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Ask HN: Early 20s, exit at 10M+, burned out, don't know what to do
23 points by askwhat 47 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 22 comments
Worked a lot everyday, 14h+ for a couple of years at a startup, got lucky and we had an exit where I landed on a 10M+. I didn't ever expect to have that much money and due to working a lot and having horrible workplace politics and coworkers, I am completely burned out.

I'm not sure what to do both with the money - it's been 6+ months and I really haven't changed much in my lifestyle and with burnout - I certainly don't want to continue working under the same conditions but at the same time I love what I'm doing.

Would much appreciate any advice, I don't know any other place to ask.

edit: The reason why I consider continue working but on less hours is that I'm working on my dream job and grow/learn a lot of things in the field and I think that leaving I may miss this opportunity

Visit these for folks that will go into vastly more detail with you.

Particularly check out the sidebar and Wiki info and links.



If you are careful you can set yourself up for life, so that you can explore interests and never ever worry again. If you don’t have any interests right now, that is ok, they will come with time.

If you are not EXTREMELY CAREFUL, it’s very very easy to lose it all, and be broke in a few years.

Predatory financial advisors, lifestyle creep, making the wrong friends, making wealthy friends and trying to keep up with them.

Put an email in your bio if you want to chat more about this.

Dude you're lucky as hell.

Start from the base and get your physical health and spiritual health in order. Top sleep hygiene, running, weights, meet up with peeps and play soccer. Read worldly books like Hesse and find some spiritual centering.

Then explore the world, even hiking in a national park nearby. Spur on new thoughts.

Then slowly get back into "producing" or whatever you want to do. Maybe go for a masters in something, or just create. Could be useful or just fun.

You're really lucky. You're prob a few years younger than me and have about 90x the money.

Depending on how much you spend, you're likely Financially Independent. Some call it Financially Independent Retire Early abbreviated FIRE. There's a whole community talking about how to get to FIRE and what getting there means for them. Some have tried the retire early part and it wasn't for them, so they have found some work that is fulfilling to them.

Bogleheads[0] is a good community, and Reddit has /r/financialindependence and /r/fatFIRE If you search these communities, you'll find others asking for similar situations with different numbers.

You can now control what you do in your time. You can use it to improve your health, learn something new, spend time with family, or work on a passion project of yours.

If you have questions about how to invest and live off your windfall, Bogleheads is a good place to learn about that as well.

[0] http://bogleheads.org

I was in the same situation (though a bit later in life than you), and here's my advice.

1) Reduce working hours. Do this immediately. Every day you work 14h+ will extend your burnout by weeks, so stop now. Yes, dropping your working hours may affect your work output, but it's completely worth lower performance at work. A bad performance review is nothing compared to long-term burnout.

2) Take a break. At least a month. More is better. Many startups with successful exits are good about giving sabbaticals to the high performers that got them there.

3) Spend some money on therapy. With that much money, even if therapy does nothing it's still worth it. For me, even the weekly break to go to therapy was useful.

4) You don't have to spend the money on anything right now. I suggest depositing a portion of it into index funds on a monthly basis. You don't need the added stress of figuring out the perfect investment method, and with that amount of money nearly any safe investment will provide a passive income you can live on for forever.

5) I urge you to consider leaving your job. If the politics and coworkers really suck that much, then why do you even want to be there? There's always a few other companies in the same field, and one of them is definitely a better environment. Getting a startup to a successful exit makes you more than qualified to work at one of these other places.

6) Take some time to realize how fortunate you are. Realize how much room for making mistakes you now have. You could take the next 5 years completely off and still be ahead of nearly everyone in the world financially, and career-wise.

I am partway through recovering from the same situation. At the startup, I was a high performer, but occasionally got bad performance reviews due to politics and burnout. Looking back, I should have taken care of myself and aimed for even worse performance reviews. Bad environments don't deserve your stress and hard work.

Eventually I left, took a very long break, and eventually started interviewing again. I'm now at a different company in the exact same field, with better leadership, lower stress, and standard working hours. Ironically, the company has even better productivity than the high stress startup.

Go back to school and either get another degree or just take classes that you find interesting. That's something I've always wanted to do if I was in your position. Just learn for the sake of learning without any external pressure of how fast I need to progress or which classes are useful etc. Maybe take a few semesters of French, a literature class, some pure math classes, etc.

In any other time, I'd say travel and volunteer - habitat for humanity or something like it - spend some time just unwinding and doing something completely different from what you've been doing.

This time will let your mind wander and come up with ideas for adventures, hobbies, other lines of education or business or art you'd like to try your hand at.

In covid times this isn't really possible, at least for 3-6 months. Maybe learn to play the piano or something? Any interest you haven't had time to pursue is game.

Invest some of the money - ETFs in popular vanguard indexes in something like M1 Finance is what I might do. Don't look at it every day or even every month.

