The Real Values of Your Job

You get a wage, yet that is not all. What are the real values of your job? Or any job offer?

Base Pay

The hourly or salary numbers of the job.

This is a guarantee of value. Out of virtually all other values, this is the most fundamental because it is not a hypothetical. You will be paid this by law, otherwise the law is broken.

Additionally for hourly, though a person could expect HOURLY RATE x 40 HOURS, that may not be the case. Adjust accordingly, in that it may be 35 hours instead, or there is overtime pay on the regular – talk with your coworkers about these expectations.

Stock

AKA Options (more volatile for gains or losses) and RSUs (more guarantee, less risk). This is flexible value in an employer offers at a discount or pre-set rate.

For many in, say, the tech industry, this is the bread-and-butter of employment, the real value of their compensation. For pennies on the dollar, you can gain stock then sell it at a steep profit.

Be warned: Stock is fickle in that it can fall nearly as easily as it can rise (at least in recent years). What you may have banked as the cornerstone of your finances can become so much bitter ash.

Time Off

Sick days, vacation days, holidays. Each day is worth about .4% of Base Salary (1 8-hour day in 2000 annual working hours).

Not something to sniff at. These values can add a significant proportion to the overall value to a job, but be careful if anything is “unlimited” – these days have no value if not taken or are allowed to be taken (these instead have negative value as a lie from the employer).

Matches

Talking about the big one here – 401K matching. The employer will match dollar-for-dollar a 401K contribution.

Free money here. A very important value, though it is not offered everywhere and only works if you are able to. Keep an eye out on this!

Bonus

Annual performance, sales, commission – these can be substantial, or trivial. They can happen often, once a year, or not at all.

Whatever bonus gets offered (if any), take note and negotiate on this too!

Misc.

Largely subjective, include any other items you feel might be of value to you in your work. This bucket is mainly for values of a few hundred dollars, but could be worth a lot more.

Examples:

  • Commute Time (less is more! 0 is best)
  • Special Health Insurance Benefits (specifically of benefit to your upcoming year or lifestyle; you ought be getting basic health insurance regardless!)
  • Snacks
  • Gym Memberships
  • et al.

As with everything, a lot of these offerings only have value if you reap the value from them. If not using anything of benefit, it has no value to you and should not be included in the value of the job.

Experience?

You can’t even choke on experience, so it is of virtually no value here.

Can you gain training, networking, and exposure while on another’s dime? Sure, yet there still needs to be that “dime.”

Are some employers worth it? Perhaps. Big names, such as Google, Facebook, or Apple are all great names in virtually any field, while some banks or law firms would be great in their fields. Yet these employers are tiny compared to the vast swath of the broad market, where you are likely to be employed.

Experience is nice, but again, it cannot feed you.

Putting It All Together

Job Value = Base Pay + Stock* + Time Off + Matches + Bonus + Misc.**

*Stock is the number of shares given in a year multiplied by (market right now – rate given in the offering).
** Money is time – the more money you keep, the more time you will be giving your future self, so do not discount time savings as being worth a lot!

This will give you a dollar amount, the real value from the real values of your job.

Crypto – Ponzi Scheme?

Recently this year I started investing in crypto currencies (aka coins/tokens).

Yet, now that I pay more attention to the crypto marketplace, I cannot help but think, “is this a Ponzi Scheme?”

Let us discuss:

(Note that all numbers are being accessed on December 4th, 2021.)

Ponzi Schemes

The FBI defines these as criminal practices that “promise high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments” which “falls apart when the operator flees with all of the proceeds or when a sufficient number of new investors cannot be found”.

In short, Ponzi Schemes benefit first those who propose the ‘opportunity,’ second those that get into the scheme early to capitalize on later investors, and to anyone else, no benefit at all.

You either start the Ponzi Scheme, get in early, or play the victim to everyone who came before you.

Am I a sucker for a Ponzi Scheme?

Due Diligence

Though only doing this with ‘play’ money (dollars left after expenses and savings), I still do my homework on the range of value a coin might be worth in the future.

    • Does the coin have future general or environmental application?
    • Is the team experienced with MAST goals?
    • Is it staked (i.e. environmentally more viable than non-staked)?
    • Has the coin thought about its own economy with a plan to handle the downsides of fiat currencies?
    • Between the day-week-month-year changes in value of the currency, am I allowed to be contrarian with two or three decreased values in that timeframe?
    • And most importantly, is it not a meme coin (i.e. a community-hyped coin meant to “go to the moon” in value over a short period of time before dropping again)?

