Here’s our latest interview with a millionaire as we seek to learn from those who have grown their wealth to high heights.
If you’d like to be considered for an interview, drop me a note and we can chat about specifics.
My questions are in bold italics and his responses follow in black.
Let’s get started…
How old are you (and spouse if applicable, plus how long you’ve been married)?
I am 61 and currently unattached.
I was married for 10 years and divorced in 1990.
Do you have kids/family (if so, how old are they)?
My only daughter is 35 and has been off economic outpatient care for almost 10 years.
What area of the country do you live in (and urban or rural)?
I live in an urban environment in California.
What is your current net worth?
I track several versions of net worth.
Investments add up to $5,239K, house is worth $835K according to Zillow, pension is worth $556K per Immediate Annuities website, and future Social Security income should be worth around $575K if I start taking it next year at 62, or $644K if I wait until I am 70 (assuming my life expectancy of 84).
So anywhere between $5.2M and $7.3M depending on what’s included. Let’s say $6.1M which includes investments and home to be compatible with majority of other millionaire interviewees.
What are the main assets that make up your net worth (stocks, real estate, business, home, retirement accounts, etc.) and any debt that offsets part of these?
All of the IRA, HSA and 96% of brokerage account funds are in a variety of index equities ETFs, the rest is in a money market fund.
I am allergic to cash and only keep enough in a checking account to cover expenses for a month or so; $1.5K as I write this. I like to know that all of my “green workers” are earning for me.
I have no mortgage or other debt besides credit card balances, which I pay off every month. I don’t ever recall paying any credit card interest charges.
In 1983 we bought the house I currently live in. We bought a nicer bigger house in 1986, but kept the first house as a rental.
After my separation I moved back into the first house and kept it as part of the divorce settlement, while my ex kept the bigger house which had about the same equity due to a larger mortgage. I’ve made it a goal to enter the 21st century mortgage free and succeeded — made my last mortgage payment on 10/1/99.
What is your job?
I retired last year from a supply chain management position at a major aerospace company. I was a senior manager when I retired.
What is your annual income?
This year I will receive $34K from a pension and an estimated $150K in dividends and interest from my investments.
Tell us about your income performance over time. What was the starting salary of your first job, how did it grow from there (and what you did to make it grow), and where are you now?
During high school and college, I had several summer jobs at factory assembly floors and as a chemical lab technician. These jobs paid between $2.25 and $3.50 per hour.
My salary history starting with graduate school is as follows:
This is strictly job income. Dividend income and most interest income is reinvested and I have not touched my equity investments to date.
I graduated with a bachelor’s engineering degree from USC in 1979 and could not find a job in my field due to a very bad economy or maybe it was poor interviewing skills. I decided to continue my education by pursuing a graduate degree, hoping that economy, and my interviewing skills, will improve. Thankfully, my undergraduate grades and professor recommendations were great and I had my choice of top engineering graduate schools.
My first professional job in 1979 was as a research assistant while earning my engineering master’s degree at MIT. The pay was enough to cover tuition and basic living expenses. I estimate that tuition has increased about tenfold since then and a graduate student would need over $75K to afford the “luxury” lifestyle of my youth.
Upon graduation in 1980, I had offers from a dozen companies and accepted a job as an engineer at a major aerospace company in California at a salary of $26,520 per year. I got married three weeks before stating the job, and we were making about $50K between us. Life was good!
In 1982 a couple of friends asked me to join them in opening a computer accessory company. We each drew a salary of $36K per year and split the profits. Unfortunately, I don’t have an accounting of the profits, but they were not very significant. After 4 years in business, the stress and disagreements between partners became too much and I left to make my fortune elsewhere.
In 1986 I rejoined the same company I left 4 years earlier as an engineer (never burn your bridges!) During my first stint with the company I started a part-time MBA program at a major private university, and completed half of their curriculum. I resumed the MBA program and graduated in 1987. The company fully paid for tuition and books. After graduation, I decided to switch careers and accepted a position in supplier management with the same company at about a 10% raise in salary.
My first day on the new job was October 19th, 1987, also known as “Black Monday”, when the DJIA lost almost 22% in a single day! I haven’t seen my colleagues this upset since the Challenger disaster a couple of years earlier. Since I didn’t have any money in the stock market, I just observed their behavior. Some of the older folks liquidated their entire equities portfolios the same day.
I stayed at the company until retirement last year. Between 1987 and 2001 I had numerous grade promotions and raises, but remained an individual contributor. In 2001 came a promotion to management and another significant raise. In 2008 came another promotion with an incentive bonus. Bonuses varied between 6.3% and 24.3% depending on my and company’s annual performances. In my last year of employment, the salary was $200K with a 10% target bonus.
What tips do you have for others who want to grow their career-related income?
As you can see from my employment history, I started and ended my employment at the same company, with a break of about 4 years to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity. This is definitely “old school” thinking and may not be for everyone.
However, I had several different occupations with the company and worked several different programs. Most of the programs were in the space field and lasted from 6 months to 8 years. Most programs required co-location of personnel and had their own unique cultures. When joining a new program, it felt like going to work in a new company, in a new building with new colleagues, thus I rarely felt bored or not challenged.
Benefits, especially seniority-based benefits, continued to accumulate throughout my time with the company. I greatly enjoyed the college-like R&D environment at this aerospace company and had the privilege to contribute to several major important national programs, some public and some not.
A degree from a prestigious university greatly helps to get your first job, but becomes less relevant later on when you are judged more on your work performance, teamwork, management skills and personality. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.
In graduate school my thesis advisor once told me: “It’s not how hard you work, it’s how hard you appear to work that counts.” I have been a very poor self-promoter and had to make an extra effort to assure that management knew about my achievements. This can be difficult in a matrix organization, where your functional manager (who decides on raises and promotions) is usually in a different location, sometimes clear across the country, who you only see occasionally. In the meantime, your program manager, who actually directs your day-to-day work and with whom you interact daily, has very little input into your performance assessment.
Writing weekly status reports helps to keep everyone informed. Performance review periods were some of the most stressful and anxious times for me, but were well worth the effort.
I have been outspoken with my managers, especially later in my carrier, especially after accumulating F-you money. Most managers appreciated the candor and suggestions, a few did not. The key is not to just criticize and complain but suggest solutions and improvements.
Many of my managers where promoted from different specialties and appreciated my input in areas where I had more expertise than them. I also did my best to mentor, promote and sponsor my employees. Occasionally they got promoted out of my organization, but resulted in good networking opportunities and many kind words at my retirement.
