The Best Financial Move I Ever Made Is Something Everyone Can Do

I'd like to share with you the best financial move I ever made to help me get to financial independence at 34 in 2012. I started Financial Samurai in 2009 and started writing about achieving FIRE (financial independence retire early) on a regularly basis. Today, the FIRE movement has grown to be a worldwide phenomena as more people leave suboptimal jobs and retire earlier on their own terms.

The great thing about this best financial move is that anybody can do it. And that one move is getting on the damn bus! This is a story about the importance of showing up.

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 (Apple) 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”

  1. 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!

    1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. MacArthur ROTH IRA Wheeler

    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.

    Happy thanksgiving!

  4. - Nordic Fire

    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

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. Runner Investor

    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

  8. 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!”

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!!

  12. 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.


  13. asia_mystery

    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

    1. Financial Orchid

      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.

  14. 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.

  15. “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…

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. Tuckerman Jones

    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.

  19. 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…..

  20. 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!)

  21. 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!

  22. Sam, firstly, I so enjoy your website – thank you for writing and creating. I find the content incredibly helpful and your perspective / background resonates.

    I’m from small town, Midwest USA. My parents were (and are) good influences and made me pay for school, so I went where I thought I’d have the best ROI, in-state public school for me. I was determined to get the most out of the experience, which brings me to my best financial decision.

    One day, my professor shared that Goldman was interviewing for a shadow program for underclassmen. Unfortunately (and fortunately), the week-long program fell over spring break. I must have been the only student from my school to apply. In my mind, it was a no brainer to give up a week of sun (and killing precious few brain cells) for an oppty like this. Long story short (as I write a novel here), I received a phone call which turned into an interview which turned into a summer internship and offer, despite being a sophomore from a state school with (admittedly) a chip on his shoulder. I was similarly taken aback by the sheer number of private school > Ivy kids there and at my Superday, I got the sense the feeling was mutual. Kids were talking about how they spent their previous summers – big banks, investment funds, CEO-shadowing. Faces ranged from confusion to horror when I shared I spent it tarring a strip mall parking lot and building decks for neighbors with my cousin.

    That experience has created so many opportunities for me – each leading to another fortunate chance, which eventually brought me to SF to join a PE fund. Apologies for the overshare but sincerely appreciate your perspectives and relatability.

    Like most lessons in life, Keanu Reeves has already said it best and more succinctly. This time it was in Hardball – “What I’ve learned from you is that really one of the most important things in life is showing up” (RIP G-Baby).

    PS I echo your ultimate best decision. My wife is awesome for many reasons but most relevant here are her values and frugality. We’re really fortunate to be where we are at and I’m thankful that we check each other, probably her helping me more than the other way around, when the lead up discussion to a decision (especially financial ones) starts to veer away from those values.

  23. Financial Samurai,

    I am really inspired by your financial independence journey. Last week I decided that it was time for me to start that journey as well. Therefore I have started my own website and will be tracking my FIRE journey on that blog. The only difference is that I will also keep track of my fitness as I would like to be in the best shape of my life to enjoy my financial freedom.

  24. My single best financial move was as a teenager my friends and I would sit on benches in the neighborhood. They would pass around 40 ounces of beer and marijuana. When it came my turn I would say I’m good and they would pass it over me and pass it on to other friends. Experiences like these makes me okay with being a contrarian at times.

  25. OlderAndWiser

    I choose to keep the details of my story private, but I believe one of the single best financial moves I made (albeit one that most would consider quite small) was one that I decided to take in spite of the mockery of the much older man I was dating at the time. As you say, sometimes the first step is indeed the hardest, especially if it is done without support. And in case anyone feels inclined to take pity on me, don’t! My life has turned out quite nicely, with a very supportive partner, and taking that difficult first step 30 years ago was empowering.

  26. Best financial advice is to live at home with your parents when you get your first job. I was able to save $2500 a month for a few years and buy a $420k house at age 26.

  27. My wife is much more frugal than me. She has probably spent less than $150 on herself in the last four months!

  28. Having come from parents who were married in 1929 (the Great Depression) and with subsequent lifelong attitudes about money, my first job out of college was quite low paying but I opened a savings account at a bank and put in $5. That was the beginning of discipline that was also permanent with me. My eventual husband was busy with his job and so allowed me to handle the money, both bill paying and investing. At retirement I gladly handed over the monthly duties but still do the investing part.

    When our son graduated from college we gave him “The Millionaire Next Door” and so he has had a plan from the beginning that he has followed too. We are now in year 20 of retirement.

  29. “I aggressively saved and invested ~70% of my after tax income for the next 11 years.”

    Is it possible for you to breakdown what this looked like and how it was possible living in NYC and SF? Every time I read this it makes me question how it was possible regardless of how frugal you tried to live.

