Wins and Losses Series: Mark from The Retirement Spot – “I was actually helping the company eliminate my job”

Wins and Losses Series: Mark from The Retirement Spot - "I was actually helping the company eliminate my job"

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Hi, Team!


Welcome to another edition of MikedUp Blog’s Wins and Losses Series, where we interview a generous participant about 4 of the best and worst moments of their life. The point? To learn from the past so that we can improve in the future!


If you’re interested in participating in the Wins and Losses Series, please send me a note here (you don’t have to be a blogger to participate!).


Check out the complete Wins and Losses Series Here


(Photo courtesy of Kevin Newton)


This week we have: Mark from The Retirement Spot!


Spoiler alert – Mark crushed this post and it’s full of knowledge gems. Take out your notebook… I know I did. Take it away, Mark!



Wins and Losses Series: Mark from The Retirement Spot - "I was actually helping the company eliminate my job"


I read some of MikedUp Blog’s series on Wins and Losses, and I said: “Oh yes I want to participate in this”.  What an exciting concept!


I like the quote by Michael Chandelier, a mixed martial artist:


“Don’t focus on the wins and losses… focus your efforts on performing to your full potential.”


And that is my philosophy-focus on my potential, and let the cards fall as they may.


First win and my first house


Everyone has that first investment that literally scares the pants off you.


It was 1979, I had been married for two years.  My wife, a recent immigrant from Nicaragua, and I were living in a small cramped one bedroom apartment for 165 dollars a month.   Yeap rent was that cheap once.


To say we were poor would be an understatement.  I was a struggling student with a part-time job as an orderly in a hospital making $4.60 an hour, almost twice the minimum wage.  My wife landed a temp job as a part-time secretary.


I was still attending San Jose State University trying to obtain a degree in Accounting.


An offer I couldn’t refuse


My “missionary” brother dropped by one day.  I don’t use the term “missionary” lightly.  My brother always had a zeal for missionary life. His sole purpose in life was to serve God and unbeknownst to me, I was apparently part of “God’s” plan. 


I didn’t know it at the time but my brother made me acutely aware of what part in God’s plan I was to play.


My brother had just purchased an owner-financed duplex with some unusual terms.


The Duplex


The duplex was sold to my brother for $84,000.  The loan was an interest-only loan for six years with annual balloon payments of $12,000.  My brother was a teacher and he had no way of paying this with his pecuniary salary but he bought the house anyway. 


He did everything on faith.  That is where I come in.


I am a risk-averse individual by nature probably to the extreme because of a neurological disorder I have. 


Sitting on the sofa, my brother begins to tell me the details of the duplex; He ended the conversation asking me if I wanted to go in halves with him.


-uh mmm uh – what?


I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes and then he pulls the “I was part of ‘God’s plan’.” card.  Hmmm- Well, how could I deny God?


I was scared %$?&.  How in the heck was I going to afford a $42,000 loan (my part) accompanied with $7,000 annual balloon payments not counting property taxes and insurance with the pittance we were making?


Somehow, we made it, and everything turned out fine.  With salary increases and savings, we were able to make the payments.


When we sold the duplex six years later, it had doubled in price.


The sale allowed us to put a sizeable down payment on our current home which was $121,000 and pay off the mortgage in ten years.  It also allowed me to become totally debt free at an early age. 


Our current home is now appraised at over a million dollars. 


The takeaway

  • Don’t pass up opportunities that come your way (Mike’s opinion: without investigating first)
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks
  • And sometimes just go with your gut


My first loss – “Keep the faith”


Those were the words told to me by a co-worker the day he brought me home after being fired from my first accounting job. 


It was my fourth year working at Levin Metals in San Jose, California as an accountant.    I had helped the company convert their current antiquated card-punching computer system to a modern state-of-the-art system.  The conversion helped automate many of the accounting tasks currently performed by the accounting staff.


I was actually helping the company eliminate my job


After the conversion, It was only a matter of time before I was let go.  I could see the writing on the wall.


In addition, the company hired a new controller who wanted his own people.  He was a man of short height, stout and of a corpulent figure with a stomach that protruded from his waist.  I sometimes would glance in his office as the door was always left ajar. 


He always sat in his recliner with a certain sense of arrogance and he had a noticeable distaste for employees he did not hire. 


I was relatively new to the business world so I was somewhat taken aback by his demeanor.


Many of the other accountants had already left.  I was one of the lone accountants left from the old group.  I was afraid to take on risk because my disorder was always a concern when it came to looking for new employment.


I always felt I had to prove myself and work harder in a new position because I feared my boss would discover my disorder, so I was always reluctant to change jobs.  Sometimes it was an overblown fear, but it was a fear nevertheless.


I began to feel I had worn out my welcome with this company, and it was time to look for greener pastures. 


