Anyone here having to consider bankruptcy?

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showmethemoney's picture
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Joined: 2009-01-09

My biz down about 40%. Running out of money and options. Yeah I know I f'd up, but what can you do. I definitely have learned a major life lesson with this. Phone rings off the hook all day long with bill collectors. Home, work and cell. Driving me frigging nuts. How do you handle a bk and your firm? Who do you tell and when? If I could wait till the forefront bonus in Sept, if they even pay it, I'd be ok, but I dont think I can hang on that long without crap like garnishment and  levy's starting.  Other FA's I know, many facing the same problem. None know how to deal with this. We could take deals, but I have been down that road before and Im not willing to imperil myself any further with a deal that may not work out.

Sportsfreakbob's picture
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Joined: 2008-08-24

I dont know much about this stuff. But it seems to me if you could get a decent deal, that would help you pay off your debt, you should take it and then work your arse off to get your book going again.Better hurry though, the deals are going to disappear real quick, like don't blink.Good luck, tough situation, i feel for you

showmethemoney's picture
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Joined: 2009-01-09

Thanks Bob....I am speaking with other firms. Just very reluctant to go just for money. I did that once and it was a disaster. I dont want to go BK, but I really have no options. I cant borrow from family. Dont really have any. The interest on the damn debt will just eat you alive. Its just criminal. Obama people ought to be looking at the 30% credit card interest rates. Very tough to ever get rid of that debt. I dont live extravagantly. Its just stuff that built up over time. Just debt trying to take care of a family. Been handling it up until end of 08 started having trouble and income just getting crushed. I cant meet my obligations for the first time in my life. 

anonymous's picture
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Joined: 2005-09-29

Don't you have 30% credit card interest because you have proven yourself uncredit worthy?  Instead of going to another firm, shouldn't you be looking for a different career?
If you quit making payments on your debt because you truly can't afford to pay, eventually you'll be able to settle for 40% or less on the dollar.

secretknowledge's picture
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Joined: 2009-03-28

I would suggest that you visit Dave Ramsey's website.

www.daveramsey.com

His logic on running the cash flow side of your life is great. Even though I am not in this situation, I watch his show and like his logic.Check it out. If you and your wife adopt his philosophy, it might help you.

While it is possible to have a bankruptcy on your record and work as a financial advisor, most firms have extra compliance requirements and do not like to hire this profile. Therefore,if moving firms is part of your strategy you want to do it sooner rather then later.

Personally, If I were you I would go to the above website and make a list of the things that you can do. Then if you nalready have not deone it you need to sit down and have a good honest conversatioon with your wife.

Good luck.

anonymous's picture
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Joined: 2005-09-29

Showmethemoney, my last post probably came off as jerkish.  It's not meant that way.   They're meant as serious questions.  Also, the simple fact that you are getting these calls may be something that your firm requires you to report to them. 
Best of luck to you!

HAAIC's picture
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Joined: 2009-03-30

showmethemoney wrote:My biz down about 40%. Running out of money and options. Yeah I know I f'd up, but what can you do. I definitely have learned a major life lesson with this. Phone rings off the hook all day long with bill collectors. Home, work and cell. Driving me frigging nuts. How do you handle a bk and your firm? Who do you tell and when? If I could wait till the forefront bonus in Sept, if they even pay it, I'd be ok, but I dont think I can hang on that long without crap like garnishment and  levy's starting.  Other FA's I know, many facing the same problem. None know how to deal with this. We could take deals, but I have been down that road before and Im not willing to imperil myself any further with a deal that may not work out. Sounds like you're trying to sell people something that they don't want to buy. Figure out what they want to buy and sell it to them.

Pants's picture
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Joined: 2006-10-18

as far as the taking a deal option, not only are deals going away for most producers , a bad credit situation could also prohibit you from getting a good deal. Since most of them are structured as forgivable loans, a lot of companies will check your credit. a friend of mine had his deal cut dramatically after a credit check.
I feel for you, man. it's tough out there and there's a not exactly a large pool of sympathy out there from the general public for guys in our situaion.

llcoolj's picture
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Joined: 2008-11-23

You can have a successful career beyond bankruptcy. I know a rep that had one 8 years ago, he is just fine. It is part of his U-4 forever. I would exhaust all options before doing it, but doing it isn't necessarily the end.
I agree with the Dave Ramsey comment. He can change your life, if you follow his simple steps. You must change your behavior. If you can get on top of this and take control, you will be fine.
You have the choice and the power...........let it control you.........or you control it.
Good luck to you.......hang in there.

fritz's picture
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Joined: 2006-01-12

Both of the million dollar guys in our office have left and took deals at the very end of last year.  They were both dead broke, they had taken deals to come to MS and they ended in 2006.  Their gross was dropping fast year end 2008 (both would be way under 600K in 09 staying, now doing 15-20K at the new place), and they needed to do something and they both went to UBS.  One guy had to borrow 15K from me to pay his property tax in December.  You are not the only one out there, big and small guys all over the place are in trouble.  If the rumor of UBS canning guys under 400K is true later this month, and it starts to spread that's the beginning of the end for most wirehouse brokers, me included. 

secretknowledge's picture
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Joined: 2009-03-28

I think that all of the wirehouse will follow UBS. Most have actually done it by not offerring deals/retention packages to those under $500,000. It is simpley the economics of the wirehouses. There overhead is to high versus the regionals.

The regionals like Stifel, Baird etc. will grow FA headcount a lot as the $250,000 - $500,000 broker is very profitable to them. Also, there is nothing wrong with the regional firms products and services.

bondo's picture
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Joined: 2007-04-15

You are not the first and will not be the last.  I look around my office and wonder how some of the advisors who are down 30-40% and still living the high life are doing it.  I imagine one or two of them are in a state similar to yours.
 
Maybe now is the best time to reflect and determine whether this is the career you want.  If so I am confident you will make it work.  If not, there is some pleasure in realizing that and moving on to what you really want to do.

benfranklin's picture
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Joined: 2009-04-13

Unfortunate   Bankruptsy on U4 not good. Try to work it out. Go see a lawyer...maybe they can delay until you get bonus in Sept. Then make a decision.

