Is Company Loyalty Costing You A Fortune? Here’s How I Lost $500,000 In Three Years

loyalty

Loyal dog. Woof

One of my regrets between 2007-2012 was not aggressively entertaining other job offers. By 2007, I had been with my previous company for six years and felt tremendous loyalty to the firm. How could I hop to a competitor for more money when my company first gave me a chance here in San Francisco? I now wonder whether the reason why I stayed at my firm for 11 consecutive years is because of my predisposition to feel guilty whenever something good happens.

Instead of leaving for another firm, I simply asked my boss in a nice way what I should do if they were me when I was getting aggressively courted. They always told me to stay and simply offered me a raise between what I was getting paid and what I was being offered by a competing firm. I never pushed them to match because I didn’t want to create a hostage scenario of resentment. Wall Street income is relatively absurd compared to practically every other industry, so I found it always distasteful when people complained about their bonuses.

But if I managed my career perfectly, I could have made $400,000 more after tax if I had accepted a juicy, two-year guaranteed income offer at another firm in NYC from 2010-2011. I left Wall Street in 2012 anyway, so it didn’t matter that I was going from a bulge bracket firm to a lower tier firm because I was never going back to finance.

Even after a four-hour interview with the interested company’s CEO in NYC, who so happened to be the eldest son of China’s former Premier, I still couldn’t take the leap out of loyalty to my firm. If you were a fly on the wall during our interview, you would have thought that I was some type of superstar based on the praise he gave. I stood stubbornly strong like a patriotic soldier and politely declined multiple times after.

NYC is a great place to visit, but pretty much sucks in terms of cost and work/life balance. Besides entering a much more stressful lifestyle for two years if I took the job, I was also hesitant to sell my house in 2010 given the real estate market was still depressed. Another concern was whether or not the courting firm would actually pay the second year guarantee if the first year performance results were not up to expectations. I heard stories of companies luring employees in with great promises only to welch during the second year. What was the new employee supposed to do after getting screwed in the second year but suck it up, sue his employer, or find another job. It’s not as easy finding another job if you’re coming from a small shop.

Although I missed out on some heavy dollars, at least I was able to negotiate a severance package from my firm of 11 years that lightened the blow. It would have been impossible to negotiate a severance if I quit after a two-year guarantee at the new firm. Manhattan is a wonderful playground if you have money. Alas, I’ll never know.

Increase Your Savings By Identifying Specific Reasons To Save

save money for freedom. Jamaica panorama

Save money so you can live a free life! Jamaican sunset

I was invited to join the TaxACT How I Save blog tour which shares ways to keep more money in your pocket. Last year, TaxACT saved America over $240 million on tax preparation. 

One of my main goals for 2015 is to save $100,000 in new liquid cash after spending too much money on remodeling in 2014. I got down to around $25,000 in liquid savings towards the end of the year and it just didn’t feel enough for me. Each person’s desire for liquidity is different given our living expenses and risk tolerance levels are all different.

The reasons why I want to have roughly $100,000 liquid at all times is as follows:

1) Minimum private equity investments generally are around $50,000, at least all the ones that have been presented to me. The last thing I want to do is only have $25,000 and not be able to invest in the next Uber.

2) It’s always good to have cash on hand when the stock market throws up. The general long-term trend is up and to the right. I want to implement my own advice on how to better dollar cost average with $5,000 – $10,000 investment increments at a time.

3) I have a goal to pay down my first rental property mortgage within 12 months. There is roughly $85,000 left in principal from this 11.5 year old mortgage (started at $464,000), which is starting to annoy me. I will be averaging roughly $7,000 a month towards paying down extra principal along with my usual monthly mortgage payment that pays down $1,100 in principal in order to achieve my pay down goal. Having $100,000 allows me the flexibility to pay it all off in one go, or give me the confidence to keep on my $7,000 a month plan.

Always Work On Improving Cash Flow For Financial Independence

Cash Flow For Financial Independence

Cash Flow by Jo Z-Sunny

The other day I asked a very wealthy entrepreneur about his main financial concern. He’s probably worth anywhere between $50 million to $75 million dollars. Given he has so much money, I thought his answer would be more philosphical, like “making sure my kids appreciate the value of money,” or “how to create a lasting legacy.”

Instead, the entrepreneur responded, “My biggest concern is making sure I have enough cash flow to maintain my lifestyle.”

I initially thought the answer was odd because why bother measuring cash flow given he can simply draw down principal to fund his lifestyle forever. $500,000 here, $1 million here, who cares? He’s still left with tens of millions of dollars left over! But maintaining a lifestyle that is meaningful to you is what having money is all about.

Many people with tremendously high net worth figures don’t have nearly as much LIQUID net worth as one would assume. People mistakenly think that just because someone has a $10 million net worth, that they can withdraw 10 million $1 dollar bills and make it rain. Instead, high net worth individuals likely have much of their net worth tied up in equity stakes that could disappear if a downturn like 2008-2009 ever happened again.

Just look at the guy who founded CNET, the technology online review site. He was worth $2 billion dollars, but after a divorce and leveraging up in 2007, he filed for bankruptcy. Every super wealthy person I know is well aware of how ephemeral wealth is. This is why buying real assets, like property or fine art is so attractive to many equity millionaires.

It’s Impossible To Stay Retired Once You Retire Early

Retired couple by Sebastian Flickr Creative CommonsIn the spring of 2012, I hung up my sword after working in finance since 1999. There was actually a hiccup the very last day of work, a Friday. When I was e-mailing some personal files from my work account to my personal account (pictures, tax docs, etc), I inadvertently e-mailed a five year old client file that was caught by compliance. I was warned this was a violation of company policy and that I would be hearing from them about any repercussions the next week. I apologized for the mistake and waited nervously about the fate of my severance check.

