Sometimes little gestures can mean a whole lot down the road. When in doubt, help someone out. You just never know what might happen. Here is my story about how one small gesture from a colleague changed my life forever.
The year is 2001 and the Nasdaq, down 50%, just celebrated its one year anniversary of hitting its peak. I’m finishing up the second year of my analyst program at Goldman Sachs, the top investment bank at the world at the time. I knew from a secret phone call my boss had in April with the big boss in Hong Kong that I was not getting invited back for my third year.
Knowing my last day for employment would be sometime in June was depressing, like I was waiting for the electric chair. Plenty of people I knew were getting laid off and I was starting to panic mentally. My boss hadn’t explicitly told me I wouldn’t be asked back, but I wasn’t going to wait to see if he did.
A couple weeks later, another phone call came one early May afternoon for my VP sitting right next to me.
After about a minute of conversation, she said while on the phone, “I think you might want to speak to my colleague here.” She turned to me, told me to pick up the phone and have a chat.
I was confused, but I did as I was told. On the line was a guy named Michael. He had a nervous stutter.
“Hi there. Your colleague said you might be interested in working for a competitor covering west coast clients in San Francisco. Are you interested?” Michael said.
Are you kidding me? Hell yeah, I’m interested! I thought to myself. But I didn’t tell him that. Instead, I responded calmly, “I’m not sure Michael. I’m in a really good spot here. The offer would have to be extremely compelling for me to leave.”
“Sure, I understand. Let’s talk more in private when you’re off the desk about what it would take to make you move.” Michael responded.
I was thrilled! I turned to my VP after I had hung up and told her thank you. She was looking out for me because she also knew my days were numbered.
The Offer Package Was Fantastic
I took a day off in order to fly out to San Francisco and meet the team on a Friday. They were a great group of fellas and I especially liked the guy I was going to work directly under. He was intelligent, hardworking, and loved to enjoy life.
One thing led to another and the new firm offered me everything I had asked for:
* An Associate title, reserved for those who had gone to business school or those who continued to be superstars after their third year as an analyst.
* A 64% base salary raise to $85,000 from $55,000.
* A guaranteed bonus of $50,000 for the year, even though there would be only six months left if I joined.
* Subsidized housing for two months and $6,000 for relocation expenses
I went from being out on the streets in a month to getting a raise and a promotion in a new city with a new firm. This series of events was absolutely one of the luckiest turnarounds of my life.
You Just Never Know
My VP passing over the phone was the smallest gesture that changed my financial life and my overall life the most. If she did not hand over the phone, here’s what I think might have happened:
* I would have gotten laid off after two years and either tried to join a competing investment bank
* Tried to go to business school the following year because it was too late to apply in June for that fall
* Returned to Hawaii to tend to my grandfather’s fruit farm and live for free while being a surf bum
* Gone on an amazing worldwide adventure with the $160,000 or so I had in the bank thanks to a really lucky stock that went from $3 to $150 in several months. Oh man, that trip would have been amazing for a 24-25 year old with so much money. After going on the trip, I could then go on a two year b-school vacation!
* Gone to China to take part in their revolution and improve my Mandarin.
It’s funny how everything worked out in the end. I ended up working for my new employer for 11 years, culminating with me engineering my layoff in 2012. The severance provided for six years worth of good life living expenses.
During this time, my wife and I traveled to over 20 countries, built Financial Samurai into one of the top personal finance sites with over 1 million unique visitors a month. We also had a baby and can now both be full-time stay at home parents. Life is good!
It’s funny, but I contacted my old VP recently to tell her this story, and funny enough, she doesn’t recall the gesture at all! That’s how small the gesture was.
You just never know folks. Be open to all opportunities and take advantage as much as you can!
About the Author: Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 as a way to make sense of the financial crisis. He proceeded to spend the next 13 years after attending The College of William & Mary and UC Berkeley for b-school working at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse. He owns properties in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Honolulu and has a total of $810,000 invested in real estate crowdfunding. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $220,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.