WHEN I WAS BORN IN Iowa in 1973, my parents were renters—and they didn’t become homeowners until eight years later. Looking back, I can see that it would have been hard for them to buy a house. When my dad started at the factory where he worked for more than 30 years, it didn’t pay the best.
But as Bandag, the retread company he worked for, began to prosper under its founder Roy James Carver,
I ONCE DABBLED IN the world of sales. I wasn’t very good at it. In 1997, I got a job at Schwan’s, driving one of those yellow trucks you see in neighborhoods all over the U.S. selling frozen treats, ice cream and a variety of food. I thought it would be a delivery and service job. But I found out during the orientation and training that there was an element of sales.
I read the books of motivational speaker Zig Ziglar in my free time and got some basic training in sales from the company.
ABOUT HALF THE RENTALS that my wife and I own were foreclosures we bought around the time of the Great Recession. In fact, I closed on the first one on my wedding day—a fact my wife isn’t anxious to let me forget.
In 2000, a family had bought the house for $70,000. In 2006, JPMorgan Chase foreclosed on the house. In 2007, the bank unloaded the property for $93,000 to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),
I GREW UP IN a blue-collar family. When money was tight, one strategy my dad used to improve the situation was simple but effective. Overtime, time-and-a-half and double-time were all terms I heard frequently throughout my childhood.
In this Iowa factory town, those words can still be regularly heard at the taverns, bowling alley and family get-togethers. Overtime is the gift that can make a low-paying factory job worthwhile. Time-and-a-half turns that $12 job into a far more palatable $18 an hour,
IN MARCH 1999, I began my job at the chemical plant where I still work today. During the weeklong orientation, I had my 26th birthday. It was the start of a job where I felt I couldn’t make any excuses. I needed to be an adult.
I would be making good money. After graduating high school in 1991, I’d averaged $18,000 to $23,000 a year in various jobs. In my first full year at the plant,
I LOST A MATCH ON Nov. 12 against my former tag-team partner, Kevin Gutierrez, who wrestles under the colorful name “Corn Boi.” It was a classic Lucha Libre stipulation match. I put my mask on the line, and Kevin would cut his shoulder-length hair if he lost. Mask versus hair—or, as they say in Mexico, mascara versus cabellera.
We had many tried-and-true plot lines going for us. Teacher versus student. Old friends and tag partners who were now fighting furiously against each other.
WHEN I BEGAN MY journey to becoming a professional wrestler in 1994, I didn’t give much thought to the money aspect of the business. Wrestling was a secret organization similar to magicians or, frankly, the Mafia. Information wasn’t readily available on the industry’s economics. I simply had a burning desire to be a part of this crazy circus that I’d always loved as a fan.
As I began training to be a wrestler under Skandor Akbar in Dallas,
IN THE FALL OF 1994, when I was 21, I made the trip south from Iowa down I-35 to Texas. I was starting my wrestling training on Commerce Street in downtown Dallas at Doug’s Gym.
What I wasn’t expecting were the financial lessons I picked up from some of the colorful professional wrestlers of that era.
Doug’s Gym wasn’t air-conditioned. It had a classic collection of weights and machines. I felt transported back in time,
FINANCIAL EXPERTS often advise retirees to delay claiming Social Security. Their actuarial tables and statistics make a compelling case. Still, as soon as I’m eligible, I’ll strongly consider claiming Social Security.
Why? I never knew either of my grandfathers. My mom’s dad died of a stroke when she was age 19. One of my favorite photos of my parents’ wedding is that of my uncle—my mom’s oldest brother—walking her down the aisle. My grandfather never got to see my parents wed.
IN MY EARLY 30s, I was a typical blue-collar worker. The only way I invested was through my employer’s 401(k) plan. But I was a good saver, putting 25% of my income into the plan, which was the maximum allowed, plus I got a generous company match of 8%. Still, I was on the lookout for ways to increase my savings and my investment returns. That was early 2006.
I read a variety of books to further my personal finance knowledge.