Financial Independence is a great gift - the gift of time - and having it so young is great. Enjoy!

Another thing I've always wanted to do if I was financially independent is to pick a really important problem without any obvious incremental solution and work on it. Very unlikely to solve it, but it was be very satisfying to work on something without the pressure of turning a profit from it.

Maybe cancer, global warming, Riemann Hypothesis, etc. Again, obviously very unlikely to be able to make any real progress on these, but I personally find it attractive to work on something big.

This is me, but with racism. Dunno how, but gotta solve it somewhat!

I would live minimally and work on my favorite problems at my own pace. That's enough money to last a comfortable lifetime or more.

You don't feel it in your 20s unless you pay attention, but later on the overwork will take its toll no less than alcoholism or heavy drug use.

Work minimally at own pace would be ideal and I think I can do that in current job which is already in an area of interest, problem being work conditions and coworkers

Assuming you like the job enough and wants to continue working (which seems to be the case):

1) Reflect on your ability to change and influence your work environment. You probably can influence the company a lot more than you think. Don't play the victim card; roll up your sleeves and start building the culture you want to work in. If you're a co-founder, that's your job anyway. If you're an early employee, you have the credibility and visibility, and people will follow your lead.

2) Establish well-being as one of your core values. Given you already had an exit, I'd imagine you're past the ramen-profitable stage, so your focus now should be on scaling fast, and building a sustainable long-term strategy. Long work hours, burnout and a toxic environment are sure ways to crash a company.

3) Give yourself a deadline, and work your ass off till then. If you're proud of the work you did to help turn things around and still wasn't able to make a dent, then it's time to move on, and with your head up. If you can't change how the company operates, you can always change who do you work for.

OTOH, if you don't love the job enough, OR if you don't have the energy to do #1 and #2, then I'd suggest you quit or take an unpaid leave of absence, and use the time to disconnect and recharge. You have plenty of runway, so you can afford to take a sabbatical. If you want to keep yourself intellectually challenged you may want to go back to school or something (given travelling the world is unfortunately not an option right now).

Last, but most important of all: seek help. Don't underestimate the impact of burnout, and assume it'll go away one day. It's serious, and may have long-lasting impact if you don't pay attention, and address the root-cause. Nothing is more important than your mental health. Feel free to ping me if you need a stranger to chat.

Are there any other projects that work on the same or similar problem? Maybe you could join one of those. If you're bound by an NDA and a noncompete, check if you can get rid of either or if you really want/have to stay where you are see if you can:

- get the liberty of hiring people for your own team

- get flexible work hours allowing you to show up when you want to and pick the problems you'd like to solve

Also, unless you haven't done so already, get/see a financial advisor to make sure you don't blow through 10M in a few years. Do something like building an apartment building (low income or not), invest in providing a basic service that'll always be around and will make you money for decades to come, etc.

I can work flexible hours and can hire people for my own team.

I don't spend much at all and have a finance background so will try to invest some of them myself.

I cannot recommend highly and strongly enough to NOT play at investing, most particularly if you have a finance background.

You are at high risk for overestimating your investing odds, getting a few lucky wins and getting hooked, and losing it all.

Instead research the FIRE community and strongly consider dollar cost averaging into a market fund like VTSTAX and the S&P 500.

You will, statistically, never be able to beat the market average over a long time period. And if you’re mid-20’s then you are looking at a 50+ year time horizon for your investments. That’s amazing!

If prudently invested in market funds, it is likely that your 10MM can grow to a very significant multiple of that over the next 40 years. You should be able to stop full time work now and live on the interest.

But you have to absolutely swear to yourself to never touch the principle under any circumstances.

If you wanted to sleep in 3 hours past your normal getting up time, would you be able to do it?

Take a day off? A week?

Work in a different direction from what you've done last 3 months?

I can sleep more yes, take a week off too, work in a different direction - not quite

Well, two out of three is pretty good. My advice: Build your skills and knowledge. And let yourself sleep.

See if you can take a sabbatical for 1, 6, or 12 months... and when you do take a total break, go stay by the beach, outdoors, rent an RV, read all the books you have been missing. Get bored and fit. My advice :)

Since you love working at your current place, reduce your hours. That's it. Work less hours. You need to solve the burn out issue.

Talk to your management and get a reduced number of hours every week. Do this for at least 3-6 months and see how you feel. Then go from there. You already know that 10M+ is fk you money. So you technically don't need to work at all but I know that people like you cannot just sit on their butt. So "compromise" with your inner calling and don't do 14+ hour days anymore :).

No regrets man. Think things thru as if you could look back at your death bed.

Don’t have regrets.

Edit: My bad just saw you’re in your early 20s. Money isn’t everything. You’re not done yet - there’s a lot to do in this lifetime!

Have you tried learning Java? That could be your next challenge. Just go for it.

Se aside some money for taxes :-)

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