How do rich people who came from poor backgrounds handle the relationships with their still-poor friends? Do they get approached for money a lot? How do they handle these requests?

I once had a friend who, coming from a totally normal background, made a career as a very successful finance lawyer and eventually his picture ended up on a specialized magazine with a list of his highly prized clients.

Nowhere in the article it was stated specifically that he had become rich but that could be inferred even from a baby and as soon as the news spread in the business world, my friend told me the following happened:

  1. His inner-circle of close female friends started expecting him to pay dinner for them whenever they went out. This attitude changed immediately and automatically (once the bill arrived at the end of the dinner, they did not take their wallet and simply waited for him to pay, smiling) even if there was nothing more than just a good friendship between them (i.e. they were not dating): he paid them for dinner regularly as otherwise he would not be able to go out for dinner with them anymore; Continue reading “How do rich people who came from poor backgrounds handle the relationships with their still-poor friends? Do they get approached for money a lot? How do they handle these requests?”
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What do rich people who have lost everything miss most about having money?

My 68 years old uncle lost his job as a top manager in a British company in his 40s and was unable to find any job since.

When he was fired, he had accumulated quite a fortune that he estimated would have lasted him for all his remaining life (he never had kids or a spouse).

Due to medical emergencies, depression, bad friendships and decisions, he depleted his fortune in less than 20 years and he is now completely money less and lives an extremely frugal life as a retiree.

He is still resilient and upbeat, and I speak frequently with him about his life, what he would have done differently and what he misses the most of the good years.

Here is a short list of what my uncle misses of his “good years”:

  1. Girlfriends: as long as my uncle was rich he always had an amazing touch with women. He maintained a bit of this touch even after he was not rich anymore but obviously now he cannot do with these girls all the things he did before. In particular, when he was rich he was traveling a lot with a series of girlfriends scattered among Europe. These trips started in the 70s and he still remembers amazing hotels in Capri, Venice, London, Prague, Budapest, Paris which he visited with these girls and made amazing memories with. Continue reading “What do rich people who have lost everything miss most about having money?”
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Why are some wealthy people so frugal?

Being frugal is awesome.

Learning to love being frugal has been a life changing experience for me for the following reasons:

  1. You must realize that you do not need 90% of the stuff on sale out there: the vast majority of the stuff advertised in front of our eyeballs 24/7 is completely not necessary. Except for extremely rare exceptions related to our basic needs, buying stuffy only adds complications to our lives and worries to our brains, while reducing our savings in the banks. This has nothing to do with being frugal, but rather with being merely rational. If you do not need something, you must not buy it, regardless how frequently you are bombarded by ads, recommendations, etc. Continue reading “Why are some wealthy people so frugal?”
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Why do some Italians complain about living in Italy? I.e. What makes life hard to live in Italy? I’ve heard many say that if they were young they’d leave the country.

Italy is a fantastic country to live in, as long as you do not need a job or to carry a business.

A. Bureaucracy & taxes

The Italian State genuinely hates entrepreneurs: it is basically impossible to do business in Italy. Those doing a business in Italy should be considered modern heroes, in my opinion. There is a constellation of bureaucratic hurdles, inefficient public officers, notaries, accountants, lawyers, whatever, that you are forced by the law to consult (and pay hefty fees to) even BEFORE you start a business. After you start it, there will be a multitude of completely irrational tax deadlines with draconian penalties (that change every year), bureaucratic checks, useless controls, etc. that actively make your business frankly impossible. Bureaucrats will do anything in order to take no responsibilities, live in medieval times, detached from reality, and they hate businessmen & risk-takers. This impacts all Italians as beaurcrats infiltrate more and more areas of the daily life and are largely unaccountable for their inefficiency, nepotism and, oftentimes, corruption. Continue reading “Why do some Italians complain about living in Italy? I.e. What makes life hard to live in Italy? I’ve heard many say that if they were young they’d leave the country.”

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By how much are professional footballers/soccer players better than amateur players?

When I started working as a trainee lawyer in Milan many years ago, I frequently went to grab lunch in a coffee shop close to our firm.

One of the young baristas there was a very nice guy who happened to play in the AC Milan Primavera(the semi-pro youth team) and occasionally train with the AC Milan Serie-A pro team.

It was year 2002–3, so this guy met and trained with the legendary AC Milan line-up which eventually won the Champions League against FC Juventus in Manchester in May 2003 under Carletto Ancelotti’s helm. Continue reading “By how much are professional footballers/soccer players better than amateur players?”

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What do you like most about living in Italy?

