Success after failure; after 40
June 13, 2009 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone made a significant financial comeback after 40?


I'm a 42 yr old man. I've been financially successful but after starting a company, a tough lawsuit and over-leveraging myself I am deeply in debt and without work for the first time in my career.

I need to create financial abundance if I am to care for my two children and live the life I believe I deserve.

If anyone found themselves broke and despondent at middle age but turned it all around, I would love to hear your story.

posted by FazioGazebo to Work & Money (19 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any riches-to-rags-to-riches story for you, FazioG, but I'll tell you what I tell everyone on AskMe who's going through the same thing you are (which includes myself, btw - out of work for soon-to-be half a year in an economy where nearly 10% of us are unemployed...).

To wit:

Trite as it is, is there somewhere you could use your entrepreneurial talents for the greater good of your community while you sort yourself out? It's been enormously life-affirming and healthy for my head these past few months to get out and network by volunteering and putting my values ahead of my pay for awhile.

Is there a small business advisory council you can partner with to provide CEO assistance to a start-up, say? Or do something through Learning Annex?

Anyway, I'll stop here. I realize I'm not giving you what you want in this thread, but it's worth keeping in mind. I feel for you, man. Everyone I know is either laid-off or about to be. Keep your chin up, know this will pass, you won't fail, and didn't the first time anyway.

You took a risk, made something of yourself, went through some legal shit and learned one of the best lessons anyone can learn in their life - how to deal with adversity and value yourself in the process.

You will get through this, and while you're doing that, see if there's some small way you can find someone nearby right now, who really needs the kind of person you have become to see them through their hard times as well.

Be well.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:21 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rather than rehashing it here, I will link you to my story of recovery from a number of things, including financial ruin.
posted by netbros at 9:00 PM on June 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

And I see from your previous AskMe question that I've already linked you to my history. Sorry for the duplication. Keep in mind, no matter how far down the scale you may slide, things will always get better. Just be willing to do the work, have the patience, and reward is the result of change.
posted by netbros at 9:06 PM on June 13, 2009

Well, Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Company just before his fortieth birthday, after two attempts to start an auto manufacturing firm. One failed, the other became Cadillac after he left.

And Donald Trump took two of his businesses into bankruptcy and narrowly avoided personal bankruptcy (with nearly $1 billion-with-a-b in personal debt) at age 44.
posted by dhartung at 9:12 PM on June 13, 2009

Read Netbros link. THink about what he says. Take a step back and evaluate where you have been and where you want to be. Determine how you want to be perceived and go for that reality.

I am in the trading business. I have seen countless people make hundreds of thousands to millions and lose it all. Most start again and find a way back. Read Jesse Livermore's story. He went broke many times. Address what you did wrong and start again.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:03 PM on June 13, 2009

(Harland) Sanders took to franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, starting at age 65, using $105 from his first Social Security check to fund visits to potential franchisees.

Tony Robbins tells his story as a key asset to personal success, since Sanders allegedly had 1,009 rejections when trying to establish his franchise, until he co-founded the now international restaurant chain KFC.

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:16 PM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Henry Miller didn't get published in a meaningful way until he was well into his 40s ... and I'd argue he was instrumental in shifting the whole trajectory of western culture.
posted by philip-random at 11:21 PM on June 13, 2009

Here's a list of 'late bloomers' (Wikipedia). I look at such lists sometimes to encourage myself, since I've had a couple of career shift/restarts myself. Not on that particular list: Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen (Out of Africa and other works), who was first published at the age of 49, after a turbulent life and failed marriages; and V.C. Andrews, whose first novel came out when she was 56 - the bestselling gothic horror camp classic Flowers in the Attic - and whose name is so lucrative that they continue to published works under her name authored by others, though she's been dead for years. There are a lot of examples like that around.
posted by thread_makimaki at 11:30 PM on June 13, 2009

I need to create financial abundance if I am to care for my two children...

No you don't.

and live the life I believe I deserve.

What does "deserve" mean in this context? Worthy of as a person? Free markets don't work that way, and you shouldn't contort your sense of human worth to see things the way the market does.

over-leveraging myself

You aren't a tool for accomplishment.
posted by phrontist at 11:34 PM on June 13, 2009 [8 favorites]

Ray Kroc (McDonalds) is a great example... actually check out the book "Life is Not a Game of Perfect" by Dr Rob Patella... there's a chapter on people finding success after 50... great book
posted by Chrysalis at 11:37 PM on June 13, 2009

Step 1: Quit treating yourself like a victim. Victims never make money, except in the kind of lawsuits we all hate.

Step 2: Suck it up. You turned forty?!?!?!?! Oh my god you are so old! Ho could you ever think of making a living ever again?!?!

Look, most of the moon-landing astronauts were in their late 30's and 40's because it was the right balance between health and skill. They walked on other planets. You can start a new business. The only thing that's stopping you at this point is yourself, not your creativity, or your drive or your age. If you don't even try now the only thing stopping you is YOU.

