Getting a PhD instead of a fancy tech job

Education is the key to freedom for all of us. That’s why I decided to pursue a PhD instead of looking for a fancy tech job. Specifically, I plan to obtain a PhD in Business Administration with a focus on real estate from UC Berkeley.

Considering mine MBA from UC Berkeley in 2006, my ownership of various types of properties since 2003, my extensive real estate writing and my deep passion for the subject, I thought why not?

One of life’s goals is to discover ours ikigai, our reason for being. I believe I found mine through this program at Cal.

There is a structural housing shortage in America that I am committed to addressing through policy proposals. Housing is a basic need, and by increasing the availability of affordable housing, we can strengthen financial security and stability in our country.

The challenge is to determine the most effective incentives to achieve this goal. I hope that getting this PhD will give me the time and resources to solve such an important problem.

The original plan was to get a job in Big Tech

From 2022, I am trying to secure a position in a large technology company such as Meta, Google, Microsoft or Apple. With my daughter starting full time school in September 2024, I was planning the transition ahead. Once he’s at school, he’ll be there blank to fill.

Realizing that I have not had a W2 job since 2012, I understand that finding a good paying job after being out of the workforce for so long would be quite a challenge. Therefore, I figured that two and a half years of job hunting would be enough to secure one of these lucrative ones more six-digit positions.

In 2023, I reached out to my friend who works at Google along with her boyfriend to see if they could help me. Luckily they did and introduced themselves a bit. Their lifestyle, playing pickleball on the weekends between 10:00-13:00 or 14:00-18:00, inspired me to work at Google.

Their example led me to believe that the concept of FIRE (Financial Independence, Early Retirement) is to become obsolete for many knowledge workers. After all, if you have the flexibility to work from home and play, why bother with early retirement? Keep making as much money as possible while enjoying a great life!

I couldn’t get a job at Big Tech

Unfortunately, securing a job at Google and Meta is extremely difficult. Not only do I lack relevant technical experience, I do in my 40s, old for someone taking a mid-level job. My window of opportunity help optimize user engagement ends quickly!

However, the most significant obstacle to finding a job was probably the fact that there were significant redundancies in both companies, a situation that persists.

For example, Google recently underwent another round of layoffs in March 2024. My friend got two months The WARN Act applies, 14 weeks of pay plus an additional week of pay for each year he was there (nine years), along with 300 hours of PTO accrual as part of his severance package. While it wasn’t a bad deal, with foresight he might have been able to negotiate two weeks of pay per year.

I also applied to a few in my attempt to break into the tech industry artificial intelligence companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, such as Anthropic, OpenAI, and Databricks. Although I had nothing to offer these companies, I felt it was worth applying to avoid future regrets.

If my children in twenty years ask why I didn’t work in AI in its early stages, I can at least tell them that I tried. Here is one of the rejection emails that I will show them as proof. It is undeniable difficult to re-enter the labor market after years of retirement.

A PhD as a great solution

In 2012, the year I retired from finance, I he considered pursuing a doctorate in art or securing a journalism fellowship at Stanford University.

I distinctly remember sitting in a Masters in Journalism where a professor was teaching her students how to use WordPress, the content management system I run on Financial Samurai. It was then that I realized that further education in writing or journalism was not for me, especially since I had been running Financial Samurai since 2009.

Additionally, I did not feel financially wealthy enough to pursue a Ph.D. When I left work, my gross passive income it was $80,000 a year, which was comfortable for an individual living in San Francisco, but far from rich.

I also didn’t believe we were financially secure enough for the wife to retire early. as a result, we made an agreement that if circumstances improved three years later, by the time she was 35, she too could retire early after Negotiating Severity Package. She successfully did it in 2015.

The world changed and delayed my PhD plans

After my wife quit her day job in 2015, we went on more trips around the world. Who had time for a doctorate when freedom awaited? We welcomed our first child in 2017 and another in 2019.

Not long after, a pandemic broke out. It was a challenging time, but we made the most of it by embracing our role as stay-at-home parents. home school teachers.

In the midst of all this, I also embarked on writing a bestseller titled Don’t buy this, a total of 110,000 words. I figured if the government was going to lock us out for who knows how long in 2020, I was determined to make the most of a sub-optimal situation.