Depending on those results, I weigh my investments accordingly, adding a bit of ‘fun’ diversity to my portfolio (super-majorly weighted in stocks, which I understand better than crypto).

It is clear now by no means am I a “YOLO” investor, someone who throws caution to the wind for a stake in a gambling venture. I am skeptical, thorough, and inclined to a “hell no” if an investment is not a “hell yes” for me.

I would like to think I have avoided being duped, but yet…

State of the Market

It is an understatement to say the crypto market is volatile. A lot of that may be attributed to the ‘wild west’ nature of not just deregulation, but a complete absence of oversight on the trading habits and market changes of crypto.

Nothing is insured, nothing is guaranteed. As Stanford points out, that’s the point.

Yet while the goals of crypto leave open great opportunities for a truly democratic and transparent economic and record system, so too does it leave open great opportunities for opportunists to leveraged others’ trust and ignorance.

(Causal link to Tragedy of the Commons.)

One only has to rely on short-term recall on recent scams that, well, sound an awful lot like Ponzi Schemes:

Is There a Problem?

Even though according to Coin Market Cap there are only 265 out of 7933 coins (~3%) explicitly listed as memes, the immense speculation in other coins suggests that percentage is greater and not insignificant.

With income inequality getting worse, both ignorant speculators and smart-but-not-humble-enough investors are hoping to land a quick buck.

Yet, just as crypto lacks physical value, product, leadership, and for most coins a brand, most investors seem to be rudderless. With no end-goal in mind for their investments but to make more millions, folks speculate without an exit strategy in mind.

Even if due diligence is given and a person finds themselves on a “rocketship to the moon”, undue optimism is a common negative effect that causes a person to gamble their guaranteed golden parachute now for the exponentially lower probability for a second parachute later. More like the rocket explodes after being a “hodler” for “just one more day.” Then the investor can play the victim, decrying “bad luck” and the “paper hands” who sold too early and ruined everyone’s trip to the moon.

Still, this type of behavior is not unique. It is incredibly human. History has seen the dark effects of psyche when applied to wealth accumulation by any means other than trading work. Heck, dice as a form of gambling have been around since before the pyramids.

Getting out of work with high potential rewards is fundamental human behavior. Look no further than the stock market for speculation and rude economic schemes. Crypto is not unique in this regard.

Closing Thoughts

Crypto, though not unique in how it plays on human minds or the crimes that can be committed within its markets, crypto is unique in its unregulated status.

True, unregulated speculative ventures are virtually always acquired by central powers to crack down on cheating and to extract societal taxes from the exchange of wealth. Perhaps the same will become true for crypto someday.

However, as of now, while crypto can offer great rewards to those that create and get in early on a coin, the complete collapse of asset-less currencies stands crypto apart.

A fiat currency is backed by the production capacity and raw resources of a country. A stock virtually cannot be devalued to $0 because there are physical assets and human capital behind every ticker symbol. A crypto coin?

A crypto coin has nothing but promise. Even should a coin aim for great global benefits for many, the incentives in the market, as hot as it is now, is to get in early and run to the bank with the capital of those who get in late.

So is crypto as Ponzi Scheme?

Maybe.

Without regulation, the incentive is to ‘default’ on the system, the social trust of others, getting in early with promises, leaving early after the next few invest too.

With the goals of democratizing ownership in crypto, a coin has the potential to get above having the floor drop out from under it. Countries begin to back the coin, people exchange tangible goods or services through it, the creators relinquish control.

A few coins ought have achieved immunity from Ponzi Scheming. Huge quantities of coins and rampant speculation makes identifying those coins anything but easy.

*Lets out breath.*

Don’t listen to me. I spout my impressions and ideas all over this website. Do I know anything about money? No. It can be fun (and it is only human) to speculate sometimes πŸ™‚

What are your conceptions of crypto? The strengths are praised everywhere – the interesting part is what downsides have you encountered?

Been burned by rockets to the moon yet? πŸš€πŸ”₯ Or caught falling knives expecting ‘just the dip’? πŸ”ͺ Be careful you are not swept up or already caught in a Ponzi Scheme yourself 🀞

Take care of your finances, folks. Cheers to any profits!

10 Posts 2021

Like in 2020, there have been dozens of posts in 2021.

