Back in 1993, I sat down with a group of four friends and we all put out a number that we felt we had to achieve in cash that would allow us to retire. At the time I had very little cash in the bank and was working a contract recruiting job at a Silicon valley Company. I had a big (for then) mortgage, two car payments and kid in private school.
I put out the figure of one million dollars. I was on the low-end of the group. The high-end was 5 million. My number was realistic though for several reasons.
1. I didn’t believe that I could earn an extra million dollars over the next ten years.
2. My wife and I stood to inherit real estate and cash worth at least another million. Maybe more. Not right then but sometime in the future. So one million could bridge us to the next million.
The others in the group thought I was wacko.
Strangely the thought of making a million began to galvanize me. By mid 1998 I was in a startup. In late 2000 it went IPO and some six months later I cashed in enough stock to make us a millionaire. My wife had inherited some money from an aunt and uncle and I had made some money on my previous company’s stock.
Whammo! I had over a million in the bank (or actually many banks)..
My kid was heading off to college, we had a much smaller mortgage and we owned both of our cars. But we had to pay for our pwn health insurance once I retired the first time in 2002.
I kept working part-time. That acted as a bridge as crept towards full retirement but the Pearl Harbor fiscal surprise attack of 2008 sunk some our funds. I moved much of the rest to cash, rode out the worst of it, went back inside a company for the next 15 months as an employee and rode it out. My son graduated, my family was covered by medical insurance. The big Tsunami passed for the time being.
Then, in March of 2010, I retired for the second time. It had taken just about 17 years to complete the job.
It was no longer a matter of how much cash we had in the bank. We had cash but it lurched up and down based on the financial climate of the market.
Instead it became a combination of income and expenses. For the first time our outgo and income matched pretty closely. Take away 25 to 30K annual college expenses and give me affordable health insurance and suddenly the ability to walk became elementary.
So, I got out.
I work but money is no longer a gating item. I now go pro bono and do exactly what the hell I want to do.
Could another Tsunami come in and wreck what we have squirreled away?
Absolutely. If the US Dollar become worthless, I and 300 million other folks are dead in the murky waters. And I am not even counting all the millions who will go south in other parts of the world. Our economy is theirs now. Too late to go back. And I refuse to live in fear. I felt fear in the fall of 2008 but after several weeks I said ENOUGH! Do what you got to do and just get through it.
The thing I learned from this was once I had the number million in my head as a goal I went for it. Suddenly a great many job opportunities didn’t make sense.
My career path became The first star on my right and straight through to morning. Somewhere I knew there was a startup in my future. It just took me 5 and half years to find the right one and another three years to make some dough out of it.
I’ll never have 5 million. Nice to have but I am not holding out for it. It would have probably meant another several startups. I would never make that money just having a job-job even at the Vice president level. I had to remember my goal.
To not have to work at anything that I didn’t want to.
Life is short and is getting shorter all the time. Middle age had become old age. Maybe not really old yet, but old enough to get medicare and social security along and old enough to pull money out of my 401K’s without penalties.
If I ever wish anything, I wish I had understood this earlier. I reeled from job-job to job-job and put up with a lot of crap along the way. My father was trying to get me to understand this back in the 1970′s but I didn’t get it.
Well, I got it now.
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