Monday, 7 May 2018

Project Django Unchained - Conceptualization

Long time readers will know that attaining freedom from the corporate world has been a particular favorite project of mine for the longest time.

It started way before I even joined the corporate world on a full-time basis. Talk about unhealthy obsessions :)

For years, I've been scrimping, saving, investing and busting my hump to achieve this elusive target, and over the past couple of years , like a ragged marathoner hitting the wall enroute to the finish line, I've struggled.

I've struggled with the below, and I have arrived at a stage where I feel like I've adequately addressed my key concerns with sufficient mitigants.

Get ready for a wall of text.

Dealing with key concerns and emotions


1) Desire for more: If S$[1.0]m AUM is fine, pretty damn sure S$[1.2]m is 20% better yes, and that means more money to drawdown when I finally leave for good? Maybe I'll ride the gravy train for another year and see how it goes..

Mitigant: Bro, there's a concept of enough, and records show that you've not been spending enough. Your passive income has covered your historical expenses by 1.93x, and that passive income was based on a more conservative safe withdrawal and AUM growth profile. Also, when was it your mission in life to get more stuff? You tried that for awhile and it didn't yield that much satisfaction, remember? 

2) Growing my AUM: Nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing your AUM increase by [10]% year or year, and throwing your savings into investments. A sweet analogy I like to use when work gets rough - I'm trading my time for a whole load of corporate robots who'll (a) never ever take a sick day, (b) never ever talk back, (c) always be hustling 24/7 for more money on my behalf, and that's comforting to know. The notion of having to actually use these bad boys to support a lifestyle when there's no salary didn't sound quite so appealing.

Mitigant: The major satisfaction from seeing your AUM grow is the illusion of safety. It might not really be an illusion but what are you? Space Boy? Come'on dude, too safe isn't fun, nor does it make you feel alive. In any case, you're already safe and spending more time accumulating the stockpile, while that would probably provide additional safety, the safety that comes with that accumulation would only be marginal. Do you really want to spend more time getting [1]% return on time? 

Also, you have cash reserves to last you for a minimum of 1.25 years before you even drawdown on AUM. If you really feel that this lifestyle isn't for you and you don't want to drawdown on AUM then, you could go back to the office. 

3) More stuff: Perhaps I might want to get a district 9, 10, 11 condominium in future? It might be nice to finally buy a BMW sports car or splash the cash on a nice Ducati sports bike eh. Man, will I actually feel like I've missed out when my peers get their hands on these babies?

Mitigant: Well, well, I didn't quite know that life was a dick measuring competition. Come'on mate, life is for living and you know where you derive happiness mostly from. Yes, that's right, it's from having copious amounts of freedom and developing yourself. Remember the most sustainable happy times weren't the times when you bought stuff (or maybe you just haven't bought any real stuff yet :p)? 

It's when you when you lived simply in meditation retreat, practiced yoga, or had a meaningful experience (regardless of whether that experience was hard or easy). Your main mode of transport is public transport; you have stayed in spartan accommodation, lived/visited public housing before and there wasn't quite a consideration of "this is not good enough" during those times. In any case, if you really want to get it in the future, you know you'll be able to afford it on the basis of trading more time for it... so why worry about this at present?


4) Fear of the unknown: What am I going to do with all that time? I put in at least 10 hours at work daily. That's a whole load of time to spend with myself. Am I going to waste my life watching TV, playing computer games and just generally dicking around? You've got to retire to something you know for sure you want to do yes?

Mitigant: Yes, you might not know how exactly you're going to spend your time, although you are already making the most out of your free time to develop yourself by reading, working out, doing yoga and developing your meditation practice. That could potentially be a route to take yourself down further as you have gained happiness and meaning from it.  

Also, uncertainty may not be a bad thing as you realign yourself and focus on the things that matter and bring happiness to you. Remember, the most uncertain times in your life have yielded the best results - dropping out of course during NS, failure to get into a particular CCA during university, etc. 

