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Another Story From The Greatest Generation

I received a lot of response to my last entry “Welcome The New Depression-Era Generation!”  I often tell young people “debt is slavery”, and many of you wrote in to reinforce that idea, and to stress the need for fiscal responsibility. 

One response in particular caught my eye, and accordingly I asked if I could reprint it. While many are feeling economic pain right now, our current troubles pale in comparison to what the “last great generation” had to endure, as this story makes clear. The author asked to remain anonymous, and I hope you find her story as inspiring as I do.  Thanks E  

E’s Story

I was born in Germany and escaped with my mother and two other siblings (my mother was pregnant as well) during the war to a small town northeast of Munich.  We initially lived in someone’s dirt floor cellar and when my father came out of the war, we lived in a portion of someone’s attic, somewhat crammed for a family of seven.  My parents lost their farm in Birkenau where I was born when the Russians moved in, and Birkenau eventually became a concentration camp.  My parents were an excellent example of how enterprising and frugal you can live.  My father was 40 and my mother was 39 when we came to the United States and their children aged from 3 to 13 years of age (I was 8).  I still have a wooden box the size of a hope chest that contained all they had to restart their life over here.  My father purchased a home a year after we came here (he couldn’t even speak the language well). He rented it out , worked two-full time jobs for two years and paid that house off, and then we moved in.   After that, he continued to purchase rentals and land.  He also always had a landscaping business on the side.  Because of hard work and their enterprising nature, starting with nothing when they came  to the United States , by the time they retired, they had accumulated three quarters of a million dollars.
 
I believe I have developed a lot of my parents good habits.  I have been a landlord for 30 years, had two rentals for a while (plus the home I lived in), did a 1031 exchange when I sold that and purchased land.  Six years later, that property tripled in value and when I sold it and the home I lived in (that I had been remodeling for over 10 years ), I was able to purchase a beautiful 2400 square foot 10 year old home for cash (that was one of my dreams).  I have also purchased my last two cars for cash (the most recent a small used Lexus SUV) .  I have done well putting money away for my retirement and still own a rental with a small mortgage.  I owe nothing on credit cards  (even though I use my Visa to accumulate air miles)  and continue to save on a monthly basis and put the maximum away in my 401K ( I can afford to do that  since I don’t have to pay a mortgage).  I have raised 3 sons, half the time on my own.  All the hard work has finally paid off and I believe I have set a good example for my children. They are all go getters as well and live within their means.  It goes to show how with a good example, having a plan, working that plan, and believing in yourself, what one can accomplish.

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