Is it crazy to think about quitting a high-paying law firm job to take a lower-paying law job (not in a law firm)?
The majority of lawyers will say no. Because that’s what most lawyers who start their careers in law firms do! Whether it’s for better hours, better balance, less travel, whatever. Leaving the law and leaving law firm life is very common.
Now, is it crazy to quit being a lawyer to do something completely non-law related?
Again, most lawyers will say no – because tons of lawyers leave law practice altogether.
But: is it crazy to quit the law to…deliver for DoorDash, shop for Instacart, be a dog walker, or recharge Lime scooters?
The first time I read today’s guest’s story, I admit I thought so. Why would you seemingly throw away a promising legal career to be a manual gig laborer, when there are plenty of folks who would dream about doing the opposite?
Then I realized two things.
- I should be the last person to critique this because I myself “threw away” a legal career for a totally non-law path. Granted, I didn’t do it for manual labor, but it also wasn’t conventional by any means.
- It’s not my place (or yours or anyone’s) to judge the career choices of others. What makes people happy is their personal decision alone, and no damn business of anyone else’s!
Interviewing today’s guest for the podcast just made that even clearer.
This week, I talk with Kevin Ha, a prolific side hustle expert, about why he quit the law to pursue a unique path to financial independence. He generates income both from his blog and through side hustles (which he often blogs about), each of which separately and independently replaced his full-time salary from his last job.
- Why Kevin quit the law without a traditional FIRE portfolio already in place
- How Kevin defines financial independence
- Why he doesn’t view gig economy side hustles as manual labor
- How he makes side hustles fit super efficiently around his schedule to minimize time spent
- How he structures his daytime hours now without a traditional job
- His technique for letting go of the “prestige trap” (notorious among lawyers), despite graduating with honors (and law review) from law school
- Whether Kevin would have gone to law school again knowing what he knows now
Do you agree with Kevin’s philosophy on FI? Even if you would not have made the same choice, do you see merit in this path? If not, why? Let me know by leaving a comment.
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Andrew Chen 01:22
My guest today is Kevin Ha, a former practicing attorney who quit the law in 2019 to pursue an alternate path to financial independence as a full time blogger. He is behind the website financialpanther.com where he writes about personal finance, financial independence, and side hustling.
Prior to leaving the law, he paid off his $87,000 student loan bill in two and a half years by “choosing not to live like a big shot lawyer.”
Besides blogging, Kevin generates additional income by leveraging gig economy side hustles, which he shares about on his blog.
Kevin, thanks so much for joining us today to share your perspective on FIRE coming from a legal background.
Kevin Ha 01:59
Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Andrew Chen 02:02
I’m a big fan of yours. I’ve followed your blog for a while and love a lot of the content you put on there. I would love to start just by learning a little bit more about your background.
At this point, I know you’ve left your law career. Do you consider yourself financially independent early retired? How do you characterize your current status?
Kevin Ha 02:26
I do not consider myself financially independent at all. I still need to work for money.
The difference is that my view on what financial independence is has changed over the years. When I first started out discovering this, it was this idea of grind it out in a job you don’t like for 10 years, 20 years, until you have enough that you can then go and do what you want.
As I started doing these little things on the side, figuring things out, it started occurring to me, “If I can just find something that supports what I want to do, what my lifestyle is, then that’s almost the same thing. If I can just make that money and I’m still happy with what I’m doing, then isn’t that the same thing to me?”
So my idea here is creating your own FI. Instead of saving your way to FI, you just create your own FI the way it is.
The way I think about it is you look at a sports player, something like a basketball player. They’re all financially independent if they want to be, but they keep playing basketball. Lebron James keeps playing basketball because he likes playing basketball.
So that’s how I think about it. If you create your own life that fits what you want to do and fits your values and you’re happy with, then you’ve already won the game then.
Andrew Chen 03:50
Can you talk a little bit about how your thinking in this regard evolved?
Kevin Ha 03:58
My thinking on this was when you think about the whole 4% rule, which most of your listeners probably have heard about this, where whatever your portfolio is, you can pull out 4% of it.
And this is what happens with a lot of FIRE people. They go, “I need $40,000 a year to live, so I need to save a million dollars and then I am financially independent.”
If you think about it, as I started learning how to make money on the side and doing little things, it was like “What is easier to do: save my way to a million or just find something I can make $40,000 a year that I really want to do?”
So that’s how my thinking on that evolved. It was just easier to make that money than it was to save my way until I hit that number and then I didn’t have to work anymore, if that makes sense.
Andrew Chen 04:49
I see. So you left the legal profession in 2019. Is that correct?
