Abolish Welfare Mentality: Janitor Makes $235,812 Plus $36,652 In Benefits

If you want to get rich, you must abolish welfare mentality. Having a welfare mentality will keep you from taking calculated risks and giving your best effort.

Welfare mentality makes you depend on others to succeed. Welfare mentality is the opposite of having an abundance mindset where you firmly know you deserve to be rich!

Below is a passage that shows the difference between someone with welfare mentality versus someone with abundance mentality.

A guy looked at a Corvette the other day and said to me in a disapproving tone, “I wonder how many people could have been fed for the cost of that car?”

I replied, “I'm not sure. It fed a lot of families in Kentucky who built it. The Corvette fed the people who made the tires. The car fed the people who made the components. It fed the people who mined the copper. The Corvette fed the people who made the trucks that hauled the copper ore. The car fed someone who helped sell the car.”

That's the difference between having an abundance mentality and a welfare mentality. When you buy something, you put money in people's pockets and give them dignity for their skills.

Abolish Welfare Mentality If You Want To Get Rich

If you don't know by now, many people make or have A LOT more than you think. When you see people playing tennis in the park or lounging around at a cafe on a weekday afternoon, it's unlikely because they are unemployed. It's because they either don't need to work or have flexible business hours.

Every week I hear a new story about a person who makes or has way more than you'd ever expect. They make six figures a year doing regular jobs or jobs you might think are beneath you.

Here are some examples:

  • Uber drivers who make more than their Uber corporate counterparts.
  •  A University of New Hampshire librarian who left $4M to his school.
  •  A Hawaiian entrepreneur who started a greasy spoon franchise and was selling his $8M house that only another entrepreneur could afford.
  • A heavy haul truck driver said ,”I haul wind turbines, aircraft wings, engines. I made $847,689.23 so far this year. After taxes, fuel permits, and escorts, this year I take home $326,000 more or less.”

Know That Making Big Bucks Is Possible

The point of these posts is to highlight what's financially possible. Going to a good school to get a job in a traditionally lucrative field isn't the only way to make good money.

Just because you couldn't get into the greatest school on Earth, The College of William & Mary, doesn't mean your life is over. I'm joking because William & Mary is my alma mater and it isn't traditionally considered one of the elite schools in the country.

Too many people tell themselves they don't have the knowledge, skills, connections, background, or pedigree to get rich. Some even stunt their growth because they believe their race, gender, or sexual orientation puts them at a disadvantage. They need to abolish welfare mentality.

Heck, you could also attend Harvard University and still end up a nobody!

What a shame to think this way when we had a half-black president, plenty of first generation immigrant multi-millionaires, a gay CEO at Apple, a Black female mayor of San Francisco, and J-Lo!

Abolish welfare mentality and a scarcity mindset. Believe you deserve to be rich.

Six Figure Janitor Cleaning Up

Let's say you still don't believe you can be rich despite all my examples. How about this example of a Bay Area Rapid Transit janitor who made $235,000 in 2015 thanks to $165,000 in over time pay! Now imagine how much he's making in 2021!

To be a janitor, you don't need to go to college or vocational school. You don't need to be a certain race or sex either. All you've got to do is be willing to clean unsightly things. In other words, practically everybody can be a janitor, unless you're too proud.

BART janitor makes $271,000 gross pay
Source: http://transparentcalifornia.com/agencies/salaries/

Mr. Zhang actually grossed $271,243.02 in 2015 if you include his benefits. Over the last three years, Mr. Zhang received a combined $682,000 in pay and benefits over the last three years, averaging $227,000 a year.

What's great about this story is that Mr. Zhang didn't just accept his $58,750 base pay. He decided to take advantage of the BART overtime system and work harder. San Francisco has a monster $9.5 billion annual budget. We also passed an enormous $3.5 billion new proposition to improve the system. Why not get your honey money too?

“Almost every day of the year Mr. Zhang is cleaning our stations,” BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said. “He is signing up for time that is also available to others — if he doesn’t take them, someone else will. Station cleanliness is a priority for us.”

Did you get that folks? Mr. Zhang wasn't a “privileged janitor” who got allocated more time than others. All he decided to do was out work his colleagues. Unlike some people who found Mr. Zhang's compensation outrageous, I say well done sir!

For those of you with similar or more “advantageous” backgrounds, there's no reason why you can't make as much as Mr. Zhang if you really want to. Mr. Zhang abolished welfare mentality and decided to keep on going. He made zero excuses.

Once you start regularly making six figures a year, the math to make over a million dollars a year becomes much clearer. You don't have to make seven figures a year, but you know you have the ability to if you really want to.

Traits To Adopt To Be Rich

If you want to be rich, not only do you need to abolish welfare mentality, you need to adopt these traits.

Develop A Strong Work ethic. 40 hours a week is an arbitrary amount of time to work. There are 168 hours in a week. If you worked just five hours more a week, think about how much more you could make or do with an extra 260 hours a year.

Mr. Zhang decided to work almost every day of the week for years! You might not have the same chance, but at least you can work on your side business during the weekends.

Escalator Worker Pay, abolish welfare mentality
Source: Transparent California

Desire. You’ve got to really desire to be free. If you’ve got a cushy job that pays you just enough not to leave, then you’re probably just going to stay put and surf Financial Samurai most of your working hours. Remove the complacency IV from your vein.

Risk taker. Put yourself out there. Rejection is just the name of the game when you are constantly taking risks. But if you’re never failing, then you aren’t trying hard enough. It takes effort to find optimal levels of happiness. Develop your X factor!

Open mind. Think about the many different ways there are to cook fish around the world. There are even more ways to make money and live a lifestyle you want. Read, watch, learn and participate to open your mind.

Humility. Don’t be so arrogant and presume that your way is the only way. Be humble enough to realize when you’re wrong. And when things start to click, be humble enough to remember when things went wrong. Things can change instantly.

Leverage. “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world,” wrote Archimedes. An individual can only put in about 70 hours a week of before they start breaking down. Instead, leverage technology to reach more people. A website's quality remains constant 24/7.

Organizational discipline. Think about all those people who’ve made a ton and now wonder where it all went. Once you’ve got a solid handle on your money, you can invest your money in the most optimal ways possible. Tracking your finances through a free financial app is a no brainer.

Grit. I firmly believe too many people quit before things start getting good. The secret to your success is to have unwavering commitment for years. Financial Samurai had little growth and made hardly anything during the first year. 11 years later in 2020, Financial Samurai is an established personal finance site because I published 3X a week since 2009 without fail.

Believe In Yourself And Say No To Welfare Mentality

Thinking about creative ways to earn more is hard. It's why so few people offered their ideas when requested in “Get Rich By Predicting The Future.” But I promise you that it becomes easier building wealth the more you practice.

Take a look at this priceless piece of artwork below. It's called “Into The Night” by an artist that's been featured in many major media publications. Notice the intricate battle between light and dark.

It's a metaphor of our daily struggles where we're constantly trying to overcome our laziness and fears. If you let your eyes relax, you can see darkness winning the battle.

The painting is exquisite and would sell for over $100 million if Jackson Pollock created it.

Financial Samurai Jackson Pollock Art - abolish welfare mentality

A Masterpiece By A Novice

Alas, I created this painting when I was 26 on my now rental condo balcony. I used some leftover blue, white and black paint to get creative while waiting for the rooms to dry.

Then I created a yellow and black version. I then created another, and another, and another until I ran out of paint. Finally, I cut off my ear like Van Gogh! Just kidding.

Financial Samurai Art 2 - abolish welfare mentality

Yes, my art might look like chicken scratch to you. But to me, they are beautiful because I never thought I'd be able to create any type of art at all until I tried. If I had kept practicing my art every week for 13 years, I'm sure I would have a portfolio of amazing work. No wonder why schools try to expose kids to everything just in case something sticks.

Keep On Creating And Believe You Deserve To Be Rich

Although I gave up art as a young lad, I didn't give up my creative writing because I believed in myself. Every week someone who doesn't write for a living tells me my writing sucks.

If it's not my writing they're criticizing, it's my website design. If it's not my website design, it's my intelligence. The body blows keep coming and I keep advancing. Thank goodness because being able to do something this fun in early retirement is truly a blessing.

Buy This Not That Book Best Seller On Amazon

Now that I've come up with a new bestselling book entitled, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom, there are more critiques who embrace a welfare mentality. Instead of embracing an abundance mentality to get rich, they focus on the negatives. What a shame!

I got rejected by every literary agent I contacted back in 2010 and 2011. So instead of waiting for permission from the gatekeepers, I decided to consistently publish three times a week on Financial Samurai instead. Then, at the end of 2019, I finally got an unsolicited inquiry from Portfolio Penguin, one of the best nonfiction imprints in the world to offer me a book deal. And now BTNT is a bestseller because I refused to quit. I believed!

If you find yourself chalking up someone's entire good fortune to luck or if you catch yourself criticizing another for their efforts, slap yourself in the face. Your welfare mentality is keeping you down. Mr. Zhang is out there hustling. So can you.

Move On From A Job You Dislike

If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend everybody negotiate a severance. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training.

When you get laid off, you're also eligible for up to roughly 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out the book, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye. It's the only book of its kind that teaches you how to negotiate a severance. It was recently updated and expanded thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.

Add to Cart

Invest In Real Estate

Real estate is my favorite asset class to build wealth for the average person. By investing in real estate, you own an asset class that appreciates with inflation and generates income for you. With interest rates way down, the value of real estate and rental income has gone up.

