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An observation of the ER forum folks...me included...
Old 12-22-2007, 10:50 AM   #1
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An observation of the ER forum folks...me included...

I am nearing 50 years old, married, no kids, and have had everything paid off for the past several years...everything looks pretty rosy. I work for the Feds, so I am shackled by "The Golden Handcuffs" benefits package.

Probably much like most of you. And every day I plan, doing my time, knowing I will be able to gain my freedom in the near future to follow my dreams. However I have regrets. (Possibly suffering a man's version of "change of life"?). If I had done it differently, (20-20 hindsight), when I were younger, I think I would have gone into business for myself.

Most of us on these forums work(ed) for someone else. Big businesses/institutions, the military, federal govt, etc. Maybe because it is "safe", had benefits, and paid OK. Not as many folks that have their own businesses seem to retire early and be on these forums. Maybe the passion of self employment makes life more enjoyable...

Any of you have these feelings or regrets? Does this make sense? How do you cope?
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Regrets?
Old 12-22-2007, 12:18 PM   #2
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Regrets?

Yes, from to time, but on the other hand, I am the head of a huge business unit, so it is in some ways akin to being in business for myself...I do not have daily or weekly reporting, only a simple monthly report besides the financials, a more in depth quarterly, and a solid half yearly report to do. When cash is needed, I need to find it. When there are problems, the buck stops here. On the other hand, it belongs to the shareholders (megacorp), not me. I set the direction, but only within parameters.

I guess you could say that doing what I am doing has given me the education and experience to do something on my own very successfully. So, yes to second thoughts and regrets, but usually only for a nanosecond.

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Old 12-22-2007, 12:24 PM   #3
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No. I am quite pleased with my decisions over my 49 years of life, but I no more expect to
be 100% correct with those than I expect to have every stock purchase pay off. I do not
ding myself for not having a perfect record.

I have no regrets over being a bottom level peon programmer for my 27 year career.
Almost zero stress, reliable and steadily increasing income, and enough of it to find
the door when conditions worsened in 2006. Friends who tried their own businesses
were usually under constant pressure and worked far more hours than the 40 I normally
put in. Some people have to be their own boss, and chaff under the supervision of others,
but I learned to deal with it, mainly by not letting work intrude into the rest of my life.
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Old 12-22-2007, 12:31 PM   #4
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My dad was the epitomy of the government staffer: secure lifetime career track, pension, 45 years on the job. I wanted no part of indentured servitude, but early in my career wouldn't have had the guts to be an entrepreneur in a bad economy. I became a physician because I figured there would always be something I could do. I'm "employed" by a university, but most of my income is contracted for clinical work and flows through my professional corporation. There is no golden handshake or pension; in fact, I have to pay the university for the privilege of being a faculty member! I have amassed a lot of marketable experience and am planning to ER within the next five years to use my experience in consulting for profit. I don't mind being entrepreneurial so long as I don't have to bet the farm!
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Old 12-22-2007, 12:44 PM   #5
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Retired military and no regrets. I enjoyed my time in the service, but I did have those entrepreneurial yearnings you're talking about. It has worked out well for me--I can still start a business if I want (and I have), and doingt now rather than as a young whipper-snapper has a lot of benefits:
-- I've built up a nest egg and earned some benefits. If the new biz fails, we're not eating dog food and this takes a lot of the pressure off.
-- I've built some experience and skills. If I'd started right out of HS or college, I'd be competing with a pack of other hustlers with nothing more than motivation to set me apart. That's a tough spot. This is better.
-- The support offered by the paternalistic big employer (medical plan, vacation, sick days, etc) is a good fit for when you are raising a family. Yes, I wish I'd been hoe more and that I hadn't had to serve for months away from home, but a small entrepreneur has long hours, too, and no net under the family.

