About 12 years ago, and in my second year of teaching, I opened my first investment account, the mighty 403b! I was excited by this, as a broke new teacher, married with one household income, and a one year old baby. I decided to make it hurt and put $150 a month into this account. The next year I felt more confident with my car paid off, so I upped my savings to $220 a month and that’s where it stayed for the next four years. I added my Roth IRA and started maxing that out in year five of teaching ($450 a month), and at this point I had a house, and three kids with one teacher income to support us all. So, I felt I was saving pretty good. I also put away $50 a month for each of my kids in a college fund. We were feeling the hurt with my saving for retirement and kids college funds. But, then I left that school district and my 403b was stuck.
Here’s where the adventure begins. I was told I couldn’t bring my 403b over to my new school district, but couldn’t start a new one either because I had one already. The guy I worked with left the 403b company, and went out on his own, and he didn’t have access to the account, and the new guy was pissed at the whole situation of my guy leaving, and he ignored me and held my account hostage. I had about $15,000 locked up and couldn’t do anything with it in my locked 403b. I tried to roll it into an IRA but it would be taxed, and I tried to just withdraw it, but I forgot the legal issues and tax issues involved, but I found out that I could wait until I had the account for 10 years, or to be more precise on the first day of the 11th year, I could move the money without penalty. So, I sat and waited patiently for 6 years, and marked the exact day January 4th, 2018 that I could move my money to my new district with my same original financial guy.
I waited and watched the money grow to $21,841.13 over that locked 6 years and on January 4, 2018 at 7:34am I texted my guy to put the paperwork in ASAP! He LOLed me, and said it was on his phone alarm, but it was set for 8:00am to go off. I beat him to the punch! We got all the paper work done that day and then we waited. And Waited. And Waited. We called them up and said whats the hold up after a week. They said, “Oh, we don’t accept electronic signatures.” So, I signed it all in legal blue pen, and resent it again. And Waited. And Waited. And Waited. We called them up and they said the paperwork was being held up by the guy who was pissed off at my financial guy for leaving. So we called him up, and I gave him a ear full with just one profane word, “asshole.” But, he deserved more for holding my money hostage. Then we Waited. And Waited. And Waited, for another two weeks worth of business days, for the money to all be transferred into my nice new useable 403b account on March 12, 2018. I am currently setting up $300 a month to be placed in there, with all my other investments I have these days.
So, what does one learn from such episodes of stupidity. I learned that compound interest really works, and I even considered just leaving this account alone forever to grow as an experiment. $15,000 made me about $1,000 a year as it sat and collected electronic dust. Not bad for doing nothing but waiting in a great economy.
I also learned that patience is sometimes the best policy. Because, I was patient and thinking long term, I didn’t lose any of the money, and I still invested the money I would have put in my 403b into other things. For example, starting my wife’s Roth IRA, getting into some mutual funds, ETF’s, crypto currencies, and playing with individual stocks. I still invested the money, and by using it for various investment opportunities I was able to learn about each one by doing. I learned I don’t like individual stocks, and ETF’s are easy to use through Stash. I had fun watching $400 in Bitcoin turn into a quick $1,000, and then reinvesting my profits into Ethreum, Ripple, Litecoin, etc. and turned the $1,000 into $6,000 at it’s height (it’s about $3,000 as I write this). I also took my initial $400 out, so I would never lose my money gambling on imaginary computer code money.
I also learned that people have to be forced to do their job with your money. It’s my money and it matters only to me. The people at those companies don’t care about my money. There is no emotional attachment to that money for them. That money doesn’t represent hours of life traded for dollars. It doesn’t improve their chances of retirement. I am a just another person, and my money is just a number to them. So, I had to be a fighter to free my money from the clutches of corporations who don’t care what happens to my money. Also, sometimes the word “asshole” works to get their attention, and snap people back into professionalism (I was armed with more choice words if necessary).
So, remember at the end of all bad stories, there can be a happy ending, just sometimes it takes six years of patiently waiting to get your happy ending. Now, back to saving for the future, and enjoying a higher savings rate, by being able to use my first retirement and investing tool, my 403b. Boy, it will be nice to be a millionaire teacher one day!!