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I am a divorced, 47-year-old physician (Radiologist) who is the proud father of a 12-year-old daughter. I also have just launched a financial blog (Xrayvsn) that follows the FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) philosophy.
The two worst moments of my life both can be attributed to a single person, my ex-wife
A: The Marriage
My parents were from the Indian subcontinent and were part of an arranged marriage.
Although I essentially spent my entire life in the United States, I still felt the pressure of this Indian tradition.
When I was finishing up my radiology residency, my mother took it upon herself to find me a suitable bride through her various connections.
Eventually, a candidate was found that they deemed suitable for me based solely on the fact that she too had just become a physician in England completing her medical school training.
Initially, it was supposed to be an introductory meeting with her mother and her flying in to visit me.
The plan was a brief meeting and then they would fly back, or so I was told
After the initial introduction, there was intense pressure from both sides for me to agree to marry her so she would not have to go back.
Reluctantly I caved into this proposition, and by doing so initiated the worst chapter of my life.
I thought I was taking a leap of faith and karma would kindly reward me for it.
I was wrong
Within 8 weeks all the arrangements were made and we were officially married.
Soon I began to doubt the validity of this “matching process” in which horoscopes were used along with various other factors.
We were completely incompatible and there were inexplicable behavioral changes that I noticed in her that made things progressively worse.
I had arranged for her a coveted spot in my radiology residency program (a highly competitive program to get into) by agreeing to stay on as faculty during the length of her training which was to last 5 years. Unfortunately, she didn’t last 2 months as she was asked to leave after multiple issues propped up.
For the remainder of our marriage (7 years) she repeatedly tried to get back into any residency program but with black marks on her record, no one would take her.
I thought maybe starting a family would give her a sense of purpose and take away from not being able to get a residency spot
Again I was wrong.
We did have a daughter but there were no motherly instincts from my now ex-wife at all.
You may ask why I stayed in the marriage for such a long time.
Divorce is shunned upon in our culture so that had some bearing.
I also wanted to not subject my daughter to have her parents divorced.
However, as time passed I realized I was doing more harm for my daughter than good as she was being raised in a loveless family.
Eventually, I could not take it anymore and I filed for divorce. That seemed to awaken a sleeping beast as my ex-wife became incredibly vindictive
It was a highly contentious divorce; so much so that the senior judge said it was the worst one he has ever presided over.
My ex-wife and her lawyer concocted so many false allegations against me and attacked my character.
It was my lowest point emotionally.
Soon it also became my lowest point financially as the judge deemed that I had a great future earning potential and my ex-wife did not and proceeded to give her the majority of the assets I had, including my retirement and health savings accounts, 2 condos, as well as a sizeable alimony payment.
All told the divorce cost me 7 figures when including the extensive legal fees (which came to over $300k).
B: The Civil Lawsuit
Even after receiving the majority of my assets in the divorce, my ex-wife was not satisfied.
She and her lawyer then created a frivolous civil lawsuit against me, asking for $4 million in emotional damages. Mind you my net worth at this point was negative as I still had student loans, a home that was underwater due to the real estate crash, and all my savings had been decimated from the divorce itself.
This chapter consumed another 2 years of my life and incurred another $150k in legal fees. At the end of the 1-week jury trial, the jury awarded my wife a total of $0.00.
Never compromise yourself trying to appease others.
It is your life and you need to do what’s best for you.
I foolishly caved in to preserve a tradition I had absolutely no belief in.
I did it to make my mother happy and all it brought me was anguish.
This event has caused a serious strain between my mother and I and our relationship will never be the same.
Since that time I have developed a long-term relationship with someone of my own choosing. A person who is on the same page as me both emotionally and financially (she is South Korean).
Similar to my worst moments, my best moments can both be traced to a common item, paying off debt
A: Medical Student Loans
Although I attended a very expensive private university (Johns Hopkins), I was very fortunate to have my parents pay for all 4 years allowing me to graduate debt free.
That quickly changed when I went to medical school.
I ended up graduating in 1997 with about $160k in student loans (which I know pales in comparison to current student debt)
Unfortunately with no financial education despite my 20+ years of education I went on to make a series of mistakes that increased my debt even further.
Instead of paying down the loan, or even just interest-only payments, while in residency, I chose to let “future self” take care of it by delaying payments.
I did this with a combination of deferment and forbearance (where interest still accumulated).
Although it took much longer than it should, at exactly 17 years to the date I graduated medical school, I finally paid off the entire balance.
I have no idea what the entire financial cost incurred was, but I would easily say it approached the $600k range when all was said and done.
B): The Mortgage
Once the medical student loans were paid I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulder. It ignited a spark in me and all of a sudden I became debt averse.
I only had one debt remaining and it was my mortgage. I had taken a 30-year first mortgage (5.625% rate) as well as a higher rate 2nd mortgage on my home.
I had been creating a stockpile of money in my savings account during the time of the civil lawsuit in case there was a judgment against me.
After the trial, it just so happened that the amount I had in the war chest was enough to fully pay off the 2nd mortgage in one fell swoop, which I did
After the student loan and 2nd mortgage monthly payments were gone, I took a chapter out of Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball plan and rapidly wiped out the remaining primary mortgage.
In April 2015, a little over 4 years after my divorce and financial low point, I became completely debt free.
I was immensely proud of myself for doing a complete financial turnaround and knew I just set up myself up for future financial successs.
The path to FIRE was now well within my grasp
When I broke free from the shackles of my debt it was a huge weight lifted from my shoulders.
From that day on, any money coming into my household was not earmarked for someone else’s profit.
Now I could deploy the money in any way I saw fit and started to build capital so that money worked for me and not the other way around.
Once I got on the right side of the lender-borrower equation I knew that I finally was taking meaningful steps on the path to wealth.
Have you been through any similar situations or do you also share a disdain for the burden of debt? Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!