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November 06, 2013

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Dear #12

I found your story to be inspiring and a new twist on most of the others I have read. I love seeing immigrants do well. My family started out that way a couple generations ago---- and its so nice to see that it can still happen in America.

So many people think a story like yours could not happen in todays world. It obviously can. Your story proves that all you need is smarts, education, determination, hard work and, of course, a bit of luck.

It reminds me of the story of one of my favorite commenters on this blog named Old Limey.

And your story is about education. Still the backbone of many Millionaire stories. You studied the right major with engineering. It is still a fantastic topic to study and remains a field that is in demand and pays well.

Thanks for sharing.

Not bad. You admit to making a fair few mistakes and still have a net wealth of $7m by the age of 57. There is hope for us all!! :)

It is an inspiring story. I am an immigrant with a Ph.D. and I am an engineer too!

I do not have a job with pension or 401k match. There are no real opportunities in my field that offer both unless you work for a megacorp.

Could you please share more details about your income growth and at what level you work now (Sr. VP, Director etc)?

Thanks for sharing!

Hi! #12
My story is somewhat like yours only we are a lot older, having left England in 1956 after I finished my apprenticeship, getting off the boat in Canada with $450 between us. I was also an engineer and my wife was a teacher.

The three big breaks that I had were
1) The Cold War created a huge demand for aerospace engineers both in Canada and the USA. The company I worked for in Canada lost its one and only large Air Force contract and folded but the US companies were right there offering great jobs in the US - unlike the job situation today.

2) The Internet started at about the sime time that I retired and since I had learned a lot about investing after retiring I made a bundle in the stockmarket as a result of the dot.com bubble.

3) Our marriage was a great one and we have now been married for 57 years. We were raised during WWII and are both frugal and have always been savers. Including our real estate our net worth now is about $9M and life is great.

Excellent story. Great to see you come here with almost nothing and turn things completely around. You guys are doing extremely well!

An excellent and inspiring story- gives us something to look forward to.

Which part of the world do you live in now?

"However putting one's life on hold to live after retirement does not make sense either. Life is about living and creating memories. The more memories you create, the more fulfilling your life."

A very less people focus on the above part. Really a great lesson to learn.

Here in silicon valley it's not uncommon to find non-supervisory engineers with 20+ years pulling down 300-500K, but I've never met one who was on a final salary scheme. The only ones I know who get this work either in government or defense electronics companies and they rarely crack 200K annual salary.

My path was almost identical to yours, except the megacorp I hired into in the late 1980s force converted our DB plans to cash balance. Even though our conversion rate was light by about 30%, we didn't complain because we saw our employer going down a death spiral. Fast forward to today, my cash balance plans have rolled over into 401K every time I changed companies, and all-in (including my own 8% contribution) mine is a bit less than half the value of your pension, and I've been 100% in equity (small cap and international) for the entire duration. What really grates is the fact that our megacorp pulled off a spectacular turnaround (i.e. they didn't Kodak), and maybe it was at least in part thanks to the "contribution" of its future retirees.

So I think you got a very sweet deal pension-wise, but frankly I wouldn't trade places with you because even though I'm fully exposed to market risk, I am free to diversify. I have a sister-in-law whose parents lost a large chunk of their benefits when their former employer went bust-- PBGC covers only a small part for those who were highly paid. I don't know what you can do to protect yourself in this situation, at least I would not hold any common stock in that same company. I have heard of people talking about buying laddered put options to protect deferred comp that is stuck in company stock, but I doubt that would work very well in your case given the timeframe.

Thank you all for your positive feedback.

Old Limey -- I would like to emulate you. I have not had much success investing...i need to spend time on it.

#6 -- We currently live in the MENA (middle east north africa) region. The region is seeing steady growth and there are interesting job opportunities.

KD --I am employed as Sr. VP.

freebird -- yes, we got lucky and got a sweet pension deal. While there is risk that the company could go under and PPGC will only cover upto ~$50K/year, it is a low probability event.

@ #12
It was a lot easier being a trader when I was very active in the market. Now unfortunately the direction of the market is almost entirely controlled by the huge investment banks that use the billions that the Federal Reserve loan them every month to fuel their very active trading programs running on super computers with programs designed by some of the best brains that have come out of universities such as MIT. The small investor can't compete and is always many steps behind the actions that they take. These days almost all of my investments are in municipal and corporate bonds that I hold until they are either called or they mature at which time I get my money back on top of the biannual interest payments.

To address another comment, I certainly didn't put my life on hold until I retired. I used my 5 weeks of vacation annually to go on very exciting treks to parts of the world that were safe in those days but certainly are not anymore. After retiring in 1992 we went on 2-3 overseas vacations right up to the end of 2010 when my wife's health no longer permits her to do strenuous hiking and walking. Now with all the violence and unrest I read about I'm not sorry that we gave up our travels to the third world and lead a sedentary life here in a nice part of Silicon Valley.

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