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Old 08-11-2007, 06:21 PM   #41
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However, join Barbarus in shedding a tear for the legions of w*rkers who work equally hard, play by the rules and end up going nowhere.
Sign me up. Every time I hear a news story about people's pensions going away, or drive past a broiling field full of farmworkers, I think how lucky I was to stumble onto the opportunities I got along the way.
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Old 08-11-2007, 06:45 PM   #42
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It is not how much you make, it is how much you save/invest.

That being said, this thread really makes me crave gravy and biscuits! Man I miss my sweet cooking grandmother :-(
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Old 08-11-2007, 07:05 PM   #43
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i had never considered f.i. nor r.e. until it happened while i was just minding my own business and living my own life. lots of school. lots of work. lots & lots of fun. worked construction early on and saved up enough to buy a house when i got injured pretty bad and had to spend all my money during recovery.

went back to school, got a degree in communication and started working for newspapers as a total flunky at age 28 earning all of $6/hour. i was on the road to riches.

wound up with fortune 5 company winning every award they had to offer but, just as i'm about to climb the corporate ladder, mom's alzheimer's disease starts kicking in. knowing i would eventually inherit, i nixed the corporate climb to be here for mom (who i otherwise would have dragged with me, but this way she could continue enjoying her life as long as possible). i rose as far as i could in the company without leaving the area, never making more than ~$55k including benefits.

i saved up more money and managed to purchase a house in crack town about 6 years before the bubble began. i worked with the city on the code enforcement board and others to help bring up the standard of living here. we would eventually be written up on the front page of the ny times as having the greatest gains of any area in the country.

i quit what had become a very stressful job two years before mom died so i could spend more time with her and so i'd have at least 20 good years for myself before i might develop a.d.

during that time real estate crashed and so it turns out i inherited only enough to continue my e.r. if i sell my house & live overseas for a few years. actually i could continue to live as i live now but i want to build up the reserves some for a later life of boating. my life is so good i can hardly look at this downturn as misfortune. i see it as an opportunity to turn my life into an adventure. i will have to suffer playing with baby lions in south africa and helping to feed baby elephants in thailand. this so called downturn is putting me on a path that will fullfill every wish i've had ever since i was a little kid. instead of watching national geographic, i will be living it. i will make myself a wonderful life regardless of what situation i find myself in. i'm just that type of guy.

i don't care that others have more money than me. it doesn't matter one bit. in fact, almost everyone i know has more than i do. almost all my close friends earn 6 figures. and all of them still complain about their jobs. i'm done.
"off with their heads"~~dr. joseph-ignace guillotin

"life should begin with age and its privileges and accumulations, and end with youth and its capacity to splendidly enjoy such advantages."~~mark twain - letter to edward kimmitt 1901
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Old 08-11-2007, 09:03 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by barbarus View Post
What's the disconnect? Where did you guys get your tickets for the gravy train? Where are the maps to Fat City being distributed. What sort of employers are willing to make with the big sponduliks?

I don't get it.
Heres one "map" for the >100K/yr crowd...

Go to college for 5 years and get a B.S.
Go back to College 6 years and get a PhD
Go to Medical school for 4 years and get an M.D.
Do a Residency for 4 years
Take Board Exam and get Board Certified in Emergency Medicine
Find a job in late 30's and start paying back all those loans
Spend a few years trying to keep up with the Jones' until you "see the light"
LBYM and start socking it away for retirement and hope you don't burn out before you reach your goal, die or reach 65

There are many ways to FIRE and short of inheriting it all none are going to be easy
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Old 08-12-2007, 07:33 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by barbarus View Post
What's the disconnect? Where did you guys get your tickets for the gravy train? Where are the maps to Fat City being distributed. What sort of employers are willing to make with the big sponduliks?

I don't get it.
How does the ticket get punched??

DW and myself are both children of immigrants. Dad came here with $80 in his pocket, rudimentary language skills...worked his butt off to eventually get a phd and give our family a decent but modest life......inlaws struggled mightily to raise 5 kids, at one point all 7 of them were living in a 1 bedroom apt until they got evicted.....we both knew what its like to be without, and appreciate the opportunities that abound in this country for those who are willing to work.

-after high school I went right to work in the summers, forgoing the vacations and fun to help earn my keep cuz I saw how hard my dad worked

-graduated from college in 3 years magna cum laude, working every summer rather than vacationing.

