I’ve been delaying this post for a while partly because I didn’t want to recognize the formal end of my 10-year journey writing on Financial Samurai. I was also waiting for some divine inspiration to figure out what’s next.
Earlier this year, several potential acquirers contacted me about selling Financial Samurai. I thanked them for their interest and told them I needed to first fulfill my 10-year goal.
In July, after achieving my goal, they all contacted me again. This time, I told them I first needed to write my 10-year recap post in order to make the achievement official.
Now that that post has been written, I know I’ll soon be contacted again and forced to make a decision. Financial Samurai has been a part of my life for so long that it’ll be tough to let it go. As I don’t want to be tempted by money, I’m trying to keep the offers at bay for as long as possible.
With Financial Samurai I have autonomy, fun, a sense of purpose, measurable results, and the ability to help people achieve their financial goals. As a stay at home dad, I can’t think of anything intellectually better to do while my boy is sleeping.
Financial Samurai has been a dream come true. Ironically, nothing kills a dream quite like achieving it.
What’s Next For Financial Samurai
As I love to write with opinion and personality, one of the things I’ve felt bad about for many years was trying to monetize this site with review posts, sponsored posts, and other sorts of business partnerships. Every day I’m bombarded with requests. I just mainly wanted to have fun and share some helpful financial insights.
As a result, for the last 10 years, my writing formula has essentially been 90% fun / 10% business. I’ve drastically forsaken revenue for fun because I was already financially secure when I left my job in 2012.
What I’ve come to realize over the past couple of years is that all the largest personal finance sites in America have a writing formula closer to 10% fun / 90% business. Completely opposite!
These large sites hire staff writers to write about the latest products. They report straight facts with no opinions. It’s a great strategy to keep altercations and judgemental comments to a minimum. Further, the founder(s) seldom share anything personal about their lives. Even though this style might sound boring, it is a winning formula in business.
Until I published The Secret To Your Success: 10 Years Of Unwavering Consistency, I’d been too stubborn to acknowledge this fact. I spent triple the amount of time I normally do on that post in order to help readers get to their own 10-year goals as well.
I was expecting the post to do quite well and for many readers to at least give me a virtual high-five for reaching my goal. Instead, I only got 15 comments on the first day compared to 30 comments on average. Nine were congratulatory while the rest shared their own thoughts and asked me what they should do about their individual situations.
That is when it hit me. Nobody really cares! OK, I’m being a little melodramatic. A few of you do care, as evidenced by subsequent comments and e-mails. But still, there’s no denying the response was underwhelming.
It’s logical to care mostly about yourself. Everybody is too busy leading their own lives. I totally get it. As a SAHD, I often feel like I’m suffocating for time and energy.
I also realized that 3,200 word posts are hard to digest and more effort does not necessarily lead to better results. Therefore, I need to keep very lengthy posts to a minimum, like once every 10 years.
Given the situation, selling this site seems like a fantastic solution.
The Bright Side Of Not Caring
By cashing in, I could finally fully relax in early retirement. No longer would I need to respond to endless requests for financial help. No longer would I be judged for trying to be a good parent. I could also spend my money how I wished without scrutiny. By selling, I could simplify life further, just like when I sold one of my SF rental properties in 2017.
Then I realized something while reminiscing about the last 10 years in the hot tub after a long tennis match. Since so few people care about the personal aspect of my writing, instead of selling, why not better monetize Financial Samurai with joy!
After 10 years of giving and having lots of fun, it’s time for me to be selfish for myself and my family. Selling the site just as my son is going to preschool would be illogical since I’ll have more free time.
I started Financial Samurai in 2009, a year after getting married. We both had decent-paying jobs and didn’t feel the need to monetize this site.
However, when our son was born in 2017, my feelings about monetization started to evolve. No matter how much money you have, I think every new parent feels a visceral need to make more money to provide for their family. It is part of our DNA to ensure the survival of our species.
This old saying is true, “Have children and the money will come.”
Holding my boy for the first time gave me tremendous motivation to do better. Because of him, I started a regular podcast. Not only did I keep up my 3X a week posting schedule, but I also added a weekly newsletter.
With the need to provide for my family plus the realization that personal writing isn’t what the majority of readers truly want, I’m going to change my writing formula from 90% fun / 10% business to 70% fun / 30% business over the next year. I know the winning formula for business is 10% fun / 90% business, but I want to take things slow.
A 70/30 split means a little more product review posts, a little more sponsored posts, and new writers. I may try and create more FS-branded products too like my one-of-a-kind, severance negotiation book. But I doubt it for the first year because I dislike selling anything.
I plan to highlight more financial products that either can help you save money, potentially make you money, or help simplify your financial life. My goal is to review the best products that can meet the demands of all types of readers in different financial situations, not just people like me who are trying to raise a family in an expensive city.
The great thing about this new initiative is that it does not take away from my usual style of writing. It enhances the website with more content and greater synergies. My library of 2,000+ posts will always be there. My regular newsletter will continue to contain my personal views. Plus, there’s plenty of banter to go around in the FS Forum.
