In 2013, my income took a big hit. The glow of a six figure severance paid out in 2012 was no more, and I didn’t have a job to pay my bills. All I had was my passive income and a tiny salary I drew from my online media company.
I had no desire to pay the employee and employer’s FICA + Medicare tax of 12.4% as an employer employee. Instead, I’d rather take distributions, which are free from such taxes with an S-Corp. Unfortunately, the IRS isn’t stupid and wants to see a balanced income/distribution ratio.
I’ve always thought I was way too lucky to deserve the income I earned during my career in finance. All I did was study hard, get on a 6am bus to a career fair in Washington DC, and interview well enough to land a job that paid well. Nobody from The College of William & Mary, a non-target state school, gets a front office job at Goldman Sachs WHQ. Luck can be the only explanation.
No matter how many times you hear of high income earners going bankrupt, if you are making at least $100,000 a year, it’s relatively easy to become a millionaire. Working in finance almost felt like cheating. You not only gain extensive knowledge to make better financial decisions for yourself, you are also paid handsomely.
When I began looking for other employment opportunities outside of finance, I realized just how good the finance industry pays. It’s very hard to find jobs in tech/internet that pay over $250,000 a year. But in investment banking, practically every 29 year old Associate makes such an amount. Many CEOs in other industries doesn’t even get paid that much.
Attempting To Prove It Wasn’t All Just Luck
Many people didn’t give me any credit for building my financial nut while working in finance. “Of course Sam was able to retire by 34 since he made a lot of money in finance,” was a common retort.
“My situation is much more impressive and real since I’ve never made a six figure income,” is another frequent feedback. It’s always been strange to hear people say their situation is more real than mine, like my experiences don’t count.
Very well. I didn’t come from a broken family, nor did I have to walk five miles to school each way in hand-me-down shoes, two sizes too big. I grew up middle class and was fortunate to have a solid foundation for growth. I’m glad my parents stuck together during through my high school years.
It’s hard for me to shy away from a challenge. One of the reasons why I wanted to leave finance was to see what I could do with my own two hands. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug. There would be no cushy salary and no big brand name to lean on to generate business.
The only thing I could count on was my own creativity and work ethic.
It’s been over nine years since I started building websites in 2009, and the combined operating income of these websites has surpassed my highest gross income year during my 13 years in finance as an Executive Director. All it took was writing 2,000 posts and working 10,000+ hours. I have not failed at publishing 3X a week for over 470 weeks in a row.
I’m now at a crossroads because I don’t feel like I’ve got anything left to prove. I’m also a bit weary of continuing at an ever increasing pace since I’m now a dad to a lovely boy who needs me. Sure, there was still plenty of luck growing Financial Samurai into what it is today. But now that a good amount of time has passed, I think luck is playing a lower and lower percentage.
It’s almost impossible to succeed if you fake it as a small business owner because there is absolutely nowhere to hide. With Financial Samurai, it was all about building a brand and staying consistent with my production schedule for years.
I’ve slowly been able to vanquish the guilt about making money in finance. Entrepreneurship is way more difficult than having a day job. The amount of effort to produce products, market, write, execute, sell, and maintain operations is brutal compared to just coming in, doing your job, listening to a micromanager, and then going home. Add on the extra taxes you have to pay the government as a small business, and it’s no surprise that many businesses fail.
In early 2018, I was approached by a publicly listed company to buy Financial Samurai for pver $5 million dollars. I politely said no because you NEVER sell your baby, especially if it’s a high margin cash cow. But the offer was a wonderful validation that I could recreate millions of dollars in wealth through something other than my finance job.
XLMedia ended up buying three of my peers instead for $5.8 – $7 million. Not bad!
The Plan To Become A Millionaire Again
Now that business is humming along, I’m thinking about lighting it on fire just like how I lit my career on fire after 13 years by giving it up. I have no doubt Google will one day turn its back on Financial Samurai, thereby demolishing all the search engine traffic and the advertising revenue that comes along with it. As a result, I figure why not start on the new millionaire journey now, BEFORE doom arrives?
The reason why I continue to encourage everyone to always save money and build passive income streams during good times is because the good times don’t last forever. Darkness will come for us all, whether at work, in our health, or through our investments. We must cherish every single moment that we have.
