Money has to be on your mind. After all, even if you didn’t get into law because of the money, the prospect of it didn’t hurt your decision. Also, many of us earn a relatively high salary from our law jobs (if we’re lucky enough to be employed), and we use that salary to fund ourselves at a certain standard of living. If our law job goes away, we fear that some or most of that lifestyle will go away too. So, if we’re going to stop practicing law, we need some replacement income. But how to get it?
The most straightforward suggestion, and the suggestion you are going to get from most people you talk to, is to get a new job. You know how I feel about that, and I won’t belabor the point, but suffice it to say that with our levels of educational and professional attainment, I think we can do better than to depend on a bi-monthly salary from an employer in return for a tiny portion of the value we create.
Here are some other ideas.
Before you about face and run away screaming with your hands in the air, just hear me out for a second. Yes, options trading can be risky. Yes, you really need to know what you’re doing before you jump into options trading but options are not risky investments per se, particularly if you know what you’re doing. And it’s relatively easy to become fairly knowledgeable about opinions trading in a reasonably short period because much of the information that you would have previously had to earn in business school is now available on the internet. See, e.g. Investopedia.
The reason options can seem risky is that they are often used by speculators to make high risk/high reward bets on short term movements of specific stocks. However, for every high risk trade, there has to be a counter party on the other, lower risk side of the transaction. One of the best ways to make money using options is to be that low risk counter party. I liken it to being the dealer at the casino, because ultimately the house always wins.
For example, let’s say ABC drug company has a revolutionary new cure for arthritis pending FDA approval. If the drug gets FDA approval the stock will go up 10 points or more, but if the FDA doesn’t approve the drug, the price will likely fall an equal or greater amount. A high risk speculator might bet that the drug won’t be approved, and buy options to sell (known as puts) for the stock at a given price (the strike price). If ABC stock falls below the strike price, the speculator can buy the stock on the open market at the lower price, sell it at the strike price and pocket the difference. This could potentially allow the speculator to make a lot of money. On the other hand, if ABC stock goes up above the strike price, the speculator is out the money he spent on his option to sell, because now it is worthless. He’s not going to buy stock for the higher market price and sell it for the lower strike price. But for the speculator to make this risky bet, there has to be a counter party willing to sell him the puts he wishes to buy. Now imagine that I am that educated counter-party. Assume for the purpose of this example that I have sound reasons to believe that (a) the drug is likely to be approved and (b) ABC drug company has lots of other strong products and is already undervalued in the market. I can sell the speculator the puts he wants to buy, and make money off of the sale. I don’t stand to make nearly as much money off of the puts as the speculator could potentially make from buying them, but I will likely not lose any money because in this example the stock is unlikely to fall below the strike price. So I’ve made a safe investment and gotten a small, but reliable return. If I duplicate this several times a month, I can make a few thousand dollars from each put I sell.
As a second example, consider again ABC drug company and its arthritis drug. Let’s say I have done careful research and have reason to believe that the FDA will approve the new drug, and I’d like to make money off of this development. On the one hand, I could buy the stock outright. Let’s say, for the purposes of this example, that the stock is selling at $10 per share, and I choose to buy 1000 shares. Now I have $10,000 at risk. Alternatively, I could buy ten 100 share options contracts (known as calls) to buy the shares for 1/10th the price of a share of stock. Now I‘ve invested only $1000 to control the same $10,000 shares of stock. I can make money from this investment in several ways, but most commonly (1) if the share price rises to $20 per share, I can exercise my option to buy the 1000 shares for $10 per share and turn around and sell them on the open market for $20 per share, i.e. $20,000 and pocket $10,000 (a 100% gain); or (2) I can simply sell my options contracts, which, as tradeable securities, will have increased in value in direct correlation with the stock. Either way, using options I’ve risked a lot less capital for a lot more potential gain.
These are just two examples of how options can be used safely to make short term profits. But these are just examples, not advice. If you want to try options trading, I encourage you to do a lot of additional research on the web and learn everything you can about it. I would also encourage you to practice “paper trading” where you pretend to buy the stock without actually buying it, as a way to practice and develop your skills, before you start trading with real money.
This is a big subject, and the issues and details surrounding it are too vast for me to cover in this one blog entry, but I’ll say two things about them. First, they have recently experienced enormous growth. For example Bitcoin has experienced almost 950% growth in the past year. Second, in my opinion, crypto-currencies are here to stay, because they have proven themselves to be a very safe and efficient way to process financial transactions. To understand why, I suggest you read Crypto-currencies 101 by James Altucher.
Suffice it to say that at the rate these assets are growing, you can invest a small amount of money with a large short-term upside, if you’re willing to tolerate day-to-day volatility.
Start a Blog
The way you make money from blogging is through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing may sound complicated, but it’s actually very simple. Internet vendors pay you to post links to their products on your website. For example, let’s say I’m reviewing a book on a blog entry. If the book is on Amazon, I can link directly from my article to Amazon’s product page for the book. If you click through to Amazon and buy the product, I get a portion of the proceeds. Now, you may only make a few cents or a few dollars per click, but I make money by acquiring traffic and getting lots of clicks. Consider that the internet has 3.5 billion users. If I can get a tiny fraction of that traffic to go to my site, it begins to add up.
Starting a blog can seem overwhelming, but there are products and services on the web that can walk you through how to set up a website, get it ranked on Google, acquire traffic, and post affiliate advertisements. The one I like best is Wealthy Affiliate. They have excellent training programs, a huge user base of successful affiliate marketers you can look to for guidance and mentorship, and a generous free trial program that allows you to sample their content and find out about their products and services before you spend a dime.
Think Outside the Box
These are just a few examples of ways to leverage the intelligence, discipline and creativity that got you your law degree to support you beyond the law. There are many others. The important thing to understand is that you are very talented, and you do not need to jump from law into another job if you don’t want to. As long as you have a modest amount of savings you can invest, you have the ability to earn considerable money on your own from multiple sources. Please reach out to me if you have any questions about this subject or if I can be of assistance in any way.