So many posts cover everything from rewriting the famous Halo video game franchise, my understanding of Truth in our lives and the universe, book reviews, game conversions, game making, new game systems, work, finances, the pandemic, and so, so much more.

I share with you my impressions of the most viewed posts of 2021:

10. Truths About Relationships

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this post struck a number of cords. Loudly.

I have had the opportunity and honor to experience many kinds of relationships from many different folks. I have also the privilege of being highly insightful of patterns. These are the things I have found that hold True for whoever, whenever, wherever, forever and ever.

Give this tenth-most-popular post a read – it will improve your current and future relationships (not to mention perhaps blunt a certain amount of pain).

9. Devaluing Your Worth

There are so many ways to screw up goals, self-worth, life… Devaluing the benefit of your own labor to others is certainly an all too common thing to do 😦

Read to understand your greatest obstacles to attaining what you are worth: Ignorance of your value, anchoring low, not shutting up, and you.

8. A Taste of Digital Nomadism

After two years of the COVID pandemic, I have a large amount of that flying under the social radar to experience life as a digital nomad.

My impressions, my insights, and more. Between the good and the bad of this kind of lifestyle, it might just be the one for you πŸ˜‰

7. #PaidMe2021

A breakdown and normalization of my salary in 2021 (sans the flexible nitty-gritty of stocks, benefits, etc.). Since I am a Senior Software Engineer working for mobile games in Las Vegas, Nevada, this post helps normalize industry and position and cost-of-living to be the same (or at least relatable).

Knowledge is Power. Empower yourself with this post.

6. Pandemic America – Daily Bread

Not sure why this was so popular.

I talk about what was eaten since the Pandemic, its effects. A bit of slice of life ~

5. Truth: Attractiveness

Being attractive is universal in all things. From aesthetics to gravity, reality demands attractiveness.

This is a more complex topic than for this short blurb – arguably for the blog post too – though it should get you asking questions of yourself. And if you act on your responsibility to be attractive? All the better πŸ™‚

4. The Importance of Putting Things in Order

Inspired by a “Death Walk” I take periodically, this post outlines the process.

Time required, subjects to think about, actions to take… Death Walks have defined my life since I started taking them three years ago.

While the Walks often (and likely ought) to bring tears and intense feelings, for me they have been some of the best pieces of clarity of my life. I hope you will find the same ❀

3. The 6-Point Story Structure of Halo

With the massive backlash against Halo 5 and Halo Infinite releasing late 2021, I gave my shot at fixing a series in trouble.

This post was the start, studying the fundamentals of the most successful Halo stories. Found a pattern, wrote about it πŸ™‚

Now it is up to me to experience how Halo Infinite did!

2. The Value of Being a Professional

Tools and rationale I have been using for years. Part of a toolbox that has gained others and I hundreds-of-thousands of dollars over the years. How much more to come?

1. Lasers + Shields = Boom in Dune

Guess what movie came out this year? πŸ˜‚

This post from May 2019 blew up like Dune did. As the most grounded real-life analysis of a sci-fi staple, the eyes on this post are well deserved.

Bonus: Most Viewed

With the Dune 2021 movie released this year, one of my first and one of my most nerdy posts takes the cake for most views this year. Lasers + Shields = Boom in Dune was written in 2019, but oh boy, did it turn my stats on their head πŸ˜…

Check it out! There’s some cool math there. (Spoiler: Dune explosions ought be huge.)

Check the tags, check other posts – I make ’em weekly.

Give me your favorites from this last year. Preferably, something other than mine so I can learn something too πŸ˜‰ Cheers!

#PaidMe2021

Remember the #PaidMe threads in the summer 2020?

It is fine if you don’t – they seem to have died out as fast as they blazed on to the Twitter scene.

To say that a lot happened in 2020 would be to understate and understatement. Now the situation in the US is beginning to stabilize (go get your sticks, folks πŸ’‰πŸ’‰) with an accompanying boom in hiring.

But if people are getting hired again, are they getting paid enough?

With wages required to “live comfortably” rising, it is as important as ever to openly discuss compensation and DO YOUR RESEARCH.

I follow off of my own #PaidMe post from last year here in the possibly vain hope you won’t devalue your own worth (but who knows – this post may be showing me caught with my pants down).

