Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

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Clytemnestra3

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby Clytemnestra3 » Thu Aug 25, 2016 11:26 am

Wow, it seems like there is some genuine interest in this. I was thinking about creating a blog like anon lawyer and power of thrift, but with a focus on financial independence through biglaw abroad. If people think this would be worthwhile, I'll try to set it up next week because I think that would be a better forum to organize and discuss a lot of related issues, some of which have been raised here.

I also need to think about just how much detail I feel comfortable providing so let me put a pin in some of the questions. That said, let me try to clear up a few things.

First, I am a single person with no children. I agree that saving this amount of money (especially in biglaw) would be extremely difficult if you had a child.

Second, regarding significant others (is that what "SO" means?), from both my personal experience and from seeing my colleagues, choosing someone who is on the same page with you financially (regardless of how much that person earns) can either turbo-charge your pursuit of financial independence or stop it in its tracks. I'll save additional thoughts on this for a future post, but the upshot is: you can date lots of people and later have a fulfilling relationship while pursuing FI. But you can't do it if you boyfriend is pestering you to take expensive trips or your girlfriend wants to routinely eat out.

Third, people have raised the related point about it being difficult to raise a family on, say, $40k. Obviously, this is going to vary from person to person. Mr. Money Mustache happily lives with a wife and one child while spending about $26K/year (plus a fully paid off house). But look: I'm with the skeptics here. Personally, I want to spend a lot more in support of a family. But the purpose of financial independence (or, in my case, trying to save $1MM in biglaw) is not to never work again. It is to have the freedom to pursue the activities that you find meaningful. It is likely that you are going to be making money from those or future activities at some point. I see FI as giving me freedom of action; not the freedom to be a couch potato.

ruski

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby ruski » Thu Aug 25, 2016 11:27 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
ruski wrote:i guess the giant elephant in the room is what about having a family, kids. heck, how do you even have a girlfriend if you refuse to take her our anywhere. the only way this is sustainable is if you stay single your whole life. 700k in the bank is not enough to support a family of 4 for very long.

This kind of argument always seems to assume that the girlfriend/SO doesn't have any income of their own, though. (I'll grant you the kids, for sure.)


I think this assumption comes from OP's "I am saving..." tone. If OP has a SO with an income and they are living together, that SO is bearing the burden of this aggressive saving one way or another. I also think ruski is just talking about dating, like how do you afford to date, which is an expensive endeavor, even if you go dutch every date.

I agree it's likely to affect a relationship. It's more the "supporting a family of four" part that I question - why would you be supporting them single-handedly? (If you make it to the family of 4 part you've obviously made it past the relationship issues.)


with respect to the family of 4, good luck telling your spouse "you go work and run the rat race, I paid my dues and am retired. I want to explore my personal hobbies." or "sure honey, we can go on vacation, but we have to stay in a 1 star motel, because we can't touch the 700k in the bank I worked so hard for." I just think it will be really to hard to find a girl THAT easy going.

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Aug 25, 2016 11:55 am

If you've made enough money to live on and retire I don't see how it would be a problem. I'm presuming that "enough to live on" is like having a salary of some kind - what does it matter whether it comes from working or investments? I'd be thrilled to have a house husband who's bringing in the equivalent of a salary who can also take care of the home since he's not working. (Also the OP may be the girl here.)

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PeanutsNJam

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby PeanutsNJam » Thu Aug 25, 2016 11:59 am

I'm really more interested in how OP is getting these returns, because unless his tax burden is like 10%, he's not investing 13k a month on 180k.

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cookiejar1

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby cookiejar1 » Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:03 pm

OP's goal isn't to retire though. OP just wants to go off to persue something that probably won't pay immediate dividends. It's risky but still something that SO's can get behind - I can see it.

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cookiejar1

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby cookiejar1 » Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:11 pm

PeanutsNJam wrote:I'm really more interested in how OP is getting these returns, because unless his tax burden is like 10%, he's not investing 13k a month on 180k.


