Update — Acceptance

Its time for an update.

Nothing much new to report. I live two separate lives now. From Thursday to Monday, I am in NYC sitting in my now refreshed apartment hoping that someone comes in with an offer to purchase it… really any offer at this point. The market for NYC real estate is cold. Its a definite buyers market. There is little inventory but I still don’t get much traffic at my weekend open houses. I read that its the worst real estate market in Manhattan since the recession and I believe it. When it rains it pours. I’ve dropped the price and will lose money on my sale. I just want out though. I need to move on.

On the job front side, I’ve sent out a few hundred more resumes. The total number of resumes I’ve sent since getting fired is well over 2,000 now. I have not received an interview in almost a year.

The whole job search seems like a giant waste of time. Its hard to do anything else though. I’ve had one headhunter meeting and a few head hunter calls since the beginning of the summer. My only observations on this front are (1) the longer you are out, the more silence you receive and (2) it seems that the going salary for investment professionals continues to fall (not that I’m likely to ever get hired for an investing role again). I’ve noticed postings setting forth ~$100k salaries for 5 years+ investment roles, especially at hedge funds. I even had a conversation about one with a recruiter. They confirmed that this salary information was indeed correct. Supply of available talent obviously well exceeds demand to the point. Who would have predicted 20 years ago that salaries for hedge fund professionals would reach down to the same pay as plumbers. At least plumbing is a stable career and you deal with less shit.

Also, every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to have their own hedge fund or private equity fund now-a-days. I’m watching people with less than five years work experience raising funds. I see investment bankers out raising hedge funds (as if a banker knows anything about managing money … I’m sorry…). I also see A LOT of displaced hedge fund people (both Portfolio Managers and Investment Analysts) out there trying to scrape together money. Some of those came from the same old funds I was at. Put simply, I’d keep my wallet shut. The only one who will get rich from their fund is the brokers on commissions. There are way too many funds out there. Its getting ridiculous. I have no idea who is supplying capital to these clowns.

***** The Good News ….

A seemingly rare piece of good  great news came through a couple weeks ago. My wife was able to find an academic job that nicely accommodates her background. Its a fraction of what she used to make a few years ago in NYC but it gets her back to work in a recession-proof position. Additionally, it provides MUCH NEEDED health insurance and good benefits. It also covers the rent for our Chicago rental. This comes as a big relief. Two HUGE stressors crossed-out.

***** The Importance of Frugality …

I was always a frugal person. Looking back over the past dozen years, at some point my spending on small unneeded items did begin to outpace my needs. This probably had to do with a blend of keeping up with the Jones, of the hedonic treadmill and of the small dopamine rushes gained from small purchases.

When I was first unemployed, surprisingly, I kept buying a few unnecessary things, especially things found at a deep discount. Now, almost at the 15 month mark, I’m watching every penny. Most daily purchases have been eliminated. I constantly think about whether I really need something before I purchase it – even down to $1 7/11 coffee. I’d estimate that my purchasing is down 75%+ from when I was working in the summer of 2018. It’ll be a long time before I feel comfortable to purchase “stuff”. For many years, I’ll just be using up my excess inventory.

Frugality is one of the key benefits of long-term unemployment. One in this position truly learns what is essential in life. You have to learn to eliminate the unnecessary.  I evaluate my past decisions and think about the cost of those that didn’t turn out well, especially this apartment in NYC. This is healthy as it is training me to make much better decisions in the future. I’ll focus a lot more on (1) doing my diligence and (2) on carefully assessing the downside.

**** Stage: Acceptance


When I was first unemployed, I read about the different stages of unemployment: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Its funny how accurate this really is. However, its not so clear cut that you leave one stage and enter the other. Day-to-day, its a crap shoot which stage you’ll feel. The stages are kind of an “average” of the feelings over rolling short-term periods. I still have days where I am angry. I still have days that I feel very depressed and don’t want to wake up in the morning. I can’t really say I have many denial days anymore. Overall though, I feel I’m now in a period of acceptance.

When I first read about the acceptance stage, I didn’t quite understand it. I didn’t feel I could ever reach a point where I felt ambivalent to getting stuck in this rut. I felt that this was the first time in my life I hit a problem that had no clear path towards a solution. So, how could I accept something that didn’t have a clean cure? Now, however, I understand this stage.

