Didn't work Wednesday: Betting on Lehman Brothers

In early 2001 DOT COM had officially become the DOT BOMB.

At that time, my wife had been working for office.com and was in fact one of the last employees on payroll before finally jumping ship (just before they completely went down in flames).

The ship she jumped to at the time was Lehman Brothers.

In addition to being an interesting and engaging challenge, the compensation was a nice jump up from where we were at the time (we were engaged but not even married yet – that wouldn’t happen until Sept. 23rd 2001).

After (literally) surviving the terrorist attacks in 2001, my wife bounced around to various physical office space as the company appeared to rebound without any real long term issues to worry about.

She eventually settled into a spot in the Jersey City location (which, BTW, is the main reason we now live in NJ).

Throughout the next 6 or 7 years, as we started and grew our family and I pursued many different startups and tech. projects, she would work insane hours on very challenging projects in exchange for what we believed to be pretty good compensation.

The problem was, much of that compensation came in the form of Lehman stock…and thinking that a 150+ year old company that appeared to be killing it was a ‘no lose’ situation, we also spent a decent amount of our 'discretionary income’ on additional Lehman stock (we wanted to build the college funds for the kids and our *eventual* retirement).

Of course the big mistake here was that, even with my wife inside of the company, we were completely unaware of the mess that was going on within Lehman.

We had bet fairly big on what appeared to be a sure thing, and still we ended up losing.

Murphy’s law had clearly kicked our butt.

Luckily, we were conservative enough to have not put all our eggs into just the Lehman basket…and my wife (being amazing as she is) was able to quickly jump from that sinking ship to a different, solid, corporate gig (Pearson Publishing - where she remained until about a year ago when she left for a great new opportunity at Citibank).

So overall we’ve navigated the rough seas without too much turmoil - but we sure did lose a lot of 'on paper worth’ (and have been staying mostly even in net-worth since; not an ideal way to build for our kids future but certainly better than many others).

In the end, the big thing we learned was that there really is no such thing as 'playing it safe’.

Everything is a risk. Anything can happen. The best we can do is bet on ourselves, the things we can control, and just do our best day-to-day to improve our own world. Continue to live within our means.

…and of course, don’t bet big without being able/willing to also lose big (but luckily we’ve always had that thought/approach).

My wife continues to be the primary/stable bread winner in our house, doing the more corporate thing and helping to improve our financial situation day-to-day. We continue to make (modest) stock and equity investments (though we aren’t buying as much Citibank stock as we could now that she is a member there).

And I continue to pursue the bigger bets, to be more hands-on with startups and *very* early stage companies…to stockpile goodwill and equity that very well might be worthless tomorrow (but also has a better than good chance – depending on my decisions and actions – of being worth a boat load).

It doesn’t always feel like we’re making the best decisions or doing as well as we could (or as well as others)…but for now it seems to work and we’re staying the course…

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

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