  30. Great story, getting on a bus changed your life, acting in a play changed mine. However, I don’t care if Mother Teresa gave you a tie with a Teddy Bear holding a balloon on it that thing does not belong around your neck at an interview! What were you thinking. I’m very jealous of your podcast voice, it is so smooth and professional, a real radio voice. Mine just, well, sucks mostly. I’ve been on nearly a dozen podcasts in the personal finance and FI community and I just do not like the way I sound. You can take the hick out of Arkansas but you can’t take the Arkansas out of the hick’s voice.

    1. I’ll wear and honor anything that is given to me. It’s funny because in this day and age, the dress code has become so relaxed.

      Smooth and professional is a nice complement. Thank you. Maybe when I was in college, I realizeed there was a certain tone one should speak with to be taken more seriously. But as far as I can remember, I’ve always talked like this.

      Didn’t Bill Clinton come from Arkansas? You’ve got it made!

  31. Hi Sam,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post :). As ever, your simplest posts are often the most powerful. I can certainly attest to the benefits of choosing the right life partner. It has certainly changed my life since our journey started in 2009.

    Oh and as for children, it really is a whole different level of joy bottled with a tonne of work. We have two sons and no day is ever the same in our household.

    I look forward to more podcasts. It is something I am considering actually and the technology is getting better. Although I know you have started already, check out It’s great for publishing straight from your mobile. would you ever do video?

    Until next time!

    1. Yes, if I can figure out how to do it. Maybe in several years after my little one goes to pre-school, I’ll be able to get more time. Don’t want to come out of retirement mode and do too much before he goes to school as I want to spend as much time w/ him as possible.

      There is an endless amount of stuff one can do online. Have you started your website or podcast? If so, would love to check it out.

  32. Hey, ccjarider…

    I AM like Scrooge.
    I Will save until the day I die.
    It’s a way of life, I’ve gotten used to it, and I eat at diners not restaurants because I don’t wanna get ripped off either. Food is fuel. I wouldn’t know caviar from cat crap anyhow.
    I am trapped. But we’re all trapped in our ways and places (Time is the fire in which we All burn!).

    I don’t date anymore because of the massive waste of time, energy, money. The humiliation. The fact that I don’t fit into this world anymore. I won’t rant and rave about this being a Narcissist Nation and being judged from a distance based upon image rather than substance. No, I’m not an ugly pig but I’m non-conformist enough to scare most humans off sooner or later. All I have to do is open my mouth about, say, microwaves and sugar killing everyone… And women are as much a programmed product of this matrix as anyone. Ah, but you’ll say to keep trying! Fool, I say. If you keep getting burned touching that stove then Don’t Touch It! Or to put it more FSy: Only a fool keep throwing his money away on lottery tickets hoping to hit it big someday. There’s such a thing called Statistics out there…

    Yes, Statistics! Statistics! I’ve a better chance of getting pregnant than finding the ideal mate! And I’m a male hetero, too! And I want nothing to do with anal sex!

    Think Logically not Emotionally! Better to die alone and as a financially independent millionaire than ripped off by a big-spending, reckless woman and die homeless and penniless! My nerves alone would be shredded. I only recently became liberated from being my dying Alzheimer’s mother’s sole caregiver after x years, all alone in the night. Something I dare not repeat with another–albeit younger and more attractive–woman (accompanied by a problem child daughter, no less!) cruising for The Straighjacket Zone!

    I might not live the ideal life, but I have Freedom and am financially better off than the majority. Healthy in body and mind (OK, maybe that’s questionable) is true happiness, just not the text book/fairytale variety.

    FS… I Did type something about a mattress some days ago…
    A&J… I don’t believe in destiny. I’d just as well believe in god and Santa, which I don’t.

  33. Best financial move? Marrying my wife.
    Because I married my wife I chose a residency that I wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. There I met amazing people that became amazing friends and connections that turned into huge opportunities.
    2. Because I met my wife I left my home state for fellowship (that I got, in part because a connection from my residency picked up a phone and called a friend) where I had an amazing experience and level of training I think was likely the best available in the country at the time.
    3. Because I went to that fellowship I had a job waiting for me based upon a mentor their telling a group they had a guy for them and to get a position ready in their group.
    4. Because I left my home state (which I never would have otherwise) I pay nothing in federal income tax, and paid a third what I would have for an equivalent house…and love the area.
    5. We are on the same page in terms of goals, spending and most other things (except toilet seat position and thermostat setting) this makes a budget and saving easy.

    Marrying the right person is probably the best financial decision anyone can make.

  34. Sam, do you think that if you didn’t get an offer from Goldman, that you would still probably have ended up in a similar spot, purely due to your life motto?