The end result will be me not having to put so much time into writing personal posts that few really care about, readers will have more variety, and I’ll generate more revenue to take care of my family. A triple win!
The alternative is to sell and let the new owner turn this site into 90% business. After all, an acquirer would want to generate the highest return on its investment. I’m assuming you’d rather me keep the site. But do let me know otherwise.
Taking Things One Year At A Time
Because I’ve completed my 10-year goal of running Financial Samurai, I have nothing left to prove. As a result, I won’t be making another 10-year operating goal for this site.
Instead, I’m going to take things one year at a time. If things are going well, I’ll either continue with the 70/30 formula or tweak the formula again. I doubt existing readers will notice much change because the formula has already been changed to 80/20 since the beginning of summer.
Ideally, I’d love to keep Financial Samurai going for another 20 years as an insurance policy for my son in case he has a rough time in school and in the workforce as I did. He could join Financial Samurai in any one of the following fields: marketing, writing, podcasting, video producing, finance, operations, and product development.
But I’ve also got to be realistic. 20 years is a damn long time. I don’t think I can last that long without adding at least one full-time person. Further, I’d be a fool to pass up an amazing offer.
Excited For Entrepreneurship
For over a year now, I’ve been struggling with the decision to go back to work full-time once my boy goes to preschool. Being a stay-at-home dad for 29 months has been extremely hard given my desire to also keep Financial Samurai running at a high level. But thanks to the underwhelming response to my 10-year anniversary post, I realize I’ve got the perfect solution.
Instead of going back to work full-time once preschool starts, I’m going to utilize my new free-time to monetize this site better for at least one year. This way, I’ll still be able to drive my boy to school in the morning and pick him up by 12:30 pm during his initial transition period. If and when he’s up for going all day, I’ll easily be able to pick him up by 5 pm. If I had a full-time job, this flexible schedule would be impossible.
I want both my wife and me to continue being stay-at-home parents until our son makes it clear he no longer needs us full-time. In 2022, he’ll attend kindergarten and I’ll be more amenable to joining the workforce full-time.
I know making more money won’t make me happier. But the challenge of growing revenue will be an exciting one. To feel secure financially means so much more now that I’ve got dependents.
For now, our financial target is to earn enough investment income to live a middle-class lifestyle in San Francisco. We’re simple people without a lot of wants except to own 100% of our time.
I used to think $300,000 a year would be enough after rigorously crunching the numbers. However, based on the latest housing data from 2Q2019, the minimum qualifying income to purchase the median-priced house is now $343,400! Dayum.
Perhaps housing and other costs will dip by ~10 – 15% in a recession. But over the long term, I expect costs to continue rising at its historical ~5% annual clip. Inflation is truly a killer if you’re on the wrong side of it.
We also don’t want to move until our son’s elementary school situation becomes clear. We expect a lot of rejections since we don’t have status and refuse to bribe our son’s way into school. But we do have the flexibility to go wherever our boy is accepted between Honolulu & San Francisco. We can also homeschool if we get rejected everywhere.
As of now, we have a daunting ~$100,000 retirement income gap if we want to earn the minimum qualifying income in SF to be considered average. With the 10-year bond yield at ~1.5%, we’ve got to amass another $6,667,000 in after-tax capital to earn a risk-free $100,000 gross return. If we shoot for a 4% return, we’d still need to amass $2,500,000 in after-tax capital.
Therefore, my goal over the next several years is clear: accumulate an additional $2,500,000 to $6,667,000 in capital. Once we reach at least $2,500,000 in additional wealth, I’ll then seriously revisit what’s next for Financial Samurai.
I know we don’t need to live off $343,400 a year in investment income since we already own our primary residence and are relatively frugal. I also realize the goal seems a little ridiculous.
But instead of denying the truth in the data, I’m going to embrace it. Why not dream BIG?! It takes the same amount of energy to dream small. If we work hard enough, we all deserve to live a middle-class lifestyle no matter where we choose to live.
It’s going to be fun trying to evolve Financial Samurai into a site with its continued unique voice and a generous number of revenue-generating product offerings. For too long, I’ve been treating Financial Samurai like a hobby. It’s time to focus more on being an entrepreneur. Even if I fail at my new goal, at least I’ll be content knowing I gave it my best shot.
For those who finished reading this post, cheers for making it to the very end. And for those who didn’t read this post or don’t really care, thank you for helping me figure out the ideal solution and giving me this new financial goal to shoot for!
Update 1/03/2021: It’s been over a year and a half of focusing more on business. Overall, I ended up making more money. It feels good to have more money to take care of my now two children. However, I am NOT happier with more money. I spent so much time trying to optimize old posts and work with new sponsors that managing FS started feeling too much like work. I’m sure the uncertainty of the pandemic made me less happy too. For 2021+, I plan to take things down a notch again. I’m burned out.
Readers, what are some products out there you’d like Financial Samurai to review? Any particular genres you’d like me to focus on going forward? What is your why for doing what you’re doing? What type of negatives have you turned into a positive to thoroughly change your life for the better?