As a person 15 months unemployed, the predicament of the situation surrounds you everyday, everywhere you go. Its omnipresent. The acceptance stage is reached when you grow used to this. Its when you realize that no one wants to hear any excuses. Its when you know that the deep depression will lift and you’ll have a temporary stretch of hopefulness and good mood. Its when you know the anger will fade back into calm. Its when you just shrug and accept the fact that your life is pretty much fucked right now, one day it’ll be back to normal but in the mean time you need to try your best to unfuck yourself.

***** Paralyzed

Despite accepting the position I’m in, my frustration has been that I constantly feel “stuck”. I have a hard time motivating myself to do anything. I feel like there is about 10 different large “projects” I should be working on everyday outside of my job search. Every night, I make no progress on any of these 10. I know I need to narrow this down to just the one or two most important, however, I have no idea which one or two to chose.

I thought this paralyzed feeling was just me. I thought I was just trapped in my own messy web. I’ve realized that this was common among those in my position.

One day, a few months ago, I suddenly got the urge to reach out to an old friend from business school. It’s been 12 years since we spoke. He agreed to meet for lunch.

After about 15 minutes of conversation, I realized that he didn’t need to even have me explain anything, he knew from my Linkedin account my whole position and my state of mind. He went on to explain that he was let go from a fund six years ago and has been pretty much unemployed since. He’s found some projects and even a couple short-term jobs but they all proved dead-ends. He was miserable, just like me.

Since this initial meeting, we meet every month. We usually spend a few hours just talking about whatever is on our minds. We’re radically transparent with each other. Its striking how similar our two situations are. He also had to cut out drinking, downsize in life, and eat a lot of humble pie. He’s an extremely smart person with a once-great earnings power. These few hours a month sessions are very helpful in not feeling alone.

I also have two close friends in NY who are in this position. One was fired from a hedge fund earlier this year and the other has been unemployed close to five years. I spend about the equal amount of time with them each month as my friend discussed above.

From the combined ~30 – 40 hours of discussion with these three people over the past few months, my major takeaway is that we are all STUCK. We feel paralyzed in our daily lives. We all spend considerable time job searching but all feel that it is a waste of time. Outside of the job search, we all have things we’d like to work on, but we have a hard time committing time towards pushing these things forward.

I understand this is probably an awkward subject to read about. It should seem easy to just get things done. However, whenever I get busy doing something, I feel that I should just be job searching. It prevents any forward progress. This then creates a feeling of restlessness and a general sense of unproductivity. This then morphs into stress. Once the stress gets too high, I’ll need to relax by taking a long walk. One of these other guys listens to classical music. Another one bing watches television. Another works out in the gym for hours on end.

This cycle of job searching … getting frustrated from the lack of responses … trying to shift focus onto something else … getting nothing accomplished … getting stressed  … giving up and just doing the “relief activity” … feeling guilty and going back to the job search > this is a vicious cycle that basically describes the everyday life of the long-term unemployed. Close ones are often irritated by your negativity or by your lack of progress and they either avoid you or you avoid them. Social contacts avoid you because they don’t know how to help you (or, personally I think the Wall Street set somewhat avoids you because they think your just a burnt out loser). So, you feel lonely as well. This is my best description for the day-to-day right now. The worst part is that there never seems to be an end in site.

***** Quick note on health

During my summer posts, I mentioned that my sciatic nerve was aggravated. It took about three months but this is finally getting better. I’ll now be able to run again and very much look forward to a 20 minute light daily jog.

Replacing the back pain however is a new regular issue. About a month ago, I began to get regular migraine headaches.  I feel a lot of pressure right behind my eyes. These headaches are very painful and can last over 24 hours. I’ve recently begun to feel nauseated as well while having the headaches. I’m not sure why I’m getting these but I’m guessing it has to do with the high degree of stress I’m experiencing.

***** In closing:

That’s about it. Not much forward progress. The weather is turning cold, the days seem shorter and the holidays are quickly approaching. I can sense year-end approaching quickly. I’m somewhat anxious to see what 2020 has in store. I’m also somewhat scared that it will just be a long, painful year of nothing. My unemployment is just about to run out. With zero income coming in, life remains a struggle. There is no sugar coating it.




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- Former hedge fund portfolio manager for brand-name investment management firm - Lives in Chicago with wife and child - Mid-forties

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