When I started ONIG Financial Blog in July 2009, I only told my Japanese colleague who sat next to me, nobody else. I didn’t want any colleagues who had influence over my career to know about my personal website. ONIG Financial Blog was my sanctuary to write about what was on my mind during turbulent times.
When I negotiated a severance in February 2012, I almost blew myself up because I couldn’t contain my excitement. I told a couple colleagues what I had done and they immediately spread the word across the entire floor. What was meant to be a smooth and amiable three-month transition after 11 years at the firm turned out to be an awkward one.
Our HR head called me into her office and told me not to talk about my severance with anyone. I didn’t share details, only that I had negotiated one and that I was leaving. She said that a couple other employees had come up to her asking if they could negotiate a severance as well. If I continued to talk, my severance would be withdrawn.
Our office Managing Director, a guy who could never look me in the eye for longer than one second, also began to give me the cold shoulder. He was understandably annoyed that he might lose a couple of his troops due to what I had done. I’m sure he also didn’t appreciate me looking so happy-go-lucky at work each day given the office atmosphere was usually quite intense.
In the end, I got 100% of my severance money. But I left unceremoniously with no retirement party. It was bittersweet.
I never ended up telling any colleagues about what I was going to do after leaving work. I’m sure most just assumed I’d go to a competitor, which is common in the equities business.
Despite my enthusiasm for growing ONIG Financial Blog, I didn’t send a blast departure e-mail telling everyone to come check out my site either. After all, my severance had a 5-year payout until 2021. I wasn’t going to jeopardize hundreds of thousands of dollars for several new clicks.
It was only after I got 100% of my severance package in 2021 that I felt 100% financially free. Nobody held a claim against any of my money anymore.
I was free to torch my firm and write a tell-all book about life on Wall Street like Greg Smith, the GS Elevator guy, and a host of other people before me. But I had no interest in doing that because I like to look forward, not backward.
I tell you all of this because I’m noticing an alarming trend of FIRE enthusiasts who not only don’t keep their post-financial independence plans secret while still working, they go ahead and blast exactly what they are up to, how much they are making, and their plans to retire early for everyone to see!
I’m not sure if this is a generational thing because I’m now an old fart, but there seems to be this intense desire for younger folks to constantly self-promote online. It’s as if they took the Stealth Wealth mantra and Hulk-slashed it to bits.
To understand why it’s not a good idea to tell everybody about your fabulous lifestyle and how much you’re making through side hustling while still working a day job, put yourself in your manager’s shoes.
Let’s say you make $100,000 a year from your day job, but your boss learns that you also make $50,000 a year side hustling. You also reveal your intentions to retire early because you don’t exactly love your job.
When it comes time for your boss to give you a year-end bonus, ranging from $0 – $30,000, what do you think she will choose?
Given you’re making $150,000 a year, or $20,000 more than than you would have made at the firm if you got the highest bonus figure, of course your boss is going to pay you at the low end of the range or no bonus at all!
Now think about how your severance negotiation will go when it’s time to leave your job. You’re going to get doo doo brown because you’ve severely handicapped your ability to negotiate. Instead, of having an empathetic employer who wants to help you on your way, you’ll likely get kicked out of the office for asking. Nobody wants to help someone who is constantly showing off.
Let me share with you a personal example.
When I was working, there was a first-year analyst who rolled into the office each morning in a new $50,000 SUV. He was 22-years-old. As a fellow Berkeley alum, I was to be his mentor. The first thing I told him was to ditch his car, but he refused.
Our boss came up to me in private one day and asked, “Who does this rich kid think he is?” Our boss concluded that since this guy could afford a $50,000 vehicle, our boss reallocated $10,000 of his bonus money to another analyst who performed the same, but took the bus to work instead.
When my 22-year-old mentee got his bonus figure, $25,000, he was pissed. Most 22-year-olds I know would be ecstatic. He went on strike for three days by not coming into work. We let him go the next year due to his poor attitude. Six years later, he apologized for being such a knucklehead.
You might think that employees should be paid strictly by performance, but you would be absolutely naive to think that everything is so cut and dry. Image can really impact how far you can get in your career. I always encourage folks try and spend an equal amount of time selling themselves internally as they do externally.
For a final example, put yourself in your client’s shoes.
Let’s say you’re an orthopedic surgeon. A client comes to you with a bum knee and badly needs help. But after Googling you, he finds out you spend most of your time trying to be an online celebrity. He reads that you dislike your profession and want out.
Your client might be interested in your other life, but he’s primary concerned about getting his knee fixed. He may question whether you’re really focused on your job and not want to come back. If enough clients think this way, your practice will unravel.
Moderation is key when it comes to self-promoting a different lifestyle than the one you’re currently living.
The only time when you want to share your FI plans while still working is if you’re absolutely certain you’ll be OK getting fired the next day.
You need to be making enough money from your investments or side hustles to not be a financial wreck if you lose your job.
If your alternative income streams cannot cover your living expenses, you are absolutely playing with dynamite by talking about all the other ways you’re making money outside of work.
By not keeping quiet, you are double-dipping at your employer’s expense. You can claim that you’re doing all your side hustling after work hours, but employers know where your heart is. Employers want dedicated employees who are all-in on their business, not yours.
Your employer is smart. Hopefully you are too.
Are You Smart Enough To Act Dumb Enough To Get Ahead?
Quitting Your Job Is Selfish: Negotiating A Severance Is The Ethical Way To Go
Readers, do you think employees are playing a dangerous game when they announce online about their extra income sources and plans to retire early? If so, why do people do this instead of keep their cards close to their chest?