-went to dental school on my own dime. Again either working or going to school every summer.

-got my DDS, got married and within a year bought my own practice

-continued to live like poor college students for 7 more years after that. Working my tail off to become a great dentist and to pay off my school loans and practice loans.

- Am I making big bucks now? Yes. Did I have to work hard for it? Yes. Was it easy? NO. Did I give up a lot to get here? Yes. I didn't even buy my first car until I was 28 yrs old. I never took any NICE vacations in the early days... the first nice one we took was after I had my practice for 5 years and my son was 3 yrs old.... We kept the same junkie furniture that we had from college and added hand me downs and cast offs to furnish our home.

Life is great, and really when you look at it, has always been good, but when people see this fat cat and his gravy train, they need to see the dumpster this cat came from first.

and speaking of dumpsters, my first job involved in part loading trash into dumpsters, crawling through them to unjam them at times.
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:16 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by barbarus View Post
One in which wage slaves who hold bachelors, if not graduate, degrees will never, no matter what they do, break $50K per annum. Some would look at hitting $40K as a bonanza!
I'm including folks with technical and scientific degrees too.
I think the majority of posters on this board "worked hard for what they got" and probably take exception to comments like "Fat City" and "Gravy Train".

But I do agree with your "college educated wage slave" observation.

Globalization has wiped out America's blue collar middle class - radically depressing wages and reducing benefits for less skilled labor.

I think the same strain is coming for "college educated white collar middle class". US colleges are cranking out gobs of degrees. Tons of US white collar functions are "off-shorable".

Combination of increase in supply of college degrees and reduction in demand due to offshoring and white collar productivity increases is going to pur a lot of pressure on "generic bachelor degree" white collar aspirations.
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:21 AM   #47
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Wow, this thread is immensely cathartic and empowering to me!

I have always always felt pooh-poohed by the people in my life whom I mention my plan to f.i.r.e. YEAH RIGHT, and GOOD LUCK, they say.

(here's a secret, Barbarus...they are fools.)

They either think I am disgruntled at having to work (which I am ), or I must have some mathematical oversights in my budget (which I have examined and re-examined for the last 19 over-analysis is a HOBBY to me, and seems to be a litmus around here of a true pre-f.i.r.e. candidate). My first "salary" was $24,500 in 1989 at the age of 27. I was flat broke and exhausted from swimming upstream. That exhuastion compelled me to make a vow to retire at 40. I opened up a spreadsheet on my first day at the job, and created a retirement budget. Forty came and went without being f.i.r.e.d, but the having the goal got me in the right direction. I am "this close" right now at 46, all founded on a wage.

Someone above said that those who make over $100,000 pay a price. Couldn't be truer. I broke $100k 3 years ago, and wouldn'tcha know it, my quality of life has had a vacuous sucking sound for....3 years. I average 300 - 350 hour of overtime a year and have "responsibilities" that penetrate my sleep, my driving, my gardening, my long runs (when I have time and energy to do them). Interesting thing for me is that my work has come Full Circle - I am once again exhausted. A good sign to ponder firing.

Reading everyone's story affirms to me that my WILD&CRAZY belief that I could retire early on just a wage was NOT so crazy after all, and by golly, there are masses of us out there.

It's a Nice Little Secret, don't you think?

Don't be resentful, B, be grateful you know how to make it work. Make a plan, and believe in it.
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Old 08-12-2007, 09:09 AM   #48
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Originally Posted by barbarus View Post
Further, the general tenor seems to be that if that j*b is lost, a few weeks or possibly months will result in w*rk of comparable pay. Maybe even more.
I was and am one of those "six figure" types. Unfortunately, life doesn't always smile upon us all the time. I do believe that people make a lot of their own good or bad luck.

I lost my barely over $100K job in 2002. I was out of work for about 16 months if you don't count substitute teaching. I then got very lucky and found a position paying about 2/3 of what I was making. It was a boring j*b but I got to discover this forum amongst others where I figured out I had enough to FIRE if DW would be happy at a significantly lower but still very nice lifestyle.

After almost two years of my new j*b, I got a call from the father of one of my daughter's college suite-mates. He wanted to know if I thought I could do engineering work with his company. That got me a position that pays safely in the six figures with no where near the stress of my pre-2002 position. Sometimes dumb luck and a booming E&C business works out. This will be my last j*b and I'll be here until my in-laws pass on.