Kevin Ha 04:55
Correct. Yeah, 2019, a year ago. Now I’ve been self-employed, doing my own thing for a little over a year now.
Andrew Chen 05:02
How old were you? And what was your legal career path up until that point? What kind of legal work were you doing?
Kevin Ha 05:11
I was 32. My path in the whole legal profession was like a lot of other lawyers.
I graduated from college in 2009, which was right in the financial crisis. No job. Moved back home with my parents.
I had a history and econ degree, nothing that was going to get me into any sort of science or medical-based program. And so I was like, “If I can’t get a job and I need to do something, I’ll just go to law school.”
I can take tests. I had decent grades.
And you know how law school is. There’s really very few barriers to entry other than being able to take a test pretty well.
So I went off to law school, did the whole law school thing exactly by the book. Good grades, law review, summer associate position.
And then I started my first job in 2013 at the firm that I summered at in my second year. This was a big law firm, one of the larger firms in the U.S.
I worked there for three years and really was not super happy with it, just because it wasn’t a great fit for me. A lot of really super Type A people.
But what I did there is I saved up a lot of money and paid off my student loans as fast as I could, just to give myself a little bit of flexibility because I needed the paycheck to pay the student loans.
Once I paid off the student loans, I left that job and went and took a state government job, thinking that maybe there would be a better work-life balance. Maybe it will be more fulfilling because now I’m “working for the people.”
It was a fine job, but once again, it didn’t really fit what I wanted to do. I just hated the meetings and the really scheduled thing.
And then the weird thing was this job still made you bill hours but not to anyone. I don’t know why they did that. It wasn’t billed to anyone, but you still had to essentially keep track of your time.
So I found myself working way more hours, except at that time, I had taken a $50,000 pay cut for that job. I was working the same amount but not getting a lot of work-life balance in that.
So then I worked there for a year, and then I switched over to a state bar association job, which is a legal adjacent job. There’s the whole world of legal adjacent jobs I discovered there. Lawyers are supporting lawyers in other stuff.
I worked there for almost two years until I then last year made the leap to decide to go full time on my blog, which I have been working on since 2016, just nights and weekends.
Andrew Chen 08:20
Gotcha. Thanks for the tour through your background.
When did you decide that you needed to make a drastic career change? Was there a single moment of recognition, or was it a gradual realization?
Kevin Ha 08:37
It was pretty gradual. I did what I think a lot of lawyers do and a lot of professionals do where you have this degree and that’s what you identify yourself as. I identified myself as a lawyer.
And I still identify myself as a lawyer. I still think about myself as a lawyer.
So what I was doing was I was jumping around from job to job in the legal field, trying to find that thing in the law that I thought would be right for me.
You see this a lot with young lawyers where, if you notice, they jump around from tons of jobs all the time, different law firms. And you wonder why they’re doing that.
It’s probably because they’re unhappy with that one job, so they keep thinking maybe the grass will be greener on the other side. So I knew that I was trying to find something.
And then the real turning point for me, in 2018, I had a really terrible day at work. My boss got mad at me about something. I don’t even remember really that well anymore.
But whatever it was, it got me fed up enough that I wrote on my calendar for a year later from that date. I went 365 days in the future and I wrote, “Quit job by today.”
I scheduled that for April 2019. That was like my end date. I was like, “I got to do something else by then.”
I managed to get out of there sooner. I left my job in March.
So it was just one really bad day that solidified in my head, “I need to go and make a move into something else.”
Andrew Chen 10:11
Gotcha. I’d love to ask. When you quit, and actually even up until now, is FIRE the goal in your definition, the way you defined it a moment ago?
Because in my mind, I think that it’s interesting that you characterize the traditional way of thinking about FIRE is “I need $40,000, so I need to save 25 times that. Why not just find something you enjoy doing that can pay you $40,000, and then you can perhaps get to that state a lot faster?”
But for somebody like your background, it’s not going to be hard to find something that pays $40,000. It should be quite easy. There are many options that presumably would be open to you that would be fulfilling for even way more than $40,000.
What is the goal from having left your law job? Is FIRE the goal, or is it something else?
Kevin Ha 11:10
Right now, for me, FIRE is the traditional view of FIRE. Save up money and live off the portfolio and never have to do anything again that you don’t want to do.
That’s not really my goal anymore. My goal now has been the whole create your own FIRE thing, which is an entrepreneur type thing, which is build something that you really want to do that can make you enough to support your lifestyle and that ideally can keep growing.
That’s my current thing. I always call it “create your own FI,” which is basically what I’m trying to do is just create this lifestyle.