I took full advantage of company sponsored educational opportunities: earning an MBA degree part time, getting certified in my field through an on-campus program led by a major university, Dale Carnegie classes, negotiation classes, attending conferences, etc. I even taught a few classes; a great way to learn and become an expert in your field.
I also took advantage of other benefits, such as a full 401K company match and occasionally cashing out some of my vacation time when money was more important than time off, especially shortly after my divorce.
I could probably have earned a higher salary if I strategically changed companies, especially during periods of high demand, but would not have accumulated 216 hours of paid time off per year, a substantial pension and retiree medical benefits by the time I retired.
In summary I recommend making strategic moves within a company, if not between companies to broaden your experience and take advantage of opportunities. A bit of self-promotion doesn’t hurt, but too much will make you look like a jerk. Make your boss look good.
What’s your work-life balance look like?
Right now, in my second year in retirement, it’s no work and all life. During my working times I probably put in more hours than average, maybe 50 to 60 hours per week.
Starting in ‘90s I traveled for work extensively, domestically and internationally, a lot of this travel on my own time.
The last couple of decades I was always on-call with Blackberries and company phones. Having to manage oversea suppliers for most of my career made for some interesting working hours. Several times during prevailing crises, I worked every day for up to several months.
Do you have any sources of income besides your career? If so, can you list them, give us a feel for how much you earn with each, and offer some insight into how you developed them?
As a retiree, I have no more career income. Last year I earned about $3K consulting and may continue doing that on a very limited basis.
At retirement last year, I had a choice to take a partial lump sum distribution from my pension plan of $882K or an annual payment of $54K. After much deliberation, I took the lump sum and rolled it over into my 401K account to avoid immediate taxation.
Pension payments have no cost of living adjustments, and I didn’t feel safe in case inflation spikes in the future. I feel that prudently investing the lump sum, I have a fair chance to keep up with inflation; time will tell if this was a good decision. I still get a partial annual pension of $34K through the end of this year, but starting next year the pension drops to $32K per year due to a Social Security offset at age 62, regardless if I collect Social Security or not.
My investments will generate around $150K in dividends and interest this year. My investment portfolio yielded just under 3% in dividends over the past several years. I am not chasing dividends; I subscribe to a total return philosophy.
Previously I had rental income, business income and interest income from a few private loans. Also had a brief side hustle as a translator. None of these substantially contributed to my net worth.
What is your annual spending?
I started tracking detailed spending a few years ago, here are the results:
What are the main categories (expenses) this spending breaks into?
Last year my spending was as follows:
Not a big spender. Note: no mortgage payment, no car payment, low property tax due Proposition 13 (we bought the house in 1983 for $125K and property tax base increases are restricted to 2% per year in California).
Medical insurance is a retirement benefit, heavily subsidized by my former employer at an estimated $6.5K annually.
Didn’t travel last year, I still worked part of the year and had to handle some family issues for a major portion of the year.
Payroll taxes were lower than previous years since I only drew about half the salary due to retirement.
In previous years spending was higher due to full-time income taxes, child support, gifts or major purchases.
Do you have a budget? If so, how do you implement it?
I do not budget, and never had, but I do track spending.
I am naturally frugal and only spend on what I value or what’s necessary.
In previous years I’ve spent substantial funds on new cars, a Rolex watch, electronics, help with down payment on my daughter’s condo, as well as sharing with my ex-wife daughter’s college and law school expenses, so she could start her new life with no student loans or any other debts.
I usually save first and buy with cash. The only loans I’ve taken out were two mortgages and one car loan early in my marriage. My credit score is now suffering due to lack of recent installment loan information.
What percentage of your gross income do you save and how has that changed over time?
Along with spending I also tracked savings:
Gross income includes company match. Net income is basically take-home pay plus my 401K contribution.
As my salary grew, I didn’t inflate my spending much, so saving rate increased accordingly. As a retiree, I have no savings goals anymore.
What is your favorite thing to spend money on/your secret splurge?
I do like to travel.
In the last few years the majority of my travels were in conjunction with work trips. I was lucky enough to travel all over the United States, to Canada, England, France, Germany and Israel to visit suppliers or customers. I would often extend these trips and do sightseeing with my colleagues. Solo travel doesn’t appeal to me, so this arrangement worked for me.
I am also not much of a resort/cruise connoisseur, and would rather spend my time in museums, historic attractions and ethnic restaurants. I love London, Paris and medieval German towns.
We are also blessed with having an ocean, national parks, mountains, deserts and Las Vegas within a few of driving hours from my home, so travelling long distance to similar places is less appealing.
I do like cars, especially sporty ones. Since I was 18 years old, I always bought new cars and drove them for many years. I bought my current car 17 years ago, and it’s only my 4th primary car in the last 43 years. When I was married, we splurged on two new luxury sedans for her.
I also am a bit of an audiophile and a home theater buff. Over the years I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on audio and video equipment.
I enjoy a nice restaurant, but usually on special occasions.
What is your investment philosophy/plan?
My investment philosophy has changed over the years.
In the ‘80s we made some disastrous investments in an oil exploration venture and a business loan, loosing almost all of our money and incurring substantial legal costs (more on this below). After these bad experiences and the divorce, I was shell shocked and only invested in very safe instruments such as CDs, money market funds and a stable value fund in my 401K. My small IRA was in a Government bond fund.
The only stock I owned was company stock from company match in 401K plan, the only choice available at the time. My primary focus prior to 2000 was to pay off the home mortgage and I had almost no money outside 401K and IRA.
Starting in mid ’90 I allocated half of my 401K to a stock fund which was benchmarking the S&P 500 index. From what I remember, a stock fund, a bond fund, a stable value fund and company stock (matching only) were the only investments available in the 401K plan through the ‘80s and much of the ‘90s.
After paying off the mortgage, and the pain of earlier losses subsided somewhat, my risk tolerance increased and I invested heavier in equities. The company expended 401K options to include a small company fund, a foreign company fund and eventually an emerging markets fund.
By mid ’00 my contributed 401K allocation was 40% large company stock fund, 30% small company fund, 20% international fund and 10% emerging markets fund. All index funds with low fees. Company match remained in company stocks.
It was around this time that I decided to work towards early retirement at 55 and investing in 100% equities in my 401K plan seemed the quickest way to grow net worth. My IRA adviser at a major full-service brokerage put me into some equipment leasing scheme, which barely paid back the initial investment over many years.
Thankfully, the IRA was only about 5% the size of the 401K. The money outside retirement plans was in CDs and money market funds.
