Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The master plan (part 2)

I should be studying for my big placement test at school this Thursday, but my blog doesn't write itself, so here we go again. Part 2 of the master plan.

We're still in March 2013, I wasn't really busy at work and used my spare time to browse the web in search of jobs or other options in Japan. Since my job hunt from a distance wasn't very successful so far, I thought about coming to Japan for a couple of months for on-site job hunt, maybe attending a language school to bring my Japanese up to speed again. After all I already had my flight booked and all that.

Forcing myself to use LinkedIn more I found a group called Internship Japan, run by a German lady in Tokyo who happened to work at a Japanese language named Tokyo Riverside School. I contacted her and she not only provided me with some useful information, she planted the seed of another thought in my head: becoming a student again, learning Japanese and doing internships before I start with a real job. It was a tempting idea. I thought, yeah why not? A couple of months wouldn't hurt and the school seemed quite cheap affordable to me. We exchanged a couple of emails and she even hooked me up with an IT contact and possible internship. This guy wasn't very cooperative thought because my original plan of doing an internship for only a couple of months wasn't very much to his liking.

While my head was spinning with the idea of becoming a student again, I took care of the biggest issue; the money. I'm not an Excel hero, but I'm quite good in setting up convenient and effictive Excel sheets to get what I want and save me the hassle of calculating everything by hand. I work as a salesman but numbers still confuse me and I don't really like money (there, I said it!).

I needed some reliable numbers for my plan, something that I could change on the way and updated with my incomings and expenditures. A look into the future to decide now if this is even possible from a money perspective.

It took me a couple of days but the result was a pretty one.

Blurred version from October 2013. Until September 2013 it was even more complicated.
What I basically did was to sum up my income and expenditures for each month, current bank balance (credit card, savings, everything), estimated salary, etc. and put them in a column for each month way into 2014. I did some wild guessing on my expenditures until I leave Germany and what I would spend living in Japan. I was very generous in my assumptions, allowing me to eat well and spend a lot on travelling. After asking lots of different people in Japan about rent and salaries, I put in these numbers in as well. So in the end, there was only one important number that I was interested in. The number at the end of September 2014.

It was deep red...and negative.

You should be aware that I was actually thinking about sub-letting my flat during my time in Japan. I met a nice couple (Japanese guy, Germany girl) who wanted to relocate to Berlin just around the same time I was thinking about moving to Tokyo, so we kinda made a deal that we would help each other. However, I had to charge them the minimum amount of rent and used that for my calculations. They were a really nice and friendly couple, we thought this actually might work out. I could even save some money by letting the flat to them. A quick calculation showed that giving up my flat wasn't really making me any more money and I wanted to have an emergency retreat in case things go bad in Japan.

I was more and more into the idea of becoming a language student so I could focus on my Japanese while taking my time to adjust to Japan and find a good job in Tokyo. But I had to enroll for 1 full year in order to get a student visa that even allowed me to work for 28 hours per week. Altogether that was around 5.000€ at that time (the Yen was a bit stronger then). I didn't have 5.000€ in my pocket. I could have raped my credit line and paid it, but in the long run it was a really bad idea and gave me headaches. The deep red negative number in my Excel sheet gave me baaaaad headaches.

No matter how I juggled the numbers, what income in Japan I assumed or how I cut down on spending money in Germany or Japan, it wasn't enough to pay the school and live in Japan.

I can dream, right?
 In my past I had to struggle with money a lot. I took me around 10 years to become debt-free. These debts weren't even mine but I still had to pay them and that's all I want to say about it. But I managed that and learned how to handle money perfectly in this hardest of all life lessons. I borrowed money from the bank three times in my life and paid back everything, so my credit score was actually perfect now, despite the 10 years of debts I had to go through. So I was thinking about taking another loan for Japan. Some people go crazy just by the idea of owing the bank money, but for me it was one of the most convenient and logical things to do. With deflation and low credit interests these days, the banks were almost throwing the money at you. But the tricky part was, with what money should I pay it back? I didn't have a job or an income in Japan yet. Even with a paid internship I would be hardly getting enough money to pay rent, food and a credit rate.

I needed help. I needed the worst help I can imagine; help in form of a friend's money.

There was only one person I could ask who had the financial security and more important the biggest heart I know. But I hesitated. I tried everything I could to tweak the numbers a bit so somehow in the end this whole endeavour seemed affordable. So I had to try and ask my best friend Anja, who was living in Vienna, Austria and who I was only seeing a couple of times per year. She still was my best friend however, having shared the best and the worst times together over the years. I hoped she would be able to help me financially but I was absolutely sure that she could at least help me with her advice and business skills. I needed someone to check on my Excel sheet and calculations, a sparring partner. She would be perfect for it but asking her for money was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do.

I decided to ask her in person. We already planned my visit for Easter in April, so that was well-timed. My Excel sheet was ready to be presented.

....to be continued.

In part 3 I will write about the final decision and how it felt giving up a flat, a life and loved ones.