    I am sure you know the saying that “luck is just preparation meeting opportunity”.

    1. Probably not. I wouldn’t have been able to earn and save as much. Without 13 years of finance experience, I wouldn’t have been able to write 1,500+ personal finance articles over 9 years either with relative consistency. It’s so much easier writing from experience and knowledge.

      But my life motto would be the same b/c I would have figured things out and gone to China where there was an opportunity to work for a father’s friend in Shenzhen. That was the start of boom times in 1999!

  35. The example of you boarding a bus a 6am to go out of town for a job prospect reminded me of the first steps I took to get two different jobs. For the first job I was living 200 miles away from it at the time and was required to leave at 2:30am driving 3.5 hours for a job interview and skills test. I had woke up at 1am and debating with myself for 1 hour and 15 minutes if I should waste my time driving so far for a job I assumed I wasn’t going to get. I decided at 2:15am to drive the 200 miles and ended up passing the interview and skills test the secure the position. This was my job for the past six years.

    The second job I just obtained is as an Air traffic controller. For this job I read online about how rigorous the selection process was and about 14 months ago had to take an entrance test that only 30 percent of applicants passed to be selected for on the first day after Thanksgiving weekend, which required me to drive 700 miles back home to take it. I again debated up until the last minute if it was worth the effort, passed the test and was selected for the job.

    I learned after going through these two experiences that as what Sam said, you should at least show up and make an effort! If you don’t you will always regret not taking the chance.

    1. Steve Adams

      I need to figure out a way to setup interviews at 3am. Filter out the rif raf. You show up and act like you can learn and get along with others and you’ve got a job!

  36. While I agree a life partner means everything to feeling financially “rich” (everyone’s standard is different), I think it’s clear the actual attendance at the career fair was what set you on your path. It’s the same as if you were living at home with your parents, and they ushered you out at 5am to catch that bus.

    But my feelings on career fairs are mixed. I, like you, believe college career fairs are mostly useless. They’re looking for performance-based candidates, with only academic achievements as qualifiers. Being a middling student like myself and having to compare yourself to hundreds of other students taking the same coursework, I never stood out enough at these and never got an interview. However, professional industry career fairs are completely different. It allows you to shine with you experience and better engage with the company rep on their level and ideally dazzle them. It also allows you to show you’re not just qualified on paper, but you have communication skills. I was once laid-off and went to a industry related career fair 400 miles away (So. Cal.) and got multiple call backs and had expense-paid interviews at 2 different companies down there.

  37. Monty J. Gardiner

    Great work, great read, looking forward to practicing your motto in my everyday life. Thank you…

  38. I can definitely agree with choosing the right partner being the best financial advice out there! I made that choice for myself and had a similar thought to this post recently. Your post also reminds me of my favorite Starcraft streamer, Day9. He said that his one piece of advice for success is “just show up.” It goes well with your advice that you shouldn’t fail due to lack of effort.

    The other takeaway from your post is that snobby ML recruiter turning you down and not realizing that you had the seeds of greatness in you. It didn’t matter where you were from but what you were willing and able to achieve. She’s probably a reader of your site on occasion and doesn’t even know it.

    Very good and uplifting post, Sam! :)

  39. Really nice post Sam. I had a string of very fortunate events that have brought me here today – I’d barely even call then ‘decisions’, as I feel most of them were just incredibly fortunate events. Also feel like I kind of fluked my way into my career. So hard to identify just one event, but meeting my now wife absolutely transformed my life for sure. Never in a million years did I think I’d be where I am today, financially and more personally, and her friendship and support is to thank for most of it.

    I did pick up a couple of inspiring personal finance books in my late teens that drove my love of investing – that was probably one of the best decisions that impacted my finances.

    I’ve often reflected on how it seems to be those tiny little moments or events that seem to set you off on a different path and make all the difference in life…

  40. This is a great story! I have learned that there is also a randomness to things. However, those that are active seem to have better luck over time. Not that it works with investing but it does with life.

    1. There is a reason that many cultures have a saying that God helps those who help themselves. Maybe an atheist would say that you make your own luck…

  41. Couldn’t agree more on finding the right life partner – my wife is my #1 adviser and trusting her has kept me on the right path more than once! Financially speaking, I think one of the best things I did was to start house hacking as soon as I graduated college. That freed up cash flow to start investing and building financial independence even though my first job out of school (Finance degree, 2008!) wasn’t all that lucrative.

  42. Great post! I have to agree with you and say that marrying my wife was the best financial move I have made. A spouse is a life partner and having a great spouse makes a huge difference in not just finances, but all aspects of your life (happiness, health, etc.).

