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View Poll Results: Have you ever lived paycheck to paycheck ?
Never 96 37.07%
.1 - 2 years 51 19.69%
2.1 - 5 years 41 15.83%
5.1 years - 10 years 37 14.29%
More than 10 years 34 13.13%
Voters: 259. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 06-27-2017, 08:49 PM   #41
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Being on a J-O-B scholarship in college, I was paycheck to paycheck for those years. Even once graduated and having a good job, trying to save and then buying first house in CA I was still essentially paycheck to paycheck. So per the poll I was in the 5-10 year period.

Funny story, while in college I literally sold my unwanted books at end of the year, resulting in enough money to buy a six pack of beer to celebrate finals being done and fill my car with a tank of gas to get home so I could start the summer job. Always worked full time summers, and part-time 25 hours/week during school. Holiday breaks were not vacation, rather they were opportunity to get more hours and higher paycheck.
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:33 PM   #42
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Watched my parents live paycheck to paycheck and didn't like the stress it caused. Decided I didn't want to live that way. I've always saved and had a cushion. DH is wired the same. Let's us sleep at night. DD was similar until she attached to a spender/borrower
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:49 PM   #43
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We had a hard start in life. Low wages and a money pit home. I remember eating liverwurst for lunch daily. I don't like liverwurst it was the cheapest calories I could eat. I went to back to school and changed careers in my late 20s.

Early on our savings were mostly in retirement accounts allowing limited access. Eventually wages caught up and available cash accumulated.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:08 PM   #44
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We had to live paycheck to paycheck for approximately 5-6 years after our two children were born and had serious health issues. Our youngest was a preemie, spent time in the NICU, home on a monitor and we piled up significant medical bills, even with my employer sponsored health insurance (it wasn't that great). Our oldest was a severe asthmatic, typically requiring hospitalization for his condition every several months. Again, what seemed to be endless bills that we had to pay. DW quit her teaching job for 5 years as it became impossible for us both to work with two children requiring so much hands-on care. During that time, DW would take on baby-sitting here and there and I took on 2nd jobs including driving a limo and working as a sports official to pay down our medical debt.

We finally worked our way out from under the debt. Having to pinch every penny for mere essentials quickly taught us the difference between wants & needs. Once the kids were healthy enough and in school full-time, DW was able to return to work teaching in the same school district. Having had to figure out how to live on my salary alone, pay mountains of medical debt plus regular living expenses, we realized that with DW back to work, we could save loads of money, which we did along with paying off our mortgage early.

Fortunately, both our sons have grown-up to be healthy, responsible, kind young men and have given us 3 amazing, beautiful grandchildren. DW & I pulled the plug and retired at 62 & 59 years old (not all that early, but hey...)

Not everyone lives paycheck to paycheck purely out of poor life choices. Sometimes sh*t really does happen.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:30 PM   #45
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I lived paycheck to paycheck until about age 35, partly because my first college degree resulted in low paying jobs. Definitely floated checks. Even after I was better established, I was house poor and never had much of an emergency fund - maybe $2-3K by my early 50's. But I was buying a home, contributing to my 401k, and did not have large credit card balances so it did not bother me. Bought many large items like furniture and even some dental work on the six months, no interest plan and made sure that I paid it off in six months. And as silly as it seems now, I was not that financially astute and would pay any extra money on the mortgage rather than put it in an emergency fund. Fortunately I had a very stable job and never had significant medical issues.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:50 PM   #46
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Although I did take on debt at times during my lifetime, I was never paycheck to paycheck. Living at home during college was a big help and then I got a real j*b as soon as I graduated. YMMV
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Old 06-28-2017, 02:21 AM   #47
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Enlisted in the USN senior year high school. Was paid monthly - spent most on beer, women and song - the remaining cash I just wasted. Uncle Sam was always ready with a bunk and 3 hot meals a day.

College was more of creating various income streams (unemployment after enlistment thanks to Reagan, GI bill, part scholarships, grants, PT work, loans and selling blood plasma for cash). Not sure that counts as paycheck to paycheck but it beat all alternatives.