Andrew Chen 11:51
Okay. Gotcha. What is the life that you envisioned having made this big career change?
Is it flexible/nomadic work? Is it more freedom just to work on your own schedule? Is it what you just described a moment ago around actually creating something from scratch?
Just help us get into your head a little bit.
Kevin Ha 12:13
It’s all of those things. It’s the whole flexibility, being able to control my time more, and the whole creating thing. This is just something that I feel like previous generations didn’t have.
Even 10 years ago, the fact that we have phones and internet, there’s just so many ways you can put yourself out there. If you put yourself out there enough and people believe in what you’re saying, you really can make a living doing that.
There’s a whole Seth Godin thing. He’s a writer who always says, “Pick yourself.” That’s what I’m trying to do.
Andrew Chen 12:54
How do you stay focused and keep your eye on the prize when I imagine many of your law school classmates have started to upgrade their lifestyles, buy homes, cars, start families, the traditional way, while you’re forging this alternate path? How do you stay focused?
Kevin Ha 13:18
The funny thing is once you’re not constantly around other lawyers, your whole view of the world changes a little bit.
When I’m around lawyers, you see all these people who are always so unhappy. They’re always trying to do something else. They’re always complaining about their work.
So when I look at my friends, I used to be like, “I really need the prestige.” And as I get farther away from every day being around lawyers, that whole urge to chase prestige and be considered prestigious has fallen away. I just don’t care about it that much.
But it’s because now I’m not really around as many people, and the people I’m around are looking at me like “This dude is just chilling and doing what he wants.”
So that’s how I’ve avoided that. By not being around as much, I don’t feel the urge to need all that stuff like I did.
When I was in Big Law especially was when I really was like, “I need to be prestigious. People need to know I’m an associate here.”
Andrew Chen 14:29
Do you still keep in close contact with your Big Law colleagues or classmates?
Kevin Ha 14:35
Just some of my closer law school friends. But a lot of my closer law school friends were like me. They all tried to get out of Big Law pretty fast, and they’re all doing other things now as well.
You know how it is with Big Law. People don’t last a super long time.
Andrew Chen 14:51
Yeah. While you were on the legal path, and even to now, what did you invest in? Passive index funds, stocks, bonds? What does your portfolio look like?
Kevin Ha 15:10
It’s all passive index funds. I’m big on the whole VTSAX and the total market index funds, which is what I’ve been doing since I understood that concept. That’s my general normal investing.
And of course, I’ve got money in an old 457 plan. And then I’ve got money in my solo 401(k), and then Roth IRAs. So that’s my normal investing.
The other way I think about investing is this business that I’m making. I think of it as an investment as well. I put time, I put money into them.
So that’s my two investment things: a business I’ve created that can hopefully continue to scale or grow, and then just regular traditional stocks and bonds type investing.
Andrew Chen 16:06
How much did you have saved when you pulled the trigger, walked away from the law?
Kevin Ha 16:12
When I moved from the law, I had a big emergency fund. I’ve always had this emergency fund that is unique because it gets 5% interest in FDIC-insured accounts. It’s a little financial hack that I’ve written about on my blog.
I had this big emergency fund that was $42,000, so that was a pretty good base. I could live for a year for sure on that.
And then I also had all these little gig economy side hustles I’ve been doing. This is a thing that I do a lot where I’ve incorporated a lot of these seemingly low level gig stuff: delivering food, walking dogs, all this stuff that seems way beneath what a lawyer should be doing. But I’ve figured out ways to make it really work for me very well.
That is what I think of as my side hustle emergency fund, where it can basically form a floor for me. I know I can make $1000 or $2000 a month doing these things if I have to, so that can stretch out my cash farther if no money is coming in at all.
Andrew Chen 17:23
That’s an interesting perspective on how you can use the side hustle stuff.
I’d love to probe a little bit more on the mechanics of how, but also just the psychology of it because I want to be able to share candidly with my audience how you got to the mindset that this was a really efficient use of your time post-law career.
Because as you say, you’re super well-educated. You could go make six figures at a law firm given your background.
Why is a lawyer who made law review and worked at a fancy Big Law firm delivering food? This is the question that somebody who is similarly situated to you would be exactly thinking at this moment.
Walk us through the thought process for why this is an efficient use of your time, and then we’ll get to the mechanics.
Kevin Ha 18:29
For me, I started doing this gig economy stuff even while I was in Big Law. I was doing it. And the reason why is because the way these apps worked, I could fit them into the things I was already doing.
I’ll use the food delivery as an example. I would turn them on before I left the office and get deliveries going back toward my house. I would essentially deliver food on my way home, so I make a couple bucks.
