anesde's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

Hello all. I've been lurking on these forums since 2017, and joined in 2019 but never really did an intro post or started a journal. I've commented on a few dozen different posts over the past year or so but generally preferred to read vs. post as I suppose I didn't feel I had much to share. I still feel that way to a large extent but I'm at a bit of a crossroads in life and figure this might help to organise my thoughts. I've been inspired by other journals and its oddly satisfying blasting through someone's posts over a number of years and seeing how they've reached their goals. Not sure if I'll manage the same but will give it a go.


Background

I'm 31, engaged, living and working in London but originally from NY. I come from an immigrant family with parents originally from rural Portugal and have many family ties back there. Civil engineer by background but after working for about 6 years across different construction sites up and down the US east coast I got the opportunity to transfer to London and work on the finance side of infrastructure development. I've been here nearly 4 years, generally working stupid hours, focusing on building a nest egg and dreaming of when I can leave it all behind and do...not sure exactly. That's my problem and what I hope to figure out.


Finances

I"m already financially independent by most conventional methods of calculation. My passive income exceeds my spending, and my SWR <3%. I've always naturally saved c. 60-70% of my income as I had the opportunity early on to live on the company's dime as I got shifted around to different construction sites. I'm not a lavish spender, although I do spend more than most on this forum (you're all very inspiring!). My 3 year average is about $25K, although my rolling 12 month spend is about $20K and dropping. However, I am due to get married (COVID-19 impacting this, but such is life) and whilst my fiance shares my vision and is also a low spender we do want kids. I don't really know how this will impact things but suffice to say my personal calculations are run on higher numbers for a wide margin of safety.

The above is all to say that this journal won't really be about my financial situation but rather a way for me to work through what it is I want out of life and allowing myself to accept it. I'll expand more in following posts.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

Realising Potential
I've always struggled with the notion of potential. I've been consistently labelled as "high potential" over my career, and received an outsized share of opportunity as a result. No complaints on my side and I've always been willing to move, take on a new role, and generally "say yes and figure it out later". However there comes a point where potential needs to be realised, or "wasted". Fundamentally one of my issues is coming to terms with being OK with not realising potential (on a corporate career basis).

I'm not daft, and I realise a lot of this type of corporate speak is BS and shouldn't play a role in how I decide to live my life. However its hard for me to rationalise choosing not to advance a lucrative career if I have the potential to do so. This is likely a function of being a "salary man" for 10 years as despite long hours and stress it seems like the easy choice. This was even easier when I was doing work that I enjoyed (or more likely, when I enjoyed the working environment) but has become a daily struggle in recent months. Perhaps the current difficulties could be solved by changing companies, or even industries, but the root of the issue would be the same.

View on Money
Whilst I've never really been all that interested in material possessions, I have focused on accumulating money for its own sake. I suppose subconsciously it represents freedom/options, but in effect it results in a drive to climb the ladder and make more money than the previous year both on a wage and investment basis, as well as to optimise my expenses by cutting costs. I admire Jacob's views that money is like oxygen and once you have enough there's no logical reason to suck it all up. Yet for me it's hard to rationalise choosing not to make more money if I have the potential to do so. It's also hard for me to rationalise making less money doing something else, even if I don't need the excess.

If I get compensated for my time (i.e. as a "salary man") and can make more doing X vs. Y, then the logical choice should be X. If I choose to leave the "salary man" life behind in pursuit of the "business man", or even the "renaissance man" and make less money doing so, again it feels like "wasted potential".

I understand to most this seems ludicrous as there are many other factors - time, location, whether you like what you do, etc. Likely what i need is a good therapist to show me that there are more important things in life than worshipping at the alter of money. But I suppose this is a starting point for me.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

Allocation of Mental Energy
It's clear that there are limits (at least for me) on how much mental energy I have and how its allocation affects my well-being. I've had about 4 different phases in my working career:
  • 2010-2013 Eager Graduate
  • 2013-2016 Realising Opportunities/Burning Out
  • 2016-2018 Enjoying Life
  • 2018-2020 New Opportunities/Chasing Money
I'll write the next few posts on how my mental energy varied within and between each phase and the positives/negatives associated with that. Perhaps that will help give me some clarity given my current state is lacking any excess mental energy.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2010-2013 Eager Graduate
Like many new grads I was hard-working and eager to learn/impress. It's hard to remember exactly how I thought or approached things (we're all dynamic beings after all), but fundamentally I know I struggled with feeling that I wasn't doing enough. Heavy civil construction is a heavily experienced-based industry, to the point where 15-20 years is generally the minimum to have any sort of project leadership role. This was a bit difficult to swallow, as I was full of piss and vinegar and wanted to show what I could do. However it did help me develop a tough skin and learn to become more of a self-starter. I was in a 2 year rotation program aimed at providing exposure to the various facets of the business, and received regular raises throughout such that whilst I started low I was making decent money by the end. The last year was spent mainly in the estimating dept to win new work, with the promise of a central role on any project that we won.

