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Starting Over
Old 01-17-2018, 10:47 AM   #1
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Starting Over

Hello ER community,

I'd like to tell everyone that I am High On Life, and here is my intro story:

I grew up in a high achievement culture, starting with a zero balance at 18. My chosen career was (and is) extremely volatile, with good long-term potential for those who are talented, but low earnings up front (think: hundred-hour weeks on pure commission and no sleep, bringing in 6k-30k the first decade but quickly jumping up to six figures after that). I paid off school loans immediately, worked hard, spent close to nothing on my way, and basically postponed living--like you do when you are poor and responsible. At the time, CD rates were around 6%, and I thought "if I only had 100k, I could cover the rent," so I made financial independence a priority.

Fast forward to age 33--my job was finally picking up, and my churchgoing wife and I found ourselves closing in on a major savings milestone that would allow me to ease off a bit and re-claim my health and time. The very second we hit that milestone she filed for divorce and left the state, telling me she was coming after the money. She took slightly more than half of our $600k estate, plus left me with a string of tax liabilities that our lawyers had not addressed. I was left with the house and some savings to get me through about a year of the unemployment which followed--which I put into oil and gas stocks right before the sector completely bottomed out, losing 80% of my investment. So instead of slowing down, I had to backtrack to "almost" the beginning, and continued to sprint albeit in panic mode, having lost my job, my savings, and my family.

I right away started my own company, which allowed me to continue in my chosen career path and secure my earning potential. I decided that if I wanted to learn how rich people managed their money, I needed to hear it from the horse's mouth. I discovered FIRE blogs and this forum. I became a Boglehead, and corrected a lot of the errors I was making. My business has continued to be volatile but is on an upward trend.

My income is regularly six figures now, but I still struggle with wanting a reliable income stream during those slow periods when nothing is coming in for six months or more. My ex previously filled that space with her low, but steady, income, while mine was volatile and much higher. I have em savings, but tapping into them puts me psychologically "back on the streets" with the feeling that the ship is sinking and we are all going to die. I keep around 50k in cash but realize I need to raise that amount to sleep at night. I have also considered real estate for regular income, however I am aware of my limits, and after a hostile divorce am leery of entangling my financial security with other people (renters), since I've seen what animals other people can be. Senator's portfolio is a kind of model for me (strippers included), and I read his blog often as I consider RE.

I have arrived at a 85/15 AA. My overhead expenses are 15-18k/year, depending on how I calculate it. I would probably increase this budget after retirement so I can start living. My preferred portfolio target for retirement is 2m, but I could survive off less (750k-1m). My portfolio is currently at 550k. Since I run my own business, I pay ~50% in income taxes. I recently turned 36. Every time I look at my portfolio I see the void of that missing 100k that I earned after tax but was taken from me in the divorce. But I am learning to let that (and the time it represents) go.

I want to have enough money that I could cover my overhead without work and without worry, knowing that I could go eight months with no income. At half a million, I am pretty much there. At 1m I could retire, which according to cFireCalc puts me at ago 40. At 2m I could do it in style! I am still having to force myself to interrupt my monk-like survival mode with "living along the way," rather than putting my life on hold until I am old and financially independent. For instance I dream of seeing a beach, or having a fling with some foreign girl before I'm too old to get it up. My end goal is to give back to the world in ways related to my career and education.

I realize investors are no strangers to life's ups and downs. I have learned a lot about life's economics in the last few years. I tend to be very conservative, which has helped get me through and which doubtlessly will drive me through a few rounds of "just one more year" syndrome. I truly love my life and am very lucky in so many ways, not least of which is that my gold-digging wife cashed out now instead of another ten years from now, and will not share in what by every measure looks to be a solid retirement to come. Thanks for reading!

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Old 01-17-2018, 12:14 PM   #2
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Welcome HighOnLife! As you know from hanging out here, there are all kinds of paths to FIRE, and many, like you, have had challenges and detours along the road. Your experiences will likely help others just as others have helped you, so we look forward to your participation!

"One of the funny things about the stock market is that every time one person buys, another sells, and both think they are astute." William Feather
ER'd Oct. 2010 at 53. Life is good.
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Old 01-17-2018, 12:57 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum. While you may be disappointed in your investing set backs (FYI, most of us are), here is what I read:

-Age 36 with $550K in assets, that's excellent
-You own your own growing business, also excellent for FIRE purposes
-You have studied FIRE, LBYM and Bogle style investing, you have all the tools you need to reach your goals
"Oh, twice as much ain't twice as good
And can't sustain like one half could
It's wanting more that's gonna send me to my knees" - John Mayer
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Old 01-17-2018, 12:59 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forum. I too know the feeling of having to start over in the mid thirties because of a divorce and lose most of what you've worked for up until then. It can be done and has been done by many. And you're absolutely correct that it is better to have that happen sooner rather than later. You do have time to recover and you will.
I heard the call to do nothing. So I answered it.
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Old 01-17-2018, 02:06 PM   #5
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Thanks, guys! It is good to hear for newer investors like myself, of others who have conquered their setbacks. I'm on my way!
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:22 PM   #6
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The road is rarely straight. For most people, their lives are defined by how they handle setbacks.
"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." Voltaire
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:28 PM   #7
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You certainly have the right attitude (a positive one). I think you have a plan and you certainly seem dedicated to achieving your goals. Best of luck and do keep us posted.
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Old 01-17-2018, 04:00 PM   #8
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Welcome HoL, as you know the path is never a straight line. Like the stock market that many of us have used to help build our nesteggs, there are ups and downs. But there are a lot more ups than downs, and over the longer term you will do fine.

Keep up the hard work and saving what you can. Your attitude and knowledge will get you to the goal. Just remember it is OK to have some fun along the way.
The advice we're giving you is invaluable, that's why it's free
Experience is a good teacher, but the tuition can get expensive real fast

Semi-Retired 7/1/16: working part-time (60%) for now [4/24/17 changed to 80%]
Retired Aug 2, 2017; age 53
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Old 01-17-2018, 04:53 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by flintnational View Post
Welcome to the forum. While you may be disappointed in your investing set backs (FYI, most of us are), here is what I read:

-Age 36 with $550K in assets, that's excellent
-You own your own growing business, also excellent for FIRE purposes
-You have studied FIRE, LBYM and Bogle style investing, you have all the tools you need to reach your goals

My low points were a homeless stint in my early 20s, a costly divorce in my late 20's, and being a minimum wage temp in my mid-30's. Went on to earn an MBA, a decent 2nd career at mega-c*rp, and retired (comfortably) at 60 last year.

Stay the course.
Never let yesterday use up too much of today.
W. Rogers
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Old 01-17-2018, 06:29 PM   #10
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You'll be fine.

I lost all my money to Alcoholism at 29. Hence, that was my new starting point.

fast forward: married -> divorced -> remarried.

28 years later and I was able to retire (it was last month.). Not rich or anything, but I'm awfully happy with where life took me.

I learned from setbacks and was able to embrace personal change.

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Old 01-18-2018, 09:13 AM   #11
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Wow. Lots of great stories here, thanks for sharing!

OP, you hinted at it in your post. Don't forget to smell the roses along the way. It's okay to head to the beach once in a while. It's a journey you should enjoy, not just an endpoint. Cheers!
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Old 01-18-2018, 09:21 AM   #12
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You are doing very well. I certainly didn't have $550k at 36 but still retired early. Stay the course.....

Retired 3/31/2007@52
Investing style: Full time wuss.
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