A New Adventure Begins: Consulting For A Tech Startup

Scuba diving with turtle in HawaiiIt’ll be two years this spring since I last worked in an office. There’s been some good times with 23 weeks worth of travel and some down times with periods of boredom. But if boredom is the worst of it, then time away from work isn’t so bad. I was able to write a book, spend lots more time with family, get SCUBA certified, and work on my online business to name a few things. It felt wonderful not having to answer to anybody.

But over the past six months I’ve been feeling this void, partially because I’ve got my online work routine efficiently locked down to under four hours a day. The Financial Samurai post queue is over 30 posts deep and there’s no longer a sense of urgency to keep up with an intense writing schedule. Furthermore, going from physically interacting with at least 30 people a day at my old job to only speaking with a couple of folks to nobody a day is a let down that takes time getting used to.

With “Filling The Void In Early Retirement With Part-Time Work,” I hinted at my desire to take on a new challenge, especially since I don’t expect my online business to grow much this year due to a normalization in search traffic. It’s shown promise this January so far, but trees don’t grow to the sky forever. The three year revenue target was reached after a couple years and once again I find myself twiddling my thumbs, wondering if I peaked too early with my endeavors. Maybe I just didn’t set high enough goals. As I’ve said before, the journey is almost always more rewarding than the destination.

THE DECISION TO GO BACK TO WORK PART-TIME

There’s no way I would take any job just to fill the spare 25 hours a week of time I currently have. That would be completely counter productive to the purpose of financial freedom. The job would need to fill most or all of the following criteria:

* A startup in the tech, internet, finance, or social media space.

* A role that utilizes my skills in finance and online media.

* A startup that shows tremendous promise for growth.

* A startup located in San Francisco for easier commuting.

* A startup with enthusiastic and smart people.

* A startup where I can add value.

* A startup that will allow for flexible hours at a competitive salary.

Now that I list out all my criteria, I must say that finding such a company to work for looks very difficult. The main hurdle is probably allowing someone to work part-time when it’s always pedal to the metal in the startup world. Fortunately I found a role which fits perfectly.

MY NEW PART-TIME CONSULTING ROLE

I recently joined Personal Capital, a 3.5 year old financial tech startup leveraging the internet to bring wealth advisory to those with over $100,000 in investable assets instead of just those with millions of dollars. My role is to help build their online content and brand awareness.

I’ve been using their free financial tools since 2012 and have met many of their employees before as part of my due diligence process. Joseph Fahr, Director of Marketing Analytics and fellow Cal alumn was one of those employees I developed a good relationship with. He referred me as a potential candidate when the content manager role opened up. Thanks Joe! The contract is for about 25 hours a week, two to three days in the office, for three months with an option to renew and renegotiate if both sides see fit at the end.

As a reader of Financial Samurai, I think you would agree that having a blog is a great way to build a community, grow a brand, learn from each other, and broaden our perspectives. I’m tasked to organically grow Daily Capital, Personal Capital’s blog by managing the editorial calendar, work with a team of writers to produce new content, write the occasional post, collaborate with other departments to market their work, and engage Personal Capital’s ~450,000 users. Hopefully some of the 450,000 subscribers are some of you.

I don’t think I could have found a more perfect role due to my experience building Financial Samurai since 2009, my background working in finance since 1999, and my role as a Personal Capital user and partner since 2012. Talk about congruency. My role at Personal Capital is very similar to my role at Financial Samurai. The only difference is I’ve now got cool people to interact with, an enormous subscriber base to engage, and a marketing budget larger than the ten bucks in my wallet!

As I wrote in my Personal Capital review after sitting down with CEO Bill Harris for 1.5 hours, I think the business model of leveraging technology to gather and manage assets is a no brainer. They currently manage around $350 million with AUM estimated to reach $1 billion by early 2015. I want to be a part of no brainers.