And it doesn’t seem like that much, but when you add it up every day over the course of a year, it does add up into something. And then if you invest that and let that grow, it really grows.
That’s the first thing I did. I didn’t feel like I was using up much time or really dedicating time to it. It just seemed like it was just monetizing the things I was already doing: commuting, walking, exercising, that kind of stuff.
As for why I think it’s worth it, besides that, my thing was money is not the number one motivator for me and for most people of why they do things. Because obviously, if you can make a billion dollars a year but you also work 23 hours a day, you might not do that. I don’t know.
It’s like one of these things where you have to decide how much time do you want to spend on it and whether that’s really satisfying to you.
For me, people would be like, “Why don’t you do something else legal-related?” And my answer was “I don’t like doing that stuff.”
That’s not really fun for me. If I’m picking something as a side hustle, I don’t want to do something that’s not fun.
The whole point of it is it’s a side hustle. I don’t need it to live. So if I’m doing it, I’d better want to do it.
When I was looking at some of these things, this gig stuff, I don’t know what it was. I found it really fun.
I was biking around. I was exploring. It was low level stuff.
And it was the opposite of what I was doing. If I’m spending 12 hours a day sitting at a desk, really having to use my brain a lot (well, not always having to use my brain a lot, but having to sit at a desk), then the very opposite of that is being outside, biking around, picking up food.
So that’s how I ended up thinking about that. I was willing to trade money for what I thought was a more enjoyable experience.
Andrew Chen 20:50
Is it the aspect of being out and about and getting a breath of fresh air and exercise that is appealing?
Because the thing that I imagine folks listening might struggle with a little bit is there can be a fine line between that and just turning into a laborer, which there’s no knock on that at all, but you have a lot of other options. And at the time that we’re recording this, there’s a lot of people struggling out there right now who would love to have the job options you have.
So, is the appeal because it gets you out and about, breath of fresh air, exercise, etc.? And how do you make sure that it doesn’t start occupying so much of your time that you essentially turn into a laborer? Does that make sense?
Kevin Ha 21:40
Yeah, it does. Yes, I think it is the whole getting outside and being able to be out in the world. There’s just nothing more enjoyable to me than on a weekday, when it’s 70 degrees or something, to be outside when most people aren’t outside at that time.
As for how do I make sure it doesn’t occupy a lot of my time, that is a challenge because here’s the funny thing. A lot of times, I’ll be like, “Okay, I’m going to go do deliveries for an hour,” and then I end up doing it longer.
It’s not because I feel like I need to. It’s because I’m enjoying it so much that I lose track of the time.
But for me, a lot of what I’m doing is, because I don’t spend time sitting there, if nothing is happening, I’m done. The nature of a lot of these gig stuff is if you stretch it out over a long period of time, the amount you’re going to make is going to be less and less per hour, which is just the way it works.
If you think about a food delivery thing, it’s busy from 11:00 to 1:00, or it’s busy from 5:00 to 7:00, something like that. So you have a lot of stretch in between that just naturally forces you to go do something else.
Fortunately for me, I’ve built other things. Obviously, when I’m done doing my gig things, I can go back and start working on the blog again and start working on other things. So that’s how it just naturally does it and why I don’t become a laborer.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I think that doing this kind of stuff is actually very helpful for anyone who is thinking about financial independence because it gives you a sense of humbleness when you’re out doing things that are beneath what you think you’re supposed to be doing, which can help avoid lifestyle inflation and all that kind of stuff that tends to knock us off our path.
Andrew Chen 23:38
How do you eat? If you’re delivering food during the meal hours, how are you eating?
Kevin Ha 23:46
One thing you can do, and this is what I’ve done a lot, is I’ll order food from a place that I know I’m going to get delivery from, and I’d pick up my food on the way. That’s multitasking right there.
There’s an interesting thing. I’ve been doing this where if I deliver food from Buffalo Wild Wings, let’s say, people leave receipts there or you get the receipt.
You’re probably not supposed to do this, but you can enter it in as your reward card. You’re getting points while delivering food from Buffalo Wild Wings, and then I can buy myself free food later from there.
Andrew Chen 24:21
Kevin Ha 24:22
Andrew Chen 24:23
Cool. At this point, it sounds like food delivery is obviously one of the side hustles you’re doing.
Are there others? And what are the range of things?
Kevin Ha 24:36
My world is very different now pre- and post-pandemic stuff.
Before, one of my big things I did was Airbnb. We had a house with a guest bedroom that was never used, so back in 2016 we put up that room on Airbnb.
