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Old 08-04-2010, 10:17 AM   #21
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Ahhh... go for it.
Alright - but only 'cause you asked.

I was able to FIRE because I was born and raised in the US and grew up in the age of prosperity. During my childhood we never lived in a city or a large metropolitan area and moved frequently but there were always good public schools and health care nearby, and I needed both .

My teen (high school) years are a classic story of overcoming adversity. I continually made bad choices but my teachers, school authorities and the local sheriffs insisted on giving me second chances and new opportunities. They prevailed and I graduated unblemished and unrecorded.

Got lots of help going to college Ė grants, scholarships and loans Ė and also always had a good job and opportunity to earn and pay as well. When I got laid off in the cafeteria, a group of fellow students & workers cut back on their own schedule to free the days to hire me back.

After college I went to work for a large US based global corporation and reached a senior management position just when stock options were becoming fashionable, so I got a bunch even though I never really did anything to earn them. They became valuable; I collected them and managed to save some of the money.

We (DW&I) worked hard for many years, saved when others spent, and made some smart choices. I was fortunate to be born in a country that enables opportunity and rewards achievement.
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Old 08-04-2010, 10:49 AM   #22
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Aside from driving a few fellow forum members nuts, I have no regrets about my decisions.
So have you had the "We want you back!" phone call yet?
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Old 08-04-2010, 11:24 AM   #23
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So have you had the "We want you back!" phone call yet?
Funny you should ask...

But I am holding firm, and in fact may give up one of my two side-gigs (including phasing out of original position) sooner than originally planned. It's getting in the way of our travel plans.

Still adjusting but I like being FIREd more than I would have guessed.
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Old 08-04-2010, 11:30 AM   #24
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I did not forsee being able to retire early until I was in my late 30s (late 1990s). However, besides always LBYM, these are the key decisions which led to my ER in late 2008 at age 45:

(1) Knowing at age 20 that I never wanted to have kids.

(2) Paying off my student loans (only about $8k) by age 24.

(3) Starting to invest in mutual funds at age 27.

(4) Refinancing my mortgage at age 28.

(5) Starting to invest in stock mutual funds at age 31.

(6) Paying off my mortgage at age 35.

(7) Semi-retiring at age 38 so I could reclaim my life and lessen my lousy commute.

(8) Being lucky enough to work for a company which went from not-for-profit to for-profit in the mid-1990s and whose company stock rose 3000% in 12 years.

(9) Found a good, high-yield (not junk) bond fund to invest proceeds ($300k) of the company stock when the economic downturn depressed its NAV in late 2008 to boost my ongoing monthly dividends. (See my signature line.)

No kids, no debts. My recipe for retiring at age 45.
Scrabbler, sorry if this is common knowledge as I'm new here, but what did you do when you semi-retired? Did you cut back on hours at your current job or did you go in a new direction completely?
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Old 08-04-2010, 11:34 AM   #25
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I love that word "meatgrinder." It's so ... vivid and accurate.
Hear about the butcher who sat back on his meat grinder? He a got a little behind in his work.

Didn't mean to hi-jack the thread - these are good stories.

We just spent the afternoon with 3 cousins of my wife and their spouses. We are all retired and all came from very similar, very poor backgrounds, and we did discuss the occupations and routes to ER that we all have taken. All fascinating stories both in the working years and in retirement.
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Old 08-04-2010, 12:11 PM   #26
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It seems easy in retrospect, not so much at the time.

Still, graduate from top business school at 23, go to Wall Street as an Investment Banker, save more than you spend and retire at 38.

I do, however, have a recurring regret from having left the Street so early... it happens the same time each year... what would have been bonus day!
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Not FIREd: The benefits of frugality
Old 08-04-2010, 12:55 PM   #27
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Not FIREd: The benefits of frugality

This story isn't about how I became FIREd. It is a story about frugal living. You decide whether it is a story of success

From day one my wife and I believed three things: 1. Pensions are unlikely. 2. Ditto for Social Security as we now know it. 3. Early retirement is a good goal.

We started our frugal habits early in the marriage. How many couples:
*Come out of grad school with no debt, and a sizeable profit?
*Can count on one hand the pieces of furniture they've purchased new vs inherited or bought used and refinished?
*Still drive their first car?
*Still live in their first home?
*Regularly shop at thrift stores?