Just as Adam Ruins Everything, without further to do,

The Data 2021

THP – Take Home Pay (assuming only income taxes without contributions apply)
Inf – Inflation (not used for this year, ’21)
CoL – normalized to national Cost of Living (compare this)

#TechPaidMe #GameDevPaidMe
Senior Software Engineer
Base: $123,000
THP: $92,967
CoL: $90,259.22
MZ, owned by AppLovin
Las Vegas, NV

Let’s talk about this.

Takeaways

I believe these are high numbers (if interviews with Las Vegas-based businesses are to be believed). This does not include bonuses, stock options, WFH, or other benefits (rough estimate would increase base pay 130% for that value).

The term “Golden Handcuffs” comes to mind, but that’s another post.

What also comes to mind is that companies can afford to pay you much, much more than they currently are.

And why aren’t they?

I’ve written on negotiating your compensation before and have linked articles all throughout this post. The resources are out there to both evaluate what you ought to be earning and how to muster the courage to politely demand more.

Use ’em.

You ever want to discuss numbers? Let’s talk – 20 minutes is all we’ll need.

In the meantime, go earn your freedom! Don’t work too hard getting that bread. Drink water, take rest. Cheers ~

The Value of Being a Professional

Hey there! Before going on, know that I’m hardly a professional. Knowing what a professional’s value is, however, is invaluable.

This post is for you that need to double-check if you are being valued; for you looking for work so you know what’s acceptable to ask for and what an employer ought to be offering. For simplicity, I’ll be using my own profession of software development as the example to be used.

I’ve participated in the #PaidMe movement and laid out the tools I use to put together what my work is worth before. Now, to help you not devalue yourself or others, here are those tools applied!

Note: Having a pen-and-paper handy along with a calculator to figure out the value of your own work while you read may save your time.

Inflation

From 2019 to 2021 (now), inflation has been 2.88%. (This will be important as we’ll be getting some salaries from 2019.)

Because some of the following numbers will be multiplied by hundredths-of-a-percent, there is going to be some inevitable rounding. If the values are off by a few dollars, no sweat – you should be rounding up anyway πŸ˜‰

Bureau of Labor Statistics

In the Spring of 2021, BLS has data from 2019 for the United States as it comes to compensation. In 2019, software folks (QA and dev) were most often paid $107,510 a year.

With a trusty map of 2019 pay for techies, we can take the national value and inflate it, leaving us an estimated $110,606.29 per year median.

The hypothetical $111K is contradicted by Salary.com’s reported $115,430 per year average. Since this is private company is only a statistically insignificant ~4% different, we’ll ignore Salary.com for now in favor of the official numbers (inflation and BLS).

Cost of Living

How much money one needs in different parts of the country changes drastically, even from suburb to suburb. Where your zip code is has a heavy factor in what you should be earning.

A few example metros / locales follow. I received two different CoL calculations in my recent research – Best Places in general had higher values while PayScale was more conservative. Naturally, I went with the former (what a shame to be underpaid):

WhereCoL vs NationalEst. Min. SalaryEst. +10% Salary
Las Vegas111.6%$123,436.62$135,780.28
Redmond185.1%$204,732.24$225,205.46
Seattle172.3%$190,574.63$209,632.10
Austin119.3%$131,953.30$145,148.63
Washington152.1%$168,232.16$185,055.38
Boston162.4%$179,624.61$197,587.07
New York City187.2%$207,054.97$227,760.47
San Francisco269.3%$297,862.73$327,649.01
San Jose214.5%$237,250.49$260,975.54
CoL Applied to BLS Median Pay

You, sharp reader, will have noticed that the numbers estimated above do not match up quite with the BLS values previously. That is because BLS does not always include bonuses, stock options, the size of the company a person is employed at, or what has been the best few years for software companies ever.

More on that in the next section.

Remember: Always round up to at least the nearest thousand thereabouts. Exact numbers shown here to allow you to make your own decisions on how comfortable you are with rounding.

Also remember that odd numbers (123.45 vs 120) psychologically seem “more official” and “legitimate.” If you can round up while keeping some of this oddness when you go into negotiating your value, it’ll help you greatly!

Expected Salary Range

Not every company has or likes to have the cash on hand to pay huge base salaries. Though cold, hard cash is almost always preferred, you can leave it up to a company to make up the difference in your value.

Base salary is usually less than the CoL and BLS calculations above, yet this does not take away from your value. You can accept this lower pay by expecting the company to exchange cash bonuses, equity, PTO, or other subjective boons.

