I'd like to share with you the best financial move I ever made to help me get to financial independence at 34. The great thing about this best financial move is that anybody can do it. And that's getting on the damn bus!
After warning about financial destruction due to scams and get rich quick schemes, I'd like to balance things out with an uplifting financial story. This positive financial move has made all the difference in my life. And I need to share my wisdom and be more appreciative of what I have.
I've been too hard on myself lately with the responsibilities of fatherhood. The responsibility of being the financial provider for my family is big. There is this nonstop anxiety that is hard to overcome. For those of you looking to get ahead, here's is my best financial move for all of you.
The Best Financial Move I Ever Made
My best financial move: Getting on a bus at 6am.
While a junior at The College of William & Mary, I got on a bus at 6am on a Saturday to go to an investment banking career fair. Nobody else boarded the bus.
So after 30 minutes of waiting, the bus driver drove me to his office and we switched to a Lincoln Town Car. He then privately chauffeured me 2.75 hours from Williamsburg, VA to Washington D.C.
Even though William & Mary was a good school, it wasn’t a target school of any of the major investment banks. Therefore, I didn't have a nice schedule of official interviews lined up.
An Opportunity Was Granted
At the career fair, I chatted with a bunch of firms, but nobody gave me the time of day. I remember a snobby Merrill Lynch recruiter looked me up and down said, ”Nobody will take you seriously.”
She was making fun of my blue tie which had a pattern of a teddy bear holding a balloon. A loved one had given me the tie so I wasn’t going to take it off for no one.
The only company that invited me to meet for a real interview was Goldman Sachs. The recruiter, Kim Purkiss and I had a long and intimidating conversation where she peppered me about my thoughts on the economy, stock market, and Federal Reserve.
I don’t think she smiled once. A month later, she invited me up to Super Day at their world headquarters in NYC, all expenses paid.
I was shocked because GS was the #1 bank to join back in 1998. The firm was still private, so it had this incredible mystique about it. All the candidates I met came from private schools like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia and boarding schools like Exeter and Andover. Nobody came from a public college or public high school like me.
Related reading: The Best Financial Moves For 2023 To Grow Your Wealth
The Job Offer That Changed My Life
55 interviews and seven rounds over seven months later, I finally got a written job offer to join the International Equities department as a Financial Analyst at 1 New York Plaza on the 49th floor. The process took so long probably because they were unsure of whether hiring someone like me was a good idea.
The interviews started on the derivatives desk, and after realizing I didn't know a lick of derivative math, I moved on to the US trading floor and then finally to the Emerging Markets / Asian Equities desk where I actually had some experience having grown up in Asia for 13 years.
I got the job offer e-mail while I was visiting my girlfriend in Tokyo the month after I graduated from college with no job. I was hopeful Goldman would come through during commencement, but it still felt unsettling to graduate with no job offer after four years of studying. Perhaps subconsciously, getting my offer in Japan is why I named my site Financial Samurai.
The Start Of Financial Independence
I felt like I had won the lottery. In two years at GS (1999–2001), I gained a ton of knowledge and connections and parlayed my position into a higher position at another investment bank in San Francisco.
I aggressively saved and invested ~70% of my after-tax income for the next 11 years. At age 34, in 2012, I left the workforce for good. My catalyst for leaving was negotiating a severance package worth six years of living expenses.
I thank my lucky stars that my girlfriend at the time encouraged me to set my alarm at 5:15am after a late night of partying. Without the alarm, I wouldn't have gotten on the darn bus at 6 am. She knew at least I could sleep on the bus ride up. I guess showing up really is half the battle!
My girlfriend is now my wife and we are full-time parents after the birth of our precious baby boy in 2017 and daughter at the end of 2019.
Ever since that fateful Williamsburg morning, my life motto has always been: never fail due to a lack of effort, because effort requires no skill.
As I finish up this answer, I realize the best financial move I ever made was actually choosing the right life partner. She’s made all the difference in the world.
One Small Move Made All The Difference
At the time, it was really hard to imagine the benefits of going to a career fair. Back then, hardly anyone ever got a job at a career fair. I knew it was just one big marketing opportunity for the companies to say how awesome they were without ever expecting to hire anybody there.
The people they wanted to hire had been already contacted directly on campus. But I went anyway because I figured, you just never know.
Financial Samurai's Birth
When I started Financial Samurai in 2009, I had already been waffling for three years. In 2006 my dad had suggested I start a personal finance site. He knew I had a passion for finance and writing.
But I was always too busy with work. I didn't think I had the energy or the ability to build something significant. Further, I had too much pride and honor. I wanted to wait until I first had 10 years of finance work experience. When the financial crisis hit, however, I figured once again, you just never know.