I’m certain I can help grow Daily Capital with unique content and widen the Personal Capital brand online. The big question is in regards to time. Things take time to percolate online, but I believe through consistent publication of value-added content, the internet will eventually take notice of Daily Capital through social media and organic search. Daily Capital will be a great showcase and platform for existing and new clientele.

Finally, I’m excited about this opportunity because I’m working with a company whose product can positively make a difference in people’s lives. Helping fund managers and their shareholders make money on Wall St. is OK. But Personal Capital goes directly to the end user and empowers individuals to manage their own finances with technology. It’s the old “teach a man how to fish” approach where a more knowledgeable investor is a better investor. If further advice is needed, a user can have their money professionally managed by one of the advisors.

WHAT MY ROLE MEANS FOR YOU

As for where I can add value to readers with my new role, I see three main areas:

1) I’ll integrate some relevant Daily Capital posts in my writing that add value to the subject. We’ve got a great team of writers with PhDs, MBAs, and relevant financial experience to share their insights. It’ll be up to me and the team to make sure the content is both professional and entertaining since we all know how dry personal finance subjects can get.

2) I’ll keep you updated with new value-added Personal Capital features to help existing users better manage their wealth. I speak with the CEO and Chief Product Officer on a weekly basis so I should have good real-time insights for users of Personal Capital’s software.

3) I’ll share interesting insights into startup life. I’ve gone from a very structured workplace dynamic to extreme freedom with entrepreneurship. My new role should land somewhere in the middle. I think you’ll enjoy following along the journey, especially if you’re considering working for a startup as well.

Some questions on the top of my mind include:

Is working at a startup all it’s cracked up to be? – There’s been a huge shift in college and MBA graduates moving away from traditional industries such as consulting and banking towards internet startups. I’d like to discover firsthand why this is given most graduates will likely get wealthier going the traditional route

Why do people move around so much in startup land? – The average startup employment duration is around 2.5 years, which is foreign to me since I worked at my last job for 11 years in a row. If you just stayed at Google for the past 10 years you’d be incredibly well-to-do. I’m not sure whether the hopping around is a function of more opportunities, a younger demographic, or startup culture in general. I’m loyal to a fault and am looking to gain new perspective.

Is part-time work feasible to maintain? – Startup culture is very focused on growth. As a result, there is an endless amount of work to do. Given I tend to be a workaholic when there is a goal at hand, I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to stay within the original agreement of roughly three days a week for 25 hours. 

Will anybody take my advice if I’m just part-time? – Sometimes it’s hard to change the status quo because of corporate inertia. Consultants are often brought in to shake things up to make things work better. As a result, consultants are often looked upon with a weary eye because who really wants to take the time to do something differently? It’s up to me as the new kid in school not to step on anyone’s toes, take a balanced approach, offer suggestions, and be an overall good team player. 

It’s important I write my posts from experience and not from pontification. Such experience will provide another unique perspective for Financial Samurai readers. Who else out there has the relevant experience and is willing to candidly document such an adventure? I’m excited to beef up my Career & Employment category this year.

LOOKING AHEAD

I’ll continue to post at least three times a week on Financial Samurai despite my added duties. Don’t worry about my productivity slipping here given my existing free time. Financial Samurai and the Yakezie Network are my babies that I’ll never abandon. But I think my babies have grown up to be relatively self-sufficient teenagers now.

I’d appreciate if everybody can go visit Daily Capital to lend some support to my new endeavor. I promise there will be some insightful content that seeks to educate and entertain. If you have any suggestions for areas of improvement, no matter how small, I’d love to hear them!

Any retirees or entrepreneurs out there go back to work part-time to fill their spare time? What did you learn from the experience? What didn’t you like from the experience? What did you do with the extra money you earned? Would you ever consider going back to work full-time if you really enjoyed your work or do you enjoy your freedom too much? 