Because of our location (we’re close to a large university), it just instantly started getting booked. So booked that I would have to block off days because otherwise I would be constantly having a person in my house. That room was making $1000 a month just from one room from Airbnb.
The stuff I was doing was making the bed in the room, vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning the house. And that was stuff that benefits me too because I needed to also live in a clean house.
So I did that, and I’ve stopped doing that now. I had a baby in March.
Andrew Chen 23:45
Kevin Ha 25:46
Thank you. So that put a stop to Airbnb because we just didn’t want to have people in our house when we have a kid.
But our plan was to keep Airbnb-ing when we were traveling. Obviously, we haven’t traveled anywhere and we probably won’t be traveling anywhere this year, I bet. So nothing is happening in the Airbnb front this year.
Another one I did was Rover, which was dog sitting. The way I thought about that one was I already own a dog, so all I had to do was watch a second dog in my house. It’s not really much work to watch a second dog when you already have to watch your own dog.
Andrew Chen 26:29
What if they poop around? They’re not familiar with the location. What if they fight with your dog?
Kevin Ha 26:34
Right. Beforehand, I always made this very clear in my profile. Your dog needs to be comfortable being at home.
The thing is most people’s dogs are fine being at home because most people have to go to work. And you’re not leaving your dog with someone if your dog isn’t good. So I always meet them beforehand at a park by my house, make sure our dogs get along.
The great thing is once you’ve been doing it for as long as I have been (I’ve been doing this since 2015), you build up this repeat base of dogs. And the great thing about that is once you’ve watched a dog once and you know what you’re getting into, you always know.
All these dogs that I watch now are almost all repeats. I would watch almost all of them for free because they fit in so well. I love these dogs.
If these people were like, “We’ve got to give up our dog,” I would just take the dog probably.
Andrew Chen 27:31
Kevin Ha 27:33
Yeah. That’s just the way I started monetizing that. It was a little side business that was very easy to do.
And then the delivery stuff, I’ve already explained that. And then there’s a lot of other types of gigs out there that I was doing too. The scooter charging was a very interesting one.
Andrew Chen 27:56
What’s that one?
Kevin Ha 27:59
This one is not working out right now because of the pandemic. But beforehand, the Bird and Lime scooters, they put them out all over the city and they need to be able to charge them.
My neighborhood would just have tons of scooters, so I just literally go outside, pick them up, bring them inside, charge them up, and drop them back outside in the morning. I had one month where I made over $1000 just charging up these scooters.
Andrew Chen 28:26
Kevin Ha 28:27
Yeah. The big advantage too is while I was charging up these scooters, I could ride them around for free while I was doing it. I was just riding these scooters around.
Andrew Chen 28:38
To deliver the food?
Kevin Ha 28:39
And then I would sometimes ride these scooters around delivering food on them. I was multitasking this gig economy stuff.
Andrew Chen 28:48
That’s so funny.
Kevin Ha 28:49
Andrew Chen 28:51
Cool. So there’s a range of things, like dog sitting, Airbnb, food delivery, scooter charging.
Anything else? Anything major that you were working on pre-pandemic?
Kevin Ha 29:01
Yeah. Another one was dog walking. I did this a lot more when I had a regular 9 to 5 job because my office was across apartment buildings that had tons of dogs.
At lunch is when people usually want their dog walked. So this would be perfect for me because I could basically spend my lunch hour. I could take 30 minutes of my lunch hour, go outside, go for a walk, and get paid doing it.
And because I’m just walking a dog, I can just come back in. I’m not even sweaty or anything. So it’s very easy to do it that way.
Andrew Chen 29:39
You would be walking with your law firm shoes and clothes?
Kevin Ha 29:43
Yeah. I would just be in work clothes and I’d just walk over there across the street, grab this dog, go for a walk, and drop the dog back off and walk back in my office.
Andrew Chen 29:53
How would you eat again?
Kevin Ha 29:57
I eat just during the day when I’m sitting at my desk anyways. That’s how I’d do it. But we all still need a break in the day, right?
Andrew Chen 30:04
Gotcha. Cool. I think I got a picture.
If I could summarize, it sounds like there’s a pretty wide range of different gigs that you’d pick up and you’d try to slot them in at times when it would be already on your way, or when it wouldn’t require a lot of extra lift from you, or when you just wanted to get out and about. Is that the way you thought about it?
Kevin Ha 30:32
That’s exactly how I thought about it. Right.
Andrew Chen 30:34
What I’d love to understand is how did you break the news to your parents about your decision to, firstly, leave a legal career? I’m sure there was a discussion about “What will you do?” and it’s a collection of doing my own thing and side hustles.