Now I'm on my podcast journey because I want to build a huge library of audio content for my son. Just in case I pass away before he gets to really know me, he'll have something great to go through. Yes, it's also a good opportunity to practice verbal communication and to tap new consumers who only consume via audio.
In the past, I've only made a half-hearted attempt at podcasting. Since our son's arrival, however, I've refocused and figured, best get going because you just never know.
Just Have to Try
It's really impossible to predict how your life will end up. I hope everybody lives long and prospers. What's certain is that if you do nothing out of the ordinary, nothing out of the ordinary will ever happen to you.
Are you ready to get on that damn 6 am bus? I hope you are because more than half of success is showing up. The other half is staying consistent with unwavering commitment.
Be Unapologetically Fierce About Pursuing Your Dreams
The First Million Might Be The Easiest: How To Become A Millionaire By 30
Your Wealth Is Mostly Due To Luck, Be Thankful!
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127 thoughts on “The Best Financial Move I Ever Made Is Something Everyone Can Do”
Hey Sam! I hope you still read these comments because I need your help at this turning point in my life. What you say here will literally change the direction of my life so choose wisely :)
I was working at FAANG (big tech) as an Engineer until about 2 years ago but left due to me not being interested in the work or culture. Plus I’m just not a great technical person.
Anyway, I’ve been wanting to get into Investment Banking for a few years but I didn’t go to a target undergrad like you did. So here are my questions.
1. Is it worth joining a no name, local IB boutique by cold calling, etc? Will the career progression still be good?
2. How many hours a week did you work once you hit VP and Executive Director? I want a family just like you so I wanted to ask how you managed it. What was it like?
3. I know buy side (private equity) has better hours and pay, but unless you have PE experience pre-MBA, it’s almost impossible to break in post-MBA is this true?
4. How realistically hard is it to make MD in Banking or Partner in PE? It’s nice to read the potential here but it’s only worth pursuing if I have a realistic shot. Just like how telling someone how much an NBA player makes, but getting to that level is nearly impossible for most people.
5. I don’t particularly enjoy any field, but I do like reading about money, so I think banking, PE, HF would be up my alley. What do you think?
6. What sets a top performer and someone who will make it to the top in Banking VS someone who will get kicked out? As I said, I’m not very good at technical stuff as an engineer, so do you need serious math chops to make it? I do have high EQ but I know this doesn’t really matter until VP and above (in banking.)
I hope I didn’t make that too long. Thanks!
I think it’s worth giving it a go if you think you will enjoy finance. Get your foot in the door and work your way up. To go to managing Director, you probably need about 10 years of experience, and be one of the top 10% in your class.
I’ve got several posts on whether to join Wall Street and finance if you Google it and add Financial Samurai to it.
Is Working On Wall Street Worth It? Pros and Cons
How Do Hedge Funds Make So Much Damn Money?
Can I ask why the recruiters were snobby and wouldn’t give you the time of day, and you had to go on too many interviews to finally get a great job? What that really 55 interviews and 7 rounds just for Goldman Sachs, or did that include many other companies or employers?
I’m glad there’s so much thankfulness & gratitude going on for Thanksgiving. Too often, we’re stressed, anxious, and feeling negative. The gratitude and positivity going around during Thanksgiving is such a relief and very much welcomed. We should preserve this feeling of thankfulness and positivity throughout the year!
Are very thankful for your life? I know you and most other Asian Americans have been through some struggles, but we’re better, much more deep and thoughtful people because of it.
Blast from the past post. Effort is under appreciated. If you had stayed in bed in your PJs your path would have taken a much different path, or not.
Let’s be thankful you got out of bed and eventually launched Fs.
Good stuff. Winners never quit. I loved that 6 am bus analogy. You just never know..
Thanks for the post and keep it coming!
– Nordic Fire
It is very uplifting to me to read all these comments from people who say marrying their spouse was the best decision they ever made. Often we hear about the nasty marriages that don’t work out so it’s great to read articles from people who are grateful for their spouse and as a team have made their finances work for their benefit. Some counselors say finances can be the biggest thing couples fight about. I’m glad to see it doesn’t have to be that way!
My single best financial move was starting my business before I felt ready. I’ve learned a ton from it and the pressure to make it succeed has me working my butt off and constantly learning. The growth in my abilities has been enormous.
Sam, I really like what you’ve done with your blog and I also appreciated this post. I’m still learning a lot about getting my personal finances in order to a point where I feel like I have a really good handle, but I’d say my best financial move was setting up an automatic transfer so that a portion of my paycheck would automatically go from my checking account to my savings account. Setting up this internal transfer has been golden. I know it’s not a novel idea (plenty of personal finance bloggers have mentioned this), but it’s true what people say about not missing what you don’t see.
