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Subject:  Missed my 20 year Fooliversary Date:  4/7/2018  12:17 AM
Author:  synchronicityII Number:  23706 of 23828

Sorry about that. It was, as it happens, 20 years ago on April Fool's Day. No kidding. That day also went by the title "Unorthodox Easter"* this year.

Twenty years. Time flies. So, what has happened over 20 years? Well, let's see...

Personally - 20 years ago, I was living in a small studio apartment in the city with my then-girlfriend (who'd been "unofficially" living with me for not quite two years). She kept living with me, moving in "officially" not long after. We moved to a larger apartment in the 'burbs (designated parking! No more driving the streets desperately looking for a spot at 3AM!) a year later, got married another 18 months after that, and kept living in the larger apartment until 2004, when I knocked wife up. So we bought a house that summer and had a kid in the fall.

We lived in that house for another 6.5 years until I got a Very Good Job Offer in another city way south. So we moved down in early and mid-2011**, living in a Scruffy Apartment until we bought a Fancy House in Upscale 'Burb in 2013. Where we still are. Wife still likes me. Daughter still likes me and is a teenager, which should freak the heck out of all of you.

We've gotten older and maybe slightly wiser, although for me that was Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me. In early 2016 my wife had a sinus blockage, went in for "routine" polyp removal surgery, and had her "routine" follow up a week later, where she not so routinely was told that she had a rare form of cancer. Yeah. Fortunately, it was caught VERY early, had not spread, and was amenable to radiation therapy. 6 weeks of treatments later, and after a follow-up PET and several follow-up MRIs (the most recent last month) it seems that All Is Well, although I always worry (she's recently been getting some sinus infections, but it seems these are just that, infections, and nothing more. But I worry). So, that sort of makes you not take things for granted.

I've had my own health items, but they're not nearly as dramatic as that.

Professionally - 20 years ago, as my first ever post will point out, I was doing tax and excel stuff for a financial institution. So, nothing's changed. :-) Well, fine, I left that job 18 months later for a considerably better paying job at a multinational doing International Tax. After 5 years of that (and working only with accountants on returns and compliance, because some management chicanery meant that a new "planning" department was started shortly after I arrived), I took a job learning estate tax stuff for another decent pay raise, that was really "working for a life insurance salesman". However, it was someone who worked exclusively in the high net worth markets, so I learned a lot about estate planning AND life insurance. And apparently developed a good reputation, because...

After doing that for over 7 years, a recruiter called me out of the blue because a competing company was interested in hiring someone like me. For a *very* sizable jump in pay and benefits. In a lower cost of living city. I interviewed and looking back, they must have done a dance afterward because I was EXACTLY what they were looking for.

Hence the move referenced earlier. And for two years, all was good - great boss, great work. Eventually things changed, the old dept. head was "nudged" out, new dept. head took over who wasn't very good for us and was a bit too compliant to the higher ups at the Home Office far away, and they instituted new procedures which alienated most everyone. In three years, fully two thirds of the employees would leave. And for one of those employees...

My old Company (the one the salesman was contracted with) had been interested in me for a couple years, first calling me just a few months after we'd finally bought the Giant House (groan. Great timing, guys!) then a second time when I interviewed with them, but I'd still have to move and it wasn't a great fit for various reasons. But, third time...

"You'd be doing exactly what you're doing now.....And you wouldn't have to move. Would you be intere"
"Wait, are you sure?"
"When do they want to talk to me?"

was a charm. They interviewed me, it went, in the recruiter's words, "Extraordinarily well", and two months later I was giving notice, and taking a job with a signing bonus, another good bump in pay, and...working remotely. From home. Almost all the time.

And that's where I am now. My daily commute went from 26 miles to 26 steps. I wear a t-shirt and shorts as my normal work attire. I'm home to pick up daughter from extra-curriculars. And the pay is pretty good, too.

Speaking of which...

Financially - on April 1, 1998, my net worth had turned positive for the first time ever 2 weeks earlier. This was a big improvement from 4 years earlier, when I'd had about $15K of credit card debt and essentially no real assets other than "random personal items, clothes, and some old abused furniture".*** My then-girlfriend was doing random substitute teaching and working at restaurants. Then she got a job with an airline for a little over $6/hr. That pay went up because it was a union job, and although I didn't think about it then, it also had flight benefits.