In my personal life I was fortunate enough to be able to live at my parents house and whilst great for saving money, it wasn't as great on my social life. Coupled with having friends who were (seemingly) living the high life in NYC apartments working and making more in finance it led me to think I chose the wrong path. Looking back this clearly wasn't the case, as most of them were living paycheck to paycheck and now that I actually know what analysts in investment banks do I would have hated that job anyway.

Regardless of what I know now, my mental state at the time was one of feeling inadequate and underachieving, with excess mental energy that wasn't being applied at my job. This manifested itself in different ways - from a positive standpoint I focused on exercise, improving my investing knowledge, and studying for the GMAT. I spent a lot of time tracking my progress in the gym and reading up / executing on different investment strategies. This was also where I stumbled upon the concept of retiring early after running spreadsheets with conservative assumptions that showed me I had no business working until I was 65. I did some general google searching and I actually found ERE around this time, but I didn't really get into reading up on FIRE until a few years later. It wasn't really a primary focus for me then - just an understanding that it was possible

From a negative standpoint my lack of fulfilment at work led to feelings of shortcomings that resulted in a bad relationship and a poor decision to move to NYC in an effort to "correct" my social life. It only lasted about 6 months, as I was lucky to get an opportunity through work that got me out of this, but it remains one of the worst personal finance decisions I've made.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2013-2016 Realising Opportunities/Burning Out - Part I
Around the spring of 2013 I was getting quite fed up with my perceived pace of career growth and lacklustre social life. To address the former I took the GMAT in March 2013, scored well and was planning on applying to business schools in the fall. To address the latter I decided to move into a 2 bedroom apartment in NYC with a friend from college.

The apartment was a laughably bad financial choice, and my room was so small that I custom built my own bedframe to fit it complete with sliding drawers underneath for storage. That was actually a lot of fun to do, and if I"m honest with myself I do have some fond memories of that place. It was the typical 4th floor walk-up in NYC and we were just happy to have an old but working dishwasher and washing machine in the apartment. Only in NYC are 1950's style amenities considered luxuries!

At the time I picked the place in part because it was an easy commute to the office in Queens, without the need to drive. Ironically about a week after I moved in my company won one of the bids I was working one to rehabilitate a mega-bridge in the NYC area. I was now relocated to a NJ office, which meant I had to get a car to go along with my new apartment. The costs came quick and 2013 remains my highest spending year to date! I found a beautiful 2004 Mini Cooper that I loved and paid a bit too much for it, but at least it was in cash. I don't really consider this to be a bad purchase though, as it was incredibly fun to drive and lasted me for another 3 years until I left the US and then gave it to my cousin for safekeeping.

The new project offered me the central role I was craving and I quickly dedicated myself to it, putting any thoughts of business school aside. In effect this made overpaying for a Manhattan apartment to be a bit useless, as I was working c. 70 hours a week without much energy to advance my social life. Still, I had a couple of flings that summer that were a lot of fun so in all in all it was good. I didn't track expenses diligently back then but rather "paid myself first" by transferring income to savings directly. From the spring to the fall I barely saved anything at all and started wondering if I was making the right choices.

Luckily around the end of the summer I got an opportunity through the job to relocate to a precast manufacturing plant in VA that was making pieces for the project. From a career perspective this offered more responsibility and a chance to learn, and financially it was great as the company paid for my housing and expenses, including a car and gas/tolls. From a social perspective it was less than ideal - the town I moved to had about 500 people total and was the total opposite of NYC in about every way possible. The best way to describe it is that it's a beautiful place to spend a week in the summer with your family, but a terrible place to live year round when you're 25, single, and not from the area.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2013-2016 Realising Opportunities/Burning Out - Part II
The next ~2 years were spent getting more and more responsibility at the plant, constantly working 70+ hours/week, sometimes going up to 80-90. The project was technically complex, and required a lot of problem solving before we could get into full production. Throughout this time I barely spent anything at all as my daily costs were covered. Every other weekend or so I would leave, sometimes driving up to NY, other times to DC or NC to visit friends. Looking back this was pretty crazy as I would usually work until 8PM on a Friday, drive 4-6 hours to get just about anywhere and go out half-asleep to some party. I would leave around 4AM Monday mornings to drive back down and start the week all over again. In between I worked a lot of Saturdays, and when I stayed in town Sundays were just spent mostly cooking or reading.

