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. 

Why Would An Aerospace Engineer Want To Be An Uber Driver?

Uber Driver

Harry Ubering

Previously, I had written about my struggling friend Jabir who was unemployed for a couple years before he discovered Uber. He drove for Uber for a year before switching over to be a dedicated hotel driver. In this post, my other friend Harry shares why he drives for Uber even though he’s financially thriving. Enjoy!    

Normally when I’m out putting around in my SUV driving people around for Uber (or Lyft – I do both), the first question they ask is: “So do you do this full time?”  Reluctantly, I usually tell them, “No, I also work for an engineering company as an aerospace engineer.” (odds are, if you’ve ever flown, you’ve been on one of our planes). It’s not that I’m embarrassed to be a full time engineer/part time Uber driver, but it always elicits a very strange reaction from my passengers.

Why would anyone who has a perfectly good job want to drive around a bunch of jokers during his free time? They don’t outright say it, but I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking. But there are actually a lot of reasons why I enjoy it and as you may have guessed, it’s not just about the money. Well a big part of it is about the money, so let’s explore that a little more first:

How One Company Is Trying To Screw Over A Loyal Employee

No Freedom

No Escape by Horizon

For 10 years, Rachel dedicated her life to working for Up Yours Inc. She rose through the ranks from analyst to senior manager. But her path wasn’t smooth. I told her to find another job many times before because they weren’t treating her well. When it was time for her to get a promotion two years ago, she was passed over for another male colleague. The guy was qualified, but she was more qualified. Unfortunately, she had to wait another 6 months before being considered again.

The great kick in the pants is that the guy who got promoted quit six months later to take some other job. For managers out there, this is your worst nightmare because those employees who you didn’t promote will not only secretly laugh at your poor managerial decision, they will also make you regret your choice as well.

Two months after being passed over, Rachel walked into her manager’s office and demanded not only the promotion she should have gotten earlier, but an even higher raise than she should have received.

“If you don’t like my term, unfortunately it’s time for us to say good-bye,” she told her boss firmly.

Her boss was taken aback by quiet, little, loyal Rachel. He apologized about the situation and promised her a promotion during mid-year. Rachel not only got that promotion, but also a retroactive raise as well.  It’s unfortunate meritocracy doesn’t work on its own. 

Five Sure Signs It’s Time To Move On From Your Job

move-on

Grey Skies On The Horizon

At some point or another, you will be passed over for a raise or promotion. The goal is to actually start strategizing about your future BEFORE this unfortunate event occurs.

Perhaps part of the reason why some men make more than some women is because men are more aggressive in having the compensation talk with management. Back when I was working on Wall Street, I made sure I had a very serious heart-to-heart talk every two years with my bosses about compensation and promotion. I very clearly laid out my goals about when I wanted to get promoted, and how much I was looking to make, in a respectful way of course.

Before each sit down, I made sure my performance to date was solid. I included a short five-to-eight page powerpoint presentation to demonstrate the progress of the business under my leadership. The goal was to make it easy for them to pay and promote me, and it worked. By 27 I was promoted to VP and then to Director by 31 where I stayed for three years until I left to focus on writing.

Towards the end of my career I knew that I would never reach Managing Director. I would have needed to relocate to Hong Kong or New York, and then prove myself for another three years before getting the nod. My manager was at least five years older than me based in NY and wasn’t even an MD. How the heck was I ever going to get ahead? I wasn’t. Once we realize our limitations, we must be happy with what we have or do something. I always like taking action, so I negotiated a severance.

Free Uber Rides! Changing Lives By Disrupting The Rules

Uber App Dashboard

Uber App Dashboard

For the past several years, I’ve seen Uber grow from a scrappy startup to an enormous success based right here in San Francisco. In the Fall of 2013, the company was “only” valued at $3.5 billion. As of July 2015, Uber is now valued at roughly $50 billion! Instead of driving for them, the best way to get rich would have been to work for Uber when it first started in March 2009.

Jabir, the “richest poorest person I know” actually became an Uber driver a couple years ago. He was unemployed for almost three years with a wife and daughter to support. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, he was always available to play tennis. We’d also drive all around the Bay Area to watch struggling professional players battle up the ATP points ladder for eight hours a day sometimes. As tennis junkies, we were in heaven!