If you're interested in a hands off approach to real estate investing, consider investing in a publicly traded REIT or in real estate crowdfunding.

Best Private Real Estate Investing Platforms

Fundrise: A way for all investors to diversify into real estate through private funds with just $10. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and manages over $3.3 billion for 400,000+ investors. 

The real estate platform invests primarily in residential and industrial properties in the Sunbelt, where valuations are cheaper and yields are higher. The spreading out of America is a long-term demographic trend. For most people, investing in a diversified fund is the way to go. 

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations and higher rental yields. These cities also have higher growth potential due to job growth and demographic trends. 

If you are a real estate enthusiast with more time, you can build your own diversified real estate portfolio with CrowdStreet. However, before investing in each deal, make sure to do extensive due diligence on each sponsor. Understanding each sponsor's track record and experience is vital.


I've invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding so far. My goal is to diversify my expensive SF real estate holdings and earn more 100% passive income. I plan to continue dollar-cost investing into private real estate for the next decade.

Track Your Finances Diligently

After you abolish welfare mentality, it's time to diligently track your finances. I recommend signing up for Empower’s free financial tools so you can track your net worth, analyze your investment portfolios for excessive fees, and run your financials through their fantastic Retirement Planning Calculator.

Those who are on top of their finances build much greater wealth longer term than those who don’t. They've abolished welfare mentality to its core. I’ve used Personal Capital since 2012. It’s the best free financial app out there to manage your money.

Retirement Planner Personal Capital
Is your retirement on track? Check for free after linking your accounts

Abolish Welfare Mentality If You Want To Get Rich is a FS original post. Stop thinking you can't get rich or you particular job is beneath you! The goal is to become financially independent so you can do whatever you want.

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160 thoughts on “Abolish Welfare Mentality: Janitor Makes $235,812 Plus $36,652 In Benefits”

  1. Sam, your artwork looks great. I’ve seen plaint splatter artwork that sold for thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. I’m not artistic enough to understand. How much would it take to commission a piece of art from you? :)

    1. Hah! Thanks Ceci.

      I’ll do some commissioned original art for $10,000 each. Could be worth $100,000 or more if I ever get famous! :)

      After all, my book with Penguin Random House is coming out on June 28, 2022.

  2. In the private sector, most “professional” jobs above a certain income threshold do not get any “overtime” pay. A transit janitor making above $230K/year will never happen in the private sector. Allowing a janitor (and many other similar public transit staff) with low skillsets making top 1% salary and more than people with college/advanced degrees/skillsets just proves that the government is incompetent and inefficient, wasting money from hard working taxpayers.

    1. Exactly my thought when I read the example. I’m Brazilian, and most people here have the “government job mentality.” Government jobs pay extremely well, and have several benefits. A federal prosecutor’s starting salary, for instance, — excluding the lavish benefits — is almost 4 times higher than what the average attorney makes. So many people’s dream is to land a government job and be set for life — besides the pay, it’s almost impossible to be fired, there are few work hours and long paid vacations, you can retire very early, and pension benefits are very high. These people study for several years until they’re able to pass the extremely competitive tests that qualify one for a public job. I have an acquaintance who worked for a regulatory agency a few decades ago. He says he worked for 3 out of the 8 daily hours he was supposed to work Monday through Friday (40 hour week). He tells me there wasn’t any extra work to do and the managers didn’t care he left early, because everybody else at his level did the same thing and the managers themselves usually just showed up for an hour and left (unless it was a Friday, which they often just didn’t bother to show up). If you want something done efficiently, don’t let the government, especially the federal government, do it.

  3. I’m 100% behind your attitude and it’s one I’ve adopted. Some of those people you mentioned are definitely making the most out of their opportunities.

    I will say though, that in California and I’m sure other areas, government jobs can often pay a LOT. In our city we’ve got people with no education making well over $100k working for towns and cities and these people get nothing done.

    The student that paid cash… she paid for it from dirty money from China. That’s extremely common in California – dirty money rules chinese purchases. So I think that’s a terrible example because her parents were dirty politicians and/or businessmen and that’s how they obtained that money.

    So maybe the examples aren’t perfect but I 100% agree with this attitude. I was severely underemployed a few years back and I changed my mentality and stayed positive and now am making six figures at a job I really enjoy. Of course I worked my butt off but plenty of people do that as well and don’t make it to six figure land. I’m not a techie either

  4. Eric Youmans

    This country destroys thousands of new cars, crushing and recycling them because there is not enough demand and the production lines must go on making new models every year. We have tent cities of homeless while millions of houses go empty, unused, foreclosed. There are serious issues on a macro level with the U.S. economy that your silly janitor story cannot distract the masses from.

  5. Dumb story. First of all virtually zero employers are going to pay that much overtime. Only a reckless employer (i.e. government) that has zero accountability or budget to maintain can give so many hours at time and a half. 99% of private companies would be giving 5-8 hours over time max per week before they start looking at bringing in more staff to take care of the work.

  6. That janitor is not normal. Even assuming he never eats/sleeps/etc, there’s only around 8760 hrs in a year. That averages out to a ludicrous $31/hr. I’m not going to complain if does a good job, but let’s be honest, nobody pays janitors $31/hr (assuming he does eat/sleep/etc, his effective payrate is much higher).

      1. Do you actually believe this stuff, or do you just write this way because it generates money in hate-clicks?

        Like, it’s transparently obvious on a basic logical level that it’s inherently impossible for more than a small percent of people to make this sort of money. Imagine that literally every person in the US is a hard-working genius. The same low-paying jobs will still need to be worked, and money won’t come from nothing.

        This logic can be used to justify literally any society where a non-zero number of people are rich.

          1. The janitor is a bad example for you. He was cheating the system. An investigation found that he had spent hours of his “overtime” in a closet, not working.

            A simple google of his name will point you to a lot of articles about it.

              1. Thats some hollow motivation and wisdom you are spewing… kind of like your painting in a way; you stroke your ego saying it could be worth 100 million and give your dear readers the amazing deal of 4.8 when really, the metaphor doesn’t even work:
                if you let your eyes relax, the black does dominate but not the other way around; they just become equal; stuck in a stalemate until you let your eyes relax again, and the darkness comes back to haunt you.
                The same way those who actively listen to your advice will never dominate the black until they get tired of following your advice and get consumed into darkness again… in a way, your painting has a very symbolic meaning; one that is very revealing of the scam “artist” behind it.

                1. I like the metaphor Dustin!

                  I’m not sure if I’m a very good scam artist since I don’t charge anything to read my posts.

                  However, if you have paid me any money, I’ll happily refund it. Just send me your Venmo or PayPal account.

                  And if you’d like to share anything about yourself, I’d love to hear it. No judgment here. It is always intriguing to hear the background of my dissenters. Thanks!

              2. I work 95% of my work time. the rest is the 5 minutes mental break I take when I can or a quick conversation with my colleague. I live in Germany and make 32400 before Tax.
                I barely can live on that, much less save any money. I am a professional in my field but not college educated and make more than the average person.
                Overtime will not be compensated, if I want it compensated I have weeks of struggle for scraps. If I could earn extra money for overtime I would but its not possible. So what would you tell me?

        1. “Imagine that literally every person in the US is a hard-working genius. The same low-paying jobs will still need to be worked, and money won’t come from nothing.”

          Is their hard work and genius nothing? Surely those things generate value that could result in wealth?

          There isn’t some fixed set of jobs available that “need to be worked”. If we produce more, there is more to be had.

          What are the premises behind your assertion that it’s “impossible for more than a small percentage of people to make this sort of money”? There are no natural laws dictating that the supply and distribution of money take any particular shape.

  7. Not sure why the 26 yr old who landed a $250K gig at Airbnb would be considered a non-techie. He says in his blog he giving CS-heavy lectures in his previous role. He also “made a brand new project, heavier on computer science and built in React, to show off my knowledge of front-end development”…..guy is a techie.

  8. MyEarly RetirementJourney

    There was another story about a millionaire janitor in Vermont. #janitorsbekillingit

  9. I love articles like these because they are inspiring and highlight what’s possible. However, my concern was that, in order to make that much, he had to work almost all of his day. Sacrificing his family life, sleep and health. Is this true or is anyone able to make a sizable income if they just work a little more every week.

    1. I’ve known several people, including myself for 5 years, that worked 16 hours per day to meet our financial goals. Not everyone will want to take this path but it didn’t put undue strain on me mentally or physically. I invested all the extra money in real estate and my daughter will get her college Tuition paid from rent money. No begging the government for free money (btw I support college grants) and no worrying about student debt.

      Do what’s important to you. Make sacrifices but don’t sacrifice your life.

  10. Geraldo Jorge

    Hi Financial Samurai,

    The janitor case is simple impossible in Brazil. Here in Brazil people rarely are payed for extra hours of work, graduates included.

    Yes, our work ethics suck. Actually I am not sure we can even call work ethics.

    But, I agree that people usually have many more options than they like to think. It´s a relief think that you did all you can. Not just about money, but about everthing in life.

    I know a girl that is not mega rich, but have more than enought money to do everthing she want with her life, but she say that she don´t have any other option except be a teacher. I don´t talk with her anymore. Any one with this kind of mind deserve what got in life.

