Summertime Madness (Reflections From The Beach)

Ask anyone who has kids and they will tell you – going on holiday is a drastically different affair compared to those carefree, pre-parenthood days.

Not in a bad way. As a matter of fact, my holidays have become a far richer experience now that we have kids.

The two weeks we just wrapped up in Spain are a case in point.

It’s tough to explain, but there’s just something special about watching the kids catch their first glimpse of the sea upon arrival.

Seeing my daughter run up to my wife after I convinced her to go on a giant water slide (“I was scared at first but daddy taught me to be brave!”)

Or simply helping our son build (and watch him destroy) his first sand castle.

And yet, it’s fair to say that we hardly utilized the two beach loungers we reserved for the duration of our stay. Young children aren’t exactly conducive to relaxation.

The rare exception was in the afternoons.

With the older child in the kids club, and the younger one happily asleep in our room, I would sneak out for an hour of peace and quiet, relaxing my gaze over the Balearic sea.

Inevitably, my mind would wander to holidays past.

Comparing the quality of the beach, the facilities, the food, and the entertainment – all in that never-ending quest to pinpoint the ideal holiday destination.

More importantly, taking stock of where I am today compared to the summers past.

Nothing quite like abstracting from the daily routine, and the busyness of the job in order to take a bird’s eye view of this journey we call life – and our position on it.

And the one particular holiday I kept coming back to was the summer of 2018.

The Three-Year Rewind

As all good things often do, this one started with a somewhat unpleasant experience.

It was a Friday afternoon, the third day of our holiday, when the dreaded email landed in my inbox.

A long-running deal was suddenly back on the cards. It was all hands on deck. And I was no longer junior enough to simply hand it off to whoever was still in the office.

I spent the next few days camped out in the living room, taking call after call while wistfully gazing through the window.

The deal ultimately died – but the thought process it set off was already in motion.

For it was at some point in between those calls that I busted out the spreadsheet to see whether I had enough money to leave it all behind.

The result was surprising, not to say sobering.

Yes, our net worth had been well into the seven-figure territory by then. If a millionaire can’t afford to retire, then who can?

And yet, having stacked up the numbers, I simply couldn’t make the math work.

The subsequent three years have been kind to us, financially speaking.

Courtesy of two successful careers, a high savings rate, and a rising stock market (and notwithstanding another child and a maternity leave in between), our net worth has more than doubled.

The math works far better today than it did three years ago. But, as anyone who had spent any length of time pondering the topic will tell you, the number is just a part of the story.

The money can facilitate more control. It will give you more free time. But it won’t give it any more meaning.

Hence, it’s probably even more important that I have two other things today that I didn’t have back in 2018.

The first one is an active property investing business.

While we have been landlords for over a decade, the last three years have seen a massive acceleration in our real estate investing activities.

We now add $1m+ to our property portfolio a year and will be in the market for another deal shortly.

The second one is this blog.

With roughly 20,000 visitors a month and almost a thousand subscribers on the email list, it’s becoming quite a community of like-minded individuals.

Not too bad for a creative outlet!

Both are by-products of that ill-fated email, and I expect both to occupy a big chunk of my life going forward.

Commercial Break

The one phenomenon I’ve observed over the past couple of years is that it has become much easier to interrupt people’s holidays.

In the early days of my career, I once watched in amazement as my former employer refunded the cost of a $30k California vacation for a family of six – all because an MD had to come back to the office to work a deal.

These days, they would just tell him to go back to his hotel, hop on Zoom, and get on with it. Talk about efficiency gains!

My own holiday wasn’t without interruption, but overall it was manageable, thanks to opportune timing, some very capable juniors, and strategic pushback.

Incidentally, the bigger interruption came on account of one of our properties. We are in the process of bringing in a new commercial tenant and had to work through quite a bit of paperwork while away.

However, it didn’t feel that way.

I had full control and agency over when and how much I was working (including the option to punt it all until my return). On top of that, we get to keep the full economic benefit of the work – a $300k+ increase in the value of our property, provided things go to plan.

The broader point here is that fully uninterrupted holidays are likely a thing of the past.

Comparing notes with my friends, those in professional careers have all spent some time in the hotel business lounge with their laptops.

The entrepreneurs didn’t have it any easier.

One is gearing up for a sale of his business and has spent his mornings reviewing the latest version of the information memorandum.

Another one runs a very large Bitcoin mining operation.  Sufficiently well off to spend five figures on a night out without blinking.  But not sufficiently well off to untether himself from his phone for more than a few hours.

In other words, you don’t get to escape – but you do get to choose your poison.