Despite good habits, I didnít pay attention to our savings. When our child was born I began to get curious about how much we had for college.

After her birth I noticed shortness of breath. Long story short: I got a call from a cardiologist saying "You have one year to live." I was 31. My -to brief- life flashed before my eyes; all youthful illusions of immortality ended. I think that moment marks the end of my youth, and the beginning of my adulthood. Fortunately the doctor followed it with "Unless you have surgery."

Surgery worked, and I got very serious about saving money so my family could be provided for in case of future problems.

Our frugality allowed my wife to cut back at her job, spending half-time with our daughters.

All went well for several years. I advanced steadily in my career, and health was good. I got a career opportunity that seemed too good to pass up, becoming the director of the local Chamber of Commerce. My wife decided to work 3/4 time. Money was coming in nicely, and life was good.

Then the governing board of my Chamber had a change in leadership. We no longer saw eye-to-eye. When the atmosphere became toxic I decided to reap the benefits of my frugality-I exercised my F.U. money option. I figured to find another job with relative ease. My last day was two weeks before Lehmans brothers went bust. Immediate hiring freezes. Ouch. Imagine my stress level. Fortunately, frugality and prior savings meant we had no real worries.

After a few months my wife got her dream job and went to work full-time. Meanwhile my heart problem decided to throw a new wrinkle our direction. Again, I went through surgery to correct it. The surgery didn't work. I now find myself only able to comfortably work half time. I'm Mr. Mom the rest of the week. I work around the house and chase after our kids. I had no idea how much I would love it! Our live below your means lifestyle allowed us to role with the punches, turning a potential nightmare into a blessing in our lives.

I shudder to think what could've happened in the last two years. I wouldn't have been able to extricate myself from the hostile work environment. And, despite my ongoing health problem, I would need to work full-time. I would not have the energy I need to be the Dad my kids deserve.

There you have it. Iím 38 now, and can only work half-time for the foreseeable future. I have a nest egg about 1/3 of what I want for retirement. Life hasnít gone according to plan. Not FIREd, but plan to be by our mid 50s. Still loving life thanks to our frugal lifestyle. I think that is a success, donít you?
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Old 08-04-2010, 01:00 PM   #28
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Scrabbler, sorry if this is common knowledge as I'm new here, but what did you do when you semi-retired? Did you cut back on hours at your current job or did you go in a new direction completely?
After I paid off the mortgage in 1998, I was awash in money because one biweekly (full-time) paycheck more than covered my monthly expenses. I was also becoming more miserable at my (full-time) job, a misery which increased when my company in May of 2001 moved from lower Manhattan to Jersey City, New Jersey. This lengthened an already barely tolerable commute.

This relocation had been announced in 1999 so my depressioin at this commute only worsened. In early 2001, before and after our relocation, I was in negotiations to switch to a part-time, mostly telecommuting arrangement which enabled me to work from home most of the time while making the trip from my home on Long Island to NJ only one day a week. The kind of work I did, mainly computer programming, lent itself to telecommuting.

In anticipation of this big change, I was lining up my volunteer work with local schools and resurrecting another evening hobby I had not been able to do for 13 years because I was just too damned tired after coming home from work.

Living on a paycheck which was about 47% lower (before taxes) and 40% lower (after taxes) was not a problem, as I was still able to add to my savings and retain medical insurance and some other prorated benefits. But in 2003, the company ended its open-ended telecommuting but allowed me to continue working part-time. I just had to put in all my hours at the office, bringing back the horrors of more frequent commuting to NJ (3 days a week). I knew this would eventually be my undoing.

In 2007, after nearly 4 years of that, I asked to have my weekly hours further reduced, from 20 to 12. This eliminated one weekly trip to NJ and got me home an hour earlier on the remaining two days. I did this in an effort to stop (or slow) the burnout which had returned after the telecommuting had ended.

But that lasted for only 17 months. I knew even in 2007 that I was probably going to leave the company by the end of 2008. The only way I could put an end to the bad commute was to leave for good. As you can see in my signature line, I cashed out my company stock which had continued to grow whether I was working P/T or F/T, took the money, invested it in a bond fund, and easily live off the interest.

I still do my volunteer work and evening hobby, both of which made easier and have been expanded due to not working any more.