Happy with the choices and no regrets.
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Old 12-22-2007, 01:02 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Redbugdave View Post
Most of us on these forums work(ed) for someone else. Big businesses/institutions, the military, federal govt, etc. Maybe because it is "safe", had benefits, and paid OK. Not as many folks that have their own businesses seem to retire early and be on these forums. Maybe the passion of self employment makes life more enjoyable...
There are a few entrepreneurs here. Personally, I was never attracted to megacorp or a government job because I wanted my individual contribution to count in a big way. Big fish, small pond > small fish, big pond.

But that level of responsibility, especially if you own your own business, becomes a burden after a while. It's a true ball and chain. Even vacations are pretty much verboten.

So, yeah, it can be enjoyable and fulfilling, but it can also drive you strongly towards ER.
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Old 12-22-2007, 01:34 PM   #7
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I suggest that you read some of Thefed's recent posts on transitioning from a wage slave to business on his own....I have known several former government workers going into business on their own but not the other way around....
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Old 12-22-2007, 01:43 PM   #8
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The grass is always greener on the other side. I own my own small business ( dentist) and believe me there are plenty of days I wished that all I had to do was come in, do my job, and go home. Instead I have to deal with employees not doing there job or not getting along with each other, patients or ins. cos. not paying their bills, etc. Not to mention the taxes and paper work that goes along with it. Working for someone or owning your own, it can still drive you to ER.
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Old 12-22-2007, 02:25 PM   #9
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I go to work, do my job for eight hours, leave it all there when I go home, they give me a paycheck for the same amount every two weeks, take care of all my medical and plan for my retirement with a pension. Working for a megacorp certainly does have its benifits, but it does make people stagnant. That is why after I retire early, I plan on starting a small business.
One problem today is that corporations are cutting back benifits to lower costs and stay competitive, so the the type of job I have is getting harder to find. It is more important now, more than ever, to plan for one's future.
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Old 12-22-2007, 03:15 PM   #10
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It seems like you have to get the round pegs into the round holes, the square pegs into the square holes and so on and so forth.......

We hear many stories on this board of extremely anguished veteran MegaCorp or government employees being driven whacko by the dumbness/numbness of their long term jobs yet are locked to them with golden handcuffs. Others, in business for themselves or working for a series of small employers, are miserable from the insecurity and stress and crave the stability of a large employer or government job. Clearly, one size does not fit all.......

I do believe that going forward there will be fewer and fewer paternalistic employers (including governments) providing lifelong, all encompassing benefits and a relatively sheltered work environment. More and more folks will need to fend for themselves and be ready to compete everyday.

I've always been somewhat short on true entrepreneural spirit myself but am thankful folks with that inclination exist or they wouldn't be creating private sector jobs or paying the taxes for prublic sector jobs. So, entrepreneurs, my hat is off to ya!
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Old 12-22-2007, 03:25 PM   #11
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I never really wanted to be an entrepreneur after seeing what dad the inveterate self employed guy went through. When I was a kid, he got up at 2AM to go to work and typically would not get home until after 2PM. He was quite successful, but dealt with a ton of BS and had fun things to do, like showing up at 4AM on aSUnday because the burglar alarm went off. Then when Iwas in college his business went bankrupt and he had to start again from scratch.

OTOH, dealing with megacorp can be hugely frustrating, especially in the more ossified places that expect you to put your time in before taking the next step, regardless of actual ability. So I guess its really a case of pick your poison.
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Old 12-22-2007, 03:40 PM   #12
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I'm sure somebody can come up with a less crude way of putting it, but a business owner without an exit strategy is like sex without climax. It probably seems like fun for a while.
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Old 12-22-2007, 03:53 PM   #13
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I spent 20+ years maintaining code for the USAF. A small cog in a giant wheel. Was my work necessary/important/meaningful? Somebody had to do it. When you have an air force, you have to track inventory.

A large part of retirement (for me anyway) has been all the open fields of time. I unexpectedly found myself confronting memories, decisions, ideas, introspection. I have come to terms with them all.