Despite all of this I genuinely enjoyed what I was doing, and especially the people I was working with. I got a lot of satisfaction around constantly solving problems and creating tangible things, as well as working within a team dynamic where everyone moved towards the same end goal. Living in the rural south also widened my perspective. Although I didn't really make any lasting friendships down there, I did get friendly enough to allow me to better appreciate different viewpoints beyond the typical NYC way of thinking.

However, I had virtually no excess mental energy. This didn't really make me feel bad except when I wasn't working. The Sundays I was lounging around, or the drives to/from work were stark reminders that my life wasn't really balanced. I went on a handful of dates, and had a few flings with girls from NY/DC but given my lifestyle nothing was really sustainable. These tended to happen mainly in the summertime, and there were prolonged stretches during the winters where I basically just worked non-stop to not have to think about it.

The lack of balance came out even more around 18 months in once most of the major issues were solved and we were starting on full production. There was less of a need to constantly solve problems, and I didn't get as much satisfaction just overseeing a process and optimising along the margins. I was losing interest at work and needed an outlet for my mental energy so I decided to buy a motorcycle.

I bought a used, broken down Suzuki GZ250 for a few hundred bucks. I knew nothing about motors but read the manual and watched some youtube videos until I got it working again. The isolated location was great for riding safely, but after taking it out a few dozen times I realised I didn't really like riding it as much as I liked the problem-solving aspect of fixing it. This process kept me entertained for c. 2 months, but afterwards my excess mental energy started building again. The lack of engagement at work coupled with my poor social life had me feeling like I was trapped and burning out. I had aspirations of working internationally and generally felt I wasn't moving in the right direction.

I started thinking about applying to business school again, when two things happened in the spring of 2015. First we started having massive quality control issues at the plant, and second I was given the chance to apply to my company's internal leadership development program.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2013-2016 Realising Opportunities/Burning Out - Part III
The quality control issues weren't really an overnight phenomenon, but rather a constant build-up that reached a critical mass. Without needing to get into the technical details, it suffices to say that it wasn't a priority for anyone early on and the person meant to be managing the process was not really on the ball. Once we hit the critical mass I was asked to solve the problem and it provided me with an outlet to focus on. It required a mix of managerial, technical, and communication skills and it was the sort of process with ample positive feedback. There were 250+ pieces, each with multiple issues that needed to be fixed and a collection of personalities to manage (design engineers, public client, workers at the plant, etc). It took time and a lot of work but after c. 4 months we fixed not only the physical issues but also the perception of the plant.

I got a lot of satisfaction from running the overall process along with some good recognition from my bosses and the client. It also helped that it was spring/summer, and I knew my time down at the plant was coming to a close. I generally let myself relax a bit more, spent more time at the local beaches on the weekends instead of driving to NY/DC, and had some friends come down and visit.

The other thing that happened during this time period was the opportunity for the internal leadership development program. The call came on a dreary February day when I was working yet another Saturday and thinking of when I would quit. I had heard of the program before and wanted to join but no one could really tell me what the process was, as it wasn't open to all but rather required a nomination. It was 18-24 months in total, with the first year consisting of three week-long modules that focused on various aspects of leadership, along with working remotely throughout the year in small groups to identify and present a solution to a provided case-study. The second year was individual and was either 6 or 12 months working internationally in a different business unit on a full-time basis. Looking back it's the sort of program that many large corporations have, but at the time it really felt like a golden ticket to me, and indeed it materially changed the course of my life.