Lucky and landed with a good company for 30 years - always been a balance / struggle with juggling kids, retirement savings, education, day to day,and unexpected medical. DW and I did many of the tricks outlined above, but never fully embraced the LBYM life - which means I'll work until 58-59.
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Old 06-28-2017, 03:14 AM   #48
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Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post
I checked 2.1 to 5 years. The marriage to my ex lasted five years and for almost all that time we lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and that's why we got divorced. When I flat-out refused to even discuss taking out a loan to go on a trip, it was over.

That was also the only time in my life that I've paid credit card interest charges, was late on a rent payment, was late on a house payment, received a telephone call about an overdue bill, or had to routinely "play the float" to pay normal utility bills.

In hindsight I think it lasted as long as five years because I worked rotating shifts at the time and much of the time I either wasn't there or was asleep.
Same boat. Once the ex became the ex, the real saving began. My now forever wife is much smarter and very frugal. I'm a lucky man.
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Old 06-28-2017, 05:24 AM   #49
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I lived paycheck to paycheck until January 1, 1990. I had just turned 29 years old - my life had spiraled out of control - and I had absolutely nothing. Thankfully, I didn't have any debt.

I put "the bottle down" and the rest is history. I never needed to live paycheck to paycheck again - and 27 years later I can pick and choose when and where I would like to retire.

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Old 06-28-2017, 05:50 AM   #50
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First couple of years...... pretty close to pay check to pay check. Simply didn't make enough to save much. My first job I moved to an area where I didn't know anyone. If I had found a roommate, I could have saved some through shared expenses. My second job I did have a roommate so that made saving a lot easier. Then it just grew from there.
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Old 06-28-2017, 06:32 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by Michaela View Post
I lived paycheck to paycheck until January 1, 1990. I had just turned 29 years old - my life had spiraled out of control - and I had absolutely nothing. Thankfully, I didn't have any debt.

I put "the bottle down" and the rest is history. I never needed to live paycheck to paycheck again - and 27 years later I can pick and choose when and where I would like to retire.

+1 Same story, except that I was 26. The Penultimate Wife left a few months later. Luckily we had no kids or debts. It's amazing how much can be accomplished a day at a time.
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Old 06-28-2017, 07:00 AM   #52
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Hard to answer this. It's been quite a while but I would say for maybe 20 years until I left wife #1. Always had ready access to debt/CC's so it wasn't exactly paycheck to paycheck. Couldn't pay the CC's off fully every month though. That probably is the more modern definition of P to P? It was probably in my late 40's that I was able to pay all bills when received. Felt very good to get to that position.
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Old 06-28-2017, 07:24 AM   #53
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Till after my Phd, 26, I hardly saved. Not sure if that qualifies as paycheck-to-paycheck though. I just ran break even and had to be careful with expensive travel.
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Old 06-28-2017, 07:38 AM   #54
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Lived paycheck to paycheck (or close to it) for most of my independent adult life until my late 20's. Had a guaranteed paycheck, retirement check would be coming later (military), so who needs to save money was my attitude on those rare occasions where I gave it any thought. Finding out I wasn't going to get to stay in and collect that retirement was an eye opening experience and I promptly spent a bunch of effort learning about budgeting, saving, and investing. Since then I've slowly ramped up my savings rate every year to where I'm at now (~40%+ of my base pay being saved). While I thoroughly enjoyed most of what I spent my money on when I was living paycheck to paycheck (mostly women and alcohol or associated events), if I had it to do all over again I would have saved at least my bonuses during those years if nothing else.
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Old 06-28-2017, 08:06 AM   #55
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More joy in heaven over a sinner who repents

Most of the respondents so far indicate they always were savers. I would have been one, too, but I got married right out of college, which changed everything. DW brought the twin gifts of college debt and astonishing fertility; any plans I might have had regarding saving/investing went right out the window.

On one income, we didn't live extravagantly. I remember powerful feelings of envy over the slick new cars, killer stereos and exotic vacations that my single and DINK friends enjoyed but were beyond my budget. All our income was spoken for by the needs of our five nestlings. My own wants just had to go on the back burner.

Of course, we didn't go hungry or naked or sick, either. We supported our kids' activities; everybody got housed and fed and dressed and all that. We lived an unremarkable middle class lifestyle, neither rich nor poor.