Squash1's picture
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Joined: 2008-11-19

If it is credit card debt, call the credit card company and explain your income problem(just to let you know, they probably know you don't have the money to pay.) A lot of banks are looking to cut credit lines and will do almost anything to do so. I talked to BAC two months ago about lowering my rate(12.99) and they said if I closed the account then they would take it down to 4.99.... So I closed it, much easier then xfering a balance and 4.99 fixed is a rate I will take...and so will the bank because they don't have to worry about my credit line anymore..
Dave Ramsey has some good ideas if  A. You have the income B. Aren't already cutting back on things like $5.00 Starbucks C. Are willing to get a second job.  Other than that there is nothing special about his method. Build up a savings(yeah thanks for that tip) pay off your debt in smallest to largest increments and live with in your means... I think if people can't do the third then the first two are kind of hard..

3rdyrp2's picture
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Joined: 2008-11-13

fritz wrote:Both of the million dollar guys in our office have left and took deals at the very end of last year.  They were both dead broke, they had taken deals to come to MS and they ended in 2006.  Their gross was dropping fast year end 2008 (both would be way under 600K in 09 staying, now doing 15-20K at the new place), and they needed to do something and they both went to UBS.  One guy had to borrow 15K from me to pay his property tax in December.  You are not the only one out there, big and small guys all over the place are in trouble.  If the rumor of UBS canning guys under 400K is true later this month, and it starts to spread that's the beginning of the end for most wirehouse brokers, me included. 
 
I'm sorry if I sound naive about this, but how does this possibly happen????  I'm not going to kill the guys since they sound like they may be your friend since you gave them a nice chunk to borrow, but if they're million dollar guys, the least they are grossing income-wise is a quarter-mil.  The LEAST they are grossing is that.  Don't you pay property tax on your mortgage bill each month?  I just cannot fathom how someone could gross that much biz and need to borrow money from a friend to pay off a bill.  Unless they sold themselves annuities and the money is tied up, ha ha.

Spaceman Spiff's picture
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It's because guys like that tend to think they're invincible and they can't possibly see their income drop by 40%.  So, they set up their lives to meet their income.   That's not just a 3/2 house.  It's the trophy house they "deserved".  Probably 7000 sq feet, 5 beds, 6 baths, pool, bar, media room, etc.  And of course the huge mortage to go with it.  And you can't park a Ford Focus in your 7000 sq ft house.  It has to be German with lots of letters and numbers on the trunk lid.  Private school, lake house, $5000 suits, blah blah blah.  They probably tell their clients to live within their means while their banker runs the numbers and tells them they can afford the second house in AZ for the winters.  
 
Thus the reason we're in the mess we're in.   

HymanRoth's picture
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Spaceman Spiff wrote:It's because guys like that tend to think they're invincible and they can't possibly see their income drop by 40%.  So, they set up their lives to meet their income.   That's not just a 3/2 house.  It's the trophy house they "deserved".  Probably 7000 sq feet, 5 beds, 6 baths, pool, bar, media room, etc.  And of course the huge mortage to go with it.  And you can't park a Ford Focus in your 7000 sq ft house.  It has to be German with lots of letters and numbers on the trunk lid.  Private school, lake house, $5000 suits, blah blah blah.  They probably tell their clients to live within their means while their banker runs the numbers and tells them they can afford the second house in AZ for the winters.  
 
Thus the reason we're in the mess we're in.   Indeed.This is why I'm having a tough time feeling much sympathy.How can someone who claims to be a financial advisor get themselves into a mess like this where they are so over extended?

CALI123's picture
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Joined: 2009-01-30

I know a handfull of guys who had to file after the 2001-02. It shows up under brokercheck. However, when I still had my 7 (pre RIA) I would always tell prospects to pull up my record to show I was "clean". 90% couldn't figure out how to do it. Those who could, didn't understand what they were looking at.
 
With that said, I think you need a good reason why you are filing. A buddy of mine filed after his wife had cancer. Their insurance didn't cover everything and they were left with a pretty big bill. He has always been upfront with it and has never had anyone make a big deal.
 
I understand where you are coming from. Back in my wirehouse days, I rememeber the sales managers (we had 3 in our branch) would try to get everyone pumped up by telling them what the next expensive thing we would buy. Everyone had a new car. We all had picutres of the big house we would buy someday. Looking back, the culture was you would work harder if you had more obligations. I admit that I got caught up in it too. If I had a 40% plus decline during those years, I would have been wiped out.
 
I would look take a hard look at your business and decide what the next five years will look like. Best of luck to you.

HAAIC's picture
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HymanRoth wrote:
Spaceman Spiff wrote:It's because guys like that tend to think they're invincible and they can't possibly see their income drop by 40%.  So, they set up their lives to meet their income.   That's not just a 3/2 house.  It's the trophy house they "deserved".  Probably 7000 sq feet, 5 beds, 6 baths, pool, bar, media room, etc.  And of course the huge mortage to go with it.  And you can't park a Ford Focus in your 7000 sq ft house.  It has to be German with lots of letters and numbers on the trunk lid.  Private school, lake house, $5000 suits, blah blah blah.  They probably tell their clients to live within their means while their banker runs the numbers and tells them they can afford the second house in AZ for the winters.  
 
Thus the reason we're in the mess we're in.   Indeed.This is why I'm having a tough time feeling much sympathy.How can someone who claims to be a financial advisor get themselves into a mess like this where they are so over extended?The same way a doctor with a broken arm can tell one of his patients, with a broken arm, to get a cast.

buyandhold's picture
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Joined: 2008-09-23

Just to piggyback on this, if you walked away from a mortgage, foreclosed on it, would that impact your record?

Iocaine's picture
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HAAIC wrote: HymanRoth wrote: Spaceman Spiff wrote:It's because guys like that tend to think they're invincible and they can't possibly see their income drop by 40%.  So, they set up their lives to meet their income.   That's not just a 3/2 house.  It's the trophy house they "deserved".  Probably 7000 sq feet, 5 beds, 6 baths, pool, bar, media room, etc.  And of course the huge mortage to go with it.  And you can't park a Ford Focus in your 7000 sq ft house.  It has to be German with lots of letters and numbers on the trunk lid.  Private school, lake house, $5000 suits, blah blah blah.  They probably tell their clients to live within their means while their banker runs the numbers and tells them they can afford the second house in AZ for the winters.  
 