  11. I love stories like this. Somebody figures out how to make a lot of money quickly, jumps in without hesitation, and crushes it. Now he has a better pension and a nest egg to invest and make even more money passively. In just a few years of all-out effort. The larger bigger pension gives him leverage to invest the nest egg a little more aggressivly and he’ll have the time to learn how to invest. Of course, it could all go wrong and the money could be wasted. I have read often that people who receive windfalls are usually broke within a year.

    I kind of did the same (big effort) when I was abruptly retired 12 years ago without even knowing how or what to do. I bought a house with a big mortgage and no job, rented out a suite and 2 rooms, and free-lanced and worked at minimum wage jobs. For the first few years I worked every day at about 5 different jobs, and cooked a nice dinner for my lovely adult foreign English student boarders every day. After about 5 years, I stopped working and taking boarders, got smarter and took over management of my nest egg, taught myself how to invest and was lucky, it grew very fast. And of course with compounding it grows faster every year.

    At first I tried to tell friends that they could make a lot of money investing and renting the last few years before and after retirement, but they all immediately claim it is not possible, they hate managing money, they hate having renters, etc.

    I used to tell the success story of my 27-year-old trainer to people (already owned a house and several rental properties, put himself through university with no debt), and the “welfare mentality” crowd still said it was impossible for young people to afford a house and he must be doing something illegal!

    Now I travel 6 months of the year and practice stealth wealth (learned that the hard way). If somebody asks how I do it, I say I live in my basement and drive a 28 year old car. People are very hostile to success as many of the comments in this post show.

  12. You missed the point of the Janitor story. His ability to sign up for all overtime available was based on seniority. His coworkers stepped aside, because he was in his final years before retirement and his retirement benefit would be based on the average salary over the past three years. When he retires, the next in line would be given this opportunity. People who designed the system did not expect this level of solidarity and self discipline from a seemingly unorganized group. This is not about hard work, this is about taking advantage of the system.

  13. Sorry for being a party pooper here. But the outlandish total compensation packages for janitors are likely not the result of hard work but a symptom of the broken and bloated public sector where a few folks have figured out how to game the system. Next time they raise your property taxes and state income taxes you know where your money is going! I’m pretty sure that there are thousands of people working at McDonald’s and working longer and harder than this janitor and still make only a fraction. That’s where the real income inequality is!

  14. FinancePatriot

    Growing up, my parents had the welfare mentality. I was a rebel, and had the abundance mentality. I used to fight with them that they were mismanaging their finances and I could do it better for them. It turns out my sassyness as a teen was correct and we now have 7 figures. Hey we just recently joined the club, but it’s still an exclusive club to be in. I don’t miss government cheese in our house at all. Keep the f’in cheese, I want a life of frugality with lots of extra money in my house. Epic success. Heck, I can’t even say I really busted my @ss to do this, like you did Sam. I have been generally somewhat lazy in life, but I am also 40 and still working so I suppose that’s a trade off.

  15. FreedomLifePlanning

    While I agree with hard work and having the right attitude, whats the point of making that much money if you have no spare time to spend it? Life is about balance and I hope this gentlemen takes advantage of this extra cash and invests it wisely to buy back some time in the future.

    1. Very cool that he gets to make money sleeping on the job and taking so many breaks! Very smart man who is working the system to his benefit. If you think about it, how many people in the private sector really work at least eight hours a day. I would say nobody.

      I wonder with the increase in San Francisco property taxes and income taxes whether we should pay him and his colleagues more like $500,000 for him to work harder? What do you think?

  16. I worked as much overtime as I could for the first twenty years at my office. There are many here that refuse to work one minute of overtime. It is almost like having a second job. I used the money to put my wife through college. Now I have two children attending private school. I was able to buy a nice home in the San Francisco Bay Area which has appreciated nicely. I have been able to max out my 401K for many years and contribute to a 529 plan. Now I am starting to work a little less and trying to enjoy my time away from work. Most of my coworkers are still renting in San Francisco and their rent is higher than my mortgage. They are all leasing vehicles while my daily driver is a 1990 Toyota 4Runner with 180,000 miles on it. Most of them do not put anything into their 401K plan and also have little to no savings. I always hear them asking when the next pay day is going to be so they can make rent.

  17. I disagree. Even if the guy worked all 168 hours a week, and has a high rate of say $12 an hour, and got 1.5 times pay for hours 31-80, then got double overtime for hours 81-168. If he did all of that he would be at $174224 gross. That’s math.

    Plus ya know what. What are you to do, trust the authorities to give you a break? Trust the majority to let you earn more them then? If the people know what you’re doing, then at best they will let you do it and take as much profit for themselves as they can. Even now the forces are probably mustering to take this hard workers money. The people won’t let you win.

  18. Your First Million

    Wow I really like this post! Especially the abundance mentality quote in the beginning! I wish this perspective was more apparent to most people.

    And the janitor making over $200k is pretty amazing! It shows that true hard work can really pay off. I had a work colleague who would also work as much overtime as he could. Transparent California shows that he made $194k in 2015, with a base pay of $84,200 as a sheriff’s deputy. He never earned a college degree.

  19. I’m temping on a long-term government project and I keep attempting to convince the government leads to authorize OT now since they know they have not hired enough of us to handle the problem they hired us for. Unfortunately, the subcontractor managing the project loses money if the temps get OT because the subcontractor is not allowed to bill for more than our normal hourly rate. The government lead on this project is allowing the subcontractor to decide the terms because she does not want to be “rude,” but is going to be very confused when she is unable to get the contract done in on-time. I would work at least 10 hours of OT a week if offered.

  20. We have a somewhat similar situation here in BC, Canada, specifically in Vancouver area, in the nursing field. An average annual salary for an RN is $73,750, but there is plenty of overtime work available. I know several nurses who are rocking it in overtime. I’d be hard pressed to suggest it is near Mr. Zhang’s but what I do notice is that they send their children to private schools, have been able to buy a home in a ridiculously highly priced market, and are investing further in real estate. Without exception every one of those nurses that I know is an immigrant (not suggesting Mr. Zhang is). I often wonder, is it that the immigrant is hungrier, more ambitious, is used to working harder? It never ceases to impress me when I read stories of immigrants who arrive penniless, unable to speak English, living in difficult situations without taking any welfare and ultimately rising above their circumstances.

  21. I think Trump got away with his foul comments about women because women expect men to brag to other men about women when women aren’t around. Every woman and man I have asked about this tape has pretty much said the same thing. So Trump escaped because all men copped it generally.
    I was forced to retire and for a while I was depressed. I’m in a situation where I can’t work in a job or I lose my 40k pension. Since I had a lump sum of 150k I did the only thing I was allowed to do in my situation. I focussed on the house I own outright. I have become a builder and will be doubling the value of my house by the time I’m done. I live in a ridiculous housing market and expect the tiny house to be valued at 1.2 million in the next ten years. Since I took the power over my life back, my health has improved out of sight. I have been so frugal for so much of my life that it is a no brainer negotiating with tradesmen and sub contractors and for better materials.

  22. Your artwork is really cool!

    I’d be curious to see the hour breakdown. If extra hours are paid at 2x from the very first hour (pretty rare), in order to double your base (which he more than does but let’s say that’s because he works on Christmas at 3x), you’d need a daily 16 hour shift. That leaves 8 hours to commute, eat, shower, run errands, sleep, and maybe get some family/social time.
    I admire the hustle if that is going to be a 5 year thing then buy a house and slow down.

  23. Liked everything about the article except you had to take the low road and the ONLY thing you can say about Trump is “he said offensive things”?? WTF? your whole post is about hard workers who make things happen…and you could find nothing positive at all in his work history, you had to denigrate him?? Maybe you are one of the clueless who believe he never paid taxes?

    I just do not get the ” hard work” mentality you preach and then shat on a man who will very likely surpass what Ike and Reagan decade did for job growth and American ingenuity.

    1. I don’t think Donald would be offended or object that he said offensive things to people. But if writing that Donald said offensive things offends you, then I am very sorry to offend you. I have noticed that there are a lot more sensitive people nowadays who get their feelings hurt. I strongly believe that the thicker your skin, the happier and wealthier you will be.

      What I’m most intrigued about are the women who voted for Trump after the tapes talked about him grabbing women by their pussies. I think it is a very fascinating dynamic that we should explore more about it.

      Would you care to share your thoughts about this subject? I’d love to hear it. I truly do believe anything is possible, and I want to look on the bright side of things.


      PSof course Donald paid taxes. Tons of taxes because he made tons of money.

      1. Geraldo Jorge

        Man like woman who respect him (except manginas). Woman likes man who don´t care for her and (of course) have tons of money helps a lot.

  24. Mr. Zhang’s story is incredible and this is really thought provoking. I don’t want to imagine what I could be sitting on if I’d worked 5 more hours a week in the past or kept at a previous hobby. It just goes to show that consistently showing up and being persistent with your efforts will pay off in some way eventually.

  25. Long hours are achievable in many jobs, even though, technically you might not be working all the hours. Think about firemen doing 24 hr shifts, half that time they are sleeping, but a week of work might only be 2 24hr shifts, freeing up the other days for a side job. I work in a Cardiac Cath Lab and average 130 hrs per week including my call hrs. I work five 24 hr shifts and one 10 hr shift between my 2 jobs. Though I “work” only about 60 of those hrs, the rest being on call, the pay is still very lucrative either way, and if Im called in for an emergency case I make 1.5x for a minimum or 3-4hrs on top of everything else, Ill make around 250k this year with a 4 yr degree. For me working harder and smarter is the way to go.

