RIP, but you’ll face these problems even with a normal job, because I assume your “normal” job is a highly intellectual one right?”
Yes, sure, but it’d be still employment. With rights, lower responsibilities (compared to being your own boss), more understanding, predictable and reliable income stream… For example I would have a full month of paternity leave (maybe two in case of twins, I don’t know it yet) instead of the recently approved 2 weeks in Switzerland, because my employer is extra-generous (not the Hooli way though, 12 weeks, but still). And I’d keep cashing a salary almost independently of my performances, of course assuming they’re above a certain bar.
We’re talking about an employer who’s giving me two months just to “relax”, I don’t think I’d be fired for suboptimal performances after the birth of twins. Salary would be steady and fat, we’d be saving 30-40% even when our expenses reach 10k per month.
It now seems a no brainer in the other direction…
But… but… but for the first time since almost a decade I feel so engaged in what I’m doing! I’ve been working 10 hours per day even during weekends! And my passion gig is growing, it’s bringing some money (not much, not enough), and there are potential evolutions of my entrepreneur activity that could cover our expenses and some.
You know what? One of my concerns if I eventually FIREd was “what message am I sending to my daughter? Do I want to be a lazy father who doesn’t work?” Well… her most frequent question these days is “dad, have you done with work today?“. Which I usually reply something like “Not yet honey, I still have to work even if it’s 8pm 😐“.
It kind of breaks my heart every time. We should add to “the mess” that I’m continually fighting between spending time on my passion/vocation job, on my family, on my physical and mental health, on my relationships, on my lifelong learning mission.
Feeling guilty for what I’m not currently spending my time on is my normal state of mind.
Another ingredient is that having to push to make my passion profitable (above our growing spending level) “quick” is very stressful. I don’t want that. I want to produce high(er) quality content. I want to convey few clear messages to my young audience. I want to motivate students to improve their critical thinking skills. I want to teach. I want to help. I want to have an impact. I want to leave a footprint in this world. I start to see it as a mission.
I don’t want to care about money. I’ve been on this FIRE journey because I wanted to remove money out of my life.
The needle is now moving toward quitting.
“Hold my beer!”
Who the heck are you? O_o
“Your future expenses spreadsheet 😀 ”
Did I miss anything? ù_ù
“Do you plan to keep working from home?”
If I decide to keep working on my projects and quit my job it’s pretty clear I can’t work from home in the mid-long term. If I want to focus and deep work I will have to rent an office. There’s no way around it.
I missed the opportunity to rent the ideal one in my neighborhood for 700/1000 CHF + monthly costs (cleaning, internet, electricity…), and transform it into the RIP Headquarter. I regret having let it go, even if it would have brought up expenses by 1k+. Maybe another door will open in the near future, I’m on the lookout. But it’s another 1k+ CHF per month to add to the pile of money burnt. An extra mile to be covered by my passion income.
I know there are coworking solutions that are kind of cheap (<300 CHF/Month) but they come with a lot of limitations, no privacy, expensive meeting rooms, no external guests, no 24/7 access… if you want a true private office 1k CHF/Month is the lower bound.
Ok, enough data.
Let’s talk about the possible solutions:
1) Keep the job and forget the blog, the YT channel, and entrepreneurship in general.
This is the “normal life” most people live. No FIRE (not in the next 5+ years), no distractions.
Spend ~8 hours per workday working in a low stress fun environment, on cutting edge AI research, for a nice 200k/year salary.
Enjoy what’s left (in terms of time) with your family, your amazing wife and three daughters, go on fancy vacations four weeks per year, don’t care about life costs because salary is very good.
Buy a car, get a dog.
Well… you know what? It is pretty tempting. It’s a dream life for 99% of the world population.
Also: Forget about blog, YT Channel, products, services, books, online courses, all the people you’ve met during this 4.5 years adventure, and those you’ve not met yet.
No way. You can’t ask an Apple Tree to produce Pears. You can’t stop a waterfall.
2) Keep the job and – like I’ve been doing for almost 5 years now – squeeze entrepreneurship in the time left.
This is not a solution.
If I go with full time employment (and full time large family) I can’t half ass my content creation passion. It’s a torture. I’d rather quit it, or accept it’s a dramatically low effort thing, like a post per month or per quarter…
Before I even consider this, I’d like to remind myself the power of elimination, i.e. the Warren Buffett Two List strategy.
This is not a viable solution.
3) Go all-in with my passion/vocation using the “Ravenna Threat” Plan B.
This is what my heart, my guts, and my head are telling me to do right now.
I love to tell myself that I’d make it work anyway, and we won’t need to move back to Italy… That given the 3-4 years of Financial Buffer we have I will make my passion to 10k net earnings per month.
And that even if we would hit Ravenna Threshold wealth level we’d be ok. Either I’d go back to work or we’d move back to Italy. We don’t have to finalize Plan B right now. The time horizon for our Swiss Buffer seems long enough to even achieve Swiss Citizenship (see option 7) before having to deploy the eventual Plan B.
So… why not go all-in?
