One of my regrets between 2007-2012 was not aggressively entertaining other job offers. By 2007, I had been with my previous company for six years and felt tremendous loyalty to the firm. How could I hop to a competitor for more money when my company first gave me a chance here in San Francisco? I now wonder whether the reason why I stayed at my firm for 11 consecutive years is because of my predisposition to feel guilty whenever something good happens.
Instead of leaving for another firm, I simply asked my boss in a nice way what I should do if they were me when I was getting aggressively courted. They always told me to stay and simply offered me a raise between what I was getting paid and what I was being offered by a competing firm. I never pushed them to match because I didn’t want to create a hostage scenario of resentment. Wall Street income is relatively absurd compared to practically every other industry, so I found it always distasteful when people complained about their bonuses.
But if I managed my career perfectly, I could have made $400,000 more after tax if I had accepted a juicy, two-year guaranteed income offer at another firm in NYC from 2010-2011. I left Wall Street in 2012 anyway, so it didn’t matter that I was going from a bulge bracket firm to a lower tier firm because I was never going back to finance.
Even after a four-hour interview with the interested company’s CEO in NYC, who so happened to be the eldest son of China’s former Premier, I still couldn’t take the leap out of loyalty to my firm. If you were a fly on the wall during our interview, you would have thought that I was some type of superstar based on the praise he gave. I stood stubbornly strong like a patriotic soldier and politely declined multiple times after.
NYC is a great place to visit, but pretty much sucks in terms of cost and work/life balance. Besides entering a much more stressful lifestyle for two years if I took the job, I was also hesitant to sell my house in 2010 given the real estate market was still depressed. Another concern was whether or not the courting firm would actually pay the second year guarantee if the first year performance results were not up to expectations. I heard stories of companies luring employees in with great promises only to welch during the second year. What was the new employee supposed to do after getting screwed in the second year but suck it up, sue his employer, or find another job. It’s not as easy finding another job if you’re coming from a small shop.
Although I missed out on some heavy dollars, at least I was able to negotiate a severance package from my firm of 11 years that lightened the blow. It would have been impossible to negotiate a severance if I quit after a two-year guarantee at the new firm. Manhattan is a wonderful playground if you have money. Alas, I’ll never know.
I’ve been consulting for one firm since the end of 2013. I’ve enjoyed my time immensely and have learned a lot about digital marketing. I was considering joining full-time starting in 2015, but was unable to proceed given I would have to give up the freedom to write what I want here at ONIG Financial Blog. Compliance is very strict in the finance world and maintaining my freedom of speech through this platform is very important. Besides, you guys would also hate me for going “more corporate.”
Instead, I’ve been given an offer to extend my consulting services with options that vest over a certain period of time. I’m extremely grateful for the offer and asked out of curiosity whether I could receive health care benefits like my colleagues. Sitting in one of the open enrollment sessions reminded me how awesome it is to have company benefits. Unfortunately, I was denied because health care benefits are only for full-time employees. I respect the rules and completely understand, especially since the government has some strict guidelines on what constitutes an independent contractor and what constitutes a full-time employee. I just had to ask because health insurance is an extremely important part of wealth preservation.
To make me feel better, I was reminded that I’m free to contract with other companies. Having one company pay for my health care while I do work for another company would seem completely off and I totally agree if that were the case. But, I have never consulted for any other company since I began consulting for them. Furthermore, the thought NEVER crossed my mind to make money consulting for any other firm out of loyalty.
I have consistently rejected consulting job offers from other firms because I wanted to concentrate all my attention on one company. Yet, given I’m not an employee, I have every right to consult with other companies as well. I spoke to a number of other contractors and full-time colleagues, and they all think it’s fine for me to consult with other firms, just not direct competitors. Many of them were surprised I haven’t been contracting with others already.
Given my loyalty as a contractor, I probably gave up another $100,000 in after tax income in 2014. Of course missing out on $100,000 doesn’t just take a snap of the fingers. Hard work is still required. But the point is the same. Having a loyal mindset continues to limit my maximum money making potential.
In the startup world it’s commonplace for employees to move around every three years. Nobody bats an eye if someone job hops after the third year in tech/internet/startup land, whereas I’d probably not hire anybody who worked three jobs in the past nine years during my time in finance. I’d be too afraid of flight risk as it takes a long time to train employees to do a good job and engender trust with clients.
The reason for such transience is partially because companies themselves are not that old. Companies often fail and employees need to find new jobs as a result. Startups that grow big tend to hire middle management that suppresses the enthusiasm of early employees as well. Companies have also shown less loyalty to employees by cutting benefits and laying off employees more easily during difficult economic times. Employees are forced to look out for themselves. Furthermore, when 75% of your initial stock grant vests after three years, it’s also not a bad idea to diversify your net worth by accumulating stock options from a new firm where you can make a difference.
Since I’ve built my financial nut, I’m not as dependent on money anymore. I’m the old fogey who loyally sticks around until something bad happens in the work place; much like how the violinist plays on the Titanic until the very end. If you also have a propensity for loyalty, it’s up to us to ADAPT to the new realities of the workplace. If we don’t adapt, we’ll end up losing out on incredible amounts of opportunity.
It’s sad to see loyalty dying on both ends. It may be awkward in the beginning consulting for another company, but who am I to deny other offers, especially if I’ve been given the green light and have the time? I would like to make at least an extra $15,000 a year to cover the absurd cost of health care premiums for two this year. We should take advantage of today’s opportunities. They may disappear tomorrow.
If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training. Since you got laid off, you’re also eligible for up to 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.
Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance. I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 180 pages from 100 pages in the 3rd edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.
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ONIG Financial Blog 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. Start your own WordPress website with Bluehost today. You never know where the journey will take you!
Updated for 2021 and beyond.