When You "Live To Work" - For Someone Else - It Never Ends Well.It is best that I start by telling you a little about myself. I was born in an old New England mill town in the 1950's. Even though I was born there, my family did not live there, but rather lived some miles away in the poorest part of a suburban town. My father was a carpenter, and even though he was a hard worker, we always had difficult times financially. I was one of those boys who always meant well, but often got into trouble anyhow. In spite of that, I kept my good and hopeful outlook on life - always looking towards the future. I attended Catholic school in the mill town until middle school, and then made the adjustment to public schools. Despite being poor, all three of us kids managed to graduate from college, mostly on our own funds (you could do that back then).
In 1984, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and married a wonderful girl. It seemed that I was the luckiest person in the world. Soon I landed a good job in engineering in a nearby city. I was an avid reader, and I was one of the first to learn about the "endless bounds" of real estate investing described in Robert Allen's book "Nothing Down." My spouse and I began to get involved in real estate, and we began flipping apartment buildings during that time. We did this in our spare time, and would rent some of the apartments out while we worked on others and then "flipped" the buildings. We did all this work ourselves. We were making money but after a short time, it became apparent that our "irrational exuberance" was just that, and the laws of economics and supply and demand were a more realistic way of looking at the real estate market. With a little bit of reflection, it was clear that the money we were making was not without its perils. It was clear that housing prices were climbing so high and so fast and as a result, housing was becoming out of reach for many people. Rather than feeding that fire any further, we felt this was unfair, and we retreated from the market in the early 1990's. We built our dream house, started a family, and started a small at-home business so my wife could stay at home with the children as they grew up. We did all this while we held our normal jobs. After 2 years of 90+ hours a week, the business stated to flourish, and we were soon making in excess of $300,000 a year. I started putting the money away into 529 accounts and 401K accounts as everyone suggested. I was even able to build up a nest egg. We donated generously to our local church and charities. Unlike many others, we did not let this good fortune go to our heads! We kept our house in order and stayed out of trouble.
Then, in 2000, all of this began to unravel. With the help of a certain Republican governor, little by little, all the work our business was doing was sent to India. That was not just a political ad - it actually happened. In addition, the manufacturing plant that I had worked in for 17 years was moved out of the Northeast (this was the 2nd time this had happened to me), and we found ourselves with our income cut by 75% within a year.
I was a good engineer, and it was fairly easy for me to find a new position with another local company. My wife was also able to secure a good job with the local government. The dream house had to be sold. Seeing as how I had built it myself with my own two hands, it was difficult to swallow. Still, our children’s college was mostly paid for, and we were financially stable.
But the story isn't over.
Late in 2011, the manufacturing company I was working for was purchased by another national firm, and looking to cut costs, they trimmed the "old fat" and I was terminated after almost 10 years of service. So after almost 30 years of hard work, we are barely able to make ends meet, our children have degrees that will not help them obtain financial security (they are good degrees!), and our plans for retirement are shattered (oh, didn't I tell you about our 401K) - do I need to?