Thus the reason we're in the mess we're in.   Indeed.This is why I'm having a tough time feeling much sympathy.How can someone who claims to be a financial advisor get themselves into a mess like this where they are so over extended?The same way a doctor with a broken arm can tell one of his patients, with a broken arm, to get a cast.

Totally different but nice try.  We have a choice in how we live our lives, last I checked, most drs who are practicing with broken appendages did not get that way by choice.  I am not saying that advisors who overextend themselves are incapable of good advice, but I do think they have a duty as sensible business owners to be there for their clients and part of that involves the ability to manage their own affairs prudently.

Vin Diesel's picture
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I would do everything you can to avoid filing BK. You can workout a small payment plan with your creditors till biz picks up. If you're able to get a deal --go for it. The peace of mind of having your debt paid or almost paid is worth it. You can then focus entirley on rebuiling your business.
 
I got myself into financial problems after the 2000 dot com bust. it took me 5yrs to dig myself out of it. I have since promised myself to live below my means.
 
Good Luck!

unsure's picture
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Joined: 2009-04-09

Are the brokers that left and took a check at UBS end of last year concerned w/ the rumors? I have heard that UBS is drawing a line in the sand at 400.  If they can the new recruits will they get to keep the upfront check?  If so are your buddies at UBS thinking indy?

Anonymous's picture
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Spaceman Spiff wrote:It's because guys like that tend to think they're invincible and they can't possibly see their income drop by 40%.  So, they set up their lives to meet their income.   That's not just a 3/2 house.  It's the trophy house they "deserved".  Probably 7000 sq feet, 5 beds, 6 baths, pool, bar, media room, etc.  And of course the huge mortage to go with it.  And you can't park a Ford Focus in your 7000 sq ft house.  It has to be German with lots of letters and numbers on the trunk lid.  Private school, lake house, $5000 suits, blah blah blah.  They probably tell their clients to live within their means while their banker runs the numbers and tells them they can afford the second house in AZ for the winters.  
 
Thus the reason we're in the mess we're in.   
 
Couldn't have said it better myself. 

Anonymous's picture
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Iocaine wrote:HAAIC wrote: HymanRoth wrote: Spaceman Spiff wrote:It's because guys like that tend to think they're invincible and they can't possibly see their income drop by 40%.  So, they set up their lives to meet their income.   That's not just a 3/2 house.  It's the trophy house they "deserved".  Probably 7000 sq feet, 5 beds, 6 baths, pool, bar, media room, etc.  And of course the huge mortage to go with it.  And you can't park a Ford Focus in your 7000 sq ft house.  It has to be German with lots of letters and numbers on the trunk lid.  Private school, lake house, $5000 suits, blah blah blah.  They probably tell their clients to live within their means while their banker runs the numbers and tells them they can afford the second house in AZ for the winters.  
 
Thus the reason we're in the mess we're in.   Indeed.This is why I'm having a tough time feeling much sympathy.How can someone who claims to be a financial advisor get themselves into a mess like this where they are so over extended?The same way a doctor with a broken arm can tell one of his patients, with a broken arm, to get a cast.

Totally different but nice try.  We have a choice in how we live our lives, last I checked, most drs who are practicing with broken appendages did not get that way by choice.  I am not saying that advisors who overextend themselves are incapable of good advice, but I do think they have a duty as sensible business owners to be there for their clients and part of that involves the ability to manage their own affairs prudently.
 
OK, word it this way...it's the doctor that smokes, but advises his patients to quit.

HymanRoth's picture
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Iocaine wrote:HAAIC wrote: HymanRoth wrote: Spaceman Spiff wrote:It's because guys like that tend to think they're invincible and they can't possibly see their income drop by 40%.  So, they set up their lives to meet their income.   That's not just a 3/2 house.  It's the trophy house they "deserved".  Probably 7000 sq feet, 5 beds, 6 baths, pool, bar, media room, etc.  And of course the huge mortage to go with it.  And you can't park a Ford Focus in your 7000 sq ft house.  It has to be German with lots of letters and numbers on the trunk lid.  Private school, lake house, $5000 suits, blah blah blah.  They probably tell their clients to live within their means while their banker runs the numbers and tells them they can afford the second house in AZ for the winters.  
 
Thus the reason we're in the mess we're in.   Indeed.This is why I'm having a tough time feeling much sympathy.How can someone who claims to be a financial advisor get themselves into a mess like this where they are so over extended?The same way a doctor with a broken arm can tell one of his patients, with a broken arm, to get a cast.

Totally different but nice try.  We have a choice in how we live our lives, last I checked, most drs who are practicing with broken appendages did not get that way by choice.  I am not saying that advisors who overextend themselves are incapable of good advice, but I do think they have a duty as sensible business owners to be there for their clients and part of that involves the ability to manage their own affairs prudently.Exactly.  The analogy would only hold water if the doctor had a broken arm because he had weak bones due to a poor diet...perhaps.FA's who end up in BK have largely brought it upon themselves, unless there is some disastrous health situation in the family or something similar.Too often it's due to the syndrome described by other posters, where managers and colleagues encourage conspicuous consumption.

3rdyrp2's picture
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Joined: 2008-11-13

When I first started my regional VP talked to the newbies and said when he was a lowly field vice president he would force his newbies to immediately go to the Benz dealership and buy/lease a Benz.  He said it would force the newbies to market and dial their asses off so they could afford the bill.  I knew he was full of crap but the fact he'd say something that absurd put a bad taste in my mouth.

brkrboy's picture
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I know a tun of  "million dollar producers" who took a huge check last year, and now because of the  "market reduction"  do not have the cash to pay back; interest/taxes. It is hitting everyone

3rdyrp2's picture
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But did they really have to spend the entire check?  Couldn't they have saved some of it?

bdlink's picture
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yeah, invested in the market

S&P low 666's picture
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[This is why I'm having a tough time feeling much sympathy.How can someone who claims to be a financial advisor get themselves into a mess like this where they are so over extended?The same way a doctor with a broken arm can tell one of his patients, with a broken arm, to get a cast.

