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Old 11-07-2007, 09:05 PM   #1
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New to Forum. Changing Plans.

Please let me introduce myself. I am an aspiring Early-Retiree, though the exact meaning of "Early" may be changing for me. I'm glad to have found this community and look forward to reading all the discussions here. I had intended to retire earlier (so I'd already be retired by now) but life didn't turn out that way for me.

I appreciate this interesting forum and will try not to get too depressed by the folks with six figure salaries or seven figure net worths. More power to you all. Especially kudos to the younger posters with serious retirement savings plans. Better to start as young as possible because you never know what the future might hold, but the freedom and options you gain are priceless.

When I was just out of college in the early 1980s I was gung ho on savings for retirement. As sole breadwinner, my salary was 18,000 and I figured that if we could reach a net worth of just under 80,000 we would be set for life. Remember these were the days of 15% to 18% prime rates, so even safe safe CD investments could earn fantastic rates of return. Unfortunately our expenses for the year were about 23,000 so our net worth went from zero to -5,000 that year. My wife and I got a serious case of remorse and took action. In retrospect it's a good thing I didn't get anywhere close to the 80,000 goal, as that plan was completely flawed, although it seemed sensible at the time. I can at least say the shock of realizing we'd dug ourselves into a hole had a positive effect on making us more responsible going forward.

We moved to a less expensive place, she went to work so we had two salaries, and we started serious savings through IRAs, 401k and anything else we could think of. Twenty years later we had traded residences twice and lived in a nice (fully paid for) house, had combined salary nearly 200,000 and net worth (excluding the house) of just over $2 million. Having reached our new savings goal, we were ready to retire but hesitated. And got slammed by the bursting tech bubble and a nasty divorce.

The overly aggressive investment plan that got us such a nice nest egg gave back more than 50% in a year. Both of our employers went out of business in the same month and jobs became very difficult to land. Ex-wife walked away from me and kids, but divorce laws here don't recognize fault, so she took the lion's share of remaining portfolio in order for me to keep the house and provide some measure of stability for kids. I had to pay her more than the original price of the house to "buy out" her half and ended up with a big mortgage, and almost 6 months of unemployment before I landed a job at about a 40% pay cut (70k), but at least I had something. Some of the guys I worked with went over 2 years without finding work.

I regret the overly risky asset allocation, but am glad I had the savings to support recovery from such a bad situation without any worse impact. Indeed, I had expected to be FIRE by now and had been working toward it for a long time. It's disheartening to see that goal move so far into the future. OTOH, I was able to support kids in same house, in same schools, in same neighborhood without having to move them away from friends. I pushed out my retirement significantly, but I will still be able to recover and save enough to have a decent retirement eventually. I weathered a bad investment plan, a serious industry slowdown, a horrible divorce and an extended jobless spell by having enough savings. Others I worked with who were less prepared had a much harder time and several were forced to move or lost houses to foreclosure. Having the savings gave me options and freedom when I really needed them.

Current situation:
Age: 49 single dad (kids 15 & 10)
Salary: 86K
Profession: Project Manager for software company
Monthly Expenses: $5400
Net Worth: 300K + about 100k equity (and 270k mortgage)
AA: mostly Vanguard index and bond funds with slice and dice to give slight value and small cap tilt
FIRE: at least 10 years away, maybe 15

Not looking for any advice just now, but pleased to meet you all. I'll probably want to ask questions and talk about FIRE plans later.
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Old 11-07-2007, 09:15 PM   #2
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Welcome.

I think most of us here have bumps and bruises, but we're pushing on through....one day at a time.
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Old 11-07-2007, 09:17 PM   #3
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Not looking for any advice just now, but pleased to meet you all. I'll probably want to ask questions and talk about FIRE plans later.
Hi growing older, congratulations on coming through your trials so well. I should know better than to ask, but does your ex pay any child support?

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Old 11-07-2007, 09:39 PM   #4
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No child support. As you probably expect these kinds of topics usually have long back stories behind them, and this one does too. I'm content that we are better off this way. Though it will always be disturbing that someone you knew so very well can change so much.
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Old 11-07-2007, 09:44 PM   #5
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Welcome to the forums Growing-Older. I see a good bit of me in your description of your voyage through life. A lot of what you experienced brought shivers up my spine as I remembered living through a bad marriage and a nasty divorce, paying alimony, childsupport, paying off all my wife's debt while trying to be a single parent in a very high stress job. I lost a ton from 1999 to 2002 and made some bad choices along the way; lost my house and started over $100k in debt while trying to live on 50% of my salary (after ex-wife deductions).

It is tough and it hurts but you can get back on track. Early retirement is relative. You have your hands full with kids and other things right now but you can retire early; maybe not as early as you would like but early none the less. Keep the faith and stick to your plan. Someday it will happen. Don't let the accomplishments of the "kids" on the board demoralize you. We all get there in our own time dependent upon the weight we carry along the way. Being single making $150k annually with fat stock options makes ER a no-brainer. Doing it one day at a time on a much smaller salary with family obligations is truly heroic.