    While I make more money, my wife is more of a minimalist than me, and possibly even more frugal. She’s probably smarter than me too! Fortunately we share the same values when it comes to money, the concept of happiness, having kids, parenting, politics, and some of the more important aspects of our life.

    Other extraordinary things that I ended up doing that resulted in extraordinary results include getting into a public university on scholarship, getting into medical school, forcing myself to save and be frugal throughout residency and the years thereafter, and paying off all student loan debt rapidly by saving/investing more than 50% of my income.

  43. What an incredible and touching story! I can see why your answer has done so well on quora. You just never know is right and we can’t have any regrets when we give something our best effort. I didn’t know that the experience getting your job offer in Japan was an influence on naming the site. Awesome!! :)

  44. Deryl Brown

    Best financial moves:

    1. Dropped out of a private university that cost $30k/yr. I left Freshman year after my first semester because I realized I would need student loans at some point. I didn’t have anything against loans at the time, but I knew my chances of qualifying for said loan were poor because my mom had just filed bankrupt…

    2. Joined the Navy Reserves. Navy helped pay for school AND helped me discover my career path. Made it through undergrad and grad school with one student loan (total of $10K), which will be paid off by my employer.

    3. Bought my first house at 21. The year was 2009, I was in undergrad, working weekends making $13/hr…pre-approved for max loan of $85k! So I bought one side of a duplex. Have been renting the place out for 3 years. Now I’m buying the other side of the duplex, closing is set for Monday!

  45. My best financial move was having the guts to quit full time work (I was married w/ 2 kids at the time) so that I could go back to college full time and get my degree. Short term pain, long term gain. Since graduating 12 years ago my salary has skyrocketed and my family (still married, but w/ 4 kids now) is able to thrive on my single income. This wouldn’t have been possible had we not made that short term sacrifice.

  46. At 23, I saw an IRA compound interest chart that showed me that I could be a millionaire by 65 which lead me to my best financial move – I read Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson in 1997. I had always been a “planner,” but I had little knowledge of finance beyond CDs. Little did I know it would lead me down a path where I would hit the millionaire goal by 40, learn about early retirement at 43 and plan to retire by 48.

  47. This article really resonates with me as I attribute much of my good fortune to impressing the right person at the right time and I try to stress this to all the employees I try to mentor at my corporate job. I was entry level in operations, but made the leap to corporate headquarters based on a casual comment someone had made about my performance and this person had only worked with me for a total of probably 4 hours. This really set up the chain of events of getting my foot in the door, getting noticed, and ultimately allowing me to prove my worth as I moved up the ladder. I always try to tell all my colleagues, “Every second you are at work, you are in an interview process. Don’t forget that and try to impress everybody you meet with your work ethic. You never know when they are going to go to bat for you someday.”

    The significant other piece is also hugely important as well. My wife (girlfriend at the time) probably wouldn’t have allowed for me to save 70% of everything we earned back in our younger days, but we helped support each other through college debt-free and we are much stronger and better for having had each other.

    Keep up the great work!

    1. “Every second you are at work, you are in an interview process. Don’t forget that and try to impress everybody you meet with your work ethic. You never know when they are going to go to bat for you someday.”” – Good advice!

      Man, I stopped giving a crap about work about 1 – 2 years before I left. I reached the 10 year anniversary mark and didn’t even get a gold pen. Screw that! :)

      1. Yeah, I may be looking through rose colored glasses in that I work for a great company (always ranked in the Top 100 Fortune Best Places to work) and so your results may vary. And in reading your story, it sounds like in the early days of work you were probably not unlike me. Just grinding away with high aspirations. And then once you saw your opportunity out, you seized it and it looks to have been the right move.

        1. This kind of advise was what my dad gave. I remember my first job (that he informed me I was getting the day after my birthday where it was legal to work). “Do a fantastic job every day on the small stuff and people will notice and give you better jobs”.
          I’m not sure how I would look at that now. At the time it worked…I remember busting my butt and getting other job offers that got me raises when I told my boss I’d have to leave for more money.
          When moving into more lucrative fields, the reality is that confidence and the ability to BS goes really, really far. And standing up for your worth (“I’m not going to do that sh*t and here’s why”) conveys value in a way hard work (or showing up) doesn’t seem to. Now my dad ultimately made millions, I’m on track and i’ll Let you know if I pass him, but it’s not the end all be all.

  48. Wait a minute – you have a podcast now? That’s the best news to start off the weekend! How do I get access if I’m not an iPhone/iTunes guy? Do you have that accessible on the site to download anywhere?

    — Jim

      1. Hmm, that’s sure going to be a pain for me to download from with some Internet trickery, but I guess you’re worth it, Sam! However, you might be missing some pretty good market share by only publishing to iTunes.