Totally different but nice try.  We have a choice in how we live our lives, last I checked, most drs who are practicing with broken appendages did not get that way by choice.  I am not saying that advisors who overextend themselves are incapable of good advice, but I do think they have a duty as sensible business owners to be there for their clients and part of that involves the ability to manage their own affairs prudently.
 
stay positive.   do your best.   love your family.  be honest.  accept whatever happens.  life is short.  its only money.  everything happen for a reason.
 
watch this:
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol2fN0bZCso
 

skbroker's picture
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Squash

What do you mean when b of a closed the account and lowered your interest rate. So you can't use the card but pay the monthly payment at a lower rate?

Squash1's picture
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Joined: 2008-11-19

exactly.. Banks are looking to decrease credit lines(because credit cards are the next bubble) I have already seen a decrease across all of my credit lines except Citi.(I only have 4, JPM-no balance line decreased by $1,000, BAC-Agreed to close card for fixed rate-line shut down completely, AXP-no decrease, Citi-no decrease). Only carry one balance just happen to have the cards.. the citi is real nice lots of plane tickets bonus(best buy gift cards)..

skbroker's picture
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After calling b of a equity line of credit they have lowered my apr from 4.49 to 0 percent for next 2 years. I m also in the process of working with wells Fargo mortgage on my first to get my interest rate down. Same case for the credit cards.

Incredible Hulk's picture
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iceco1d wrote: Iocaine wrote:HAAIC wrote: HymanRoth wrote: Spaceman Spiff wrote:It's because guys like that tend to think they're invincible and they can't possibly see their income drop by 40%.  So, they set up their lives to meet their income.   That's not just a 3/2 house.  It's the trophy house they "deserved".  Probably 7000 sq feet, 5 beds, 6 baths, pool, bar, media room, etc.  And of course the huge mortage to go with it.  And you can't park a Ford Focus in your 7000 sq ft house.  It has to be German with lots of letters and numbers on the trunk lid.  Private school, lake house, $5000 suits, blah blah blah.  They probably tell their clients to live within their means while their banker runs the numbers and tells them they can afford the second house in AZ for the winters.  
 
Thus the reason we're in the mess we're in.   Indeed.This is why I'm having a tough time feeling much sympathy.How can someone who claims to be a financial advisor get themselves into a mess like this where they are so over extended?The same way a doctor with a broken arm can tell one of his patients, with a broken arm, to get a cast.

Totally different but nice try.  We have a choice in how we live our lives, last I checked, most drs who are practicing with broken appendages did not get that way by choice.  I am not saying that advisors who overextend themselves are incapable of good advice, but I do think they have a duty as sensible business owners to be there for their clients and part of that involves the ability to manage their own affairs prudently.
 
OK, word it this way...it's the doctor that smokes, but advises his patients to quit.

My preferred analogy is the attorney with no will or trust at death and the family has to run the estate through probate. Very common.

BondGuy's picture
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It's all about cash flow. As posted, an advisor takes a big check and is now living in a very different world. Even if the advisor was "smart" with the money and invested it he/she's in big trouble now. Income down 30 to 40% but expenses are not reduced. In fact the biggest monthly bill is the tax nut on the front loan. Between the reduced revenue and the big tax bite these guys are getting seriously squeezed. How can anyone fault their ability as advisors because of this? They didn't crash the market. They didn't reduce their own income through any fault of their own. Bad luck? Their ability to come out of this in the black depends on where the lines marking an income recovery and their own dwindling assets cross. The longer the recesssion lasts the more unlikely a positive outcome becomes.
 
This same scenerio applies to trainees and those young in the biz. Most used assets to launch themselves. Some used credit cards to help cash flow, racking up debt now with the promise to pay it back later when the hard work paid off. How is this different than any other small business? In fact, Ira Walker, one of this bizes biggest producers used credit cards to launch himself.  he's a five million dollar producer. If the market had done then what it's doing now, he'd be selling siding in his families business. Again, I see no reason to be critical of those caught on the underside on the financial coin.

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I came here to ask a question - but will answer this one.  All bankruptcies aren't the same.  For wage earners - there is Chapter 13 - which basically gives you some breathing room to pay off your debts through a wage earner's plan (might be useful in your case because of the scheduled payment in September).  Note that I am a retired attorney with no special expertise in bankruptcy law.  I just know that this section of the bankruptcy code exists.  I would set up a consultation with an attorney who specializes in consumer bankruptcy law and see what the story is.  I don't know how this would affect you professionally in terms of licenses/businesses and the like.  You'll have to check the rules and talk with your colleagues about tese things.  Robyn 

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BondGuy wrote:It's all about cash flow. As posted, an advisor takes a big check and is now living in a very different world. Even if the advisor was "smart" with the money and invested it he/she's in big trouble now. Income down 30 to 40% but expenses are not reduced. In fact the biggest monthly bill is the tax nut on the front loan. Between the reduced revenue and the big tax bite these guys are getting seriously squeezed. How can anyone fault their ability as advisors because of this? They didn't crash the market. They didn't reduce their own income through any fault of their own. Bad luck? Their ability to come out of this in the black depends on where the lines marking an income recovery and their own dwindling assets cross. The longer the recesssion lasts the more unlikely a positive outcome becomes.
 
This same scenerio applies to trainees and those young in the biz. Most used assets to launch themselves. Some used credit cards to help cash flow, racking up debt now with the promise to pay it back later when the hard work paid off. How is this different than any other small business? In fact, Ira Walker, one of this bizes biggest producers used credit cards to launch himself.  he's a five million dollar producer. If the market had done then what it's doing now, he'd be selling siding in his families business. Again, I see no reason to be critical of those caught on the underside on the financial coin.
 
This is an excellent post. 

Squash1's picture
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I agree with BondyGuy, those of us who started directly after college racked up large bills to launch ourselves in this business(let's be honest, most forms of marketing takes cash to do.) We expected to increase our income to the point where the bills would be eliminated(or at least manageable).