I am Italian and have been an expat since 2010. After living in London for 2.5 years, I currently live in Hong Kong but I regularly come back to Italy for (long-ish) holidays and to see the parts of my extended family still living there.

What I like the most about living in Italy is the following:

A. I know the people: people in Hong Kong change country every few months or after a few years at most. If you make a good friend here in Hong Kong, be sure that next year most likely he/she will relocate elsewhere. I remember that after 3 years in Hong Kong I basically lost all my friends here, one by one, because they had relocated elsewhere. Cost of living is simply long-term unsustainable if you are not local and/or benefit from a first mover advantage (ie. those that moved here 20 years ago). In Italy this would be impossible: in Venice or in Milan I have the same friends living there since the past 20 years (!) and none of them would even dream about relocating abroad. They have kids, a house, a solid job: their life is positively set in Italy for good; Continue reading “What do you like most about living in Italy?”

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Are there many Italians in the French Foreign Legion, and how does the Italian government view these people?

I only indirectly know of an Italian guy who was involved in the 80s in a football-related riot between two different supporters factions, where one young man ended up being killed by a knife wound.

He was indicted together with half a dozen of other supporters who joined that fatal fight: once the investigation started, it was a clear that one or more of them would have given an exemplary sentence and eventually would have served a very long sentence for homicide. Continue reading “Are there many Italians in the French Foreign Legion, and how does the Italian government view these people?”

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The Premier League has the “top six” where matches between them are always engaging. Is there an equivalent top six clubs in La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A, or is the competition in these leagues dominated by fewer clubs?

In the 2000s in Italy’s Serie A, we had the 7 sisters (Juventus, AcMilan, Inter Milan, Lazio, Roma, Parma and Fiorentina).

In those golden years, the Serie A was undisputedly the best league in Europe as well as the most difficult and engaging: the best players from all over the planet went to play there.

These were the years of astronomical investments made by Italian tycoons who purposely decided to gain exposure on the Italian scene by pouring a lot of money in their teams in order to buy the best players available on the market. Continue reading “The Premier League has the “top six” where matches between them are always engaging. Is there an equivalent top six clubs in La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A, or is the competition in these leagues dominated by fewer clubs?”

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Are there any EU capitals that are surrounded by mountains that are good for skiing and winter sports?

If you have not evaluated it already, I recommend you to seriously consider Milan(Italy’s business capital) in the North of Italy.

Milan is easily reachable by most European & Italian cities via its three airports (Linate — the City Airport, Malpensa — for International Routes, and Bergamo — ideal for Ryanair and Budget Flights), as well as bullet train connections (Freccia Rossa & Italo) stopping at Milano Centrale Station. Continue reading “Are there any EU capitals that are surrounded by mountains that are good for skiing and winter sports?”

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How do you continue living after very bad financial decisions?

Start saving with no mercy.

We all do mistakes and we all take bad financial decisions sooner or later in life.

Personally, after a big financial mistake, I normally enter into an extreme saving mode.

In this way I am able to:

  1. Regain focus on what really counts in my life;
  2. Appreciate how little I need to live a joyful life;
  3. Accumulate quickly a not irrelevant sum to make up for my mistake;
  4. Appreciate that my values are stronger than a financial loss: I do not let this loss destroy my mood for a long period of time.
  5. Understand from my mistakes so that I do not make them anymore in the future.

I know first hand that a bad financial mistake is painful, but I hope that with focus, patience and perseverance you will regain what you have lost and never lose confidence in yourself.

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What is the best ski resort?

These are my personal favorite ski destinations, with nice resorts and reasonably easy slopes in Europe:

A.If you want to ski on the Mont Blanc: Chamonix (FR) or Courmayeur (IT). Nice resorts, reasonably updated lifts. Nice multicultural/younger crowds. Excellent food at reasonable prices. The offer of apartments, AirBNB and Hotel rooms is very large, so even in peak season you can find something for almost any budget. Downsides: cars everywhere during peak season! It’s a mess to move aroundunless you walk (but the villages are pretty large so everybody uses the car).

B.If you want to ski on the Matterhorn / Mount Cervin / Cervino: Zermatt (CH) or Cervinia (IT). The slopes are fantastic and the domineering view of the Matterhorn is absolutely intoxicating (of the two sides, the Swiss one is probably more beautiful). The slopes are well groomed and the lifts have mostly been renovated in the last 10 years. Ski teachers are multilingual and very kind (but cost like a London finance lawyer!). Zermatt is completely car-free and you can reach it very easily by train from Zurich or Milan: fantastic. Downsides: Peak season is after January 6th (Orthodox Xmas) because of the inflow of wealthy Russian visitors (in January prices are very high). Also: there is basically no nightlife (at night the silence and gentle light system throughout the city will make it look like a fairytale Alpine village) and the people skiing there are mostly the age of your parents.

