The best thing about December is that my favourite DJs such as Armin Van Buuren, Gareth Emery and Above & Beyond would finally release their much anticipated best of 2015 podcasts, where these can fantastic playlists can last up to 3 hours, making for an extended time to get your groove on and put flow into whatever you're up to.
In the past couple of years, these mixes acted as salve for the soul during the long financial modeling and power point sessions during those late nights, but this year, they've become welcome company during hours of reflection over the past couple of days on how my year has developed.
Similar to past years (unpublished), I would divvy up my reflections according to different life categories, with individual categorical milestones, the good and of course the areas that could use some improvement.
With all extensive reviews, be warned these thoughts will translate into a long enough article that warrants a break-up into several parts.
In short, 2015 marked my 30th birthday on this realm, and was a pretty tough year at that. A year of suffering and changes. A year of transition and growth, for use as a launchpad into 2016 and beyond.
Let's start with the less important facets.
When I was an intern, I remembered the wise words of an Associate who had been at the business for more than six years or so. He wished me all the best on my last day and uttered these words: "This job never gets easier, in fact it gets much harder the further you progress..." It didn't really register with me back then, as I was just in the mood of going to get wasted and celebrate the end of a grueling 10 week stretch of 80 to 100 plus hours per week, but looking back, those words have certainly rang solemn and true.
2015 career wise has been punctuated with a series of starts and stops. Amidst the malaise in the Southeast Asian banking sector which saw many banks cut their workforce, I'm grateful to still be holding on to my job, working with a team that I look up to. I've had the good fortune of helping to close a fair number of transactions this year, and had lead roles in a couple of them, running those deals with MD level supervision and input whenever required.
The good side is that I've picked up quite a bit of knowledge to know that I still don't know a lot, and have really up-ed the ante to be throwing down and sorting out shit by mostly myself these days, with more direct input, client interaction and decision making autonomy. With that, I gained much more confidence and have developed a reasonable level of skills (technical and soft) to deal with situations that arose. And despite working on similar products, it struck me that each transaction was situation unique and required different bespoke inputs, which was perhaps the more interesting side of things.
The bad side of this is that I've probably never been more stressed about work during the year as compared to the last couple of years. There were more than a couple of nights where I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning having "work anxiety", my mind actively searching for solutions to the problems that were facing me at work. Some of those nights, the solutions would actively surface to my conscious self, but most of the time, it required more time to think through those and arrive at that "ah-ha" moment.
Some specific attributes that I think could use some improvement would be the ability to take a step back, gain perspective and be emotionally detached from all work specific situations. And of course, that could involve being more professional about situations (i.e. giving my best shot instead of doing just a tad above enough, learning how to switch off) and taking more pride in the work that I do. I do admit that it does feel like a struggle sometimes when philosophically speaking, I feel that I'm not really creating something but moving sand from one pit to another whilst skimming some for myself. A little bit more on that existential crisis later.
That being said, I do think that there's a balancing act that is required in this regard, which is something I need to focus my efforts toward, in order to be more efficient and minimize burnout. And perhaps re-framing working in banking from my current (what can seem to be a little myopic at times) lens of pure drudgery to something which should be incorporated with other more important aspects of life as a challenge to surmount and master - that's something that I think I can improve on.
Investments / Personal Finance
This year has been just brutal on the markets. What was looking to be a sweet year back in March / April turned to dust come 3Q 15. I managed to luck out on this front and did okay so far, obtaining passive YTD returns of c. 5% on a substantial portion of my investments. If the markets remain the same in the month of Dec, I should have a year end net worth of c. 1.3 bucks, whereby a substantial part of it is in the equity markets across Asia.
Going by the rule of 25, this provides me with c. S$52k p.a. of potential spending amount if I decide to flip the bird at banking and explore other alternative lifestyles - something I'll come to later. I wasn't sure if S$52k p.a. was going to be enough, so another decent thing I did was to start tracking my personal finances back in 2Q 15 on every freaking cent that goes out of my wallet. On average, after deducting for one off extra-ordinary and non-recurring items (limited to purchase of a vehicle), I spent about S$4,000 to S$4,500 per month.
So the conclusion would be that I need more moolah, or I need to cut down on discretionary spending.
Given I do not intend to purchase any property over the next couple of years, I've also started to make use of my CPF ordinary account and put some cash into index funds and some blue chip dividend yielding counters back when the markets were trending down in 3Q 15. If things goes pretty smoothly career wise over the next 2 to 3 years, I'll be a in a strong position to call it quits for good before I turn 33, something I am thoroughly grateful for.
Those were the good things, on to the "things for improvement".
Well, as mentioned above, I think I really do need to cut down on discretionary spending. Granted 25% of the monthly spending goes to my parents in the form of unnecessary income support that can perhaps be adjusted downwards to a level befitting nil job income, and 25% to 30% of the monthly spending goes to reimbursable claims for overtime meals and taxis which I probably would not be spending on if I were not working in this industry, I still think perhaps one goal for 2016 would be to look into my spending habits with a sharper lens to see how to optimize this. Maybe some tools such as waiting two weeks before purchases might help.
Now that we've got these two parts out of the way, it's time to move on to more important facets of life that revolve around personal development, which will be continued in later parts.