3rdyrp2's picture
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But BondGuy, I'm talking about guys that were making over a quarter of a mil or more(Not the initial poster, I'm talking about the guys who were million dollar producers).  Ok, so you take a big bonus check and all of a sudden you're making $150-$200k, all in the same year.  You're telling me that bonus check, used wisely, couldn't cover the missing income for one year, and then some?  Being that high of producers, there isn't a cash reserve or investments to liquidate before bankruptcy?  And if income is going down 40%, why aren't some expenses being reduced?  Unless you have a $900k mortgage and 3 german cars to pay off.  There is absolutely reason to be critical of those who lived frivilously and did not prepare for an emergency with some type of 3-6 months of expenses cash account or weren't smart enough to cut some unnecessary expenses when their income started dwindling. 

secretknowledge's picture
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Bud:

First of all a $1,000,000 producer has not been a very uncommon broker for the last 4-5 years. At $1,000,000 your pre tax income is about $400,000 after tax about $250,000. For $2,000,000 double it. A $2,000,000 broker in 2007 will be about a $1,000,000 in 2009. That is a huge change in cash flow.

Second, your largest expenses are your mortgage and private school for your children. So, when you talk about substantially altering your expenses you have to sell your house and send your kids to public school. In these times, the second is much easier then the first.

Third, most brokers are not very good managers of their own funds. For example, how many friends do you know at wirehouse who owned a ton of stock and had a bunch of options. And, how many of them waited way to long to sell in 2008.

Fourth, you should never run up your credit cards for anything. The item that gets you to be a million dollar producer is not some fancy marketing campaign. It is by focusing on a target market that has a lot of money. For example, pension plans, endowments, foundations, concentrated positions etc. The narrower the focus the quicker that you can make it to your goal. Getting to a $1,000,000 + is much harder when you are a generalist.

Fifth, if you take a deal you should not be stupid enough to:

1. Increase your exposure to the market. You are already extremley exposed by your job.

2. Buy "stuff" with it like cars etc.

3. Always try to live beneath your means. Remember, you have a job that has a variable income stream.

With regard to your bankruptcy, I would try everything I could before I declared. It is not a good thing even if you get out of the business.

All of us neeed to run our financial lives in a conservative manner. If you do and re successful in this business the rewards both financially and emotionally are huge. If you are not cut out for the business it is just frustrating.

So, I would recommend that you start out with the fiollowing:

1. Go to Dave Ramsey's website.

2. Sell assets you do not need. If nothing else, start with a garage sale. Look at your cars etc. Try to follow his plan.

3. Contact your credit card vendors and mortgage company. See what is available. If you do not speak with them they can not do anything.

Above all start implimenting a plan that you map out today. Taking the steps will make you feel much better.

If you have not sat down with your wife and told her about this please do.

Good Luck.

BondGuy's picture
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Joined: 2006-09-21

3rdyrp2 wrote:But BondGuy, I'm talking about guys that were making over a quarter of a mil or more(Not the initial poster, I'm talking about the guys who were million dollar producers).  Ok, so you take a big bonus check and all of a sudden you're making $150-$200k, all in the same year.  You're telling me that bonus check, used wisely, couldn't cover the missing income for one year, and then some?  Being that high of producers, there isn't a cash reserve or investments to liquidate before bankruptcy?  And if income is going down 40%, why aren't some expenses being reduced?  Unless you have a $900k mortgage and 3 german cars to pay off.  There is absolutely reason to be critical of those who lived frivilously and did not prepare for an emergency with some type of 3-6 months of expenses cash account or weren't smart enough to cut some unnecessary expenses when their income started dwindling. 
 
What's frivilous?
 
Everthing is relative. So, even to a lower producer, not a million dollar guy, they have their own hurdles to jump through every month. The question is; how long can you go with a reduced income or no income before the hammer falls on your lifestyle? Thousands of people, laid off from very good jobs, are struggling with this question right now. It's a scary thing because there for the grace of God go us all. We've already passed the 6 month emergency slush fund stash that all top planners recommend. It's gone or will be gone very soon. Now what? Now what for these people?
 
Back to our business. let's look at our million dollar producer. He's 15 years in the biz. He's been at the million dollar level for two years. He's been above 1/2 million for the past 8 years. His gross income is $450,000. After tax, not including deal, his take home is about $247,000. That's about $20,625 per month. That does not include his sales assistant's monthly bonus of $1500.
 
Our guy lives an upper middle class life style not unlike other highly paid professionals. He owns two homes. His primary residence is a home purchased 3 years ago on Harmony Lane for $750,000. It's an average house for the neighborhood and actually, less than average for the toney town he lives in. The place is very nice but needed some work as it's getting older. He and his wife chose this town because of its excellent school district.  He has a $500k mortgage on the place at 7% giving him a mortgage payment of approx $3300 a month. Let's make him a Jersey guy and put his property taxes at $1500 per month. Total housing cost including homeowners and utilities comes in at under 6k a month. Note: well within guidelines of what is acceptable.
 
Home number two is a townhouse at the Jersey shore. Our advisor bought this place for $160k cash before prices took off. It looked to be a great investment as well as a family refudge. No mortgage is good news, taxes and homeowners association fees, bad news. Taxes are $800 a month, association fee is $200. Utilites run about another $300 a month.
 
At the dock behind the summer house sits a 26 foot Searay Sun Dancer. With 15% down in cash he financed 75k two years ago giving him a boat payment of $700 a month. Additional boat costs are insurance, hauling and storage which adds another $200 a month. Our guy adds this cost to his family recreation budget.
 
Speaking of recreation budget; he takes his family of five on one kick butt vacation every year. Cost is usually in the 4 to 5k range.
 
On the transportation front our guy is not a car guy and leases a run of the mill Lexus ES370. Wifey tools around in a leased Lexus  RX350. Leases for both cars run about $1200 per month.
 
The kids are teenagers, two are driving and one is about to start. He bought the eldest a car for cash but is leasing a Honda Civic for the middle child. That cost is about $200 a month. His total car insurance bill is $900 a month. Remember this is in New Jersey.
 
Add it all up and we're at about $12,400 per month. Yet there is more.
 
Gotta eat: monthly food bill is $1250 a month. Additionally, our guy eats out-orders in lunch every day, eats cheap, but  add $300 per month. And every Friday he and his wife go out with friends to a new restaurant of choice burning another $100 per week. So, all up his food bill is about $2000 a month.
 
Cars use gas; he has four cars to fill every month. Average family mpg is 22mpg and total miles driven by all is 45,000 miles per year. About $300 a month in the Garden State.  
 
And clothing takes another$5000 per year.
 
Adding in these living costs brings monthly cash burn to about:$15,000. And yet there is more:
 
Life insurance cost is 300 per month for he and his wife. And we can't leave out the dog, Spot, that costs them about $1000 per year for food and vet bills.
 
