Money Checkup Podcast

Episode 47: Planning for a Career in Tech with Chloé A. Moore, CFP®

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The tech industry can be challenging to navigate. Tech workers tend to change jobs often as startups launch or fail. Many are compensated not only with a traditional salary and benefits package, but with stock options — which, if a company succeeds, can result in “life-changing amounts of money” for employees. Chloé A. Moore, CFP® helps tech workers prepare for those incredible possibilities while protecting themselves and their financial security. 

“Think of [restricted stock] as a cash bonus. They just gave it to you in a different form. If someone gave you $100,000 as a cash bonus, would you go buy company stock with it? The answer is almost always no.”

Chloé focuses on working with clients in Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay Area, especially women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people. 

 

ABOUT THE GUEST:

Chloé A. Moore, CFP® is the founder of Financial Staples, a fee-only financial planning firm based in Atlanta. Chloé started her financial planning career nearly 20 years ago in firms that primarily served high-net-worth clients, and she created Financial Staples to bring comprehensive financial planning services to her young professional peers. She is passionate about financial education and loves to cook. 

Social, website, book link:

Financial Staples: www.financialstaples.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/chloemoore 

Twitter: @FinStaples

 

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Tech workers change job frequently, so they spend a lot of time comparing job offers and negotiating with potential employers. 
  • Stock compensation is very common in tech. Stock options and restricted stock units (RSU) are most common. Stock options are the right to buy stock at a fixed price for a certain period of time. RSUs are a promise to give an employee stock in the company as soon as certain conditions are met, such as working for the company for a certain number of years. If a company hasn’t gone public yet, restricted stock is not marketable. 
  • The most common mistakes Chloé sees are tech workers waiting too long to exercise their stock options, letting stock accumulate because they don’t have a plan for it, and not understanding what happens to their stock if they leave the company.
  • If you find yourself in a concentrated stock position, you can sell the stock, but you may face a large tax bill if the stock has grown in value since you purchased it. Chloé sometimes has to work with her clients on multi-year plans to sell stock. 
  • An Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) allows employees to purchase stock at a 5% to 15% discount. The company deducts cash from your paycheck and purchases stock every few months. The discount is considered taxable income. 
  • Chloé encourages her clients to work with CPAs to avoid making tax mistakes or paying more in taxes than they should. 
  • When you prepare to leave a job, figure out how much stock you’re leaving on the table so you can negotiate with your new employer for similar compensation. 
  • As your company approaches an IPO, Chloé says, the first step is to understand what you have — RSUs or one of two types of stock options — and its tax implications. The second step is to consider what you want to do with your stock after the IPO. She encourages clients to spend the “lockup period,” several months when they cannot sell stock, thinking about their financial goals and how the stock can help them get there. 
  • If you have stock options in a private company, you may have to bring money to the table. Think about how much cash you’re willing to risk. 
  • Chloé works with clients who are underrepresented in the tech industry. She encourages them to negotiate with new employers, but one client had an offer rescinded because they negotiated. She also sees pay disparities firsthand. But she approaches this as an opportunity to help her clients get the compensation they deserve. 

WORDS OF WISDOM: 

“People think of stock compensation as a mystery, but it’s really just a component of your total compensation.” 

“I’ve had cases where clients are early employees at startups and then those companies go public. In cases like that, it could be a life-changing amount of money, to the point where they could afford to retire. It just depends on the type of company and the stage of the company and where you fit.” 

“A lot of my clients believe that their company is different. But it’s really risky to have all of your money tied up into a single company, especially the one that pays you your paycheck.” 

“I don’t recommend having more than 5% of your investment portfolio tied to a single stock.” 

“I always say, ‘if you’ve won the game, you have to stop playing.’ Do you want to continue risking this so you will not be able to retire? If it’s a significant amount of money, you really should think about diversifying and reducing your risk.” 

“Think of [restricted stock] as a cash bonus. They just gave it to you in a different form. If someone gave you $100,000 as a cash bonus, would you go buy company stock with it? The answer is almost always no.” 

“When a client works for a private company and they have options and the ability to exercise those options before the company goes public, You’re taking a gamble. You don’t know if the company will ever go public. Some companies choose to stay private and they have no intention of ever going public. Some companies go public and it’s not necessarily a successful transaction. When you’re exercising options in a private company, you’re having to bring money to the table. How much money can you afford to risk, and are you OK if all this money goes away?” 

“We’re always taught to negotiate, but we’re not always taken seriously as people of color or as women.” 

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If you loved this episode, here’s another I think you’ll enjoy: Episode 25: Cashflowing Rentals, REPS, and Financial Freedom with Semi-Retired MD

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