You Are Not Beyoncé. You Do Not Want To Get Paid Only In Equity.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.
Over the weekend, to the delight of Beyoncé and Jay-Z stans over the world, The Carters released their first joint album, Everything Is Love, during the U.K. leg of their On The Run II tour. Followers have long suspected that Bey at the very least would release new music before the tour was over, so the arrival announcement promptly sent the internet into a dither.
In Lemonade, Beyoncé sang about the power of Black womanhood amid romantic strife. In 4:44, Jay reflected on Black masculinity and growing into a better husband and father. And in their collab album, a wedding vow renewal of sorts, the two assure the masses that are minding the couple's business that they have all their business together.
"I can't believe that we made it," Bey raps on "APESHIT," the second track on Everything Is Love. She doesn't only mean surviving as a family but succeeding in their careers to the point of shooting a music video at the Louvre, draped in Versace. Really, it's Carter Capitalism at its finest.
Wherever listeners stand on Beyoncé and Jay-Z's glorification of their riches (inspired by a Black power couple come up, or jaded at the thought of two billionaires of any hue), many people laud the artists as exemplary business people. Jay has talked about the importance of diversifying his portfolio (investing in businesses and artwork) and building generational wealth; Beyoncé's "Formation" quip "always stay gracious, best revenge is you paper" launched a thousand hustle hard Instagram photos.
"Gimme my check, put some respeck on my check," Bey raps on "APESHIT" — so far, so good. She has long called for equal pay, writing an op-ed about the topic in 2014. It's important to learn how to be paid your worth over your career, and figure out how to stand up for yourself and negotiate.
But her next bit — "Or pay me in equity, pay me in equity" — should not be taken as gospel by most people. Many employers would love nothing more than if you asked to be paid in equity! They'd make it rain in useless stock options that'll never see the light of vesting. For most people, getting good cold, hard cash is best unless you really want to go apeshit. You can be sure, though, that neither "Black Bill Gates in the making" grew their net worth on equity alone — and you shouldn't either.
To be super basic, when employees of a company are given equity, they are given stock options (contracts, essentially) that grant them the ability to purchase shares in the company they work for at a discounted price. Those options aren't worth much in the short term because they can't be recouped for cash until after a predetermined vesting period — typically four years, Forbes writer William Baldwin says. But if workers are willing to wait it out where they are, they may win big. Options have become a popular offering at startups and tech companies, where the valuation of those companies can skyrocket seemingly overnight (if the company goes public for example, or if it receives an influx of VC funding).
In the very best case scenario, you get your equity (shares) and the company you work at happens to be a thriving one — leaving you with shares that are going up in value and could be a long-term investment. But it's safe to say that's not going to happen for everyone and every company. Still, in an increasingly common bargain, some new employees will accept a lower starting salary in exchange for more equity. In other cases, current employees will accept additional equity instead of receiving cash raises.
"Say [your option award] is for 10,000 shares. You are entitled to nothing if you quit (or get axed) within 12 months. You get 2,500 options at the one-year anniversary and further amounts monthly or quarterly," Baldwin explains. "The fact that people job-hop makes options less valuable than they appear to be." He walks through a few scenarios in which equity can leave people stuck in "golden handcuffs," hanging on and on with no immediate cash in hand, eager for the promise of a big return.
Deciding what your time and work are worth is a personal decision, of course. But don't follow Bey's bombast blindly. You can bet her deals involve plenty money in the form of smiling greenbacks and longer-term equity. That spaceship she's commandeering for all her girls in "APESHIT" won't get paid for with contracts.