I started the Hack Your Wealth website on the eve of getting married. I got married on September 26, 2015, and it was the happiest day of my life.
First, I’m so lucky to have met the perfect-for-me wife, and truly know what it means to experience devotion and companionship to someone I love more than anything else in the whole world.
This is my wife Kelly; isn’t she a dish? 😀 ❤
Why I started Hack Your Wealth: It started with hacking my career moves
Hack Your Wealth grew out of the realization I had that married life would bring very different challenges than single life brought.
When I was single, I easily switched careers and cities because an opportunity was interesting, or because I just wanted to experience something new. Looking back over my career so far, I’ve hacked my way into a lot of interesting gigs I really had no business being in, especially since I didn’t often come equipped with the traditional training or skills for the job. I feel ridiculously lucky to have had the opportunity to try a LOT of different careers, including:
- foreign service as a political affairs intern at both the State Department in Washington and the United States Mission to the United Nations in Vienna
- documentary filmmaking as a J. William Fulbright Scholar in China
- law as a summer associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell and Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu
- corporate finance and strategy consulting at McKinsey (while studying for and passing all the rigorous Chartered Financial Analyst exams)
- private equity investing at Huntsman Gay Global Capital
- product management at Redfin, LinkedIn, and Yahoo
Throughout all these work experiences, I was generally pretty good about saving what I earned and controlling my expenses, but I wasn’t particularly disciplined about:
- how I invested my savings
- carefully budgeting, analyzing, and optimizing my expenses
- finding ways to generate additional side income and grow it faster
I certainly never thought about jointly coordinating my finances (or taxes) with someone else, or setting abstract financial goals like sending kids to college.
But getting married changes a lot
I knew that getting married meant I’d have to think a LOT more carefully about how to manage my (and our) income and expenses. I would have to be able to collaboratively solve financial problems with a for-life partner who may occasionally have different goals than I. And even though I’m generally pretty good about saving and being frugal, with a spouse to care for now I wanted to be able to provide for her in a way that achieved twin goals of mindful, disciplined spending while also living the life we wanted to live together.
Moreover, I wanted to become very deliberate and strategic about building wealth. That meant making career moves simply because an opportunity looked interesting might not be as feasible or straightforward as before. Even though there were only two of us, if we started a family later on, I would want to spend more time with them — or at least have the flexibility to.
Achieving that degree of freedom would require building sufficient independent income streams in advance, while managing and optimizing expenses, so that I could eventually own my schedule entirely — or if I continued to work at a company, at least do so on my own terms.
Catching the entrepreneurial bug
I am a Bay Area transplant (by way of southern roots in Houston, and with stops along the way in Beijing, Boston, and New York). Being in the Bay Area exposes you to a LOT of entrepreneurial activity. Everyone seems to be starting a startup or working on one. This was, in fact, one key reason why I wanted to move to Northern California in the first place.
Not long after arriving, I caught the entrepreneurial bug myself and became intensely interested in starting a venture of my own. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to create something and work for myself, but I also knew I needed to pay the bills.
Then I learned an interesting statistic from the book “The Millionaire Next Door,” which found through analysis and data collection that:
About two-thirds of [millionaires] who are working are self-employed. Interestingly, self-employed people make up less than 20 percent of the workers in America but account for two-thirds of the millionaires. Also, three out of four [millionaires] who are self-employed consider [themselves] to be entrepreneurs.
What I took away from this was that, while it is certainly possible to make life-changing money working for someone else — for example, climbing the ranks at a company, or on Wall Street, or at a hedge fund — for most people, the odds are better of building life-changing wealth by striking out on your own, creating something valuable people want and monetizing it.
When this happens, your customers judge you solely based on the quality of products and services you offer. Your success, promotion, and earning potential are all much less dependent on the whims or biases or graces of workplace superiors / sponsors. Instead, plain old hard work and determination, and to a much lesser extent talent and smarts, have always been, and probably always will be, the most important ingredients to success in this regard. A little bit of luck certainly helps, too. But I deeply believe hard work and determination far and away matter the most.
Creating some early products
So I started hacking away at some website products where I sold e-books and videos teaching people how to win admission into elite law schools, how to break into private equity investing, and how to build financial valuation and leveraged buyout models in Excel. These were all simply based on my own experiences and I generated a surprising amount of revenue (at least to me) from them.
I also started a careers website called CareerHoot where I interviewed some really interesting career switchers. That one did okay, and a lot of career searchers found significant value in the stories I shared there. In fact, I had started that website because, at the time, I was trying to figure out what I wanted my next career move to be, and interviewing and capturing the stories of some people I admired and sharing them online was an effective way to do that.
Hack Your Wealth is born
Along the way, I started reading — a LOT — about building and growing online businesses. This was really fun because it gave me a lot of ideas about online businesses I might develop myself, and it also intersected a lot of things I’ve done over my career: strategy, finance, law, product development, coding, design, growth hacking, SEO, technical marketing, and blogging.
I wanted to spend more time developing an online business that was directly tied to the things I was thinking deeply about on the eve of my marriage: growing income, using my technical and finance skills to analyze and optimize expenses, and building wealth to attain true financial security.
I also believed I had interesting and valuable insights to share with others on these matters given my unique background blending finance, strategy, law, technical product development, technical marketing, and growth and SEO.
So I started building the Hack Your Wealth website (WordPress and Genesis core, but heavily customized by yours truly) to chart my and Kelly’s financial journey. I wanted to share the tips, tricks, knowledge, strategies, and hacks I am using to build wealth, as well as the successes and failures I experience along the way.
Through my income reports, I share what’s worked for me and what hasn’t, and what’s worked for others whom I respect. I transparently lay out all the tools I use, the step-by-step techniques I employ, and the spreadsheets I created and now use every day to assist with all my financial decisions: whether it’s paying down student loans, buying a home, analyzing rental property, evaluating retirement accounts, maximizing credit card point benefits, choosing between different investment products, the works.
I also share all the resources and tools I personally use (and recommend) to help me organize my financial life, grow my income, optimize my expenses, and even build and grow the Hack Your Wealth website itself. Everything I’m thinking about I lay out in the open for you to learn about and benefit from, too.
I deeply believe knowledge about wealth management is one of the most empowering things you can acquire, so if I have any meaningful and valuable insights to share, and if that insight can help you develop greater financial security and inspire you to take concrete actions that grow your wealth so you can spend more time with loved ones, then that’s just about the most impactful thing I believe I (and this website) can do for you.
And if you are kind enough to share your stories back with me, it would just brighten my whole day and I would be immensely grateful.
You can always contact me directly to share your story, or even just share feedback, at andrew at hackyourwealth dot com. I read ALL my email every day and I respond to subscriber and customer questions every day. You guys are my favorite people!
So I hope you stick around, explore the website, and check out our posts and tools. I sincerely believe you’ll get a ton of value and insight from it!
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