What did I do to get "six figures?" I wanted to be a chemist but decided that the chemical engineering duties sounded more interesting when I was applying for college. Being good in math and science is probably the best way to make a decent salary for a "wage slave." I've often billed engineering as a way for a mediocre performer to have an upper-middle class lifestyle. Good salesmen and people with a talent for starting a business can make much better money.

The most important thing is LBYM. My DW expects a retirement equal or close to our pre-retirement lifestyle and I don't want to suddenly have to live in a box under the freeway overpass either. If I made $50K, she wouldn't know any difference and have lower expectations. If I made $250K, she'd expect even more than what she expects now. It's all in how you do your personal finances. I know people doing very well on $50K that are saving for an early retirement. I also know people that can't make it on more than I'm making. They don't have a prayer of retiring with anywhere near their current lifestyle no matter how long they w*rk.
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Old 08-12-2007, 09:09 AM   #49
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I will skip the details but focus on some key decisions that made ER possible:
- got a Masters degree to stand out from the crowd
- of four good job offers, picked the company with the highest margins and best growth potential
- shifted into sales after 3 years and remained on commission for 15 years including sales management and corporate management
- took ER with immediate DB pension while still in my 40s
- switched spouses and added another 5 years of working
- did management consulting and also 2 CEO assignments
- after divorce, decided to rent and manage own portfolio
- adopted a "buy and hold" individual stocks investment approach (still up 14% YTD as of Friday)
- ERd 5 years ago, LBYM only since retiring
- do regular home swaps for selected vacations - working amazingly well
For the fun of it...Keith
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Old 08-12-2007, 09:52 AM   #50
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I've often billed engineering as a way for a mediocre performer to have an upper-middle class lifestyle.
Aw, now you've let the cat out of the bag, 2B.

2B and I are in the same business. It swings between the rails. Some years there are 5 engineers for each job and some years 5 jobs for each engineer. This is a good year so far. The second smartest thing I ever did was to start early putting 10% of my income into a savings plan (long before 401Ks). I wanted to do 15% but couldn't sell it to the wife.

I gross better than $100k but I have high expenses, high taxes and high living expenses. I live out of a suitcase and go wherever in the world I can sell my skills. Nobody pays my expenses; it all comes out of my gross. I am paying off my debts now (did not used to be very good at good at LBYM) instead of adding to my retirement pot. It is growing faster than I could add to it anyway.

I would say that the easy parts are getting a good degree (or training) and saving (go for 15%). The tough part in the middle is finding a good-paying job. I found a business that was booming and focused on getting marketable experience as fast as I could. Make up your mind to move. Go where the opportunities are; they will not come to you. I have to keep moving. Fortune favours the prepared mind. Make your own luck.
I have outlived most of the people I don't like and I am working on the rest.
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Old 08-12-2007, 12:43 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by Ed_The_Gypsy View Post
Aw, now you've let the cat out of the bag, 2B.
Telling people about the money won't really alter the number of people in the field. The math and science apptitude pretty well limits the number of candidates. There's something about the first Chem Eng class on heat and material balances that also limits the candidate pool. It's also not something someone can typically just decide to do after they've been in a deadend j*b for a decade or so.

Ed and I are also "process engineers" which is the more lucrative of the E&C engineering disciplines. Pipers can make more in good times but they work unbelieveable hours and get laid off in droves when the market turns. Most firms will struggle to keep a "core" group of process engineers.

In the position I got laid off from in 2002, I was an "important member of senior management" with a chemical operating company. One thing I learned after the lay off was that there isn't much of a market for over 50 management personnel. I came into E&C due to knowing someone that was a hiring manager in the business and an extremely tight engineering labor market. The industry was desperate for anyone that had enough credentials that they could convince a client to pay the bill. Now I have my "bonafides" in the industry and could change jobs for more money but I appreciate the flexibility my current employers provides.
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Old 08-12-2007, 03:25 PM   #52
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Barbarus---I do understand where you're coming from. There are some posters here who have had high-paying jobs in law, business, IT, and medicine. But there's also people like me (master's degree in occupational therapy---earning highest income of $43K before retiring last year at age 52). DH earned about the same.

