The Next Episode

Next Episode

To say my 30th birthday was a muted affair would be an understatement.

It was a rainy Monday, and I was two weeks into my summer investment banking internship here in London.

My hopes of getting out early that night (slim to begin with) were convincingly dashed by 9 am.

An offer had been made for one of the bank’s clients. We were appointed sole defense advisors. It was all hands on deck for the next month or so.

And to make things even worse, I was all alone.

As it happened, a good friend of mine was getting married that week, so our entire social circle took off for a week-long destination wedding in the sunny Caribbean.

My wife offered to come visit me instead, which I declined, knowing she wouldn’t see much of me anyway. Why share the misery?

When I finally came up for air about two weeks later, I grabbed a quick drink with my fellow interns and headed straight home, exhausted from an incessant string of late nights and early mornings.

The Sands Of Time

It’s damn hard to believe, but in just two days I will turn 40.

A decade, gone by in a whirlwind.

This time around, there will be a proper celebration.

There will be family, friends, presents (hopefully!), a few nicely aged ribeye steaks, and more than a few bottles of fine California red.

And no, I won’t be working.

But most importantly, I will be staring down the barrel of a drastically different decade.

Now, it would have been very poetic if on the day of my birthday, pretty much a decade after I first waltzed into the lobby of a big investment bank, I would get to exit the revolving door forever.

However, bonus cycles and deferred compensation plans don’t necessarily work that way – and I am not one to leave my hard-earned money on the table.

In other words, an immediate exit is not on the cards. But make no mistake – exit I will, at some point over the next 6 to 18 months.

Because while I certainly enjoyed my thirties, I’ve got equally grand – and drastically different – plans for the decade to come.

Lessons Learned

Now that I’m old and wise, I obviously can’t help but offer a couple of reflections.

To be very clear, if I had a chance to back in time, I’d repeat my journey in a heartbeat.

Yes, the ride was choppy at times. A decade in investment banking isn’t for everyone.

Then again, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that sooner or later, everyone needs to pay their dues.

Making money, especially in a fair bit of it in a relatively short period of time, requires sacrifice.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or has something to sell you.

Yes, putting the pedal to the proverbial metal in your 20s or 30s inevitably means missing out on some of the greatest gifts only youth can offer.

But punting it to your 40s or even 50s brings other sacrifices, mostly in the form of family, health, and missed opportunities.

The good news is that paying your dues isn’t as tough or scary as it looks.

There’s nothing quite like having your back against the wall to crystallize your priorities and find energy and confidence you didn’t know existed.

Heck, give it a shot and you may even find the whole process enjoyable.

I certainly did.

At the same time, while hard work is important, the biggest mistake you can make is to pour 100% of yourself into your job.

Some of the best things I’ve done over the past decade were outside of investment banking.

Financially, it was getting into real estate.

Creatively, it was starting this blog (incidentally, on the back of a tough stretch at work!)

And personally, it was taking enough time to spend with my family, including two unforgettable three-month gardening leaves.

In fact, I would argue that the more interests you have outside of work, the more successful you are likely to be at work.

At the end of the day, people like people.

Especially in client-facing industries, being an engaging, relatable person is far more important than being the best excel jockey in the world.

In addition, one can only draw from the proverbial piggy bank for so long.

Whether it’s health, relationships, or interesting experiences, it doesn’t matter how much of it you had when you were starting out.

Very few people can walk the desert without refueling in an oasis along the way.  And taking time for yourself is the best (and only) way to do that.

Escape Hatch

So what’s next in store for yours truly?

Quite a bit.

First of all, as mentioned above, it’s thinking through a career change.

For someone in my position, it usually means transitioning to a corporate development role.

Then again, I have a crappy track record when it comes to choosing the default option. Thus, I’ve also been toying with the idea of going back to academia.

The other option to explore is putting more time – and external capital – behind my real estate adventures.

I’m still fleshing this last one out, but it looks more and more attractive as I think through it.

The second key aspect to think through is location.

While both my wife and I are fortunate in that our respective parents are still around, we might not be so lucky in ten years’ time.

In addition, our siblings, nieces, and nephews are also not getting any younger.

