Tonight I do not have to set the alarm because tomorrow I do not have to go to work. After 13 years of climbing the corporate ladder, I finally reached the roof and discovered everything was as imagined. A lot of sun with the occasional pigeon cooing out yonder. I can now see through the entire valley, down towards the ocean. I am officially retired!
Ever since my first job in 1999 I’ve been saving like a juggernaut so that one day I might retire early. I’ve definitely had my ups and downs with the internet bubble, housing bubble, financial sector meltdown, and now the European debt crisis. There were several times I wanted to quit due to the immense pressure. But despite all of this, I stuck through it and “The Nut” continued to grow to the level of self-sustainability.
When I first graduated from college, I was presented with two choices. Choice number one was to go to Shenzhen, China and become the head of operations for a family friend’s new eyeglass factory after two years of training. It wasn’t a sexy job, but I would be able to fulfill my goal of working abroad, becoming fluent in a second language, and riding the China boom. The idea was to get some work experience and then do something on my own in the wild, wild East. Just two years prior, I got a chance to experience China for the first time as an exchange student and loved it.
The second option was equally exciting, working for a powerhouse firm in New York City to get rich the old fashion way. I was told around 8,000 people globally applied for 60 spots and for some reason, I got one of them. Although I had nothing to lose by going to China, I decided to play it safe and stay in the United States.
Despite appreciating the past 13 years, I’ve always wondered what it would be like if I took the other route. Perhaps it’s the reason why I’ve traveled internationally every year since graduation. Too bad we can’t live two concurrent lives! I’m an adventure seeker who moved around as a kid every two to four years thanks to my parents’ work. Staying in one place longer than five years was absolutely foreign to me.
After playing things conservatively for so long, I finally feel like now is the time to shake things up!
TAKING A LEAP OF FAITH IS EASIER WITH A LONG RUNWAY
About two years ago (2010), I decided that perhaps maybe, just maybe there might be a sustainable entrepreneurial business for me online. The markets were rebounding from its slaughtering a year prior and traffic on this site continued to grow. Yakezie.com launched and a group of some of the most talented personal finance bloggers on the web banded together to share ideas, contacts, and leads.
Shortly thereafter, I had friends and other bloggers sending notes of thanks for giving them the motivation to quit their jobs. It was surreal because many of us started with nothing the prior year. Furthermore, I still had a day job! There is a curse of making too much money because it prohibits you from pursuing other things. If I was making under $100,000 a year from my day job, I’d probably have quit with no parachute two years ago.
The more money you make, the greater the opportunity cost for doing something else. I was beginning to feel stuck making a decent income at a job that was beginning to dull after so many consecutive years of doing the same thing. I knew I had to create a plan! With Financial Samurai, I discovered my various income streams, tracked my spending habits, learned about new investments, tested the housing market, and discovered new avenues after the private sector. My site helps me learn and keeps me accountable, which is why I encourage all of you to start your own.
Given I’ve been saving about 70% of my after tax income for the past five years, I decided if I could create enough other income to equal 30% of my after tax income, I would retire. When I did that in 2011, I couldn’t pull the trigger because earning 30% of my day job income meant I wouldn’t save a single penny. For someone who has saved for so long, and so regularly, not saving was out of the question. As a result, I set a target to earn 50% of my average day job income.
In early 2012 I achieved my 50% goal, but again, felt like leaving my job cold turkey was not the right decision. Instead, I needed one last push. A push that would make me shout for joy!
Over the past two years, I’ve helped a number of people engineer their layoffs and receive healthy severance packages in the process. With each assist, I felt a greater urge to follow suit. Each person’s reason for leaving their job was different. One was burnt out, another had just given birth and wanted to be a SAHM, while another wanted to follow her dreams as a full-time artist.
It was now my turn to put my advice to good use. I told myself that if I could negotiate a severance package after 11 years of work, I would sign the dotted line and commit to being a full-time entrepreneur. I was well aware of what a potential severance package could be for someone with my experience, and I was very excited to see if I could make it happen. After about a month of negotiations, I sealed the deal!
During the entire process, I took meticulous notes on the steps it took to get laid off. I wrote down the key players involved and did endless hours of research to understand my rights as an employee. I interviewed five friends from various industry backgrounds whom I helped layoff to recap their experiences. With all this information in hand, I began to write and write my first book until 42,000 words were formed. My team and I then edited the book down to 37,000 of the most impactful words in 16 chapters.
Writing the book was an incredibly rewarding experience. It has brought me closer with loved ones as we shared more of our life stories. The book also forced me to open up a personal side I’ve never written before in a couple important chapters. When we take a step back to reflect, everything becomes clearer. We remind ourselves that time is fleeting and we learn about who we really are and what we truly want to do. I’m very excited to interact with all of you after you’ve read the book and follow your journey as well!
FILLING THE HOLE
Although I am happy for every person who tells me they quit their jobs, a part of me also cringes inside. My friends were leaving real money on the table to their employer’s delight. One buddy told me that the very next week after he quit his job of 10 years, his entire department got laid off with two weeks severance per year worked plus free health insurance for a year! What a painful mistake.
I am also afraid of what happens to my friends after they quit their jobs. Will they run out of money in six months? What if they can’t find another job in the industry they want? What if nobody believes in their entrepreneurial idea? What if they turn around and start blaming me for quitting their jobs and failing! I had to write something that could provide concrete advice to reduce these probabilities.
