Why I am Not Rich (the 90’s)

in Investments, Nortel, Rich

As promised here, here are a few more of the reasons why I am not rich (financially). Here are more of the reasons (in my opinion) why.

In the 90’s the perception was that the stock market and making money was as easy as sex. I can assure you that this was not the case. I like to think of it like teenage sex, everybody talks about it, but (when I was young) there wasn’t any going on.

I am not rich
Nortel Once a Giant Now Deceased High Tech Firm

There were opportunities that arose that I might have taken advantage. If I didn’t have kids, a mortgage and a paranoid view of how the stock market worked I might have given it a whirl. I was in the Nortel Savings Plan. In the plan for every $3 I deposited the company kicked in $1. This was in stock and money could only be removed 2 years after the money was put in. I did actually make some good money on this in the early part of the 90’s. It helped pay for a car and some repairs on my house, so my claims of abject poverty are hollow. Yes, I made some money early on in the 90’s.

I did take a few flyers on a few stocks. Unfortunately I became overconfident and a few of these flyers crashed into the financial terra firma with a loud bang. A few of these were Corona Mining, and a few other mistakes.


My biggest slap on the back of the head is when I was in the I.T. group at Nortel. I looked at these stacks of boxes from this company called Cisco. I went and talked to the Networking guys. Their opinion was this was the manufacturer we were going to use to set up our corporate data network. At that time Cisco was not a name I even recognized, but I thought, boy I should really buy some stock in that company if we are using them, this was in 1990, and if I had bought some Cisco (and presumably sold before 2000), I might be a lot farther ahead in my financial journey.

On the converse side of things, as I have written about before, in the Top 5 Investing Regrets of my Life I held onto high tech (specifically Nortel) shares for way too long (when I knew full well that most of the claims being made were at best fantasy). Another example of sometimes when to buy is not as important as when to sell. At the point I am commenting on, I had a substantial investment in Nortel in terms of:

  • Savings Plan stock which I had purchased with a kick in from Nortel of 25%
  • I was being paid by Nortel (including bonuses and such)
  • I had a pension with them (which was also buying Nortel Shares)
  • Stock options (which never were worth anything) to purchase Nortel Shares
  • Owned Nortel shares outside of the savings plan that I had bought myself (yes that was a huge mistake)

I could have made a lot of money here, I could have made some money, but at the end I lost a fair amount of money, which was my own fault. Luckily, I was able to extricate my pension in tact, but the rest of the money was mostly written off, so I am better off than a lot of folks.

Am I Feeling Sorry For Myself?

Now I have a boring RRSP, Spousal RRSP, and a Public Service Pension, and I am quite happy.

Am I lamenting with these posts about how this is all unfair? No, not in the least, this was all of my own doing, and it has taught me a great deal about what is valuable in life, and how a lot of times bad things happen for a reason.


  • Evan June 3, 2011, 3:15 PM

    I always look at the 10 year trading chart on google finance and think if I only could have gotten in then LOL freaking frustrates me.

    • bigcajunman June 4, 2011, 10:55 AM

      But you would have to have chosen the RIGHT stock too! There are a lot of folks who invested in Corel and other Techs that are poorer for their efforts.

  • SomeFinanceForThought June 3, 2011, 3:09 PM

    You’re right about everything happening for a reason. I think the dot com boom and the financial comfort of the 90s taught most of us a lesson about diversifying our investments. It seemed like one big gold mine and, in many ways, it was. However, those of us who didn’t make it rich in the 90s also avoided some potentially dangerous investments. These days we’re all a little wiser to technology and thus make smarter investments – or at least I hope so.

    • bigcajunman June 4, 2011, 10:55 AM

      Yup, dangerous investments like on-line Pet Food and Grocery companies (what were we thinking?).

  • Nevin June 2, 2011, 6:01 PM

    Unfortunately, the tech bubble of the late 90s (and its bursting about a decade ago) has had major consequences for Canadian productivity. It’s difficult to attract workers for technology jobs, and it’s also more difficult for viable technology startups in Canada to acquire financing. The tech bubble has also played a role in Canada’s renewed focus on commodities, which is could kill the economy (again).

    • bigcajunman June 2, 2011, 6:04 PM

      It could and the commodity bubble is going to be interesting to watch

  • retirebyforty June 2, 2011, 11:22 AM

    I work for a big tech. and made similar mistakes. Many people did, but I guess that’s a life lesson. Now I have minimal stock holding in my company and are much more diversified.

    • bigcajunman June 2, 2011, 6:04 PM

      So you learned a valuable lesson at least ?

  • Cal June 2, 2011, 10:58 AM

    Well, you should have had lunch with John Roth. I’m sure he’d have given you a pointer or two.

    But don’t fret bigcajunman, as you know, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get!

    But couldn’t you at least have made sure it says “Made in Switzerland” on the box?

    • bigcajunman June 2, 2011, 11:02 AM

      No, I end up with the Waxed Chocolates those kids sell door to door…

  • krantcents June 2, 2011, 10:46 AM

    Although my best days for earning money were during the 80s, I do not regret anything. You can not change it and it just brings you down. Wealth is generally slow and steady, the few exceptions do not matter. Part of the slow and steady is consistent contributions to investments.


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