I used to ballpark savings and just try to save “as much as I can.” However, I found that to be difficult. Just having the cash around in my checking account was a temptation in that I was able to use that cash for stuff I didn’t really need. By having a decent cash flow into my savings account and telling myself that I can’t touch my savings account unless I’m in an absolute emergency, I think twice about whether I really need to buy something. It’s a double win, really. My assets to up, my liabilities go down.
And, if I really feel like I need something? I save up until I can afford it. I don’t think I’ve ever been terrible in my finances, but to increase the rate at which I’ve been able to save up has been a huge moral victory for me.
Keep up the good work, Sam! I’m relatively new to your website, but you have some awesome content that makes me think twice about some things (in a good way, of course)! You’ve inspired me to chronicle my own journey of trying to make sense of personal finance and to learn as much as I can!
– Abe, Runner Investor
Welcome to my site! There’s a lot to explore as I’ve been around since 2009. Good luck on your financial journey!
Was that a typo – 55 interviews later? Holy smokes, they vet their people.
The best financial decision I’ve made was to accept my husband’s complete disinterest in investing. Now we each get an allowance to do with as we want. I invest all of mine and draw 50% of the interest I earn as my personal allowance. My one regret: Not having done this a lot sooner – I’m having so much fun seeing how quickly I can grow my nest egg. So I guess my motto is: “It’s never too late to get started!”
I have to say I teared up a little reading this. What a great and personal story! People really do know when you show up and work hard. We obviously cannot confuse effort with result, but effort goes a long way. Now I need to go and put a little more effort into my blog, which has been suffering due to my work/life efforts!
This is my favorite post you’ve written. Congratulations on your well-deserved success, I hope I can instill these sort of values in my own kids.
Having a significant other giving you all that support definitely makes it easier. Mines kept pushing me to clear off that debt I had with student loans and credit cards. Once I took care of that, I became more focused on my finances and now have my own PF blog!! Having that support really helps you be more confident. You certainly have that with your spouse Sam!!
Sam, I love this quote: ‘What’s certain is that if you do nothing out of the ordinary, nothing out of the ordinary will ever happen to you.’
Reminds me of backpacking and how I’d always end up on these mini adventures when I took off from the popular routes and reached out to people.
Best Decisions and events in my life…and some were not actually made by me…
In 1989 I graduated from university with a bachelors degree, and I was thinking of continuing with a graduate degree. I was staying at my parents house, and my mom said “I don’t care how smart you are, but it’s more important that you learn to take care of yourself…” Effectively, my mom was forcing me leave the nest. Fast forward 30 years later, I never imagined a small city Canadian boy would see the world (live and worked in many countries)…it’s been an awesome adventure. I’m quite sure if I had stayed in my hometown I’d never appreciate the cultures and diversity of people.
In 1991, I was laid off from my job in Los Angeles. I was 23 and just starting my consulting career and I was very confident of my career projection. I was crushed when I got the pink slip! It was painful and I cried when I got home. I mulled over “why me?” …and over time I was resolute that I would never be held hostage at the mercy of any employer. I was determined that FI would be my ticket out..but I still had to figure out how to do it…
In 1994, I made the bold decision to leave the comforts of my San Francisco job and lifestyles …and headed to China to become a poorly paid teacher. Friends and family were questioning my sanity…but it was something in my bones that told me that China was a dragon awakening and I had to be part of it…It was an awesome experience…I left China poor and went to HK to work
In 1997, I again..made the bold move to leave the comfy corporate life in HK to co-start a company in HK. I partnered with an older well know businessman who taught me alot…when we sold the business to a fortune 500…I’ll be honest it wasn’t a jackpot payoff (in fact I probably would have been better off if I stayed with my corporate job)…but the experience I gained was incredible. And it was through this senior mentor that I had developed the habit of keeping track of your networth…I saw him do it (He had millions in his name)…and I thought I should do this as well (but at age 30 I only had about USD200k under my name)
I worked in Hong Kong at the company who acquired us…and I ended up working for this real big butthole boss who eventually fired me in 2002. As in 1991, i’m now again unemployed and was wondering what my next step would be…I was 36 year old single and had only about 300k as networth (didn’t own a house). When I was pounding the pavement to look for a job, I was incredibly surprised that a company had offered me a job in Shanghai to start one of their business consulting units….I was surprised because my Chinese was not that proficient…but nonetheless they took a punt on me. I now realize that my teaching stint in 1994 and starting the company in 1997 was the real ROI = job posting in Shanghai.