I'm sure i've left out quite a bit. But our guy has about a $5000 cushion every month. That's 5k positive cash flow that goes to savings every month. In other words the guy is saving about 25% of his take home pay after all the bases are covered. How many out there doing that?
 
Now let's add in a deal. Our guy gets a 100% front money 7 year deal. That's a million bucks! Whoo who!
 
So, what does he do with that money?
 
First thing he does is add $200k to to the $150k he got saved for his kid's education. That should get him close to what he needs there. Next move is to pay off the house. And even though his accountant advises against it he writes a $450,000 check to become mortgage free.  Next is paying off the boat, that takes another $70K. Our guy mulls around a little bit about how to invest the rest of his cash. His 401k is about $400k, and he has about $150k sitting in a brokerage account invested in various stocks. He budget's about 5 months take home, 100k, to getting his business up to speed at the new place. He knows it won't take that long but, better to be safe. He takes 80k and buys some zero coupon munis and banks the last 100k in a short CD.
 
Now let's look at cash flow once our guy is up to speed:
 
The house and boat mortgages drop off saving $4000 a month. Hmmm, yet they are repalced by yet another bill, the monthly tax nut on the front money. Our boy has to pay taxes on about $143,000 in income every year on oncome he isn't getting. Of course he already got it all up front. Now paying off the house doesn't look so smart. Or does it? Well, from a cash flow POV the tax bill is about the same amount, $4000 a month. So, as it stands our guy has increased his net worth and did not increased his monthly expenses. He could of held out the money for the taxes and fed it in monthly to his income but it's six of one half a dozen of the other. He's still about 5k to the good every month and now owns the house free and clear.
 
But trouble is brewing. In the spring of 2008 the market is scaring his clients. They don't like what they're seeing. Biz drops 5%. Still no strain. Then the other shoe drops with a vengence in the fall of 2008 and biz is off 35% total from a year earlier. Our guy is now a $650k producer. With the grid reduction his income falls to $273,000 a year. His monthly take home, before the deal drops to $15,000, with the deal it's $11,000. Which matches his at home out of pocket expences.
 
He's at breakeven. And he's got that without being frivilous with his money. He covered his bases, house paid off, kids college taken care of and money in the bank. Still, with six plus years left on his deal, unless he picks up the slack the lines will cross. He will be forced into liquidation.
 
Just for fun and because i'm under the weather at home let's finish the story and see how our guy could end up completely under water.
 
 His brokerage account is down to 90K and the zero munis he bought are worth about 60k. His CD is good but he doesn't renew it. He put the cash into his money market.
 
His biggest client decides to move his account, reducing his production to $600,000. Then he number three client dies unexpectedly, reducing his production to $570,000. Think this stuff doesn't happen? Think again! Now it's really ugly. Our guy's grid is now 40%. His take home is about 160K per year-$9000/month after deal. Net capital burn per month is $2000. And here's the problem, He has no way to get positive. He could brown bag it and stop going out to dinner. Butt!
 
He feels trapped and uncomfortable. He wants to restore financial security and also batten down for the future. He wants to put the shore house on the market and hires a realtor. Bad news! He bought the place for $160,000 in 2000. And it climbed to $280,000 by 2007. But now, it will only bring $190,000 max. But there is a problem. While the homeowners association is on the hook for all the outside maintanence that doesn't include the dock or bulkhead on his slip. Both of which need to be brought up to the new code put in place in 2006. Cost $54,000. OMG!
 
Our guy tries to put the boat up for sale but can't find a broker who will take the listing. "Waste of time right now, those boats are a dime a dozen. Nobody wants them. Now if you've got a center console fishing machine we can talk. " comes the retort.
 
Meanwhile back on Harmony Lane one of the kids notices a bad smell coming from the mud room, a small room leading from the garage to the kitchen. The wife says it smells like mold and she is right. There is mold growing in the plaster wall. She calls their local handyman to take a look. The news isn't good! The mold is being caused by an outside leak in the roof. And there are two more leaks causing unseen damage. The lowest of the three estimates to replace the roof is $17400. But it's gotta get done, our guy writes the check. Fixing the mold takes another 2g's out of the bank.
 
Our former million dollar producer finds solice at his office where things are about to change. The BOM announces that they are closing this office and all the advisors who qualify will be moving to the office in Capital City. The staff, including our guy's assistant is being laid off. The BOM will not be making the move. really negative news as the Capitol City BOM is known as an A-hole who doesn't support his people. Without support from the mgr, and without his assistant whom he was just managing to hold on to, he can't run his seminar marketing program. Our guy comptemplates this when the phone rings. It's his wife. She can't get the hot tub on the deck to turn on. He can't believe this call and tells her to call Mr. Handy. She does, and calls back three hours later with more good news. The hot tub has termites! Actually the entire 1200 square foot deck, which is the center piece of their back yard and outside entertaining has termites. And by the way there is a water stain on one of the ceiling tiles in the basement. 30k to replace the deck, 5k for a new hot tub and that water stain? The dishwasher in the kitchen above is leaking. It's ruined the solid plank floor, $4000, and damaged the subfloor, $1000. Plus one ceiling tile at Home Depot, $7.95.  
 
Our guy suffers another production drop because 15 clients with 11 miilion in assets think the 40 miles to Capitol City puts them too far from their money. His monthly net drops to $5000 after deal tax is taken. Net monthly cash burn is now $6000.  The news doesn't help our guy's mood as he fights the depression of having a broom closet interior office. He shares an assistant with seven other guys. He had only one attendee at his last seminar serving to further darken the sky of his future. Between the markets and the loss of clients, his production is half what it was a year ago. The BOM has no repect for any of the new transferees and a cast system has developed in the office. There are those who get and those who don't. He's on the wrong side of that equation.
 
Our guy considers remortgaging the house to give him some more breathing room. The probelm is it will only deepen the cash flow shortfall. If business doean't come back anytime soon he'll be in a worse off position.
 