There was an application essay and a couple of interviews but I was lucky enough to get through it all, knowing by June I had a spot for the kickoff in November. This certainly helped my more relaxed summer as by that point the tide had mostly turned on the QC issues and I had this to look forward to. My spirits were high and I started planning ahead to life post-precast plant. I was meant to return to NJ to work on-site to manage some complex temporary shoring elements for the bridge. I needed a place to live (the company only paid for VA, not for when I moved back "home") and so found a nice 3 bed/2 bath apartment in NJ that my cousin and I secured from July. After finding a third roommate I was able to live for a fraction of what I paid in NYC, except I had a garage and my own bathroom.

When I finally left the plant for good in early August 2015 I took 2 weeks to go to Portugal and a week to California. I hadn't taken a real vacation since 2011, and really had a blast with my friends and family in Portugal. Cali was equally as fun as I attended a friend's wedding in Malibu, complete with renting a convertible for a day and driving along the pacific coast highway. With good things to look forward to and essentially between jobs I had zero stress and really enjoyed the break.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: anesde's journal

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Hey anesde, really glad you started a journal! Quite the background so far, looking forward to the rest of it as we catch up to present day.

I'm very fond of your home country! Sad to be leaving in 4 short weeks.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2013-2016 Realising Opportunities/Burning Out - Part IV
When I returned from my vacation I was refreshed and ready to contribute. I was also excited about moving back to the NYC area to reconnect with friends and have more social options. However I quickly found that I was walking into a somewhat dysfunctional project. The works were very technically complex, with lots of design issues. Although the design wasn't within our scope we worked through the issues, ultimately over-allocating resources to certain areas to the detriment of others. By the time I arrived back on site the effects of this were starting to show via cost overruns and increased scrutiny. The client was largely unsympathetic and although eventually (years later) commercial agreements were reached, at the time it was all a bit toxic.

My general working hours were 7AM-7PM, and my days were pretty stressful. I didn't have my own "fiefdom" (i.e. a geographic portion of the site) but rather was in charge of a series of complicated works that was linear across the whole site. This meant working with everyone and relying on others for resources as I didn't have any of my own. One of the misfortunes of working on a project that's losing money is the incentive structure tends to change. Instead of working as a team towards a single end goal many people will take the view of ensuring that their personal "fiefdom" looks good, even if its to the detriment of the wider project. This led to hoarding of resources and, coupled with the large number of Type A personalities, lots of confrontation. I held my own for the most part but suffice to say it wasn't a great environment to be in.

However, simultaneously I had this leadership program that kicked off in November. We spent 3 separate weeks between November-May in London, New York, and Stockholm for the three various modules. I took to the material right away, and really enjoyed the overall process. I gladly spent my weekends back home working remotely with my team to solve our given case-study and generally felt quite fulfilled. The wider group of people in my "class" got along great, and we had a blast working and partying together during all of the modules, and especially after the final presentation in Stockholm. In my mind I knew that the following year I would get the chance to work internationally, and this really helped me out during the stressful days on site.

From a personal/social point of view I don't really have much to say. There simply wasn't enough mental energy left to explore anything. I went on a handful of dates that year, and would go out to dinner with friends occasionally, but I mainly just worked. Sleep was constantly a problem as I had to wake up c. 5:45AM and by the time I got home, showered, and ate dinner it was already 9-10PM. I was definitely on the verge of burning out.

The conclusion of the first year of the program coincided with the conclusion of the works I was running and thus opened up some free time for me. I took an impromptu long weekend trip to Portugal in May for a friend's bachelor party in the Algarve. I could write a series of posts on just those four days, but suffice to say I more than made up for the previous year of celibacy. When I returned I finalised the terms of my international assignment, knowing that I would be heading to London for a year from October 2016.

I wanted to make the most of the remaining four months I had, deciding to put myself first. My exercise routine had been off and on since 2013, mainly off. I joined a crossfit and pledged I would make the 6PM class everyday, regardless of what was happening at work. It gave me more energy, cleared my head and improved my fitness. At work I took on a new project that was also very technically complex, and it was satisfying to dig in and work though the issues. However, I didn't let myself get obsessed by it, and made sure to enjoy the summer. I started going on more dates, and enjoying weekends away with friends. This was probably the most balanced I'd been since I started working - a constant regime of exercise, interesting work, and an enjoyable social life. It also helped that I was looking forward to London; it almost felt that I was finally letting myself enjoy something because I knew there was a time limit to it.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