Buy this book review

Admission to the doctoral program

Don’t buy this includes three chapters on real estate that caught the attention of Cal admissions directors. Despite my mediocre grades and lackluster test scores, they found my real-world experience to be unique compared to other candidates.

Additionally, writing a popular book with a top publisher and publishing house carries significant weight in academic circles. After all, academics often adhere to the motto “publish or perish.”

A thesis (or dissertation) usually ranges from 60,000 to 120,000 words (equivalent to 100 to 300 pages). The admissions directors and professors expressed confidence in my ability to complete my dissertation because it appeared that I had already completed it.

Finally, Financial Samurai owns a vast amount of historical and real-time behavioral financial data as it receives approximately one million page views per month.

They let me in! My dream of being approached as a doctor has moved one step closer to reality.

Finally rich enough to get a Ph.D

Fortunately, we have experienced a strong bull market since 2012, when I first came up with the idea of ​​pursuing a PhD. My net worth it grew along with the rise in stock and real estate prices. as a result, I finally feel financially secure enough to study again!

It’s ironic how one has to feel rich to afford to spend 4-7 years on a PhD. Unless you’re going into fields like quantum trading, data analytics, or AI, PhD holders don’t necessarily earn significantly higher salaries.

Pursuing a PhD is primarily driven by a passion for learningwith financial gain behind. Fortunately, I love to learn and learn. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have written over 2,300 articles on Financial Samurai since its inception in 2009.

Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment, how much do doctoral degree holders earn vs. master's, bachelor's, associate's degree, high school

The glamor of becoming a professor

Maybe one day I could secure a professorship at a top 50 university. Being a professor is one of them, after all best occupation for income and status. People respect professional educators, especially parents.

Then there is the financial side of things. Think of Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents, Stanford law professors, who can afford a $15 million vacation property in the Bahamas for their professor’s salary! Sign up for it. But I would buy my mansion instead of the Bahamas Hawaiimy favorite place on earth

Getting a PhD instead of a fantastic tech job!  - Being a professor can afford you a nice house in the Bahamas like Sam Bankman-Fried's parents
One of the bedrooms in Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents’ home in the Bahamas

Many of my colleagues who write financial books under the same publishing house as me (Penguin portfolio) are professors, such as Cal Newport (Georgetown), Adam Grant (U Penn), and Scott Galloway (NYU). Some literary agents even say that the Penguin Portfolio is the “Harvard of non-fiction imprints”.

I understand the challenges as a non-white individual in gaining recognition as a writer and securing tenure most tend to favor their own. It’s a matter of simple math, really. Even if only 12% of the 60% majority support you, that 7.2% still outweighs 100% of your 7% minority population.

However, I like to remain optimistic and ask myself: why not me too? Why not Dr. Sam at UC Berkeley, Stanford or Santa Clara University? Believing in yourself is the first step to success!

Let the path to enlightenment begin

I look forward to embarking on this new journey in the fall of 2024. My goal is to earn my PhD by June 2028. Although obtaining my PhD may delay my goal. regain financial independence by January 2029, I think it’s worth a shot.

I hope that by witnessing their old man studying and working diligently on his academics, my children will be inspired to take their academics seriously as well. as a parent lead by example is one of the most effective ways to motivate our children.

Financially, I anticipate making around $40,000 a year as a research assistant or teaching assistant in my second or third year. However, due to my experience, I can secure a job already in the first year.

As for tuition, it is covered with the exception of some nominal student fees totaling less than $3,000 per year. Berkeley has a huge alumni base that helps support graduate work. I will be living in San Francisco and commuting several days a week to meet with my advisors.

I am excited to embark on this new journey and share it with all of you. I will continue to post at least twice a week on Financial Samurai. However, I can lower the frequency of mine newsletters every two weeks and episodes of my podcasts (Apple and Spotify) up to once a month to accommodate my studies and research.

Thank you all for your readership! It’s been an amazing journey since 2009. Let’s try to make each day better than the previous one. Happy April 1st.

Questions from readers

Do any of you have a PhD? If so, what is your field of study, how long did it take to complete and what is your income? Have you received funding for your PhD? Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Given the current state of inflation, how can young adults these days afford the time and expense required for a PhD? In a sense, I see parallels between this dilemma and the decision between young adults and older adults to have children. Each path comes with its own set of challenges, as well as advantages and disadvantages.

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