During my stay in Shanghai 2002-2009, literally my professional and personal life experience took off like investments- they compounded!!I would like to believe that my timing in Shanghai was perfect…loved my job, married a beautiful woman..became a father of 2 kids, and bought a couple of houses.
Moved to Singapore in 2009 to be part of a start-up/ growing company, where I was fired by this narcissist new boss (YES..I have been fired 4 times in my career!…maybe I’m the jerk and not the bosses) In 2009 I clearly remember that I finally said to myself by the time I’m 50 I wanted to have USD5 mn as my networth. In 2018 at age 51.25 I finally hit the USD5 mn mark! I can finally say “hell ya..!”
Today: I’m still working in the corporate world! I was a consultant for about 20+ years, and a serendipity event occurred, where a client had asked me to join the company. In fact it was a dream job that I had always wanted to try. I prayed for it.
Moral of my story: “It is better to try and fail, than never try at all” – by Poet William F. O’brien
What an incredible story! I graduated 20 years after you, went to HK to work during the Great Recession and got spit back out in less than a year. Now working stable border line government job for the last 7 years in Canada. Not sure where the next step leads yet.
Did you always have a clear 5-10 yr plan, or were most events fortuitous?
Nowadays, I am interested in planning generational wealth from the last generation for the next. The sandwich gen if you will.
My best financial move was buying a 3-family property in a less-than-desireable, but up-and-coming neighborhood in Boston in 2010. At the time we could only afford a 3% down loan. We rolled the closing costs into the mortgage. All in, it cost us $10k. We bought the property for $262k and it felt like $1M to us at the time. Today, 7 1/2 years later the property value is around $800k.
“never fail due to a lack of effort, because effort requires no skill.”
Love this post. I had a similar experience going to a “Word On the Street” writing festival back in 2012. I pushed my way through the crowded and ask an editor to read my query (the summary you need to send to get an agent to look at your manuscript). Back then, I had no idea it was going to be my first request. I honestly thought I would be stuck in the query trenches getting rejected forever. But like you, I figured “you never know”. And that led to more requests, another manuscript, more feedback and then finally getting published. I’m so glad I did it anyway, even though it was a long shot. You’re right, always put in the effort because you just never know…
Nice story and thanks for sharing! I had a similar “best financial decision I made” that landed me the job I got out of school, but most importantly introduced me to Mrs. SSC. She is THE best decision I’ve ever made.
Mys torys tarted at the end of a long day in grad school, and I wanted to go home and catch the double header of MNF since it was the debut of football season returning. I got asked tos tay and help set up for a talk by Megacorp, and I reluctantly stayed. Afterwards I talked to the recruiter and got an interview slot for the next day. Then I went home and had to redo/beef up my resume because it was not ready for that interview.
That turned into an internship offer, which is where I met Mrs. SSC. We married about 16 months later and will be celebrating 10 years together this fall. :)
Had I just gone home and not stuck around for the talk, I wouldn’t have had that interview, or intern offer, or met Mrs. SSC. I can imagine life would have still turned out successful, but no way would I be looking at retiring in 1-2 more years at age 42. Crazy how the little decisions can have such huge impacts.
A very enjoyable post and the reason behind you creating podcasts is nice.
For me the best financial move I made was to simply message a CEO of the largest digital agency in Ireland on LinkedIn asking if he had any positions available.
Today that is exactly where I am, in an environment that promotes development of skills which encourages giving 100% every day. This was the opposite to where I was before, bullied and harassed by an absolute pig of a boss.
Best financial move was learning the miracle of compound interest while still young enough to have that lesson matter, and having the patience to see it bear fruit. I have a daughter headed to college next year, and more important than most of what she will learn there is teaching her that lesson because it works regardless of how educated you become or what level of income you achieve.
Thank you, Sam, for asking this question. I like how your topics challenge me to assess my own thinking and planning.
Hi Financial Samurai,
As always inspired by your style of putting perspective to each and every small things of life that matter……
My very best financial move was to decide to save atleast twice I spend….My dad always believes in ëvery penny saved is every penny earned…. so i have diversified my portfolio and saved from the beginning of my financial career…..
Great story. You’ve got an ability to relate to the masses that others with your pedigree can’t pull off. In that vein, being on Quora is an absolutely great idea.
(And thanks, btw, for up-voting my last answer a few weeks back. Now if I could figure out how to post without my real name while I work to protect my anonymity!)
Sam, you are a real hustler. My best move was to learn about a thing that I didn’t know anything: personal finance.
And that’s the best financial move for everyone: learn something that scares you. Learn how to make it yourself. How to decide. How to invest!