Make $400k a year or go into architecture


So my father came to the States and started a security business -fire alarms, burglar, CCTV, home media.. I am 26 and just married and completed a BA in Business Strategy -we are poor as fuck. I know my father makes like $400k per year -much of it is from recurring revenue from monitoring subscriptions. He moved to Boca and manages everything remotely and I still live in the area that the company operates. I started working for him and he is paying me $50k per year but he wants me to grow in the company. I could really start earning a lot more because he wants me to grow as a leader in the company -making sales, managing the 14 workers... Take it over one day, maybe with my little brother. I already have my own private office and I make my own schedule. I have worked for him in the past, I do listen to his employees and I see many areas in which the company can seriously improve. My father isn't adapting to new technologies and I think there is a lot I can do. 

This is an awesome opportunity, but I am a designer and I am hoping to  apply for an M.Arch I. I taught myself Rhino, Grasshopper, V-Ray, Adobe software. I design products at an hourly rate of like $25 and I love designing. It is not work to me. I won 7 awards -I know it isn't so difficult to win design awards. I have a sketchbook full of building concepts. I watch lectures and read books about the design process. I have always been more artistic -not something I chose. During my BA, I did well in all of my courses, but I was always waiting for the day when I didn't need to do my design work between classes and after studying for boring business finals. 

On the other hand, earning enough income might lead to the possibility of designing buildings to develop myself. My father developed many houses, but he chose designs from templates. He enjoyed the project management and business aspect of it. 

So thank you to whomever actually read this. I have no idea what kind of advise I will get on here. There is this great opportunity I should take advantage of, but there are also my own passions. Maybe there is some middle ground here. I need wisdom. 

Jan 20, 22 9:25 pm

we are poor as fuck and my dad makes 400K year are two totally opposite statements.....Your father seems to have years of experience in his business and my assumption is  that if you were to stay in his business you would not be making 400k once you take it over.... Technically you are already making what a junior staff in an architecture firm is making.  

The realistic picture is that the chances of you designing buildings are small.  You will be doing production and grunt work for many years in the hope of breaking 100k after a minimum of 10 years in practice.  You seem to come from a background where money will not be an issue down the road, but if there is a remote chance of making 400K a year, I am pretty sure 95% of us Architects would rather do that and make Architecture a hobby.  

Jan 20, 22 10:52 pm  · 
2  · 

"we are poor as fuck and my dad makes 400K year are two totally opposite statements" I don't know your background, but it's not opposite when you don't live with your dad and he doesn't give you free money every month. Would you say the United States is a poor country or a rich country?

Jan 21, 22 2:17 pm  · 

I agree that my statement was a bit nonesensical. Like we had issues paying our rent on time, but as the same time, if I am ever in a "dire" situation, my father would help. I don't understand what you are saying about the States though

Jan 21, 22 3:45 pm  · 

At $50,000 a year, you should be able to pay rent. If you are paid that during a 6-9 month seasonal period then you should have set aside 12 months rent and be able to live on the amount you got during the lean months. It means you try to budget monthly expenditure to $2500 to $2800 a month as you also take out a portion for taxes if that is not already deducted. You might say, there's a little over $4000 a month if you divide 50,000 by 12. While that is true. If you have to pay taxes, you need to put aside upwards of 20-25% of your income away for taxes. Then you still have a little to set aside in savings.

Jan 21, 22 4:56 pm  · 

what does your dad say about this? is he offering to help you take on his responsibilities and take over the business - and does he support your ideas? does he think you'll be prepared to do what's needed to make 400k running the company? what kind of time are you imagining it takes to get there?

would he pay your tuition to study architecture? if you go into architecture and decide after 5-8 years it's not what you want, will he help you get back into the family business?

if you're entrepreneurial, talented, and lucky you can certainly make 400k running an architecture firm or as a partner in a big office (in a good year) - but it's uncommon and likely will take at least twenty years to get there. starting out you'll be making about the same 50k as now, and probably working much harder. consider whether the trade off would be worth it for you.

Jan 21, 22 5:57 am  · 
1  · 
Wood Guy

In the 25 years since I entered the full-time workforce I have read a lot of books on how to be successful, and most of them focus on "doing what you love" so it's not work and you get fulfillment from your career. The reality is that even if you love architecture, working in the industry tends to dull the shine and you will likely end up enjoying only a small portion of the tasks that make up your day. Surveys show that architects and designers enjoy 5-10% of what they do in a typical day. 

One book I read has a different theme that has stuck with me--approach your job as a mercenary, basically doing what makes you the most money in the least amount of time, and find your fulfillment and joy elsewhere. That doesn't mean that you have to hate what you do for work, but the story most of us grew up with--to love what you do--often leaves people unsatisfied and poor.

