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I’m a Pandemic Millionaire and I’ve Barely Worked the Last 2 Years

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You read that right. It happened. I am a net worth pandemic millionaire?!  HOW?  And during a pandemic? While I’m on unemployment? 

I wasn’t expecting to become a millionaire in a pandemic, or anytime soon for that matter.

This really goes to show the power of investments compounding.  It also shows the value of a paid off home.

If you follow me, you know that my last 2 years have been a bit of a rollercoaster. I found myself on unemployment in 2018.

Christmas Eve of 2018, while on unemployment, we were sent to the children’s hospital 3-4 hours away to the oncology unit. A few days later my son was formally diagnosed with cancer.

We spent the bulk of the next 14 months away from home in the inpatient setting helping my son battle cancer.

I averaged about one day a week of work for 2019.

2020 came and FINALLY things were shaping up… until PANDEMIC

My son’s official treatment was over. And the same week we went to get the status of his cancer at the end of initial treatment – mid March 2019 – everything turned upside down as the COVID pandemic took hold.

We cancelled plans to enroll my son in a clinical trial in New York that would have had us there many times over the next 12 months.

And then I took a leave of absence at work… putting me on unemployment for the second time in my career.

NOT how I was hoping that 2020 would shape up folks!

“Unemployed” and Suddenly a Millionaire

Technically I’m not unemployed. I was able to eventually get unemployment during my leave of absence due to eased restrictions during the COVID pandemic. I would have taken this leave of absence either way. It took almost 2 months to be approved for unemployment insurance.

A millionaire since August, maybe?

I’m not sure exactly when I became an unemployed millionaire. But it would have been some time in the last month.

I don’t know for sure because I do not track the value of my home in my net worth equation.  Until now! I do track my net worth using Personal Capital and you can indeed track your home (or plug in the value manually as I just did).

Why I don’t (usually) track my home in my net worth

First, I don’t pay attention to the value of my home because I don’t intend to sell it anytime soon. I have written before about why I am so glad I paid off my home and mortgage, even if most say it doesn’t make sense. It gave me remarkable peace of mind. I know my home is an asset, but I tend to forget that it’s one that I could sell if I needed to.

Second, I am self aware enough to know that thinking of my net worth in terms of the whole, including my home value, influences my feelings about how close I am to financial independence.

Some of the “cheap” and exceptionally frugal things I do begin to feel a bit silly if when I begin thinking of myself as a millionaire! But they’re not – they helped me get to where I am today and will hopefully keep me here.

Really, I don’t have a good idea of my full net worth because of Zillow (usually).

Part of the problem is Zillow stopped giving me a home value at some point.  So when Zillow stopped tracking I just stopped paying attention.

Recently I asked an appraiser I know if they could give me an idea of what my home value was given this problem with Zillow.

The appraiser said there aren’t really any comps for a home such as mine in the area so it is hard to give a best estimate.  They gave us a round about price based on what they remembered from being on my property roughly a year ago. 

I used the very middle number of that range to plug in to my net worth equation.

A year ago, when the appraiser saw the state of our property, we were in the midst of my son’s cancer treatment. 

Since being back and having the whole summer off due to my medical leave of absence for COVID we’ve been able to make some more improvements.  Well, not necessarily improvements (though we are installing a professional greenhouse). More or less we have been getting the place in shape again after 18 months of haphazard care and not being around much. 

Keep in mind we basically relocated for the duration of my son’s cancer care. During the 15 months of active treatment we had just a few trips home now and then.

My home value is probably on the higher end of what we were quoted due to the place being better taken care of again.

The magic of compounding, equity and a bull market.

I’m pretty surprised at the amount of equity we’ve already built in the 7 years we’ve owned the home.  When you’re busy living a life you don’t need to escape from, the time seems to fly by (so invest now!).

The stock market has been performing surprisingly well given the state of the world.  As such, my net worth is at an all time high, even without accounting for the home. 

Knowing full well that stocks could decline dramatically at any time I wanted to know what my “true” net worth was.

So I plugged in that off record assessment number I got a month ago and forgot about until last week…

Whelp.  I’m a freakin’ millionaire.

I’m so surprised it doesn’t feel real.  How can this be?  

A timeline of unemployment, cancer and how I still became a millionaire way earlier than I ever expected:

August 2018 I go on unemployment (or maybe it was September) when I leave my soul sucking pharmacy manager job to go part time at my per diem job.  Then the company cuts hours for everyone. Suddenly, since I am per diem, I will no longer get the verbally promised part time position they had been planning on.

November 2018 we decide to take an “expensive” 3 week trip to Hawaii.  We figure the only way I’m getting a job is to take a full time job meaning there will be no time for vacations in the next year at least, so might as well hemorrhage some cash and go for it.

Read more about that trip to Hawaii here:

Sadly I never finished the series because I was dealing with a sick child and then left my home for over a year.

My Millionaire Timeline Continued

November 2018 while on our vacation, second week in, my son starts to feel and act sick.  By the third week it’s full on fevers.  Vacation kind of sucks and I’m full of worry.

December 2018 after a few visits with the pediatrician we get sent to the children’s hospital 4 hours from home on Christmas Eve.  My son is diagnosed with neuroblastoma a fairly rare pediatric cancer.  It’s metastatic.  Life is forever turned upside down.

