Leaving Your Job In The Markets - Be Careful What You Wish For

'A friend of mine left the market two years ago. He used to be one of the traders at my first firm, so we go back ages. He had achieved what he set out to do when he started his career in the markets. What a lucky guy - or so we thought.

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He had escaped the daily trials and tribulations of the trading floor - with a full pension, zero mortgage and a few canny investments. Now only two years later, he's back at an agency broker. Why ?

I met 'Rob' for lunch a few days back to catch up. It's always difficult when a mate leaves the market. There just isn't the same intimacy of being stuck in the trenches together, not to mention the obvious lack of geographical proximity. The Bloomberg system has such a hold on us market folk, that when someone drops off the system, they tend to drop out of your life too.

Anyway, like the ex-trader he was, he was somewhat circumspect as to his plans, and I smelled a rat. Why was he no longer raving on about day trading from home, or investing in a small 'stick and dog' farm in North Devon ? 

Rob is 50ish like me, and he had qualified for a pension at two firms. I'd looked up to him and considered he had escaped under the wire when he left in a flourish of champagne and canapés in 2010. I doubt there was one single professional at his leaving do who didn't feel a stab of envy at Rob's prospects. He left us in miserable markets which were in full Euro meltdown mode, uncertainty about our job prospects, and he had got out aged 50 while the rest of us seemed doomed to continue to retirement age, pushing our Zimmer into the office every morning.

I pictured Rob getting up, donning a silk dressing gown, fixing fresh ground coffee and picking up the papers, while perusing his positions on some sleek laptop (he lives in a pretty palatial gaffe in Hertfordshire). Then there would be the pursuit of his 'business interests', the occasional lunch in town, and of course bags of time to golf, garden and gallivant around in his Porsche.

Turns out, however, it's not like that at all.

Remember what it's like when you are out of work and looking for a job ? Well, that's what early retirement is apparently like. You find yourself looking forward to the next meeting or lunch with someone. You keep putting off jobs round the house and trips you have planned because you simply don't have the motivation or the energy to get organised. (Rob told me that he only got some focus back in the last 3 weeks of his 2 year break, when he knew he was about to start a new job!)

It's a salutary tale. Rob really missed the buzz of the City, which he admits is like a drug. He missed his work mates and lunches and evening beers. He missed making money, and he missed the monthly pay cheque. Most of all he missed being part of something really big.

When you work here in the City you may not think about it that way, but you are part of something really massive, something that affects the whole planet. I guess when you totter down to the kitchen in the morning and get it all second hand on TV, you're reduced to being on the side-lines. A bit player, when you used to be the PLAYER!

image: © John Mitchell

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