In 2010 I opened a brokerage account and most of after-tax money, $330K, was invested in the Vanguard S&P 500 index fund and the Vanguard small equity index fund.
I also said goodbye to the IRA adviser and bought another $50K of Vanguard S&P 500 index fund. I could smell my retirement coming soon and needed to turbocharge my investment returns, especially after heavy losses during the Great Financial Crises (GFC), when my 401K plan lost half its value.
About 10 years ago I started to get better educated about investing by reading books, magazines, blogs and forums.
In 2013 I came across factor investing and restructured my entire portfolio in a slice-and-dice fashion. I didn’t divest the Vanguard funds to avoid capital gains. The company moved our 401K plan to a provider offering a brokerage window at a minimal annual fee, so I gained access to all the mutual funds and ETFs available in the industry, this is where I did most of my slicing-and-dicing without any tax consequences.
At retirement last year I took a partial lump sum distribution from my pension plan of $882K and invested it all in a Dual Momentum strategy, which switches monthly between a S&P 500 index fund, an international equity index fund and a T-bill fund depending on previous 12 months return. So far, I have been invested in the S&P 500 index fund (IVV).
Earlier this year I rolled over my 401K into an IRA in kind to avoid the brokerage window fee.
Currently my equity portfolio across IRAs, HSA and brokerage accounts, about 98% of the total investment portfolio, looks as follows:
The remaining 2% is in the Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund (VMMXX). This is a very aggressive portfolio, and I will have to do something more conservative when I grow up…maybe.
At this point I am interested in developing multi-generational wealth and look beyond my lifetime as an investment horizon.
What has been your best investment?
Paying for my daughter’s education has to be up there. She graduated from a highly ranked university and a top law school and as a Vice-President of legal affairs at a megafirm is now making a higher salary than daddy ever dreamed of.
I keep joking that she will have to repay my investment in her education by supporting me in old age, she has no idea what my net worth is.
The other is equity funds, especially in the last decade.
What has been your worst investment?
There have been a couple where I lost everything invested.
The first was an investment in an oil drilling venture in Texas. This was in 1982, oil prices spiked to $100 a barrel and oil business was booming. I did some due diligence by reading the prospectus, visiting the site and meeting with the principal, land owner and some investors.
Initial progress looked good, neighboring wells were producing, but eventually all they struck was water and I stopped receiving any correspondence from the investment company within a few months. This unfortunate investment cost us $35K, which was most of the money we saved since getting married.
The second fiasco involved an old family friend who was also our accountant. This was shortly after I left the partnership flush with recently acquired business profits.
He recommended for us to invest in a business loan to a friend of his at a high interest rate. The loan was supposed be collateralized with some equipment, but the paperwork was never completed and monthly payments lasted only two months.
We sued the accountant and eventually settled with his insurance company to cover our legal fees. This was a classic Ponzi scheme with millions of dollars involved, so insurance coverage was very limited. We lost $75K, which again was all the money we had, and the ordeal contributed to damaging our marriage.
You would think I would learn after the first investment disaster, but no – the lure of easy money… Avoid all get rich quick schemes!
We also bought several small land lots in the mountains, next to a national forest. Due to lack of utilities nearby and only an unmaintained dirt road, their value went nowhere for years. I eventually lost them in divorce.
What’s been your overall return?
I have been tracking most of my investment returns for several decades now:
*through end of second quarter 2019
The returns through 2009 include only 401K and IRA, and not after-tax accounts, which were relatively minor. After 2010 the full investment portfolio is included.
The average return is 9.8% and Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is 8.5%.
The ‘90s were very good, as well as the last dozen years or so. 2000 through 2002 and 2008 were no fun. Quite a rollercoaster ride, a feature of a mostly equity portfolio.
Last year’s portfolio losses were higher than S&P index due to underperformance of foreign and value equities. During the last decade factor investing has not paid off, but as a long-term investor I am counting on reversion to the mean. Historically factors such as small company size, value and momentum have earned a couple of percent more than S&P 500 index. Also, foreign equities may be a value play since they are trading at substantially lower price to earnings ratios than domestic equities.
How often do you monitor/review your portfolio?
Several times a day, including afterhours equities futures, I need help! Oo, S&P is up 27 points!
My portfolio more often than not moves 5 figures in a day, sometimes more than what I spend in a year, occasionally 6 figures in a day.
I rarely trade, mostly am a buy-and-hold index funds investor, except for the momentum piece, which has no trades so far either. The other trades happened when I switched my investment strategies, the last one in 2013, and rebalanced my portfolio. When I was working and contributed heavily into the retirement and brokerage accounts, I did most of portfolio rebalancing with new money. Now that I have no more contributions, I will rebalance annually. Down a point, darn!
How did you accumulate your net worth?
Cryptocurrency mining and cannabis stocks…yea, right…
Never received any inheritance money. The only substantial gifts were: my parents paid for half of my first new car in 1976 and wedding gifts from both sets of parents worth a couple of thousand dollars in 1980.
Vast majority of net worth came from salary and investment returns.
Here is my net worth over the years:
Can you tell that I love spreadsheets?
The above include investments and houses. No cars, jewelry, electronics, pensions, or exotic pets.
Isn’t compounding the eighth wonder, whether Einstein said it or not? Out of the $5.2M total in current investments, $2.7M are contributions (including company match and pension lump sum), and $2.5M are investment returns.
What would you say is your greatest strength in the ESI wealth-building model (Earn, Save or Invest) and why would you say it’s tops?
Save is my greatest strength. My net worth wouldn’t be anywhere near of what it is if I didn’t save prodigiously, especially as my income grew.
When we first married, I was the spender in the family, my wife was the saver. I was always pushing for a bigger house, a fancier car, nice watches and stereos, expensive vacations. She taught me well, to the point that I am probably over saving now.
I find that, as I get older, material things and status symbols don’t seem to matter as much. I get much enjoyment from items and activities that don’t cost much if at all, so all those pesky dollars keep accumulating.
I am fairly proud of my lifetime earnings, $3.7M according to the Social Security statement, which should get me close to the maximum payout. I would have probably earned more if I switched companies over the years, but would have lost out on benefits.
These days companies are cutting benefits and eliminating pension plans, thus switching employers is less painful. Having been grandfathered into a higher level of benefits made jumping companies less compelling for me.
I consider myself to be a prudent investor. Long-term investment in index funds has proven to be historically profitable and is approved by many investment gurus. Factor investing is more controversial, but has positive historic basis. My aggressive stance may not be everyone’s cup of tea, time will tell.