The great equalizer for FIRE is the ability to live below one's means. And to happy with what one has. Consequently we never wanted or attempted to live in a big house (was happy in 1,000 sf condo until it got too rundown, had too many renters, and became a hellhole, so we did upsize to 1700), take fancy vacations, etc. We saved our money and now have much more wealth than people earning six figure salaries.

It is demoralizing when you realize that you have as much education and work as hard as people earning two to three times your salary. We talk about how high paid jobs are stressful, but it ain't always pretty or stressfree to be at the mercy of your supervisor, a manager above that, and one above that. The lack of respect shows up not just in the paycheck but in general treatment as well. So in many ways, I think us low paid workers have lots of incentive to save and invest and get out of the rat race since the reward vs. cost ratio (wear and tear on our bodies and psyches) is not skewed in favor of continuing to work.

As for why some of us are/were at the bottom of the work food chain. I guess there's many answers. At the age of 22, when choosing to go to graduate school to have better job options than I would have with just a BS in psychology, I was not financially sophisticated enough to truly understand what earning power was and what was needed to live on my own. Back then, occupational therapists in 1976 were earning about $10K. It seemed like a lot of money to me since I had never worked full-time (I also had never attempted to support myself, so I had no idea of what it would take or the buying power---or lack thereof---that $10K would buy. I remember telling my manager (of the lingerie department of a department store) what I would be earning when I completed my master's. She looked at me in disbelief and told me that she was earning considerably more than that---and with just a two year degree! But that didn't deter me. I wanted "to help people" and though occupational therapy was the way to do this. I couldn't believe that people were majoring in business---yeah, the sixties were over, but it was just the last decade and I thought my generation was serious about not just selling out, and working for The man, and making as much money as possible. So some of us naive waifs just didn't know how to choose a higher paying field---or didn't want to.

Then, once in the work world, those of us who didn't want to be managers or who weren't going to win a popularity contest did not move up or get major salary increases, so that's another reason why some of us did not achieve six figure salaries.

At one point, I made myself miserable because I had never reached that silly goal of earning at least your age in salary (hence the $43K at age 52). But I didn't succumb to total misery because I realized I had enough---and wouldn't have to work past 57 or so with the way we were saving and investing. So it really did work out for me. I'm just scared that the coming up generation of workers won't take to what may be lower salaries than they hope for and that there parents earned---and there could be a lot of very unhappy younger people around.
“It is not a sign of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society”.------Krishnamurti
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Old 08-12-2007, 03:32 PM   #53
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Good post Tango. Just to repeat what I wrote earlier. Don't compare yourself to others on the forum. It's like trying to make a basketball team and your competition is a group of Michael Jordans.
"These walls are kind of funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them"
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Old 08-12-2007, 03:58 PM   #54
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I've said numerous times .... there is no correlation between FIRE and college. College simply prepares you to work until you drop. FIRE comes from within.

That said, I made more FIRE $$ without my degree (i.e real estate) than I did with the degree (i.e. megacorp). Broke the 6 figure mark about 16 years into my 20 year "career".

To each, his own.
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Old 08-12-2007, 04:18 PM   #55
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As a doctor, even in one of the lower-paid specialties, my compensation has always been good by any standards. However, in recent decades, most of my friends in law, business, finance, etc. have ended up worth more than I am.

By contrast, I deferred my income until age 30 and, coming from a modest-income family, borrowed such that my debts were not paid off til age 40 or so. Only then did I start saving seriously for retirement. Oh, yeah - kids entered college, law and grad school shortly thereafter.

God knows I'm not complaining. But if I were smarter about finances, putting away even a small amount in my 30s instead of paying off debts would have gone a long way. I'd have minimized my early 1980's 14% debts and continued living like a poor resident a few more years.

My point: even being in a high income profession, the looonngg training, big debts and deferred savings meant I had to pay serious attention to retirement in the last 15 years. The principles are exactly the same as others in all walks of life have described.

There's no magic unless you're just lucky (inheritance, .com beneficiary, big contingency victory, etc.).
San Francisco Area
ESR'd March 2010. FIRE'd January 2011.

As if you didn't know..If the above message contains medical content, it's NOT intended as advice, and may not be accurate, applicable or sufficient. Don't rely on it for any purpose. Consult your own doctor for all medical advice.
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Old 08-12-2007, 04:29 PM   #56
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I got some lucky breaks but definitely feel like I put myself in position to get them.

