When we’re young, we have this idealist image of the way the world should be. Then we enter the work force, get beaten down by the system, and fork over a good amount of our earnings to the government. Suddenly, we’re no longer as much about helping other people or higher taxes anymore. Instead, we’re trying to figure out things for ourselves.
During the summer of 2016, I got to know several MBA interns. One of them went to Harvard for undergrad and was attending Stanford for her MBA. Before Stanford, she worked at a private equity firm, one of the highest paying industries today.
She was now interning at a startup where I was a consultant, that paid much less than what she earned before business school. She was a dreamer who longed to do more.
When I asked her during lunch one day whether she planned to return to private equity, like so many of her classmates with similar experience do, she said, “No Sam, I’m not going back. It was a good experience, but I want to do something more meaningful with my life instead of just investing other people’s money for more money.”
I responded, “Are you sure? The starting pay for MBA grads is huge (~$300,000+ all-in) compared to what many startups pay. Will you really be able to resist the money?”
“Absolutely!” she replied, and with a nice dig towards me, “I’m not like you Sam. You’re very focused on money given your long experience in finance and your personal finance blog. I, on the other hand, really want to do something different. Something more impactful to help change the world.”
Zing! Talk about a slap in my face.
Well, newly minted MBAs were recently unleashed to the world, and it turns out my idealistic summer intern is going back to the very private equity industry she looked down on! She shunned the startup company that focused on helping the 99% for making big bucks for herself and the wealthiest of Americans!
I reached out to her a couple times over LinkedIn to ask her why she decided to go back to PE, but she never responded. I think she’s embarrassed.
Oh well, another bright person chasing money instead of figuring out a way to cure cancer or alleviate poverty.
DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO
I don’t blame my MBA intern for taking a multiple six-figure job out of business school. She or her parents just forked over $100,000+ in tuition and another $200,000+ in lost wages. Accepting a job that provides the highest ROI is a savvy business move! What I didn’t appreciate was the way she positioned herself as someone above me just because she wanted to change the world, but didn’t. (Related: Is Business School A Big Waste Of Time And Money?)
We all like to believe that we’ll follow our dreams instead of follow the money. But rarely will people ever forsake a boatload of money when they’re actually offered the chance. It’s so easy to say money doesn’t buy happiness if you are already rich or poor. But if you aren’t already rich, then the allure of money is too hard to deny.
Examples Of Real People Who Couldn’t Say No To Money
1) A debt blogger who struggled with debilitating debt for years decided to write for a credit card site because the freelance income was too good to pass up.
2) The founders of Secretly, an anonymous web app, shut down a year after they cashed out $3 million each. The right thing to do would be to return the money to their investors, but they legally have every right to keep their windfall, despite knowing their company was in trouble during fund raising.
3) My doctor friend who said he wanted to be a pediatrician because he loves kids. Instead, he went to school for four more years because he wanted to make more money as a cardiologist. His parents paid for all his tuition, so it’s not like he needed to make more money to improve his ROI or get out of debt.
4) Any worker who leaves his/her employer within a couple years, despite saying how much they love the employer. You see it all the time with coaches in college sports or professional athletes as well.
5) Me not taking what would have been an amazing startup job in China after college to join a private investment bank in Manhattan. I also wasn’t able to leave banking after my 10th consecutive year despite losing a tremendous amount of interest. It took three more years to finally break free.
6) Galleon fund manager, Raj Rajaratnam who was worth ~$1.8 billion already when he got caught paying for insider tips in order to make mere millions. Isn’t $1 billion enough?!
7) Anybody whose family is already rich, yet goes into an industry that’s primarily focuses on making themselves even richer! For example, one of the MBA grads at the fintech startup I was consulting for decided to leave after three years to work at a hedge fund. Come on now. Her family paid for her MBA and is planning on buying her a $1.5M condo. How about using your wealth to work as a teacher, blogger, nurse, or in non-profit to help people in need help?
8) How about you?
CHASING MONEY IS NORMAL
If I actually received my severance check, I promised I’d never go back to work. Yet, a year and a half after receiving a nice check, I was back to consulting 25 hours a week. I told myself it was mainly for the camaraderie and experience. But I can’t deny that wonderful feeling of getting a steady paycheck again! At least I haven’t gone back to work full-time in four years.
Chase the money if you have bills to pay, a family to provide for, or because you simply love money. Just don’t go around pretending to be better than anybody else because you supposedly don’t care about money. If you make a lot of money, you can give away lots more money or utilize your greater resources to help other people!
It’s human nature to poo poo those who focus on money if you don’t have money or don’t have any money-making opportunities. Just read the comments in the post on scraping by making $500,000 a year. But I promise you won’t be able to resist the money either once a massive wad of cash gets shoved in your face!
* Start Your Own Website, Be Your Own Boss: There’s nothing better than starting your own website (tutorial) to own your brand online and earn extra income on the side. Why should LinkedIn, FB, and Twitter pop up when someone Google’s your name? With your own website you can connect with potentially millions of people online, sell a product, sell some else’s product, make passive income and find a lot of new consulting and FT work opportunities.
Financial Samurai started as a personal journal to make sense of the financial crisis in 2009. By early 2012, it started making a livable income stream so I decided to negotiate a severance package. Years later, FS now makes more than I did as an Executive Director at a major bulge bracket firm with 90% less work and 100% more fun. You never know where the journey will take you!
* Track Your Net Worth For Free: Sign up for Personal Capital for free and link all your accounts in order to calculate your financial health. You can analyze your cash flow, your investment returns, look for excessive fees, and see whether your net worth is properly allocated. They recently launched the best Retirement Planning Calculator around, using your real data to run thousands of algorithms to see what your probability is for retirement success. Once you register, simply click the Investing tab on the top right and then click Retirement Planner. There’s no better free tool online to help you track your net worth, minimize investment expenses, and manage your wealth.
Updated for 2019 and beyond.