    1. You are exactly right Bill. One of the reasons why I wanted to work for myself was because I felt that it was inefficient being in the office or on the clock for 12-14 hours a day. Instead, I wanted to work for a good 3-4 hours a day, get everything I want done, and then enjoy the rest of the day.

      I’m surprised many people think that working 80 hours a week is actually working 80 hours a week. I want to hire these believers to work for me!

  26. WOW!!!!!

    A subway janitor’s BASE pay is $57,000? Are they hiring? Sign me up!

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  27. skankhunt42

    Wow, great article Sam. Definitely motivating for a brief moment until I realized that not only is this highly abnormal but even your readers clearly don’t have any examples of achievements like this (and instead decide to comment on taxpayer optimization). It’s motivating but not going to lead to anyone taking action.

  28. Kudos to him for taking advantage of this opportunity. Shame on BART for allowing it to happen. As a daily rider, I’ve yet to experience a janitor working. Most bathrooms are closed or indefinitely locked and most garbage cans overflowed. Don’t even get me started on the escalator crew. These are closed for months at a time.

    A perfect example of a business that should be privatized. Bart keeps stealing taxpayer money, while charging taxpayers to ride the system they already pay for, and consistently complaining that they are going bankrupt.

  29. Sam, thank you for always being so optimistic and having the right attitude when it comes to working hard, dreaming big and always stretching yourself to achieve great things. So many people in this world believe they are being held down and are limited in what they can achieve, and like you said, think that only the rich can be rich.

    But, this IS America, and if you can dream it, you can build it. The only thing really hold you back is yourself. Whenever I say something like “I can’t wait till I buy my big house with a huge yard overlooking the ocean and have a huge ranch in Montana for vacation,” people react like “yeah, as if that will ever happen.” And I say, “Hey, there are lots of people who can afford multi-million dollar pieces of property. No reason I can’t be one of them someday.” I wish more people had that kind of attitude – we’d see a lot more great things being done and a lot less unfulfilled people bitter about where they are in life.

    Also, to those saying it’s sad that a janitor could make so much on the government payroll — I agree that it seems outrageous, and taxes could be lowered and public spending trimmed. But that has nothing to do with Mr. Zhang, the article has nothing to do with that. He saw an opportunity to make money that someone was going to make anyway, and worked tirelessly to give himself a better future. At least he got the money for actually working hard.

  30. were u able to find out mr z’s motive to this extreme hard work?
    pay off debt, mortgage, buy sf house in cash or put kid thru stanford?

    1. I was not. But if I were to guess, just the desire to make more money and live a more financially secure lifestyle after retirement. And I would also guess he owns property in the SF Bay Area.

  31. Finance Solver

    WOW, I think I should make a career change and be a janitor instead.. Just kidding.

    It does go to show that anything is possible. It does take time to build up to a multi-six figure income level. Consistent applications of those qualities you mentioned does the trick! At least, that’s what I’m hoping it will do.

  32. There’s a BART escalator worker who wasn’t mentioned, but in my opinion just as impressive as Zhang:

    An escalator worker who pulled in $284,241.58. Way to go!

    1. Wonderful! But I think escalator work takes more skill than a janitor, hence the higher pay. Pretty great compensation.

      So weird people think the SF Bay Area is “unaffordable” when our important service men and women regularly make $200,000. Now imagine what people who work in tech, VC, PE, internet make? A LOT more.

  33. Charlie @ Mr. Get Rich

    Wow…great article!

    This is what I tell my friends all the time. If you believe in yourself first, then you can do great things. People including myself get discouraged because of the “what ifs” or “failure”. I tell people to throw away that mentality and just do it.

    It’s better to fail and learn from it than not doing anything at all.

  34. Sam – I agree that Janitor Zhang demonstrates an abundance mindset and that he should be commended for identifying and taking advantage of the opportunity to work overtime. I also agree that we should all adopt an abundance mentality and look for opportunities.

    I also agree with the above posters who criticize Janitor Zhang’s manager. It’s a poor use of taxpayer resources to pay one person to work 14 hours per day for 11 months when the same work could be done by two janitors for less. I know that your response is that government is inefficient and get used to it, but we should demand more. If I were Janitor Zhang’s manager, I’d view this report as an opportunity to push for further hiring of janitors so as to better manage costs. Indeed, if Janitor Zhang’s overtime hours and double time hours were replaced by regular hours by another janitor, the reduction in costs could even enable the provision of additional janitorial services.

    1. The funny thing is, janitor Zhang’s manager likely makes even more. Therefore, he has no incentive or she has no incentive to disrupt the gravy train.

      If you take a look at the source of the salary, you will find that around half the entire workforce makes over $100,000 a year.

      I’ve learned long ago here in San Francisco not to fight the system but to ride it. I am brace higher property taxes with each general election vote by letting my renters share in the increase in costs they voted for.

      I told them in the past to stop continuously voting for more and more spending, but they do not listen. So all is good because everything is rational.

      1. If your renters voted for a property tax decrease (like I do), would you share with your tenants the property tax reduction?

        I actually proposed to the leader of a local landlord organization a coordinated landlord-tenant effort to defeat the nonhomestead tax if landlords agreed to a 50-50 split of the resulting property tax reduction. (Defeat of the nonhomestead tax would have cut property taxes by about one-third.) The leader said he’d consult his members and a week later said the members did not support it.

  35. Yeah, I see opportunity all around me, so what? I don’t have the right skills or the money or the credit necessary to take advantage of this opportunity. I saw an opportunity to buy low and sell high but since I don’t even have normal internet access I can’t even sell it profitably.

  36. Terry Pratt

    What’s so great about a janitor making a fortune by taking taxpayers to the cleaners? The typical private sector janitor earns chump change relative to what government janitors are paid.

    As a student I worked on campus as a janitor earning near-minimum wage (with no benefits) while working with union janitors paid 3x my hourly wage plus the equivalent of 2x my wage in fringe benefits (retirement, health insurance, etc).

    1. Given you have janitorial experience, what are your thoughts about applying to become a union janitor for big bucks? Perhaps the reason why the janitors made more than you was because they have more experience given you were just a student?

      What are you doing now for your occupation and are you making as much?

  37. Sam

    Great post, but one small typo (Obama isn’t black, he’s mixed race). Before anyone jumps to conclusions, I’m a black male raised by two black parents in a very tough area (top 5 incarceration rates in the US). Good thing I have an abundance mentality and was LUCKY to escape an area that you wouldn’t want to visit day or night. Mentality helped, but so did hard work and simply getting lucky. However, for the average person “You can’t win if you’re not playing the game”

    **This doesn’t take away from those who are born on 2nd or 3rd base, it’s just reality. Also, average is just that – “Average”

    1. Thanks for raising this point. I’ve always thought that President Obama was bi-racial with a white mother and a black father. But when I started telling my black friends he was bi-racial, my black friend said he was black. And then when I asked why Tiger Woods wasn’t considered Asian since he is half a tie, they also said he is considered black. Funny huh?

      based on your experience growing up, would you say it is more difficult growing a black or growing up poor? I ask this because I grew up as a minority as well, but I feel that growing up poor is more difficult to do well and get ahead.

      What do you think about this post? https://www.financialsamurai.com/how-about-affirmative-action-based-on-income-instead-of-race/

      1. IMO, growing up Black/Minority is worse because of the following (BTW, I also lived in a trailer park at one point and it was a blast!):

        1. You can’t hide/wash away your skin tone nor the blanket prejudices that follow you around like a cloud. Just look at the post election hate crimes and how most minorities are taught to remain invisible to law enforcement due to fear.

        2) This produces an added psychology/mentality that permeates when you’ve seen #1 proven out over time via both legal (Jim crow laws, pre civil rights, etc.) racism and institutionalized (i.e. housing, education, jail, etc.) racism. So then, your role models opportunities were minimized or limited at best thus potentially leading you to question what opportunities may be available to you. Add in Poverty and desperation and there goes our old buddy CRIME and VIOLENCE!! You could be MAGENTA and this s##t would find you if the recipe is right.

        3) Being poor SUCKS; However, I’d prefer to be a poor white male than a poor black, latino or native American due to the events that occurred on American soil:
        – Genocide of native americans; They’re more likely to get killed than ANY other race by law enforcement and more likely to die a violent death at any earlier age than any other ethnic minority
        – Latinos were lynched at 95% the rate of Blacks and also have horrific jailing policies

        Ranking (Really Screwed to more screwed): POOR White, Poor minority

        As someone who was formally poor and now surrounded mostly by rich homogenous peeps, the poor side is more easily disposable and only at times do I feel compelled to mention that I was once “one of them”.

        Your affirmative action thread was VERY interesting, but in more of a confirmation of people’s current attitudes and ignorance based on their replies. I’m all for Meritocracy, but think a blended model (especially at the collegiate level) is appropriate because there are too many born into situations out of there control. I also prefer to look at FACTS. For example:

        – An institution of 30k students, 6-10% (i.e. 3-4% AA/Latino/Native A + 6-7% Domestic & Intl Asian); 1800-3000 students of color and not all of them gain admission on the “RACE” card (i.e. academic performers, Revenue gen sports to pay for the non producing sports, avg joes & below avg joes)

        – So is it really worth the argument if a kid from the majority (white) race 80-90% of those enrolled can’t gain admission when there are 24k-27k slots available? Especially considering that the TOTAL # of DROPOUTS within the majority race of 24k-27k range is higher than minority enrollment?

