In another post I compared the difference between my situation and that of a co-worker. If you have not already read that post, check it out here.
Over 30 years ago, I met a great friend of mine when we worked for a large wholesale bakery operation. Let’s call him “Mr. Billy” or “Billy” for short.
During that time, our jobs paid well for the economy and location. We worked on an assembly line operation and could be scheduled to work different shifts and positions any time during a 24-hour period. We were both completing our college education while working varied hours from part- to full-time, often adding in overtime.
Billy and I instantly hit it off and have remained friends for all these years.
It was apparent early on in our conversations that we were different than most of our coworkers. Just like businesses today, we witnessed several cycles of layoffs, acquisitions, downsizing, and other nasty events over the years we were employed at the bakery. We noticed early on that many of our coworkers were devastated financially when they were laid off. They simply didn’t have any money saved due to their inflated lifestyles.
We viewed temporary layoffs as a blessing in disguise, allowing us more time to focus on our classes, homework, and more importantly, time for some fun with sailing and skiing!
About 4 years ago, Mr. (and Mrs.) Billy shared much of their finances, dreams, and plans for the future with me and my wife. We did the same, sharing our situation and often turning to them as a sounding board. We soon recognized that there were many parallels we were going through as couples but that we could not share information like this with our friends or families for various reasons. Sam at Financial Samurai explains it well in his post about “stealth wealth”.
We discovered Mr. and Mrs. Billy also planned on retiring early.
We Both Were Planning Based On Our Employers’ Whims (Not Reacting)
I mentioned in my first comparison of two employees post that I have not felt comfortable regarding my job security or longevity for the last two decades. When in a situation where colleagues all around you are losing their jobs, it’s just a matter of time before you are next. It is also difficult to have that great working attitude, wearing your smile every day while working in this type of environment.
Over the last thirty years I have been laid off four times.
Living in this kind of world gave me the motivation to step outside of the normal thought process of needing a job to live. It reaffirmed my need to continue to focus on my side hustle and passive income investments.
Over many years, Billy has been working in a high-stress, high-tech job, with an insane work schedule. He was responsible for running and monitoring an electrical plant that used sophisticated jet engine technology. Envision Homer Simpson at work, but actually conscientious and attentive to his work. No doughnuts or coffee spilling on the console in Billy’s control room.
The aspect of Billy’s work that was most difficult to manage was a DuPont schedule that rotated 12-hour shifts between days and nights: one week you go in for 12-hour shifts starting at 6 PM, and the next week you might be starting at 6 AM. You get a couple days off between these rotations and sometimes a couple weeks later you get a full seven days off. It was terrible for him trying to conduct a normal life on that schedule.
Billy knew he was not going to work with this type of schedule long-term, so he and his wife actively planned to be in a financial position where he could leave his work early and retire. Part of their planning enabled them to purchase a condo during the last real estate downturn on the east coast of Florida, nestled right on the beach. The fact they have been debt-free for years has advanced them toward achieving their goals.
A Comparison of Two Employees’ Finances
I stopped working with Billy about 25 years ago. Today we still have many similar traits: we are one year apart in age, spent childhood years in the same town, both owned rental properties, invested in stocks, our wives work, we have similar cost in homes and cars, and comparable income.
However, we both went on to pursue different careers
Disclaimer: I am trying to take an objective look at both of our situations – not trying to point out that either one of our lives as a whole is any happier. I am simply attempting to look at our financial health and what impact this has on our current decision-making processes.
Now let’s look at the differences in our finances.
The Billy family have been studying, analyzing, tweaking (insert any other word you can come up with) as they plan for the future with their finances. Mrs. Billy is an accountant by profession and is a whiz at analysis and spreadsheets. They have three homes currently, soon to be two with the sale of one next year, all mortgage-free. They have actually been completely debt-free for years. My friend Billy just retired about 3 months ago!
Our friends the Billys are now rebuilding their cabin located high in the Colorado Rockies, occasionally taking breaks so they can relax in their Florida beach condo. Life is good!
Oldest daughter graduated with no student loans as a result of saving money towards her education since she was born. We have no mortgage, car payments, or credit card debt. Our youngest child’s college fund is sufficient for four years at the university she has selected. We can now live off of our passive income and retirement accounts but are still building our bucket list savings.
I have started a website and plan to stay with my employer until laid off. I am considering taking a long or complete break from W-2 paid wage work should I lose my job.
How Billy is really different
Billy has lived frugally all his life, starting with his upbringing. His parents lived in the same house for nearly sixty years; his frugal upbringing is part of his DNA. Billy has continued to reside in the same town he was born in, living in just a couple homes. He has been married nearly thirty years and they never had any children.
The biggest difference between us is that he is a cross between MacGyver, Jacob, and MMM . There is nothing he can’t build or fix. If he doesn’t have a tool, he can actually machine one using his own equipment. Heck, he built his own airplane and is a private pilot as well! I would think MMM and Billy would a good match in some kind of badass building competition.
My friend Billy’s alter-ego – MacGyver
For me, the difference in our situations has become much clearer while writing this post.
I have two wonderful children that have provided much fulfillment and pride in my life. I relocated every three years for many years while climbing the corporate ladder – buying houses all along the way. After 20 years of marriage, I was divorced from my first wife. I was making the most money in my life at the time, which then translated into high child support payments for the next ten years. Oh, and I also lost half my net worth and had to split up two businesses with my former wife.
Whew – I’m glad that paragraph is done!
Mr. Billy is Able to Sleep at Night
I am basically a planner, problem-solver, and part-time worrier. That is something I recognize in myself. I definitely sleep a lot easier at night as we have progressed on the Financial Independence continuum from debt and overspending to our situation today. The Billys are like-minded.
In my first review of the tale of two employees’ finances, I tried to understand how we could be so similar yet have such different end results. My guess was that it was our long-term difference in lifestyle, savings habits, and our side hustles. I suspect that some decisions to save ever larger percentages of our income toward retirement accounts and other investments must have made the difference. I don’t know for sure and can’t really bring that up in a social conversation with my co-workers.
In the case of comparing us to the Billys, the choices they have made in where they live and their overall frugal nature is this biggest difference. Also, the skills that Billy has to do his own remodeling, building, car repairs, and BBQ grill rebuilds sets him apart from me. He has saved thousands of dollars by doing this kind of work himself. And in his case, he actually invests the difference.
Hopefully this post might have an impact on someone out there who is inspired to take some action to change their present circumstances and future with some planning. Certainly, if you are working for an employer, you have seen examples like this between co-workers.
Are you at a point where, if you were to lose your job tomorrow, you would need to look for another job? Have you created a side hustle, or do you have enough passive income that can support you? Do you have a friend that has recently retired?
*I do not have a complete financial picture of my friend’s situation. However, we have shared a lot of information between us, and I am aware of their income and net worth ranges.