        — Jim

  49. Your decision to get up early and sit on an empty bus seems to have paid huge dividends; nice!
    One of the most important decisions I have made is reading and listening to financial content online and through the library. There are so many ways to improve and optimize your personal financial health. The landscape is continuing to change and that’s why it’s important to continuously be engaged with information.

  50. A good spouse is an enabler to a great life but I am not going to say it is the best financial move. My spouse and I would be happy and love each other even if we were both bobbleheads about money. While I clearly have more of an interest in financial freedom topics than her, I will say that being with her has given me the freedom to research, ponder and make some quality decisions that ultimately have benefited both of us.

    However still not the best financial decision.

    Best financial decision was developing a practice of watching others while growing up. I definitely recall thinking about adult family members who did not practice good financial practice and then thinking – “I am not going to be them.” Planting the seed in a young mind early makes for easy decisions later because the goal has always been clear.

  51. Chuck Sarahan II

    I wonder if FS ever read the book Succeeding by John T. Reed. That books lays out a lot of stuff you should know but weren’t taught. He followed it pretty close.

  52. This is a great story – but 55 interviews would stress me out, haha. Sounds like your girlfriend (wife) is definitely a great supporter :) Finding a supportive spouse IMO is one of the most critical things to success (if you’re going the marriage route anyway)

  53. Absolutely the right partner makes all the difference. The best move we’ve ever are was realizing the benefits of accepting an overseas assignment. Free housing, hardship bonus and vacation allowances made it a no brainer.

  54. A supportive partner makes all the difference. My best move is the same. Your spouse has such a huge impact on everything you do. If you have the right partner, it makes everything easier. Nice answer.

  55. I’m very glad that the results this question brought. I was able to get 100k views in 1 day as well :)

    Thanks for being a team player and spreading the word of Quora, looking forward to reading more of your great answers.

    1. Erik – It’s funny b/c I didn’t realize this was your answer, as I’m still trying to figure Quora out. But thanks for asking and inviting me to share!

      I’m gonna slowdown on Quora now. I decided to try it out for 30 days or until I got to 1M views, whichever came first. So it’s time to take it easy again!

  56. I think a good partner is key! Being on the same page with my wife has been great for us.

    As far as a financial decision, it probably comes down to a long term real estate choice. When I got my first post-grad school job, my wife and I had only been married 2 years and she had been a teacher while I was in grad school. We decided to buy a house instead of renting for a period (although we could have had a similar outcome if we had rented for a short period too). Fifteen year mortgage (@ 7.5%! Oh, late 90’s). The big decision was paying off a few hundred dollars in interest on top of the regular mortgage payment. It cost us a little in earned interest (CD rates were frequently around 5-6% at the time) we paid it off 4 years early so saved more in the end. And then we had 4 years plus another 3 years of additional savings. So when we bought an another house we could make a bigger down payment and have a less cumbersome monthly mortgage. And we still have a pretty nice savings.

    Number two choice: starting a 401k when first able to like 17 years ago and taking the max dollars in company matching contributions.

  57. My best financial move was buying a foreclosure across from a beautiful lake when I was 26 years old. I used it as a rental for 24 years and now we just totally remodeled it and moved into it ourselves. A smart realtor told me not to ever sell the property. As a rental, our tenant paid for the house 3 times over and we pretty much used all of the depreciation that we could. Now we enjoy sunrises and sunsets every day at the lake.

    1. Great move. Never sell property you’d happily enjoy yourself for the rest of your life. Properties with views and near water are rare and amazing!

      The house I sold in 2017 was a nice house, but it was on a busy street next to one of the busiest streets in all of SF. I don’t feel too bad selling it as a result… also b/c it is near liquefaction.

  58. My favorite line:
    Never fail due to a lack of effort, because effort requires no skill

  59. I can totally relate. I have a similar experience in Dallas, TX. A job fair with Fidelity Investments. A fleet of MBA grads wearing dark suits. I wore a dark olive tan suit because it was hot as crap outside, and I liked the color. When I showed up I said o well I dont look the part but Ill give it my best shot. I was hired after two interviews. Spent two years with them , which launched my career in software sales:) Rest is history

  60. I look forward to hearing about the life partner selection. On this journey I get a lot of skepticism from the men I date, I find it hard or embarrassing to open up about what seem like pretty lofty financial goals but i don’t want to end up with someone who lacks the maturity and grit to save and create vision and intention for a future together.

  61. In some ways life is just a never ending stream of opportunities. But you can’t possibly know where each of those opportunities leads. But if the possibilities intrigue you should follow them.

    For me it was my wife as well. Just as financially restrained but encouraging enough for me to do what’s necessary to improve.