A cash bonus usually is a lump-sum payment delivered every six-months or a year. Usually about 10% of your base salary, you can negotiate this percentage higher to make up the total value difference. If the bonus is variable, say, based on performance, only calculate for the “you did no more and no less than your job” value.

Equity is some investment in the company. My personal rule aside is to only accept equity at a 2:3 rate, where for every $2 of base pay being forgone, $3 comes in equity. Why? Equity is variable with the market and often delayed in being granted to you. There is no timely guarantee for your work to be properly compensated, nor is the opportunity cost for not having cash-in-pocket slight, so as equity literally costs the company nothing to give you, asking for more is always a safe bet.

PTO (paid time off) is a common benefit working at most companies. PTO comes as paid vacation, sick time (if separate from vacation), and holidays. Each PTO day is 8 hours but the value of the whole day is your daily salary rate, i.e. base salary divided by 250 days. Daily rate multiplied by the number of days is PTO’s value.

Finally, there are other boons that the company can give. Maybe it’s better healthcare, a shorter commute, a better title, work-life separation, etc. Tangible (physical, material) or intangible (time, feeling), only you know what’s more important than cash-in-the-bank. Always keep in mind that any boon you accept in replacement of direct pay is doing the other party a favor.

Glassdoor Et Al.

Every company changes in what they may offer potential new-hires. Glassdoor, Levels.fyi, and other websites have oodles of employee-reported data on pay, among other things.

If you are looking at a company that has a presence on one of these sites, use the site. Compare the ranges of base salary and other payment options to your BLS and CoL numbers. This gives you not only an idea of what other compensation to negotiate for with the company, but also a second set of values that may be higher than BLS + CoL (needless to say, increase any site-found value by at least 10% since site values do not account for CoL increases or inflation).

Tip: I always salary search using a Google Chrome Incognito window to do my browsing. Sites like Glassdoor track your usage, preventing further use if you navigate to a different page. Incognito gets around this:

      1. Arrive at a blocked page.
      2. Copy the website URL.
      3. Close all of the Incognito tabs / windows.
      4. Open a new Incognito window.
      5. Paste the copied URL.
      6. Tada! Unblocked. Continue researching your value.

Putting It All Together

You now know what you should be compensated based off of your research into the company, role, BLS, and CoL.

When the talk of money comes up, here is the handy equation to keep on hand:

Total Compensation = Base + Bonus + Equity + PTO

If you have other boons you are looking for, convey to the other party that you are taking these for granted, increasing your base or bonus or equity if the other party wants to take these boons away. Never Split the Difference is an astounding book (read it at least four-to-six times so far) that goes into more depth in how to handle leveraging boons that may not have an impressive dollar value.

Now, that total compensation ought to be a range, something like the fair value you found through research of median or average pay (whichever is higher), and at least 10% more than that. Propose the larger numbers and have the other party justify why they ought to be offering you less, giving a sense of disbelief the entire time (much more in Never Split the Difference).

Barring the most dire circumstances of survival, never, ever accept below the median or average pay for the role in the place you are bidding for. It is anti-social and masochistic and despicably weak. Don’t do it.

On the plus-side, if the other party counters above your expected compensation range, smile! Then let them know that’s a good base-pay starting point. “Now let’s talk about bonuses and equity.” Using the simple trick of adding 10% more to acceptable figures, you enable yourself to maximize your worth to the other party and to yourself.

Having gotten through this article, how are you doing? Are you making out like Robin Hood, maximizing your value above par? Are you being taken for granted, paid pennies on the dollar?

If you need to be valued more, talk with those that pay you about increasing your compensation 10% if you are being underpaid by 10% or less. However, should the compensation be undervalued by more than 10%, you can still have a conversation with the payor, but it is also time to look at other companies since you have been clearly disrespected and taken for a ride 😐

Enough talk! Check your numbers, go get your value, and be confident that you are in the right (heck, you at least have the United States government backing you up). All the best to your endeavors going forward – cheers!

10 Posts 2020

In a first, I’ve posted every week of 2020! #FeelsGoodMan

Out of all of those, I want to share my thoughts on the ten most-eyed posts of 2020 πŸ‘€ What’s changed, what’s the same, you get the drill.

10. Character Sheet Essentials

This is my attempt to boil down characters to the essentials of what needs to be known. A character sheet still needs the four sections “Self, Seem, Story, and Stuff,” but there’s more wiggle room, especially on “Self,” on what a given game IP ought to include.

