The 40-Something Epiphany

“One guy’s millionaire journey. No more, no less.”


It’s usually the most obvious things that take you by surprise; the things you should have seen coming that you just didn’t see coming, like getting older.

Sure, in hindsight (if you can turn your head round that far forward) you know you should have noticed. The clock spins from 20-something to 50-something pretty quickly, so you’ve got to pay attention. 

Hell, watching any proper knock-down drag-out stock market massacre, like the spectacular collapse of 2000/02 or the more recent real estate bubble of 2008/09, will teach you these lessons in watching out for the obvious in spades.

But that realisation only ever usually happens after the fact.

Think about it: Why didn’t we all see at the turn of the Millennium how that large bubble of companies with £100million-plus valuations, and which didn’t actually  make or sell anything and delivered no profit, would eventually pop when the funding ran out?

Or how about the multi-billions in easy lending, self-certified “liar’s loans” and credit cards in the property market heyday eight years ago, when you could get a gold card registered to your favourite pet or even a dead relative. 

Now, there was an obvious house of cards just waiting for a strong breeze, right?

Well, it didn’t seem like a bad thing at the time. No one saw it coming…

Well, some did, like those folks from Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short, and the chief global macro strategist, Joe Kalish, over at Ned Davis Research.

But the rare and gifted aside, people like Alan Steel (Alan Steel Asset Management) and Mike Williams (Genesis Asset Management); we were all blinded by the consensus of economic and market euphoria.

Things were good and we all lived in the moment. Meanwhile time marched on. And it never seemed off that we somehow managed to “own” multiple properties and automobiles while earning the equivalent of a middle-aged stripper’s wages, and offering about the same by way of proof-of-income.  

But even as the stock market is bullish about 85% of the time,  the eventual reckonings, while short-lived, are often very sudden and immediately painful. 

And that particular piper – Mr Eventuality – always gets paid.

As for me, well, I was recently subjected to Mr E’s eerie tune, caught up in the euphoria of the moment and oblivious to time’s ever ticking clock, finding myself suddenly in my own 40-something realisation and that the future was dead ahead.

Now, this is not an unusual age-related epiphany by any stretch of the imagination.

And while I’ve been married for over twenty years, and yet still know nothing about how women deal with the getting-older trip (or anything else of that gender’s thought process with any certainty for that matter), men are somewhat less complex creatures (read: dogs), who can quite suddenly at this time of life be seen brandishing earrings, tattoos and cabriolets, alongside young surgically enhanced blondes where once their spouses sat. 

My wife simply wouldn’t write me a note for all that.

So instead I opted to take a long hard swallow of that metallic tasting fear of getting older in an ever younger workplace . And upon downing Mr Eventuality’s favourite tipple thought about what I could do to raise my game and safeguard myself against the aging process by creating more wealth. 

This meant imagining the “invisible obvious.” For instance, what if in 10 to 15 years from now my present situation (cars, houses and holidays) became a financially unsustainable lifestyle, as I traded the pink rim of baldness for a much shinier skull.

That’s when I started searching frantically for the missing  bricks  on the path of mine and my spouse’s golden years. There were lots of potholes.

So, I’ve started this series, in part to motivate myself to do what I think needs to be done now to generate that wealth and, should this effort actually come to anything, maybe help a few others when the piper comes playing for them.

All I know of Mr Eventuality at the moment is that he never misses an appointment, and that it’s important to be prepared for when he finally shows up.

The Here & Now

Right now, I’m what you might call a consultant, spending my days treading the industrial carpets of a UK Government tech quango – a semi-public administrative body outside the civil service but receiving financial support from the government.

In theory, I help with communications strategies. But in practice, I work as a translator of sorts. Oddly enough it’s a role that I was very nearly born into; since my freckled youth in the suburbs of New York – with an alcoholic mother, workaholic father and bi-polar brother – I learned to make peace with words in an otherwise unsettled household.

What was invisible to me back then has only become obvious to me now; that  unexpected and even unwanted translation skill developed from my youth has followed me through a career of near transient one-to-three year employment career stopovers.

In fact if you rolled up my CV like toilet paper it would probably provide an ample wiping facility for about three-to-five good shits.

The moving about has never bothered me much. In fact, with the number of friends and family who I’ve seen arrive back from work early over the years, P45s in hand, it’s a wonder why so many people still concentrate on that urge to gain full-time lifelong employment. 

I’ve preferred the temporary engagements and subsequent partings; it’s a far more lucrative game, but one that gets harder to play as the crows feet begin to march around your eyes.

Until now – my little epiphany – I’ve never felt devout enough about any particular path that would motivate me to opt out of comfortably lucrative and into the far more entrepreneurial route of dropping out of Harvard to launch “The Facebook.”

In fact, I still believe that type of business start-up faith is misplaced. Why suffer the slings and arrows of entrepreneurial poverty when it’s not necessary to do so?

Even after the tidal wave of business start-up support from incubators, accelerators, public funding, grants and crowd-lending options, companies in the UK are still no better off statistically at surviving past the two, five and ten year marks.

It’s a crap shoot that’s only partially dependent upon hard work. The immeasurable factors of timing, virality and dumb luck still rule the entrepreneurial roost, and probably always will. 

No, my millionaire pursuit is going to be far more focused than some unwieldy entrepreneurial venture. I’m going to make this journey one inch wide and five miles deep, and I’m going to concentrate on two things; compound interest, and fashion photographer David Bailey’s now infamous quote: “To get rich, you have to making money while you sleep.”

And in my next article, Compound Faith, I’m going to tell you exactly what I mean by that.

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