Back When I Was Lucky: Unemployed, In Debt, And Living With My Parents

I look around and I don’t think I have ever met anyone as lucky as me. Yes, I was born in America, so I already won the lottery, but it gets better!

I was born in 1984! Why is this important? Because this meant if I followed societies expectations, I would graduate high school in 2003. And I did!

Stay with me…

Because I graduated high school in 2003, this meant I began college a few months later in the fall of 2003. Despite spending a few quarters (University of California Schools are on the quarter system, not semesters) on academic probation (including a personal letter I had to write to the Dean begging to keep me enrolled), I managed to graduate in 4 years, meaning I entered the workforce in 2007!

Do you remember 2007?

In real estate history, 2007 is not looked upon as a positive year. In fact, most of our economy doesn’t look back on 2007 fondly.

You can trace back the peak of the housing market to between 2005-2006, depending on which part of the country you are looking. Prices kept skyrocketing… until they stopped.

Think of 2007 as Wiley Coyote from The Looney Toons cartoon. Prices are about to collapse, but as long as nobody looks down, everyone can buy themselves a few more seconds of ignorance and stability.

So here we are, it’s 2007 and I enter the workforce! Corporate America here I come! How lucky am I?!

I am hired as an assistant marketing consultant for an environmental consulting firm. Sounds pretty neat right? It wasn’t.

But lucky for me after I returned from a 2-week training program in Indianapolis (I was based in Newport, California) only to discover that the boss who hired me had left the company!

How lucky!

So now I had several bosses! Thats cool right? And no ‘real’ job description any more. Thats sustainable, right?

Here’s the thing. I hated my job. I hated my job more than you have ever hated a job. I don’t need to go into details about how I travelled 25 days a month, worked 60-80 hour weeks for extremely low pay while living in a very expensive city that I barely saw except when I was flying into and out of John Wayne Airport, LAX or Burbank (depending one whichever was cheapest or involved the longest layovers).

It is very possible that the greatest attribute any entrepreneur can have is a complete disdain towards working at a job. I consider myself very lucky to have this attribute.

Did I mention I was a coward?

Maybe coward is too strong of a word, but maybe it isn’t. I absolutely despised working at this job. My friends saw it in me.

I was terrible to be around, and any free time I had was usually filled with a lot of alcohol. It went on like this for WAY longer than any sane person should allow.

I was completely unappreciated and at any time I could have put a stop to it.

(My wife and I are currently watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, and all I can compare it to is voluntarily getting up every morning and driving to prison for the day, only to do it all over again the next day.)

So why would I do this? We already established that I was a big fat scaredy cat.

Was it fear of the unknown? What would I do for money?

What would my friends think if I was unemployed?

What would my parents think if I quit my first job?

What would my mom think if I no longer had health benefits?

Whatever it was, it was strong enough to keep me doing something I despised for quite a while. But good thing I am lucky!

By the time the recession reached the west coast, my company had seen at least 3 rounds of layoffs before it was my turn.

I have touched on this before, but I was legitimately “Up in the Air”d.

It wasn’t as bad as getting fired over the computer, but it was a 3rd party company doing the dirty work.

So its 2008. Mid-Recession. I am 24 and unemployed, so I moved back in with my parents! How lucky!

All of these things were happening to me, (for me), and I had no control over them. I was too afraid to quit a job I hated, but was eventually fired! How many people get to experience this level of good luck in their lives? I assume not many.

But I did!

2008. Crazy recession going on. Living at home with my parents, back in Scottsdale and out of California where all my friends and “business connections” resided.

All of my biggest ‘fears’ had come to fruition. How lucky!

Do you know how freeing it is to be so afraid of something, and then to experience it?

Its pretty hard to be afraid of hitting rock bottom if it means moving up a level.

Armed with my only attribute of “never wanting another job again”, I decided I would never have another job again. What was the worst that would happen? I’d end up at home with my parents at 25 instead of 24?

So I took a risk. And then another. And then another. Now these were very calculated risks. In fact, they weren’t really even risks.

