To Hell  

and (mostly) back is how I’d describe the last year of my life – professionally, personally, and financially. Having started retiringby45.com four and a half years ago, I’ve always found joy in writing about finances, money, and numbers in general. Like many of you, the last few years ended up being pretty…unique for me and my family. This post is a brief synopsis of the curveballs life has thrown my way, why I haven’t been posting, and what I’ve discovered about myself that ultimately brought me back to writing and Retiring by 45. While the next few paragraphs give you a taste, let me tell you, the trip to hell and back is not fun!

Professionally

I’m going to provide a quick recap of the last year of my professional life. Stick with me for a minute and then I’ll introduce you to the devil and explain how I’ve been to hell and come mostly back.

As the President of a small business, I found myself in a very difficult situation. After facing shareholder disputes, tariffs, inventory shortages, and COVID (among other things), I managed to keep the business on track setting record sales numbers year after year. Then, one single day changed everything. One of the shareholders of the company that also worked there took an action that placed other employees in harm’s way. I had no choice, I had to end his employment with the company.

The Devil

introduced himself in various forms to me shortly after I fired the shareholder. I’m not a religious man so don’t worry, I’m not going to start preaching here. Instead, I’m going to share some, what I consider to be extremely valuable lessons, with you. My hope is to save you a trip to hell and a dance with the devil.

Within a month of terminating the shareholder, I received several threatening letters from multiple attorneys. After years with the company, suddenly I was unfit, in breach of my contract, and driving the company straight toward bankruptcy. BUT, if I were to reinstate the employment of this shareholder, then everything would just go back to normal. That was something I just couldn’t do. Putting other employees at risk was irresponsible and not in the company’s best interest. After holding my ground, the threats against me only intensified.

Lesson One

for me become clear; despite age, title, experience, or reason, some people will go to great lengths to get what they want. In my experience, I had NEVER witnessed someone go to those great lengths in such unethical, unprofessional, and hateful ways. Bad people, and I mean BAD people, do exist and they do not give a shit about you, your feelings, your family, or your wellbeing and in this case it was extreme.

After careful consideration, I came to the only conclusion I could. After five years running the company, I realized I would never have the shareholder’s full support AND I would constantly be faced with the threat of being sued for any action or decision I made that wasn’t in line with this person’s unreasonable, unprofessional, and unethical ways. I knew then I had to resign.

 

resign

Lesson Two

Sometimes the fight comes to you. A month after leaving the company, I realized things weren’t going to be ok. I was still under threat of being sued (apparently more than doubling revenue and making the company as profitable as it’s ever been is lawsuit worthy) and the company was refusing to finalize paperwork to remove me as the liable party on lending instruments (credit cards, loans, etc.). Despite leaving, I was still very much involved but had zero control over the actions being taken (or not taken). It was at that point, my attorney had to get involved. I was in for a fight whether I wanted one or not.

Fast Forward

six months and I’m out over $30k in legal bills and still don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I left a job making well into the six figures and didn’t have anything lined up. My wife and I saved and had quite the rainy-day fund set aside but each month we watched as that fund got smaller and smaller. Fortunately, I was able to find a new job where I get to coach and teach daily. Unfortunately, the salary came back down to earth. While I say unfortunately, not all is lost. That leads me to the next lesson.

Lesson Three

is a lesson I had to live to understand. Money isn’t everything. Eating out at the nicest restaurants in town, driving a new Tesla, and never having to think twice about having enough cash in the checking account to cover all the bills was great. I paid a pretty steep price to have those things though. Eighty-hour weeks, traveling constantly, and missing family activities are just a few of the costs of making a lot of money. Yes, the last job made achieving my goal of FIRE much more realistic however, I’ve learned that burnout is real. Depression is real. Stress is powerful. Money will never give me the same joy as the huge hug I get from my daughter when she gets home from school.  I continue working on being present and living in the moment but it’s difficult sometimes.

While money isn’t everything, I realize we all need it to live and that a certain amount of money does help reduce stress. Finding the balance in life is key to finding happiness. I’m still on a path to FIRE and while my income isn’t what it used to be, financial independence is still realistic. I’m excited for what comes next.

Upcoming Posts

Through the mess that has been the last year, I’ve come to realize that I truly enjoy helping people learn. Over the past ten years, I’ve gained the equivalent of a lifetime’s worth of experience – professionally and personally. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to earn unique and valuable knowledge firsthand through all the pain and suffering that comes with it. The situations I’ve faced, the people I’ve managed, and the results I’ve delivered put me in a position to help. To that end, I’m reinvesting my time in Retiring by 45. I have over three dozen posts in mind to take what I’ve learned on my trip to hell and back and share it with you in hopes it makes your path easier.

Stay tuned and sign up for my newsletter to get notified on upcoming posts where I’ll cover the steps I took to go from earning $25k per year to over $250k per year, things you can do at your current job to make more money, and tips on how to stay on a path to financial independence.

In the meantime, check out my Six Steps To Fire.