I'm not you, but if I were, I would lean strongly toward taking over the family business and pursuing architecture as a hobby, or better, use your income and design skills to develop your own projects on the side.  

Jan 21, 22 8:44 am  · 
5  · 

Absolutely agree with this. The reality for most is that if you're designing, you're not making real money. But if you're managing a team of others (including designers, whom you can work with) then they can make you money. I don't see an easy path being a designer and pulling in $400k/year, but my senior partners certainly do, and I know for a fact that neither even has AutoCAD installed on their laptops. Unfortunately nobody mentions this aspect when you're in school.

Jan 21, 22 10:05 am  · 
3  · 

I'm in agreeance with both posts above. Anyone making over 200k in our office barely knows how to open CAD.

Jan 24, 22 11:16 am  · 

Yup, i took that merc aproach when a graduated in 2018. Made my way to making 100k, not near a big city. This year ill probably bring in another 100k doing freelance contracts helping older firms set up revit templates.

Feb 1, 22 10:54 am  · 

I will throw out another scenario to consider: working for yourself allows you wealth in the form of time. I don’t do 40hr wks (well, not never, but largely). I could, but I’d rather not be chained to a desk. I don’t have an expensive vehicle or fancy clothes or belong to a boutique athletic club. But I have time, a nice home, and a comfortable lifestyle that allows me time with my family & time to go outside and do things that make me happy.

Now what industry you do that in is up to you & will likely involve its own set of hurdles to achieve the experience necessary to self-employ with long term viability. Choose wisely.

Jan 21, 22 10:18 am  · 
1  · 
go do it

Wood Guy and proto  have great points and sound advice.

There are a lot of self taught architects and you sound like you can certainly do that.

Ask yourself this, " if someone offered you 50K+ a year to learn architecture would you take their offer?"

Jan 21, 22 11:17 am  · 

I was in second year of arch school and my girlfriend got pregnant, her family was/is very wealthy and they wanted us to marry, so we did - but the manipulation that comes from having to beg for gas money to your father-in-law was too much and I divorced her 6 years later - he pushed me to take accounting jobs in the summers, and he did the same with all his children. I understand the idea of making your kids work as hard as you did to get where you are, but forcing someone, especially your kid, to do something they don't like or simply opposed to their skills and passions, just to give them/pay them more money it's outrageous. Go for what makes you happy, hostage money doesn't.

Jan 21, 22 11:39 am  · 

We experience something a little similar with my father. He wants us to move to Boca to be closer to him. Issue is that my wife is studying in New York and I see much more opportunity up here. Her family is here, all of our friends are here. He promised us a free house and car if we move, but the idea of using money to pull strings is sickening.

Jan 21, 22 12:24 pm  · 
1  · 
go do it

KingsMake- your last post clears up your situation.

As others have said go for what makes you happy.

Jan 21, 22 2:17 pm  · 

Thank you for your advice. I do want to go to architecture school, become licensed and concurrently be very involved with this company. I definitely do not like the idea of stretching yourself too thin but maybe there is a way to pursue both. So it seems like you are saying that this company may not always remain as profitable as it is now and that I should try to create my own path while still being involved in this company. If that means taking a few years to spend on Masters and internships, then so be it. 

Jan 21, 22 3:43 pm  · 

Depending on where you live and where you may conduct business as well as what you type of buildings you want to design, you might not even need an architect license. Education and practical experience, yes. We don't know what exactly you want to do. If designing houses, then you don't need a license. Getting paid well, well... that can be a challenge.

Jan 21, 22 5:01 pm  · 
we form society

I think the whole discussion is a bit more complicated and tips are very difficult to give. Everyone should decide for themselves about their life expectancy and that is not so easy. That's why I just want to share my last decision with you. Until recently, I worked in an architectural office where I was not particularly happy. The projects were old-fashioned, the pay was relatively poor, like everywhere else at the beginning, but the team was great. After three years in my first job, I decided to look for something else. The choice was a job where I earned twice as much as before (+/- 70,000 euros), but nothing to do with architecture or design. The other option was another very promising small architecture firm that is in full expansion. Salary the same as before (+/- 40.000) per year, very cool progressive projects and many opportunities to develop as a designer. The salary is not very good, but you are not poor with it here, it is enough to live on and I have everything I need and more (I personally don't need much...). so work-life balance is very important to me, flexible working hours, working from the home office, dog at the workplace and work that is fun so that it doesn't feel like work are all advantages that I put above money, I'm sure there will be an opportunity to get into a higher position and be able to decide my own salary).

As you can see, there are many more points that play a role than just money. I strongly believe that if you only look at money, you can't be "really" happy. In life you need a balance. without unhappiness there is no happiness

As you can see, there are many more points that play a role than just money. I strongly believe that if you ONLY look at money, you can't be "really" happy. To philosophise a little bit now:
In life you need a balance. without unhappiness there is no happiness and you need courage in the beginning to be happy later.