Regards,

Sam

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    Sam,
    So it’s more than radio pitch-man. Very cool. Good luck on your new endeavor. I haven’t joined PC but I’m thinking about it. My 401k is not supported and that is a big chunk of my NW. Still may join for my other accounts. I’m a mint user and not real happy with it for investments.
    -RBD

    • says

      The radio ad spot was a learning experience. It took maybe an hour’s worth of tries to get it done. I’m probably going to record another one for Sirius sometime within the next week.

      Who hosts your 401(k)? Surprising it can’t get linked up. I can pass on feedback directly.

  2. says

    Way to go on the new chapter for your life! I’m a PC user and think they have a great product. The platform is super-engaging and easy to use, and the advice that is offered is never “in your face”. I’ve been very happy with my experience there and would definitely recommend signing up. I do not currently use the wealth advisory services but I think in future I would consider it. I find the aggregation of my accounts and balances to a really useful function and it’s definitely organized in such a way that it blows Mint and other competitors out of the water.

    Anyway – congrats! Hope it’s a fun journey. I’ll be sure to check out the Daily Capital blog.

  3. says

    Sam, listening to you on the radio the other day made me wonder if you were going to work for them, so I guess it is true….good luck with it, I think it is the perfect fit…

    Regards,

    Joe

    • says

      Thanks Joe. Funny you heard me on the radio. Now if someone says in my “As Seen In” banner about Sirius Satellite, you can be my witness!

      I never knew so many folks listened to Sirius. Seems hard to translate a radio ad spot into signing up for an account with PC, but maybe there are alternative benefits in branding.

  4. Chris says

    Congrats Sam! I think it’s perfect for you!!! I have some money sitting on the side lines and I’m definitely going to use Personal Capital~ I think it’s a perfect fit for your experience, work ethic, etc. Good luck and don’t work too hard! We need your posts at FS.

  5. Mike Hunt says

    Hi Sam,

    I was wondering when you were going to take the plunge on this… good for you- I think you are making a good move.

    I too am looking at potentially a board level advisory position at a start up, although this is while working full time concurrently.

    -Mike

  6. says

    This sounds like a perfect fit, Sam. They couldn’t have hired a better candidate. And kudos to them for looking past the fact that you’ll probably engineer a layoff on your way out the door. ;)

  7. Fatchance says

    Sam, I am happy for you. I like PC and have been on the fence about switching over to them to manage part of my porfolio. I still like to manage it myself, but their approach is very convincing. If anyone out there has not looked into Personal Capital, please at least get their literature. It is very easy to read and very compelling.

    Sam, how are you going to keep it under 25 hours per week? My prediction is you are going to kisk ass, drive in new business and then they are going to crank up the pay and workload. Not that there is anything wrong with that…

    • says

      Let’s see what happens! I’m curious to know after so much freedom whether I can get get accustomed to a rigid schedule again.

      I’ll definitely provide some feedback in three months.

  8. Austin says

    Their social share buttons need to be more prominent on their blog. Right now they’re tucked at the bottom of the content.

    Their blog is built on wordpress so it should be super simple for someone inhouse to program a custom post type and create a financial glossary to specific terms used in posts. A simple javascript find and replace could automatically create links to the glossary for terms found within posts. Great value add to the content, seo and increases the depth of the blog.

    Their 404 page is not be utilized to it’s greatest SEO potential. It’s just blank.

    The content is great but they have the budget, ability and brainpower to crank out additional formats with more potential for social momentum like video and infographics.

    I am sure they already have some strategic relationships with outlets like Business Insider and all of their employees should be signed up for helpareporter.com.

    A great way to increase engagement, brand awareness and traffic would be to add public facing Q&A forum where PC employees could respond to questions.

  9. says

    Congrats on your new adventure! Sounds like a great way to fill some of your down time in an engaging way. I like Personal Capitals platform. Makes it easy seeing everything in one place. Can’t wait to hear more about how it goes!

  10. says

    Sounds like a really fun and exciting gig. If you were going to do anything in “retirement”, I think PC would be a great fit for you! I look forward to seeing some awesome and engaging content on their blog.

