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View Poll Results: How much of your current or future ability to FIRE is/will be due to luck?
All of it. (I won the lottery, was born rich, found a suitcase full of cash by the side of the road, etc.) 4 2.90%
None of it. (I worked hard, practiced LBYM, darned my socks, counted my dryer sheets, and finally made it.) 43 31.16%
Some of both. (I was working at it, but a lucky break pushed me the rest of the way.) 46 33.33%
You make your own luck. (I got lucky, but it was only useful because I had already spent years accumulating knowledge and assets that let me take advantage of it.) 45 32.61%
Voters: 138. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 02-28-2011, 11:48 AM   #21
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I voted for some of both. Though for the most part, I feel I've earned my FIRE (LBYM, started early, worked hard along the way), I can think of two instances where luck paid a role.

Black Monday, the big crash of 1987. I remember lots of co-w*rkers in a panic mode. Me, I hadn't started investing yet so for me it was mostly "what crash?". But had I felt the sting of Black Monday, maybe I would have shied away from investing all together.

The big crash of 2008. I FIRE'd in Jan '08. Before the big crash of 2008 hit. Had it been later in the year that I'd planned to FIRE, I may have shied away from pulling the trigger.

That said, I'm ready (knock on wood) to hang on tightly for the next big crash
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Old 02-28-2011, 12:04 PM   #22
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Personally the only folks I know that FIRE'd we're stock option windfall proceed recipients or family members who were on public sector DB plans.

I can only speak from the private sector standpoint and without stock options there is no way I could FIRE, my co contributes $2500 per year to my 401k, and they had suspended it for a couple of years during the crisis. We LBYM but w/o DB the amount we needed to save wasn't possible w/o stock option proceeds....maybe we don't LBYM to the extent we should!!!
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:24 PM   #23
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Personally the only folks I know that FIRE'd we're stock option windfall proceed recipients or family members who were on public sector DB plans.

I can only speak from the private sector standpoint and without stock options there is no way I could FIRE, my co contributes $2500 per year to my 401k, and they had suspended it for a couple of years during the crisis. We LBYM but w/o DB the amount we needed to save wasn't possible w/o stock option proceeds....maybe we don't LBYM to the extent we should!!!
Stock options do help, but for us keeping our expenses well below our take home pay was key for reaching FIRE. Earnings from stock options, which represented a tad under 10% of our lifetime income, just nudged us across the finish line.
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Old 02-28-2011, 02:28 PM   #24
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I made my own luck I guess. I got a job at the State because it payed better than anything else I could find. After a few years, I became aware of the pension benefits and considered staying around. I transferred to the Dept. of Transportation, took free classes offered to get my Professional Engineering license and met a guy who told me I should buy 5 years of service credit while I was young and it was cheap. I listened and did it and here I am retired at 43 (44 now).

I suppose it was luck in a way, being in the right place at the right time, etc., but I worked hard and did my bit and I made the right decisions when the opportunities presented themselves. I am one of the youngest to ever retire in my system. Most don't make it until their 50s or 60s (I think the average is like 62), bouncing around in careers before settling down. I started at 18 and stuck it out.

Now you couldn't do what I did. You have to have a degree to become registered, the option to buy 5 years is significantly more expensive, and I think new hires need to work 32 years instead of 30. If i was starting today, I'd likely have quit and went to college, my original plan back then.
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Old 02-28-2011, 03:23 PM   #25
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I believe that luck is a matter of being prepared for the choices that present themselves. I always knew which career moves to take and which to pass. Of course, no one can know what would have happened?

But we are all an optimistic group, aren't we?
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Old 02-28-2011, 03:39 PM   #26
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Hmm. My gal's favorite artist is Tom Petty, Mr. Whiney Voice. She doesn't tire of singing this song around me.



Yep. Just got lucky babe.
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Old 02-28-2011, 04:43 PM   #27
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I consider myself lucky. I had a load of debt in 1981 when the rates got to 20+% and that converted me. Since then I have worked away at eliminating all debt and currently carry none. Learning that lesson 31 years ago was a fortunate event.

I also had an insight into what jobs were good for me or not and made wise choices. But in the final analysis, I was extremely lucky. In fact, I presented to 3rd year Engineering students about for several years about how the education just prepares you to make wise choices. And that if anyone tells you they are following their grand plan, they have justified that after the fact!

It struck a responsive chord because by the second year, there was standing room only.
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Old 02-28-2011, 05:33 PM   #28
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Won the birth lottery, it's all been blind luck since then...if so, I could have made poor personal choices, had issues with crime, drugs, alcohol, made a different career choice, worked less, saved less, and spent more, and it would have all worked out the same.

It seems like the harder I worked, the luckier I got, and the more opportunities I was exposed to...some worked out well, I learned from the others. Lucky?

Maybe, maybe not.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:10 PM   #29
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Luck was a factor for sure.

1) DW and I were born in free, democratic and wealthy countries.
2) DW and I have been in relatively good health all of our lives (and even though I retired for health reason, I won't complain).
3) Our parents were not poor (but nor rich either).
4) DW and I were born with reasonably good intelligence.
Pretty bold to answer none of it IMO given the factors above. I answered the last choice - you make your own luck. We got college degrees (lucky our parents could provide), got good jobs, stayed healthy (no bad luck), saved & invested well, lived below our means (luckily both our parents set an example we followed as adults) almost from the very start.