What was their reaction?
Kevin Ha 31:01
I come from an immigrant household, very traditional “go to school, get a good job,” that kind of thing, which was always a weird thing because my dad owned a Chinese restaurant, so he was an entrepreneur.
So I don’t know why it never occurs to them that maybe your kids can be entrepreneurs too. But they were confused about it.
They knew that I was not happy practicing law. That’s something they knew right from the start. As soon as I did it, I knew this isn’t a great fit for me.
It took them a little time to explain to people what I was doing because they would tell people. “What do you do?” and they would say, “He’s a lawyer,” even when I wasn’t working as a lawyer anymore.
I think that it made it a little bit easier for my parents, though, because my brother who is a year younger than me, he also went this untraditional path of starting his own business, and he’s doing very well with his business.
So they had seen it already that it was possible to make money and make a living without having a normal job. That helped prime them a little bit for it.
Andrew Chen 32:16
What kind of business does he run?
Kevin Ha 32:18
He has a weed delivery app in D.C. If you look up in D.C., there’s a whole cottage industry of weed delivery apps. He started one of the first ones in D.C. and it took off.
Andrew Chen 32:39
Wow. Is weed now legalized in D.C.?
Kevin Ha 32:45
It’s not legal to sell it. What happened was D.C. was trying to legalize it, but any law in D.C. has to be approved by Congress, and Congress did not approve it.
But what happened was, because of the way the law is set up, it’s not legal to sell it, but it’s legal to give it away and it’s legal to have it. So what happened was this cottage industry built up around it apps that do something else, but you give the weed as part of it. You sell cookies or something.
My brother sells motivational speeches. You turn it on, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger every year as people are buying these motivational speeches and they get their weed as part of it.
Andrew Chen 33:33
That’s so funny.
Kevin Ha 33:34
It’s a funny thing. But when my brother figured this out, he came back. He lived in China for a couple of years.
First, he had a normal job, hated it, lasted a year before they fired him. And then he started doing some standup comedy and tried to make his own little comedy troupe. He was doing fine with that, but not really well.
And then he moved back home and had nothing to do. And I was telling him because I was in law mode at that time. I was in Big Law, and I was like, “You need to just go to grad school and get something. Go to business school. Go to law school. And go get a job, man.”
And he’s like, “No, I don’t think I’m going to do that.” So he took a coding boot camp and then just learned how to code so he could make this business.
Andrew Chen 34:20
That’s so funny. But it seems like it’s working.
Kevin Ha 34:24
It’s working so far. Yeah.
Andrew Chen 34:28
Cool. Walk us through how you spend your days now. Maybe there’s not a normal, but what are you doing during normal daytime hours when others are working?
If we were video camera watching you, what would we be observing you doing during the days?
Kevin Ha 34:50
Sometimes I always think, “I should film myself for a whole day.” This is different pre- and post-pandemic, of course, and pre-baby, post-baby.
Before I had a baby, and before the pandemic, I would wake up whenever in the morning, normal times, and I would head down to my co-working space because I still needed a routine, something to keep me motivated. Otherwise, I’m just going to sit around doing nothing.
So I would do that, try to write and answer emails and do all that kind of stuff in the morning.
And then I would spend my lunch hour, usually an hour or an hour and a half, doing deliveries over the lunch hour. It was just going around the whole downtown area, which is really easy to do on a bike especially.
And then I would come back, do some more work through the afternoon. And then in the evening, I would basically deliver my way home, try and get back.
Now in this post-pandemic world with a baby, it’s a little different now. Now I’m doing a lot more stay-at-home stuff until daycare can start later this summer. Right now, it’s just finding time to do these things.
I always still try to do an hour of deliveries a day. My goal right now is to make $1000 a month doing deliveries, which is about $33 a day. And because of how things are looking right now, I could make $30-50 an hour when I work over the dinnertime for an hour, which is pretty crazy.
I know that other people have been able to do this as well, but I feel like I’m just really efficient and good at it. I don’t know how. Yesterday, I made $38 in an hour and I was disappointed in it.
So it’s been really nuts right now.
Andrew Chen 36:48
Got it. Interesting.
Have all the other gig economy stuff pretty much decelerated now post-pandemic? So it’s mostly just food delivery?
Kevin Ha 36:58
Right. Delivery stuff is really big now. Everything else that relies on travel is nothing.
I haven’t watched any dogs or walked a dog in two or three months now. It’s been very quiet on that front.
Andrew Chen 37:15
Got it. I guess folks are working at home anyways.
Kevin Ha 37:18
People work at home now, so who knows what the future of dog walking is going to look like? And people aren’t traveling right now, which is when they need people to watch their dog.