The realtor calls with an offer for the shore place. She's embarressed to tell him, but by law has to present it-$119,000. "It's a done deal at that price?" he asks. "Well, as soon as you get the dock and bulkhead up to code" comes the reply. He hangs up without responding just as the BOM pops his head in to his office. He'd like to talk to him in his office when he has a chance. He takes a client call and then goes to the BOM's office. The BOM announces that our guy is now below the minimum to maintain employment at this office. He puts our guy on three month probation and says, off the record, it's time to consider other options. All the transferrees get the same speech.
 
Shell shocked, back in his office, his head spinning his assistant delivers a message from his wife... the Sub Zero has stopped making ice and there's another water spot on a basement ceiling tile...
 
And so it goes.
 
At home trying to entertain myself on a sick day. But, as you can see, even for those who are secure, 400k in a 401k, hundreds of thousands saved outside those plans, plenty of income, all the bases covered, things can change. Business conditions, major illness, unexpected expenses. All can take one's lifestyle to the matt. It has nothing to do with being a good financial advisor. And as i said way, way above, it's all relative. Here we are talikg about a million dollar guy. The numbers may be less and there may not be things like second homes or two Lexus' in the driveway, but this scenerio is the same for us all.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Wow, detailed example Bondguy.  But still..
2 Lexuses (Lexi?) in the driveway...a beach house.  A $750K home.  Private school for the kids.  A $100K boat.  Paid-up college for the kiddies.  Paid for their cars too.  Wife doesn't work.  They "must" go out for dinner weekly with friends...plus go on a $5 - $7K vacation every year? 
 
And this guy must be the MOST unlucky guy on EARTH!  Buys both a boat, and beach house, that nobody wants.  Termites AND mold?  Oh yea, they f'd up his hot tub and his 1200 sq ft. deck...at the same time the roof goes, his $10K+ refridgerator dies? 
 
Yawn.  Let me shed a tear for this guy...oh nevermind.  How about I don't, and pretend I did!
 
I see what you are saying, BUT i'm still a few years from my 30th b-day.  I've lived on a variable income as either a business owner, or a "financial advisor" since before I was allowed to legally drink alcohol.  I put myself through college, and grad school.  I have a nice house (although not a million dollar home), I have nice cars (although, not German or Italian metal), I have lots of toys (though, not as many as many of you), I spend probably 2 - 3 weeks a year travelling various places (though, typically within 500 miles of home), and probably "go out" (Dinner, movie, drinks, standard "out" type of thing) 3 or 4 nights a week. 
 
My wife has a job with good benefits, but is VERY underpaid.  And we just got married in the past year, so that's nill - I had no benefits for most of this.
 
I also had several financial bombs dropped on me - besides buying and furnishing my first home, paying for my own schooling - I also had to fight a year and a half long lawsuit to defend some intellectual property (details of whicch, I will exlude for my anonyminity) - I'm sure you can imagine the costs (2 attornies (1 litigation, 1 intellectual property expert) @ $500 per hour, plus expert witnesses @ $500 per hour, travel, filing fees, misc costs @ 5% of billable hours), and the damage to my brand & sales throughout that period.
 
Not to mention, we all have to allow for surprises...might need a new roof.  Might need my well re-drilled.  Wife could get pregnant.  You know the surprises life throws at us.
 
You have to be prepared when you live on a variable income.  I'm the exact stereotype of someone that probably SHOULD fail in this environment, but yet I won't.  Maybe this guy could have bought a half million dollar house?  Or maybe just stayed in a hotel @ the shore?  If he had a beach house, maybe he could have been renting it when he wasn't using it to offset the cost?  Maybe a $50K boat would have been ok?  Maybe a plain-ole' GE fridge, instead of a sub-zero?  Maybe, maybe, maybe. 
 
Point is, a million-dollar producer had every opportunity to NOT be screwed right now...they got a little greedy, and might be f'd now.  Hope these guys make it (as long as they aren't in my area, lol), but hard to feel too much pity.

Vin Diesel's picture
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Joined: 2007-04-18

Bondguy, is this what i have to look forward to when i'm; a million dollar producer, married w/ children
 
Suddenly being a $400,000 producer and single doesn't seem so bad

footsoldier's picture
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Joined: 2006-04-30

You know what they say about the restaurant biz...
 
How do you make a million?...start with 2M.
 
The marriage equivalent...
 
How do end up with a million?...give her 110% and leave 1M in a swiss bank account that she never new existed!!!

BondGuy's picture
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Joined: 2006-09-21

Ice ,you're missing the point. While it might seem that my fictional guy was living high on the hog, how do you think people pulling down half a million or more every year live?
 
I make that amount. I associate with people who make that amount. Most of these people are business people. Every business person has a variable income, not only salespeople. Yet, every one of these people has a second home. Most are at the Jersey shore. One guy, my neighbor, who makes less than me has a shore house that's worth over $3,000,000. Another, an Architect, has a house in Barbados.
 
The point is, this is the way people who make discretionary money live. The buy things they want. The live a certain lifestyle that comes with having money.
 
Yet, anyone of these people could fall on hard times. As in my example, a fairly well grounded guy, not living beyond his means, saving 25% of his income,  gets taken out by forces he couldn't imaging existed a year ago. I know if anyone told me a year ago that ML would be owned by Bank of America and that UBS would be cutting sub 400k producers I couldn't imagine that. I couldn't imagine that the markets would come so unglued and that munis would decouple so completely from treasuries.
 
And of course in my story my guy has many "fill in the blank"  options available to him.
 
The point of my story, isn't to exact pity, nobody pitys the rich falling down. But to understand. Understand, it's not about how good an advisor one is. Adversity can affect us all regardless of what business we're in. How prepared are we suppose to be?
 
As for how ridiculous some of the details of my story sound, each is taken from real life experience:
 
I found out my 1200 square foot, featured in Better Homes and Gardens 10 years prior, deck was riddled with termites when the hot tub wouldn't turn on. The hot tub was infested with termites. The low estimate to replace the deck was 30k. However, i didn't pay 30k. Not counting the pick up truck I bought because i kept getting screwed on delivery of materials, i paid about 8k for decking, screws, and tools to do it myself. Let me tell you doing the math to install over 400 balisters, some fun! As was tearing out the old deck. I got to use a Sawzall which my kids nick named the Bitch. The movie Training Day was playing at the time. And it took me a summer of weekends to get the project done. I kept the truck for about 3 years and sold it for about 5k less than i bought it for. So total cost for the deck-13k. I forget how much it cost me termite proof the house, which was also on the must be done list.
 