What was done can't be undone.

Something I saw someplace: "There's no such thing as 'should have'."

Only a very small percent of the population is going to have a 'dream job': the perfect confluence of talent, education, desire, and opportunity. The rest of us do what we can; and if we're lucky it's not all that bad.

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Old 12-22-2007, 04:09 PM   #14
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You guys are very insightful and your reasoning helps. Most of you have been there, I am sure. I guess it's like mn54 said, "the grass is greener on the other side". But working for megacorp, the Feds, etc. can sure make you stagnant and not very well in control of your environment sometimes. That's why I think being self employed has it's benefits. The more you put in...the more you get out? Although that's me looking from the outside in... I'll do a search and read Thefeds posts.
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Old 12-22-2007, 04:14 PM   #15
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if i could do it all over again i would have made a whole different set of mistakes.
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Old 12-22-2007, 04:24 PM   #16
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I had a small business for a year and a half, manufacturing scientific equipment that I designed while working on my B.S.E.E. and assembled on my kitchen table. I made more money per hour of my time, than I have ever made in my life and my only advertising was by word of mouth.

On the other hand (and this is kind of a secret), I absolutely HATED it. The fun of design ends once it is done, and the rest of the business was a pain in the rear. I became really good at wire wrap, but that has never been one of my driving ambitions in life. I detested the business aspects such as record keeping, money, legal issues, and taxes, all of which seemed almost as boring as wire wrap to me. I am a "security junkie" and I like my benefits package and job security as a federal employee.

At the time I shut down my fledgling business, I had more demand for my product than I could meet, but I couldn't take it any longer. I just am not of the temperament to run my own business. Some are, some aren't, and what we all need is to know ourselves well enough to know what we want so that we can find it.
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Old 12-22-2007, 04:26 PM   #17
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RBDave, I'm not sure my risk-averse nature would have allowed me to comfortably go into business for myself. Although I am always grateful for achieving FIRE at 52, a part of me does wish that I had had the type of career satisfaction where exiting the work world in my early fifties would have been unthinkable. But as Khan noted, very few people really have those dream jobs/businesses. And I wouldn't have wanted to find myself in the position where I loved my job or business but it suddenly ended/changed for whatever reason and I had no exit strategy or backup plans.
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Old 12-22-2007, 04:28 PM   #18
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Any of you have these feelings or regrets? Does this make sense? How do you cope?
I have a few... but then again, too few to mention...

I think many on this board have expressed regret at not finding a "magic formula" (or the discipline at an even younger age) to ER even sooner. And the business owners for whom entrepreneurship is their avocation-- well, they can't even spell "ER" and you're certainly not gonna find them on this board.

My regrets are more along the lines of "I wish I'd gotten along better with that guy" or "Geez, I really wish I hadn't moved that switch to the wrong position". But lots of introspection has made me better at figuring out what the problems were back then and how to avoid them in the future. So hopefully I've learned from my mistakes (if not always from someone else's) and I'll do better next time.

However those mistakes also sowed the seeds of ER. The conflict implied behind those feelings is what made me take the reins of my own career and plan for my own future instead of letting my employer do it for me. If I'd been blissfully sucking up the party line and sacrificing everything to megamilitarycorp then today I'd no doubt be an O-6 wondering what happened to my life while I was working so hard.

As for starting your own business while you were younger-- what advantages did we have when we were younger? Boundless optimism? Endless enthusiasm? Blissful ignorance in your ability to make it work? Or just the ability to work harder and not smarter? You have a lifetime of learning & experience under your belt and maybe all of that has contributed to make you a much better entrepreneur in your 50s than you ever would have been in your 20s. In your 20s you probably made some decisions that turned out pretty well over the next couple decades, and you can still make new decisions in your 50s. There are plenty of people in the SBA, the Experience Corps, SCORE, and other professional societies who want to help you if that's what you still want to do.