We architects change people's lives and influence society. Architecture creates culture... If you do your job out of such motivations then money plays LESS of a role.

However, you should not ignore your environment... your family, friends and acquaintances evaluate their friends on the basis of various criteria and one of them is certainly money. So if your environment believes that success = money then your "status" in society will go down. Which in turn will affect your "happiness".

All these things are personal things that we can decide and change, but I can tell you it is not easy. I live in a very money-hungry area where everyone believes that you should buy a new car, mobile phone, etc. every year. My family is also more like that and I am more of a minimalist. But I make smart decisions when it comes to investing money. (For example, I own a house here that increases in value by about 15 percent every year).

So now I have added my tiny little grain of pepper ;)

I hope I was able to help everyone reading a little further.

Jan 28, 22 11:20 am  · 

Personally, if Kingsmake likes or enjoys the work of the family business, I'm going to be confident that he'll likely be making more money than he would as as an architectural firm employee working on becoming a licensed architect. In most states, he would have to get licensed to be earning more than he is now. Even down the road, when the father phases out into retirement and easily still make $50-75,000 a year, Kingsmake may end up advancing with equity stake and raking in at least $75K to over $100K in 5 years. 

To Kingsmake: a licensed architect, on average, earns maybe $65K to $85K (more or less) a year as an employee but not a principal / firm owner. Most licensed architects don't become principals / firm owners of the established firms and others... some of them may go out on their own and start their own practice. In which case, they may or may not make that income. In most cases, they'll make a take-home (subjecting business overhead and project expenditures), around maybe $65K to $95K but some are more but when you are on your own, it really depends on how well you procure work and how much work, and how well the clients pay but you can have some real skunk years. 

As for this security whatever business, if you have a continual supply of business with subscriptions and service and paying customers for services rendered, you can easily make this and you won't need to net a $100,000+ student loan debt (principal and some interest which over time will grow the loan debt total), and have shit pay for multiple years.... possibly less than what you make and places that pays as much or more may be places where there is a higher cost of living than where you may be now.... don't know. Even if you don't make $400K when you take over the business as take-home. The business might still make that kind of money but you need to make sure good accounting of business vs personal. Your business income is one thing. Your personal income is another. Depending on business type and setup, the business and personal may essentially be one. You can easily be making $150K after you build experience and rapport which you should before you take over the business. In time, you may command $400K or more. Considering inflation adjustments, that $400K would amount to $500K in probably 10 or so years. Raking in $150K, no additional student loan debt for architectural education, you should be in good shape. You'd probably want to get the student load paid off for the education that got you the Bachelors of Arts degree you got. Getting these little things out of your butt would mean more of your take-home would be for your goals and needs then and not have those leeches sucking a sizable chunk of your income and they would and will because they can. 

While I might not personally go into that business due to lack of personal interest but if it is something you enjoy, good at it, consider staying with the family business. It isn't always bad or terrible. You have a wife and may have children now or in near future and that means you would need to forget pursuing architectural licensure path because that will require you to essentially give up that money train you have right now because you can't be running this business and do the work of an architectural education and working for an architect and raising a family. We don't have enough hours in a week to do that and days are too short. Basically, you get maybe 12 years while the children are in school but guess what.... there's that putting money away for your children's college education fund to help them when they go to college. By that point, when they are in college, you're also needing to putting away for retirement besides what you might be doing now. As you said, you're 26. You might be having children over the next 5 years for example. That means, if you have all your children over the next 5 years or by the age of 32. That means you'll be 50 years old when the youngest graduates high school. The reality is you may have children over the next 10 years and if you have the youngest child at 42 then they would be graduating high school when you hit 60. If you plan to retire when you're between 65 and 70, you'll want to have retirement funds. 

I can tell you, it would probably be pointless to pursue an architectural license at that age. Realistically, most employers won't hire you. While age discrimination is technically illegal, it's "piss-poorly" enforced laws where you will have difficulty competing with the youngin's that are physically more apt to work these techo gadets in the future more quickly than you. You're physical motor skills may very well be subpar compared to those 40 years younger than you as you would be aging and having arthritis and stuff like that kicking in. 

Additionally, you may only have another 20 or so years (give or take) so would you want to spend those final years working in an architectural "sweat shop" or enjoying life. Some of us just are passionate as all hell or just fucked and will be doing this work till we die or damn close to it.

Jan 29, 22 12:09 am  · 

Take the money and run with it, build up yourself a nice piece of the pie. Then diversify your money and make it work for yourself, and then become your own Builder-owner.

My old boss did the same thing, now he pretends hes an architect and sells 100+ million dollar mansions that have no sense of design.

Feb 1, 22 10:56 am  · 

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