Basic Financial Planning for Start-Up Workers: Intro

So it’s early in the year. Maybe you’re the type to make New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’re the type to make New Year’s resolutions and then wake up on the floor still wearing a glasses that spell out 2012.

Regardless, it’s 2012, and you have to settle up with Uncle Sam. You either have a K1 or W2 or you will soon.

This is the time where most of us figure out our finances for the year. You have a few months to figure out how to pay your taxes and make contributions to an IRA retroactive to 2011. And if you’re making contributions to an IRA or 401(k), you may need to figure out what fund to put your money into.


Right now you’re every financial marketer’s dream. You have money you need to put somewhere and very little sense of differentiation between your financial options. You’re looking for the answer via Google or your buddy in finance, but the answers from Google are vague and conflicting and your buddy doesn’t really want to take responsibility for you. And most importantly, no one really is accounting for your specific situation- you’re smart, you’re young, you’re working at a small company and you have no idea what’s coming next.

Who am I and why am I writing this?

I am the finance friend for a few people in NYC. I have some friends who ask for advice, which I try to give, but I know it’s in one ear and out the other. Some things are better communicated in writing. People generally start yawning as soon as I mention adjusted gross income, so I figured having it on paper (er, screen) would probably help them/everyone out.

More importantly, I’m a transplant from finance into tech. Everyone I have met in the start-up world has been incredibly nice to me and eager to help me out. This is one place I honestly feel like I can give back, so I’m going to try to make this as not-awful as I can.

Am I qualified?

I hope so. I worked in finance jobs for about 7 years, in a variety of analytical positions. I manage money for myself and some family members. I helped create Lumesis, a software company that provides information about the bond market to larger institutional investors. I’ve also co-written a book on financial simulation, which I admit is not 100% applicable for individual planning.

Finally I was a CFA charterholder, which means that I passed three tests on the financial markets and worked in finance for at least 48 months. In the NYC finance world, people who have passed the CFA exams are generally regarded as excel monkeys with the social skills of 16-year-old Mathletes. In a related story, I wrote 750 words about the decline of the Walkman. Last month. If you are interested in more about me, see here.

Of course, the one way that I’m not qualified to advise you is that I don’t know you or your financial situation. Please consider your situation and your goals before making any decisions. Also, talk to your doctor before starting any diet or fitness regimen. And eat your vegetables.

Who are you?

I’m writing this for people who fit the following buckets:

-In the US or subject primarily to US tax laws

-Young (under 40 counts, unless you want to retire at 45)

-You don’t have a lot of clarity into your future earnings: you might have no need to plan because your company is going to be worth more than the GDP of Madagascar, or you could be drowning your sorrows in the same bar as the guys. (Note: the downside risk applies to most people: they just don’t realize it).

-You don’t own your home

-You have some amount of your net worth tied up in options or equity

If this describes you reasonably well, hopefully the posts I’ll be putting up over the next week or so will be helpful to you. Part I coming tomorrow..