I've never paid tax as an expat but I've heard that you can exclude ~100k of foreign income and all out of pocket foreign housing expenses from your gross income. Also, I think HK's double taxation treaty with the the US allows you to credit the tax you paid to the US against the HK tax too (and since HK tax is low you basically get to skip it). You won't end up with a 10% effective tax rate but depending on how creative you get with out of pocket housing expenses... You can probably get down to below 20% it looks like on a 6th year 280k salary.

But this was mostly relayed to me by others in passing so I don't know how true this is.

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sayan

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby sayan » Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:26 pm

Clytemnestra3 wrote:
Jchance wrote:you should check out this blog: https://anonlawyer.wordpress.com/, from the beginning. He did the same thing you did, but is further in life.


That's also a good blog. I was surprised to read that he was considering going back to work (albeit on reduced hours). That writer also worked in law for over a decade and at the time he left was either counsel or some kind of partner. I admire what he did and appreciate his thoughts, but I don't see how a typical biglaw associate lasts that long unless he or she enjoys the job at some level.


I'm not terribly surprised. Sophisticated Biglaw is fine in small doses; part time work would be ideal if it's paired with cognitively stimulating work without the lifestyle trade offs.

And after reading his blog, I think another motive is that he realizes 2m net worth isn't quite enough for true "financial independence" and that he needs a bit more earned income to make up for the slow growth in his investment portfolio. This is a common issue for those who think they can retire earlier.

Clytemnestra3

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby Clytemnestra3 » Thu Aug 25, 2016 5:17 pm

mod edit: don't promote your own blogs on TLS

wisdom

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby wisdom » Fri Mar 17, 2017 7:25 am

.

themarsean

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby themarsean » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:10 am

mod edit: don't promote your own blogs on TLS

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mickey0004

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby mickey0004 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:19 am

I'm in a similar situation as you, 5th year, close to FI and losing motivation to continue biglaw. My advice is to half ass and start exploring your other interests. If you want to set up an internet company, start that now and just cruise at work. If they kick you out, it'll take a couple months, so more money in the meantime. I would also start exploring part time work to ease into FI after leaving biglaw. We are due for a market correction, the question is when. Studies show that starting retirement during downturn will increase rate of failure - so something to think about if you want to retire the next two years.

Also, TLS is not the forum for this. Try subreddit, r/financialindependence for more people like you.

Hikikomorist

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby Hikikomorist » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:21 am

mickey0004 wrote:I'm in a similar situation as you, 5th year, close to FI and losing motivation to continue biglaw. My advice is to half ass and start exploring your other interests. If you want to set up an internet company, start that now and just cruise at work. If they kick you out, it'll take a couple months, so more money in the meantime. I would also start exploring part time work to ease into FI after leaving biglaw. We are due for a market correction, the question is when. Studies show that starting retirement during downturn will increase rate of failure - so something to think about if you want to retire the next two years.

Also, TLS is not the forum for this. Try subreddit, r/financialindependence for more people like you.

Nothing wrong with trying to make the world a better place.

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Yugihoe

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby Yugihoe » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:53 am

Op give us an update! I agree that TLS is not the place for this as seen by the majority of people on this thread. But I'm a big follower of the Reddit fire community and your story is inspiring! Are you still planning on writing up a guide? I'm a first year and will probably hit the 100k net worth mark by the end of this month, but don't see how I could get to 1m by the time I'm a 6th or 7th year living in NY.

Clytemnestra3

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby Clytemnestra3 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:17 am

I checked back on this post on a whim and was happy to see people were still interested over a year after I posted it. I'm happy to give an update. (NOTE: Sorry about the blog posting earlier - I didn't know the rules).

I decided to chart a middle course. I quit my job to do a special type of clerkship I had wanted to do for years. In addition to being personally fulfilling, the clerkship served several practical goals. First, it gave me a lot more free time. I used most of that free time to work on my start-up idea, learn a lot of programming (which is super interesting, by the way - much more so than law), and consult with mentors about how to start a business. I also used that time to read more about personal finance and explore new investment options - options I'm happy to discuss in a future post. Second, the clerkship kept the door to biglaw open. Third, it gave me the space to pull myself out of my biglaw funk and think calmly about what I should do. Fourth, it provided a (small) income - not enough to save, but enough to cover most of my expenses. In this sense, it was an introduction to what living on investment income would be like.