It would sure be nice to spend more time with all of them – and to give our own children a chance to bond with the extended family.

What this means in practice is that we are likely to leave the UK at some point over the next year or two.

The exact timing and logistics are still being firmed up, but it looks like our London adventure is approaching its inevitable conclusion. Our latest real estate purchase was actually one of the building blocks in that strategy.

The third priority is health.

To draw on the piggy bank analogy above, I’m certainly guilty of not making enough deposits into the proverbial health account.

I’ve been addressing that over the past 12 months or so, but it’s high time to eliminate the deficit completely.

And finally, it’s spending more time on hobbies.

With our younger child nearing the end of the diaper phase, we are now in a position to go back to life as we knew it.

More tennis, more skiing, more travel.

And yes, in case you were wondering, more blogging.

In other words, watch this space for an update on how things actually panned out.

ETA?  June 2031.

In the meantime, many thanks for reading – and happy birthday to me!

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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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34 Comments

    • Many thanks indeedably.

      It’s an ambitious agenda for sure, and one I would have much rather staged, but it so happens that many things on the list are interrelated, especially moving countries and changing careers.

      Will be tough to transplant my relationships back to North America, which calls for a change in direction in itself.

      In other words, exciting days ahead!

  1. Damian – First off, a very happy 40th!

    I am always inspired by your posts and your thought provoking style.

    A huge thank you on your fascinating posts – this most recent one being one of your most candid – and looking forward to reading about your next challenges.

    A truly inspiring blog that I actually look forward to landing in my inbox.

    More power to your elbow good sir, and here’s to health, life and happiness!

    • Thanks for the kind words David and very happy you are enjoying the blog!

      I find that writing is a great way to crystallize my thoughts on any given topic, and being able to compare notes with an intelligent audience like the one on here is an additional benefit in itself.

      Having the public record also helps – I was never one to keep a good journal so it will be fun to come back to this post in 5 years’ time and see how things have developed.

      Cheers and thanks for the well wishes!

  2. Mmm …well aged ribeye & a good bottle or two of red …. surrounded by those you love and company you enjoy…..sounds about a perfect way to celebrate to me!

    Congrats & enjoy. Entirely with you on the ‘ tough ten years but worth it’ front. And speaking as one just a couple years ahead of you – the best is absolutely yet to come!

    Salut from sunny Spain!

  3. Happy Birthday!
    Can I ask what your 20s were like? (always curious about people pre and post FI) I am interested to see if you had a chance to travel / explore careers, before starting in your banking career?

    • Thank you!

      My 20s were pretty awesome.

      Out of college, I got a chilled-out corporate job which left quite a bit of time for partying / traveling / enjoying life more generally.

      However, I also struggled with the fact that career progression was slow (need to “pay your dues” type of stuff) and I wasn’t making as much money as I wanted. Hence I tried my hand at entrepreneurship, got my MBA, and subsequently moved into IB.

      One reason I was able to sustain IB for so long is I actually had no FOMO. I knew what life outside IB is like, and I knew why I’m doing what I’m doing (to make money).

      Now that the money bit is firmly under control, I feel like there are other things I’d like to explore. However, retiring early is not on the agenda, I simply can’t see myself doing that for a long while still.

  4. Very exciting to hear that changes are on the way! You made it to an age in banking I wanted to last until, but couldn’t.

    Don’t forget to negotiate a severance! Being able to keep all your deferred comp will be huge,

    Sam

    • Thanks Sam!

      Indeed, all about negotiating the way out. Thankfully a big chunk of deferred vests next year, but as you well know, there’s always a top up every single year.

  5. Happy birthday Mr BoF! Exciting times ahead. And pleased to hear that your blogging days are not coming to an end any time soon.

  6. Happy birthday Damian! Exciting times ahead and real estate does sound like a great option as does academia. Always found getting into finance not enough people can connect academia with real life… you’d be a good egg if you did go that direction.

    • Thanks KoF.

      Yes, either option would be a fun one to pursue over the next 5 years or so.

      Incremental attraction is that both would provide incremental flexibility alongside raising kids.

