Hi dear readers,
I can’t thank you enough for the tremendous support and positive feedback you’ve been giving me throughout these 2 years of blogging on retireinprogress.
I’ve published 87 posts so far, it’s roughly one every 9 days since June 2016. Original plans were to publish more frequently, something like twice per week or so.
I was so naive! I thought blogging would be similar to journaling, something like “vomiting your thoughts on a secret diary”, but it turned out not being true. Quality of a post is surprisingly linear with the effort you put into it. Add to this that to be noticeable and stand out of the crowded crowd of this information overload age an article needs to be very high quality and the equation becomes clear: you need to put a lot of effort if you want to have an impact. Out of my 87 posts (88 including this one) only 4-5 became somewhat popular. It’s not a coincidence that those are the most useful and probably best written posts on this blog. Not that “becoming popular” was or is my first concern though.
As I said in the about me page, when I started this blog the goals were:
- Learn about FIRE topics. I would say I know more than enough about FIRE now. The marginal returns of devoting time into the topic is minimal.
- Share and improve my strategy toward FI. Still working on that 🙂
- Share my philosophy and thoughts. Not done much about this, I’d love to write about philosophy and happiness and meaning of life and self improvement much much more.
- Strongly commit myself to my goals. That’s been a success so far: tracking expenses, tracking net worth and tracking FIRE progresses.
- Help others learning from my mistakes. Well, from the feedback received I think I helped some but I could do more.
- Meet people similar to me. That’s probably been the top achievement in 2 years of blogging! Did you read my FIWE 2018 report? Meeting like minded people and creating connections has been terrific. I could do more, of course, but with age I’m happily transitioning from extrovert to introvert and that’s ok 🙂
- Improve my writing skills… I think I did a good job so far but to put things in the right perspective, in a scale from 0 to 100 I moved from 5 to 15. My English is poor, my posts lack a clear message (they’re kind of a mess) and the blog lacks a clear theme. Nevertheless I consider myself leveled up to a point where I am totally disgusted by my own early posts!
- … And explore my passion for writing. When I started more than two years ago I didn’t know I’d like writing so much. Where “so much” refers to both liking and writing 🙂 I’m more convinced than ever that I want to keep writing!
Two years have passed and I’m still very passionate about writing and about reaching Financial independence. And I love my blog, this little creature I’ve created. I’m proud of my story, the investing series, my 101 posts (InteractiveBrokers, ETF, Swiss Pension System, FIRE), my financial updates and to some extent I’m proud of every single post I’ve written, even those who after a couple of years embarrass me!
“Wait RIP, what is this ‘but’? You’re not retiring are you? No no no I don’t mean ‘retiring’ retiring (that would be good for you!), I mean retiring from blogging. What do you mean with ‘but…’?”
No, I’m not retiring from blogging! What the hell are you saying? And no no no I’m not ‘retiring’ retiring neither (yet)!
But… but I feel there’s something that needs to be changed in my writing sooner or later. Not today, not tomorrow, but one day for sure.
What are “the problems”?
I don’t really know but I have some internal signals and some objective limitations and pain points. Let’s list them.
I really like writing. That’s a fact! I enjoy the creative process, the research, the flow state of giving my thoughts a structure. It’s a form of meditation, of mindfulness. It stimulates my creativity, my curiosity and my “spirituality”.
“Great, awesome! We really appreciate, RIP 🙂 Keep it going…”
I don’t know if I still like blogging though. Wait, don’t jump to conclusion! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say I don’t like blogging anymore. Actually I think I do still like this form of writing, intimate and free. Plus, many of the motivations I listed above about “why I started” are still valid and the associate goals still challenging and super turbo awesome to aim.
But I’ve changed in the meantime, a lot. For example, I don’t care much about finances anymore.
“Coooooome ooooooon RIP, you’re bragging every single month and you obsessively check your brokerage account 10 times a day!”
Yeah, well, you’re right. Of course I still care A LOT about OUR finances! I care less about financial concepts, investments, discovering new things… I feel like I know everything I should know.