What road bumps did you face along the way to becoming a millionaire and how did you handle them?
I was born a poor Soviet child. My family immigrated from Soviet Union when I was 15. When we came to United States, we were allowed to take with us used household items, clothes, communist ideology, one piece of jewelry per person and $100.00 per person. So, the six of us started our new lives in California with less than $600.00 (some was spent in Italy).
My first taste of western culture and way of life was in Rome. We lived there for about a month in 1973, undergoing immigration processing for the USA. Stepping into an Italian deli on our first day and seeing the abundance of produce there blew our minds, museums and ancient monuments were amazing and the friendliest people I’ve ever met. When I asked for directions in the few English words I knew, since I knew no Italian words, they often walked me to the destination.
In Soviet Union at the time you were lucky for find a soup bone in a food store, museums of communist propaganda were miserable and people on the streets never smiled.
Upon arriving in the States, my father, educated as teacher, found various minimum wage jobs since his English was nonexistent. Much later he picked up enough English to became a small business owner.
My mother, educated as a chemist, was lucky to find a lab technician position in the cosmetics industry. She spent the rest of her carrier in cosmetics industry, eventually reaching a senior chemist position. Many of you, your wives, girlfriends and daughters are using products my mother developed. Even my grandfather in his ‘70s was doing factory assembly work.
Needless to say, we didn’t have much money when I was growing up. I financed my college education through scholarships, student loans and summer jobs. I was also clueless about investing.
Another road block was my divorce. Although the divorce settlement was fair and amicable, the divorce affected me emotionally for many years. Initially I went on a spending spree; some to replace stuff lost to me in the settlement, but mostly to dampen the pain. Thankfully we remained good friends, especially for my daughter’s sake.
For many years after the divorce I didn’t fund my IRA and only contributed enough to the 401K plan to get the company match.
Of course, the oil drilling and business loan fiascos did a lot of damage to our net worth. This damage persisted for many years through my investment conservatism. My net worth would have been substantially higher if I was investing in equities earlier.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your net worth?
Mostly maintaining the current portfolio. I have no interest to be a landlord again. I may move closer to my family and downsize the house to a smaller condo.
One thing I started doing last year and plan to do for the next 9 years is Roth conversions.
My income tax rate will be relatively low starting in retirement until age 70; when Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) start and so do Social Security payments (I plan to wait collect SS at 70). I expect my income tax rates to be high after age 70, so this presents a window of opportunity to use tax arbitrage by doing partial Roth conversions.
Do you have a target net worth you are trying to attain?
My original goal was $1.5M, when prevailing bond rates were around 10% and $150K in investment income sounded perfectly adequate.
When I got there, I wanted $2M, then $3M, then $5M, which is what I have now in investments.
Funny enough, this year my portfolio should yield the $150K in dividends I wanted initially, and hopefully a lot more in appreciation.
Eventually, eight figures net worth would be nice, but not a priority.
When I immigrated in 1973, becoming a millionaire seemed like an impossible dream. A million dollars in 1973 is equivalent to $5.8M today, so I am now a millionaire in 1973 dollars! I will need around $9M to be a millionaire in 1958 dollars, my birth year.
How old were you when you made your first million and have you had any significant behavior shifts since then?
I reached the first million at 45 sometime in 2003, I don’t recall being particularly excited about it or going through significant behavior shifts.
A major portion of my net worth at the time was in house equity, which was difficult to pinpoint, and I had to live somewhere.
I vividly remember the day my financial assets reached a million and I immediately bought my first Ferrari…just kidding. This was on November 17th, 2006 and I took the following snapshot:
Even then I didn’t carry much cash. I remember breathing a bit easier by having enough F-you money to weather a job loss.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from?
Of course, the biggest mistake has been losing over $110K in the ‘80s on oil drilling and business loan schemes.
Another mistake was investing too conservatively in my 30s and 40s, when most of my money was in CDs, money market funds and stable value fund. These instruments did have substantially higher interest rates than they do today, but I missed much of the equities run-up of late ‘80s and the ‘90s.
When I left the company in 1982, I cashed out several thousand dollars from the 401K plan rather than rolling over to an IRA. I didn’t maximize my pre-tax 401K contributions until 1990 and didn’t take advantage of after-tax 401K contributions until 2005. Not all 401K plans allow additional after-tax contributions (and I don’t mean Roth), but mine did.
The after-tax contributions were later rolled over to a Roth IRA with no tax consequences, also known as a Mega-Backdoor-Roth-Conversion. If I maximized after-tax contribution, my Roth IRA balance would have been a lot healthier, never to be taxed again…I hope…
After my third year of college I briefly switched to a pre-med major at an urging from a family friend doctor. I did well academically, but didn’t like the field, oh what could have been…
What advice do you have for ESI Money readers on how to become wealthy?
There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
In my case continuous education, long-term commitment to one employer, prodigious savings and prudent investment strategy did the trick.
If one has entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity, having your own small (or large) business is a good way to build wealth.
Above all, invest early and often.
What are your plans for the future regarding lifestyle?
My net worth already allowed me to retire earlyish. Hey, 60s is the new 40s!
What are your retirement plans?
My original plan was to retire at 55 in 2013. At 55 I could have started receiving a reduced early retirement pension benefit, which was 80% of full benefit reached at age 60. But my net worth was somewhat smaller than projected due to GFC, so I decided to work one more year, and then another, and another, and another, and another. The dreaded One-More-Year (OMY) Syndrome.
Not all considerations were financial. I happened to be working on an interesting program, with great people, reporting directly to two vice-presidents, who were looking out for me. All that changed about a year before I retired; a corporate reorganization caused a retirement epidemic to sweep through the ranks. I lost my mentors, inherited a pile of new responsibilities without a corresponding increase in compensation, and my major program was wrapping up.
Today, I am still in detoxification stage of retirement and love all the free time. Catching up on all those TV shows everyone always talked about and I didn’t have time to follow (Breaking Bad, The Game of Thrones, The Americans, The Wire, Westworld, Top Gear, lots of good stuff). Reading a book a week is nice also. Later, I may look into getting involved in a small business or doing more consulting.
I also manage investments for my daughter, sister and mother, and do their taxes. They have no interest in managing money themselves, can you believe such blasphemy!
I could get my daughter to do a millionaire interview — she reached that status last year. It would read something like this: “I make good money. I only save when my dad makes me do it. My dad does stuff with my 401K and brokerage accounts, and he makes me do something he calls Backdoor Roth (he assures me it’s not shady). I like to invest in Birkin bags, Jimmy Choo shoes and Cartier watches. My dad is weird; he mostly wears shorts and t-shirts lately, talks about some mustached guy in Colorado and drives a car with 192K miles on it.”
