I’m not sure if it’s by coincidence or because I’m spending more time listening, but I’ve noticed more people sharing with me how they lost a lot during the 2008-2010 financial crisis, and how they’re doing everything possible to get back on track.
I was at Bed, Bath & Beyond the other day when I met a sales clerk in the home decor section. He was probably around 65-70 years old with withered skin and dark patches all over his arms and head. He looked quite ill and smelled like he had been hitting the bottle the night before. His name was “Bob” and he was full of smiles as he sought to help me find the perfect barstool.
I selected a set of four handsome barstools from the choices he showed me for my kitchen. I didn’t have the famous 20% off coupon BBB sends in the mail, but Bob gave me a wink and told me, “I got you, don’t worry.”
He asked me whether I had recently bought a new home, and I told him that I did. “I finally found that room with a view I’ve been searching for all this time,” I replied.
“I used to have a view, but then I lost my business of 20 years and then I lost my partner. It was just me in this old house for a couple years until I realized I could no longer afford the rent, so I moved. I have a small place now with the view of the street and another apartment’s window, but it will do,” Bob lamented.
I gave Bob my condolences and tried to cheer him up by continuing on the conversation, “Hopefully your new place is comfortable and at least much cheaper yeah?”
“Oh, yes, much cheaper,” Bob responded with a smile. “I miss the view, but I’m just thankful to have found an affordable place to live in the city.”
To lose money is one thing. I did that spectacularly well during the downturn. To lose love and money at the same time is unbearable.
But Bob showed an incredibly positive attitude during our time together, and he made me a very happy customer that evening. I even ended up doing some research on BBB and bought some of their stock. Fingers crossed their debt offering will help their financials and they can compete effectively with the likes of Amazon and other online retailers.
Maybe all Bob wanted was for someone to listen to his sorrows. Unless we die first, we might also one day end up alone.
ONE MORE STORY ABOUT HOPE
When I got home that evening I stumbled upon this great comment from a new reader on my post, “How To Save More For Retirement If You Don’t Make Much Money“. There’s a mix of positive and negative commentary in the 190+ comment count. But the comment by Jim really stood out.
I found your site by accident while surfing at 3:00 am (not sleeping because of a toothache); and while reading your followers’ replies, I zeroed in on Jack R’s reply of February 13, 2014. I, too, have the same story to tell… But my desire is that it will be looked at [by your readers] as a story about ‘hope and what happens, when you never give up’.
I will be 64 in November of 2014 and here’s my story:
Back in our ‘Economic Abyssal Plunge of 2008′, I lost everything, and I mean everything. My business, house, car, life savings, credit rating – all gone. The only four things I had left, were… My faith in God, my beloved wife of 30+ years, my dignity and my refusal to give up (So I was still rich!).
The last 6 years have been the rockiest road in my life… unemployment for almost 3 years, my wife being so seriously ill (twice), she almost died both times and also having to move our lives from Southern New Mexico to Northern Colorado, after having originally moved from the North East.
I never thought at 61, that I was even remotely employable. BUT, faith and tenacity reigns! I sent out over 400 resumes and filled out countless applications, looking for almost any kind of work and anyone that would hire me. By grace, I wound up being employed with a large healthcare organization, all based on (are you ready for this?) my experience in the U.S. Army over 40+ years ago?!
With my current job, I have gone full circle in my business career; I started out on the front line, eventually went into management, then stepped outside corporate, became self-employed,owning 2 businesses for over 20 years (broker/builder)… And now, here I am close to retirement, working on the front line again, this time in healthcare (I work in the ER of our local hospital). My sweet wife also works for the same organization too!
With the huge medical bills almost gone, we have been able to put money into our 401K’s and are maximizing our 403b’s. No, we will not have much money to work with in the end, but we won’t be on the street either. I plan on working until I’m 67 or 68, because I’m in good health (Social Security will be deferred until then & both our monthly SS checks will be of decent amounts)… I even have plans to eventually start up a special wood crafting design business with my much younger brother in law.
The moral of this little story… Don’t ever stop trying, because it is NEVER too late. Have faith in a higher power and yourself, love your spouse and your family… don’t ever stop looking for the best job possible (one that make you happy), save or invest what you can, when you can… and don’t ever, ever stop having fun in life!
I know this is on the long side and it’s not all about personal finance but it IS a true story; and like you, I also like to write! Thank you for allowing me to share it with your readers… It hope it inspires someone who might be on the ‘edge’ like I was!
Best wishes for continued success to you and your readers!
I strongly believe the comments we write are a small reflection of who we are. Angry and spiteful commentary come from those who are not happy with their lives for whatever reason. They take their anger out on others. Then there are comments like Jim’s where he takes his time to tell his story and reflect with others.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Bad things happen all the time. Unfortunate events are the reason why we shouldn’t think we’re geniuses during a bull market. If all you’ve ever known is investing since the market started recovering in 2010, then forget about it. You have no idea. Consistently save and diversify your investments.
STICK WITH IT UNTIL THE END
I never in my wildest dreams imagined just writing online for a living by the age of 35. Never. And it’s not just getting by month-to-month either. I can actually afford a high-margin beverage other than water with my ramen noodles now. But when my ass was getting kicked at work, I would still come home and write for however long it took to get an article of reasonable quality done, three times a week without fail.
I’m sure Jim never thought he would have to start over in his 60s. I don’t think most of us think we’ll lose everything close to traditional retirement age either. But unfortunately some of us will. I am constantly asking myself the question, When will the good times end? I think you should ask yourself this question too, and plan for some lean years.
Part of planning for bad times is to get used to living off way less than you earn. Even if you take a 50% hit to your income, your lifestyle might not change one bit if you are used to saving 50% of your after-tax income, for example. Another part of planning for downturns is having a portion of your money in risk-free assets guaranteed by the FDIC. To gain more financial security, build financial buffers for your financial buffers.
Despite all the bad times, the great thing is that we are not doomed to failure unless we give up. There are people like Jim and Bob who have lost everything, yet still carry on. Maybe they will never make as much as before, but they’ve got the basic necessities and the faith that everything will be alright in the end.
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Financial Samurai started as a personal journal to make sense of the financial crisis in 2009. By early 2012, it started making a livable income stream so I decided to negotiate a severance package. Years later, FS now makes more than I did as an Executive Director at a major bulge bracket firm with 90% less work and 100% more fun. Start your own WordPress website with Bluehost today. You never know where the journey will take you!
Updated for 2016 and beyond.