  62. Adam and Jane

    The best financial decision was marrying my wife too but I am a shy person so how did I meet her? It was destiny….but first I had to make a decision to work in my current company of 31 years.

    I went to a CUNY and majored in Computer Science with a 3.0 GPA. I sucked in school all my life but I got 100s on all of my computer programs. I knew I was logical but I sucked at remembering all the text book information for exams. After I graduated, there were no job offers for 6 months. I knew I was an average student, not very smart and that the road ahead was a tough one. A family friend suggested that I work as a temp. He has been working in this same company that provides temps to other companies for decades so my mom trusted him. I did this temp work for about a year. Temping in many financial companies in NYC. This temp company also sent me on interviews for a permanent job but I still did not get any job offers. The last place was Merrill Lynch. I was doing mindless filing of proxy statements. Then the proxy voting team needed help gathering votes and super votes. I was transferred to their team and they was impressed that I was able to do a super vote. They said not one temp was able to work in their team because they could not do a super vote. I told them that I was a computer science major and I just wrote out their super vote procedures into an “If..Then..” statements like a computer program on paper so that I would remember the procedures. The mgr on the proxy team liked me and he recommended me to the mgr of the computer operations team which wanted to hire me full time. YES! A job offer!

    Another good family friend, recommended me to join another company since they were looking for trainees but I had to take a logic test. I passed the test and I took the job off at this new Fortune 500 company. The starting salary was 19K in 1987. The major reason, I turned down the computer operations job at Merrill Lynch was because this new company had a 6 months training program. We trainees sat in the training area with other classrooms for 6 months. There were also non trainees taking classes in the same area. I noticed one asian girl taking a class and she caught me looking at her. Busted! I have seen her from a distance in the company from time to time but was to shy to introduce myself to her.

    After 6 months of training, we were assigned to our permenant teams. Our team had a major project with many new programs to write. Our team needed a lot of help and requested many programmers to temporary join our team in order to complete the project on time. Five new people joined our team and the first one to join was Jane, the asian girl I was checking out while she was taking a class. I was so shocked that I could not even look her in the eye. At the time she thought I was strange. There are over 1200 IT people working in the computer department and what is the chance of her joining our team? Destiny!

    Well, I worked with Jane on the same team for 1.5 years. I got to know her very well and we often spoke about our chinese families. After about 6 months, I asked her out and we kept our relationship quiet for 3 years. We were married in 1991 and co-workers were shocked that we were even dating because we were stealthy.

    We bought a house in Queens NYC for 260K and paid off the 180K loan at 9.5% (refi to 6.75% after 2 years) mortgage in 11 years. We tried to save 50% of our incomes in case one of us is jobless.

    In 2009, another good family friend introduced us to municipal bonds and we used our life savings to buy them in preparations for future laid offs or re-orgs. We cut our yearly expenses from 56K to 40K.

    In 2012, 350 ppl were laid off and we had 40K in tax free passive income. We were almost FI but didn’t have enough money to cover medical if both of us were jobless. We were not financially stress because we have passive income whereas my co-workers were freaking out.

    By 2014 at age 48/49, we were FI with a passive tax free income of 66K.

    In 2016, another 650 ppl were laif off. We had no financial worries since our passive income from Munis were 84K. Jane was also laid off after 30 years of service with a 232K severance. She has a 52K pension and she gets 8K yearly for retiree medical. She is so freaking happy to never ever work again starting at age 51.

    For 2018, our passive tax free income is 87.5K.

    In 2019, I will retire at 55 at the end of the year. My pension will be 70K and I should get 8K yearly for retiree medical.

    The best financial decision was to join our current company that has a pension. I met my wife Jane and we are on the same page on saving money for dooms day. With our munis, pensions and interest from fix investments in our 401K, we will have 2-3X expenses. We are very fortunate.

    I feel that it was destiny on how I met Jane. I am very fortunate to have 3 different good family friends that guided me along the way.


    1. Adam,

      Thanks for sharing your fascinating story. Congratulations on winning life! You’re free!

      One question – did you invest solely in Muni Bonds or do you hold other equity investments?

      1. Adam and Jane


        Thanks! Since I lost some money during the dot com days I have no money in the stock market since 2000. We only buy individual muni bonds and we hold them until they are called or matures. We buy the cow for its milk. Buy them from a self service brokerage like Fidelity since they charge 1-2% less than a bank. ie. A bank may charge $103 and Fidelity will charge about $101 for the same muni bond.

        Regarding you comment, “You’re free!”.
        LOL. Almost free. I will be free in 20 months! Counting down the days….then I will be doing a happy dance!


  63. Great story and lesson. “Never fail due to lack of effort.” So simple, yet so powerful.

    I too got my first job from a job fair my girlfriend (now wife) pushed me to go to. I’ve also said that my wife was the greatest decision financial decision I’ve ever made. I rarely send her PF articles but this one is getting shared.

