Greatest Hits: Volume 4 (Madness Of The Crowds)

Greatest Hits

Welcome to the weekend.

Let me kick off today’s edition of Greatest Hits with a little story.

A long, long time ago, I had a little conundrum on my hands.  To be precise, I had to find a way to pay for college.

As regular readers of this blog might know, I did my undergrad across the pond. And so, it’s unlikely to surprise you that college was expensive.

That’s the bad news. The good news, of course, is that in North America you’ve got this thing called the tipping culture.

As anyone who has ever eaten out stateside will tell you, it’s not like the UK, where you get questionable service in return for an “optional” 12% flat rate tip.

Over there, you get much better service – but are expected to tip anywhere between 18% to 25%.

Which is precisely why I’ve decided to try my luck finding a job in the restaurant industry.

To make a long story short, I ended up landing a job at a fine-dining establishment downtown. Given I was 18, I was far too young (and inexperienced) to be a server.

Instead, I ended up a combination of a barback / foodruner / busboy, depending on the night.

The place was expensive – and popular.  A portion of the tips would go to the junior staff.

As a result, I managed to clear up to $1,000 a week – more than enough to start saving up for those college fees.

The good waiters could make that amount over a single weekend.  They were flush with cash, but not necessarily the finance know-how.

And given this was taking place in 2000, quite a few of them ended up day trading.

Open a position in the morning, work the lunch shift, close the trade out at a nearby internet cafe – and be back for dinner service.

Trade stories of fortunes made – along with some stock tips – all while polishing cutlery.  Plan to quit their jobs – as soon as they made “just a little more” money.

I distinctly remember an elevator ride where another busboy and a waiter debated the merits of Nortel Networks. For some reason, they fancied the Canadian darling.

To be fair, Nortel loved them back – at least for a while.

The said waiter was so enamored that after an initial wobble in Nortel’s share price, he took out a second mortgage on his house to buy more.

“This $300bn company isn’t going anywhere!”

And then, everything ended.

My coworkers lost millions of dollars between them.

Years of hard work, wiped out overnight. And yes, the said waiter did lose his house.

I am not saying we are in an identical environment today.  For example, you didn’t really hear the word “bubble” back then.

It was all about the “new economy”.

I am also not going to tell you how to invest your money. If you feel like taking a wild punt with 5% of your portfolio, then so be it.

But whatever you do, be careful out there.

And in the meantime, enjoy the links.

Greatest Hits

From yours truly:

Lump Sum Investing: Why The Right Advice Is Also Wrong

Preparing For A Stock Market Crash

Over the past week, I’ve seen more articles on GME than I can remember – and I’m sure they’ll keep on coming.

I won’t bore you with another one.

Just remember that it has happened before – and it rarely ends well for the retail investors.

As Nick Maggiulli proves with a fascinating story – When They Start To Lose, They Change The Rules.

It’s tough to understand what the dot-com mania really felt like if you weren’t in on the action back then. Joe Fahmy has some fantastic stories that help you understand why people ended up losing their heads (and fortunes).

Finding it hard to keep your cool in today’s environment?

Morgan Housel has a great refresher on personal finance philosophies.  And the Humble Dollar reminds us of why we end up going wrong with money.

Despite what others may tell you, day trading the next hot stock is unlikely to be the way to financial independence.

Building a business, while never easy, could well be the answer. If you want to give it a shot, here are some fantastic tips on entrepreneurship from James Clear.

Regardless of whether you get there by building the next unicorn or the good old-fashioned, boring way, there’s no need to rush to the FIRE finish line.

This is especially true if you have children.

For some, maxing out on time with the little ones is the biggest reason to pursue FIRE as quickly as possible.

At the same time, the magic window is shorter than you may think. Might be better to (temporarily) slow down instead.

Speaking of FIRE, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of personal finance bloggers write from the perspective of pursuing FIRE. But do they really know what awaits on the other side?

Michelle from Fire and Wide has FIRE’d a few years ago – and she attests to the importance of having realistic expectations.

About to hit the eject button but worried about the sequence of returns risk?  Movement Capital outlines some nifty strategies to keep it under contol.

And to round it off, here are some great books* I’ve been reading recently:

Flash Boys: Cracking The Money Code

Bad Blood: Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup

Monkey Business: Swinging Through The Wall Street Jungle

Have a great weekend!

*Denotes an affiliate link. You can read up about our affiliate policy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Banker On FIRE is a London-based 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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4 Comments

  1. Ha – I have to admit I did groan when I saw the title and thought “no, not another GME post”. It’s a fascinating story but yeah, hoping for a different ending for the retail guys and gals this time…

    Cheers for the shout out, appreciated. Funnily enough it’s been a popular post that one. Against the odds really given it’s a realistic view, not a rosy one. But it does make the difference to enjoying life post FIRE and it was only by people sharing their realities that I learned the most from others on my own journey. So glad you enjoyed it.

    Have to admit a small chuckle imagining you running around back then as a busboy/whatever. Early jobs eh, I had some great ones too. remember a particularly entertaining summer working in a bookies taught me a lot!

    • Cheers Michelle. It’s an enjoyable (and realistic) read and so I hope more folks get an accurate understanding of what really awaits them on the other side.

      On a separate note, landing that job was one of the best things that happened to me. Not only I made a lot of money (especially once I became a server a few years later), but I also learned tons about food and wine, which has been a passion of mine ever since.

      Most importantly, I looked at all the bankers that frequented the place and asked myself: “Why not me?”

      The rest is history 🙂

  2. Yes my first job was working in a real spit and sawdust pub cleaning beer pipes out and restocking the bar. Clearing the bottle bin (with the risk of tetanus at every turn.

    I took over from a mate of mine and actually managed to get him his first job by writing his cv. He was struggling to make his job sound exciting ‘I clean beer pipes out and sweep the cellar that’s not going to get me a job in an office is it’. I thought about it then said ‘no your responsible for the sanitation of the alcohol dispensary units and managing stock rotation.

    His first boss thought it was so funny he gave him the job

    • I’ve found that my hospitality experience was a big advantage when looking for my first “real” job. Folks knew I’d have the confidence and ability to articulate myself internally and externally.

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