Or I could get my sister to write a millionaire interview, she reached that status a few years ago. It would read something like this: “I make good money. I used to save in my checking accounts at 0.01%. My brother does stuff with my IRA and brokerage accounts, and he made me open something called a Solo 401K (I saved a bunch on taxes, but he assures me it’s not shady). I like to invest in newest Apple products, Teacup Yorkies and a vintage Mercedes. My brother is weird; he walks everywhere, uses coupons and reads ESI blogs.”
My mother is a saint.
I need to decide when to start taking my Social Security payments. According to the latest statement, the monthly payment will be $2,180 at age 62, or $3,830 at 70. I am strongly leaning towards delaying starting the payments until age 70.
I started to evaluate volunteering opportunities. A local museum is looking for volunteers. I would also like to help the immigrant community to navigate various bureaucracies and to adjust to our way of life.
Are there any issues in retirement that concern you? If so, how are you planning to address them?
I am an introvert by nature, INTJ I believe (Hi to Elon Musk, Michelle Obama, Vladimir Putin and Walter White (Heisenberg)). I don’t make friends easily, but am devoted to those I have. A big part of my social network was at work, and although I try to keep in touch with some people through social media and occasional lunches, it’s not the same as stepping into the next office and chatting at your whim. Also, people I was closest to have retired and many moved away.
I am concerned with social isolation as I get older. The solution is to find social groups to join, volunteer and maybe date again. I hate the dating scene — don’t get divorced if you can help it!
I’ve been blessed with fairly good health most of my life, but lately parts of me hurt that never hurt before. Declining health is definitely of concern. I am losing weight, limiting intake of white carbs and sugars, walking more and may rejoin a gym.
I have a spending problem, as in – it hurts to spend. I have been a saver the latter half of my life and am now struggling with loosening up those purse strings. I always had that warm and cozy feeling from drawing a good salary; now my guaranteed income is down to $34K. The transition from being a saver to a spender proves to be difficult for me — I am open for suggestions. And no, I am not going to invest in your hair growth miracle drug, pay for space tourism or buy you a boat. Actually, space tourism could be cool.
How did you learn about finances and at what age did it “click”?
When I was growing up my family’s idea of investing was opening a savings account at a Savings & Loan. We didn’t know the first thing about real estate, mutual funds, stocks or bonds. Most of our friends and relatives were from the same financially ignorant community. In the Soviet Union investing meant purchasing Lenin’s portrait, canning fruit for the winter or sturdy winter shoes.
This lack of financial sophistication partially explains my early investment mistakes. Finance started “clicking” when I was completing my MBA in the late ‘80s and took some finance courses, then some more in the late ‘90s, as I started accumulating a sizable nest egg.
I didn’t start the next level financial education until about 10 years ago, when I started reading investment and personal finance books, magazine articles, blogs, podcasts and forums (Bogleheads rule!).
I am jealous of the ESI readers who are taking investment education seriously in their 20s and 30s, oh what bright futures await you!
Who inspired you to excel in life? Who are your heroes?
Mostly family, including my ex-wife. My parents took major risks, uprooting their lives in their 40s and moving half-way across the world to a strange and wonderful country, so that their two kids could have brighter futures. They always emphasized the value of education and encouraged us to excel in school. We have 5 degrees between my sister and me.
My ex-wife, who had a very similar background to mine, put up with me when I was trying to grow a new business, while raising an infant, and never blamed me for the terrible investments.
I am grateful to a several of my high school and university teachers, who helped a shy student with a horrible Russian accent to succeed by tutoring me after class, mentoring and caring. Ironically, my high school adviser did not have much confidence in me and strongly suggested that I find a job after school, or maybe apply to a junior college or trade school. This negative feedback motivated me to work harder and resulted in college acceptances to USC and UCLA, and later graduate school acceptances to MIT, Stanford and Caltech. Take that, Mr. S.!
Growing up in a country that specialized in hero-worship of its leaders, past and present, left a sour taste in my mouth, thus I have very few public heroes, except perhaps John Bogle, Albert Einstein and Yakov Smirnoff (What a Country!).
Politically incorrect note – I am grateful to American television for helping me learn the English language.
Do you have any favorite money books you like/recommend? If so, can you share with us your top three and why you like them?
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. Discussed here many times. Demonstrates that most millionaires are not what general public expects. Very inspirational to me, since I consider myself to be the ultimate millionaire next door??
Financial Fitness Forever by Paul Merriman. An investment guidance book that discusses the most important choices all investors make, along with extensive tools for planning and assessing your financial fitness. This book and Paul Merriman’s website led me to current investment strategy.
The Four Pillars of Investing by William J. Bernstein. Another great book that teaches one how to build a rational portfolio. He also wrote several other good books on investing and is often quoted all over the internet, such as: “If you’ve won the game, stop playing.” But I feel I haven’t won yet, Bill!
Do you give to charity? Why or why not? If you do, what percent of time/money do you give?
Last year I donated close $8K to several charities, some cash, but mostly items valued at thrift shop prices. In the past I donated a car, and plan to do the same with my current car.
When I was growing up, charity wasn’t practiced much. In Soviet Union charity meant not informing on your neighbor, or letting an elderly person in line for bread ahead of you. Volunteering meant mandatory Sunday cleaning of school buildings and grounds every month, and marching in endless parades on your day off. Religion was opium of the masses.
When we arrived in the United States, we received very little charity outside of family. I can definitely improve my charitable giving and volunteering.
Do you plan to leave an inheritance for your heirs (how do you plan to distribute your wealth at your death)? What are your reasons behind this plan?
With my current net worth and frugal ways, I expect to leave a sizable inheritance. Unless I spend it all on booze, drugs and rock ‘n roll. This would be hard since I rarely drink, never did drugs, and have no idea of how to spend a fortune on rock ‘n roll. Maybe a cute gold digger would persuade me to blow it all on her…Or, space tourism…
Currently I plan to leave almost everything to my daughter, hoping to build generational wealth.
How do you compare to The Millionaire Next Door?