        When people complain about this, it’s like the baseball player who didn’t make the cut and blames it on the team needing to increase it’s roster to mirror a f.ball team.

        After college, I have no idea about affirmative action because I’m still looking for all of the “entitlements” that they say exist for people of color. I haven’t seen them and remain one of the only minorities (90% white; 80% white male) in my field of Medical sales/entrepreneurship. For now, I just try to work as hard as possible!

        1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

          What do you think are the reasons why Asians are left out of the race discussion? We are, after all, also minorities who go through similar issues as other minorities.

        2. Very interesting thought. I grew up Chinese Catholic in Indonesia. Most Indonesians are Muslim – it is the world’s largest muslim populated country after all. And most chinese there are doing well financially, but lots are poor. When you are chinese, you are expected to be rich. And almost everything in daily life requires you to spend more money (bribery) than your Indonesian/Muslim country fellows. So I always thought it sucks being a poor chinese. Even to get an ID or a Driver’s License you’d need to bribe. Not too much of a problem when you’re rich. But for poor chinese, it is a double whammy.

  38. PatientWealthBuilder

    Good for Mr. Zheng. I think being an outlier on the bell curve is a good thing. Most people want to be there but they aren’t. And many times that leads to excuses.

    Great article and I liked your examples of rejection and agree that if you are not failing/ getting rejected then maybe you aren’t trying hard enough.

  39. Abundance mentality. Yes, that’s one thing I appreciate about your blog…your ability to see opportunity in everything. Thanks for the great post about the janitor (who is obviously laughing straight to the bank with all that $$).

    1. Terry Pratt

      Facilitated by a free-spending government that must tax more and more to spend within its means.

  40. Reminds me ofsome NY bridges and tunnels Police members making $350k a year with overtime. That was covered in front page by the Daily News. However, in that case there was a lot of fraud involved and it cntinues. One officer made over $400k. Can you imagine a poloce officer with a high school dipolma make $400k with a kick ass pension and 5 weeks paid vacation to add cherry on top.

  41. Regarding the corvette purchase in how much the cost could feed people:

    “I’m not sure. It fed a lot of families in Kentucky who built it. It fed the people who made the tires. It fed the people who made the components. It fed the people who mined the copper. It fed the people who made the trucks that hauled the copper ore. It fed someone who helped sell the car.”

    This is just the rich trying to rationalize their purchase as a noble decision. It is not. It is an entirely selfish decision, however, not necessarily something to be ashamed of. And the purchase did not feed anyone. The consumer doesn’t get to take any credit for the work that the workers put in to make the car. They fed themselves by satisfying a demand in our society. Yes, the purchase satisfied part an important part of our economy. But this just as easily could have been buying food for the starving or housing for the homeless. Workers are there to satisfy the demand, where ever that demand might exist.

  42. Graham @ Reverse The Crush

    Hey Sam,

    Great article and I totally agree on all of the traits to get rich. I still have a lot of room for improvement with pretty much all of them.
    Also, I like how you write with a chip on your shoulder and turn any negative energy directed towards you into a positive. I try to use failures as motivation the same way.

    As for your questions, work ethic and risk taking do deserve more credit. People don’t like to glorify hard work because most people are searching for an easier route.

    By the way, your painting looks great! Looks like you have a new side hustle on your hands with the painting. Good luck.

    1. It’s like judo. Negative energy directed towards me is still energy that can be harnessed!

      I may very well give more paintings a go since I just finished my deck, which is much larger than my old deck. Just need a big tarp so as not to get the deck painted on.

  43. The Green Swan

    This is a great article and I hope it changes many minds after reading. I think it flips both ways too… some people don’t appear to be able to afford fancy cars or houses while others can afford the same and choose not to spend as much. It’s more about being happy with your situation. Don’t like to work for the big man? Come up with a way to make money on your own time. Yes I have worked in corporate America since college, but that doesn’t keep me in one position, one city/state. I’m constantly thinking what could be next. It’s important to look out for yourself and find what makes you happy.

  44. Ten Bucks a Week

    I have had this mindset for quite some time and recently decided why not write a book. I have no experience in such a venture, but hey, I have a story idea and a brain, why not attempt something new? Already wrote 10%.

  45. Done by Forty

    Am I the only one who looks at the overtime system and sees inefficiencies? Employers should hire more people working at 1X rather than paying 1.5X or 2X to a single employee. Efficiency should always be a goal.

    In some sense, yes, good for the individual working the system. On the other hand, shame on the person managing that system so poorly.

    To the point of your post, yes, it’s fantastic that individuals can still get ahead and achieve things others don’t think is possible.

    Still, within the sphere of the public sector, I personally would rather see those funds applied to hiring several janitors (and likely getting better returns on that money) rather than concentrating the pay on one guy.

    1. You can’t expect much from a publicly run the system. The people voted to raise 3.5 billion in bonds to pay for the maintenance upgrades of the train system in the bay area. As a result, landlords will be raising the rent so that everybody will pay.

      As an employer, it’s important to be nimble in this competitive environment. I wouldn’t mind paying extra to a freelance worker over a full-time worker who might have a lot of dead time.

      And finally, if the law and regulations allow you to take advantage, then by all means take advantage. Know if a janitor can make $271,000 a year, imagine what everybody else can make and is making.

      The media likes to talk about how housing is unaffordable in the bay area. But if you make $271,000 a year, is it really that unaffordable?

      1. Done by Forty

        I suppose the key point here is to acknowledge that the janitor’s actions can’t be replicated. Even within the crazy-specific niche of Bay Area BART janitors, his own coworkers couldn’t replicate his actions: if coworkers started signing up for OT at that rate, they’d all cannibalize each others’ goals. Scale even a little, and there’s no overtime left for anyone. And that’s the goal of the employer: efficient allocation of hours & resources, at lowest total cost.

        Find someone who is taking advantage of an inefficiency in a system, and eventually others catch on, and it’s replicated to the point that it disappears.

        Which all goes to say that outliers are great examples for motivation, but often are poor roadmaps for others to copy.

        1. Actually, they HAVE been replicated. BART reported that 4 other janitors made around $200,000 in 2015 as well.

          This inefficiency has been happening since the establishment of government. Focus on Abundance. Yes you can. Not “can’t be replicated” because it is, over and over again.

          Roughly HALF of SF government employees make over $100,000 a year. See: The Best Paying Government Jobs

          Be AMAZED at how much everybody in government is earning here:

          Not only that, they have LIFETIME pensions once they meet a certain number of years worked.

          1. Done by Forty

            Um, sure, but there are limitations of the Bay Area transit system’s overtime. Only so many people can take from the limited number of BART overtime hours. There’s only so many dollars in a given fiscal year.

            There’s a limit to how many janitors can exploit OT before they cannibalize each other’s efforts. More to the point, there’s a limit to how long this inefficiency can last before it’s addressed.

            There is not a bottomless well of government overtime that the world’s floor moppers can exploit without end.

            I understand that it’s nice to motivate people, and to that end, sure, it’s great to find FOUR janitors instead of just ONE to illustrate the point. Motivate away.

            But let’s not ignore reality just to make a point on a blog. All systems have limits. All loopholes have an expiration date.

            1. OK, so let me agree with you that making this much more money is not possible for most people, and that we are stuck with what we have, and that the opportunities are quickly arbitraged away.

              What are your suggestions and thoughts, instead of saying Mr. Zhang’s income and hustle is an anomaly? Because I’m telling you, I am seeing “anomalies” all the time!

            2. Done by Forty

              I suppose when you can’t win an argument with a human, beating a strawman is the next best thing. You sure showed him, Sam!

              My point is that there are limits to this specific strategy, and it can’t be replicated indefinitely. That’s it. End of point. All the BART janitors cannot all work the number of OT hours that Mr. Zhang did, indefinitely.

              Individuals should try to take advantages when opportunities arise, and hustle hard to make more if that’s their goal. To be crystal clear, I hereby formally and openly acknowledge (and have acknowledged) that this is what Mr. Zhang did.

              But readers (and blog authors) should also acknowledge the likelihood that the good times won’t last forever if your total pay is the result of something unique, like overtime more than quadrupling your total pay.

              In this specific case, it’s likely that all the publicity this janitor is receiving will cause the opportunity to diminish or end sooner than it would otherwise.

              Trying to put a bow on this, I hope this opportunity spreads to many other janitors. I hope lots of government workers find ways to double, triple, or quadruple their income due to overtime. I’ve been wrong plenty of times before, and will so again. May the bottomless well of government overtime last a thousand years, and fund pensions that will never become insolvent.

              1. I think you and I agree that opportunities come and go all the time. And of course I want to write about interesting stories, instead of the mundane.

                If you read my post on making money through arbitrage opportunities, I clearly state that the windows of opportunities don’t last forever. Got to get to it.

                Are used to be annoyed, or jealous, or angry at people who made a lot more money than I did. Then I simply excepted the way things are, and did my best to make things better for myself. That is all I ask everybody who reads my site to focus on.

                It’s a much happier way to live!

            3. DBF,

              Have you ever seen a glass half full, rather than half empty?

