Since I was 12 I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was surrounded by kids whose parents started beverage companies (e.g. Yeoh’s) or launched wonderful resorts (e.g. Pulau Tenggol) while living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They lived in nice homes and drove fancy cars. I was smitten. Yet even when I was given a clear opportunity to go to China for a startup opportunity in 1999, I couldn’t say “yes” because I was scared and received an offer from a bulge bracket firm in NYC. Nobody turns down Goldman Sachs right out of college so I toiled in the finance world for the next 13 years.
I’ve always wondered what my life would be like if I took the entrepreneurial path instead. My Mandarin would be excellent, that I know at the very least. Maybe I would have been prescient and bought as much property in Beijing as possible before prices rocketed through the roof. Maybe I would be thrice divorced with multiple children given the rules of business engagement are quite different out East. Who knows, but it’s always fun to pontificate.
By the age of 35 I decided I had enough of working for someone. Although I was scared of leaving the comforts of a handsome income, I also knew I’d regret not finally giving entrepreneurship a go in my 30s. Unlike being a nubile 22 year old, I was an industry veteran in finance with an MBA and a large financial safety net thanks to all those years of savings. What was there to lose except for everything?
Major props goes to those who start businesses after becoming a parent. If I ever become a father I think I’d be so focused on not messing parenthood up that I’d leave little-to-no time for entrepreneurship. As a result, my chances of making it as an entrepreneur would be slim-to-none. I’m a very focused individual who is unwilling to fail due to a lack of effort.
As soon as I left Corporate America, I began writing twice as much on Financial Samurai. I created a brandable product on how to negotiate a severance package within the first four months of being free. Coincidence or not, as soon as the book launched traffic more than doubled every month since. Although income from the book is still only a measly $1,000-$1,500 a month on average, total online income streams grew to the point where it’s now greater than my current passive income streams. I think I’m dreaming most of the time.
ALWAYS FELT A LITTLE TOO LUCKY AND SOMEWHAT GUILTY
Despite the 70 hour workweeks on Wall St. and the intense stress, I’ve always felt like I didn’t fully deserve to make the money I was making. Income is obscene compared to every other industry I know of. Working for a corporation almost felt like CHEATING. I didn’t build any products at Goldman, nor did I do anything to establish its reputation. All I had to do was get in, not screw things up, and a six figure income was mine after the first full year of work. I’ll write a post about getting into Wall St. at a future date if interested.
Meanwhile, I saw my friends launch startups out of nothing. One classmate created DormNow.com, a now defunct internet consumer company targeting college kids. They sold things like lava lamps, condoms, and bubble chairs. Throwing campus parties was their marketing strategy. Sign me up! I loved the idea and was so close to investing $20,000. Even though their company went bust two years later during the 2001 dotcom flameout, I always highly admired them for taking risks when I could not (China offer).
I wanted to create something out of nothing as well. If you think about it, every single company had to be created by someone. I guess Wall St. folks are pros and creating something out of nothing (a dig), but I wanted to create something that was consumable, helpful, and long lasting. This is where content creation comes in. Although some of you may not feel like my posts are “products” in the traditional sense, to me they absolutely are. I look forward to sharing the knowledge I’ve garnered in finance with all of you as well as look back on my writing when I’m old to have a chuckle. Although typos exist all the time, I do my best to create as much quality content as possible. Please shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment whenever you see one. I’ll fix it right away.
Because working for a corporation felt like the easy way to make money, I also wanted to prove that I could make six figures on my own. It took four years of consistent effort, but I can check this goal of my list thanks to my websites. If you are thinking about going off on your own, please establish an online presence by at least registering your name and building your profile. A good idea might not come for a while, but I trust that if you think long enough something will appear.
The issue I now face is that it feels off making money while having so much fun. Sure, I’ll have down moments as I wrote in this post, but shouldn’t I feel the dread of waking up in the mornings to go to work or the pain of flying six hours across the country in a middle seat to take a difficult client out to lunch? What happened to the initial hardship when I explained that a day job is so much easier than entrepreneurship? I used to be fine with every inconvenience as a bright-eyed 20-something year old. I was hungry to build my financial nut and naive enough to believe I could change the world. Now I’m a saltier veteran who still has a fading glimmer of enthusiasm emitting between battle scarred eyes.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO STAY BROKE TO KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED
It’s much better starting from nothing and becoming wealthy over years of sweat and tears than inheriting lots of money. The first way gets you to be more appreciative of what it takes to make money while the second way leads to disillusionment. How many people do we know suddenly come into a lot of money only to piss it all away? (Read: What To Do With A Financial Windfall)
There’s only one problem with working so long and so hard for your money. Sooner or later you will lose your motivation no matter how in tune you are with society. You’ll start believing that you deserve everything you’ve got. You’ll begin to take ridiculous amounts of vacation because what do you care about work? Inane things like a government shutdown makes you feel better because suddenly 500,000-800,000 more people are kicking back as well. You start putting off clear opportunities because you just can’t be bothered to put in the effort.
As my passive income streams grow it’s becoming incredibly difficult to stay motivated to make more. I know I should be doing a better job monetizing Financial Samurai, but talking about unmonetizable topics such as fatherhood and complicated relationships is so much more fun. I’m kind of sick of watching all my financial accounts, which is why I have a free online software system to do it for me by sending me weekly net worth updates over e-mail. I’m also much more amenable to paying a financial adviser 1% of my assets so she can look after my money as I concentrate on living a free life that has nothing to do with making more money.
THE BIGGEST REWARD IS ALWAYS THE JOURNEY
Take it from someone who reached his financial goals early on but is struggling to want to make more. Yes, this is a first world problem. Part of me wishes I didn’t financially peak so soon in my early 30s. Instead, it would have been nice to work a little longer until 40-45. I wouldn’t have had to sacrifice as much in my 20s for financial freedom. It’s like investing in a terrific 20% IRR asset for 13 years and suddenly getting all your money back. What am I supposed to do with the capital now?
I look to my blogging colleagues who sold their websites for millions of dollars and guess what they are all doing? They all continue to write for their sites they sold years ago! They just can’t stay away because blogging was such a big part of their lives for so long. To replicate their success in other avenues would be very difficult so they stick with what they know. One friend confided in me that he wishes he didn’t sell so early right after the financial crisis. He longs for complete editorial control and perhaps much higher valuations now that the bull market is back. Peaking too soon can be a curse because nothing may ever be as good.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a grocery story clerk who is trying to scrounge up enough money to live on his own or you’ve got $1 million in investable assets. What matters most are the little behavioral changes you make and the financial milestones you achieve . When you’re in the moment, you feel the most alive because this is all you know. If you’re not in the moment you start becoming apathetic to those around you.
STARTING AN ONLINE BUSINESS
It’s been over seven years since I started Financial Samurai and I’m actually earning a good passive and active income stream online now.
I never thought I’d be able to quit my job in 2012 just three years after starting Financial Samurai. But by starting one financial crisis day in 2009, Financial Samurai actually makes more than my entire passive income total that took 15 years to build. If you enjoy writing, creating, connecting with people online, and enjoying more freedom, see how you can set up a WordPress blog in 15 minutes with my step-by-step tutorial. You just never know where your journey will take you once you start building your brand online.
It’s all about leveraging the internet to be free and grow your wealth!
Updated for 2017 and beyond.