by Todd Elliot
I did everything right… and still lost it all.
I never spent everything I made. I invested early, followed all professional advice I could get, took calculated risks that paid off, and accumulated a fluid portfolio.
I timed the markets accurately, getting out before the crash in 2000 and the real estate crash in 2005. I reinvested with no loss in a downmarket and made more money.
But there was a hole in my boat. A leak I never would have believed.
I was involved in a new business that required large amounts of money on occasion, so needed some fluidity. I had the money, and was prepared.
Everything was smooth sailing.
And then came an envelope. I opened it.
The envelope contained a bill for a maxed out credit card. A card I had cancelled after making sure it was paid off.
I called and found out that my wife had reopened the account. I asked my wife about it and she got this ‘deer in the headlights’ look. She made excuses that sounded, if not reasonable at least legitimate from her point of view, and swore that it was the only debt she had.
And then I opened a second envelope.
To make a long story short I found out that cars paid for in cash now had loans on them. Credit cards I’d cancelled or never knew about were maxed out. A line of credit established with a bank, for emergency purposes, was completely drained.
Accounts full of cash were empty.
And each step of the way my wife claimed it was the last one.
I had some pretty dark thoughts.
The financial ruin spread. We had enough cash to cover the debts, but that sunk the business. We had to sell our real estate in the still-down market, and on some we broke even and on others we only got a fraction of profit on what should have been real good investments.
The worst part was that there was no way for us to make up the losses. Which meant that my ego wasn’t just bruised…it was shattered.
My life goal was to leave my children a financial legacy, a safety net, a family trust they could tap as they matured into retirement, something that they could use to send their children to college.
And to provide for my wife and me in imminent retirement.
The well was deep and black and the sides were too slippery to climb.
I decided to ruin my wife by dragging her down with me. Divorce was not good enough.
Murder was too kind too.
You must understand that I’ve always loved my wife. Always supported her in her decisions, encouraged her, and always treated her as I would want to be treated.
And she had betrayed me.
I wished she had cheated on me. There would have been less dire repercussions.
I started to plan our future, a way to place her in serious hardship before I took the long walk.
But something happened. Perhaps the one thing my ego needed was an undeniable and completely honest compliment. Something no person could give me, because I no longer trusted human beings.
Something that restored my faith in myself.
After dropping my wife off at work (thank God she was working) I decided to walk the small gambling town we were living in.
One of the bars had poker tables. I’d played maybe twenty games of draw poker in my life, never for any real money, and that was before I got married 30 years ago.
The table I sat down at was dealing Texas Hold’em. Ten players per table, and several tables in a tournament. “Nickle roll” poker that only cost ten bucks to buy a seat. It was something to do, to take my mind off…everything.
I won the third tournament I played.
In the next three months I played 120 tournaments. Half the time I was at the final table. Half of those I was in the money. I won four in a row, and one week I won six of eleven I played.
There is nothing like self-affirmation not dependent on other human beings. It literally saved my life. And it gave me something else. A new perspective.
I forgave my wife.
The worst part now is that I will never be able to trust her again, completely.
We live on social security now. A simple and surprisingly easy life so far.
We can’t travel anywhere that requires the expense of a hotel bill. But we’ve saved a little money.
As long as there are no surprises we may make it again…one day.
It feels good to have hope.
Todd Elliot is an independent thinker, author and poker champion.