  11. says

    Congratulation! It sounds like a great gig. I had a feeling it might be Personal Capital. It’s nice to be in the hot bed for start up. Northern CA is really great for that.

    • says

      I’m totally serious on SF being a great place to grow and enjoy life. There is so much opportunity, and also synergies for bloggers out here. I hope more folks can stop by and experience the boom for themselves.

  12. says

    I think you are right to wonder whether you will be able to keep it within the confines of part-time. After almost 3 years of retirement, I did the same thing, took on a pat-time consulting gig. I loved it! But after about a year, I realized, when you are doing something you love and you really want to do a good job, it’s hard to keep it confined to a few hours a week when everyone you are working with works almost around the clock.

    I did it for 2 years, and I’m really glad I did. It was great fun, I learned a lot about myself, and when I went back to full-time retirement I appreciated it MUCH more. It’s a great way to remind yourself of all the other things you wanted to do with your time that you didn’t really get around to in your first attempt at retirement (since you really start yearning for them when you’re busy working again.)

    You might even consider extending it in chunks rather than committing to an open ended term after your trial 3 months. That way, when you do decide you’ve had enough, you don’t feel so bad about extricating yourself!

    • says

      Hi Syd,

      Great perspective. I think it would be fun to keep jolting the system every so often to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. I’ve always felt that vacation feels that much more fun after a continuous stretch of hard work, just like eating a rib-eye tastes so good after a long run and a skipped lunch!

      Would you feel that agreeing to a chunk will face the same problem though if one decides to finish up?

      Thx

      • says

        Maybe, but in my case it took me 6 months to work up the courage to quit, because I knew it was going to make them really sad. If we had a set “extension” date, I wouldn’t have had to work up the courage for that conversation–it would have just been an automatic conversation at a set date. But I just want everyone to love me, so maybe a more secure person could just call it quits whenever they wanted to call it quits.

  13. says

    Congrats on the consulting gig! I think it is fantastic you found a “job” working for a company whose product you believe in – very rewarding.

  14. says

    Sam, I’m really excited to hear more about your transition and learn more about Personal Capital myself. And I must ask, how do you have 30 posts in your queue? I’m lucky if I can get a week ahead? Looking forward to hear about chapter 2.

  15. nbsdmp says

    Good for you Sam, I think you’ll really love it. Funny, because I had our company board mtg. in FL last week, and it was pretty clear to me that the individuals that are happiest in their retirement are the ones who aren’t really retired. They have their hands in a bunch of different stuff to keep themselves and their minds busy…it is not about the $, crazy part is though when you do something because you enjoy it, you usually end up being pretty good at it & money is a by-product.

    I look forward to hearing how it goes.

    • says

      It really isn’t about the money at all, although you do want to get paid what you’re worth. It’s all about the challenge and the ability to growth something from nothing. We shall see. I’ll do my best. That’s all I can do.

  16. says

    Congrats Sam! That’s a great company to be a part of from my outsider perspective. I hope you can accomplish great things there for both your consulting goals and PC’s goals.

  17. says

    Congratulations! Teaching (approx 22-30 hours per week) is part time compared to what I used to work (60-70 hours per week) years ago. The most important part is I like teaching. If you enjoy what you do, the hours do not matter.

  18. says

    Congrats Sam, that’s awesome! Good for you, glad to see you could leverage your blog into such a great opportunity on your terms. I look forward to following your progress.

    • says

      Thanks for the support Grayson! I hear mint has some great budgeting tools. The problem is, I just don’t actively budget. After doing the budget once, I know what my spending limit is and that’s it.

  19. Jojo says

    Congratulations Sam. I just signed up with PC recently and mentioned to them that it was recommended on your blog. PC is very easy to use and I love it. Definitely want learn more about PC. Good luck!

  20. says

    Hi Sam,

    Best of luck in this role. As a former PC employee who helped launch the Personal Capital 401k solution in 2012 I have a significant interest in all things PC. The 401k option spun out to us last July and many of my customers and their participants are using their dashboard or are clients. I was thrilled to see the company surpass $350M in AUM recently. I look forward to your content in Daily Capital and here on Financial Samurai.