The dock/bulkhead story came from a friend with a house on Barnegat Bay. True story.
 
The mold- back to my house-it was in the mud room and was caused by a roof leak. Cheapest guy was 12k and he got the job. I gave our fictional guy a bigger house. One of the guys in one of our FL offices just paid 40k for a roof. So, I toned it down.
 
The water stained ceiling tile-my house again, and it was the dishwasher and it did ruin the plank floor in the kitchen.
 
My house came with the Sub Zero and we just found it to be leaking. Here we go again! The roof, dishwasher, and leaking fridge, all in the last year.
 
Then again, I left out some stuff. Like the six figure tab it cost me to save my daughter's life when , not in college and not covered by cobra, someone had to step up to pay the bill. Like you said, one of life's unexpected surprises. So, yeah, sh*t happens.
 
Again, how prepared are we suppose to be?
 
 
 
 
 

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

I hear ya man.
 
I don't think it's really indicative of how effective one can be as an advisor (i.e. my example of the doctor that smokes, recommending his patients quit).
 
All the misfortune aside - perhaps the "prudent" 6 months of expenses is Suze Orman's recommendation for Joe America that works 9 - 5.  Perhaps that guideline isn't accurate for business owners, salespeople, or other people with completely variable incomes. 
 
I know all the talk has been "this time is different" - and to some degree that is true.  But in terms of market decline, to date, I don't really see how this time was that unforeseeable.  In fact, I'd expect I'll go through this type of market decline 1 or 2 more times in my career.  I'm sure people left the business during the tech boom & bust.  Now more people are going to be forced out - not just noobs, but some very successful people.  Why can't some of us seem to grasp the stuff we preach on a daily basis? 
 
 

RobynG's picture
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Joined: 2009-04-14

I think iceco1d made a good point about variable income.  My husband and I have both had variable incomes since we left the DA's office a couple of years out of law school.  Very variable - both in terms of our legal practices when we were working - and our investments after we retired.  Made us pretty conservative.  No second home - no boat - etc.  We do spend a lot on travel and restaurants - but those (and some other expense items) are discretionary expenses.
 
But I can see us - or people in similar situations - getting in trouble.  What if our munis start to default? (I forget which ratings agency just put *all* local governments on negative credit watch.)  We will probably lose our State Farm windstorm insurance within the year - and wind up self-insuring - because the crummy companies left in Florida seem to have less liquid net worth than we do!  We could afford to rebuild our house after a storm - but it would be a financial stress.  And what if we lose our medical insurance before we go on Medicare?  Most of you work for companies that offer health insurance - but health insurance is perhaps the single largest financial problem for early retirees (or people who have lost good jobs).  Health care/insurance is the single largest item in our annual budget (we don't have a mortgage).
 
We are lucky in many ways.  For example - our parents - children of the Depression - managed (and I have no idea how in the case of my-laws) to save enough money to pay for their retirements and even the care they needed in skilled nursing homes.  We have friends/family members whose parents need to be in skilled nursing homes (with Alzheimers and the like) - and the parents can't afford them (but they have too much money to qualify for Medicaid).  You're talking about much more than the cost of fixing a deck!
 
Then there are family members who get into trouble.  My brother and SIL support her sister.  Whose husband abandoned her and her child shortly after the kid was born (he is now 15 or so).  They used to pay a little - but now she has lost her job (she worked for a newspaper).  They can't see her thrown out on the street.  We have some family members who might wind up in really bad shape - but - knock wood - they haven't gone over the edge yet.
 
So perhaps the answer to a certain extent is be conservative - but you still have to keep your fingers crossed.  Robyn 

DodgerDraftpick's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-24

Great post Bondguy as one who is in  the region known as Socal your numbers are very accurate from the lifestyle I see many business owners and highly paid professionals live.  I also think it is a great post for wirehouse guys to see the in my opinion as an Indy the folly of chasing a deal when either starting your own Indy show, RIA, or joining an existing one will add much more to your bottom line then a deal ever will.

3rdyrp2's picture
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Joined: 2008-11-13

I respect the way you put that post together and put a lot of thought into it, BondGuy.  While I can agree that many high-income earners do spend a lot of their money due to the joy you get out of being able to reap the rewards of hard work, there is some disagreement with part of the theory.
 
Robyn made a good point about being heavy on "discretionary expenses".  Dining at the finest of restaurants, taking a cruise on the most elegant liner this side of the Atlantic, putting your kids through private school, these are all expenses that are one-and-done.  You make a half a mil a year, go eat at Ruth's Chris 5 nights a week.  I see it as not irresponsible, but very risky to tie yourself up to a $750k mortgage, a $160k beach home w/$1,300 of upkeep/taxes each month, a $75k boat and 2 lexus leases.  These are things that you'll be paying on for 30 years.  (Unless you come to your senses and decide to purchase the Lexus after a while).  I can't say there's no need to have these things, because I think you should reward yourself for doing well and being good at what you do, but when things go sour and you don't work on a set half-mil salary but on a variable income, you reap what you sow with the aftermath.  I know your example was off the wall, but he didn't have one penny of a cash reserve, except the last part of his bonus that went to muni's and a CD, but that was set aside to pay for taxes. 
 
Its hard to say how I would react if I was in the situation where I had the choice of how I wanted to spend $500,000 worth of income each year, because I'm not in that position.  Nor do I want to judge, although it may come across otherwise, but I think there's a big difference between living the high life and taking $10k trips and drinking the finest bottles of wine known to man kind vs. locking yourself in to $10,000 worth of fixed monthly expenses for the next 30 years of your life.

buyandhold's picture
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Joined: 2008-09-23

Great example, bondguy. What would you say to that guy if you were his advisor? You couldn't really find fault. He's funding his retirement, he has life insurance, he has college expenses covered, he's investing in his kids' future with private schools (which are pretty near a must once you are making six figures. ... Up until recently, you would even consider the second home an investment.  His business presumably has value after he retires ... The boat is the only thing I'd consider over the top.That guy --- apocrophyl though he is -- is why I think we're in more serious trouble with this economy than the conventional wisdom says. Almost all of us are less than six months out of work away from bankruptcy and many of us are halfway there already because of rising unemployment and falling asset values.

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