Another Day, Another Year

We are now back in cool, rainy London.

Based on experience, the time between now and Christmas will go by in a blink. Another year to cross off the calendar.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as long as you have a strategy you are happy with and are executing on it in a state of flow.

And if you don’t, those lazy August days might well be the best time to consider your life – and any changes you want to make.

In the meantime, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming here on this blog.

Thank you for reading – and enjoy the rest of your summer!

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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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15 thoughts on “Summertime Madness (Reflections From The Beach)”

  1. Good points in relation to spending the time wisely defining a strategy and saving. Whilst I actually love my job and what I do, the pandemic had given me the perfect opportunity and head space to define my exit strategy and build significantly my ‘F..You’ fund.
    Unlikely that I will ever say a variation of these words to my employer (or indeed any employer), but I have seen a lot of highly paid people made redundant and without a decent fund or exit strategy. Come ill health, redundancy or burnout, I can sleep at night knowing that I now have money for a decent, albeit quite frugal lifestyle.

    1. Spot on.

      I’ve got a very good friend who got caught flatfooted between a divorce and a subsequent layoff, all without a safety cushion.

      He’s doing fine now but it was rough going for a while. Quite a few well-paid people out there teetering on the edge of a financial precipice if you ask me.

  2. There’s something about stepping back from the day to day routine that makes it easier to see the big picture. A beach and blue sea probably helps…

    Great to hear that you enjoyed the break. And seeing the world through the eyes of young kids discovering it for the first time is pretty magical.

    1. And to top it all off, our daughter announced she is planning to move to Spain!

      Apparently we are allowed to come visit, though she thinks her brother will end up in Japan at some point…

      1. Your daughter has good taste! Our daughter has given us her time frame for when we’re allowed to leave Spain. It’s not any time soon.

    1. No news yet, but very much a work in progress.

      The likeliest ETA is spring of 2022 or 2023 (as am pretty tied to the Q1 bonus cycle!)

      In other words, watch this space

        1. Thanks for the link – have checked out.

          Very impressive they’ve been able to do this in just 7 years.

          That being said, no kids… and for me, it’s also far less about retirement and more about improving the work-life balance and control. Just doesn’t feel right “cashing in” at the ripe age of 40, though we are probably getting close to the right “number”

          1. It’s a thoughtful approach and big props to her for being so candid about her fears (many of which I share)

            Reassuring to hear folks can still hammer out bespoke work arrangements, though if I proposed a setup like that in my current role, that would be the nail in the coffin of my career!

          2. ‘Horses for courses’, and all that!
            The inventiveness of her approach is what initially caught my eye – have you seen anything even vaguely similar?
            Her candidness is indeed admirable – and I look forward to seeing how it all develops.

  3. The crux of it right here is “In other words, you don’t get to escape – but you do get to choose your poison.”

    This is exactly the reason why I decided to leave corporate america. There was always some fire drill to respond to. Even when I locked my phone away in the hotel safe, they still found ways to get ahold of me (via my wife). I always did my best, but you do have to pick your poison. 100% spot on.

    Anyways, NOW I can go on my vacation and leave things be. My blog ran itself while I was out of the loop for three weeks and the only crisis I had was that we overdrew our checking account on accident. An easy fix in the grand scheme of things.

    1. It feels good, doesn’t it?

      I’ve had a taste of this experience when I was in between jobs (in IB parlance it’s called a gardening leave)

      Got to say, to be able to untether from all devices at will is pure bliss

      One day…

  4. goodmoneygoodlifecom

    “One is gearing up for a sale of his business and has spent his mornings reviewing the latest version of the information memorandum.

    Another one runs a very large Bitcoin mining operation. Sufficiently well off to spend five figures on a night out without blinking. But not sufficiently well off to untether himself from his phone for more than a few hours.”

    This is something I am currently struggling with as well in my vacation currently.

    I’m cognizant of the fact that I really ought to be present and enjoy my vacation (and I try to). But it’s extremely difficult to not see something that reminds me of one of my entrepreneurial ventures and trigger a thought in my brain something along the lines of “oh I should be doing X…” or some business worry like “hmm if I don’t do Y tonight when I get back to the hotel, the business is vulnerable.”

    Entrepreneurship is fun but the constant obsession required to make it work also comes at a price for me, which is it’s very hard to turn off my brain for a long period of time without thinking about it.

    It’s like – even if I FIRE and create freedom from my employer, my long-term worry is: how will I create freedom from myself?

    But right now, I can’t really spend 5 figures on a night out without blinking so it’s probably nothing I should worry about…

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