    1. Believe it or not, I had no idea today is National Spouses Day. Whoo hoo! Marketers are smart to make every day some type of day. I like the days that raise awareness for disabilities.

  64. The best financial move I ever made was getting let go in 2012 due to a lack of interest in my company’s product in the US market. I took the next 6 months leasurely unemployed to discover FI and really wrap my head around investing.

    Now I have 11 years living expenses while my colleagues fret about money, just from incorporating the principles learned at that time into my financial life.

  65. When I started my first job out of college I started saving 12% of my income right off the bat (on the advice of a family friend).
    That single move started the path off right. We had some hiccups along the way but have course corrected and are on the right path to financial independence.

  66. My best move is very similar to yours. I went to a job fair at college and talked to a recruiter. That led to interviews, which led to a job offer for an internship, which led to a full-time offer 2 weeks into my final semester.

    My other best move would be accepting an invitation to a party, where I met my amazing boyfriend! Ironically enough, he’s the one that asked you that question on Quora :)

    1. That’s pretty hilarious that Erik is your BF! Also, I had no idea this was Erik’s question. I just saw the question in the feed and answered it. I’m so new to Quora that I don’t know what I’m doing :)

  67. I needed to see this today, I have been telling myself no for the last few days in regards to a job that wants to speak to me. I felt I wasn’t quite “there” yet in my career and have been holding off. I’ve had some tough interviews in the past few months that kind of discouraged me but I’m going to go ahead and set this thing up.

    1. What? You want the job but feel you aren’t there?
      Option one: interview and people who know if you’re their or not will reject you and you’l be…right where you are now but you’ll know.
      Option two: interview and people who know if you’re their or not will acknowledge you are there and you’ll be better off.
      What’s the lose option?

    2. Every interview is practice and preparation for the interview that gets you the job you really want!

  68. That’s amazing! It’s funny how the most impactful things in your life often happen over one split decision.

    I met my fiancé through my friend who went to post graduate school with him. If either of them had selected a different school, all this happiness would have never happened. Life seems more fragile and precious when you look at it that way.

    1. Very cool. So much is luck yeah? If I with to UVA, I would never had met my wife and that would be so sad. But, a new life unknown would probably be pretty cool too. Hence, let’s be thankful for whatever life we’ve got!

  69. Now don’t jump down my throat or castrate me for this. I’m being honest after a year’s worth of self-analysis and beating myself up. And being Rational with my future projections.

    The Best financial move I ever made was, believe it or not, doing the Opposite of you, FS.

    I Didn’t get married. I Didn’t reproduce. I didn’t take the girl with her I-need-it-NOW daughter.
    You have kids and you’re digging your own financial grave.
    Food, clothing, education, Toys!

    I compiled a list of her “demands” she had of me in the immediate future. These included everything from a new car to botox to a hot tub to exotic pets to a complete remodeling of parts of my home to big vacations. And that’s not even taking into account her spoiled girl’s desires.

    Half a century ago, things were different. We lived modestly and rationally without the consumerist curse. Today it’s all about money. Your money’s gonna Go, and fast.

    I Could have married a woman with a daughter. The two would have crippled me financially with the Spending. I’m a Saver as you know and it’s best not to marry a Spender who’s financially retarded–with offspring!

    I think it’s better to stay single.

    I don’t need a son (to some day read Son of Financial Samurai’s future blog!).

    1. Interesting story however my take is that she was just the wrong person – not that the concept of marriage and children are wrong.

      Do you no longer eat at restaurants because have had had bad meals/service before? That’s essentially what you are saying.

      Your gonna wind up like Ebenezer Scrooge, rich but lonely. The accounts are not gonna care if you are dead or alive. The $ is to do things with (in moderation). You gonna save until the day you die?

      1. Once a dog bit me and now I kick all dogs right when I see them! Amen brother screw women and dogs!!!!

  70. For my husband and I, one of the best financial decisions was to take action and learn. Neither of us grew up particularly savvy, our families were ok with money (not great) and there was no “Personal Finance 101” in college. But we both realized the need to learn and recognized a mutual desire for financial stability… so we dove in and tried to figure it out. We are by no means experts now, but we can make informed decisions about our finances and are in a much better place than if we had ignored this area of life.

  71. This is so adorable and sweet and adorable and awww!! *Spazzes out* I can’t begin to imagine the pride of being able to play the same career game the kids from Yale or Columbia without a trust fund!

    A good woman makes a huge difference in any man’s life :) it’s more incentive for all the guys out there with little girls to raise them to be smart with money.

    The best financial move for me was reading your blog at age 22 and going “woahhhh a community like this exists??”

