Career Advice: If You Fake It, You Will Probably Not Make It

Fake Ice Cubes: Can you tell?

Fake or real?

There’s been a huge trend towards joining startups and fast growing tech companies ever since Wall Street blew up between 2008-2010. The top companies to work for no longer are dominated by the Goldmans, Mckinseys, and Bains of the world. The Googles, Facebooks, and thousands of startups you’ve never heard of are the employers of choice now.

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had going from an enormous investment bank to consulting for various startups is that if you fake it, you probably won’t make it for very long. When you’re at a huge organization, it’s easy to hide behind bureaucracy, layers of middle management, and massive amounts of inefficiencies. If you stop coming into work for a month at a large organization, chances are high the business will continue as usual. The extreme example is an Indian government employee who called in sick for 24 years!

At a small company, you must know your stuff and produce. Small companies generally have tighter budgets, less people by some definition, and a time limit to expiration given many startups are loss-making. If a company burns $10 million a year and only has $12 million left in the bank, the pressure is on!

There’s no room for holding meetings about meetings on what to do. There’s no room for people telling others what to do without doing anything themselves. Everybody must pitch in to produce something valuable.

Now think about the dichotomy between small companies and large companies from an investor’s point of view. Do you want to invest your money in ex-growth companies where people have a tendency to come in late, leave early, and do the bare minimum? I don’t. The hustle, drive, and innovation is why I’m a big fan of investing in growth companies and private startups. The problem now is that the private equity market is richly valued.

From Welfare to Well-Off: My Journey To Financial Independence

The journey to financial independenceThe following is a guest post by Samurai Dominic. He shares his story about escaping the life of trouble and poverty towards one day reaching financial independence. Reading different perspectives is what makes the Financial Samurai community so awesome. – Sam

They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. You know when the second best time is? TODAY!

As you are about to discover, it doesn’t matter where you start in life, what matters is how you play the hand you were dealt. You can stand around and complain how the world is unfair, and yes it is very unfair…get over it. Complaining and dwelling on your dire circumstances will do nothing to improve your life, so don’t waste your time. The thing to remember is that successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.

We live in unprecedented times with more opportunity than any other time in history. You just have to decide if you are willing to put in the work to achieve your vision of success.

You could say I am one of those rags to riches stories in the making. I entered this world like most, in a hospital room naked and screaming. However, I entered the world with absolutely no advantage. Some might say I was dealt a crap hand. I grew up in a low income area, where my family and most other families were on welfare or some kind of government support. Growing up I slept on the hard-floor of my grandmother’s 2-bedroom apartment with my 3 brothers, while my grandmother and mom shared a bed, and my uncle had the other room.

Shit, we were so poor that my grandmother would use the oven to heat the apartment (not cooking for, but cracking the oven door while it was on with nothing in it). That could not have been safe. And to this day I don’t really know if it was actually cheaper to heat the apartment using the oven vs. the actual heating unit. Either way my grandmother was determined it was the best and cheapest way to heat the house.

How Long Will The Average Person Take To Earn $1 Million Around The World?

The Economist put out an interesting chart highlighting how long it takes the median household income to earn $1 million dollars before tax. Have a look.

How long does it take to earn one million dollars around the world

Given the median US household income is roughly $52,000, it will take roughly 19.3 years for the typical household to earn $1 million gross. That’s pretty good if you think about it. Let’s say you graduate college at age 22. By the time you are 41, you could have earned over a million bucks gross!

But as we know in personal finance, it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep. If the typical household saves 10% of their gross earnings, then one can expect a $100,000 – $200,000 net worth by the time the head of household is 41 years old. Not bad, but certainly no million bucks!

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.

The Rise Of The Chief Content Officer: The Next Hot Job Of The Decade

Raygun Rocketship SFEvery year I tend to discover one significant thing that fish-slaps me in the face based on some sort of experience. This year, it’s the realization of the next high demand job of the decade.

You know how computer science and software engineering jobs have become all the rage over the past 10 years? I predict that any job that has to do with creating content online is going to blow UP in 2015 and beyond. For those of you still in college, take as many classes on web development, creative writing, and online marketing as possible. For others who are looking to switch careers, now is the time to build your resume and take the leap if you like this field.

The most senior of these content-related jobs is Chief Content Officer, followed by Director Of Content And SEO, and Director Of Engagement And Social Media. For the past 12 months I’ve been intimately involved in developing a content marketing strategy for a financial technology company. I’ve edited, written, sourced, curated, SEO optimized, and help grow the company’s brand online through their blog and social media channels. Brand awareness has gone up, marketing costs per result has gone down, and lead generation has grown. Such a job is slowly beginning to pop up all over the place.

A company can no longer just have a website to do business. A company must also have a coherent and effective content marketing strategy. Every single startup or established firm will be hiring a Chief Content Officer or Director Of Content soon enough. This bodes well for struggling journalists or editors of traditional media companies who have been hollowed out due to the desecration of offline content consumption. The natural path is for senior management to hire such journalists and editors due to their pedigree.

But I argue there is someone even better to fill the CCO role: the pro blogger who has organically built a brand from the ground up and displays the combination of creativity plus business savviness.

10 Helpful Financial Moves To Make Every Year

Financial Moves To Make To Get To Santorini

Cheers to the best time of the year!

The end of the year is always the best time to reflect and plan. I’d like to share several financial moves you should make before the new year in order to protect your wealth and hopefully grow your wealth in a risk-adjusted manner next year.