              Of course Mr. Zhang’s story is an outlier. His income puts him into the top 3%. By definition 97% of American’s will not achieve this. However, if a janitor can join 4 million other Americans making $250,000. per year how come a teacher, or a cop, or a farmer, or anyone else who is willing to do the work can’t do it as well?

            4. Done by Forty

              Final comment here.

              Sam: totally agree there are opportunities all around us. I like optimism and, heck, I’m someone with an English degree on schedule to become financially independent before the age of 40. I get the argument that you can achieve big things if you work for them. But I also think a word of context & caution is in order for certain examples, like this one.

              Bill: yep, I love seeing the glass as half full. Your final sentence is why I offer a word of caution: “However, if a janitor can join 4 million other Americans making $250,000. per year how come a teacher, or a cop, or a farmer, or anyone else who is willing to do the work can’t do it as well?”

              That sort of too-simple conclusion is what I worried readers would take from this. Mr. Zhang’s story is not complicated: he worked an overtime system that allowed for 4X pay increase that isn’t broadly available.

              Use outliers for motivation, sure. I think it’s good to light a fire under yourself.

              But they’re outliers for a reason. You can’t extrapolate from the outlying data point and just say, see, all these other data points can do the same if they wanted to. It’s not great logic, for one, and it’s, frankly, a lazy analysis.

        2. The Scholar

          This dialogue is truly fascinating between you two. Done by 40, you have adopted the welfare mentality. Look back at what you wrote in your comments. You’re fighting against reality and seems you are not happy with someone who is able to take advantage and work hard.

          It is strange that you are fighting the janitor so much when you want to be retired by 40.

          1. Terry Pratt

            ??? ??? ??? Where did you get the idea he worked hard? Janitor work can be hard or it can be easy or it can be somewhere in between.

            I cleaned toilets and lecture halls in a high-traffic classroom building as well as vet school facilities (small animal surgery rooms, large animal stalls, etc. That was relatively hard work as far as janitors go. Some of my co-workers merely emptied wastebaskets from instructors’ offices.

            Since I was a lowly student janitor and my foreman was a union janitor, the students were assigned the harder work while the union janitors did the easier work.

            Some years ago the New York Times ran a story about NYC school janitors who were making $100K per year while doing very little work.

            1. Hi Terry,

              There are so many definitions of working hard. A person can work hard physically, mentally, emotionally, or you can work hard gaming the system, or you can work hard investing, or writing, or teaching, or studying, or saving.

              If you go to a yahoo finance message board and see a story like this 95% of the commenters will have a negative reaction like yours. This site as well as the majority of commenters offer a different perspective. One of hope, determination, and hard work, “regardless of how you define hard work.”

              I hope someday you will see the country through my eyes. Truly a land of opportunity!

              Best of luck, Bill

        1. The majority of people who passed the bill were renters, therefore renters pay for the majority of the bill. Homeowners are getting the extra line item charge on their property taxes, therefore, they should raise the rent to cover this new bill expense that the renter voted for. Pretty logical that everybody chips in don’t you think?

          1. I vote against property taxes – ESPECIALLY discriminatory property taxes which soak rental property. Michigan has a “nonhomestead tax” which makes the school tax rate on rental property four times the rate on owner-occupied homes.

            Homeowners happily vote for this tax because it is not levied on their primary residences.

            Why should I have to pay higher rent so that homeowners can save $1,000+ every year?

      2. I agree with DbF’s original premise – management hasn’t hired enough workers to cover the hours. Thus overtime is needed at 1.5x or 2x to get the work done.

        If I did this when running a manufacturing operation, I’d be in hot water for blowing my labor budget – along with being questioned about my inability determine proper staffing requirements!

    2. Nuclear Real Estate

      It’s easy to say “just hire more people” but there are many factors that go into why a firm might not:

      1) OT may be a key means of retention, if OT costs less than turnover, it makes sense to pay OT and not increase headcount

      2) OT may be a key means of recruitment, ability to have reliable OT may be a key measure in attracting candidates. Recruitment isn’t just critical for highly specialized professionals, it is also critical for “basic” labor jobs. You’d be surprised how hard it can be to fill these jobs with folks who will show up when scheduled, pass a drug test, etc

      Those are just two examples of reasons that make business sense. Of course there is also rampant poor resource planning, reactive staffing decisions, etc…

    3. I can relate to Mr. Zhang’s situation although I haven’t been quite as successful as him at it! Sometimes (in my case) its beneficial to the company for me just to work lots of overtime vs. Hiring new employees. There may be a lot of upfront cost (fixed) associated with adding head count. This such as health insurance costs, vehicles, tools, test equipment, etc. depending on the type of service job. As any one can tell you quality can go down considerably when you take on new employees in a 5% unemployment environment.

      These are some the points in a discussion I had with my management years ago. I could show them how OT in a lot of cases was saving them a lot of money and hassle.

  46. Sam, under your “Risk taker” category where you discuss putting yourself out there, rejection, etc., have you ever been rejected for a particular school, employment opportunity/position or a loan situation?

    1. Absolutely Douglas. Here are a few rejections:

      1) Got rejected by a number of universities, but thankfully got into The College of William & Mary, allowing me to pay in-state tuition.

      2) Got rejected by every job I applied to during college, but got on a bus at 6am to go to a career fair finally landed a job in NYC.

      3) When I first started FS in 2009, I got rejected from a number of blog networks. Solution: I started my own.

      4) Got rejected by a number of startup jobs.

      5) Got rejected for an incubator program.

      The list goes on and on and on.

      Related: You’re Rejected! How I Use Rejection To Motivate Me Every Single Day

      Perpetual Failure: Why I Continue To Save And Invest So Much

      How about you?

      1. Thanks for sharing your rejection examples. I’ve yet to run into a financially successful individual who’s not had countless rejections or failures. There is a consistent theme among most successful individuals. They live the saying, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again and again and again.”

        Like everyone, I’ve had my fair share of rejection/failure. Perhaps I got lucky along the way but I still believe the harder you work the luckier you are.

        Years ago when my grandmother was still alive, she commented to me and my wife one holiday gathering that we were hosting, “you two make it look easy but I know it is not”.

        That is the way most successful people are viewed …they make it look easy.

  47. Wow that is impressive that Bart janitor is raking in that much in overtime. It’d be fascinating to see what his total hours per week are on average. Must be way up there. That’s one proactive worker! Sure beats the college educated, lazy employees I used to have working for me who couldn’t even show up to work on time and never followed directions.

    I love the “Into the Night” painting! That must have been a lot of fun to create. I tried making a beach painting at an art event one time but I clearly didn’t have much natural talent to pull it off. I’ve stuck to framing my photography instead for wall decor – that’s been a better success. :)

  48. The Alchemist

    Anyone who tells you your writing “sucks” is a fool. There’s a difference between “writing” and “writing mechanics”…. ’cause, yeah, ok, quite often those DO suck for you, Sam. :)

    But as a great writing mechanic but weak writer myself, I know the difference very well. Impeccable grammar, spelling, and construction are trivial if one has nothing to say and lacks an interesting way of saying it. THAT is your gift, Sam. You have valuable knowledge and experience to share, a unique viewpoint, and a terrific sense of humor about yourself and the world. THOSE are the qualities that make a fantastic blogger.

    On another note: Why couldn’t you pass your paintings off as “art”? Art is absurdly, ridiculously arbitrary. I really want to know who decided that Jackson Pollock’s garbage was art. If he could flim-flam the entire world into believing such a blatant lie, why couldn’t you sell your stuff? Just sayin’! :)

    1. Financial Samurai

      Thanks. *I THINK*! lol

      I’ve always found it curious why those with good “writing mechanics” don’t just write MORE. Isn’t it a shame to let those of us with poor writing mechanics gain the public’s attention?

      1. The Alchemist

        Not at all! For the reasons I cited, your stuff is extremely interesting and informative. Me, I just don’t really know anything that is of much interest to anyone. I do ok when I have something to say (you’ve seen that), but the truth is that my well of hard knowledge and interesting content is pretty shallow. A ream of perfect prose that offers no real content value is pretty useless.

        So keep writing! (dunno about the painting though….) ;)

        1. Ah, I think you’ll be surprised at the value of my original artwork. Each can now pay for one year’s worth of living expenses if sold. Too bad I didn’t spend more time over the past 13 years producing more work. I’d be RICH if I did!

          And that’s one of the points. Create instead of consume!

        2. I am a pretty fussy reader for grammar and style, and I have never noticed any clumsy writing in this blog or any errors. I don’t understand the criticism. I think you have a good plain direct style that works well for your content.

          Good non-fiction writing is writing that does not call attention to itself, either because of mistakes or because of inappropriate vocabulary (either too crude or too ornate). This blog is in my view good writing.

          1. Hi John, thanks for reading my articles and thanks for your compliment. It makes me feel really good because goodness knows I try very hard to write something that is either entertaining or insightful. It’s not that easy in the personal finance / non-fiction space, which is why I like to put myself out there to experience some absurd situations to help write a story.

            What are your thoughts on why people with great writing skills do not write more? I also ask a lot of journalists, working industry that is getting hollowed out, why they don’t just start their own site given they have the writing skills.

            Do people overestimate their creativity?

            1. IMHO, don’t write because it takes effort and most people minimize the effort they have to expend in life. They take no pleasure in leaning in, taking the time to learn how to write in a particular discourse. It can take a few years to learn skills in each new discourse. I made my living writing for 30 years and taught or tried to teach many employees how to write different kinds of material. There are so many skills and traits required and some people stifle their talents through some kind of fear of exposure. Actually I don’t know why people don’t write more emails, more comments, some opinion on their shares, more anything. Most people just a write brief few words or nothing at all. Laziness or fear of exposure?

