On Not Being Like the Other Guys

Today, my recruiter called me and told me that my contract was renewed through April.  Normally, the client does six month renewals; This one is for four months.  It looks like a reorganization in is the cards.  As a result, I might be looking for another contract around midyear.

For a moment, the uncertainty of our lives swept over me.  Such is life as a technical mercenary.

Years ago, I was living well beyond my means.  I was single and enjoyed life.  I had a jeep, motorcycle, and I traveled on several continents.  Apparently, I was just like the other guys:

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The other guys in my age bracket has an average credit score of 645 and more than $90k of total debt.  Most have a negative net worth.

At the time I was making good money.  I was blessed to have a job that I absolutely loved.  The managers all had technical degrees, and I worked with some very smart people.  When you work with a motivated group of top-notch engineers it is a giddy experience.  Every week I would learn something new.  I loved that job.

Then, our group was relocated to a manufacturing plant in a small town.  Due to personnel turnover, I was reassigned to work on a project that was written in PL/1 and Pascal.  I could see my career dying before my eyes. 

Then the dotcom bubble popped and the layoffs started coming.  I found myself unemployed, living in a small town with only one major employer.  The nearest metropolitan area was two hours away.

It was one of the worst times in my life, but it turned out to be a blessing.  It was a cathartic moment in my life that forced me to rethink my lifestyle as well as my friends.  Once I was unemployed and could no longer afford hefty bar tabs, my circle of friends shrank dramatically.

I cashed out my retirement accounts and investment accounts and I paid off all of my debts.  (Note: from a financial point of view—this is one of the absolute worst financial moves you can ever make.  I have not fully recovered from this mistake.). 

I vowed I would never be in that situation ever again.  Ever.

Today, we have no debt.  Our cars are paid for.  We have no mortgage (we rent).  We now have six months of emergency funds saved up.  My wife’s college degrees have been paid for out of pocket.  My tuition (I’m going back to get an Electrical Engineering degree) are paid in full without any loans.

We struggled to do this.  We cut cable television.  We got rid of the phone line.  We started clipping coupons and more importantly, I started learning how to shop for a good deal. 

My strategy is extremely simple:

  1. Live on less than you make;
  2. Try to cut your expenses down to the bone; and
  3. Save more
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