2019 begins and, in the midst of the cancer treatment I begin to be offered some per diem shifts again.  So, when I can get them, on average one day a week, I creep out of my son’s hospital bed and drive 1-2 hours away to work a day, then drive 1-2 hours “home” to the hospital.  

Thank goodness for us, we we’re financially fit enough and had the help of friends and family to allow me to do this while my husband stayed at the hospital full time.

Me, feeling very unsure about life and where we will be ongoing, finds another per diem job in the Portland area.  I work there about one day a week for a few months and then pick up a few more days here and there through September.

September 2019 life finally begins to looks semi normal again.  We are able to begin going home for 2-3 weeks at a time and then at the hospital for 1-2 weeks at a time through January 2020.  I begin working 2-3 days a week (20ish hours) when we are home.  So I’m averaging about 50 hours of work a MONTH, at best.

February 2020 we are finally home full time except for ongoing cancer scans. Our plan is to travel to New York City for a clinical trial many times over the course of a year, with initial visit set to be one month mid April to mid May 2020.  In the meantime, I’m working about 20 hours a week.

March 2020 we go for my son’s end of treatment cancer scans. En route, appointments are being cancelled. Only emergency procedures can be handled. We are in the midst of pandemic.

Life changes course, yet again.

Well, going to New York absolutely did not happen and probably saved us some money.  Unfortunately that was because this PANDEMIC started. We had a feeling by beginning of March that there were going to be some major kinks to work out.

My thought was, we would have to delay that clinical trial. Thanks to the pandemic, and trial requirements, my son was not able to enroll in this potentially life saving clinical trial AT ALL.

May 2020 I end up taking a medical leave of absence due to the state of safety precautions at my job.

End of June 2020 I finally begin getting unemployment

July or August 2020, I’m a millionaire, for now!

Despite everything… my net worth, currently, continues to rise. Somehow, I’m a millionaire.

Beyond all expectations of how I could have seen my life playing out since my son was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2018, I’m doing pretty good.

He’s currently healthy and we’re the richest we’ve ever been.

It boggles my mind.

I expected to meet financial disaster as so many families do with a cancer (or other chronic illness) diagnosis.

I don’t have profound advice for you on how I became a millionaire.

(Warning- there are a lot of analogies here. I guess they’re a good way to sound final and wise)

Moral of the story I guess, from my perspective is, keep your eye on the end prize.  Life can throw a lot of curveballs at you and you can still come out on top.

Through all this we have never given up on the smart money principles that allowed us to get to where we are.  It would have been easy to throw it all to the wind and act like the world was ending tomorrow.  It certainly felt that way for us many times. I am lucky that we found friends in places we didn’t know that we had to help support us through my son’s cancer journey when things seemed hopeless.

The whole experience has taught me, more than ever, what’s important isn’t really the money.  

I think that many of the habits that I have built around money greatly impacted my level of resiliency. Or maybe me and my husband are just more resilient than most, and that is the key to our financial success.

Having seen how one action builds on the next and “slow and steady” wins the race I know that building wealth is often a marathon, not a sprint.

I also know that if you can delay some gratification and have a realistic vision for what you would like out of the future, you can weather most storms (though perhaps not as well as I have mine).

I got this. You got this. Keep chugging away and take time to smell the flowers.

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Regina is That Frugal Pharmacist. She’s a PharmD, mother to a son with cancer, breadwinning wife, personal finance enthusiast, artist, writer, and entrepreneur. Regina’s single-income household has been debt-free, including her home, since she was 28 years old.
Her money approach is “holistic financial health.” She encourages mindful spending, awareness of the non-monetary costs of choices, and aligning personal values with money habits. Regina sees a frugal lifestyle and mindset as an important part of environmental stewardship. As such she’s interested in ongoing efforts towards self-sufficiency and sustainability.

6 thoughts on “I’m a Pandemic Millionaire and I’ve Barely Worked the Last 2 Years”

    1. Thanks! It still doesn’t feel real to me. To be honest, it all feels very inflated and I’m going to feel much more grounded when the markets crash.

      We will have updated cancer scans soon. Every 3 months. Fingers crossed we continue to get good news.

  1. Isn’t it amazing?
    Simple prudent early steps pay off and make life easier later.
    On the other hand, don’t get too complacent basking in all the success. Current stock and real estate valuations are high but there is no guarantee that will continue.
    Also a million produces $35K or so a year for any long-term reliable way.
    So celebrate the success. And keep plugging away!

    1. Indeed. I had to make sure to brag and wrote about it while the markets stay up.

      I fully expect to not be a millionaire for long! And, as I say, I generally do not think in these terms, looking only at my cabs/investment based assets.

      I’m not even getting that 35k reliable production because so much of the net is tied up in the house. Not to mention, due to my unsure situation with a chronically ill child and possibility I could have to stop work again at any time, I’m heavily weighted in cash (or vanguard money market) right now. So I’m not even getting that level of return.

      Still! I joined the two comma club! They can’t kick me out once I get in, can they?

  2. Congratulations on getting into the 3 comma club. It’s a big milestone.

    What is amazing is the 2nd, and 3rd, and so forth millions come at a much faster pace as you have more capital working for you.

    Glad to hear your son is doing well.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Wow- I hope the second one comes quicker! I imagine my home value will be up significantly over the next few years. We’re already a major area for California retirees and with the fires and the state of the world, I foresee more of them flocking out here.

      Next goal: replace the w2 job!

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