C.If you want to ski on the Dolomites: Cortina d’Ampezzo (IT). Excellent slopes with very nice views over the Dolomites. Food is good and the village is beautiful and well-maintained. Hotels are a bit old but with charme. The crowd is mostly Italian, with the occasional foreigner. Downsides: Cortina is very expensive (not just for Italian standards: I compared the prices in January and they are generally on par or more expensive even than Zermatt)and it can only be reached by car or coach bus. Also, you will most likely need a car to move around as the city is pretty wide and some of the best slopes (San Cassiano, Alta Badia, etc.) are only reachable by car. The closest slopes are Faloria (walking distance from the city center) and Socrepes (take the n. 3 bus). January/February is peak season, so prices are normally driven up too.

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What was the most promiscuous person you have ever met like?

I know two guys who are total legends in the “promiscuity” field.

They are both attorneys in Milan, one in his 30s and the other recently turned 50. They are both certainly not workaholics and career is not their first priority in life (something else is, see below).

Both are fantastically skilled in street-pick-up.

You may have already heard before that there are many people who have this skill, but when you actually see with your eyes one of them “at work” it is pretty mindblowing (especially for an adult man) how they can just start talking with any girl they choose and after a drink and 30 minutes of chatting and laugh, they can head back to her place for sex. With all due respect, they are basically the Roger Federerof the Promiscuity Championship.

From what I could see with my own eyes, even if they don’t know each other, they are both very similar:

A.Look: the first thing to clarify is the following: both are completely average-looking guys. Not particularly handsome, not particularly kind, no fancy car, not particularly funny, smart or romantic, no fancy clothes or watch, they don’t go to gym, nothing, zero of this stuff. Completely average guys.

B. Practice: they practice the Art every day. They train everywhere and every time: at breakfast at the bar, during the lunch-break, during the aperitivo at the evening, even after dinner. They never rest and are always on Alert-Mode. They never know when the next chance will be, so they need to always be ready. For them, taking the next girl to bed is a matter of continuously perfecting the Artand maintaing the momentum: there are no rest-days in their calendar.

C. Experience: they both told me that they started very earlyin life, at 14–15. When their peers were focused on playing football or basket, they wanted to take as many girls as possible to bed: now that they are well into their 30–50, even if they have very taxing jobs and responsibilities, this is a habit deeply ingrained in their life routine. There are weeks were they are able to take 7 different women to bed (1 for every day, Monday to Sunday). Once they see a girl that ticks all the boxes (more on this later), they have almost like a Pavlovian Reflex and start the “Ritual” below.

D.“The Eye”: preliminarily, it must be said that they both developed a set of skills that normal people do not really care much of, which grouped all together I called “the Eye”. TheirEye is simply on another level of analytical firepower: in a blink, they notice impossibly tiny details, body language, eye contact, smile and face expression and if all the boxes are mentally ticked, they approach the girl without a second thought. After years of experience they already know when ‘that’ specific girl will be seduced in a very short time.

E. First Contact: once the Eye has found a target, they approach the girl: they keep their hands in their front pockets, make a step and say “how are you?” or “where are you from?(one of their preferred targets in Italy are “the foreigner Tourist girls”), keeping their chin up and not losing eye-contact.

F.The Ritual: once they start talking, they have a set of questions and sentences (completely vanilla and generic) to keep the conversation going, no matter what. There is no pause, the girl is always “special”, “fantastic”,they often say “oh, I know what you mean”, etc. The conversation goes on until out of the blue he asks her to have a drink somewhere. If the girl does not decline, the ritual goes on for some more time and eventually once the girl is completely in their ‘reality distortion field’ the two first kiss right there and shortly after that first kiss they agree to have sex at her place.

F. Zero social media:quite curiously, both have no social media precence, they do not have Whatsapp, have no Instagram. They both do not use Tinder or any dating appsof sort. Their promiscuity is completely “analogic”, like the social media revolution never happened. They perfected the Art and pick up any girl wherever they are: it can be at the supermarket, at the gas station, at a party, in a book fair, art exhibition, wherever. As far as I am aware they seduce hundreds of women every year. I asked them why they don’t use any apps or social media and the answer has always been: “too time consuming” and “not worth the effort”.