After the clerkship ended, I took some additional time to devote myself fully to my start-up. I'm happy to say that I launched it a few months ago. For now, I don't charge anything for the service; I'm focused exclusively on user growth. That growth has been slow, but the trajectory is good. Building this start-up and learning to program has been much more fulfilling than anything I did in biglaw. I worked 7 days a week and put in more hours each day than I ever did even during my busiest biglaw months. But I actually looked forward to getting up in the morning and the hours passed like minutes.

Nevertheless, I did return to biglaw to renew my quest for financial independence. Let me explain my reasoning.

First, the nature of my start-up is such that I will need a lot of users before I make any significant money. I understand this now, but I did not understand this before when the start-up was just an idea. However, now that the site is set up, the process of attracting users can partly be outsourced to freelance marketers. This means I need money to pay them. Thus, a high-paying job is useful. Note that this is not ideal. My business would grow faster if I devoted all my time to it. But I'm willing to accept slower growth in exchange for the freedom to pursue financial independence. Note also that I intentionally do not solicit or receive ANY money from the business. This is because most firms (including mine) prohibit you from earning money from outside work (or at least require you to disclose it or get the firm's permission). This is important for anyone thinking of starting a business while working at a firm (don't break the rules!).

Second, I found some investment options that fit my goals very well, but they require more cash up-front and a longer time period to begin bearing fruit compared with the stock/bond market. Another 1 to 2 years in biglaw works well with this investment strategy.

Third, I got very lucky after not being lucky. I thought that finding the same type of biglaw job that I was considering lateraling to before I quit my original biglaw job would be easy after I left the clerkship. I figured that all my lovely credentials would protect me. That was....only partly true. My credentials got me in the door for initial interviews, but I kept losing out to other candidates who did not take any break from biglaw. Overall, doing a clerkship totally unrelated to corporate law and then taking additional time off narrowed my options for returning to biglaw. On the other hand, many firms did not give two shits. They thought it was cool that I did something different (obviously, I didn't mention the start-up) and were happy to consider me. It took a lot longer than I expected, but I ended up getting a biglaw position that met all my goals: salary/tax benefits that will let me meet and exceed $1MM in 1.5 years, a working environment that is not a sweatshop and that affords me at least a little time each day (well, most days) on my business, and nice co-workers. Do I look forward to going into work each day? No. But knowing that I have this (slowly growing) business on the side and that I will meet my financial goals very soon motivates me to suck it up each day.

Clytemnestra3

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby Clytemnestra3 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:56 am

I checked back on this post on a whim and was happy to see people were still interested over a year after I posted it. I'm happy to give an update. (NOTE: Sorry about the blog posting earlier - I didn't know the rules).

I decided to chart a middle course. I quit my job to do a special type of clerkship I had wanted to do for years. In addition to being personally fulfilling, the clerkship served several practical goals. First, it gave me a lot more free time. I used most of that free time to work on my start-up idea, learn a lot of programming (which is super interesting, by the way - much more so than law), and consult with mentors about how to start a business. I also used that time to read more about personal finance and explore new investment options - options I'm happy to discuss in a future post. Second, the clerkship kept the door to biglaw open. Third, it gave me the space to pull myself out of my biglaw funk and think calmly about what I should do. Fourth, it provided a (small) income - not enough to save, but enough to cover most of my expenses. In this sense, it was an introduction to what living on investment income would be like.

After the clerkship ended, I took some additional time to devote myself fully to my start-up. I'm happy to say that I launched it a few months ago. For now, I don't charge anything for the service; I'm focused exclusively on user growth. That growth has been slow, but the trajectory is good. Building this start-up and learning to program has been much more fulfilling than anything I did in biglaw. I worked 7 days a week and put in more hours each day than I ever did even during my busiest biglaw months. But I actually looked forward to getting up in the morning and the hours passed like minutes.

Nevertheless, I did return to biglaw to renew my quest for financial independence. Let me explain my reasoning.

