This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Vincent Chan, a YouTube content creator. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I come from a background of Chinese immigrant parents who moved to the US. We were essentially lower-middle class, so I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. Throughout my entire childhood, my parents faced financial struggles.
There’s this immigrant mentality that often exists among children of immigrants: because our parents sacrificed so much for us, we feel compelled to pay them back. You want to show them that their sacrifices are worth it. So I wanted to get a really good job after graduating college, and finance was one of the careers I looked into.
In college, my competition was other students who were also looking for finance jobs. But most of them came in with connections — they already had networking opportunities from other banks, and so on.
It was really tough to get that full-time job initially, mainly because everyone I knew at the time was blue collar workers, so I had no networking connections with anybody, but I finally got an opportunity at a bank. My parents were very proud because they never went to college and never went to high school. They were blue-collar workers, so the fact that they saw their son not only graduate from college but also work a white-collar office job was a very impressive feat to them.
But then when I started working, I realized that this corporate America structure was not something that I wanted to do.
In finance, everyone tries to outwork each other
It took a couple of months before I realized that this job wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. I was sold the dream that working in finance is very sexy — you dress up in suits and then you go to the office, and then you just work on whatever the entire day.
But it eventually gets to the point where everything is very monotonous and there is too much bureaucracy. For example, I created a lot of PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. Everything had to follow existing procedures and formats, so there wasn’t room for much creativity or innovation. And since I worked with higher-level executives, a lot of the work required several layers of approval across multiple teams, which would sometimes take weeks, or even months.
Every new person was trying to outwork the other person, at least in the company that I was at. That was their idea of how to get a promotion faster than everyone else. But once one person started building that kind of workplace culture, another person would follow suit because they didn’t want to be left behind. Everyone was trying to impress their respective bosses to try to get a raise or get that promotion.
One example was for one of the projects I worked on. I went home at like 1 AM because everyone on the team decided that we all wanted to work super hard to complete this project for some reason. But working late nights put a lot of stress on me.
I had nothing: no time for friends, no time for a social life
I recall one evening when my mom called to ask if I would be coming home for dinner. My voice was so angry and annoyed, as if she had asked me something completely outrageous. Upon arriving at home and seeing the dinner she had prepared for me, all I could think at that moment was how I chose to spend extra hours to complete a project over my own family.
These experiences helped me realize that I had nothing. I had no time to live after work. I wasn’t the nicest person to my family. I had no time for friends, I had no time for my social life. And essentially everything I did, I lived to work for this company.
I was spending 60 to 80 hours every single week helping this super large organization build their dream, when I could have been spending that time doing my own thing.
It took me a while to realize the company doesn’t really care about me — I could die tomorrow and they’d just find someone else to replace me, and then in a day or two, no one would remember that I even existed at that corporation.
It was an accumulation of all these things that convinced me that this job isn’t for me. If I don’t build my own dream, someone else will hire me to build theirs.
I quit my job in finance, and now I make more money by creating content
I work on a couple things now: I primarily focus on content creation. This includes my presence on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. Additionally, I manage a finance newsletter called Daily Market Briefs, which aims to provide everyday investors with news without the need to spend hours reading sources like the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal.
Another project I’m involved in is a content creator accelerator. I’m also in the process of starting a data business specifically tailored to newsletter businesses and content creators. This venture involves providing information on certain things that they would be subscribing to.
I strategically planted the seed of quitting my full-time job to my parents by gradually introducing the idea months before actually leaving. When the time came for me to quit, my parents noticed that I was making a good amount of money from my creative endeavors. As a result, they were supportive and encouraged me to give it a go.
I had a financial safety net before quitting
I’ve been saving for many years. When I quit, I knew I had a financial safety net and that if anything were to happen, I could live off of that.
So at that time, I saved enough for a little over a year. The worst that would happen if my YouTube channel didn’t take off or my own businesses failed is I would just look for another job, and I would end up in the same exact place that I currently am in.
I’m privileged to have a college education and been able to save enough money to quit a job — I know that not everyone has the opportunity to take that risk.
I wish I didn’t drink the corporate America Kool-Aid so much in college
My biggest advice for people who want to quit, or for people who are in a high-paying/high-pressure role is to brush up on personal finance skills. If you have the safety net, you have more options.
One thing that I’m really passionate about is financial education for everyone, especially those who don’t have access to opportunities and didn’t grow up in stable environments with resources.
At this point, I feel like I’m pretty happy with my life and don’t have any regrets, but if I did have to name a regret it would probably be not quitting and starting my content business sooner. Working for a company might provide you with a sense of security and stability — but your company can fire you the next day, so you don’t really know.