  7. Nice to hear and happy birthday. I get a regular birthday present Wednesday and Saturday. Thanks for every thing and enjoy your birthday break

  8. Thanks for the update Damian.

    I also think in 10 year periods, having graduated at 22, quit my corporate job at 32, and am now 42! I’ve spent the last 10 years in the non profit sector where I lived and worked in 3 different developing countries. Originally from the UK but now living in North America as of last year.

    Let’s enjoy life while we still can.

      • It was HUGE, and I feel very lucky that it happened. The fulfilment I get from working to help other people just blows my mind in comparison to what I thought fulfilment was before. I feel sorry for those still stuck in a corporate job. FWIW I found the book ‘how to find fulfilling work’ by Roman K… very good

        • Thanks for the well-wishes IP and fully agree.

          In what feels like an eternity ago I had a relatively short (c.3 months) stint working for an NGO in South America.

          Definitely one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.

  9. Funny to see your history which is very similar to my path pre and in IB (many random jobs before MBA, 10 actually 11.5yrs in banking in London ). Now 7years on working in consulting – biggest thing I have learnt is that I value very much having control over my time, my work, my acitivities. Hence I may choose to work very hard for the satisfaction of a client. Equally I also take off many weeks (as many as I like) to be with the family. 52weeks is not actually enjoyable for me I found. Working out your ideal mix of intellectual stimulation, family, health and social/community is an enjoyable never ending story. Look forward to some interesting future blog posts. (I also exited London for Aus post banking)

    • Lots of parallels indeed, especially given our plans to exit the UK alongside a career change.

      Are you originally from Australia or was that a “fresh” move for you?

      I’ve always been a bit of a rebel at heart. Feel pretty comfortable navigating the corporate environment, but not something I desire to spend the rest of my working life doing.

      Equally, like you, I am self-aware enough that not working is not the right scenario for me. It’s more about calibrating the mix between work and other things as you say.

  10. Happy Birthday :-), Exciting times ahead. Look forward to following your progress, I have a feeling I know which path you are likely to follow. Its a topic you revisit regularly and clearly have developed an instinct for.
    Good luck and best wishes.

    • Thank you!

      Indeed, these things have a way of slowly growing on you. Excited to see what the future brings.

      • I think the changing of the decade is always a time for reflection. I’ve not quite had the same level of financial success you have but by any measure I’m comfortable. The question for me is do I suck it up in a corporate beast that treats me very well but I don’t believe looks after my clients that well for another 5 years or do I try and go onto something where I’ll have an equity stake long term and possibly keep more of the cake for myself (or at least have more autonomy).

        It’s a difficult decision when you’re at the middle ground I am. Leaning towards the 5 year glide path as that makes me 45 and still time for working life Mark 2 but I think I may get there and think ‘well another 5 years and I’m completely done I may as well stick it out.

        • To be honest I am in the same boat

          Comfortable now and can be VERY comfortable in 5 years if I continue on the current path.

          But… 5 years is a long time. It’s about 25% of my remaining time before 60, which I view as the next big threshold. And objectively speaking, it’s about 50% of the time I have with my kids given they will slowly develop their own interests and social circles over time.

          As a result, the actual tradeoff is much bigger. I would rather do something a bit more low key and sustainable for the next 20 years than push the pedal to the metal and miss out on the next 5 if that makes sense?

          And cheers on your upcoming big day – it’s in a few months, no?

          • Hah, reassuring!

            The way I look at it is that I’ve gone from being the oldest in the 30s cohort to the youngest in the 40s cohort.

            Spring in my step!

  11. Happy birthday and good luck with the future. It sucks getting old, but it’s better than the alternatives as W**dy *All*n joked 😉

    Very glad you’re not planning to spend another decade in Investment Banking, going on what you’ve written here. Not least because the DIY real estate biz will make for an even better blog haha.

    • Love the optimistic take, spot on 🙂

      To be honest, life has treated me well so far and thus I feel quite content with where I am, notwithstanding the ever-increasing mileage number on the dashboard!

      And while I do enjoy IB, I just can’t imagine spending another decade in the sector… too many exciting things to explore

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