But for me, eliminating something awful (the commute) was more important than finding something positive to do. However, the aforementioned positive things I can now do are fun.
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Retired in late 2008 at age 45. Cashed in company stock, bought a lot of shares in a big bond fund and am living nicely off its dividends. IRA, SS, and a pension await me at age 60 and later. No kids, no debts.

"I want my money working for me instead of me working for my money!"
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Old 08-04-2010, 01:37 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by scrabbler1 View Post
I did not forsee being able to retire early until I was in my late 30s (late 1990s). However, besides always LBYM, these are the key decisions which led to my ER in late 2008 at age 45:

(1) Knowing at age 20 that I never wanted to have kids.

(2) Paying off my student loans (only about $8k) by age 24.

(3) Starting to invest in mutual funds at age 27.

(4) Refinancing my mortgage at age 28.

(5) Starting to invest in stock mutual funds at age 31.

(6) Paying off my mortgage at age 35.

(7) Semi-retiring at age 38 so I could reclaim my life and lessen my lousy commute.

(8) Being lucky enough to work for a company which went from not-for-profit to for-profit in the mid-1990s and whose company stock rose 3000% in 12 years.

(9) Found a good, high-yield (not junk) bond fund to invest proceeds ($300k) of the company stock when the economic downturn depressed its NAV in late 2008 to boost my ongoing monthly dividends. (See my signature line.)

No kids, no debts. My recipe for retiring at age 45.
Number 8 probably helped ya the most..........
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Old 08-04-2010, 02:05 PM   #30
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Number 8 probably helped ya the most..........
Yes, #8 was a big help. But many of my former coworkers own more shares than I did and they could not (or would not) retire at a young age. Without #8, I would have had either a much different ER plan to retire at 45 or else I would have had to work more years P/T.
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Retired in late 2008 at age 45. Cashed in company stock, bought a lot of shares in a big bond fund and am living nicely off its dividends. IRA, SS, and a pension await me at age 60 and later. No kids, no debts.

"I want my money working for me instead of me working for my money!"
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Old 08-04-2010, 06:44 PM   #31
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The decision not to have kids and paying off our mortgage before we are 40 are the keys to our FIRE plans. DW thinks she would like to work until 50, and she is okay with me bowing out at 45... she's a keeper, without a doubt.

Mortgage free, we should we able to save 70-80k per year... our plans rest completely on our ability to pull this off... a job loss for either one of us would torpedo pretty much everything. I'm having some trouble trying to figure out what the minimum amount of $ we need to live a decent, not overly deprived, existence. I don't want to have to go back to work.
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Old 08-04-2010, 09:56 PM   #32
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Almost accidental.
Found Motley Fool then REHP and realized I was only spending a small amount of my income.
Went to a retirement seminar and found a loophole and pension supplement.
Realized I spent less than $25K/year.
Took an early retirement at age 54 (Dec 2004)with full medical benefits.
Lost much weight, health improved in many ways.
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Old 08-05-2010, 10:07 AM   #33
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Around 1980 (age 27) a friend got me interested in investing. I read this book:

Amazon.com: Money Dynamics: How to Build Financial Independence (9780879095161): Venita Van…

and the first version of this:

Amazon.com: The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need: Andrew Tobias: Books

Our first $10,000 of investment was mostly wasted on two tax shelter limited partnerships sold to us by an unscrupulous financial planner. Namely, an investment in a company that did stuff with bull sperm to make it yield more female calves, and a real estate investment trust. We got essentially $0 back from those investments (once we received a check for 31 cents). OTOH, they saved us about $4,000 in taxes.

Having learned our lesson, we stuck with mutual funds from then on.

My career went from research scientist to computer programmer (educational games) to manager to consultant to independent software developer. Lena's from chemical engineer to CAD something-or-other to facilities management.

My software business lost $30,000 in one year, but as the Internet blossomed, it allowed me to compete with the big companies, so I did OK from then on.

A natural frugality and an early start are the things that made it possible for me to retire early. If I were doing it over, I would have been much more frugal, aiming to retire at age 40 or so.
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Old 08-05-2010, 12:34 PM   #34
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Old 08-05-2010, 02:16 PM   #35
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First, let me say that DW and I come from middle class families. It's just that the middle class lifestyle stopped abruptly for both of us when we turned 18 and moved out. Second, let's establish that DW and I were born with the frugal/saver gene (we were both taunted as kids for being cheap).