              1. Weird. And not sure. I think if you can speak forever, you can write forever.

                I’ve always asked dissenters to share their opinion in a more elaborate comment or post, and they never say yes. I will love them my platform to share why they think their way is the right way and nobody ever follows up. Seriously, nobody.

            2. I notice that you do that (ask people to elaborate on their opinions) and you do it so well. I agree that if someone can talk forever they can write forever. But many people also don’t talk a lot or if they do they avoid stating opinions or discussion/debate. I think they either don’t want people to really know what they are thinking or they are not quick enough thinkers to argue productively. Lots of people just comment once and don’t go back to see if there has been a response.

              Your skill in writing content is exceptional. You have imagination and clarity and most of all you are thinking of your audience.

  49. Permian Buyer

    Love reading a positive article like this to start my week. I think this one is a gem, even by your lofty standards. Thanks!

  50. Financial Panther

    I hadn’t heard this story. This is a great example of just outworking everyone and knowing your employer.

    I have a friend of mine who worked at the DC Metro as a conductor for 30 years. Started working when he was 22, and retired when he was 52 with a full, $60k per year pension. Then he picked up a job at a golf course so he could play golf all day and hang out. A perfect retirement gig for golf people.

    When I asked him how he managed to pull this off, he explained to me that his pension was calculated based on his last four years of work. So in those last four years, he worked his butt off, made something around $120k or so per year by working tons of overtime, and then cashed in when he was done. Set himself up for a nice pension for the rest of his life, and at the relatively young age of 52. This is a guy who didn’t have any college education or anything either. Just was a bus driver, then a train driver his whole life.

      1. Service workers – especially the lowest-paid – often cannot get overtime if they wanted. With Obamacare, they now can’t even get 30 hours of work per week. Fast food jobs often have variable shifts because customer traffic varies from day to day. One time i managed to work 48 hours (the slack days were busier than expected so I was able to work longer shifts those days) and my reward was that the manager deliberately underscheduled me to ensure he would never again have to pay me overtime.

        Ans yes, you can work more than one job, but that works only until you’re scheduled to work two jobs during the same shift and you have to choose which job you want to lose.

          1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, “Obamacare”) mandates employer with 50 or more employees to insure full-time workers. According to the IRS, the ACA considers a worker “full time” if “he or she averages at least 30 hours of service per week or has 130 hours of service in the month (130 hours of service in a month is treated as the monthly equivalent of at least 30 hours of service per week)”. Any rational business would consider the additional costs of mandate healthcare, which in the service industry is usually significant. As a real life example, the general manager for the store I currently work at is limited (by the company) to 5 full-time employees. (I can also vouch for Terry Pratt that getting overtime is quite difficult. Realistically the opportunity only arises when too many workers quit/get fired/call off in one week, especially towards the end of the business week.)

            According to the BLS the mean salary for janitors in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area is $30,710 a year. But nonetheless, I’ll applaud Mr. Zhang for working the system to his advantage. To quote from the article, ‘But Hsu, who commutes by BART from his home in Contra Costa County to Oakland, said he doesn’t fault workers who take advantage of OT shifts to make more money. “It’s BART’s fault too,” he said. “It’s poor management, it’s poor financial planning.”’

  51. Wow that’s an amazing story!

    I agree that people who complain about their income definitely need more desire and work ethic.

    Working 40 hours a week won’t get you anywhere. Like they say, entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid 40 hours a week!

    If you aren’t willing to work more and harder for it, you probably don’t want it bad enough.

  52. Boocoo Money

    Man oh man!

    This is exactly the kind of story we need right now. Because of the Presidential election, we are forced to believe the rich get richer, and the poor gets poorer. But Mr. Zhang is proof that status quo is no longer okay to accept. Not only does a janitor making this type of money gives hope, but it also educates us to empower ourselves and no one or nothing should stop that.

    Bravo Mr. Zhang, you are truly are my hero.

  53. Something doesn’t add up here. His stated salary of $50,000 takes care of 2,080 hours (40/week).

    So if you take 50,000 out of the $235,000 for his best year, it leaves you with $185,000.

    Now taking a time and a half rate of $37.50 ($25*1.5), gives you 4,934 hours of overtime.

    4,934 + 2080 = 7,013 hours worked in a year. 134 hours per week, and 19.27 hours worked per day.

    Unless there is double time and double time on top of holidays with some other benefits – it seems like something is amiss…..

    He is giving up a vast amount of time that could be spent educating himself and leveraging that intelligence to earn smarter, not harder.

    1. “Zhang’s overtime came in at 1,822 hours at time and half — and 601 hours at double time, according to the figures. He was also paid for working 48 hours on holidays at time and a half and another 63 hours of OT on holidays at double time.”

      …and he took 5 weeks of vacation. This guy is a real far outlier on the bell curve…

      1. What do you think are the reasons why you doubt his earnings and are so critical of Mr. Zhang? The chart of his compensation was taken from the official California transparency website.

        BART also says four other janitors made six figure amounts as well due to overtime. Are you saying his desire to work hard is an outlier? Or his earnings?


        1. I would say both statements are true – that he is abnormal in his desire to work many hours, and at the cost of 1.5Y and 2Y (Y being his normal rate of compensation).

          Still at 1822 hours of time and a half, and 601 hours at double time, plus 48 hours on holidays, and another 63 hours of OT on holidays it adds up to 4,614 hours in a year that he took 5 weeks off.

          98.2 hours per week for 47 weeks. 14 hour days are at least slightly more believable.

          Another interesting side of this would be to know where the $600k+ from his last three years went (my first guilty guess is offshore).

          1. If I were to guess where his $600K went, it would be 30% to taxes, 30% to living expenses, and 40% to investing or maintaining his real estate portfolio. A commenter below talked about the pension equaling a percentage of the last four years of work income. I bet there’s some of this as well.

            So again, what do you think are the reasons why you are so skeptical of his income and work ethic?

            1. Not sure that there is any skepticism about income or work ethic. Moreso the point that on a bell curve – he is the absolute exception, and no where near the fat middle, or lack luster opposite side (and yes, his desire to work 14 hour days for 11 months straight is no where near the norm – or the $200k+ custodial services expert).

              Cherry picking data is great when you’re trying to push a story – but the overall just doesn’t fit. Like telling your kid they could be a MotoGP alien, or a rapper – the exceptions are not the rule here.

              1. Steven, I can’t help you if you don’t see the opportunities surrounding us every day. The janitor is just one example of the many more examples I highlighted in the beginning of the post. You can see many more examples of six figure jobs in many industries. I even had a 21 yo petrochemical engineer write about how he earned over $100,000 a year starting out.

                As someone who went to private university, I’m surprised by your view of Mr. Zhang. You’ve got all the opportunity in the world. Don’t waste it!

          2. He found a system that he was able to hack/take advantage of. 14hr days are totally believable for this type of work. I was in retail, my family owned stores and restaurant. Easily worked 40hr+/wk while in school full time. There’s a substantial amount of downtime in some types of work. Imagine if it was a overnight shift. My friends in UPS have similar situation where they get 2-3x pay on holidays. At least a few of those hours they’re just sitting there due to other circumstances, playing on their phones or else they be bored to death.

            While I don’t agree with some conclusions Sam makes in articles (ex. wealth transfer, and how only wealthy/well off people go into liberal arts education), this one is more for inspiration. This is an example on what can be done if a person has the mentality only to make money and puts themselves in the situation to do so. Working that many hours for that much money can be seen in similar ratio for pay/hours worked in consulting (70hr+/wk for 150k+/yr, new grads usually around 80k-90k), and investment banking (80-90hr+/wk, boat ton of money for senior folks, 200k-500k for mid levels). How long they can keep this up is a different story. But I imagine the stress level of work in these fields are higher than janitorial work, and the toll of constant traveling for work.

            Union jobs are the best to take advantage of these scenarios. Most of the money made from overtime like the story here if people are willing, and higher base pay as a multiplier.

            1. My father had a night shift job at a hotel as the maintenance guy. He brought a mattress into his office and he would sleep during his shift. I suspect that the janitor had a similar job that had substantial down time where he can get some rest.

        2. We’re saying the fact that he had the opportunity to do all that work is what makes him an outlier.

          Look at Walmart. They pay you minimum wage. They employ more than a million people. Where I live, that’s $9.25 an hour.
          You can work 2000 hours and get $18,500 raw income.

          So the solution is to get overtime and work harder, correct?

  54. What a great story! It’s easy for people to get lazy and complain about not getting ahead, right? If a janitor can figure it out and make over $200k a year, than anyone can if they are determined enough. You just have to want it enough to go for it.

  55. Christine Minasian

    You write so many articles about working and making money. It would be really interesting to hear your opinion/research on staying home to raise children. Since so many of us who read your articles- maybe that was a decision that had to choose or not??
    Keep up your great work Sam!!!

    1. Momofthree03

      Yes! I didn’t feel like I was missing a lot when my children were young because I felt like we were investing enough even though I wasn’t working. I still think the kids need me even though they are older, but Now that I am in my 40’s and the kids are more independent, I am seriously wondering if I made the right choice??