Software developer, BS in CompSci. I realized I was not too marketable, working on an operating system that was going nowhere outside of my company, proprietary programming language, proprietary technology. Even though I was doing pretty well, I had nothing anyone outside my company would want. The only was up was going to be management, and I really didn't feel I'd do well in that, or enjoy it. I didn't really want to go back to school either.

I wanted to stay in the same area due to family, and tried applying to another company for a job I felt I was qualified for. Didn't even get an interview. This confirmed that I was in trouble.

So, I took another job inside my company programming in C on Unix to learn some marketable skills. Same technology, but that was starting to open up and I gave a talk at a conference where other companies getting into it attended. I attended a couple more of those conferences to get to know more people.

One of those companies opened an office in my area, which was certainly a lucky break for me. A couple people I knew somewhat from my comapny jumped first, and I got word that Things Were Good there, so I went over the wall. They paid Silicon Valley wages and gave stock options.

I remember when I hit 100K. My boss said that the salary raise chart was going to put my close, so he lobbied for a bit extra to get to 100K, and HR approved it. I wasn't hung up on the 100K number but it was a cool gesture. The options did even better. The work has been hard and I worked some very long hours, especially the first few years with this company, so it was anything but a gravy train. Sharper people than me didn't want to take the risks of moving, and I don't know that they ever got to 100K.

My main message is not only do you have to be willing to take a new job, but you also have to put yourself in position to get a good one. That takes work to figure out what you need, and how to get there. It may require getting out of your comfort zone.
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Old 08-12-2007, 06:03 PM   #57
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Sharper people than me didn't want to take the risks
Yup, it's ALL about RISK. Whether it's starting a new job, opening a pizza shop, buying real estate, investing in penny stocks ... it's all about taking RISK. Ferget college.
FIRE'd since 2005
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Old 08-12-2007, 06:33 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by barbarus View Post
I would like to post some variations on this theme if there is interest and please keep posting your own tales.
Hmm, well barbarus, despite certain expectations I have only exceeded six figures once...and that was due to working weekends on a business I started on the side, I was really working two jobs that year. Unlike many (most?) of my peers, I have avoided the Valley, Redmond, and all the big software companies, I never wanted a horrendously competitive high stress job and a relatively crowded suburban existence. I've been fortunate in that I have found companies that have been willing to employee me at a distance as a telecommuter and let me live in the sticks, but have paid the price in salary. I have college classmates who retired comfortably in their late 30's from both Sun and Microsoft, perhaps I made a mistake and should have gone that route?

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Old 08-13-2007, 04:03 AM   #59
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Another riding the gravy train of nursing here. I worked evenings while DH worked days when we had young kids to avoid day care expenses. We had kids very young. We also moved several times for jobs and learned how to cook, fix cars, and not buy junk. When kids were in college I took weekend call while working a day job to pay for their college. Those ton of fun years paid off by having two very grateful professional children who have not asked for a dime since graduation.

DH has had the opportunity to make more and move up in the company, but would have had to work 70-80 hour weeks and get calls during the night. We decided the tradeoff was not worth it.

Were we lucky? Yes to be born in the US, be able to get a state Uni education and to work as a team to LBYM.
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Old 08-13-2007, 07:25 AM   #60
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Associates at big New York City law firms are now starting at $140k per year, so you could try that. As you might expect, however, there are a few strings attached:

1. You must work your @ss off in high school to get good grades and build your resume so that you can get into an Ivy League college. No partying, drugs or general teenage shenanigans for you.

2. You must work your @ss off at your Ivy League college so that you will get good grades to get into a top law school. Again, not much of the party time, wild and crazy college experience for you.

3. You must work your @ass off in law school so that you are in the top of your class and on the law review, so that you can even get an interview with the top firms.

4. Now that you have been hired by Wee, Billam & Howe LLP, you will be expected to work regular 14 hour days, including probably more than half of your weekends, with the occasional all-nighter thrown in for fun. Even when you aren't physically working, you will be thinking about what you might have screwed up and worrying whether you will be fired and/or sued for malpractice.

5. Unless mom and dad paid for your education, you will have $200k or more in student loans to repay.

6. You get to live in New York, where a one bedroom apartment goes for $2500 per month or more, and everything else is similarly expensive.

7. Every day, you get to deal with people who are paid to be difficult.

Sounds like a real gravy train to me.
Living an analog life in the Digital Age.
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