  21. says

    Congratulations on finding that next perfect job! You’re living the American Dream: doing what you love, setting your own rules, AND making money at it.
    I think working PT is great. Having the structure 1) makes you appreciate your free time and 2) forces you to build a schedule where you get the most out of your week.
    I’m imagining that the turnover rate in “startup land” is high because unless there’s a decent paycheck or public recognition, it’s tough find the wherewithal to continue on that initial leap of faith for longer than 2.5 years. For every Google there must be a hundred businesses that failed. I’m in the process of creating my own business(es) and I feel I have to fight tooth and nail for any small victory I might earn.

    • says

      Just trying to make up for all the money I lost in the stock market recently :)

      Having the structure definitely makes me appreciate the free time more. And I’m also looking forward to writing lots about my experience in a professional manner of course.

      Congrats on getting your design line off the ground! It’s awesome to see you create and keep going. Your post is in the queue! Cheers

  22. says

    Sam, I think it’s great what you are doing this. I think your approach of using a product or tool like this that already fits in your expertise and then getting to know the CEO is smart. I think you’ve done the same thing for Prosper.com as well and being based in San Francisco makes this opportunity even more easy to do. I look forward to reading your progress.

    I once worked at a start-up for a year quitting my day job about 6 years ago. That start-up did not work out, but I learned some valuable lessons. I think start-up’s are risky, but if you know the founders and the type of people they are, I think it makes it less risky because you have a better idea of chance of success. I didn’t know the founders well enough or the business of the start-up I tried.

    I think people move around start-up’s so much because most fail and people want to find the next big opportunity or they got as much stake as they were going to get in a start-up and wanted more.

    Sam, for you, I think part-time work will be easy to maintain. You already have a philosophy of a strong work-ethic. And I don’t think this part-time work will be as stressful as your days on Wall Street. It will be fresh and new and you’ll learn a lot.

    I’ll take your advice even if you didn’t work at all. To me, it’s the person that matters more than their work schedule. You’ve already shown to be credible with everything you’ve done.

    • says

      Howdy Jeremy,

      Thanks for your kind words! Funny you mention Prosper.com, b/c you’re right, I did meet with a couple folks there over the years. The problem is I didn’t become an avid user of the product and get 100% comfortable with being a client, so I didn’t pursue the opportunity. I’m lucky PC has given me a chance to try things out and utilize my existing skills.

      You work at a veteran startup that was successfully acquired and that’s a great accomplishment. Do you have the urge to do something new?

      There’s different types of stresses with my new role. But they are not as great as Wall St. However, I’m realizing that stress is really created from within. If you have high expectations of yourself and don’t get there, you get stressed out!

      Best, Sam

      • says

        Sam, I do have the urge to try new things, though the comfort of a good job in a low-cost, but rising tech area like Utah does a good job at stemming me from going too hard at entrepreneurship, so instead I spend time with my family and good friends mostly and dabble in my side projects and website.

        I have been having a blast investing and watching the financial nut grow, particularly the peer to peer lending. I feel like you in that stocks took a nice beating and now I have to work harder for a bigger raise and bonus next year to make up for it.

        Here’s to your continued success and a bounce back for your IRA portfolio.

  23. says

    Sam,

    Congrats on the new gig! I’m sure it’ll be a slight shock to be back in a routine again after a couple of years of freedom, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it pretty quickly.

    Best of luck with PC. Seems like a great organization.

    Best wishes.

  24. Dan says

    Congrats, Sam. On the surface, this seems like a very logical move that should be mutually beneficial. I first heard of PC at Finovate a couple years back – downloaded the app on the spot and was instantly hooked. Since then, the UX has only gotten better – still lots of room for improvement, but a great product nonetheless.