  72. “What’s certain is that if you do nothing out of the ordinary, nothing out of the ordinary will ever happen to you”, boom, mic drop

    1. I’m maybe commenting to much in this thread but I think your comment is absolutely correct.
      If you try and fail what have you really lost? You either succeed and are better off or fail and you’re in no worse shape then you were before. Better to go for it.

  73. Hi Sam,

    I have a question with respect to William & Marry because I am considering going there to get a master in accounting. Do you know if the big four accounting firms recruit from there? I check their web site but I wasn able to find their corporate partnership.


    1. Chuck Sarahan II

      I have worked with CPAs from W&M who worked at the Big Four. In reality the school matters less than what you bring. Are you a CPA? If not I would that first. A Masters degree is like a Bachelors these days. Being a CPA opens a lot of doors that would be closed otherwise. If you are CPA, your grades and seminar project will be important. In fact, if you do a good seminar paper, you can use it to help get you a job. I converted a local government’s financial statements from one type of GAAP to another. That, along with being a credentialed CPA, got me seven job offers out of seven schools and one job offer with no interview. I went to a small state school (Bowie State – Maryland) with no reputation. It was an excellent school and it made me a lot better including my ability to write. However, I would not been hired based on that school’s reputation. It was the other factors that made the difference.

      Good luck in your future endeavors.

    2. Yes, all the Big Four recruit from W&M for accounting. In fact, the accounting firms like PwC, Anderson, KPMG were the biggest recruiters and the most desired firms to work for out of W&M when I was there, and probably still are.

      I applied to all, and didn’t get an interview at any of them except for Anderson if I recall correctly. Then I bombed it :) My one and only job offer was from GS. And it was the best job offer I could ever imagine. Just takes one!

      1. My buddy got a gig at PwC. According to him it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. And he moved on to better things. Not doing to bad. Not sure the typical approach is all it’s cracked up to be.

        1. It’s an excellent first job out of college. But it’s definitely not a dream job. If you got a job at PwC or the likes, that was a top 10% job out of W&M at the time.

          1. Damn Millennial

            I agree with Sam. Starting in public accounting if you are interested in a finance/accounting is a great launch pad. It will be hard and you are underpaid but it really is to get your resume going.

            You can pivot from there.

            For certain firms it is “pay to play” and good ole boys clubs. You must get an MBA from top tier school to many candidates to choose from. The public accounting route is a low cost alternative to get your foot in the door.

    3. The Big 4 firms will tend to recruit at all the big state universities. They have a ton of positions to fill and high turnover so they aren’t as picky about pedigree as the investment banks or the top consulting firms. I think with so many Ivy Leaguers wanting to go into tech or save the world in the non profit sector that even those industries are being a bit more open to people from state schools than they were in Sam’s day. I went to Arizona State and know people who got offers in Asset Management at Goldman Sachs and from McKinsey.

  74. The right girlfriend makes all the difference.

    The Bible says, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

    1. I don’t know about that. You’d probably die of disease after being exposed to rain and snow (or accidental falling) within a few months of living in a corner of the roof.

  75. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for sharing such a captivating story.

    How were you able to become involved in answering questions on Quora. Is there a special process to do this?

    The best financial move I’ve ever made is a close parallel to your story. I met my wife while she was working in Asia, and we got engaged while in a long distance relationship. I was trying to transfer over with my employer but the actual transfer wasn’t working out. My wife circulated my resume to several recruiters and that drummed up some interest. A multi-national company contacted me and we had a lot of back and forth and I met with the Sr VP of HR over dinner.

    Then the trail went cold- she stopped returning my notes until finally I called her up during the working day. At first I was going to be sarcastic and snarky about the blow off but instead I approached it neutrally and called her to check in and follow up to see how things are. It turned out that her father had just died and she was out of the office for family reasons.

    Later I had many more interviews including a personality and aptitude assessment done at a boutique firm in New York, and I received a report later that listed my name under an alias. It was all very surreal. Finally after going to London and meeting the CEO I got a job as a Plant Manager, managing 600 people at the age of 33, for twice as much as I made before that. I stayed in senior leadership roles at similar salary levels the next almost twelve years, at a total of three companies and now I’m basically FI at the age of 44.

    Like you I can say the key success criteria was choosing a good partner and also staying humble and not assuming anything when you feel like someone is blowing you off or thinking otherwise. It’s totally best to remain humble and go in with a neutral attitude. Doing otherwise leaves opportunity on the table and this is where you can differentiate yourself from others that are out there.


    1. Thanks for sharing your story Mike! As for Quora, anybody can just sign up and start asking questions and answering questions. It’s pretty fun, and can get addicting. I’ll share more of my findings in a future post.

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