  56. Sam, I look forward to your articles!! I would be interested to know how Mr. Z has invested his money.

      1. The funny thing is that it only takes a $150,000 salary to buy the median home in San Francisco. With Mr. Zhang making $200,000+ a year for three years, I’m pretty sure he owns his own place as well.

        The media goes on and on about a housing affordability crisis here in the Bay Area, yet REFUSE to recognize the reason why housing is so expensive is because incomes are so high! Mr. Zhang is another case in point.

  57. People often forget that the USA is the land of opportunity, regardless of who is President. Focus on what you can control, show some hustle, and this country is still the land where dreams can come true. Even for a Chinese janitor. Don’t envy the Corvette, envy the hustle that the driver demonstrated in earning the $$ to buy one.

  58. Great story, both the janitor and the car.

    I’d disagree that the harder you work the more you make. The smarter you work the more you will make. Mr. Zhang was smart enough to figure out a way to work the overtime system of his job to his advantage. Hard work without the overtime pay would be wasting his time, plus I’m sure there were some team and leadership politics to navigate to get so much overtime pay.

    Working hard is good. Working the system is great.

  59. Apathy Ends

    I don’t understand why so many people’s first reaction to someone making a better life for themselves is negative. He saw an opportunity and took advantage of it by working his ass off. Must be a combination of jealousy and arrogance.

    Keep sharing these stories Sam – I love your attitude towards them and they are great motivators.

    1. Terry Pratt

      Overpaid government workers are making a better life for themselves off the backs of taxpayers.

      Worse, the typical private sector janitor works harder and is paid much less than the typical government janitor.

      1. True, but don’t fault Mr. Zhang for playing and winning the game.

        The private sector janitor can set up his own cleaning company, hire some workers, and do just as well, or even better, with ambition and perseverance. I suspect Mr. Zhang would do well in the private sector, too.

      2. Very very true.

        The simpleton overpaid nurses and overpaid high school teachers strongly believe they are worth close to the $90,000 annual salary the government mandates they get. Taxpayers pay an arm and leg to these oversized government job unions.

        The mentally sophisticated students who happened to get a degree with B average marks or below in economics, chemistry, math find themselves jobless. There’s no union protecting these majors. Sad these students didn’t study less, go into nursing or teaching, get an overpaid government job and then preach how fair and easy it is to earn $90,000.

        1. Most teachers and many nurses I know have Master’s degrees and did indeed earn A’s in college. They are also committed to helping others, unlike those with Finance or Law or other advanced degrees….

          1. Name withheld to protect the observant

            Grade inflation is rampant in education departments in US colleges. Only count the grades that were earned in non-education departments.

            I remember reading about a study that some students did at a university. They hacked into the university systems to gather the data.

            They grouped the data by Major and compared SAT entry scores to Grade Point Averages. Education majors had the lowest SAT scores and the highest GPAs.

            Or, to quote one university professor I know, who eloquently expressed the sentiments of several others I know:

            “I can tell who the education majors are right away. They are the dumb ones who aren’t on a sports team.”

            (And yes, of course, there are individual exceptions to that, as there are to all statistical trends.) My daughter-in-law is one of them.)

          2. Please watch your generalizations. I’ve got a kid in law school who has committed herself to working in public interest, which includes dispensing free legal aid, prison work, and defense of battered women. That sounds like helping others. People come at giving to and helping others from all directions and walks of life. And of course there are plenty of selfish health professionals. So job rewards can be more than financial. Just a thought.

      3. Terry Pratt – Actually, it’s horrible management that allows this janitor to get this much overtime. If management staffed properly, there would be much less OT.

        Also, the $271k is described as pay & benefits, so who knows what the real numbers are.

        1. I had the same thought – why is so much overtime available? Probably the city is subject to some rules about total staff or complaints about a ‘bloated’ civil service – but nobody counts the actual compensation, just the bodies. Thus … opportunities for Mr Zhang and like-minded colleagues.

          Too bad to see the resentment on this thread to public servants and to unions. Don’t resent the methods people use to protect themselves in their employment, copy them. And the public service wages were bargained for. Most public servants work hard for their money.

  60. So true. Ultimately your success is most correlated with your state of mind, not your skills or even who you know (despite the saying). Its so easy to say I won’t succeed or its too difficult. The result is you never start that new endeavor. The fear of failing keeps people in that welfare mentaility you mentioned. But in reality all failure should simply be a lesson you can use to help you succeed next time, not something to fear.

  61. The welfare mentality is indeed an issue for many. We have the same problem in my country, where many would accept welfare than bother work. This doesn’t allow them to good lifestyle, but it’s OK, since they can just sit and watch TV

  62. Go Finance Yourself!

    Great article Sam. I think part of the issue is due to entitlement, and it’s not just millennials. In today’s day and age, everyone wants more. Most just don’t want to work for it! Many people see someone who sold a business for multi millions, and think if only I could catch my lucky break. They ignore all the hard work and the amount of risk taking that went into starting the business. It’s their way of rationalizing the fact they aren’t doing anything to better their own situation.

    I was able to become the CFO of a company at the age of 33. I put in a ton of hours in my early years that allowed me to build great connections and the trust of those I worked with. This eventually landed me a recommendation to a great company looking for a CFO. Some have acted like I just fell on a lucky star. I do feel fortunate to have gotten the opportunity at such a young age, but it was a lot of years of hard work that led to building the connections that got my foot in the door. Even after that I still had to go through 6 rounds of interviews and beat out several people with more experience than me to get the job offer.

    Sometimes it can take a while to see the results of your hard work. Many people want instant gratification and are therefore unwilling to put in the effort to achieve the results.

  63. My hats off to Mr. Zhang. He sounds like a hard worker. I can’t imagine his hourly rate is that high, so he must have been working 16 hours a day. I just hope he is also taking care of his health. We each have 168 hours in a week, so I can’t blame this guy for working more of them than I do!

  64. Amazing story about Janitor Zhang! If that’s not inspiration to find additional humility and invigorate your belief of what’s possible, I don’t know what is.

    It’s no secret Sam that you have an incredible work ethic and desire. Do you feel that it was innate to your personality? Or, that it was something you chose to cultivate consciously at some point in your life?

    BTW, love the paintings!

    1. Hi Michael – pretty cool about Mr. Zhang yeah?

      Not sure what the percentage is between innate or cultivated. I don’t like to fail due to a lack of effort. If I fail due to lack of skill, better competition, macro variables, unanticipated events, so be it. But if I fail because I didn’t try hard enough, that really eats me up inside. I’ll start asking myself the basic questions, “What if I tried harder?” “What if I got up earlier?” “What if I was spent more time coming up with a better system?” “What if I tested this out?” etc.

      So perhaps work ethic and desire is 60% innate and 40% cultivated for me. 40% because I see people with less advantages than me all the time working and winning. That’s inspiring.

      There’s a great sense of provide in working hard and achieving something you want. The worst is having something handed to you.

      How about you?

      1. Yeah, I’ve always wondered the same thing. I’d say work ethic and desire and more cultivated than innate… perhaps even 70/30. For me, a lot of my work effort was influenced as I grew up (you emulate what’s around you), yet I’ve always had a strong sense of curiosity which was more innate. It’ll be interesting to watch my kids develop over time to further test this hypothesis. :)

      2. Work ethic or maybe just taking real long breaks ?? Haha

        On today’s news:

        KTVU requested surveillance video to observe how Liang Zhao Zhang would spend his marathon, 17-hour work day. At one point, the channel reported that Zhang entered the closet twice in one shift, once for 54 minutes and the other for 90 minutes.

        Zhang said that he takes his meal breaks during that time. A spokeswoman from BART said Zhang was paid every day in 2015 because he “signs up for every overtime slot that becomes available.

        1. I was expecting a witchhunt from the jealous mass media, and it’s great to see it finally came.

          It’s funny how nobody questions the supervisors who make even much more. And if you’re working 17 hour days, I would say that taking a two hour break sounds about right. How many people do you know actually work a full eight hour day?

          1. I am handicapped and out of my 8-hour shift, I take one 15 minute break.
            I am so glad to be working. When I got hurt I had just completed my second advanced degree in Physics. After that, I had years of surgeries, 34 and counting. I started to wonder why did I work so hard and spend all that money for college? I never was able to use it. I found a job from a friend who has me doing the electronic wiring for machinery. $15hr. Since I have a hard time sleeping due to pain, he lets me come in at 4 am. I feel good because I am contributing even though when I get home my pain level is to the moon.
            If I took a combined 2 1/2hr break in one 8 hour shift, like Mr.Zhang I would have a hard time keeping the job I have.

      3. What you failed tommention about these two instances, is in both cases they were cheating their employer, a lax, loosely supervised position with government benefits and unrealistic overtime conpensation. In the case of Zhang, he lost his job after he was found to be sleeping in the bathroom stalls he was cleaning. I’m all for hard work….but be honest with your examples. His income was only disclosed when his fraud was discovered. (Really…as a muniple worker why in the world would he want a qtr million in annual compensation disclosed)

        1. Are you saying his employer had no idea they were paying him over $200,000 a year? I find it hard to believeThat the employer didn’t know how much they were paying him for what they were getting after all these years. Where does it say he was fired? What about the literally thousands of other government employees were makingOver $100,000 a year?

          I bet you are not working a full eight hour day without some breaks to surf the net, chat with your colleagues, and run some errands. Why else’s traffic the highest for financial samurai during the weekdays?

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