Hang in there. It will get better.
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Old 11-08-2007, 07:24 AM   #6
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Growing older,

I second what SteveR so eloquantly said. And, keep in mind, not all of us have high salaries and no kids. Many of us a chipping away on modest salaries - viewing time as our friend.

Kudos to keeping what is important today (kids well-being and stability) in the fore, while still planning.
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Old 11-08-2007, 07:34 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by growing_older View Post
No child support. As you probably expect these kinds of topics usually have long back stories behind them, and this one does too. I'm content that we are better off this way. Though it will always be disturbing that someone you knew so very well can change so much.
That really is sad. Can't see how anyone would not want to help support the kids even if they got a free pass through the courts. One thing for sure, you will always have a strong bond with your children unlike the one they will have with their mother.

Welcome to the forum and best of luck with your future!
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Old 11-08-2007, 07:44 AM   #8
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Welcome aboard. Great job keeping first thing first!

You've got a winning plan the only thing that's not determined yet is the date and it will come.
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Old 11-08-2007, 09:04 AM   #9
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growing_older, thanks for your posting. We have folks with a full range of life experiences here, and yours is a fine addition. And a bit of inspiration for the rest of us, when things don't go exactly according to plan.

You sound like a great role model for your kids.

Welcome aboard!

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Old 11-08-2007, 11:09 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone for the warm welcome. I have learned a few things getting here and I expect to learn a few more in the future. I think I understand Dawg52's comment about support for kids, but I'd also add that there is also a connection you make with kids when they are dependent that is vitally important. They do need you and need to know that you will be there for them. I know of people who tried to build relationships with adult children after being absent for their childhood, and while it can be positive, it's not the same. Likewise, I've seen people try to spin their actions and even successfully hide some major lapses from their children, but only temporarily. Kids want to and will willingly believe what you tell them, but they will also remember. When they are adults, the facts they remember and the adult frame of reference they will have will put all the pieces together. In my state, anyone involved in a divorce with minor children is required to attend a mandatory parenting class. I was amazed how many people there were convinced that kids wouldn't understand any selfish action on the part of the parents if it were disguised by a suitable story. Folks with significant drug use, a parade of short term partners in and out of kids lives, abandoning kids to relatives or just left alone for days, all seemed to think kids wouldn't be affected and wouldn't know what was going on. I am sure they are wrong and kids are both affected and know (or will know) that they were not important enough in parent's life, compared to these other things.

If a parent misses the once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with children while they are still children or to be there for them when they truely need you to be there for them, then that opportunity is gone. Kids grow up fast. My intention is to do the best for them that I can while it matters most. I'm sorry my Ex is missing out on that, but I think she is making a big mistake that appears to be fairly common (at least according to my parenting class). My kids are fortunate that we have adequate means and stability in where we live, long term friends and comfortable lives. Yes, one would think a parent would intend to support their kids, but we will be fine with the resources we have. The door is always open should she want to connect with them, but as long as she is too wrapped up in her own life to want to connect, then it is probably just as well that she stays distant. Sad, but probably better this way than forcing interaction with unnecessary drama that would be mostly disruptive. I do make sure she knows the opportunity is available, but I'm not pushing for anything. Kids most always love their moms, just as kids most always want their parents together, rational and realistic or not. We just do the best we can with what we have to work with.
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Old 11-08-2007, 11:35 AM   #11
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Thanks so much for sharing your story. Every once in a while someone quite young talks about retiring on an amount of money that will only work if they stay married and their isn't some kind of other disaster. FIREcalc doesn't model divorce, non-indexing investment strategies or job loss.

Good on you for being a good father to your kids.
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Old 11-08-2007, 07:52 PM   #12
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Growing Older has done great. Today I was out walking and saw a homeless guy who had lettered on his pack and bedroll: My Wife Had A Better Lawyer.

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Old 11-09-2007, 12:04 AM   #13
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growing older welcome

It ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

Never give up!

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Salute
Old 11-10-2007, 11:54 AM   #14
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Salute

As interesting and educational as all the threads on this board have been, this may well be one of the best yet. Growing older I salute you for putting your kids' welfare first. You have got your priorities right.
I remember seeing an Intervention episode on A&E sometime back, where a Sillicion Valley couple who made millions during the dot com boom went through a bitter divorce and the wife got their mansion that is worth millions. She subsequently got so messed up with drinking problems and depression that she tried to end her own life and hence the family got her in an intervention program. This tells me that money is never the only thing in the equation. One would find much more satisfaction in life with having the most precious thing - relationships with family and friends - in order. As Suze Orman puts it: people first, then money, then things.
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