Since the Millionaire Interview series was obviously inspired by the book The Millionaire Next Door, I thought that it would be a fun bonus question to compare myself to the characteristics shown in some of the tables in the book. Here it goes:
Katie Camel says
Great interview! I love reading the details of how different people reached FI, especially the ones from his sister and daughter. 😉
As for the social isolation, please address that issue sooner rather than later. Social isolation has become an enormous problem in our culture and needs to be addressed. Rather than feeling isolated and lonely, people need to reach out to others. There are plenty of people in all age brackets dealing with this same problem and it can be deadly (research backs this statement). Since you’re into walking and possibly joining a gym, start a local walking group. I’m sure there are plenty of retirees and non-retirees alike who’d enjoy your company. Younger people can learn from your story, and you can learn from them as well, so don’t discount anyone for age. Okay, nurse rant over. 😉
Seriously, though, thank you for sharing and best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement!
Thanks for the “rant” Katie. At this time I am comfortable with my social circle and rarely feel lonely. My concern is later in life, as friends move away and I lose touch with acquaintances. As a child and young adult, I had no problem making new friends, but as I get older it gets more difficult. In the near term I plan to start volunteering more to expand my social circle.
David Sweetnam says
Thanks, wow, what an extraordinary article!
Thanks for the great interview and an inspiring story of how investing in yourself and living a reasonable lifestyle can pay off. Being an engineer myself, I had to laugh at spreadsheets and the quantitative bent to your interview.
Congrats on living the American dream.
Retirement #19 says
Great article. Thanks for sharing. I retired two years ago at 54 and can relate to the social isolation concern. But there are so many ways to combat it:
1. Volunteer – I spend 8-10 hours a week helping with Veterans Community Project (veterans community project.org) which provides tiny homes to homeless veterans while they get back on their feet. I’ve met so many wonderful people through helping and leave the work feeling good inside.
2. MeetUp app – this is a great way to get connected with like-minded people to enjoy similar interests. I’m part of the hiking club, Italian club and whiskey club.
3. Exercise – join a gym and get back into cardio and lifting weights. After I had both my hips replaced (early osteoarthritis due to over usage as a sports freak) I decided that the gym was my “going to the office.” Your health becomes part of your daily work. And you get to meet more people.
4. Travel to see friends. A must.
5. Side gig – I do some part time consulting in the healthcare field and get to meet some clients who have become friends.
6. Spend your money! Whether on yourself or on new friends, you’ve earned it!
Just a couple ideas. Two years into retirement I know I have more to learn about myself. But so far, making a conscious effect to push yourself out into the world has introduced me to so many new friends and acquaintances.
Best to you.
Early Retirement interviewee #19
Thanks for the ideas #19. I am considering all of these and also purchasing a small business.
Razorback 14 says
Thank you —-
Very thoughtful of you to share all you’ve done during your lifetime ——- the good, the bad and the ugly.
Much like me, it seems it was tough to reach the 1st million mark, and the next (And next) happens very quickly —— nice layout of the details.
Carry on, don’t change a thing, but get out there and meet someone soon…… 😎
Excellent job! Enjoyed reading. Not to diminish anything at all, you had some Wonderful market timing.
I am on the path to retirement in the next 5 – 7 years I am very nervous with what the market might do over that horizon. I am with a well paid high end advisor and I am very sure he isn’t a good fit. I am looking hard at good old index funds.
Great job again. Thanks for sharing.
These are wonderful details. Thanks. I really need to scrutinize again.
MI 170 says
Thanks for a very uniquely entertaining interview – I thoroughly enjoyed the combo of comedy and spreadsheet “geeking out”. Having an engineering background myself, I can certainly appreciate the attention to detail. It seems as though you are at a very exciting crossroads financially and career-wise of discovering your ‘second act’. It appears that you are quite good in helping those around you apply some of the same principles you have to achieve millionaire status – which is an awesome feeling by the way – and perhaps expanding on this could be a very fulfilling part of your retirement…best of luck!
So thorough. (I didn’t think there were too many spreadsheets 😁) So similar; aside from divorce and immigrant background. Surprised you took so long to FIRE. Well done, including recovery after hitting your “potholes”.
Enjoyed your interview and especially your dry sense of humor (I found myself chuckling several times at your comments). I also love how you’re helping your daughter and sister (and mother?) manage their portfolios. You’ve given me the idea to encourage my child (currently contributing to a Roth IRA) to do a backdoor Roth every year once income gets high enough. My husband is close to your age, and his career mirrors yours in some respects; so it was especially interesting to read your interview. Your portfolio would be too aggressive for me; I would be afraid I would panic and sell if stocks declined tomorrow by 50-60%. Following remarks by William Bernstein and Jonathan Clements, I try to ask myself how much I can stand to see my portfolio fall and not panic and sell (and use that thought experiment to guide my decision on what percentage of my portfolio should go into equities). If I were you, I’d consider increasing my allocation to fixed income, at least by a little. As I think Suze Orman said, “You’ve earned it; don’t lose it!” Congratulations on your success, and may God bless!
Thank you for sharing all of the details of your trajectory! I continue to enjoy learning from others.
Following up some comments as well as questions.Sorry in advance for potential odd formatting as I copy/pasted.
• You said you are exploring volunteering and giving back opportunities. Please, please do this. My husband and I also are first generation immigrants and, in our cultures, giving is usually done in the family as well. We made a conscious decision when we became a dual income family to give (reflects 50% of my take home income), we do this anonymously. We donate appreciated stock. This has been extremely fulfilling from a personal standpoint.
• You mentioned you’re not a spender and have a hard time spending. If you are happy with your lifestyle, then I don’t see any reason to manufacture spending for the sake of it. If there’s a true need to “spend,” make charitable donations an expense category and fill it up!
• Please consider leveraging QCD’s when you’re 70.5 (reduce your tax burden and help others).
• You’re 100% equities, don’t see this as an issue at all, due to your expenses and your stated goal for generational wealth. Even if the market tanked 80%, you’d still cover your expenses.
• A very interesting book I read on a story of Generational Wealth: “Fortune’s Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt.” Summary: The Vanderbilt family patriarch, “the Commodore”, built a fortune that made him the world’s richest man by 1877. Less than 50 years after his death, not a single Vanderbilt descendent was counted among the world’s richest people.
• You obviously enjoy and are good at managing finances. I encourage you to help your daughter come to some base level of interest/understanding, so she can be prepared for her inheritance.
I have many, mostly around estate planning. We are on a somewhat similar trajectory (though with dual income and 2 children) and have another 10+ ish years of employment, by choice (we are also 10+ ish years younger than you). I am trying to learn from others on how they are approaching estate planning.