OTOH, we didn't borrow to keep up with our prosperous friends. Our cars were old and we put in a ton of DIY hours. We did borrow early on for mortgages, and when the kids entered college we borrowed for that, too. I contend it's very much an individual decision to do so, and I don't judge.

For twenty years, any thoughts about providing for retirement got elbowed aside by the daily grind of work, grad school, and tending the needs of my family. The result was that after two decades of wage-slaving, my net worth was zero. It wasn't until about age 42 that I "got religion" savings-wise and took positive action to sock away some dough for my golden years. That was the turning point.

It was painful for about a year, during which we adapted as necessary. It's nearing another twenty years, but now we've managed to build at least some reasonable financial security. If I can eke out another couple of years then I can retire - certainly not early by the standards of this forum, but a bit earlier than most Americans.

My path is clearly a minority one among ER types, but I bet it's a lot more representative of the population at large. People who will be entirely reliant on their SS probably didn't intend for it to be that way. They probably didn't intend anything at all; it's just that living for today sort of crowded out the long term. I'm not any better than those folks, although I am gratified that I was able to act for my own future in time for it to make a difference.
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Old 06-28-2017, 08:33 AM   #56
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My first couple of years in college I lived paycheck to paycheck, as part of my scholarship package was a job. between my sophomore-junior and junior-senior years I was able to get well paying internships and build up a little savings.

My first year after college was a little paycheck to paycheck, as I had all of the startup costs of living completely on my own. But after a year, and also receiving my first raise, I did not have to.

Being exposed as a child to many people living paycheck to paycheck, and having parents who pushed us not just to get better educated but also to save, certainly helped.
FIREd date: June 26, 2018 - wwwwwwhat a rush!
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Old 06-28-2017, 08:34 AM   #57
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I married a person who spent faster than it came in. Thankfully I got out after 3-4 years of marriage. But, I had a low income at the time and kept the too expensive house for another 5 years...I was cheque to cheque for almost 10 years.

I finally sold it and downsized at the same time I got a substantial promotion. From that point forward I was able to save and not worry about money.
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Old 06-28-2017, 09:22 AM   #58
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Absolutely had 3 or 4 years that I just barely made it. Early 80's with 20% prime rate devastated the financial industry. Lost my job and had to change industries and start at the bottom. About that time wife became pregnant and we bought our first house. Payment was 45% of my gross salary. Wife did some part time work to supplement.

Took a couple years to show some success and get recognized in salary and bonus increases.

I am grateful to have this period as it gave me a great appreciation for those who struggle and really learning to stay on a budget. I will say these were the funnest times in our life as the simple things as going to a matinee sneaking in food or walking the mall gave us a great pleasure.
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Old 06-28-2017, 09:26 AM   #59
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Moved to change jobs and bought another house before selling the last one. Had bridge financing of $500k at 20%. Maxed out all CCs and even applied for a couple more. Borrowed against life insurance, retirement plans, any source.

When the old place finally sold, I paid off everything and have never carried debt other than one mortgage since. It was a great lesson! I would not recommend it to anyone! LBYM trust me! Did not even buy a new car for four more year ( for cash). People often asked why we drove 2 old cars and I said they were prairie cars and did not start rusting until we moved them east which was true. But not the reason.
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Old 06-28-2017, 10:56 AM   #60
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Yes, for the first few years out of college. I graduated into a bad job market in the early 90's and joined the USAF out of desperation to get a stable job. The pay was low for an O-1, and the housing allowance hadn't caught up to the fact that rents had increased dramatically in the area I was stationed. My parents had both died when I was in my early 20's so I knew I had nothing and no one to fall back on. I bought a new Civic and paid off the loan in 9 months so I wouldn't have debt. I was so fearful that I would end up homeless. I literally put any money I could scrape together towards it and often had to live on $20 until the next paycheck came. 24 years later I still drive that car. I lived on cheerios and PBJ's. I did have about $15K in savings so I wasn't technically broke, but I didn't dare touch it.

When I went from O-1 to O-2 the I ended up with an extra $300 in each check and that was wonderful! After I had been in 3 years I bought a house and paid off the loan in 2 years. I used the same strategy, putting every last dime toward the principal but fortunately my salary had significantly increased. While those years were really stressful they did set me up for financial independence. I always like to know what my bottom line is - how much does it cost for a bare bones existence.
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