By the the time she entered graduate school, DW had already saved $15K in an IRA from odd summer jobs. By the time I entered graduate school, I had $3K in my pocket (borrowed from my dad) and a suitcase full of clothes. But I had learned to live on $500 per month or less for the past 5-6 years (by necessity mind you). So we had the frugal/saving thing down to a science.

When DW and I hooked up, we quickly decided to live in sin. We were able to combine our low incomes into one decent household income and by living together, we were able to save a bundle on rent, utilities, food etc... As a result, we managed to graduate not only with zero student loans, but actually with a combined net worth in excess of $100K.

After graduation, and armed with 2 PhDs, we started making good money on the first day. That allowed us to max out our retirement accounts right away. We loosened up the purse strings a bit, but remained frugal, saving at least 30% of our income. We were pretty good at saving, but knew nothing about investing and we made some classic money mistakes (like hiring a commission-based financial advisor). We finally wised up a couple of years later. After doing a lot of reading, I decided to take control of our portfolio.

The transition from good savers to frantic savers happened some time in 2004 IIRC. At the time, we realized that our good jobs were all but secure. Our companies had gone through several rounds of layoffs and attrition and this was a great source of stress for us. We started to yearn for more financial security. That's when I found "Work Less, Live More" and ER.org (though is took me a few years to register and join the conversation). It was a revelation. We started tracking our expenses and cutting the fluff, we increased our savings rate and reallocated our portfolio with ER in mind. We later moved to a lower cost of living area and gained employment with firms that offered better income prospects.

Six years later, our efforts have paid off though luck played an important part. DW ended up working for a company offering very generous merit-based compensation (bonuses, stock-options). The stock-options in particular allowed us to reach our goal much sooner than we could have ever anticipated.
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Old 08-07-2010, 11:14 AM   #36
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Got married at 19. DH and I worked in low paying jobs - I was a bank teller and he was a landscape laborer. We still managed to save money and lived simply. Within a few years, we realized a college education would help us get better jobs. We worked and put each other through college. Never got a student loan - just paid as we went. This taught us to be financially responsible.

We both got good paying jobs and lived on one salary. The other salary went toward savings. After about 20 years, we had saved enough to be financially independent.

I left work in January 2008. DH expects to retire within 6 months or so. I do a lot of volunteering and serve on the board of a local charity. I've also helped a number of small charities get approved by the IRS as 501(c)(3) organizations. DH wants to have a big garden when he retires. We're very happy and still very much in love.
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Old 08-07-2010, 01:22 PM   #37
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Got married at 19. DH and I worked in low paying jobs - I was a bank teller and he was a landscape laborer. We still managed to save money and lived simply. Within a few years, we realized a college education would help us get better jobs. We worked and put each other through college. Never got a student loan - just paid as we went. This taught us to be financially responsible.

We both got good paying jobs and lived on one salary. The other salary went toward savings. After about 20 years, we had saved enough to be financially independent.

I left work in January 2008. DH expects to retire within 6 months or so. I do a lot of volunteering and serve on the board of a local charity. I've also helped a number of small charities get approved by the IRS as 501(c)(3) organizations. DH wants to have a big garden when he retires. We're very happy and still very much in love.
Nice story, kind of a fairy tale in the good sense.

I think couples who team up and help get each other through the ups and downs over the long haul have something special going on.
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Old 08-09-2010, 03:02 PM   #38
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I wanted to thank you for sharing your success stories. Very inspiring and interesting to read .
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Old 08-09-2010, 08:51 PM   #39
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Me Too!!
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Old 09-09-2010, 05:22 PM   #40
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My Story:
My story:
Born in a third world country.
Escape because of the war, live in refugee camp, and got sponsored by a Canadian church.
Grew up in big family, and lived poorly (but as happy child).
Went to University. Met a girl, got married, and have two kids .
Knew I wanted more in life but had to sacrifice (LLBYM). Bought a house, paid it off early. Bought three triplexes in rough shape and put a lot of sweat equity.
Now at 36 years old. Triplexes almost paid off. Can stop working as rent income can cover expenses but will work till 40 to add more padding to the nest egg. Who knows I might still like w*rking but if I don’t I know that I can quit my job.
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