• What is your general strategy to transfer wealth?
o When do you plan to inform your daughter of the potential size of her inheritance?
o Since you reference the Millionaire Next Door, what are your thoughts on how they document that children who know they have money coming tend to live above their means (I know this doesn’t apply to your daughter, but thinking of grandchildren)?
o The new Secure Act law changes can leave high earning heirs a significant tax burden.
Have you looked into Charitable Remainder Trusts for you IRA?
o If the estate tax exemption reverts after 2026, thoughts on how to minimize tax liability for your daughter?
Have you thought about taking advantage of the exemption now and making a transfer before 2026 (knowing there are pros/cons)?
o Do you currently give your daughter (or others) the annual $15k gift limit?
• Does your daughter have children (asking since you mention generational wealth)?
• Would appreciate any research or additional information you have to share on this subject.
All the best for a continued happy retirement!
Thanks, MI81. I am doing all I can to get my daughter to be more involved with her finances, but she thinks the field is exceedingly dull, and I don’t want to push it too hard to sour our relationship.
As for the other questions:
My daughter will inherit the bulk of my assets after I pass. She is a beneficiary on all the financial accounts and I will execute a Revocable Transfer On Death Deed on my house in her name to avoid probate.
I am planning to keep her in suspense regarding the potential size of her inheritance, at least in the near future. She is making an excellent salary and will benefit from a similar size, if not larger, inheritance from her mother’s side. I think she is very levelheaded and this knowledge shouldn’t affect her lifestyle much, but you never know. I’ll let her mature a little more. Besides, she never asks. If she was in a less stable financial position, I would let her know sooner rather than later, so she could feel more secure.
My opinion is that younger children and younger adults are better off making their own way in life, rather than counting on economic outpatient care or inheritances. Once they mature, hopefully they’ll become better equipped to handle substantial funds.
Charitable Remainder Trust for my IRA is a possibility, but in my ethnic culture, charity tends to stay within family.
I started doing Roth conversions of my IRA, last year I converted $141K to top off the 24% income tax bracket, and plan to continue for another 10 years, now that SECURE Act increased RMD requirement to 72.
If estate exemption reverts, I will hire a estate attorney to find the best way to pass the inheritance, probably though trusts and life insurance. But frankly paying my fair share in taxes is not such a bad idea for a couple of reasons. My daughter doesn’t expect anything from me, so any inheritance would be gravy. This country has benefited my family in numerous ways: gave us refuge from an oppressive regime, provided support to my grandparents through SSI, subsidized my daughter’s and sister’s college and professional school degrees at UCLA and UC Berkeley, provided funding to my former employer, so I could be gainfully employed and is maintaining our the freedoms and rights so my family could thrive.
I do not plan to transfer funds through gifts before 2026, with hope that these gifts would somehow be grandfathered in. The only other way I can see taking advantage of the exemption now and making a transfer before 2026 is by not being alive when the exemption reverts. I think this is a rather extreme way to avoid taxes:)
I have done some gifting in the last few years, but at $15K a year it would take me about 470 years to get rid of my wealth. I will continue the gifting, but as a tax strategy, it’s not very effective for larger estates.
No grandchildren yet, so my generational wealth plan is in jeopardy. I may be forced into fathering more children to implement my plan:)
One of my internet investment mentors, Paul Merriman, has a similar view on risk as he explained in this article https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-much-investment-risk-should-you-take-2019-04-03 If I include the values of my pension and Social Security, which are bond-like, my asset allocation is closer to 80/20. Since I submitted this interview in mid-October of last year, my portfolio grew by $485K. Such returns are difficult to give up when fixed income investments yield around 3%. But, I agree that derisking my portfolio is a prudent thing to do.
A man after my own spreadsheet loving heart. Good interview. Loved all the tables. I did similar, but you took it up several notches! Another reminder, our country although certainly not perfect is a great place..especially for those that want to work hard.
Hi, thank you for the interview. My background is very similar to yours in every way except I’m a bit younger. Could you please provide any insights into how to raise a young daughter after a divorce? Your daughter seems to have done quite well and is confident and well adjusted. Thanks!
My daughter was 6 when we separated. I moved about 5 miles away and did everything possible to minimize any disruptions to her life and routines; the same school, ballet school, Brownie troop, etc. Her base was always in her mother’s house, but she also had a room in my house, and stayed with me 3-4 nights a week until she got her driving licence.
Love her always no matter what; don’t have to like her always. Never argue with your ex in front of the child. Never say negative things about your ex to your child, even when she complains to you about the ex. I tried not to be a harsh disciplinarian, so I wouldn’t be viewed as the bad parent. But I also didn’t want to spoil her or get into competition with my ex on who shows more “consumer love”. Major purchases were made by her mother and I shared the costs. The key was to communicate with the ex regarding any behaviour issues and address it together if possible, you can still have family meeting for the sake of your child.
Another key point is to reassure your daughter that divorce was not her fault, even if she doesn’t bring it up. My daughter told me years later that she thought for a while that we divorced because of her, you can never know what gets into a young child’s head.
I always emphasised the importance of good education to her, and encouraged to not limit her ambitions. At age 8 she declared that she wanted to be an entertainment attorney, probably because she loved theater and movies and liked to argue. We often discussed what it would take to get into a top law school, even when she was in elementary school. I never hesitated to spend money on her education and extracurricular activities. She ended up attending an excellent private high school, great college, and top law school, and today she is a vice president at a major entertainment conglomerate.
If she feels loved, wanted and secure a divorce doesn’t have to have any negative consequences for her.
Very informative interview, and very life affirming story. Congratulations to you for living the classic American story of picking yourself up by your bootstraps. Why is it that those folks born elsewhere can see what a great country this is, but those born here gripe about no opportunity for advancement?
Thanks David. I think there are plenty of folks born here that understand the greatness of this country. The gripes tend to come from those that somehow feel entitled and don’t want to go through the effort to succeed. Often everything was handed to them on a silver platter and at the first roadblock they cry foul. My family was minorities in my birth country, and I always knew that my opportunities there were limited due to extreme prejudices built into the system. Even in many western countries opportunities depend on family status, the right religion and wealth.
I bet those inspiring high school teachers, underpaid and underappreciated, would love to hear how much they meant to you and how much they helped you to succeed. Drop them, or their descendants, a line. I bet it would make you happy, too:)
Great idea Calliope, unfortunately the school closed shortly after my graduation and I haven’t been able to locate those teachers. I will try a little harder through social media.
Feisty Fire says
Great Interview! Loved the data driven approach!
Any tool or best practices you recommend to track spending, budgeting at a minute level since you’ve nailed that down so well?
