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How to Answer the "What do you do for a living?" Question When You Don't Work?


Voodooking
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I know that this is an alien concept to a lot of my friends, who live month to month with little or no savings behind them. Many people are completely confused by the concept that people who are not "rich" could pay for things without having a job. Most people seem to view the stock market as 'gambling' or a 'get rich quick' scam because they haven't had any interest in learning about financial matters in general.

 

I thought that there must be a few other people on this board who are in the same situation. How do you guys approach it?

Edited by Voodooking
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At first I cheekily said I was jobless or househusband but that often got awkward. Now I usually say “I work from home (in finance or something) and keep it as vague as possible. I hate telling random people I invest / trade. People either think you are a reckless gambler and start ranting about capitalism or ask questions about cryptocurrency and Tesla (the latter is by far the most annoying). Also, in my opinion small talk about jobs is usually extremely boring and I’d rather talk about something else.

 

My single piece of advice would be: the cheeky answers always backfire.

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At first I cheekily said I was jobless but that often got awkward. Now I usually say “I work from home” and keep it as vague as possible. I hate telling random people I invest / trade. People either think you are a reckless gambler and start ranting about capitalism or ask questions about cryptocurrency and Tesla (the latter is by far the most annoying). Also, in my opinion small talk about jobs is usually extremely boring and I’d rather talk about something else.

 

I agree with this, but...

 

I'm not OP, but it seems that OP is asking what to tell to the closer circle of friends/family/relatives/etc. to whom "I work from home" is not enough. Or who know that you worked as XYZ (engineer/doctor/lawyer/whatever) before and that it does not "work" to do XYZ from home. Or they might ask "for which company you work from home". Going the lying path of "I contract" is not great either.

 

I agree with sentiments above thread that telling people that you are "private investor" is wrought with issues. So is unfortunately "boutique investment manager" IMO. I don't have a good solution unfortunately.

 

Not a direct issue for me, but interesting thread, since I don't tell most my friends/family that I invest either.

 

Edit: I have a great idea for a business. Open a company that employs such private investors for nominal salary which they themselves pay into the company. And then they can honestly tell everyone that they work for BIM Inc. which is in stealth mode, so hush hush.  8)

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At first I cheekily said I was jobless or househusband but that often got awkward. Now I usually say “I work from home (in finance or something) and keep it as vague as possible. I hate telling random people I invest / trade. People either think you are a reckless gambler and start ranting about capitalism or ask questions about cryptocurrency and Tesla (the latter is by far the most annoying). Also, in my opinion small talk about jobs is usually extremely boring and I’d rather talk about something else.

 

My single piece of advice would be: the cheeky answers always backfire.

 

My academic friend has a great current reply - "I'm on unpaid leave."  I told him that was my new favorite term for unemployed. 

 

I agree with the sentiment about not telling strangers you invest for a living.  I usually tell strangers I'm a carpenter (which I am).

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All you have to start doing is wearing a lot of gold jewelry, maybe get a gold day date, buy a few tracksuits, and answer that question by saying you work in the "family business."  And I imagine you won't get many more questions after that, and problem solved

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Guest cherzeca

typical cocktail party conversation

 

"What do you do for a living.

I make money for a living.

No, what do you do to make money?

Yes."

 

blank stare.

"Can I get you a drink?"  Turns and walks to bar.

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I'm kind of in the same situation. Last year I earned more from the dividends on the stocks I own (mainly FTSE100 index ETF's) than I spent in normal life, for the first time. However being 100% long equities is not without risk of course. So for the next few years at least I'm minded to work 6 months a year as a contractor, just to keep my work skills current - to be a kind of insurance policy so that I can work if required without having to spend capital at a potential low point in the market.

 

To answer your question, I tell people that I'm half Scottish (true) so like to save money - so I have enough to last me for quite a while. Scottish people have a reputation for being tight with money :)

 

 

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I can't even give an answer to my wife or parents, so you won't ever have a good answer. I'd just keep it vague:

- work from home - when they ask what I am working on, usually "software" is enough to prevent follow-up questions

- taking some time off

- spending time with kids while they are young

 

You'd be surprised how long you can get by with "taking some time off". Or maybe find an interesting hobby that you can pivot to?

