Life lessons from a homeless banker

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Luck is an undeniable factor in life. Aged 50, French banker Jean-Paul Allou has had more than his fair share of bad luck. His first became ill with cancer and spent a fortune on futile quack remedies, leaving him bereaved and nearly penniless. And then, several years later when he was piecing his life back together, his second wife left in a costly divorce. And then he lost his job.

A former director of a wealth management department, who then ran his own consultancy (on finance control, risk advice and restructuring), Jean Paul Allou was used to earning €6-10k a month (a lot of money in Paris) before he found himself unemployed, with no money, and no home.

Today, Jean Paul works as the manager of a bowling alley. He's written a book (in French) about his experiences, and granted us a long telephone interview during which he imparted what he's learned about life. This included the following:

1) Always pay your taxes

"Unfortunately, I didn't follow the advice I gave my own clients. If I had done, I could possibly have avoided having to make a repayment of €350k of back taxes."

2) It's not good to be provocative

"My provocative character contributed to my rise, both socially and professionally. But it also contributed to my downfall.

When you reach a certain age, provocation gets people's backs up. This is not very productive."

3) Take nothing for granted

"The material comforts of a financial services career can create the illusion that everything is fine. And then one day or the next, everything changes dramatically and without warning,"

4) Cultivate a strong network

"There was a time when I had a strong network of friends and professional contacts. But I didn't maintain that when my life fell apart because I imagined they'd think I wanted them to save me and that they wouldn't ever want to be in my position. Despite this, it's very important to maintain a network of contacts if you're not going to be completely isolated."

5) Tell people about your situation. Let them know your history

"One day, I came across a journalist who was interviewing someone in a café about football. I approached them and passed them my telephone number, explaining that I was a former banker who'd become homeless.

Because of this, my life was turned around. I received several offers of publishing housing and I was offered me three jobs. I accepted the job in a bowling alley because I wanted to work with young people. At the end of this month, my contract will finish. I'll therefore need to look for something else- why not in finance."

A longer version of this article is available on our French website.

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