After studying Robert Kiyosaki for a few years, I was well aware that he made  lot of money in real estate after the savings and loan crisis of 1987. In fact, he did it in Phoenix. Phoenix is where I was, and there was a new crisis. How lucky!

I begged, borrowed, and stole all the money I could find, in order to buy single family homes in Phoenix. People told me I was crazy to be buying houses. Today, they tell me how lucky I am.

I tell them, I know!!!

I was born in America in 1984. The way the American education system is aligned, this meant I graduated from college after 4 years in 2007. There was a global recession underway that I had no control over. It didn’t start earlier, it didn’t start later.

I was fired from a job I was too afraid to quit.

At age 24, unemployed and a complete failure, I moved back in with my parents.

No one is luckier than me!

In the following years; several companies founded, many houses bought, rented and sold, websites developed and books in the pipeline, a loving wife and beautiful family. All because I am nothing but a big scaredy cat. At least I was.

And no one is luckier than me.


Why Being Given a Large Sum of Money is a Curse, Not a Blessing

ESPN just released its first episode of 30 for 30’s second season with a documentary titled “Broke”, detailing how so many athletes end up broke and bankrupt shortly after retiring from their given sport.

This echoes what many reports have stated regarding lottery winners ending up in bankruptcy within three years of submitting their winning ticket.

Why is this? It can’t just be a coincidence, can it?

The answer in short is no, its not a coincidence. The biggest misunderstanding about money is that in actuality, getting rich is not an event, but rather a process.

What does this mean?

Well, here’s an example. If you give a large pile of money to someone are they rich? Many athletes and lottery winners have shown that the money doesn’t last if you don’t know what to do about it.

However, if you take all the money away from a self made millionaire/billionaire it would just be a matter of time before they started to build wealth again. This is the process of getting rich, and it has little to do with money. It has everything to do with knowing about money.

One small snippet I caught during this film was a financial advisor mentioning how student athletes graduate college knowing nothing of financial education. This is true about our society as a whole.

We have so many mandatory classes and credits we need to attain in order to earn degrees, yet if you want to learn about wealth building you have to seek out and search for credible sources and materials on your own.

In addition, when one person is given a large pile of money all of a sudden, and all they know about money is how to spend it, then spend it they will. When the money starts to run out, they look for the next big “score” because this is what they have learned about money. There has to be another big pile down the road…. right?

This is when they get taken advantage of and invest in silly things that are “guaranteed to double your money”, and then their money runs out even faster.

I recently wrote a piece titled Money is Sexy But Your Investments Shouldn’t Be, and I described how so many people are taught that getting rich is an event. You work really hard at something and then one day you have your pile of money and bam you are rich and ready to retire.

But what happens to that pile if it isn’t being replenished? Imagine a bucket filled to the top with water. But poke a small hole in the bottom for expenses. As you add expenses like cars, credit cards, jewelry, iPads, clothes etc., the bucket begins to drain faster and faster.
Your job is to add more faucets to this bucket. Even if one faucet is just a little bit of water it helps. Even if that faucet only replenishes the bucket enough to cover one expense, it helps.
The problem is that as the bucket drains, these once “millionaires” start looking for a new bucket to start draining and miss out on all the opportunities the first bucket provided.
People are impacted by their experiences. When athletes know nothing about money, but are given a large amount of money all at once they are going to expect that to happen again… the problem is that rarely does it happen once to anyone, let alone twice.
Bart Scott, an NFL linebacker mentions that when he received his first check in the NFL, he took it to a check cashing place because he didn’t know anything about banks and checking accounts.
Many of the athletes also assumed that when they signed for a million dollars, they were going to get a million dollars. They didn’t know about taxes.
What is really impactful is the fact that not only do many of these fortunate athletes and lottery winners end up broke, they often end up worse off than they were before the money. Huge debts and broken relationships are the norm in many of these situations.
So whats the answer? The same boring answer as always. Education.
If you take financial education, and you add time, the result will be wealth. Want more wealth? Then spend more time on your financial education. Its that simple. It may not be “quick”, but it is self sustaining.