(Note card-sized sections are pictured for reference.)

9. BITS – The Core Mechanic

My joy of a game system, BITS delivers a faster pace of gameplay, simpler arithmetic, but a thorough set of possible outcomes for any action. Here I talk of the dice, the math, and other factors in resolving conflict in the system.

8. Cast 21 – Tools to Face Uncertainty

Back when I could upload podcasts, I outline twelve actions that remove stress and improve decision making. These are points that are recommended by the best performers and thinkers in our society which I have also tried out personally to great success 😁

7. Cast 12 – Quick Table Top Role Playing Game – 1

My first publication of a tabletop role-playing game. (Check the second part for downloads.)

I’ve come a long way in terms of knowledge and technique for making games (specifically TTRPGs), yet this first system has a special place in my heart β™₯

6. Cast 19 – Virtual Mentors

I go through the folks that I constantly learn from, folks that you can gain from, too!

The cast includes Gary Vee, Timothy Ferriss, Jocko Willink, Jordan Peterson, Paula Pant, and more!

5. Cast 09 – GDC and Crunch

I reminisce about being accepted to the Game Developers Conference (which I later give up my pass) while also facing crunch at work (on a project that later gets culled during COVID).

4. COVID and False Arguments

There are a lot of disgusting, dangerous things being said to downplay or misinform about the current global pandemic.

One hit me so hard on social media it took me days to get over the audacity of it. Then I wrote a blog post in response πŸ˜‰

One thing I’d add to this post: You can’t give someone lung cancer from your lung cancer condition. You can give COVID-19 to another without even knowing you have it. Therefore, this is another point that comparing COVID to other diseases as a means to render mute the concerns (and lives lost) of the pandemic is not just infantile and uninformed, it is dangerous.

3. #PaidMe

Surprised that this isn’t higher. I got on the bandwagon of a summer hashtag that had folks sharing salary in different industries.

I went farther, breaking down role, base pay, take-home pay, inflation to 2020, and normalizing to a national cost-of-living.

Check the data out yourself to have a reference point in your own salary negotiations 😊

2. Trip Across COVID America

I fled Las Vegas to the wilds and eventually the East Coast in May. What’s written retells my journal entries for the trip, including a very eye-opening understanding of poverty in the forgotten, decaying rural sections of America.

1. What Is Your Work Worth?

I wish I had this guide when I started in the professional sphere.

What’s inside is a step-by-step formula to calculating what you ought to be paid along with surefire ranges you must ask for when negotiating pay.

It’s dangerous to go about with ignorance when it comes to money. Take this insight along for the ride.

If you’ve missed out on these crowd-pleasers, it’s not too late! I also recommend checking out the other posts – you’ve plenty of content to gleam from.

What has been your favorite post? Which articles would you recommend I read? Let me know! Cheers to your 2020 wrap-up ~

Investment Unicorns

Why, hello, there!

Jimmy here, with a short one (or at least, I’ll think it to be short) since I’ve more to figure out on this topic…

But! Maybe you’ll get some answers to investment questions on your mind or be able to answer some of the following πŸ™‚

Definitions

When I say “investment”, I mean a stock or similar I’m going to hold for at least 5-to-10 years at least (my retirement horizon).

When I say “unicorn”, I mean what Warren Buffet does: Buy low when the business is quite expected to last long-term (ie decades). That ‘should’ be a rarity in this Bull Market.

What’s a “Bull Market”? It’s a time of elation and high emotion and high prices before a lot of sadness when the prices eventually go back down 😒 Simply, it’s a period of time in the stock market where prices for businesses go through the roof, whether or not the business is good at making money or has the capital to back up the asked-for price. In that, the price-per-earnings (P/E) ratio is typically high.

And lastly, “P/E” is an indicator on how much a company is being sold for vs. how much money it’s actually bringing in. 20 P/E is the rule of thumb for ‘fair price’ when the underlying company is expected to last a long time. 30 P/E is definitely considered high, while 40 or more is astronomical. 10 or less might be considered a steal, especially if the company has the long-term sustainability to flex profitability in the years to come.

