My career has never followed the traditional nine to five path, so I haven't had many of the traditional benefits that full time workers enjoy.
I was one of those people who didn't think I needed health insurance. And I didn't give much thought to retirement savings until I hit my 40s.
One part-time job I held in my early 20s, however, came with a generous, employer-funded retirement account. Yet in just a few years after I left that job, I had drained the funds from the account until nothing was left.
I've often thought of that missed opportunity to start saving for retirement and regretted it.
Where the money came from
When I first moved to San Francisco, I got a part-time job as an assistant to an attorney in a private practice. He was a prodigious saver and set aside a large percentage of his income in a retirement account.
I can't remember the retirement plan he made these contributions under — and it might not even exist anymore — but his retirement savings plan had one huge benefit for me: it required him to contribute the same percentage of my income to a retirement account for me as he did of his.
So, even though I only worked half-time during my years with this employer, I left his employ with a $17,000 retirement account — almost a year's salary for me at the time.
While I squandered my retirement savings, my former employer kept saving his money. He retired very young and led a relaxed life, doing volunteer work and creating pottery.
Color me impressed – and a bit jealous...