The main disadvantage I can see is that I’d be internally fighting to reduce expenses (or to grow passion income quickly) motivated by letting the Swiss Buffer last longer, with no long term vision.
This might generate some stress.
4) Go all in with my passion/vocation until homelessness, screw the Ravenna threat!
The GaryVee way!
Hustle until death!
Succeed or die trying!
just do it!
Ok, jokes apart. There’s a rationale behind. It’s not simply “fake it until you make it”.
Let’s be honest. Even if our expenses would reach 10k per month, we’re currently sitting on 12.5 years of accumulated expenses. It’s a large cushion.
Let’s say our accumulated wealth generates 2k per month (conservative) and passion income generates 3k per month while we spend 10k per month, the monthly deficit would be 5k, not 10k.
Our current wealth could support ~20 years of “minus 5k per month”.
In 20 years I’d be 64, and in another year Pillar 1 and 2 would kick in (3-4k per month).
Let’s be ultra honest: what are the odds that I won’t be able to cover the gap given 20 years of time?
Plus, will our expenses always be at 10k/month levels? In 5 years we won’t have any kid in childcare, and the financial relief might be huge. Mrs. RIP might actually be able to work again (hard at 46 years with 3 kids though).
It seems doable.
But it’s a dangerous territory, a lot of assumptions, I don’t know…
5) Ask for part time work (50-60%), and do both.
This is what’s on top of my conservative/rationale/responsible mind right now.
Yeah, it still seems a “Warren Buffett says no” scenario, but let’s break it down.
Working 60% (3 days per week) at current salary rate means 120k (gross) per year, 10k gross per month (plus Pension Pillars contributions). With 3 kids and 120k salary we should pay very little in taxes.
Say I can bring home 9k CHF net salary per month. This would more or less cover our expenses (and I won’t need to rent an office because I’d have access to company office).
I could work 3 days per week, as a sole financial provider for my family of 5, living in one of the most expensive places on Earth.
With the remaining 2/4 days (excluding/including weekends) I could achieve something in the passion space AND spend time with my family.
This might seem a viable options.
There’s some cons.
First, I’m not sue they’d be ok with me working only 60%.
Second, I’m not sure I’d be able to achieve much in the passion space with just 2 working days per week. Well, in the worst case this is a “Option 1” with more time for me and my family at the expense of having to keep an eye on expenses. But I could always increase working percentage to 70-80% if we want to be safer, and let’s not forget we have investments that are assumed to generate some returns…
We could FIRE Spectrum this way for a while, and check again later.
6) Move to Italy asap and work on my passions, finally “forgetting about money”.
This is also popping every other day in my head.
Thanks to the fact I’m reading The Elephant in The Brain I recognize I’m self deceiving myself.
I observe myself complaining with random things in Switzerland to make Italy options more palatable.
“Look at this shitty weather! If we move to Sicily we’d be taking a bath in Tyrrhenian sea right now!”
“I need to launch a company and I can’t fucking find anything in Italian or English… damn SVA, how the fuck am I supposed to be productive in this barbarian-speaking country!”
“Drei, not Drü! Baby, it’s Drei… look wife, our daughter is learning this incomprehensible sub-human dialect! Do we really want to let her grow here? Isn’t it better for her to learn Dante Alighieri’s noble language?”
It’s preemptive Confirmation Bias. It’s a close friend to the attitude I was having when I wanted to quit Hooli: I was only exacerbating negative aspects, even where there was nothing really that negative.
It’s like I internally took the decision to move back to Italy at one point, and I’m asking my brain to push me to accelerate this process. Rationalization maybe.
This solution carries the usual consequences like: “What’s better for our daughter(s)? Will we be happy in Italy? Will we be happy to not have even tried to stay in Switzerland without a job? Would this move impact overall happiness for the family? Isn’t this a kind of “too pessimistic” solution?”
Maybe before answering last question we should ask ourselves: “Are we considering moving back to Italy a downgrade of our current life quality? Are we willing to accept this Quality of Life / Sanity of Mind trade off?”
We should move back to Italy when/if we eventually “look forward to moving back”, not as an inferior option without having even tried.
Even though the control freak in me is pushing for this option, I’m not sure.
7) Wait for Swiss Passport(s) and then move back to Italy.
These is also this variable at play.
I could start the naturalization process in 1.5 years. And it should take ~2 years to complete. I could become a Swiss Citizen in 3.5 years. My wife could get the passport in 5 years. Baby#1 I guess roughly at the same time (time accrues faster for kids).
Having a Swiss Passport is a “FU Paper” in case Italy goes nuts.
Waiting for Citizenship should be considered part of the equation.
This pushes three points down the option (6) to move back to Italy soon, two points down the option (3) where we might move back to Italy soonish AND eventually start the naturalization process without a real job (not cool for them), and a single point down the option (4) “succeed or die trying” for not having a real job at passport time.
Aiming for Swiss Citizenship suggests a more conservative option, and punished options 3, 4, and 6… which are my favorites 😐
May 9th 2021 Update: You’re flooding me with comments and personal messages, I can’t thank you enough… I’m reading your comments and I’ll find time to answer to as many as I can. Thanks to your feedback I came out with three more options
8) *NEW*: Double Down!
