A Long Strange Journey

Social Share Toolbar

I went to a birthday party last night for some friends.  Great time and it was fun watching how silly a bunch of women can get when they get together.  Silly with or without alcohol involved. One of the people there was a Fraternity brother of mine I hadn’t seen in 4 or 5 years.  For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call him Mike.

Mike & I were Pledge Brothers.  (Pledge Brothers, for the non-Greek reader, are those guys who go through the process of ‘Pledging’ a Fraternity together.  For more details, please refer to the documentary “Animal House“)  Anyway, Mike & I went through this together and became pretty good friends.  Last night, we had the chance to sit down and have a real conversation about where we’ve been and what we’re doing and how we got there. Mike was on the 7 year College Plan.  Not intentionally, mind you. But just as a matter of how life happened.  He took some time off, was asked to take some time off, and just needed to find what worked for him.

Early in the evening he recalled how he did a few crazy things for free beer.  I mean, we all did that, but one or two of his stories were really crazy.  I won’t go into details, but just remember I mentioned it.

It wasn’t until he turned 40 that he really found what he wanted to do. He started in the Business School with me focusing on Marketing but after getting his degree, realized that wasn’t really what he wanted to do.  For a while, he went into a completely different field, which after spending 2 years (and $22k in student loans) found that the base salary was $22,000.  Admittedly not great planning, but he made the correction and was able to land a job with a little more money involved.  He’s been with the same industry now for about 15 years and has steadily moved up in position and responsibility.  He told me the story where he gave one of the people who worked for him the authorization to offer $1.1 million dollars in a settlement.

“After I hung up, I realized I gave this guy the approval without talking to my boss.”

I said, “Look at how things have changed.  Just a few minutes ago you told me how you did some pretty crazy stuff for free beer.  And now you’re authorizing a million dollars!”

Hey, so what the heck does this have to do with ‘Getting Outta Debt’?  Well, being of the same age (50) we did get into talking about retirement, and how we’re doing.  He’s single, has a pension and gets up to $6k per year matching from his employer.  He hopes to retire in ten years and maybe do some contracting work if he needs or wants to.  In 2008 or so, he sold his 2 bedroom condo and bought a 4 bedroom house in the same city.  3 months later he was offered a promotion and a move to his current location.  For 6 months (2009 or so..) he had both the mortgage of his house and rent in his new place. When he finally sold the house, he had to pay $10k at closing.

One thing that really helped him during this time was being Debt Free.  (See, I told you it would tie together).  No huge credit card debt and a decent amount of savings set him back, but didn’t cripple him.  He move to an area that was hit particularly hard by the Real Estate bubble bursting.  Houses there lost 50% of their value from 2006 to 2008.  He caught a great deal after values had gone back up 29%.  Mike probably would have bought sooner, but he made the smart choice and saved more money so he could have a larger down payment.  Another benefit from being Debt Free.

So what’s the point of this post?  It’s directed more to the person who might be struggling a little in their life or their career. Mike once said “Plenty of people spend 7 years in college”, to which his brother replied “Yeah.. they’re called ‘Doctors'”.   Even if you’re not going to be a Doctor, even if you’re not doing what you’d like to be doing, or what you think you’re good at, don’t give up.

Make a change, keep looking.  If Mike can do it, you can too.

This entry was posted in Retirement, Savings. Bookmark the permalink.