Mr. Fire and Fortune: Origin Story

“Nothing lasts forever, neither pain nor happiness. It’s just a matter of time to heal or seal” – Giridhar Alwar

As much as I’d love to tell you that I did everything right and retired by 30 that is not my story.

Now all of that to say, I have lots of things going correctly now. However, I wanted to go back and discuss how I started my career and where I joined the path to financial independence.

I went to college for Engineering and was fortunate enough to do well and land a job before exiting college. I worked at a company where I had done two internships previously, close to home, and decided to double down and live with my parents upon graduating college to save more money.

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that I consider myself extremely privileged to have gotten out of college with very little debt and have the option of living back home. I know this is certainly not possible for everyone.

Alright, back to the story.

A component of my job was travel generally Sunday – Thursday when I had to be in the field. There were components of this that helped the FI path even more such as enjoying a per diem for food when I traveled as well.

Life sounds great, right?

Well, as the saying goes, it’s all good until it’s not. I found myself no longer working for that company.

Despite great advice from my parents, to take a step back and figure out what I really wanted to do next, I did what any logical 22-year-old would do and ignored their sage advice. I went into the climbing gym that I was a member of and got a job the next day.

Now, I know you may be saying give me a break, your big screw-up was leaving your engineering job and getting a new job at a climbing gym? Spoiler alert: NO. That is yet to come.

Another important detail that I have omitted thus far is that I was in a serious relationship so much so that I proposed and she said yes. I did what I thought any good fiance should do and I got another engineering job to save up for the eventual big purchases of a house and a wedding.

While at this new engineering job, that promised I would be mentored by a more experienced engineer, I promptly found out the likely reason I was hired. I found out that my mentor had just put in his two weeks and the boss figured I’d make for an adequate replacement. Other factors quickly revealed this might not be the place for me so I quickly pivoted back to looking for a job while continuing to work at my current one.

This job stuff is all sugar plums and rainbows!

In a few short months, I landed a new job and was able to make a seamless transition to a new role at a major consulting company. While the work didn’t exactly light me up, it certainly seemed stable and that was certainly what I felt like I needed.

After a while, things were going well enough that I decided that I should go ahead and buy a house for me and my fiance to live in eventually. I had continued to save a bunch while living at home and at the time she was still living in a different city at the time wrapping up her final year in college.

As not yet a practitioner of financial independence, I also found it wise to fill the house with the things that houses need like furniture, decor, and so on. The expenses just kept on flowing.

However, in my eyes, things were finally starting to turn around I think, and then WHAM. It hits.

On my way home from a very early morning software deployment on site, I get run off the road by what I can assume is a drunk driver, and my car gets totaled. Luckily, I was not hurt. Storm #1 complete.

Next, I continued on my path of great decision-making and decided the proper replacement car for a 24-year-old was a Volkswagen Phaeton.

Now, if you’re not a car person you might just say, what is the problem? I see a Volkswagen Jetta/Passat here. What’s the big deal?

That car was 70K brand new and despite buying it used it came with some nice *cough $$$ cough* repair bills.

Well, things could be worse, right?

Clearly, my body knew of another impending storm as I got stress-induced shingles. Well, that stable job that I had suddenly became less stable and I found myself underemployed again. I had taken on another job as a Valet to accelerate savings towards my goals so at least I still had some income to pay for my fairly newly acquired house. Storm #2 complete.

While all of that seemed pretty bad to 24-year-old Elliot, the biggest storm was yet to hit land. My 5+ year relationship came to an abrupt end and left me heartily crushed. Storm #3 complete.

This was certainly my quarter-life crisis at that moment, but it allowed me to turn a new leaf in my life as well. I quickly found out that I was undiagnosed as Bipolar which allowed me to seek the help that I desperately needed.

Next, I was able to quickly find a roommate, whom I became great friends with and continue to be to this day, and begin what I would later find out to be called house-hacking. In total, I eventually had 3 friends rent a room in the house that I had bought and help minimize my housing expenses.

After realizing that I made a terrible decision in my car purchase, because of the high interest rate on the loan and expensive repair bills, I sold the car and got a more affordable used car.

Within the next two months, I would go on to land my next Technology-related job.

One of the questions that my future boss would go on to ask is “I can see that you’ve jumped around a bit in the past. Is this a job that you can see yourself in for the next 10 years?”.

I responded yes and would go on to fulfill that promise almost to the exact date.

While I would have loved to make all the perfect and most optimized financial moves, I think that is unrealistic. We’re all human and we have to weather whatever life throws at us.

I hope you continue to follow along with me as I seek to help teach others to avoid some of the pitfalls that I have fallen into over the years.

2 thoughts on “Mr. Fire and Fortune: Origin Story”

  1. Hey Elliot! Great stuff here! I’m making my way through all of your articles and really admire the vulnerability of this one. Looking forward to reading through the rest and to see what you have coming up next.

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