To allay my worries, I actually went to a free Hastings School Of Law community service event where law students and professors helped those with legal questions. They just so happened to host the event on what I thought was the first free weekend of the rest of my life. It was great to see the school give back to literally hundreds of people regarding questions about divorce, employment, accidents, theft, trusts, and more.

My question to a professor and to a law student was simply, “Can my firm take away the agreed upon severance contract due to a five year old company file that I inadvertently sent to myself?” Financial companies are notoriously strict about ex-employees transferring sensitive client documents that can be advantageously used against their old employer if they join a competitor. I told my company that I was retiring from the finance business altogether, but how could they know I was really telling the truth? In our business, few people voluntarily walk away from such paychecks.

After getting comforting council saying that I should be fine, I promised that day to NEVER go back to work in finance if I could still get my severance and deferred compensation. My new manager was in from New York City that day and was already busting my balls for the incident. I went a step further and promised to never go back to working for anybody. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were at stake and I was worried.

HR called me the following Tuesday and told me everything was fine in the end. They agreed the client file was irrelevant given it was five years old, and accepted my e-mail apology for the mistake. Once I got my severance check several weeks later I felt like I had sheepishly won the lottery. Instead of spending it all, I sat on it like I would any financial windfall. By the summer of 2012, the market had taken a little dive and I finally invested the entire amount in the stock market so as to make it disappear. I wanted to stay hungry and pretend I received nothing. 

How To Save More Than $100,000 A Year Pre-Tax: Open A SEP-IRA Or Solo 401k

SEP-IRA by American Advisors GroupOne big goal on Financial Samurai is to highlight to readers what is financially possible. Once you know what is possible, you minimize your limiting beliefs and tend to strive much farther. Through close to eight hours of research and production, this post will explain how you can add more than $100,000 every year pre-tax to your retirement account if you have the right employer and proper strategic money making mindset.

The 401k maximum contribution for 2015 is $18,000. The increases will likely continue by $500 increments every year or two to keep up with inflation. Contributing $18,000 pre-tax a year for 30+ years will most likely make you a millionaire by the time you retire. Unfortunately, $3 million is the new $1 million, and in 30 years, $7 million will likely be the new $1 million if we assume a 3% annual inflation rate!

The 401k is not enough for most people to retire on. Sure, we potentially have Social Security to help us when we reach, at the earliest, 62 years of age. But I wouldn’t count on the government to properly manage our money until then. Beyond maxing out a 401k every year, I encourage everyone to also invest at least 20% of their after-tax, after-401k money into a diversified investment portfolio.

As a contractor over the past year, I’ve discovered something that will really supercharge one’s pre-tax retirement savings. The discovery still seems too good to be true, so for any of you tax gurus out there, please speak up and correct me if I’m wrong. We are going to crowd source this post into one of the best maximum pre-tax retirement posts around. The research I’ve done is based off the IRS website, my own experience, and speaking to Fidelity’s small business retirement department where I have a rollover IRA, SEP-IRA, and Solo 401k.

Maximum Taxable Income Amount For Social Security (FICA)

Uncle Sam The Tax ManFICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act and consists of a Social Security tax and a Medicare tax. This tax is very important for everyone to understand because so often we only think about federal tax rates and state income tax rates. The FICA tax is a big percentage of your total tax bill, especially for those making under six figures a year.

When I was making big bucks in finance, the tax bill was equally big bucks. The only saving grace was seeing my after tax paycheck increase after the maximum taxable income threshold for Social Security was breached each year. The tax amounts were jolting based on how inefficient the government was and still is with regards to spending our money.

For 2015, the maximum amount of taxable earnings for Social Security rises to $118,500 from $117,000 in 2014. In other words, an employee must pay 6.2% of any income up to $118,500 for 2015 = $7,347. But any dollar you make above $118,500 is free of the Social Security tax. Hence, a good goal for everyone is to make as much as they can over $118,500 as possible, right?

Not so fast. Given we have a progressive tax system in America with Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and deduction phaseouts, I’ve calculated that the optimal Adjusted Gross Income is roughly $250,000, +/- $50,000. At $250,000, $131,500 of the earnings is free from the 6.2% Social Security tax. Meanwhile, you still get most of your mortgage interest deduction, and only have to pay a slight amount of AMT, depending on the person. A $250,000 income is also high enough to live relatively comfortably in any part of the world.

Some might argue that the Social Security tax is regressive because it caps out at $118,500 in 2015. Why shouldn’t rich people pay more? Here’s the thing people might not understand. Social Security benefits cap out based on the maximum amount of Social Security tax contribution as well. It’s not like someone who is making $500,000, and not having to pay the 6.2% Social Security tax on $381,500 of his earnings is getting extra benefits based off his $500,000 income. He’s just getting the maximum Social Security payout amount when it comes time for him to collect based on the maximum taxable income amount he contributes.

The $500,000 income earner is already paying the highest marginal federal tax rate of 39.6% plus state taxes, if applicable. 

Make More Money, Save More Cash, Grow Your Net Worth Now!

Big Goals by Sergiy MatusevychHappy New Year Everyone!

I hope everybody is locked and loaded to get… loaded again in 2015! It’s somewhat arbitrary to set goals at the beginning of each year, but there’s no use fighting the power. The beginning of the year is when a large amount of assets get deployed into various investment classes. The beginning of the year is also when companies aggressively hire and spend their budgets. And the beginning of the year is when everybody is full of hope.

You want to be front and center!

Let me first discuss five basic and important financial goals everybody should achieve. I’ll then highlight my personal goals for 2015.