Finding Happiness

Finding happiness

As my workload finally eased up over the past few weeks, I have been able to spend a fair bit of time catching up with friends and family members.

Many people in my social circle also have young kids and demanding jobs. Between all the curveballs 2020 has thrown our way, it hasn’t been easy to keep the lines of communication open.

Thus, it was great to kick back in my lounger and get the latest download on what has been going on in people’s lives for the last twelve months.

If I’m going to be honest, there was one conversation I was particularly looking forward to.

A good friend of mine for the past twenty-odd years had left a highly successful investment banking career behind to take a senior role at a corporate. Let’s call him Frank.

Given he had scored a (yet another) coveted promotion just six months prior, the move had raised more than a few eyebrows.

Why not enjoy the spoils? What’s the point of walking away from a role you’ve been working so hard (and long) to get?

But then again, Frank has a young family. After a 15+ year grind in banking, a change was overdue.

Greener Pastures

I won’t lie – it didn’t take me long to go for the jugular. I was dying to know everything about the promised land.

The 9 – 5.

The undisturbed evenings and weekends.

The reduction in stress that comes from leaving a client-driven industry behind.

Alas, Frank shattered my dreams with his first sentence:

“Damian, I’m working even harder than I did back in banking”

As I struggled to digest the message, Frank went on to explain.

He is now a senior vice president at a fast-growing, publicly traded corporate. One of just seven execs reporting into the CEO. Direct line to the board.

As a result, work is busy. On top of his “day job”, Frank is involved in initiatives that span strategy, HR, operations, Covid response, and a long list of other topics.

He works evenings, weekends, and will consider himself lucky to take a few days off over Christmas.

To make things even more interesting, consider that by all conventional measures, Frank is already financially independent.

A decade and a half in banking combined with a savvy investment strategy have seen to that. But he wants more.

He wants the CEO role. A few board seats to follow.

A comp package that will push him into $10m+ net worth territory – or possibly much more than that, should his company continue performing the way it has been recently.

Most striking, however, is that Frank is truly happy. And that’s a fact. There’s enough self-awareness in him – and transparency between us – to know that.

He is happy to be in the driver’s seat. To be influencing both the strategic direction of his firm as well as the speed with which it is moving.

To be reaching levels that he, a fellow first-generation immigrant, could only dream of when we first met each other back in our late teens.

And, frankly, to be well-recognized (monetarily and otherwise) for his efforts.

The Pursuit Of Happiness

Depending on which internet echo chamber you fall into, you will end up bombarded with a different take on the relationship between money and happiness.

The spectrum runs from freewheeling spending to extreme frugality.

From couch bums to extremely rich workaholics.

Some people lust after power. Others after fame, sex, or beauty – the list is endless.

As Frank’s example illustrates, there are as many definitions of happiness as there are people.

And so after we had wrapped up the conversation, I pondered – what are the things that would make me happy?

The list I came up with is surprisingly simple – and short:

#1. A routine. The kind that involves exercising and sleeping enough to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.

#2. Time. Time with my wife, children, parents, and the rest of my family.

#3. Flexibility to focus on meaningful work, including helping as many people as possible through this blog.

By the way, this wasn’t my definition of happiness a decade ago.

I didn’t have children back then.  The Banker on FIRE blog didn’t exist.

And if you had mentioned the word “routine” to me back then, I probably would have barfed. I wanted excitement and unpredictability – hence my choice of a career.

Equally, my “happiness list” may look different in 2030. Kids grow up and require less attention. Blogs wither and die.

But the critical observation here is that my “number”, whatever it may be, is not a gating item that precludes my ability to enjoy any of the things above.

At most, it’s an enabler. Simplifying things on the margin. Lubricating the wheels of life.

Just as it is for Frank, the number is part of the recipe – but it’s not the recipe itself.

Upon reflection, you may well find that the same applies to you.

Yes, it’s been a tough year. As we hunker down in yet another lockdown, the festive season may feel anything but this year.

But desplite any short-term challenges (which I am sure we will overcome), I hope that many of the components of your “happiness list” are already in place.

And if that isn’t enough to feel grateful for on Christmas Eve, then I don’t know what is.

Merry Christmas to all!


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Banker On FIRE is an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) investment banker. I am passionate about capital markets, behavioural economics, financial independence, and living the best life possible.

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13 thoughts on “Finding Happiness”

    1. Thanks Jon – and to you!

      PS: I am still noodling on that post idea from a while ago. Hadn’t forgotten but it sure is a meaty one. Hope to have something in January.

      1. Thanks for the update and no worries.

        I have been doing some thinking and research on my side as well. Curious to hear your opinion of course.

        Enjoy the holidays ! 🙂

  1. I happened to stumble upon your blog almost when you’d barely started and you’ve articulated a lot of principles I’d very vaguely defined for myself.

    What I most appreciate about your ethos is not being centered purely around the financial side of things, which helped me establish a bit more of a balance while simultaneously becoming more pragmatic, efficient and decisive on the wealth front. Basically enjoying the journey.

    You might have also motivated me to lay down my own thoughts in a blog format and exercise this muscle of translating a convoluted idea into simple words. We’ll see if something comes out of that in the following weeks.

    So hopefully all of this is good proof that #3 is working and you’re doing it amazingly well – Merry Xmas to you & your family, and have a great 2021!

    1. Thanks a lot A. Reading comments like this is what makes the blogging journey truly worthwhile.

      As you say, it’s all about balance. Need to keep an eye on the numbers, but numbers alone don’t make the whole story.

      Looking forward to reading your blog (should you move forward with it) – please keep me posted.

      Merry Christmas!

  2. Good answer by your friend! I’ve always wondered why keep grinding and being away from family and hobbies once you have multimillion.

    Here in California, once you have over $11.58 million per person, every dollar above is taxed at 40%!

    So yes, grind until you get to an estate tax limit, but try to take it easier after.



    1. Incidentally, I think a $10m net worth is a good aspirational number to have, as long as getting there doesn’t imply too much of a trade off between life and work.

      Merry Xmas to you as well!

      1. Depending on what the estate tax threshold is, I would shoot for $10 million per parent, so $20 million. At $20 million, one should be able to comfortably generate about $500,000 a year forever and live a great life.

        But yes, so long as one is enjoying the journey. But even if there isn’t much enjoyment, it’s hard to leave the money!


        1. At the end of the day, it’s all about tradeoffs.

          Personally, I cannot imagine NOT working. But I can certainly imagine working far less than I do today, covering my living expenses while our net worth keeps compounding in the background.

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