Author Topic: wake up call  (Read 4346 times)


  • Pencil Stache
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wake up call
« on: November 25, 2014, 09:25:54 AM »
The year was either 2007 or 2008.  The large telecom company I worked for was starting to show signs of trouble.  Although we had survived the tech crash we were suffering in it's tailspin.  News of massive layoffs started to surface. 

While heading out for lunch one day I watched a man, mid-to-late fifties, slowly emerge from one of the buildings on our campus; box in hand, tears streaming, head down.  He was one of the unlucky ones.  He was the one human face to what was happening to thousands.

It was terrible on so many levels.  Was he worried about finding another job?  Would he have to sell his house and move?  Did he somehow know that the company would soon be in bankruptcy, ripping his pension to shreds?  Was he embarrassed at being viewed as a failure by peers inside and outside of his workplace?  Maybe he was just leaving behind good friends.  It doesn't matter, really.  It was fucking awful to watch. 

I know I didn't want to be at the mercy of a corporation in my later years of my career.  At the time, the solution seemed obvious.  Don't become irrelevant.  Find a secure job, maybe even with a pension.  When the opportunity came up, I jumped at a job with the Federal Government.  Mid-career, I knew I not get a full pension, but it would be better than nothing.  Even with a pay cut, it was the right move for me. 

Of course, now I know that there is an even better solution.  Why work at all?  Without really trying, our family has accomplished a great savings rate.  With renewed focus, thanks to finding this blog, we are on target for a much earlier retirement than we ever thought possible.

Has anyone else experienced a "wake up call"?


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Re: wake up call
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2014, 09:43:46 AM »
Hey, gashford. That's a really powerful story. I'm glad it motivated you to change your own life. But actually, there's a similar thread here where other people have shared their own wake up call stories:

Lots of interesting replies to your question over there.


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Re: wake up call
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2014, 09:45:44 AM »
That had to be tough to see.

For me, not so much a wake up call as a validation of my chosen career path.  Coming up in a very financially insecure household, I was keen to choose government employment over the higher-paying private sector, both for the job security and the pension.  About 18 months ago, a friend of mine from law school (married, two kids, big house payment on a house that's now underwater) who was a junior partner at one of the largest law firms in the world, when he got laid off.  For the last 18 months, he's pursued virtually hundreds of jobs all across the country and indeed the world, and only just a couple weeks ago finally secured one; a much lower-paying one than he had, and more than a 1,000 miles away.  He's now got to uproot his wife (and her 19-year career) and kids to relocate, try to sell his underwater house, and get back to working after an 18-month layoff.  He's proud of the fact that he didn't have to tap retirement accounts to stay afloat, but is well aware of the huge hit to his future savings and wealth.  And it's been a very trying time for him personally, both from the standpoint of his self-esteem, and his relationship with his wife.  And so his experience has reminded me of why I chose my career in the first place.


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Re: wake up call
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2014, 09:46:53 AM »
I can relate to this - I have seen several people in their 50's and late 60's get laid off and then unable to find a new job - people don't want to hire so close to retirement age.  I won't retire early like some others here, but I am happy knowing that I am building security so that if the shit really does hit the fan, I won't be left adrift like so many people.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: wake up call
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2014, 10:27:27 AM »
I just don't want to be in a position where I am required to have a high salary just to make ends meet, particularly towards the end of my working life.


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Re: wake up call
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2014, 10:39:57 AM »
The Wakeup call for me came when I divorced, lost my business, suffered 2 car accident, no savings and a $15k tax bill.  All in 2008

I kinda figured I was doing something wrong at that point. :)

Oh well....sometimes you start over.    6 years later, my net worth is just shy of $100k


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Re: wake up call
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2014, 10:57:22 AM »
I remember my father stressed out at the kitchen table with bills all around him, and I could hear my parents talking/stressing about how they were going to make ends meet.  I also separately remember being very young and my dad not being around, but then some short while after bed time he would get home from his 2nd job and we would run out to greet/hug/kiss him.  I also remember seeing my dad lose jobs and change careers, and have trouble finding a job.  They never let us kids in on the finances, or did anything in front of us, but some of the stuff is so obvious I would have to have my head buried in the sand to not have not noticed.

I vowed from an early age that I would get an education, and be smart with my money, and hopefully have excess money to put aside in case shit ever got bad so I wouldn't repeat the cycle and be sitting around the kitchen table worrying about how I was going to feed my kids and pay all the bills.   


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Re: wake up call
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2014, 11:04:39 AM »
A bulldozer I was operating slipped off an embankment and started to slide down the slope and into the ocean. Despite having been taught NEVER to jump out of a machine, had I not, I would be dead. Wake up call doesn't even begin describe the effect that event had on me.


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Re: wake up call
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2014, 11:29:46 AM »
Great topic. For me there wasn't a single wake up call. I grew up in a poor family. My mom was frugal but she had four kids (including a baby) when she became a single mom, so we lived pretty close to the edge. I think because of that I've always had this background fear of money troubles and a horror of debt. So I've always been pretty frugal, lived well within my means, paid extra on my mortgage, never borrowed for a car, etc.

But the idea of having to figure out how to make employment last until age 65, in an economy that treats workers as disposable, always worried me. Your story about the mid-50s worker being let go was my nightmare. It never occurred to me that I could avoid that by being ready to retire early; I just assumed that you had to work until 65 unless you inherited millions or won the lottery or something. So when I encountered MMM and I realized that I could make it happen (not as early as many around here, but still well before 65), I suddenly felt this great sense of freedom from fear. That's been the greatest gift of this blog: I think about the future with excitement instead of anxiety.


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Re: wake up call
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2014, 11:43:03 AM »
when I was a teenager my dad's practice went through a restructuring.  To avoid forced layoffs, everyone was given an 8% pay cut, no exceptions.  Even with this pay-cut all the partners were making over $100k.  I watched three different people  (all friends of our family) go through forced bankruptcy because they had so much debt they couldn't absorb an 8% paycut for even one year.

It made me realize that I never wanted my expenses to be so in line with my earnings that a small bump would ruin me financially.