Last Thursday I had a very bad day.
My boss called me into his office after a meeting. I prattled on about some stuff and he stopped me cold:
“I need to speak to you.”
I run a large business. Lots of issues. I’m networked into the very top of the firm. I get asked to weigh in on a lot of issues.
This was not one of those times. This was about me. I knew it immediately.
My heartbeat quickened and my breath got short. I was going to be on the defensive.
This was not going to be easy. I was at the firm for less than a year. I was in a new country, dealing with a new culture. My boss liked me but we didn’t have enough history. He had to take “this” seriously, and he was.
The short story is that a letter had arrived with some nasty allegations concerning me. Now I had to relate my past dealings with the client of the law firm writing the letter.
When you’re in your 50’s losing your job is serious.
I tried to remain calm and make sense. He questioned and I answered. Some stuff he understood right away. Some things were not intuitive to him culturally. He’s not from the U.S. and the legal system is unfamiliar.
My best line was:
“5% of the world’s population is American, but 95% of the lawsuits come from there”.
That he got. I think that’s where he became sympathetic. He relaxed and started to listen differently.
We started conversing and ended the Q&A.
Then he started advising me and I knew I’d be fine short term. I relaxed a bit. The problem was not going away but I could mount a response. I had time.
Friday and Saturday are the weekend where I live. I had until Sunday to speak to my lawyer and circle back. But first had I had to lead a large Steering Committee meeting for my project.
The letter had been addressed to our CEO, CFO, COO, and General Counsel. Two of them would be in this meeting.
I went back to my office and took some deep breaths. I thought about what would happen if I got fired. Where would I get another job like this at my age? Who’s hiring executives in this economy?
I Didn’t Panic Because I Have a ‘Plan B’
I reviewed my worst case scenario. It wasn’t so bad!
I had spent the prior 2 years rehearsing for this moment. The moment when it ends. The moment when I make the break to self-reliance.
In all honesty I wasn’t prepared yet. I sure didn’t want it to happen now.
I want to go on my own terms and not be forced out. I’ve built a great reputation. Explanations are messy to make when it ends abruptly.
So, my weekend didn’t suck. Things like this used to paralyze me only two years ago. But this weekend I had a great time with my kids. I had a friend in town and we had fun.
My wife was a bit destabilized. I’m sure she thought about moving again. She’s a creature of habit and a bit less carefree at the outset. But we had already talked about this very thing; when corporate life ends. She was fine.
She knows we have two years of living expenses safely in a foreign bank.
We also have been building other sources of income. We work on this together.
We’ve already picked our top place to move. It’s a place our family loves and it’s cheap. We can regroup here and attack how to finance our life independent of a conventional job. We were there only two weeks ago!
The weekend came and went. On Sunday I went back to work.
I had a lengthy afternoon meeting with 15 people including my boss. I was apprehensive about approaching him. By the end of the day it was time to man up. I went to see him at 4pm.
I had hardly begun my explanation when he interrupted me:
“I get it. These guys want to embarrass you. They’re out of line. Don’t worry”.
It was over almost as quickly as I began. I never panicked because I have prepared for two long years.
I know the feeling of sheer panic.I spent a good amount of time in sheer panic. It’s a deep spiral down. At that time, I couldn’t focus on anything but my miserable job and my failed retirement plans. I was broke, over 50, and a corporate executive/slave. I had no control.
Control of your destiny is freedom. Some time since I was younger I had forgotten this. I bought into the “career plan” sold to me. I surrendered freedom of independence for corporate validation.
Back then I was a mess. I was in poor shape, taking anxiety medicine, and eating a bad diet. My focus was on my work at the exclusion of my health and often times my family.
Three years ago, when I had my first indication my corporate existence was not sustainable, I spent six months emotionally paralyzed. I couldn’t think strategically. I could only put one foot in front of the other every day.
Slowly, I got control of my health and well-being. I developed a plan to attack my ridiculous spending.
I read everything I could find about alternative sources of income and improving my health. I devoured blogs and podcasts about new internet businesses. I have always travelled, so I look at international opportunities.
Slowly, I crafted a plan to get physically better and mentally tougher.
I radically cut my expenses.
I started to diversify my income streams.
I researched how I could live cheaply if I got fired until I can reboot. I settled on living abroad at the fraction of the cost of the U.S.
I changed jobs and moved overseas and lowered my taxes.
I am diversifying from only corporate servitude into other things I love and make money. My retirement will be filled with doing these things.
I had to face the music. I’m over 50 and the economy is not healthy. I don’t have the seven or eight-figure retirement nest egg I dreamed of.
But today I have a plan!
I have my expenses cut to extreme levels that allow me to finally exist in my new job reality.
I can relocate to some place cheap we love to wait out the economic storm should it hit me.
I am building other streams of income I can live off.
I no longer live in fear and every day I gain more control.
It took me three long, tough years to develop this plan — mental and physical health; rational expenses; alternative income streams; and a “Bug Out Plan”.
It can be done!