Which have come in REAL handy since we got married. And had a kid. And when I lived in another city for 6 months, because I could fly back and forth Every Darn Weekend for free.

We have kept saving. I maxed out Roth IRAs every year from when they were created, until finally we couldn't because Too Much Income, which is one reason for the name of this board. In 1994 I would have to scrimp to buy any convenience or snack food (which was really rare because Too Broke), and a pound of shrimp on sale was a Big Deal. That's...not the case now. I was eligible to contribute to a 401(k) starting in October, 1995, and have maxed it (employer limit or fed limit) ever since. My wife did the same starting around 2001 or so. We're Over 50 now, so that's even more into the 401(k)

There used to be a poster who claimed that nobody could save a lot of money solely through 401(k)s and IRAs. My wife and I stand as examples that that is wrong. And as an FYI, virtually all our money has been contributed 70% total US equity index and 30% total international equity index.**** Yes, there have been ups and downs, including a few REALLY LARGE downs (and for a few years, no less), but over 20 years, it's become a lot. Enough that we can spend $6 on a loaf of cinnamon chip bread***** and not have it be our only food in the house because that was the weekly grocery budget.

and the travel. We flew to Paris for 3 days last month over Spring Break. Because the flight benefits. Granted, the hotel was Not Cheap because Paris, but we can handle that now. We've flown to Greece the last few summers, although we often stay with friends or my wife's relatives for at least some of the time. We've visited friends in San Francisco (hi there you! Yes, YOU!) and in Chicago and in Boston and New York City and Portland and Oklahoma City (although that was driving down) and Kansas City (OK, also driving not flying) and other places I'm forgetting so please don't be mad at me. And wife and I visited New Zealand over 15 years ago, and within a year I plan to visit again with daughter.

Because we have flight benefits. Because my wife is awesome. And we can afford hotels and whatnot, because my awesome wife is more frugal than I am. And thanks to a little skill and a lot of luck, we earn considerably more than we did 20 years ago, and still have a lot of flexibility with our schedules and lives. And a whole lot of other luck in various ways.

And in other things - well, all that I said above. We bought a Prizm in 1999 and still own it, although we bought a new (like, NEW new) Corolla last year that is our main car (and may go to daughter when she heads off to college). The income and net worth numbers are where I would never have guessed 20 years ago, but most things in life you CAN'T spreadsheet.****** We're not really happy living in the region we're at but we take what we like (and there is a good amount TO like) and leave the rest. We've had a bunch of really good friends, many of whom (who? I could never get that right) we met here, although now much of my online life is Elsewhere. Social Media has its drawbacks, but my life is far better for all the people I've met who have helped in ways great and small with advice and insight and laughs and support and so much more. I am grateful that I've met many of you likely reading this In Real Life. I hardly ever contribute here anymore, but hope that I've given back to many of you at least a fraction of what you've all given to me.

It is a thing that will always be strange to me to be seen by some as an example of...well, anything other than "what NOT to do". A phrase that I picked up from friends here: "we often feel bad because we are comparing our backstage to everyone else's highlight reel". Our backstages will always be messy and frantic and Needing Work, but sometimes we all need to stop and look at the highlight reel. It may be nicer than you think. Or climbing the mountain - it's what we do every day, always toiling, always looking at How Far There Is To Go, but sometimes we need to stop, turn around, and look at how high we've climbed and maybe admire the view.

And then go right back to going step by step forward, because it's what we need to do, in our own respective ways. For me, it's continuing to save so that, five years from now, we can retire to six months in Greece and six in New Zealand. Assuming I can convince my wife of that.

still raining, still dreaming,

-synchronicity, 20 years and five days.

*-Remember that, paraphrasing Pulp Fiction, my wife is Greek Orthodox, which pretty much makes me Greek Orthodox.
**-Me in January, wife and daughter in July.
***-One of those furniture items was a desk I'd bought in college for $125. That I still have, multiple moves later, and in fact is the desk I work at from home.
****- either literally those, from Vanguard and/or Fidelity, or choices that were very close. 100% equities, 70/30 domestic/foreign contributions, no rebalancing, no moving in or out. Just dump the money into equities and let it ride.
*****- from Great Harvest, today. It's really good bread. That said, my wife still looks at me disparagingly because we really should Make Bread At Home, Darnit. And she has a point. And we make a darn good rosemary bread ourselves, because we have rosemary growing out back like crazy.
******- I hope you all were sitting down when I typed that.

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