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After Selling My Company To Oracle, I Vowed To Not Spend Any Of The Money For 1 Year. Here’s What Happened

Michael de la Maza

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With that announcement came the realization I now had more money than I knew what to do with.


I’ll never forget the day I received a phone call that would set a new course in my life. It was July 2011 when the CEO of InQuira—a startup I’d helped launch—told me the company had been acquired by Oracle

With that announcement came the realization I now had more money than I knew what to do with.

It had been over a decade since I co-founded the company and I’d been employed in a number of jobs since then. Most recently, I started consulting as an agile coach on the side, hustling to grow my career.

Now I could afford to not work at all. Following the news, I even began drafting a list of all the things I planned to buy with my newfound riches. I could finally purchase that Exclusive Resorts membership and get a Marquis jet card. I could drive around town in a new Fisker Karma and rock a Patek Philippe watch. Maybe I’d even buy a case of that pricey Araujo wine. 

But as I contemplated every purchase, I couldn’t help but pull myself back to reality. Spending money without limitation would only push me further from living an authentic life. I would be operating in the world of Paris Hilton instead of the hardship experienced by a vast majority of humanity. 

Aware of the potential to waste my payout, I made a choice to not spend any of the exit money for one year. What I learned from that decision changed my life.

Vowing to not overspend for one year helped me clear the belief that self-worth equals net worth.

Having newfound wealth opened my eyes to a lot of things. I realized I was spending at least 80 percent of my waking hours thinking about money, or trying to make more of it. No longer needing to make money, I felt even more shame and humiliation. If I wasn’t working, I didn’t know what to do with myself. And if there was no struggle to make money, I was nothing.

By sticking to a middle-class income for one year I would be living the lifestyle of a family of four. I would be able to stay in touch with reality—and preserve my money. 

As a result, my day-to-day experience was no longer based on achieving success and dollar signs. Over the course of the year, I stopped worrying about money and learned to value my connection with others. Nothing could compare to the joy I felt in InQuira’s success—to see all the people who had jobs and were happy as a result of this start-up I’d helped to build. I went from working to make money, to working at being in a state of loving-kindness. And rather than be disconnected from the greater populace, I found myself connecting with people in a supportive, caring way.

I was no longer allowing my net-worth to define my self-worth. 

Maintaining that financial discipline has been very valuable today.

I’ve always had a personal rule that my agile coaching income would be what determines my lifestyle—it’s not my agile coaching income, plus dipping into the exit money. Today, with the bulk of my wealth invested, I don’t use it to take lavish vacations or buy expensive cars and watches. That would be living outside my means as an agile coach. 

But it wasn’t always that easy. When I started Heart Health Scrum, I quickly learned that I’d chosen a challenging career path.

In agile coaching, nothing is certain. Jobs can last a few months or weeks, making it hard to predict income. And layoffs can happen without any notice if a company decides to shut down an entire agile transformation effort.

Several years ago, a client waited over six months to pay me. The experience forced me to hustle, but I didn’t have to dip into my reserve funds to pay bills. I was already accustomed to living off my agile coaching salary and budgeting for my living expenses.

That experience taught me the importance of having a buffer—I never wanted to be in that position again. Maintaining that financial discipline of having my career actually pay for my lifestyle, and not relying on this one-time exit money, became very important. 

As a result, I made a decision to increase the amount of money I had in my emergency fund. To be comfortable, I would set aside 11 months’ worth of living expenses as opposed to the typically recommended six. Recently, due to the volatility of the market, I increased that figure by 50 percent. Now, my goal is to have even more—about 16 months worth of reserve emergency funds.

This has been a useful policy to have in place. It’s kept me from going crazy and squandering money on things that wouldn’t provide long-term value. 

Looking back, I’m satisfied with my decision to not spend my exit money for one year. The experience has given me a better perspective on wealth while teaching me a valuable lesson: that money isn’t everything, and it certainly doesn’t determine your self-worth.

If you would like to learn more you can connect with me on Linkedin to read the latest articles!

Here are a few other articles you might find helpful:

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Co-founder, DemingWay.com. We help people learn agile more effectively and at a lower cost. Previously VP of Corporate Strategy at Softricity (acquired by Microsoft in 2006) and co-founder of Inquira (acquired by Oracle in 2011).

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