Recommended by reader Vesperio (in Italian Language, “te possino…” 😛 ) this is a “option 3 on steroids”.
Vesperio recommends me to take six months off from “real work”, work a crazy amount of hours for the next 6 months, set up a real business, get an office, get an assistant, don’t be cheap, plan to spend 100k in 6 months. Try the business out for real, for six months. Then I can decide what I want to do for real.
Don’t waste time even in thinking about relocating right now.
Don’t even give a shit about FI for now.
This is not a bad idea, but I have a couple of problems with that. First it’s already stressful to aim to cover current expenses with my passion income, imagine if I had to cover 15k CHF per month with it. Let’s be honest, I’m a guy with a blog. I’ve been able to earn 3k CHF (pre tax and pension contributions) in April, and I’m slowing down with services in May – and that’s ok. What are the odds that I’ll be able to cover our living expenses AND business costs (and salaries) in Switzerland within 6 months?
Mind that I don’t want to start milking every potential dollar out of my activities – I have non-negotiable ethical values.
Second, if everything goes well in six months (more likely 5, even something less) my wife will give birth to two kids. She might need help even before. I might not be able to work 80 hours per week for the next 6 months – assuming I can find an assistant and an office tomorrow.
Third, even if everything goes well, let’s see what happens six months from now. Let’s assume I have been able to focus 80 hours per week on my activities and the business grew. We can play with two more likely scenarios. One: the business income wouldn’t cover current expenses, but it has grown significantly during the six months period, with break-even kind of in sight within a year. Two: business income kind of reached the break-even point, but the machine can’t be stopped nor it can be slowed down.
In both cases what did I learn from the experiment? How can this impact what to do after 6 months? Of course life will change (a lot) with new babies, so whatever I learned until then was mostly useless to predict the future.
But I must admit that it’s tempting… do it for real and see what happens.
9) *NEW* Lugano mon amour…
I’d still be in Switzerland, costs would go down by 40% (claimed by Mr Reset), I’d still be on track for Swiss Passport (slowed down though), no language barrier, better weather, and still most of the other options apply.
This is not a bad idea, but I have few counter arguments:
- Costs won’t go down by 40%. I’m not even sure they’d g down at all. What’s less expensive in Lugano than Zurich? Rent? We pay 2300 CHF/Month for a 110sqm, 4.5 rooms in a green area we love. how much can we save? 300 CHF/Month? Plus insurances as far as I understood would go UP. Migros prices are Canton independent… what else would go down? Maybe taxes with 3 kids, but taxes are not my main concern.
- We’d be parachuted in a territory where we have no roots. What we’d be doing in Lugano? We have so many friends here in Zurich, moving to Lugano would be similar to moving in New Zealand.
The language barrier (if I could tolerate “licenza di condurre”, “riservazione” and a few other weird words), Swiss Passport track, and – most importantly – better weather are interesting plus though.
This idea is pitched to me pretty frequently, I might one day sit down and run the numbers (and maybe prototype a bit). I also have a couple of Italian friends who are pioneering this route right now.
Time will tell.
10) *NEW* Leverage Both Worlds *TOP*
When I think about “moving back to Italy” I begin analysing available options and trying to see which one fits my needs. Then I usually ask myself “why not be the change I wish to see in the world“?
That’s how I come up with ideas about intentional communities, or ideas about ideal coworking space. Those ideas light my eyes up, even if I don’t usually follow up because, you know… fear, second guessing, cowardice…
This time it could be different.
I had the following idea: instead of asking for a 60% and working on my passion in the remaining 60% (yeah, I know, goodbye Saturdays if I want to achieve anything with both my passion job and my real job) why don’t I let the two jobs synergize? Why don’t I let the two personas communicate? Why don’t I tell my boss Mr. RIP wants to work for the company? 🙂
You might be confused, and I understand. i haven’t formalised it in my head yet.
I will send this post URL to my boss and tell him “dear boss, I’d love to stay on board part time, say 3 days per week, and one of those three days Mr. RIP is working for the Institute, not Giorgio 🙂 ”
We (the institute) have a YT channel that gets no views. Everyone in the research group shares events, internal public talks, seminars on their social networks but we get low coverage.
Mr. RIP can bring a lot of attention around our field and our institute. Mr. RIP can bring many talented candidates to the institute. Mr. RIP can live stream ML code writing sessions. Mr. RIP involved in the main business could motivate Giorgio to work harder in the AI/ML field, and resurrect the passion for coding/researching.
Giorgio would be working 60+% on AI/ML research, being much more productive tanks to a rediscovered passion for the field, while Mr. RIP would work 60/80% (a lot of overlapping time) on his stuff, shifting the YT channel focus a bit toward Coding, Software Engineering, Research, Career Development. It’s already happening.
It seems a “better option 5” to me!
What are your thoughts, my friends?
Have a great day!
It’s a (beautiful) mess.