Signs of Unicorns πŸ¦„

So what do I look for that is an “investment” “unicorn” in a “Bull Market” (or any market)? A few things:

  1. A low P/E.
    1. For me, I have been foolish (we’ll look at that later here), buying company stock that did not have low P/E of at least sub-20. However, they’ve continued to grow in the longest Bull Market run in the last +120 years.
  2. A dividend.
    1. Having a dividend means the company will pay me periodically for owning it regardless of the stock price. To me, that sounds like passive income πŸ’²
  3.  Brand.
    1. Is the name recognizable? Does the company do something very well? Do people talk about it in positive terms and use it on the regular?
  4. Longevity.
    1. This one’s a little tricky. Is the company earning money in a stable way for more than 5 or 10 years, is it expanded well into the market making it hard for newcomers, and does it have to reinvent product rarely?

To me, a unicorn has <10 P/E (a “-” or no P/E means the company has negative earnings), a dividend, is a popular brand, and has lasted and will last into the future. If so, I’m ready to dump 10% of my cash reserves into it pronto! (Another tip from Warren Buffet.)

Past Unicorns

I started investing in individual stocks back in November 2015, 4.5 years ago, well before I heard about Financial Independence or Paula Pant or ready up on investing vs gambling.

Buying into Activision, Sony, Microsoft, I was buying into companies that made or financed video games because that’s the world I knew πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ The only other thing I kept in mind was to buy when the companies where going down more than 10%. But really, I had no idea 😢

In the last year or so, I bought into more things. More Microsoft, more Delta, more Exxon, more Google, more Tesla, etc. Some have gone up, some down. But I tended to buy willy-nilly just because the company seemed like it would be around forever (except for Tesla, which I thought was way too low a year ago when I saw Tesla cars parked in lines outside my office).

So how did all that perform?

Unicorns Jump

Let me show you how certain things have performed – we’ll forgo looking at individual stocks but at funds or markets as a whole (all from Vanguard, and investment leader [seriously, go read up on them]).

For the following references, I’ll post the 5 and 1 year gains (or losses!) as of July 15th 2020. I’ll also include the current P/E ratios if available.

  • My Investments
    • 5 yr: +30.01%
    • 1 yr: +26.87%
  • S&P 500
    • 5 yr: +51.72%
    • 1 yr: +7.41%
  • Vanguard S&P 500 ETF
    • 5 yr: +50.40%
    • 1 yr: +6.16%
    • PE: 31.50
  • Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF
    • 5 yr: +54.36%
    • 1 yr: +6.94%
    • PE: 26.15
  • Vanguard US REIT Fund
    • 5 yr: +1.00%
    • 1 yr: -12.26%
    • PE: 38.56
  • Vanguard Growth ETF
    • 5 yr: +94.97%
    • 1 yr: +25.25%
    • PE: 37.72
  • Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF
    • 5 yr: +36.29%
    • 1 yr: +3.37%
    • PE: 22.31
  • Vanguard International High Dividend
    • 5 yr: +3.40%
    • 1 yr: -13.18%
    • PE: 11.86
  • Vanguard Total International Stock ETF
    • 5 yr: +2.31%
    • 1 yr: -2.36%
    • PE: 17.66

But what does it all mean???

It means I was dumb 5 years ago. As is the common suggestion, put currency into ETFs. (Seriously, do it.) With a heavy leaning to the US, we see the S&P and Total Market Vanguard funds even outperforming the S&P 500 itself. Growth companies have been ridiculous over the last half decade. My investments compare their measly 30% gains with the 50% realized elsewhere.

However, I haven’t done too bad in the last year. While the world has entered a pandemic, I’ve maintained well-above-standard earnings.

Now, I could let this outcome go to my head. “Why yes, I am that smart and can game the system! I gambled on Microsoft and Tesla, why not do the same again?”

Yeesh – May cooler heads prevail…

Unicorns Don’t Exist

I’ve had a good run, yet I’ve proven I perform worse than the market in the long-ish-term.

Now, as P/E ratios of major stock holdings race past 30, past 40, when a rocket-launching electric-car battery company is off the S&P but more valuable than any other business on it, when we near a massive US election in November, when we’re in the middle of a pandemic with millions out of work and hundreds of thousands dead… I am getting cold feet.

“No, Jimmy! Listen to Buffet! Buy stock for life! Don’t try to time the market!”

OK, fine. That’s a good point. Buy for life if buying stock. Act as an investor, not a speculator.

Then what do I do?

Well, even Buffet and his former mentor Benjamin Graham call out gross P/E ratios. When a business is overvalued to a silly extent (30-40+), it’s fine to sell if that money can go to a better leveraged investment.