First, the nature of my start-up is such that I will need a lot of users before I make any significant money. I understand this now, but I did not understand this before when the start-up was just an idea. However, now that the site is set up, the process of attracting users can partly be outsourced to freelance marketers. This means I need money to pay them. Thus, a high-paying job is useful. Note that this is not ideal. My business would grow faster if I devoted all my time to it. But I'm willing to accept slower growth in exchange for the freedom to pursue financial independence. Note also that I intentionally do not solicit or receive ANY money from the business. This is because most firms (including mine) prohibit you from earning money from outside work (or at least require you to disclose it or get the firm's permission). This is important for anyone thinking of starting a business while working at a firm (don't break the rules!).

Second, I found some investment options that fit my goals very well, but they require more cash up-front and a longer time period to begin bearing fruit compared with the stock/bond market. Another 1 to 2 years in biglaw works well with this investment strategy.

Third, I got very lucky after not being lucky. I thought that finding the same type of biglaw job that I was considering lateraling to before I quit my original biglaw job would be easy after I left the clerkship. I figured that all my lovely credentials would protect me. That was....only partly true. My credentials got me in the door for initial interviews, but I kept losing out to other candidates who did not take any break from biglaw. Overall, doing a clerkship totally unrelated to corporate law and then taking additional time off narrowed my options for returning to biglaw. On the other hand, many firms did not give two shits. They thought it was cool that I did something different (obviously, I didn't mention the start-up) and were happy to consider me. It took a lot longer than I expected, but I ended up getting a biglaw position that met all my goals: salary/tax benefits that will let me meet and exceed $1MM in 1.5 years, a working environment that is not a sweatshop and that affords me at least a little time each day (well, most days) on my business, and nice co-workers.

Do I look forward to going into work each day? No. But knowing that I have this (slowly growing) business on the side and that I will meet my financial goals very soon motivates me to suck it up each day. Plus, the clerkship and the programing experience let me explore new career directions that I'd be perfectly happy to pursue if I feel like working again after quitting biglaw. And knowing that there are these alternative ways to make money that I would enjoy also helps reduce my stress. So far, it's worked out. But I'm not yet at financial independence or any business success so I don't want to take a victory lap.

Clytemnestra3

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby Clytemnestra3 » Sun Mar 11, 2018 4:22 pm

Yugihoe - Great job saving 100k as a first year in NYC! That's impressive. I don't want to discourage you, but unless you are living rent free and living off of soup kitchens and firm-paid dinners (or you have a very aggressive investment strategy or working like a dog at Wachtell), you aren't going to save $1 million in NYC biglaw in 6 years. The taxes and cost of living are just too high. If that is your savings goal and timeframe, you have to relocate.

That said, you also don't need $1 million to leave biglaw and find something else you find more meaningful. It's a goal I set for myself based on my particular interests and tolerance for work I find pointless. Think about what you want to do and then calculate how much you need before you feel comfortable doing that.

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Yugihoe

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Re: Need Advice re:Biglaw and Financial Independence

Postby Yugihoe » Sun Mar 11, 2018 9:40 pm

Clytemnestra3 wrote:Yugihoe - Great job saving 100k as a first year in NYC! That's impressive. I don't want to discourage you, but unless you are living rent free and living off of soup kitchens and firm-paid dinners (or you have a very aggressive investment strategy or working like a dog at Wachtell), you aren't going to save $1 million in NYC biglaw in 6 years. The taxes and cost of living are just too high. If that is your savings goal and timeframe, you have to relocate.

That said, you also don't need $1 million to leave biglaw and find something else you find more meaningful. It's a goal I set for myself based on my particular interests and tolerance for work I find pointless. Think about what you want to do and then calculate how much you need before you feel comfortable doing that.


Thanks. I figured as much, unless the stock market actually returned astronomical amounts like it has in the past 5 years, which it certainly wont. I only spend about 24-30k a year depending on how much vacation/travel I do so set my goal at saving about 70-75k/year and even at an assumed rate of 6%, only gets me to about 600k. Anyway, it's all moot anyway, because I likely don't think I have it in me to stay in big law for a second longer from when I can lateral. I don't mind doing a pointless job if it paid well, but not at the expense of living. Tired of the 24/7 sweatshop on-call culture where I can't even enjoy weekends.



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