Also, interesting to see how inflation plays a role over a long term? What do you think will be an equivalent of 2.5 Million dollars in 30 years time frame?
Thanks Feisty Fire. Since I don’t budget, I only track spending on annual basis. I still have trouble trusting linking all of my financial account to an accumulator, such as Mint or Personal Capital, so I do the tracking manually. I keep a checking account ledger in an Excel workbook, which is easy to do since I write very few checks or electronic transfers. Then I wait until my credit card companies publish annual summaries, usually in late January. These are already categorized, but I download them into Excel and do a sanity check. For example, I often get snacks at 7-11, but the banks thinks I am buying gasoline, even though none of the 7-11s in my area sell gas. I rarely use cash, mostly for small food purchases, so I add all my ATM withdrawals to the food category. I then add up the various categories and transfer the data to another spreadsheet on which I have multi-year spending data, so I can make comparisons. This whole process only takes a couple of hours each year.
I usually don’t take long term projections seriously, short term even less so. My crystal ball is in the shop, but I suspect that inflation with increase somewhat from the current historically low rates. I tend to use 3% to 4% for longer term projections. At 3% the equivalent of $2.5M in 30 years will be $6.1M, and at 4% – $8.1M; quite a big difference. That’s why I rarely trusted retirement calculators, since they always make inflation, investment returns and tax rates projections; you can get wildly different answers depending on these projections.
I just turned 62, so Social Security timing decision is a priority. I’ve been playing with various online SS calculators and my own spreadsheets, and by varying inflation and investment rates, they tell me to start SS payments anywhere between 62 and 70! Garbage in, garbage out.
I did a few things to hedge against inflation in retirement. The major one was oversaving relative to the recommended “25 times spending” formula or what retirement calculators suggest. I also plan to keep a substantial portion of my investments in equities, since they tend to keep up with inflation long term. I took most of my pension in a lump sum instead of a fixed annuity, and by investing the money I hope to at least keep up with inflation. By living in my own mortgage free home, housing expenses are mostly fixed.
Amazing story, very entertaining, as well as educational on both financial and life levels.
Thanks for the great insights. We know getting to the first million is the toughest. After that your second million took a few years. After that doubling happened every 2 years. Your insights on that?
Also, can you expound on keeping the marriage intact and not getting divorced?
For me the first million took the longest, mostly due to divorce. We would have probably reached the first million 10 years sooner if we didn’t divorce. The second million took 8 years due to the Great Financial Crisis. With most of my net worth in stocks and real estate, I took a major hit during this time period. I didn’t panic and sell, and shortly after the start of recovery cashed in my CDs and invested it all in the stock market.
Since then the market has been very good to me, last year alone my net worth increased over $1.1M with no earned income. I don’t expect this kind of growth to continue into the near future, but compounding is a wonderful thing.
Not sure if I am the best authority on keeping a marriage healthy, but if had to do it again, I would do a few things different. I have perfectionist tendencies, which can make it difficult to get along with. I would try harder to compromise and appreciate more what my partner brings to the marriage. Often our disagreements would get out of control, with bitter accusations and undeserved blames. Getting professional help to teach us how to resolve differences in a more civilized manner would have been prudent. I should have done more of an effort in doing household chores.
I also believe that in our situation, the investment mistakes I mentioned in the interview played a major role in souring the marriage. Although we didn’t blame each other for these disasters, they resulted in a grey cloud over our moods and hopes for future for many years. You always think: how would my life be better if we didn’t lose all that money. Again, getting professional help with this issue would have been smart.
The bear finally got me, ouch!
The daily swings in my investment portfolio the last three weeks are breathtaking:
My investments reached an all-time high of $5,746K on 1/17 and are $4,109K on 3/12. Down $1,637K or 28.5% in less than 2 months, over half of it this week alone. I haven’t changed anything…yet.
This is what a bear market looks like when you hold a 99% equities portfolio.
M169 painful to watch. I’ll admit I was already holding cash and went very heavy cash very quick.
I’m probably only down about 15% overall since it all turned. And that’s only because my advisor fought me on moving managed funds quicker.
I don’t think I like having an advisor, he’s a great guy but not sure he is needed. Honestly he got in the way.
I’m not smart enough to time the market but I know I want to be out of this mess for a while as I think it’s going to get worse for the next few months.
I am now down $2,113K or 37%. Did a little more tax loss harvesting this morning.
Yeah, ‘Financial Fitness Forever’ by Paul A. Merriman, easily one of the best around, a real eye-opener. Chapters 8 and 9 alone, pretty much all you need. Ramsey’s Baby Steps and a few more general observations, very helpful at times. Other pet subjects (tithing?!), not so much. Term life insurance only, yeah yeah, don’t get stupid with credit cards and so on, simple enough to realize once learned. It’s all about the application. Bulk wisdom? Cheap and plentiful these days. Same goes for cyberporn (lol), bourbon, various other things . . . why pay, or pay more, when the best comes easily or freely? Do a little homework and apply yourself, that’s all.
Saw your retirement update and came back to read this interview. Congratulations on your retirement and the big increase in portfolio since!
Share many similarities with you but more than a decade younger. Also came from a communist country at 16, studied engineering and got a MBA later. Big saver, still have trouble spending, divorced which really affected my net worth growth but did rebuild it to around your range. Thinking of retirement but has the OMY syndrome, probably will work part time until 55 or 60.
You seems like a very happy person from these interviews. I am more melancholic and still resentful towards Ex (guess it’s the support payments😂）are you this way by nature or have to work at it?
I am very grateful that my divorce has not been contentious, we still had to raise our 7 year old daughter. I continued support payments well past the legal agreement, and consider it money well spent since I now have a great relationship with my 39 year old daughter, and a friendly relationship with my ex-wife and her husband. For example, we had a very pleasant new year brunch together at their house, wishing each other a great new year.
I am by nature an optimist and use logic to sort out my feelings. It serves no purpose to be resentful towards an ex-spose, and if you really think about, you will probably find that you had a hand in the failed marriage. I prefer to get along instead of holding grudges. I wasn’t always like that, but I find as I get older, life is too short for negative feelings, so I try to make lemonade when life hands me lemons:) I hope you can get over the melancholic feelings and put resentment behind you.
Congratulation on attaining a substantial nest egg BG at a much younger age than me! I lived through OMY for 5 years, part time work was not an option at my employer. Only you can know when you have enough and ready to quit working. In my case, my net worth roughly doubled from my original planned retirement at 55 to actual retirement at 60. I feel that the additional security the extra money brought was worth it for me.