Lastly, would you rather a certain misery or an uncertain future where you have a good measure of confidence to effect happiness? It's challenging, no shit, but you dig challenges as a generally intellectually curious individual and you'll be more than just fine here. 

5) Fear of missing out: Am I going to miss out on all the corporate perks, the banter in the office, the colleagues, and perhaps a certain standard of lifestyle that I know will be attainable if I just plod on for a few more years? Similar to 3)

Mitigant: Hey dude, maybe you should count the amount of banter in the office that you actually enjoy, and contrast that with the stress that comes with it. Yep, doesn't sound like a nice exchange now isn't it? Also what is it and lifestyle inflation? You're happy with your simple lifestyle now and expenses level - do you really want to be eating CUT every weekend or staying in D9,10 and 11 and trading your life for that? Yep I guessed so, that's an empathetic now. 

You've also got your insurance policies squared away now, and besides that you won't really miss those corporate perks such as dinner allowances and cab rides home - it's not like you're milking all of that daily in any case.. Also, how many colleagues do you even see on the weekends or have progressed to friends outside of work over the last 8 years or so? Yea, I thought I was a couple digits of just 1 miserly hand. Maybe you'll miss the intellectual exchanges but that's where you've lucked out - your close group of friends have the same, if not ability to better that. 

6) Fear that this decision will be irreversible: I know I've got a sweet job - I have generally good bosses and colleagues, am paid well enough even by global industry standards, and the work is intellectually interesting (at least 25% of the time). What if I need to go back to work and I can't find another gig like that?

Mitigant: C'mon mate, the only few things that are factually irreversible at this point is contracting HIV, coming back from the dead, or you turning gay overnight. You have a core set of investment banker skills that you can always deploy if you need to. And you've got more than 8 years of experience, that puts you squarely in mid level execution banker which is something the industry lacks these day cos, millenials and their 2 year job changes hurr hurr :) 

You might not get a gig this sweet, but you'll definitely be able to get another gig if you wanted, or had to. 

7) Fear that I'm not making the best use of my life: Will I waste my life if I quit just like that? Will I be throwing whatever I've worked so hard for even before undergrad days by by leaving the workforce?

Mitigant:  Not making the best use of your life would be staying in the office to do something you don't quite feel for so as to accumulate more money to feel satisfied and safe that you have a nest egg. Remember dude, the sole purpose of undertaking this investment banking gig wasn't to go through 100 hour work weeks to end up delaying gratification forever. 

And look what you've got now. The privilege of choosing, of choosing to try something out for yourself that might yield more happiness, and ultimately choosing to undertake living a fulfilled life once you've left banking and not look back. In any case, see the point on life being irreversible. 

8) Fear of letting folks down: I feel obligated to address the concerns of my parents, and the suggestion of going without a full time job hasn't exactly garnered much support has it? Also, your team took a chance on you a couple years back and brought you in for the wilderness. They taught you how to do your job and now you're leaving the team?

Mitigant:  The great thing is that you've already fully addressed this with your parents by talking to them. Any they are supportive of your decision. Oh by the way, it's not like you're going to stop giving them allowances. You've already factored that into your annual expenses and passive income coverage ratio. 

And on the point on letting your team down - you've given a good part of your life to them too mate. It's a fair trade. You'll also volunteer to stay for an additional period of time to train up the new guy if it helps with staffing issues. What's not fair is having 2nd thoughts about your job and staying on, because your output probably has not been maximized. 

9) Fear of losing my identity: What would people think of me if I'm jobless?

Mitigant:  Come'on mate. that's not consistent with your current attitude, which can be summed up in your dressing where you don't dress like you give two fucks about people's impressions of you. Why would that change now that you're jobless. In fact it's even better because that cuts through all pretenses and folks will see through to the fundamental essence of you ASAP. You'll do better without any potential gold diggers. 

And in any situation, there'll always be nay-sayers. You've been through stuff like that before, and you actually enjoy it when you're underdog and underestimated. :) 

10) Fear of shit happening: What if the math does not work out? Or a catastrophe happens?