Okay, if the astronaut thing doesn't float your boat, I know three people, as good friends, who were unable to create a successful company until they were in their 40's. Lots of close calls and good ideas, but no true success stories until after they had the sad, self indulgent 40th birthday party. The least successful of them is making low 6 figures USD.

If you want details MeMail me. But seriously, 40 is the prime of your life, not over the hill. Burst your bubble and get out there and live. You've never been more capable and you've never known what you want more than you know right now.

Frankly I'm a bit jealous.
posted by Ookseer at 2:14 AM on June 14, 2009

posted by gene_machine at 3:43 AM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

The Donald

Seriously, stories like this are myriad. If you have shown in the past the ability to get a business off of the ground, and you show self confidence and energy, people will lend you money.
posted by caddis at 5:55 AM on June 14, 2009

Donald Trump hasn't been solvent since the 80's. I wish people would stop using him as an example of success, because frankly he's exactly the kind of person we should be shunning, rather than emulating.
posted by orange swan at 6:16 AM on June 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm in the middle of it - this is my rebuilding decade - and while I'm not having a great time doing it, I am far from unhappy. I'm 46, I owned a company with my dad until he died last year. I've closed that company and because of some really bad financial decisions on my dad's part I've inherited quite a large debt load. Inches from bankruptcy at any given moment, pretty much. I'm back to renting an apartment and drive an 11 year old car. 1 step forward, two steps back, sorta.

When I look at myself honestly - no college degree - self taught in most professional aspects - I've job hopped, had a drug/alcohol problem, have an abrasive personality and very few friends - I could just completely curl up in a ball, and then go get a job in a muffler shop with the college kids. And without any family commitments - no kids or wife - there are days when I'm really hard pressed to even get out of bed.

But I am really, really good at what I do. I build computer networks, people like me are a dime a dozen. But most don't have the experience I do - I've got lots of experience actually working in the markets I serve (all that job-hopping!), and my former customers refuse to let me quit, they want me to work on their stuff. And they call and ask for advice, more than just "fix it" calls. What I do has value to others. I am even called on by other independent IT pros to get advice.

So I've started a new company. I borrowed 5 grand from a brother in law, bought some computer equipment, and got busy. We offer pretty much the same services as the old company, presented differently, a whole lot less staff and overhead, and I'm on the way back. I've even found a way to be more profitable with less effort. I'm financially strapped, but I'm surviving. That's enough, for now - the payoff is coming down the road. I'm not going to be a gazillionaire, but I'm betting I'll make enough to travel, have a comfortable home and a nice life. I've earned it, I just need to go get it.

There is no reason to be despondent. What did you learn from your company's failure? I learned a lot about paying attention to sales and debt and keeping a close eye on the books. I know now what worked and what didn't. I don't have to repeat any of it. I am doing this my way, with guidance from others and the past to serve as a reminder, and I'm having a great time.

Don't limit yourself, get out there, set some realistic goals, and get busy. Leverage your experience! You've got knowledge and experience that others want. I'm sure the contacts, customers and network from your former company see value in you and your experience. That is something you can and should leverage.

But nothing happens until you start.
posted by disclaimer at 8:15 AM on June 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There are too many examples to waste time listing them. It's irrelevant, anyway. The only case that matters is yours.

42 is not old. It sounds like you have useful experience.

It also sounds like you have a crisis of self confidence that may have something to do with your recent experiences. It's worth considering that the world you live in is the same world you lived in when things were going right, for the most part. Opportunity is everywhere, and with only a few exceptions, youth is mostly an impediment.

The young (generally) have no track record. Experience grows with age. Judgment does, too, if you cultivate it.

One thing young folks have that deteriorates rapidly with age is optimism and willingness to try stuff. Get that back, and you'll be a lot closer to success regardless of how much money you make.

In the 70's, in graduate school, I made it a point to study entrepreneurs and their pursuits. The data may have changed in the interim, but back then, most successful folks had had one or two failures before hitting on the thing that made them successful. Your storyline has been pirated.
posted by FauxScot at 10:47 AM on June 14, 2009

"You have to understand that being wrong is part of the process."
- Peter Bernstein, talking about investing, but it holds true for just about everything else, too.

Don't worry Fazio - despite what you might think from observing the internet era, most people don't really start to make money until they're in their 40s. We just don't know that much before then.

Another good quote from Mr. Bernstein: "What we like to consider as our wealth has a far more evanescent and transitory character than most of us are ready to admit." So do your best, but balance that out with other things in life, okay?
posted by txvtchick at 12:04 PM on June 14, 2009

From what you say, it sounds like you've already built yourself up once. Why can't you do it again?
posted by sesquipedalian at 4:39 PM on June 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to all.

Believe me I don't feel like a victim as one respondant labled me. I take full responsibility for my situation and know that I'll take full responsibility for my ascention. Someone mentioned a crisis in confidence; that is what I've been feeling. My goal was not to complain but to bolster my motivation by taking action and asking for success stories.

The responses were all very helpful. Thank you again.

posted by FazioGazebo at 2:59 PM on September 14, 2009

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