Hey 2B1S! Thanks for the kind words - your journal was definitely one of the inspirations, especially the movement this past year. Glad you're enjoying Portugal and hope you guys make it to Poland seamlessly! Apparently the lockdown in PT is easing a bit, so hopefully you can experience a bit of more "normal" life before you go.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2016-2018 Enjoying Life - Part I
I don't think I can overstate how excited I was to move to London. It wasn't London per se (although I do like it here) but more the opportunity to move to Europe (cue Brexit jokes). I didn't study abroad in college and always regretted it, especially when friends who did would go on about their crazy adventures. When I was studying I sort of viewed the concept as a waste of time, and indeed from a pure educational standpoint it probably would have been. I was pretty focused on learning and getting good grades, etc but in retrospect a semester in Europe wouldn't have made any difference to my marketability or chosen career and I should have just done it. I could go on about the disconnect between learning and the shortcomings of university education but I think Jacob has already covered that better than I ever could elsewhere.

Anyway the point is, I was excited and grateful to get the chance. At the time it was meant to be a 12 month fixed contract - October 1st to September 30th. This clearly didn't happen (I'm still here) but the fixed term prompted a mentality to make the most of every day. I didn't want a repeat of my time in VA where I focused too much on work and not enough on other aspects of life. The work itself actually facilitated this, as I moved from delivering works on site to the finance/commercial side of infrastructure development. It was a much slower pace, and most of my colleagues did a standard 9-5. Being in a lower stress environment without the pressure to deliver daily allowed me to be comfortable treating work as a job and not my life.

I immediately started travelling virtually every weekend. The low-cost flights/trains from London made this incredibly cheap and I took full advantage. I went back to Portugal quite a bit, but also travelled elsewhere. I generally would look on skyscanner 4 weeks out and book whatever was cheapest for leaving on a Friday and returning on a Sunday, sometimes returning Monday morning. Milan, Istanbul, Sofia, Edinburgh, Manchester, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Copenhagen, Bucharest, Budapest, Toulouse, Stockholm, Helsinki, Munich, Zurich, etc - you name it and I went. The weekends that I didn't leave the UK I would generally join meetup groups and go hiking - Peak District, Snowdon, Yorkshire, etc. A few friends from NY and Portugal came to visit at different times and we enjoyed the more touristy side of London as well. Sometimes I would travel alone, other times I would visit friends or meet new people via the meetup groups. In the beginning I dated a few different girls, and occasionally I would convince whichever I was with at the time to jet off to some destination with me. Later I got serious with my now fiancé and we travelled together. All in all I was truly enjoying life.

My personal life in London during the week was equally good. My accommodation was covered by the company, and I lived about a 15 minute walk to the office. London is a great walking city, and the weather lends itself well to wearing/walking in a suit everyday. The 9-5 with no commute meant I had a lot of new time on my hands. It was strange in the beginning but after a while I settled into a good routine of going to a crossfit 3x/week and salsa dancing 1x/week, along with cooking every night. I used to salsa dance in college, but didn't really have the time or capacity to do it in NY/VA, so it was great to pick it back up.

In terms of work, my daily job was enjoyable but not overbearing. When I arrived I was immediately involved in preparing the qualification for a big tunnel project. It required writing up 5 reference projects, and I took the lead on 3 of them. It wasn't very stressful and the people I worked with were all very nice. The fixed term contract helped my demeanour as well - I was kind of treating the whole thing as playing with house money and thus was really loose and relaxed the whole time.

I worked on a few other projects at work, but in general this early time period was really about exploring and enjoying. Financially I spent a bit more than I do nowadays (it was ~$30K in total for the year), but this was generally offset by not having to pay for housing and I wouldn't change anything about it even if I could anyway. After about 8-9 months of this two things started changing - slowly at first but then picking up speed. First my relationship with the SO was blossoming, and second I started picking up a more central role at work.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2016-2018 Enjoying Life - Part II
Before getting into the changes I should take a step back and note this was the time period that I "re-discovered" FIRE/ERE. I think there were two factors that drove this - first I was more relaxed/had more time to think about my life, and second I worked with a lot of older people (55+). There were a few retirement parties that year, and some offhand comments by others throughout the year about wishing they could retire. I didn't really understand this, as I already knew from my spreadsheets in 2011 that I had no business working until that age. I decided to refocus on this, starting by reading all of the articles on ERE and MMM which helped me get positive reinforcement of what I was already doing naturally to a certain extent. Following that I read Jacob's book which was (and still is if I'm honest) a bit beyond my grasp but further helped me frame my mindset. This was also the time that I started silently frequenting this forum.