What I don’t know (that I would like to know) I can’t know right now, like “what it feels like to lose 50% of your investments on a recession”. That I need to experience on my skin, there’s no “research” that I can do today that could help much. Well, that’s not totally true: I’m training to keep greed and fear under control and I’m aiming to reduce volatility (and expected profits) for sanity of mind but that’s another story.
I also mean that I care less about actual FI numbers.
“Hahaha you joking?? What’s the progress bar on your website? What about metrics and simulations, and safe withdrawal rate and saving rate and…”
Yeah, of course I’m a nerd and I’m keeping up with the FIRE Joneses, but truth is that – like every blogger getting close to FI – I’m slowly realizing that there’s not sharp line between before-FI and after-FI. One day hopefully my blog progress bar will reach 100%, but let’s tell the truth: nobody uses the 4% rule. And I’m not talking about 4% vs 3% (or pi%) vs 5%, I’m saying that once you’re 70-80% done you could decide to be already 100% done. I’m in the “it depends” territory, where money and confidence are interchangeable. Nobody just saves 70% of their salary for X years and then stops producing an income and starts withdrawing 4% every year for 60 years. Nobody. Early Retirement is about pursuing your dreams, unleashing your creativity and so on. And if you’re smart enough to have built 70% of what you would need in the worst case financial scenario, assuming zero income forever, you’ll be ok, you can already “retire”. There are zero chances of failure.
“So RIP, you’re ‘retiring’ retiring!! I knew it, I knew it! Good guy the old RIP, he likes to take tangents but he’s transparent like water to me 🙂”
No no no I’m, not ‘retiring’ retiring (yet) and I’m not ‘blog retiring’… I’m getting confused! About the retiring thing I know I’m ~70% done, but our current ER hypothesis is not solid enough. Are we really going to retire in Italy? Will 3.5k EUR (minus a shitload of taxes) be enough for a family of 3, with a not secretly hidden desire to grow to 4 or 5?
So I’m not retiring (yet). Plus I have the luck of working for an amazing company, on problems affecting billions of users, being compensated with extreme generosity. So, no rush (for now). I just want to reinforce the fact that even though I’m not FI yet, I could be leanFI, baristaFI, semi retired, FlexibleFI (love this last one!) if I wanted.
“Ok, got it. Then what? Just keep working and keep blogging! Everything is awesome and the sky is blue!”
As I said, there’s something wrong, and I think there’s something wrong between me and this blog. I think I’m going nowhere. At least I’m not building anything intentional with this blog, just flowing with the waves.
These are my perceived limitations:
- This is just a personal blog. It’s focused on my personal journey and it’s too generic. I’m not focusing on specific topics, nor I am positioning myself as an expert of anything. I’m a scientist and a researcher, so it’s hard for me to stay on a superficial level of a not-so-complicated topic as personal finance. I’d love to be the go-to person, the world level expert of a specific topic instead of yet-another-jack-of-all-trades blogger with a personal capital referral link to sell. Fix Idea: choose a specialization (investing? career advice? personal growth?) and go all in.
- It’s hard to relate to me. I’m here sharing my story and my journey but who can relate to me? I’m in the top 0.05% of the world by income. I’m not very frugal (but I kick asses). It’s easy to consider my case not interesting: “Yeah, that RIP earns a lot of money, I’d be already retired if I were him!”. Fix Idea: accept to only aim to a small niche of highly salaried professional (not a small niche though, at least in Switzerland). Else, stop sharing my journey and maybe pivot the blog toward a specialization like I said above. Or keep sharing my story and accept to not be relatable but rather a source of inspiration and a living proof that you don’t need to be Einstein to reach such a salary. Or get better at spending and become a saving rate super hero, a role model.
- I’m not addressing a specific demographic. I’m not talking to Italians, nor to Swiss, nor to Americans. I’m not really useful to anybody. Fix Idea: Pick a demographic and become the go-to FIRE person in that demographic. Wanna be the Italian MrMoneyMustache?