Here are three of my strategies for becoming a millionaire again.
Strategy #1 – Turn Funny Money Into Real Assets
A business is ephemeral. Because of innovation, competition, or some unforeseen event, few businesses last forever. As a result, it may be wise to aggressively convert online revenue dollars into investments or tangible assets.
100% of all retained earnings after taxes could go to buying more property, stocks, bonds, and private investments. Bleed my company’s finances dry in order to create a sense of urgency to not let it fail. It’s a similar concept to always having as little money as possible in your main checking and savings accounts to curb your spending and grow your investments.
By taking the company’s income and diversifying it into familiar investments, the investments should grow to over one million dollars over time. Creating a real estate conglomerate is one such idea to make the business last forever.
Strategy #2 – Become An Inventor
Being a successful inventor of a physical product that generates enough to live on is such a long shot. But I’ve always wanted to be an inventor of a product that helps improve lives. With an online platform in place, surely there’s some advantage.
The invention I have in mind has the following attributes:
* Injury prevention
* Relevant to the entire world’s population
* Low price at under $20
* Low input costs: 70% gross margins, 30%+ operating margins
* Can be easily mass produced
* Easy to use
I’ve been telling myself that if I can invent a product that has at least five of these attributes, I should be able to hit it out of the park. Not only will I come up with a prototype and raise money through a social funding company like Kickstarter, I’ll also market the product here.
Alas, the easiest thing to do is to create online products. I’ve published, How To Engineer Your Layoff, that now regularly generates about $50,000 a year in revenue. You need $1,000,000 in capital generating 5% to get this type of return.
More recently, I wrote and copyrighted a new baby lullaby called Cutie Baby. Now it’s time for me to market the song to music and movie studios, while also creating a story around the song just like the book, Boss Baby. This one has a millionaire dollar potential!
Strategy #3 – Scale Up The Online Business
Living in San Francisco has made me nuts about entrepreneurship. It seems like everybody I meet works at a startup, has a startup, is a startup flameout, or a startup multi-millionaire. You can go to any coffee shop in town and there will be folks, with headphones on, pounding away on their laptops.
Right now I’ve got a lifestyle business that gives me maximum freedom. The business is private and answers to no one. But I could leverage the Financial Samurai brand to create new courses, new products, and new consulting opportunities. Think about what Robert Kiyosaki did with Rich Dad, Poor Dad and all his speaking seminars.
To make mega-millions, I’ve got to scale up the business by spending more and perhaps finding investors. Unfortunately, I have no desire to be famous. In fact, it’s much better to just be rich and not famous in order to live your life in peace.
I want to slowly build up Financial Samurai at my own leisurely pace. As soon as Financial Samurai turns into a big business with investors, clients, and so forth, I will no longer have fun.
Just Keep On Going
So much about creating the life you want is about having the right positive mindset. I continue to come across people who defeat themselves before they even begin because they don’t understand their own potential. What a shame.
One of my personal finance consulting clients recently engineered her layoff to pursue her own business after 10 years. At first, she didn’t think it was possible to get a severance package as a valuable employee. But she did. She then started updating her About page for her business and realized she wrote the following line in 2013, “In two years, I plan to leave my job and finally become an entrepreneur.” It is uncanny what can happen if you create goals and believe in yourself.
I firmly believe every single one of you will become a millionaire in your lifetime if you just stay the course. You can go the traditional route or a more unconventional route. There are so many ways to build wealth for you and your family. Don’t let your internal naysayer get you down!
Thoughts On Becoming A Multi-Millionaire
1) Believe that you deserve to be rich
2) Think about ways in which you can scale your skills and/or product as much as possible
3) Let your income inflate at an accelerating rate compared to your spending
4) Stick things through long enough to let things gain momentum
5) Identify all the rocket ships around you and do your best to get on one
6) Maximize every opportunity to the fullest when times are good
7) Consistently take calculated risks
8) Make sure you surround yourself with good people who are supportive
9) Take advantage of every single government retirement plan possible for as long as possible
10) Recognize problems and solve them
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Updated for 2019 and beyond.