Then one day Jabir stopped being available. No longer could he play pick-up tennis at Golden Gate Park at 2pm. No longer could he be my pal when everybody else had to work, so I had to find a new friend to pass the time after my morning writing was done. When I asked him what was up, he responded that he decided to drive for Uber.

For the next 12 months, I didn’t see Jabir at all. He drove ~10 hours a day for six days a week like a mad man. It was as if he was making up for lost time. When I asked him how much he was pulling in, he said well over $7,000 a month. Not bad coming from $0.

Uber allowed my friend and many other unemployed or underemployed people to find a way to earn some money and improve the inefficient taxi system in San Francisco. The disruption has been huge. I was even considering driving for them during my spare time, but Moose was too old as a 2000 Land Rover Discovery.

Starting in early 2014, Jabir began to come out and play again. When I asked him how were things going, he said that he was no longer driving for Uber, but driving a black SUV for a specific hotel instead. “Sam, I was getting too tired driving all those hours. Hotel driving is so much easier. Also, Uber kept cutting its prices so I was only making like $3,500 a month. It wasn’t worth it to me anymore.”

Jabir actually started outsourcing his car to his brother to drive for Uber so he could start collecting a percentage of his earnings and free up time for him to drive for the hotel. Smart man. There’s passive income opportunities everywhere!

Is An MBA A Big Waste Of Time And Money?

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business MBADuring the summer of 2014, Personal Capital had the luxury of hosting three MBA interns in the marketing department where I consult part-time. One was actually a Harvard JD/MBA, which is darn impressive because she has to get into both schools separately. The other two were from Stanford. They did a great job brainstorming and executing fantastic ideas.

In addition to our summer MBA interns, our head of business development (Stanford), our head of client engagement (Stanford), our digital marketing executive (Michigan), our CMO (Cornell), and our CEO (Harvard) also have MBAs . Then there’s me, a Berkeley MBA grad. In other words, the marketing department is a majority MBAs. But having an MBA isn’t a requirement for joining. Relevant experience is much more important.

Most MBA graduates will probably say that an MBA is money and time well spent. It’s kind of like spending big bucks on a fancy dinner. To justify the extravagant expense, of course you’re going to tell yourself and all your friends, how incredibly amazing the dinner was. But we all know that spending $250 per person at Jean Georges isn’t worth 100X more than a tasty In N’ Out cheeseburger for $2.5.

For similar reasons why going to private university without a scholarship is probably not the best use of your money unless you have plenty of it, getting an MBA is also becoming a tougher choice today.

For those of you with MBAs, be forewarned. This is not a cuddly, feel-good post on why getting an MBA is a no-brainer. There are a lot of hard truths from what I witnessed as a manager who consistently interviewed MBAs during multiple bull and bear markets. I’m also providing the perspective as an MBA eight years after graduating. Readers trust me to speak candidly, so that is what I will do. 

Are Personal Finance Bloggers Some Of The Sexiest People On Earth?

Personal Finance Bloggers Are SexyI was eating dinner at my local Indian joint when a late 20s couple sat at the table right next to me. The guy, a new pharmacy graduate from UCSF was with a female pharmacy student. He was buttering her up with praise about how she’s so popular now that her research report got published in some pharmacy journal. She blushed with pride.

I tuned out their entire conversation for 20 minutes as I stuffed my face with chicken tikka masala until I couldn’t help but overhear one phrase. He awkwardly said, “I think I’ve gotta build myself an emergency fund, you know? I hear it’s a good idea to build this emergency fund so I don’t go into high interest credit card debt.”

Wahoo! Music to my ears and music to his date’s ears as well. As soon as he started talking about securing his financial future, the female pharmacist started leaning into the table all excited. “Tell me more,” she said with a sultry, but incredibly nasally voice. I’m pretty observant – like CIA observant – where I can tell you what color your shoelaces are and point out the stain on the lower side of your shirt 30 minutes after our meeting is over if questioned.

It’s pretty clear to me they’re both getting lucky tonight all thanks to some personal finance dialogue.

So I got to wondering: Are personal finance bloggers (and readers) just abnormal because we talk about money all the time? Or are we simply some of the sexiest people on Earth?

Let’s discuss!