Otherwise we can only do the best we can with what we've been given. And tomorrow we should be looking forward, not back.

By the way I can't tell you how many entrepreneurs and small business owners I've talked with and read about who are very thankful for their military Reserve careers to fall back on if necessary.
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Old 12-22-2007, 04:51 PM   #19
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No regrets for me. I was a police officer for 29 years. I worked 18 years on the road, then Fraud, then computer crime - that's a long story. If I was 22 I'd do it again, that was often a wild ride, but police work is a young person's job. Going through "burnout" that about 80% of officers go through - finding the line between caring enough to want to do a good job and not caring so much that it comes home with you.

It is hard, for example, to be at the scene of a suicide in which some guy has poured gasoline over himself and ignited it, and the next day go to a backyard pig roast and see that the skin on the pig looks just like the skin on the guy who immolated himself. "I'll just have the potato salad, thanks." It is distressing to be at a wintertime accident scene on I-495 and look up, just in time, to see a tractor-trailer coming sideways and grab my recruit (I was a training officer) by the collar and dive over the jersey wall to keep from becoming roadkill. It's hard to look at the dead body of a 9-year-old girl.

But it was also a very rewarding, even with all the frustrations, tedium, boredom, paperwork and exhaustion. There are a half-dozen people out there who are definitely alive today because of me, and dozens of probables. Having to knock on some guy's door and tell him that his wife is dead from a car accident, and doing so in a manner such that he thanked me. He was Russian, had been in the country about six months and hadn't the foggiest idea of what to do or where to go for help - I spent four hours with him, and he was astonished that the police would do that. In Russia, in about a week or so somebody might remember to call and tell you where to pick up the body.

Being able to emphasize with a 15-year old boy whose father had a heart attack and fell over in the hallway - my father died the same way when I was 22. A year later the kid pulls up next to me at a traffic light and said "You handled that very well". One of the best "thank yous" I ever got.

The only time in my life when I felt such rage that I seriously wanted to kill someone happened when I looked into the eyes of a woman who had just been raped and saw the pain, terror, and shame there. She had brown eyes, and nothing to be ashamed of. But I was able to calm her and she thanked me for it. Later I walked side streets for hours with a flashlight in one hand and a 12-gauge in the other looking for that guy, thinking "If he does ONE THING that I can articulate to a grand jury that constitutes a threat to me or someone else, I'm going to kill him". It's probably a good thing I didn't find him.

Being at the scene of a car accident and seeing the expression of relief on a pretty girl's face when I told her that no, the trickle of blood from a minor cut on her forehead does not mean she's disfigured for life. Pursuing a car with a kidnapping victim inside - her "boyfriend" said he was going to kill her - doing 4-wheel drifts in the turns at 110 mph through the "Rock Creek Roller Coaster" (495 at the Mormon Temple) at 3:00 am in the rain and hoping I didn't make my wife a wealthy widow. The look given to me during a trial by the mother of a 7-year-old girl who had been molested, whose story I was able to corroborate down to the minute by examining a computer hard drive, was worth the five years I'd spent to acquire the knowledge and skills to do that. And a thousand other things.... I did what I wanted to do, what I set out to do.

I made a difference.
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Old 12-22-2007, 04:57 PM   #20
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Only a very small percent of the population is going to have a 'dream job': the perfect confluence of talent, education, desire, and opportunity. The rest of us do what we can; and if we're lucky it's not all that bad.
I agree. My ex now has a career that many dream of, but few manage. She actually supports herself playing music supplemented by some teaching.

Yet she was stressed out all the time, always complaining about this that or the other aspect of her work life. And, from my POV not unreasonably. The paymasters in that field feel they can buy musicians body and soul. There is never any security and benefits are few and far between.

Once I talked to a guy I know who teaches drums. He says he has 5 days a week filled with students. I said, "Oh man that sounds hard." He answered, "That’s why they call it work." As an ER, I was already out of touch with workaday reality.

Ha
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