The above is just a few sentences but in reality it was over about 8-9 months. During this time I set up a detailed tracker of my expenses which helped me cut out things that didn't bring me any value (eating take-out, using ubers/taxis, etc) whilst optimising the ones that did (my travels mainly). I also began focusing on building passive income via dividend growth investing and eventually a rental property. I was doing all of this to build a resilient lifestyle, but without any kind of timeframe or plan in mind as to what it was all for. I've always been a bit of a planner (through this forum I found out what Myers-Briggs was and tested as an INTJ) but more focused on ensuring I have options vs. any set goals. I just knew that I didn't want to end up like some of my colleagues.

At the time I also didn't really know where I would be the following year, or what I would be doing. I was enjoying living in the moment, with a stress-free job that paid well and covered my base expenses. This mindset really gave me the mental energy to properly build my relationship with my SO. As it grew I realised our shared values and similar approach to life gave the potential for much more than just a fun fling. At any previous stage in my life I likely would have backed away for fear of opening up but my well-balanced life helped centre myself.

Simultaneously I picked up a leading role in the tender for the tunnel project. My boss in London asked me to stay for another year, and I negotiated for my accommodation to remain covered. I was thrilled as I wanted to stay and it let me keep building my relationship without having to make any sudden hard choices. The next c. 6 months were more of the same, although if I'm honest I didn't really like the work all that much. It wasn't as fulfilling as solving problems on a construction site, but it also wasn't as time-consuming/stressful and my life outside of work was great. I began to travel less frequently and spend more time with my SO in London. Weekend getaways to European cities lost their allure after a while so I refocused on a few longer trips to Morocco, Brazil, and Vietnam.

Throughout this time I was having some discussions with my boss about a longer term role in London, with the potential for near-term fast career growth given the older age of many of my colleagues. Despite not loving the work I was good at it, and it seemed like a good option to continue living a stress-free balanced life. However, in the beginning of 2018 there was a seismic shift at work. The company decided to shut down the entire division and lay off all of my colleagues.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2018-2020 New Opportunities/Chasing Money - Part I
I wasn't completely surprised by the company's decision. The division I was working for won/delivered a specific type of project that was in less demand, and some of the recent ones had lost the company lots of money. There were also massive losses in other divisions which led to a restructuring at the top and all of the changes that come along with that. The decision was intended to prevent any new projects from commencing, but not to stop any ongoing ones. However, it didn't help that the tunnel tender I was on had some pretty big commercial/contractual risk allocation issues, and the client was unwilling to make any concessions. Given the company-wide decision we pulled out of the process altogether a few months later which was pretty unfulfilling given I had spent the better part of 17 months working on it in some capacity.

Despite all of this I was fortunate enough to not be directly affected as I was on my second short-term work assignment, technically still working for my original construction division in the US and only "on-loan" to the development division. I didn't want to just head back to NY immediately and luckily we still had one ongoing project in Norway that was being run jointly out of the London/Oslo offices. I had a good relationship with the project director and managed to get staffed on the structuring phase. The process was slated to end at the beginning of June and so I knew I had c. 3 months to figure out what I was going to do.

Around this time my SO and I went back to NY for a friend's wedding. Following that I was there for an additional week by myself as I had initially had plans to visit an operating tunnel site in VA for input into the London process. This was cancelled but as my flights were already booked I just worked from NY for that week. I took the opportunity to view some properties in the same area that I previously lived in NJ, and where my cousin was still living. We had been discussing buying/rehabbing a 2-family home for a while (dating back to 2015) but given my move/extended stay in London it didn't really make sense. That week I looked at 6-7 different places and found one that had serious potential. We put in an offer and after a bit of negotiation it was accepted.

I spent the next 3 months flying back and forth between London and Oslo whilst managing the closing process on the NJ property from a distance. Closing was more complicated than usual, especially because it was empty/abandoned, came with no certificate of occupancy, and the utilities weren't connected. It was also complicated by the fact that we didn't have any residential property experience. Luckily we did have some useful skills having worked in construction management (my cousin is an electrical engineer), namely CAD drafting, contacts for subcontractors/vendors, and general project management.