Those of us who invested in stocks, real estate, and many other asset classes except for oil should be feeling fortunate. But don’t forget that good times seldom last forever. Never forget the Armageddon days of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2000 dotcom implosion, and the housing + financial meltdown that began in 2008. Those of you who haven’t been investing at all better get ready to deploy capital when chaos returns, or else inflation will eat your wealth alive.

If you just started investing in the past five years, lucky you! Don’t worry. Your beat down will happen eventually. But like every beat down, things always get better over time. Look at all of us old farts who are still around.

Career Advice For Women From Female CEOs

HappinessOne of my goals in 2015 and beyond is to publish new forms of content such as infographics, short essays, podcasts, and comedy. I’m working on the podcast part (takes forever), and I can write short and long form content with some comedy infusion no problem, but I’ve got no graphic skills other than being able to draw an arrow. The solution I’ve found is to simply ask permission from relevant personal finance companies to be able to republish their infographics.

It’s an amazingly small world because one of the leaders in producing infographics is a company called Visual.ly, also based here in San Francisco. They raised a $8.1 Series A round of funding in January 2014 from well-known VC investors such as SoftTech VC, and Crosslink Capital. I think they charge anywhere between $1,000 – $50,000+ for a customized infographic! With companies the world over spending more on content creation, they are in a sweet spot for growth.

You might think I’m crazy for continuously encouraging folks to move to expensive San Francisco to find their fortune since starting Financial Samurai in 2009. But I’m pretty confident that if you work hard, develop the right skill-set, and get on that $120 Greyhound bus from anywhere, you will have a terrific chance of finding your fortune here.

Lending Club in SF is now worth over $7 billion after its IPO pop. I could have joined them three or four years ago, but didn’t like a donkey. HortonWorks in Palo Alto went public, despite losses of $80+ million this year. Then there’s Box, Dropbox, Uber, and Airbnb in the pipeline. A $40 billion dollar valuation now for Uber from just $18 billion at the beginning of 2014 is amazing! It sure feels frothy when companies are valued on price-to-sales multiples instead of operating profit multiples, but you might as well ride the wave and get off before it crashes.

Do You Feel It’s Our Duty To Help If We Can?

A helping hand Financial SamuraiI’d like to be fabulously wealthy. So wealthy that I wouldn’t think twice about taking a taxi home or booking a first class ticket to Europe on my next adventure. Alas, I still ride coach with terrific strangers who take both arm rests even though I’m sitting in the middle. It would be nice not to have to pontificate for years whether or not I should finally buy a new car. It would be lovely not to get upset about speeding or parking tickets.

To the mansion, Alfred!” would be a fun phrase to say once in a while.

But I’m happy because the journey is a riot. To be able to share stories with all of you makes life so much more fun. I swear, if I wasn’t already writing for free online, I’d consider paying Al Gore, the creator of the Internet, the right to continue publishing online every month!

So I got to thinking during hot tub time one day whether we all have the duty to help if we can help.

Candid Reasons Why You Didn’t Get The Job According To HR

Rejected From A Job

Rejection

There’s too much demand for any one job position. It doesn’t matter whether you are applying for a job as a barista at Starbucks, or as a marketing director at a tech company. If you get the job, it’s like winning the lottery. When demand is too great, companies deploy very quick and easy screening mechanisms to whittle down the pool. At Goldman, unless you were the son or daughter of a client or high level employee, you had to have at least an A- GPA to be considered for an interview. At least that was the case with my class in 1999.

Goldman hired roughly 60 Equities financial analysts total around the world my year. Somewhere around 8,000 candidates applied. By screening schools, GPA, and legacy, HR told me they culled the pool down to about 600 potential candidates for phone interviews, alumni interviews, and Super Day in NYC. Without screening mechanisms, the hiring process would take even longer than it already takes (my interview process took eight months).

Given the post, “Why It’s So Hard To Get A Mortgage According To A Loan Officer” was such a hit, I’d like to share with you some candid feedback I’ve received from several HR managers during my time.

Bankers, Techies, And Doctors: You’ll Never Get Rich Working For Someone Else

Although I estimate an entrepreneur needs to make at least 35% more to replicate his or her day job income to run in place, I’m truly beginning to realize after two and a half years how much more upside there is to entrepreneurship than to working for someone else.

I came from the world of banking where 23 year old graduates with one year of experience can clear $100,000 no problem. Despite ascending from Financial Analyst, to Associate, to VP, to Director within 10 years, and earning Director level compensation for three years before leaving, I still wasn’t able to earn and save enough money to buy my dream home in Kahala, Oahu.

Dream House In Kahala, Oahu, Hawaii

Contemplating on never being able to afford my dream home

The above is a picture of me sitting on a lanai, looking down the southeast coast of Oahu towards Koko Head. The home is on Blackpoint Road in the exclusive Kahala/Diamond Head neighborhood. Since I was a kid, I’ve always dreamed about living here one day. But I’ve come to realize my childhood dream will likely never come true.

The asking price for this 6,000 sqft Kahala home with 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms is $3.5 million ($583/sqft). The lower level is a 1,800 sqft rental apartment that is going for a below market rate rent of $2,500 a month. The main house is therefore not that huge. $3.5 million is actually great value given the view and the size of the house. Other houses in Kahala are easily asking for $900/sqft or more.

If I had $4 million cash, I would buy this house in a heartbeat. It needs at least $300,000 in renovations given it is quite dated. But the lanai and the spectacular view are priceless. All I think about when I’m looking for my dream home is being able to sit outside in 72-85 degree weather with an ice cold beer and write about various adventures.