Grow a mustachepivot the blog in Italian language and address Italian specific FIRE challenges. Still “hard to relate to” applies here. Wanna be the Swiss go-to person? It’s ok to blog in English (maybe improve my writing skills a bit) and go deep into Swiss practicalities of Early Retirement. Do I want to do that? I don’t know.
- I’m blogging anonymously. And I’d like to keep my private and public Identity separate in current scenario. But that’s going to be difficult going on. And I’m scared about the idea that my neighbors, maybe in south Italy one day, know that kidnapping my daughter is a winning lottery ticket. Bloggers at one point go public and reveal their identities. It’s close to impossible to stay anonymous for a long time, especially if your “popularity” grows. If I’ll keep blogging and being so transparent with my numbers I should aim to not grow in popularity. It’s a weird feeling and a paradox. One day I might want to monetize my blog and it’s hard without a face on it. But I don’t want my face on it. What the fuck! Fix Idea: There’s not an easy fix. If I want to go public I should obfuscate a lot of information and delete a lot of old posts or launch a new blog (and not connect it with this one). Or keep up with anonymity but keep in mind that I can’t grow much and I can’t keep anonymity for long anyway.
- I write in English, not my primary language. I improved a lot, compared to my early posts, but I’m still somewhere in the 6th-7th grade equivalent range for the quality of my writing. I can’t be took seriously by native speakers, I can’t be published on worldwide scoped websites like rockstarfinance, I have hard time getting better at it since English language learning curve is mildly sloped at beginner level but get very steep at mastery level. Fix Idea: accept I’m a living joke or switch to Italian and accept I’ll be hated and trolled by the population least willing to learn something new in the world.
So there are problems and potential fixes, but I don’t like many of the fixes.
When I feel stuck at one abstraction level of my life, I usually step up and try to broaden my view and visualize my problems from one abstraction level above.
What do I like to evolve this blog into?
That’s a hard question, I’m not sure how to answer it. I want to have fun, feel useful, feel safe, learn more and meet people. Almost all the original motivations still holds true. Maybe the accountability one is fading a bit, and in open conflict with safety.
I have fun writing, so I want to keep writing. Learning more and meeting people is an almost guaranteed and pleasant side effect. What’s tunable is feeling useful. Being useful is not a binary yes/no checkbox. One can be incredibly useful to a small number of people or somewhat useful to a large population. It’s hard to be extremely useful to too many people.
And there’s another breakdown: useful for what? One can be source of inspiration, source of information, producer of services, driver of a right cause, entertainer and so on. Being useful is too generic.
Modern corporate bullshit language likes to call it impact. Having impact on something you find fun is great. An impact booster is working on something you’re also good at. I’m probably good at software development (someone is willing to pay me 6 digits for that) and I’m trying to check the “little impact on billions of users” box of the above mentioned impact spectrum with my daily job.
But that’s what’s making me feeling detached. I’d like to feel useful on a different scale with my writing and (eventually) with my financial knowledge.
So let’s focus on what I think “I’m good at“, in writing. I’m using your feedback over these 2 years as a guide. Thank you very much, my readers, you gave me a lot of positive feedback! Sadly, not much negative-but-constructive feedback: I don’t have signals about what I don’t do well and could improve. So ok, thank you all for your support, but I’d have loved something like: “yo bro, nice post but you always use too many parenthesis (and you’re posts are too long and boring, and your not good with pronouns and the verb to be). And never start a sentence with and. Or or“.