I was aiming to line up the end of my time in London/Oslo with the beginning of the rehab process in NJ. I discussed with my SO, and whilst she wasn't thrilled we agreed I would head back to NY/NJ for the summer to fix it up before returning back to London. My current job wouldn't exist by then so I wanted to have something in the works for comfort/peace of mind. After a serious of talks/negotiations I ended up getting an offer to work for the construction division of my company in London, with an agreement for an October start date. I didn't have much leverage in these talks (unlike the prior year where my boss wanted me to stay in London) and ended up getting slightly less compensation that what I currently was on, and much less given my accommodation would no longer be covered. I wasn't happy about this, but my focus was on the rehab and so I didn't worry about it too much.

Around this time I was also approached out of the blue by a headhunter who was offering a role at an infrastructure investing bank that invested in the same types of projects that I was working on in London/Oslo. I had an interview with the company that went well, but I was pretty upfront about my upcoming plans and the timing didn't really work out. I had a former colleague that was working there and we had a couple of chats where she was pretty clear that the money was good but the culture/working hours/atmosphere was atrocious. Given I had elected to stay/come back to London to further my relationship with my SO I figured it wouldn't have been a good move anyway.

All in all these months were full of some stress but also lots of excitement. I spent a lot of time planning the rehab, finding vendors, doing research on the building department, putting together a list of tools we would need, watching tons of DIY youtube videos, etc. I had big aspirations for doing most of the work ourselves and was really looking forward to getting my hands dirty, working for myself, and building a long term income stream. The Norway project finished right on time (very efficient culture!) and we closed on the house within the same week. I spent another 2 weeks in Europe to finalise some things at work and to go to my SO's home country for a friend's wedding. In the meantime my cousin started the demo/clean out, and I joined him shortly afterwards.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2018-2020 New Opportunities/Chasing Money - Part II
The rehab was a crazy experience to say the least. Very little went to plan, and I was more stressed that I care to admit. Getting the permits took 3 months, there was extensive undisclosed/unseen fire damage that had been covered up, the entire ground floor had illegal/dangerous electrical wiring, etc. Pretty much anything you could think of that could go wrong, went wrong.

I spent the summer sleeping on an air mattress on my cousin's floor, waking up early each day to tackle the next problem, and going to bed exhausted each night thinking I made a massive mistake. My cousin continued to work full-time but took some days off and worked nights/weekends alongside me. The delayed permits meant our initial plan of doing most of the work ourselves went out the window, but we did manage to do all the demo/clean-out, build/install an interior staircase, and lay a tile floor. We also re-ran all of the electrical wiring, and he ended up doing almost 100% of the electrical work as our electrician proved very difficult to get a hold of.

We did lucky in a lot of respects - our siding/roofing contractor was phenomenal, the plumber was great, the kitchens went smoothly, and I found/purchased all of the material at good prices. However, the delayed permits, electrical work and issues with contractors meant the overall process took much, much longer than planned. Once that was finally done we had a series of delays with closing out the final permits due to the HVAC contractor, which led to my original plan of having tenants in within 5 months stretched out to a whopping 14 months! However, despite all of this it was still a great investment and I'm really happy we went through with it.

Looking back it was an amazing experience and my issues in the moment were more driven by an internal need to succeed vs. any actual stress. The reality was we were well capitalised and had excess funds to cover budget overruns. Carrying the mortgage/taxes on the house between the two of us for 9 months longer that I had anticipated wasn't fun but not really a burden either as my half was still less than what I was paying for that NYC apartment 5+ years before in absolute terms.

The stress from the need to succeed was real though, and my demeanour was very different than the previous two years in London where I was carefree and in a perpetual good mood. I didn't really like how I acted or how I felt that summer - I was overly focused on incremental progress/succeeding without any sort of wider perspective. In general I needed a bit more balance that summer - I didn't exercise, relax, see friends, read, even cook much; I just focused/stressed on the rehab. Fortunately my cousin was more loose and he kept me grounded a bit when I was stressing about a contractor not showing up, or another delay to the permits. It also helped when my SO came across for a couple of weeks and she "forced" me to step away and go on a bit of a holiday to hike/explore the PNW.

At the end of September the progress was delayed, but far enough along for me to go back to London as planned. My cousin stayed to oversee the rest of the works and I helped from what I could from afar. I was disappointed to not have met my schedule, but refocused on my new job/life in London. I was excited to start a new chapter with my SO (we were now living together), but not very thrilled about my new job especially considering the pay cut I was taking.