There are a few companies that fit that bill in my portfolio (*cough* Tesla *cough*). Where the money (and any more I venture to stick into the market) can go to Vanguard funds. They consistently do well, have dividends, and some aren’t too icky with their P/E ratios.

If I do want to gamble (ie individual company stock), use another rule of thumb: no more than 10% of total cash in individuals. That, and have a defined exit strategy if I start to “make it big” or realize “I’ve made a mistake”. It’s like taking a little money to the casino and serves the same purpose of having fun πŸ™ƒ

Your Unicorns?

I’ve covered that I’ve gotten lucky in the short-term, but have under performed in the long-term looking for my unicorns. In conclusion, I can say for me and most others seeking to invest, unicorns are very rare and far between, much like investors Graham and Buffet.

Going forward, I’ll put the time of searching for unicorns into rebalancing my portfolio into a Vanguard diversified ETF spread πŸ‘

Have you found a unicorn before? Do you have one now? Why do you think you’re one? πŸ€” Keep me posted – I’d like to hear your investment lessons if they’ve worked out for awhile πŸ˜‰

Cheers ~

#PaidMe

Hi, folks!

Guess who’s still in a strange land of finicky data? No matter! That doesn’t prevent writing a few things down πŸ™‚

There’s been a few hashtags going around over the last few weeks. #TechPaidMe, #GameDevPaidMe, #PublishingPaidMe, #ComicsPaidMe, even just #PaidMe.

Think it’s about time I contributed to #TechPaidMe / #GameDevPaidMe. Why? Why not? Transparency in worker pay gives power to the worker. Gives power to you.

uncle-sam-29972_960_720
Uncle Sam from Pixabay.com

My history has been thoroughly and chronically underpaid for the value brought. After reading Chris Voss’s Never Split the Difference, I’ll never do such things again. After reading this post, maybe you won’t be underpaid either. Sound good?

I’ll save you some time by crunching the numbers with 2020’s income tax for take home pay (THP), then inflation (Inf; doesn’t count Roth 401K and IRA contributions), then normalized cost of living (CoL; to a US national 100%) so you can get some decently useful.

The Data

(Skipping pre-2013 dev work as I was preoccupied with other things at the same time.)

2013
#TechPaidMe
Software Developer
Base: $45,000
THP: $37,816
Inf: $41,620.54
CoL: $54,122.93
Secure Banking Solutions
Madison, SD

That means in 2020 dollars, adjusted for cost of living nationally, I took home about $54K. Let’s continue…

2014-2015
#TechPaidMe #HealthcarePaidMe
Technical Services Problem Solver (customer support + custom dev)
Base: $69,000 (I think? I actually can’t remember. I just know it was under folks hired some 3-6 months after!)
THP: $51,757
Inf: $55,988.32
CoL: $50,079
Epic Systems
Verona, WI (Outside Madison)

2015-2016
#GameDevPaidMe
SDET II Tools Developer
Base: $66,000
THP: $48,387
Inf: $51,690.73
CoL: $40,926.94
Microsoft
Tigard, OR (Outside Portland)

2016-2018
#TechPaidMe #GameDevPaidMe
Software Tools Developer
Base: $75,000 (not including bonus up to 15%)
THP: $59,588
Inf: $60,842.61
CoL: $54,518.47
Aristocrat Technologies
Las Vegas, NV

At this time, I read Never Split the Difference among other books and Reddit posts. Continuous learning evidently pays dividends:

2018-2020
#TechPaidMe #GameDevPaidMe
Senior Software Engineer
Base: $104,500 (not including bonus; had a raise for a few months before a promotion with a final raise here)
THP: $80,179
Inf: $-
CoL: $71,844.98
Aristocrat Technologies
Las Vegas, NV

2021+
Checkout the post.

Despite all of the lower-than-expected pay, despite coming late to the FIRE Movement, I am well on my way to financial independence. No debt, minimal other expenses, and investment performance is set to CoastFIRE me in less than 10 years, FatFIRE in less than 15. If we suffer a crash in the markets, independence will happen sooner with savings on hand that were meant for buying property 2 weeks before COVID-19 locked the US down. #BulletDodged

If you feel comfortable in sharing, what have been your numbers in tech and game dev? I used to be very sensitive over letting others know what I earn, so I understand if all you get is a reference point for your future salary negotiations πŸ˜‰

Before we go, checkout these resources that have been such boons to me:

It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this, and ask for what you’re worth ❀ cheers ~