So, according to my perception and your feedback, I believe I’m good at:
- Storytelling. I act in theater, I read a lot, I’ve been a D&D Dungeon Master for two decades. I love telling stories, making regular things seem magic and magic things seem regular. I have so many sketched out but unwritten fiction books / movie scripts / novels. A recurring daydream of mine is to drop everything and write about my imaginary fantasy world. Will I give life to the next Westeros or Harry Potter? Role models: well, so many… Martin, Tolkien, Rowling, Gigax to cite some. If we want to restrict to the personal development/finance area: James Altucher. Storytelling feedback are the ones I appreciate the most 🙂
- Entertaining. Again, I’ve a deep desire to become a stand-up comedian, or comedy movie Screenwriter or just an actor. I think irony is very hard to express in a language that’s not your native one, but why not give it a try? Role models: Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Scott Adams, Douglas Adams, Michael Stevens. In the personal finance community… well, entertaining posts are not very popular, but I loved the livingafi blog (which is not updated since a couple of years) and his nerd humor. Go binge read it! Anyway, entertainment and storytelling get very well along together. Just… not in finance. Or did I just found an unexplored niche that I now have the duty to claim as mine??
- Futurizing. Ok, I just received a coupe of nice feedback on a post about technologies I think will be dominant in the near future. And on another one about how I imagine ideal future communities to look like. That’s more of a desire of mine than actual proven skills. But still. Role models: Tim Urban, Elon Musk.
- Popularizing. Bringing complicate topics to the masses. Become a financial evangelist. Give people who think “investments are too complicated” tools to get rid of their biases and go explore the topic themselves. That’s a mission of mine, since I also really love teaching. Potential outputs: a personal finance/investing course, a petition to teach personal finance in school, bla bla bla. Role model: MMM. Pete didn’t invent FI, but he reached the masses more than, say, Robin & Dominguez (who did an amazing job too).
- Curating. Produce useful manuals out of available but sparse resources. Like I did for IB, ETFs, Swiss Pensions. Those posts I just mentioned are among the most visited on my blog. I think i’m good at. I’m rigorous enough, I know which “dumb question” a reader might have, I try to put myself in other’s shoes. I think that’s a quick way to some sort of blogging success. Just not very funny, could get bored pretty soon. I don’t have a role model here. I appreciate the material from J.D. Roth, Mad Fientist and my buddy MustachianPost but I don’t see a killer app here.
- Researching and producing original content. Again, I don’t think I proved to be consistently good at this, but the only article that got somehow viral in my blog was in this category, about market timing. It took me a lot of time but it was a fun journey. And I think it’s the category with more potential of having impact. On my defense, I’ve been a researcher more than a decade ago and I still am and always be a lifelong learner. Research is in my veins. Role models: Michael Kitces, Robert Shiller, Karsten (Big Ern).
- Philosophizing and talking about the Two Chief World Systems. Ok, I’m a total lie here (for now). Never proven any skills. But I’m getting more and more fascinated by philosophy. Not only ‘philosophy’ philosophy, more about philosophy of life, how to live well, happiness, peace of mind, contentedness, mindfulness, awareness and so on. I have the ambition of completing my “Life Lessons” and “Life Philosophy” documents. Role models: Philo Sofer, Ryan Holiday, The Stoics (both Greek and Romans), Wayne Dyer, Mark Manson, Yuval Harari, Alain De Botton and hundreds more.
Of course, being good at X doesn’t mean I’m actually good at X. Wait, what did I just said? Brainfucking! I mean, by “I believe I’m good at X” I intend “I’ve shown signs I could be good enough to have an impact at X. Probably in a scale 0 to 100 I’m somewhere between 5 and 10, but if I focus on X I can reach 20, 30, 50 or even 100 (just to discover that the scale doesn’t end at 100 but at least at 1000. And stop using parenthesis!).” I’ve never been a real writer, so better to approach the thing with a six pack of humility and a beginner attitude.
I don’t know.
I’m going to stick for a while with this blog, still same format (which is a mix of too many things), still chasing my 100% (arbitrary) FIRE Date, still documenting my journey.
But I know things are going to change sooner or later. I won’t stop writing, I might just pivot or evolve or I don’t know.
Actually I really don’t know. I’m in the middle of a 74 days paternity leave from work and life is amazing these days. I’m spending time with my family and swimming in rivers, lakes and swimming pools. I should also be focusing on resolving my midlife crisis and finding out how to evolve my passions like this blog but I’m chilling out more than expected 🙂
Stay tuned, and let me know what you think!
Have a nice day 🙂