Other people told me they didn’t want to get laid off because it might burn bridges and look bad if they apply for another job. That might be true if you do it wrong, but it is certainly NOT the case if you do it right! I was a manager and I cannot tell you how many times I wished an underperforming subordinate would come to me and ask to get laid off. I would even take a high performing subordinate if they approached me the right way because letting people go is difficult.
Cyclical industries are notorious for going through boom and bust cycles. There are also surveys after surveys that show how unsatisfied workers are in their jobs. If you spend your time off building a business, writing a book, or doing anything productive, nobody is going to look down on you if you decide to re-enter the work force. Instead, they will be inspired and wish they could do the same! The problem is, I don’t hear many stories of people taking matters into their own hands and doing something about their situation! As a result, I know there are thousands of people out there who will find the book beneficial.
There are so many books about how to get a killer job, but there are no books about how to graciously leave your job and make a tidy sum in the process. People don’t realize their employees rights are incredibly powerful! For anybody who has ever felt trapped in their jobs, know that there is now a resource for you!
SO WHAT NEXT?
Develop Products: I will launch my book in the next week and share with you more details for those interested in doing something else with their lives. The book has been a two year process and has gone through over 30 revisions to make it as high quality as possible. I strongly believe the book will help everybody who is disgruntled with their jobs or simply looking to do something else. Unless you plan to work till death, there will be a backstop! I plan to write a series of books in different styles that promise to be edgy, helpful, and entertaining.
Update: I published How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Good-bye in mid 2012. The book has gone on to generate over $1,000 a month in passive income as more people look to find ways to negotiate a severance and leave a job they do not enjoy. For 2015, I’m finishing up another book that will be 170 pages long consisting of the best articles on FS. All proceeds after costs will go to charity.
Financial Samurai: Due to my increased time I will increase the posting frequency by 30%-50%. I plan to work with more personal finance clients, roll out new consulting services, build valuable content around my book, and be a little bit more open about my personal finances now that I’m no longer under Big Brother’s watch. Perhaps I’ll finally redesign the site after so many years. I will look into some commercial aspects of blogging as well given this will be my main source of income. I’m looking forward to steering this ship in a slightly new direction by providing insights into entrepreneurship, financial self-sustainability, early retirement, and travel.
Update: Site was redesigned in January 2014, the site has grown to about one million pageviews a month, and content product has increased by 30-50% a week.
Extended Travel: Two weeks off at a time is the longest duration I’ve ever spent since 1999. I’m looking forward to taking three to four weeks off at a time in Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, and abroad with San Francisco as my home base. After taking six weeks off total a year for my last two years, I’ve discovered that my ideal amount of time off is somewhere around eight to ten weeks. It’s going to be a challenge hitting that mark! I say “challenge” because I really enjoy working and probably won’t be able to stay away too long.
Update: I took 10 weeks off in 2012 and another 10 weeks off in 2013 to see roughly 14 new countries in Europe. My favorite is Santorini, Greece and all over Mallorca. 10 weeks feels just right.
Discover New Occupations: I’m going to look at retirement as an extended sabbatical to see if there are any good fits in other industries. Anything internet related seems like a natural extension. The problem I foresee is that although I’ve got my graduate degree and experience, I will probably have to start at a lower relative level if I want to get in. This is something I accept as part of my desire to do something new. There are so many opportunities out there for all of us! We just have to look. My main issue is that after working for myself, I will never want to go back to working for someone else again!
Update: I’ve been able to pivot into consulting at several marketing departments of different financial technology companies since 11/2013.
Go At My Own Pace: Part of being retired is finding a pace that feels most comfortable. It’s kind of like finding your steady body weight where you feel good, look good, but still get to stuff your face with hot fudge sundaes on occasion. I think my ideal routine is four hours of work, one and a half hours of exercise, and the rest of the time spent with family and friends. If not, I’ll adjust accordingly.
Reset To Zero: I’d like to completely rely on my entrepreneurial income to survive and ignore all the capital that has been accumulated since college. If ramen is all I can afford, ramen is all I will eat! I don’t want to get comfortable living off my passive income streams because I fear laziness will eventually take hold. Instead, it’s more fun to be a bootstrapping entrepreneur who doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to pay all his monthly bills. That way, I hope to keep the hunger going for as long as possible!
Update: My passive income has grown thanks to renting out my old home and buying a new one. There’s work to be done maintaining unruly tenants, but hopefully things work out for the best. Here’s my passive income update for 2015.
DEFINE YOUR OWN RETIREMENT
Retirement has always been about doing whatever I want, whenever I want without having much financial worry. I imagine retirement means the same for many of you as well. I was so tempted to pull the trigger these past several years and I’m glad I waited until now.
Please believe me when I say the sacrifice of studying like crazy, getting into work before the sun rises, leaving work after the sun sets, starting a venture in your spare time, going to school part-time, and always trying again after failure is well worth it! Do it while you still have the energy! Once the foundation is set, you will have the optionality to do whatever you please.
Always remember that hard work requires no skill. Thanks for all your support so far!
Updated on 2/19/2015, roughly three years since I left Corporate America. It’s been a blast and much less scary, and much more rewarding than I thought.