G. No attachment: I asked them repeatedly and they both confirmed that they never get attached to the girl of the moment, no matter how amazing she is. Whenever they seduce a new girl, for them is just another day at the office. There is no emotional attachment whatsoever, which really surprised me. After they go to her place and do what they need to do, they go back home or to the office and go on with their life. No exchange of phone numbers, no “I want to see you one more time”, nothing.

H.They never went into trouble:just to be totally clear, all women were consensual adults that simply were fascinated by them and accepted the idea of having an ‘adventure’.

I. What’s the point? (Since many asked in the comments, I added this) I asked them the same and they both say that: 1) they just love sex very much (they cannot stand the idea of being monogamous) and 2) they love to test themselves and see if they are able to take one more girl to bed. It’s more or less something like an addiction.

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What are the top bad habits to stop immediately or I’ll regret big time later in life?

My advice is to stop the following bad habits:

  1. Stop keeping cash in your bank account: save money and, after you have set up a good emergency fund in cash, invest everything else in one or more low-commission, index-tracking, ETF funds, as soon as possible. The Vanguard 500 ETFis a good starting point. This must be a priority. Because compound interest takes time (like a decade or more) to produce its amazing results, the younger you start, the better. (Since many asked in the comments, I also recommend to Google: compound interest+ dollar cost averaging in order to understand the benefits of this double-pronged strategy).
  2. Stop smoking, doing drugs, drinking alcohol: these things do not add anything to your life, and only subtract cash from your bank account (that you should rather invest in ETFs).
  3. Stop watching TV: same as alcohol, TV does not add anything to your life. By not watching TV, you can spend more time reading interesting non-fiction books to educate yourself about the most different topics. Knowledge has a powerful compound effect: as you progress putting different knowledge eggs into your basket, your analytical firepower will gradually increase and the benefit that you will derive will be exponential. TV does not add anything to your knowledge basket. Sell it, and invest the money (either by buying ETFs or by buying many interesting books) instead.
  4. Stop eating outside: learn to cook your own meals. Cooking at home will naturally push you to learn new recipes from different countries: many of these new recipes that I learnt turned out to be new “classics” at home. Delicious!
  5. Stop Facebook: it’s even worse than TV. You lose your precious time while Zuckerberg & Thiel make millions out of your eyeballs glued to some cat videos, fake news & holiday pics. It makes no sense. The first step should be to delete the Facebook app from your iPhone (do not close the account, just delete the app): in this way you will not receive a million of useless notifications every day and you will very easily reduce the wasted time by 90%.
  6. Stop sitting on the couch playing PS4: it’s probably as bad as Facebook. Every time you want to play a game, go for a run outside instead.
  7. Stop surrounding yourself with all these fake friends you don’t care about: they don’t care about you either and they will dump you at the first time you will be in need. It is better for you to be prepared not to count on them (or on anyone, actually). Text/call/see your parents/grandparents more, instead.
  8. Ditch your accountant: learn how to do your own taxes, instead. This will save you a lot of money and will give you insight on the mechanics of the tax system (which is unexpectedly very useful in many fields of life & business). Once you have learnt to do your own taxes you can hire your accountant again and you will then be able to give him guidance, check for potential mistakes, take informed decisions so to minimize your tax burden.
  9. Stop shopping to impress or please other people. It doesn’t work. They will still hate you even if you have a new car or some ridiculous Gucci shoes. The rare, true friends will like you and be at your side regardless of what you own. Once you will start doing this you will learn that you are not what you own. We do not need99% of the stuff for sale out there anyway. Acquiring this mindset will free you from a thousand mental layers that cloud many of our life choices. It feels amazing.
  10. Stop accepting wrong things in the status quo: you can change things for the better. It just needs a brain and hard work.
  11. Stop being a cheapskate: show the fewpeople that matter to you how much you care about them. Bring flowers to your girl/wife/mum/grandma. Make a nice wedding gift to your best friend. Offer discreetly to pay a dinner out if your friend cannot afford. Be a gentleman for all people you interact with. Write a thank you card to a colleague who was helpful in a difficult situation (I still remember the “thank you” card that one of my first bosses left to me — a young and inexperienced trainee at the time — 19 years ago just saying: “You are a star!”) . Be grateful, very grateful, for these good people that touch your life kindly. Do not be afraid to spend money for those who are important for you and deserve your attention, kindness and generosity. The sky will not fall if you spend money and give them your attention and, most importantly, they deserve it. I have seen countless of truly good persons being hurt, friendships broken-up in horrible ways, just because of people being outright stingy. Also, remember to give a part of your profits to a charity that is important for you: the good these people do to this world is invaluable.
  12. Stop not taking (calculated) risks: career-wise,with time we all get lazy and tend to accept the current status quo: our job, our boss, our colleagues, our commuting, etc. This translates into fantastic opportunities being lost because we are too scared to abandon what we consider our current safe harbour (which most of the times is not much more than a steady salary). If you hate your job, if every Monday morning feels sour, if at work you are not respected for who you are, if your boss does not appreciate your efforts, if you are not paid enough, if your last salary increase was ridiculous: these are all signs that should push you to reconsider your career choices and check if anything better is available on the market. Nothing out there? Not all hope is lost: keep in mind that there has never been a better time in the history of civilization to be your own boss and start your own business.
  13. Stop taking new debt. Ditch your credit cards. Pay all the new stuff you want to buy upfront. No exceptions. If you cannot afford something upfront, simply do not buy it (most likely you will not need it anyway). Same for the “mortgage” (from the French “death pledge”): rent / share a cheap place and invest your savings in stocks instead. If you already took debt, repay it as soon as possible: sell stuff & work double shifts if necessary.
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What are the cleverest scams you have come across?