Mitigant:  Dude, "catastrophes" are part of life. You've already done what you can to insure and protect yourself against those, and you've got adequate reserves and a more than sufficient safety margin. You did the math, had some buddies look through the numbers and addressed those comments you've got from them.

It's time to trust, to trust in the math, to trust in the process, and trust in your ability to adapt and overcome if the situation becomes untenable.  

Pulling the Trigger 

If you've made it through the above regurgitation of emotional F.I.R.E baggage, please give yourself a pat on the back.

It has taken me sometime to address my reservations on pulling the trigger, and these thoughts and emotions were the main cause of concern, together with the absence of a lack of a push factor actually, as seen through my blog posts and recent exchanges.

However, recent events and meetings over the past month or so have inspired me to execute this trigger process.

I'll refrain from listing these events out (at least in this post), but the main thought that has crossed my mind is that I'll be letting myself down if I don't exercise this privilege of actually trying to go for it, trying to lead a more meaningful life when I have the chance to, and when I look back in life as I age, I know I'll regret that I did not pull the trigger.

A case could be made for pulling the trigger later, but it gets harder to do so with each year, and a confluence of factors have made this the opportune time to execute this experiment:

* The belief that I have enough financial resources to try sustaining this lifestyle in perpetuity
* Parents are still in good health but they are over 70 or on the wrong side of 65. They do not have much time left
* Am on the right side of 35, but am on the wrong side of 30, but the right time to try something new. Staying one more year would make it harder to leave and head down a new direction  
* Am out of a serious relationship without any financial liabilities
* AUM increase from staying another year, while it may be a sizable six figure sum, wouldn't drastically improve living conditions and options
* Stock compensation left on table, while in the six figure amount, is till manageable psychologically, but will get worse next year, and every year
* Work is only going to get worse and I've lost quite a bit of interest in it. The marginal utility from the effort involved isn't quite enough anymore. I would like to leave on a good note
* I have a more developed yoga and meditation practice and am confident this is something I'll like to dedicate more time to

So come hell or high water and barring any material adverse events, I'm going to go ahead to execute Project Django Unchained and free myself from the addiction of a monthly pay cheque by 30 June 2018.

Oh yes, did I mention execution is one of my key strengths? :p

Wish me strength and luck!


  1. Congrats RB35 - your life shall begin momentarily.

    Please do continue to share your experiences and reflections.

    A fellow monkey

    1. Thank you Sir. Will do, to the best of my abilities :)

  2. Dear Rb35, I spent the better part of the afternoon reading the entirety of your blog and I notice your postings have become less over the years. I do hope you will continue to share.

    I have a group of friends constantly struggling with meaning and purpose and how we can find/extract/make it from our various careers. We often wonder if a higher salary would make it easier/better/more bearable. From your sharing, it seems that for people with certain mental make-up inclined to look for meaning as opposed to more money like yourself, it makes no difference. We grapple with the issue all the same. It tells me then that more money is not the solution.

    I’m curious though, how many of your peers in your orbit/industry feel the same?

    Please continue to share your thoughts and how you are working to overcome them. I find your insights invaluable as in my daily course of life, I wouldn’t run into any IBankers, much less for them to share so candidly.

    Thank you

    1. Hi there, sorry for the delayed response. It's a bit tough to answer your question in a holistic manner, because all I have are anecdotal evidence from a few friends and what I have seen through my own tinted lenses in the industry.

      What I can tell you (from a pretty biased view) is that other than 2 Managing Directors who really give me the vibes that they dig this shit, I feel most of the folks are in the zone of this just being another job. Whether or not the feel that money is the solution - I don't know them well enough to be able to arrive at a balanced view.

      My peers (maybe in total 5 to 6 or them) feel that the industry sucks shit and are all trying to leave, but it's hard to leave a job paying this much without a major push factor.

      My view - perhaps for another post, is that all jobs suck and humans were never meant to work a single job or "career" in their life. But that's just me, being a cynic, or being me :)

      Let me know if you want me to address any questions. Be happy to do so, eventually. Have a good weekend, Sir.