I sent out résumés and landed an interview with Almaden’s vineyards


After my interview with the company, I attempted to negotiate a higher wage, but the accounting manager who interviewed me would not pay me what I wanted.  I told her the salary was too low so I thanked her and left.


I arrived at my usual place of work the following day, and one of the co-workers told me the boss wanted to see me. 


I walked into his office and he motioned me to the chair opposite his desk.  He took a deep breath, smiled with that customary grin I hated.  He opened his front desk drawer and handed me a long thin envelope.  He then said in his usual husky voice,


-“We are letting you go.  Your two-week severance is in the envelope.”


As I stood up and turned to leave, I heard him say, “I am doing you a favor; it’s time for you to move on.”


The words rang hollow as I turned and smiled.  I quietly left his office.


I was escorted out of the office by security.  I was devastated


Even though I had expected it, I didn’t realize how it would affect my psyche and how it would make me feel emotionally.


I was still paying on the six-year loan of the duplex.  “What do I do?” I thought to myself.


I swallowed my pride, and I called Almaden Vineyards.  I talked to the HR director and I said, “I talked it over with my wife, and we decided that the salary is fine.”  Almaden Vineyards immediately hired me.


I told them I needed to give a two-week notice.  We took a two-week vacation to Mexico.


The takeaways

  • If you have no income coming in, do not be afraid to take a job below your worth to bridge the gap until you get something better (Mike’s opinion – BOOM!! Completely agree here. Sometimes you do what you have to)
  • If you are fired from one job, new opportunities open up
  • The controller said he was doing me a favor.  I didn’t realize it at the time but he did.  I left a dead-end job for new experiences.
  • If you are prepared and your skills are up to date, being let go from a job is not the worst thing that can happen to you.


Second win


While at Almaden Vineyard, I received a random phone call from a headhunter.  She asked if I was interested in other opportunities.  I replied I was always looking.  I was still not satisfied with the pay at Almaden Vineyards so of course, I said yes.


The headhunter sent me to a company called Triad Systems in the tri-valley part of Livermore, California.  I had never heard of Livermore.  I did know it was almost a two-hour drive.


The day of the interview, I headed off to Livermore.   I drove and drove.  Where was this place? I felt like I was driving forever.  Between all the traffic I encountered and the indeterminable amount of time I spent on the road, I came to the conclusion I was not going to take the job.  The distance was just too far.


At long last, it was time for the interview.  I didn’t speak.  I let the accounting manager who interviewed me do all the talking.  At this point, I did not care.  I was not taking the job.


The following day, the headhunter called and said


The manager really liked you but she said you didn’t talk much.


I chuckled.  “Yeah, I know.”  That was probably the worst interview I had ever given yet the manager wanted to hire me.


I took the job, and it was one of the best moves I made during my professional years as an accountant.  I began my tenure at Triad as a Senior Accountant, became a manager and a financial analyst.


A year later, we moved and the commute was only 40 minutes away.


I worked there for the next ten years.  My co-workers were the most amazing people with whom you would want to work.


My takeaways

  • Don’t pass up opportunities that come your way. (Mike: I’m seeing a pattern here…)
  • Jobs that may appear to be out of reach may, in fact, be just the thing you were looking for.


My second (on-going) loss


My biggest loss is, of course, a progressive neurological disorder I have.


It is called Episodic Ataxia and has been an anvil around my neck since the age of 14.  It prevents me from pursuing my studies.  It has impeded my ability to grow in the professional world.  It has prevented me from becoming a Certified Public Accountant, (CPA), which was the ultimate goal.  It has forced me to make compromises along the road, and It has robbed me of the quality of life I desired, and it forced me to retire early,


I estimate my disability has cost three million dollars in lost earnings, but I don’t let it deter me.  I still managed to save and we have a decent net worth.


I still obtained a bachelor’s in accounting and an MBA in Management.  Next year, my wife will retire and I hope we can do the traveling we wanted albeit with a few limitations.  It may be a bit more expensive too because of extra planning and the extra resources required as a result of my disability.


My takeaways

  • None of us were promised a rose garden, make do with the cards you are dealt
  • If you have a limitation that prevents you from pursuing your dreams, don’t be afraid to make compromises – just keep going
  • Disability does not mean you have to live in poverty
  • Never give up



Reader’s Input


Let me just echo what Mark just closed with: “Never give up.” I imagine it may be easy to do so when presented with significant adversity. But he didn’t. And he doesn’t.


I don’t know about you, but the way that Mark handled being let go from the job – and then calling to ‘renegotiate’ with the offer he had previously turned down was pure genius… And it took some gumption! What was your favorite takeaway from this post? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll keep this discussion going!


Thanks for reading!


If you’re interested in discovering a better version of yourself – whether with fitness, finance, or family – then subscribe below to MikedUp Blog’s FREE newsletter and let’s improve together!


I’m glad you’re here. Thanks again and talk soon!


– Mike
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