This scam was quite elaborate but guaranteed success many times over and it involved a delivery of a (non-existent) large order of steel from Asia to Europe.

A man with perfect and in-depth knowledge of the steel market calls an Italian, French or German company manufacturing products which require huge quantities of steel: usually big construction companies, large pipes manufacturers, etc. This is an industry with fierce competition and razor thin margins where companies are fighting every day to catch some lucrative business.

The gentleman claims to be the representative for Italy / France / Germany of a Swedish company called XYZ Ltd which works in the metal business (there is fake website arranged with fake phone numbers, fake registered office, etc.).

The gentleman knows in depth what he is talking about, he shows connections with other big and international companies in the steel market, has worked with this and that guy, he has been in the business more than 30 years, etc. etc.

The gentleman offers to negotiate a large scale delivery of steel for a large (but not “impossibly large”) discount from a big and well known steel company either in South Korea or China as long as the purchaser was willing to pay 100% of the (discounted) purchase price upfront.

We are talking about an order of a few million USD of steel.

All communication was done by fax or by e-mail attaching other faxes, letters, documents, quality certificates, etc.

The whole communication from the Korean or Chinese companies was totally forged with fake email addresses and fake phone numbers.

In order to prevent any scam, at the moment of purchase the parties exchanged the money paid with a First Demand Bank Guarantee issued by a well reputed European Bank: by holding the original of the Bank Guarantee the buyer was 100% safe that if the metal was not delivered they could go to the Bank and ask for the money back without any exception whatsoever (this is standard practice for large scale contracts among big players). Please note that this required the scammers to have a bank account with the bank and deposit there at least an amount of money equal to the value of the Guarantee the Bank was going to issue (i.e. these guys were professionals with millions of USD at their disposal).

At the moment of exchanging the guarantee the parties met at the Bank’s premises and, with an excuse, the scammers were able – almost like magicians – to take possession of the original of the Bank Guarantee (which was supposed to be in the hands of the buyer the whole the time) and while people were amiably chatting about the steel market, they changed it with an almost identical color copy (they kept the original and gave the buyer’s representatives the color copy) under the eyes of the Bank’s and the buyer’s representatives. Keep in mind that this was done at the Bank’s premises, so this required amazing manual skills, speed of execution and cold blood.

Delivery of the steel was supposed to happen in 60/90 days from the exchange of the price with the Bank Guarantee.

24h after the exchange, the scammers went back to the Bank handing back the original of the guarantee and claiming that performance had already occurred so there was no need for the guarantee anymore.

Once received the original of the Bank Guarantee, the Bank immediately cancelled it (and the underlying obligation protecting the buyer vanished) thus releasing the money deposited by the scammers in the bank account.

The buyer remained in contact with the (fake) representative of the Korean and Chinese companies for a few weeks: after a month or so they stop answering the emails and phone calls.

Immediately the buyer realized that maybe there was something fishy.

After some further investigation and realising that even the Swedish intermediary company has now disappeared, they decide to rush to the Bank and request the payment of the Bank Guarantee.

The Bank confirms that the Bank Guarantee has been already cancelled 24h after being issued by returning the original document of the Guarantee that was now in their hands.

The parties compared the two versions of the Guarantee and realise that the one in the hands of the buyer was just a well made color copy of the original in the hands of the Bank.

In the meantime the scammers had all the time to transfer the purchase price to various bank accounts in Switzerland and then Cyprus and then elsewhere leaving no trace.

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