The only factor that I personally consider outright "luck" in my story was having MegaCorp freeze my pension (worth about $1K/mo now with no COLA) and take away retiree health care when I was about 40. Really forced me to assume greater responsibility for our net worth more seriously, until then I thought we'd be pretty well set thanks to MegaCorp. If not for that "luck," we would not be FI today I am sure...
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Old 02-28-2011, 07:17 PM   #30
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I really made my own way . The only luck I had is that I woke up at 32 and decided to get serious about saving . I plugged away for forty years and always lived below my means .
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:04 PM   #31
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I consider myself extremely lucky. I met DW2B in 1973 when I was 18, and hit the jackpot. Seriously. I had talent and drive, but suffered badly from the 3 H's. (Hormones, Hooch and Horsepower). If not for her, I'm not sure where I would be. It is not so much about who she is, but who I am when I am with her.
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:11 PM   #32
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I consider myself extremely lucky. I met DW2B in 1973 when I was 18, and hit the jackpot. Seriously. I had talent and drive, but suffered badly from the 3 H's. (Hormones, Hooch and Horsepower). If not for her, I'm not sure where I would be. It is not so much about who she is, but who I am when I am with her.
Good thing, 'cause that urinating in the sink trick might have gotten out of hand...
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:16 PM   #33
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Good thing, 'cause that urinating in the sink trick might have gotten out of hand...
Absolutely - once we'd met she taught me to take the dishes out first
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:26 PM   #34
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Absolutely - once we'd met she taught me to take the dishes out first
What were you taking out first before that?
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:50 AM   #35
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Well, if one measures success with the typical financial yardstick, I am not filthy rich but doing quite OK with my networth in the low 7-figure range.

Was luck involved? I am sure it was, although my share of luck was not sufficiently adundant to extend to the fate of the start-up companies that I joined. They went bankrupt instead of prospering to the IPO point so that I could cash out and live happily forever after. No luck there, as my friends and I toiled way harder than we ever did at our previous megacorps. In fact, I would have been better financially if I had stayed with the megacorp I left when I was 40.

College education? So many people have that. A well-paid job? I was not paid exceptionally better than coworkers at past megacorps. No stock option for this guy. No lucky windfall from some outperforming stocks either. In fact, I would do much better if I had been simply accumulating Berkshire Hathaway shares in my life. I knew about Buffet, but never spent the time to research and look into buying the stock. I wonder if people would call me lucky if I did that.

In some past posts, I have told about my parents suffering from a couple of "black swans" that practically wiped them out, but they recovered both times by making the right choices. Still, I guess luck allowed the right happenstance to occur to them.

Will I stay lucky to enjoy a long healthy life into my 80s, and then to go to bed one night and to die peacefully in my sleep? I dunno. I am trying to help my luck by keeping my weight and blood pressure low, and by not indulging in risky activities.
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Old 03-01-2011, 04:09 AM   #36
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Just sheer luck. I was compulsorily laid off in a massive downsizing of one of our public shipyards.
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Old 03-01-2011, 08:00 AM   #37
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I chose:

You make your own luck. (I got lucky, but it was only useful because I had already spent years accumulating knowledge and assets that let me take advantage of it.)

And I think the line from your OP is very important:

having the resources, strength, and knowledge to take advantage of that lucky break weren't important, too

And not just 'lucky breaks', but opportunities. I can't tell you how many people I worked with that passed up golden opportunities. You'd explain it to them, and they are just "well, I don't know...."

It would be easy to vote "some of both", that's true also, and depending on my mood, and frame of reference, "None of it was Luck", might get my vote. Many of us can point to some good luck that helped, but since I don't dwell on the negative, I could probably make a long list of bad luck that held me back if I thought about it. Maybe enough to offset the 'good luck'? I know plenty of people who dwell on every little bad thing that happened to them (that they let happen, usually), and to them, that is the "reason" they never succeeded. Heck, get over it, move on, learn from it, get to work!

-ERD50
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Old 03-01-2011, 08:22 AM   #38
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The #1 reason I was able to retire at 36 is that I learned to recognize and act on opportunity when it came my way. So: made my own luck, but very humble about it because it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg proposition. While the opportunities originated beyond me, they would've passed by if I hadn't been alert.
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Old 03-01-2011, 08:58 AM   #39
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I voted some of both.
I'll take personal credit for LBYM, working hard, and pursuing jobs with more responsibility (and risk) that led to more pay and stock options.

I don't take credit for being blessed with the ability to be an engineer and my parents willingness to fund an education that made it all possible.

Looking back, the biggest piece of luck was being denied a job at GM when I interviewed them in 1978. If I'd taken this, I probably would have stayed until they laid me off 2 years ago at age 58 with no medical and the company stock worthless. Instead, I worked for a different megacorp and retired with medical benefits, a pension, and stock options that are significantly in the money. I can't take credit for this smart decision. It was luck.

Lorne
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:52 AM   #40
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Not many are expressing thanks for their nature. I think that this board is filled with lots of people who by nature are smart and highly disciplined. Lucky folks all! Character (and circumstance) is destiny. I can't answer the poll because the choices don't fit with how I think how I and other people end up where they are.
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