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Meet Michael, the Financial Director who once made more money walking dogs than from software engineering

In conversation with Michael Paccione
Team Conversations

Meet Michael, the Financial Director who once made more money walking dogs than from software engineering

At Enye, our mission is to assist Nigerian early-stage founders and software engineers in building successful companies. Starting this week, I will be publishing conversations with the amazing team members who make it possible. 

In our first conversation, I hung out with Michael Paccione, our Financial Director, who’s had a wild and wonderful journey.

As Enye’s money man, what is your oldest memory of money?

My grandfather had built a real estate business. I remember going down into the office, and he would always ask me to check on his portfolio of investments in the stock market. He wasn’t familiar with computers; I was. At the time, we used Windows 95 and Netscape Navigator and AOL CDs. I remember going into Charles Schwab—his brokerage at the time—and seeing all the company symbols and ranges and how they would fluctuate. It happened at such a young age and just kind of imprinted into my brain. I’ve carried that throughout my life.

So you’ve always been around money. Must be nice!

No actually. I have lived through so many different phases in this wild and wonderful journey. Earlier in my life, there was this brief phase where I was homeless and slept in the gutter. I moved out at 17. By 21, I had to rebuild my entire life. 

For a very long time, I would say that my financial situation was not stable. There were times where I could be making a lot of money. However, you know how you’re in business, but it’s not a job, and you know you’re not getting any steady paychecks. So there was always this intense pressure. 

And you live in one of the costliest cities in the world…

Yeah! I have extensive experience, and so I can relate to a lot of different types of people. I have had some help to get out of some tight stuff, but there was a stretch of time before things kicked up. Once I had a bit of roof going, I had to bring my life out the gutter, which was a whole journey in itself. So it’s been a wild ride, and a lot of things have happened randomly. Like Uche, I met Uche randomly.

You once walked dogs for a living; what about that?

I was coming off that low point and had just met my then-girlfriend. I’d hurt my back, and so I had to go to a chiropractor. Turns out most of her clients were dog walkers because most of them would lift dogs into trucks, and sometimes they would throw out their backs. The first thing I wondered was, “How could these dog walkers afford your fees?” because the chiropractor was so expensive! I looked up the business, and it seemed great. 

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My girlfriend and I lived together at the time; we started a dog-walking business together and did that for three years before we split. Then I ran my own dog-walking business for another two years. Dog walking business was great, and if you’re okay being rooted, I would say it is some of the happiest work out there. I have half a decade of animal service experience. 

That long. Why?

Yeah. I made some good money from it, stacked it all up and made some good investments.

Wait, dog-walking pays?

A lot! I will tell you this; I made a lot more money from my previous dog walking than I do now as a software engineer at some points, just so you know. 

How? 

It’s capitalism: supply-demand economics. There’s a lot of rich people in San Francisco with a lot of dogs. More dogs than kids, even! You could charge like $25 per dog, but then you walk a lot of dogs, and there’s a lot of room in those dog vans. The most I transported was 14 dogs at one time on one trip. You could make several trips in a day. The money adds up.

If you made that much money, why did you stop?

I couldn’t travel. The world is bigger than San Francisco. With dog walking, you can’t take vacations. The point of dog walking is that other people can take vacations, you take care of their dogs! After that phase, I went on some trips: to Ukraine, to Nepal, to Turkey, to Nigeria a few times and lastly, through Mexico on a motorcycle. Great experiences! Travelling changes you for the better!

Mike on a bike ✌️

Interesting. Walk me through your journey into tech.

In the US, families aren’t as potentially tight-knit as in other countries. My parents split when I was one year old.  I remember spending lots of time on computers growing up. First, it was something of a parenting device, and then, later on, I played shooting games. Sometime down the line, I edited files in the games to gain advantages. I tweaked configuration files which were one step away from code editors. Eventually, I made maps, mods, was in a league, And then years later, I started building websites and apps and all of that.

You also went to art school too. Tell me about that.

I went to design school and did fine art for like a year. I did charcoal and figure drawings, but at some point, I wasn’t quite sure I would make a lot of money as an artist, that whole starving artist trope and all. In college, they also had a web design/new media program. So I figured, “I’m in San Francisco, this is tech, and it’s the closest thing I can be to tech without having to take math classes.” 

What takes your money the most?

I run an inexpensive budget. I try to spend around $1,200 per month, which is mad cheap for San Francisco. I don’t spend too much on rent because my residence is family-owned, and I work stupid hours.

You pay rent for a family-owned house? 

Yeah, my mother owns the residence, but she doesn’t live here. If she did, I would get my own place. It sounds a little funny, but what am I supposed to do? I’m in San Francisco. Everyone pays rent until they buy their house. If this duplex, which is a lovely house, weren’t family-owned, I’d be spending at least six times more on rent!

Anyway, I’m super cost-efficient with things and rarely spend on non-essentials. I cook all my meals. If I went out drinking often, it’d blow my budget up; I would rather go hiking. I would say my only guilty pleasure is getting facials and massages. I just like being pampered. You spend so many hours on the computer, and after everything, you just want the luxury.

What’s your favourite productivity hack?

The to-do list is pretty solid for me. When you write things down, it helps. Also, when you’re overthinking something, before you go to sleep, write down your to-do list before the next day. Then you won’t think about it because you’ve already thought about it and documented it. So it’s under control because you already did something.

Michael paccione

Favourite money hack in one minute?

My biggest recommendation, especially to people who can invest in Western markets, would be to sell stock options. It is crazy how much money you can make selling options — and just learning finances in general. But there’s also this one: buying oil futures. Anyone can purchase oil futures – it’s not even an American thing. In the thick of the pandemic, oil went to negative money. But you know the pandemic’s not going to be permanent. People will travel regardless in the future, and oil may double or triple. 

What’s one piece of financial advice you would give to yourself seven years ago?

I would say probably learning stock options sooner. I’m really big on it. I don’t even trade normal stock; I only trade options. I shoot for a 1% return on capital in a week. You can make that selling Puts, which is essentially a contract stating that you will buy it from someone when the stock drops below a certain price. If it’s a good stock, you want to buy it anyway. So maybe you get it at a discount. Or you just get the money from it. So in selling that contract, you get a commission. There are ways to do it where you can get a ridiculously high percentage return on capital, but you could potentially lose a lot more.

When’s the last time you felt really broke?

When I split with my ex-girlfriend, she practically stole all the furniture. We’d lived together; some of it was hers, some of it wasn’t. The only thing she left was my workspace. The entire place was empty. I didn’t even know it would be empty because I was in the hospital recovering from surgery! 

Wild!

Yeah. By the time I got back home, there wasn’t even a damn fork in the place. I felt like I was robbed. I’d just come back from an expensive surgery. I couldn’t even eat; I didn’t have a fork. I couldn’t walk, and now I had to drag myself to the store to buy a fork – with what money? It sucked! 

What’s the one thing you’re truly thankful for?

I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had. They’ve helped me become the person that I am today. I am satisfied with who I am. Happy to have had a good dice roll in my life circumstances as well. Lastly, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of an organization making a significant impact. Right now, there is a definite lack of players delivering solutions in our niche. We’ve built something that will have a strong butterfly effect. I’m grateful for my freedom to do this.

Oh, and gyms – yeah, thank God for gyms!

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