Andrew Chen 37:26
Makes sense. Pre-pandemic and post, how much were you bringing in from the side hustles then?
Kevin Ha 37:38
From my side hustle, I’ve been tracking all this stuff on my blog since 2016, the side hustling from the gig stuff. It’s always been between $1000 and $3000 a month, which is a significant amount of money.
It depends on who you are, but if you think about it, you can max out your Roth IRAs doing just these gig stuff. There’s a lot of value in that if you can just think about it by day, if you don’t think about it as “I need to make it all in one go.”
If you only need to make $15 a day, $30 a day, almost anyone can do that in very little time. We all need to exercise. We all need to be outside for a little bit.
So if you think, “If I can go bike around for an hour and make $30,” that’s a pretty good use of my time to do that.
Andrew Chen 38:32
I’m just curious. Have you ever thought about scaling yourself a little bit and hiring people under you to just get more leverage out of these gig economy hustles?
Other people can obviously access the app themselves. They could just download it themselves. But there may be some folks who don’t want to be bothered by setting up an account and figuring out how the system works, or maybe people who don’t speak English well, or whatever the case may be.
Have you ever thought about hiring some people under you?
Kevin Ha 39:02
No. I’ve heard of people doing that kind of stuff. For me, I’ve always thought of my active income in three ways.
You had your 9 to 5 job. Then I have my side hustles, which are time for money type jobs. And then I have a business which can scale.
Right now, that’s how I think about it. My scalable thing is the internet blog, obviously, because that can keep growing and that can reach as many people as can find it.
And then this gig stuff is for fun, and it gives me an income floor. It makes my own little basic income type thing, if you think about it that way. If I need my Andrew Yang $1000 a month, that’s how I’d make it is from that.
Andrew Chen 39:56
Gotcha. What do you do for healthcare, health insurance right now?
Kevin Ha 40:01
Right now, I pay for it myself through the state exchange. When I left my job a little over a year ago, first, I just kept on the 60-day retroactive period. And then I forgot about getting off insurance, so I missed the enrolment period.
So I had to get one of these health share ministries for a year until the next enrolment period opened up. I don’t know enough about health share ministries to know if it’s legit or not, but when the next enrolment period opened up, I got myself just on a regular health insurance plan that I get from the state exchange.
Andrew Chen 40:47
Got it. Cool. That makes sense.
Now that you have a kid in your life, how does that influence how you think about all this stuff: career path, wealth building, how you spend your time, your days, etc.?
I imagine things have changed quite a bit after having a kid. Walk us through how your plans have changed and how things might look differently going forward.
Kevin Ha 41:20
The way things are looking right now is it’s very nice to have so much flexibility.
My wife went back to work, and she has not had a ton of time on her hands, so the fact that I’ve been able to be at home, especially right now you can’t really get babysitters because you can’t have people come in your house. So it’s been very helpful that I have had this flexibility.
In the future, I think we’re fine and I can continue to make income doing all my stuff that I’m doing. But because kids are more expensive and my life is a lot different than it was two years ago or a year ago, there’s always a possibility that I have to go back and get a normal job if I can’t keep making it with what I’m doing.
Andrew Chen 42:12
How are you able to make meaningful progress on the scalable business part of your time currently with the new baby in your life? How are you making that work?
Kevin Ha 42:27
Right now, it’s doing a lot of work during nap times and at night. Luckily, when babies are really young like this, it’s much easier because they can’t move and they sleep a lot, so it’s easier now.
I imagine it will get harder as my son gets older and can walk and can start bothering me, which is why we planned for three days a week of daycare just to give myself a little bit of time and just to give us all a little break.
Andrew Chen 43:07
Have you set any type of internal clock or deadline in terms of “The blog needs to scale by whatever amount by this time. Otherwise, the kid may end up forcing my hand and I need to go back”?
How does your thinking work in this regard? Does that make sense?
Kevin Ha 43:27
Yeah. For me, when I left to go full time on my blog, I was actually at a point where my blog was making almost as much as my day job.
Last year, after I left my job, I had no change in my income, actually. When you combine the blog and my side stuff, I was making just a little bit more than I made in my day job.
Obviously, I would make more if I stayed in my day job, kept the blog, and kept all the side hustles. But I, at that point, had been treating all the other stuff as basically just extra bonus.
It was made a little easier by the fact that, since I kept switching legal jobs and going down salary, it made it easier for me to leave, because obviously if I had Big Law salary, it would be a lot harder.
