I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my own financial life journey, and how it might apply to one of the largest problems facing Americans today. Specifically, the lack of savings that are resulting in a great amount of financial instability. For example, 33% of Americans can’t come up with $2,000 for an emergency expense within a month. This explains the lack of savings and investment that is why the average American couple has only $5,000 saved for retirement. And given that the average social security check is just $1,019.33 per month that explains why increasingly many people are giving up on the dream of ever achieving financial independence and a prosperous retirement.
What’s worse? Because of increasing fears about automation and AI disrupting the job market, many people, including my father (a 55 year old accountant), live in constant terror about the prospects of losing their jobs, something that most Americans experience 10-15 times over their lifetimes. In fact, the pace of job changes is accelerating, with a recent study showing that most Millenials will change jobs four times by age 32.
Now I happen to be a Millenial myself, and one that not just remembers the chaos and fear of the great financial crash of 2008-2009 but one that has an advanced degree from the school of hard knocks. A few years ago I was studying to be an Army doctor, a trauma surgeon to be precise. My future appeared bright, after a lifetime of striving and doing all the right things to serve my country, my society, and secure a financially stable and prosperous life for myself and my family.
However, then my life entered what I refer to as my “7 years of tribulation”. A series of non-stop disasters that destroyed everything I had spent 22 years building and working towards.
First my wife at the time (now ex-wife) had the first of five misscarriages, and still births. In addition, several close relatives were diagnosed with cancer, and I was involved in a car accident that resulted in high unexpected bills. Next a severe injury ended my military career, and forced me to abandon my dreams of ever becoming a doctor; effectively stripping me of not just my bright and secure future, but also my entire identity.
For the next five years I ended up living in a brick oven in Alabama, with no airconditioning in the 110 degree summers. Depression, job losses, and debts my ex-wife was taking on without my knowledge forced me to liquidate my portfolio (my entire life savings), all while ongoing family medical emergencies kept us on the edge of poverty. At one point things got so bad that I couldn’t afford to eat…for 3 straight weeks.
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