 

More important, what are you going to tell yourself? A few years in, you will likely have an identity crisis.

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Edit: I have a great idea for a business. Open a company that employs such private investors for nominal salary which they themselves pay into the company. And then they can honestly tell everyone that they work for BIM Inc. which is in stealth mode, so hush hush.  8)

 

You could also just set up a LLC for a nominal amount of money and tell people that you run your own business called XYZ Asset Management or whatever.

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This is hard. I am about 50/50 investing income and running a small online business people dont understand. I tell people I'm an engineer and I work from home. Those statements are both true, but it doesn't follow (as most assume) that I work from home as an engineer.

 

My wife has an aunt that asks me if I have gotten a job yet every time we see them. I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm mooching off my wife. I'm always tempted to tell her how much money I made last year, but aside from being objectively crass my wife specifically forbade it.

 

So now I just say, "no, my own stuff is going well, thanks for asking." And grit my teeth.

 

These questions are easily the hardest part about my career choice, imo.

 

 

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"Private investor" is a joke anyone who's been on a company earnings call will get. Its been especially annoying lately with the virtual AGM's. Operator "what company are you with?" ....

 

A lot of folks doing this just tell people they are freelance consultants. That often is enough to satisfy surface level small chat. Its also open ended enough to give yourself generalized talking points should someone keep hammering away. Eventually if you want, you can take this to a response that will stump and or make the other personal feel stupid enough not to ask anymore questions.

 

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I'm pretty well always mucking around with something that interests me, but isn't actually profitable. Usually that activity can be used as a descriptor that satisfies people. e.g. when I was writing novels, I said I was a writer. Now that I'm playing around with reinforcement learning, I say that I'm working on machine learning.

 

The question usually isn't phrased as "How do you make money?", and more like "What do you do?". So saying what I'm focusing on is an honest response.

 

Also, as I get closer to 50, it's a bit more acceptable to say, "I'm semi-retired". Thus, the answer can depend on what sort of interaction or relationship I want with the other person.

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Guest cherzeca

If you want the "work" conversation to come to an abrupt end, either at a party or even with customs officers, I've found "accountant" or "actuary" do the trick.

 

mortician.  then pop your eyes wide open and smile

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I'm not OP, but it seems that OP is asking what to tell to the closer circle of friends/family/relatives/etc. to whom "I work from home" is not enough.

 

Ah, yes, I misread the question. Anyway, close friends and family you should be able to tell the truth, no? Though I never talk numbers or bring the subject up myself. And if they're not-so-close friends and family I would revert to my previous post, i.e. saying something like "I worked in finance, now I do something similar from home.". "Is it going ok?". "Yes.". Followed by an awkward silence and a change of subject.

 

These questions are easily the hardest part about my career choice, imo.

 

Hah, if that is the hardest part for you you must be extremely well suited emotionally for investing large sums of money. Surely losing money is the worst part. But I agree, it can be annoying and it is an underrated issue. People assume you are lazy, or leeching off your partner, or they complain about how many hours they have to work or how you could help them with X because you have nothing to do, etc. I recommend having or finding a few friends who are in the same situation. Good to talk with people in the same situation every once in a while.

 

I read a story this year on another message board about a guy in a similar situation, who often picked up his kids from school, walking, wearing a track suit or some casual clothes. And at some point another parent inquired if he had cancer. Apparently that rumor started to circulate because surely no healthy father has lots of time to spend with his kids and wears casual clothes on weekdays .. I hope it will happen to me one day. I will verbally slaughter the poor soul asking.

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All you have to start doing is wearing a lot of gold jewelry, maybe get a gold day date, buy a few tracksuits, and answer that question by saying you work in the "family business."  And I imagine you won't get many more questions after that, and problem solved

 

See the post above. Maybe you have the Tony Soprano look and can pull it off. I'm too much of a cheapskate to buy gold and am basically a living stick figure. People would instantly assume I have a terrible disease or am a drug addict :) .

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  • Voodooking changed the title to How to Answer the "What do you do for a living?" Question When You Don't Work?

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