That’s an unintended benefit of me jumping around in the legal field trying to find the better fit, because since my salary kept dropping over those years, it gave me a little test run into “Can I live on less without feeling any pinch?” And I didn’t feel any pinch.
So right now, I’m pretty comfortable. The pandemic did cut things down. You can understand why.
Advertising and affiliate things and all these things that you do to make money online have decreased due to the pandemic. I have seen a drop there. Now I’m making less than I was.
My hope is that, as things settle down one day in the future, maybe things will go up. Right now, I don’t have a real timeline. Long story, rambling here.
But you’re right. It could force my hand one day. I hope it doesn’t.
I don’t anticipate it, but I do have backup plans just in case.
Andrew Chen 45:13
That makes sense. That’s pretty smart.
So it sounds like affiliate and ad revenue is the primary way you’re monetizing your website. Is that correct?
Kevin Ha 45:25
Andrew Chen 45:26
Gotcha. How much does it bring in?
Kevin Ha 45:31
Right now, I don’t share my blog stuff online. I know people do that, and I just didn’t want to do that because I felt like it wasn’t super helpful to people because most people, if they need to make money, are not going to be able to do it blogging.
It took me three years before I even really felt like I was making progress. So if you’re trying to make money, you don’t have three years to just sit around doing that, which is why I’ve only shared my gig stuff.
That’s how I explained the gig stuff. “If you need money, here’s how you do it. And this stuff here, this is for your side.”
So I just haven’t been sharing that. I’ve just been keeping that, just to not confuse people.
Andrew Chen 46:19
Sure. No worries.
But it sounds comparable, if not more, than the gig stuff. Is that accurate to say?
Kevin Ha 46:25
Yeah. It’s more than the gig stuff. It’s basically just the same as what I was making at my normal job before.
Andrew Chen 46:34
Gotcha. Would you have gone to law school if you could do it over again?
Kevin Ha 46:39
No, I wouldn’t have. I enjoyed law school itself. I didn’t enjoy practicing.
But I wouldn’t have. I think that law is one of those fields that you can stumble into.
Andrew Chen 46:57
And many casualties have.
Kevin Ha 46:59
Andrew Chen 47:00
Yours truly included.
Kevin Ha 47:03
Right. What did you major in when you were in college?
Andrew Chen 47:06
History. That qualifies you to pretty much work in any restaurant in America.
Kevin Ha 47:11
Exactly. History and econ was my major.
You see this a lot when you look at a lot of lawyers. It’s like they stumble their way into law school because they didn’t know what else to do. And then you just end up being a lawyer just because.
That’s how I ended up that way. If I could go back in time, I would have told myself, “Hey, just try to figure something out.”
“You’re only 22 years old. You got time. If you really want to go to law school one day, you can wait until you’re 28 before you go, if you really want to.”
And this is what I found too. I found that most of the people who did really well in law school, at least in my anecdotal experience, they were older. I think that they had done something before and they knew more what they wanted to do.
Whereas me, I was just 22 years old. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I was just like, “I’ll just take out these student loans. I’ll go to law school and keep doing it. That’s all I know.”
It’s a little different. If you’re looking at medical professions, you can’t really stumble your way into med school or dental school or whatever.
You had to know beforehand, “I’m going to take o-chem and I’m going to take whatever boring science class.” It’s just very different people entering it than law school.
Andrew Chen 48:24
Yeah. It does seem to be a trend of people taking more time to work or do other things in their career before going to law school. I’ve noticed that as well.
Kevin Ha 48:39
Yeah. I think we get this idea that we have to get started right away.
We’re 22 years old. We got to go.
Look how long we have to live nowadays and how much time we have. It’s helpful if you can find your thing right away, but at 22 years old, you look back at your 22-year-old self. You were like a child, right?
When you think about yourself, it’s like an unrecognizable person to me. I just can’t even imagine saying, “I’m going to figure out my whole life at this age, and now I’m ready to go.” It seems nuts to me.
Andrew Chen 49:17
True. Well, I really enjoyed chatting with you, Kevin. Where can folks find out more about you and what you’re up to?
Kevin Ha 49:27
You can find me on my blog, financialpanther.com. I’m also on all the social media stuff.
Twitter is @financialpanthe without the R at the end because it couldn’t fit. You can find me on Facebook. Instagram is the_financialpanther.
Andrew Chen 49:46
Cool. We’ll make sure to link to that stuff in the show notes.
Again, I really appreciated your coming on today and chatting with us about how you thought about your career transitions and your path to financial independence. I look forward to sharing this with our audience. Thanks so much.
Kevin Ha 50:01
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on.
Andrew Chen 50:03
Cheers. Take care.