It only took the first day at the new job for me to know I didn't want to be there and immediately started thinking about what else I could do. I reached out to the guy that had interviewed me at the investment bank 6 months prior and discovered they had never filled the role. We were both keen to progress to the next stage and so I spent the next c. 6 weeks taking aptitude/personality tests and having various interviews with members of the team. Eventually I was offered the role and the timing worked out well with my initial 3 month probation period at the current job as I didn't have any contractual notice period. It came with a significant pay bump and the chance to explore a new industry so I took it, despite my understanding of the hours/working atmosphere.

anesde
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:32 am

Re: anesde's journal

Post by anesde »

2018-2020 New Opportunities/Chasing Money - Part III
Before getting into the new job I should probably reflect on the first two months I was back in London. I definitely wasn't happy at work, but I did settle into my life outside of work quite well. I went back to going to crossfit 3x/week and salsa dancing 1x/week. My job was never more than 40 hours a week at the most and the regular intense exercise and dancing kept me feeling pretty good. However, I did feel like I would quickly stagnate at the job and moreover I figured if I was going to work full-time I should maximise my income. The new job was more than double the pay, and it also scratched an itch that dated back to when I was a new grad and thought my friends on Wall Street were better off.

A strong part of me wanted to see if I could cut it. I was coming from a company/industry where I had consistently stood out and gotten recognition/opportunities over the years but I wasn't really sure if that was me, or just me in comparison to others around me. I held an illusion about high finance that was perpetuated by the compensation structure and the pedigree of people that were in it, with significant doubts on whether or not I belonged. I was also hired as a more "technical" person to assess practical risks/mitigants of the investments we looked at; for better or worse this wasn't/isn't valued as highly as the financial workstream by upper management. All of this led to me carrying an inferiority complex/imposter syndrome that still affects me now.

Despite the above, the first few months went quite well. I was slotted into a process very similar to what I had worked on in Norway, and was able to lead/deliver aspects of it independently. Following that I got involved in a new sector that was more development-oriented (as opposed to tenders) which I found interesting and was also able to add value. I quickly discovered my illusion of high finance was just that - an illusion. The people I worked with on a daily basis were extremely hard-working and capable, but they weren't geniuses. Most of them were much better/faster than me at picking up financial numbers but they didn't really understand what the assets we were looking at were. I found myself in a constant dichotomy of feeling like I had no idea what was going on and feeling like I was the only one who understood things. About 7-8 months in I was actually starting to get comfortable; I was getting good feedback from the people I worked with, and found a lot of aspects of the job quite interesting.

It did, however, consume my life. No more crossfit, no more salsa dancing, no more travelling - I generally worked 60 hour weeks at a minimum, ramping up to 80+ pretty often. Luckily I didn't work many weekends (or at least had 1 day off/week), but there was/is a lot of pressure to be "on" all the time. My weekends reverted back to how I spent my days off in VA - just lounging around without much energy to do anything else. In my mind I knew I didn't want to do this job forever, and I didn't really even want to rise up all that far. The work never stopped - even the upper management worked crazy hours. I focused on the money, keeping my expenses low, and learning the finance side of the business that I didn't fully understand.

The next 6 months or so was more of the same, except at some point I started getting more caught up in impressing/working towards promotion vs. focusing on what I wanted to get out of the job. This was more due to a function of my surroundings vs. any innate desire on my part. I'm more affected by my environment than I would care to be - ideally I would like to be grounded enough to pursue/act as I want to regardless of those around me but that just hasn't been the case. Part of this is likely not having enough mental energy - when you work crazy hours all the time it's hard to keep a clear head. Anyway, my surrounding environment is full of young, ambitious people who want to scale the ladder as fast as possible. Like most IB's my company follows a set "up or out" type policy with yearly promotions to the next "level".

Instead of focusing on learning, I ended up working mostly on things I knew how to do (what I was hired for essentially). This was obviously great for the company, and I ended up getting a good "rating" at the end of the year. Ostensibly this was good for me, as a better rating is supposed to result in a higher bonus. I felt that I had done enough to deserve a promotion but was told I didn't have enough of an understanding of finance to warrant the next level without equally showing an outsized ability to lead on the commercial side. Part of me thought this was BS, as I was being held to a higher standard than others, but ultimately accepted it and laid out a plan for this next year to meet it.

All of this was around January/February of this year, so I'm basically caught up to present day - next post will be about the past few months that have thrown a wrench into things.

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