WHEN MY WIFE AND I got married, she had a credit card with an outstanding balance. Back then, you could write off the interest on your tax return. Still, I hate debt and I paid off her balance. Ever since, she’s continued to maintain a separate credit card because I wanted her to have a credit history, so she could take out a loan on her own if I died. We’ve always paid off her monthly balance in full.
I WAS FIRED OR LAID off 10 times during my career. Why did this happen so often? One reason: I made a decision that I’d never quit a job.
This position was formed during high school when I had a job parking cars at a local Chinese restaurant. I became friends with the guy who’d set up this deal with the restaurant’s owners. While the job was fun, I realized one night that the payment this guy received from the owners wasn’t being divided evenly among all the teenagers parking cars.
I DON’T KNOW THAT MY life has been all that different from that of others. Still, what’s happened to me has—I believe—been good preparation for retirement. Here are seven life lessons I learned on my journey from childhood through to my departure from the workforce just before my 70th birthday.
Lesson No. 1: Doing it yourself can save big money. My older brother got me interested in cars. This was the late 1950s and 1960s,
IN 1980, MY FIRST WIFE and I spent the Labor Day weekend with friends on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We went out for breakfast and I drank a lot of coffee. Our friends were planning a day at the beach. This is not a good idea for me because—being of Irish descent—I come in two colors, red and white. Either I look pale and sickly or I’m red as a beet. To avoid this latter state,
I LIVE IN CENTRAL New Jersey. Within walking distance of my house are some McMansions—huge homes clustered together in new developments. I look at them and think, “Who cleans these things?”
I live in a three-bedroom ranch-style house with an unfinished basement and a two-car garage. My garage is filled with two cars and my tools. The basement is filled with my wife’s stuff. We bought the house when my wife was pregnant. Thirty-three years later,
THERE ARE CERTAIN expressions I’ve heard during my lifetime which, for one reason or another, have stayed with me. In a previous article, I related how a coworker encouraged me to “keep on keeping on” when confronted with a challenge, and how Napoleon Hill’s expression “burning desire” struck me as a great way to describe a goal worth seeking.
Here’s another expression I’ve never forgotten: “The other side sucks.”
I’ve been a race car fan ever since my older brother introduced me to automobile racing in my youth.
MY FATHER DIED WHEN I was 15 years old. My mother didn’t work outside the house, so we now had no money coming in. She eventually got a job as a receptionist in the local hospital’s X-ray department, but she only worked weekends and holidays. Meanwhile, by then, my older brother was married and out of the house, so he wasn’t affected by this change in our family’s financial circumstances.
As I saw it,
“I ALWAYS MADE EVERY team I tried out for,” lamented a college freshman after failing to make the lacrosse team.
I tried to make him feel better. “I never made any teams,” I said.
His reply: “You’re used to failing. I’m not.”
That response took me by surprise. But I thought about it, and realized he was right. I had struggled all my life in academics, sports, socializing and with the opposite sex. I was getting used to others around me always being better.
I HAVE BEEN FIRED, downsized, restructured and laid off 10 times in my life. The first time was at age 16, when I worked for a McDonald’s-like hamburger joint, and the last time was shortly before I turned 70, when I was working for an insurance company as the manager of regulatory compliance.
I can’t blame this on discrimination. I’m a white Christian male, five feet 10 inches tall, college educated, and of sound mind and body,