    I look forward to following along as you tell the world about your experience. Just one (admittedly kind of irrelevant) comment – do you still consider Personal Capital a genuine “start-up?” Having raised a $25 million Series C and with a huge user base already, I consider them to be a bit later stage and more developed than a true start-up. So, while I think the culture and whole experience will definitely be reflective of a very young company, I wonder if it will really capture the true start-up experience. That aside – you built your own online business from nothing, so I guess you’ve already experienced working in an environment that’s as “start-up” as it gets.

    I digress – congrats, and hope you have a blast!

    • says

      Howdy Dan,

      Good to hear you are a user.

      You make a great point, and to answer your question, I would say “no.” Personal Capital is no longer a nascent startup in the way perhaps most people look at things. There’s about 100 employees now in three main offices (Denver, Redwood C, SF). But the marketing team is only 5-6 of us, and we operate with a lot of freedom.

      Perhaps my next role years down the road will be joining, consulting, and investing in a startup during their Series A funding!

      What is it that you do for a living?

      Sam

  25. May says

    Hi there:
    We have a lot in common. I’m a youngish retired person living in the Bay Area. I’ve worked in content management at prominent Internet companies for over 10 years and officially retired 3 years ago.

    My main goal during retirement was to pursue my dream of working for a non-profit without the hassles of making money. However, I miss the fast-pace of e-commerce and the intellectual fun of working with a bunch of smart, talented techies. At home, it gets boring when you only interface with only one or two people a day so I know what you’re talking about!

    So I’ve implemented a one year on, one year off plan. I work a full-time for one year and then take the next year off to live the retiree life. I can do this because I have a good reputation in the valley and there’s a steady demand for content folks these days. It’s working so far…

    • says

      Sounds like a great plan May. How old are you may I ask?

      My fear with your plan is the risk of not being able to find work after a year. Once I see something I like, I want to stick with it for usually 2-3 years. I used to think in 5 year chunks.

      How do you decide to let go and keep on going?

  26. Smith says

    Congratulations on the new job(s), Sam! How exciting, helping to grow a promising start-up, and helping a good tennis player to become a great tennis player. *And* using a couple of your biggest strengths. Way to go!

  27. says

    So it’s public news now, Sam? Congrats again! I look forward to helping you out with the content at Daily Capital. I love the Personal Capital cash flow and investment management online tools, and I understand your drive to work with a company that brings value to the consumer.

    I see this as a no-lose situation for you. After 3 months, you either decide you want to continue working with those guys or you shake hands and walk away. In the meantime, you get to figure out how the 25 hour/wk commitment jives with what you want to do in life. Maybe the social aspects and intellectual engagement will be worth the hassles. Best of luck, Sam!

  28. says

    Dear Sam – read your personal story…and was inspired. I and my wife immigrated to US @ age 24 with $500 to our names combined. Scrimped and saved and bought our first home at age 27, had 2 kids , worked hard at my primary job and made my first million before 35. Your philosophy resonates very well for me and there are many parallels, which has motivated me to write to you.

    Now at 41, I want to use the next decade to build something lasting with smart motivated founders in a startup. I struggle though with quitting and giving up what I have built and walking away into the unknown next followed by unknown nexts…I enjoy the jet setting lifestyle, people interactions and the big paycheck. Kids are still in school with college in the near future, but those costs are cared for.

    What was your bottom line reason/event/thought that motivated you to give it up and pursue your startup dream? Thanks for your responsiveness and transparency that has given you an impressive following and achievement on FC and probably what gave you success in life as well.

    I will also checkout Personal Capital platform…have been hounded by Merill lynch, Goldman etc to migrate my 401k to their IRA…have resisted till now and searching for a better way to continue to sustain my 18-20% returns with medium risk strategies.

    Mj

    • says

      Howdy,

      My impetus was that I didn’t want to look back on my life and regret not having ever tried entrepreneurship. I had saved religiously for 13 years for this day and felt comfortable I had enough. Negotiating a severance was a huge catalyst for finally giving me the courage to just go for it. It’s been two years and I’m very happy I did.

      Best,

      Sam

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