Leaving A Legacy …

I met a wonderful, inspirational gentleman at Walt Disney World last month. It might be the thing that I remember most when I reflect back on that trip. Daniel said I could share his name and story, so here it is …

Daniel was serving us at the restaurant in the lobby of the luxurious Wilderness Lodge and getting trained-in by another employee. My wife noted that he had a special, blue name tag with a silver employee recognition pin on it (similar to the one above). I thought it might be a ‘trainee’ badge, but she was sure it was something special.

It turns out, he wasn’t a new guy at all – he had worked at Disney for more than 25 years. During that time he had been awarded the special badge for exceptional leadership & customer service. It was a big deal and his trainer for this role told us all about it. The Disney ‘Legacy’ Award is the highest honor and employee can receive. They are voted the award by their colleagues, direct reports, and supervisors. Very few of them are awarded – just a few hundred out of 200,000 employees in a worldwide in a given year.

Daniel’s story is amazing. He came to the USA from Venezuela and started working as a cleaner in the resort restaurants. He worked his way up in responsibility over the years and had been in some really fun roles. He became a cook in the restaurants, worked in Disney World transportation as a Monorail pilot, and had been a ‘handler’ for the Disney characters in the parks and visiting hospitals/working with Make A Wish. He was getting trained as a restaurant server to be prepared to now run a WDW restaurant himself.

We are similar age and I asked him what retirement would look like for him. He said he wanted to spend time with his grandkids, travel a lot (more than 50% of the year), and talk to young people about achieving success in America the way he did.

He was very clear that young people need to know that “life is about the power of choices”. The power to work hard, the power to find opportunities, and the power to always make the most of what you have. He said it is critical that they see that “they need to commit to a PLAN.” That’s what he did and what he wants the next generation to also do.

His advice for young people to reach success applies equally for planning your retirement. “Have a plan” and know that “retirement is about the power of choices”. Early retirement itself is a ‘Legacy Award’ for people who made the most of their situation while they were working.


Image Credit: RD.com

12 thoughts on “Leaving A Legacy …

  1. Great post, chief. Daniel is to be admired. It gives me hope that the traditional American Dream remains alive. “The power of choices” is a powerful idea for all who would grow in life. My corollaries to the importance of Plan are: 1) Direction; 2) Discipline; and 3) Diligence. Many never determine an internal direction, rather being at the mercy of external factors. Few develop all the traits and skills needed to follow the direction with personal discipline. Diligence is no longer valued by our society which craves quick fixes and major windfalls. Yet, somehow we still attract Daniels to come. Long may their infusion of energy into the American Dream built on strong work ethic.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very well put, John – and alliterative to boot! I agree, Daniel’s story is very inspirational


  2. I bet Daniel has a very important lesson that he can teach our young people. He came from Venezuela, where he would have been a first hand observer of watching his country go from being the world’s fourth richest economy in 1950, that was 2x richer than Chile, 4x richer than Japan, and 12x richer than China.

    Today the Venezuela has a 90% poverty rate. Chile which has had sound economic policies, with separate Social Security Accounts that keeps the government from spending it, is now approximately 3.5x richer than Venezuela. And of course everyone knows what has happened in Japan and China.

    He can teach kids that Communism AKA Socialism is a path to economic ruin, while industriousness and saving is a path to economic success.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we talked a bit about that My understanding is that he came here before Chavez took power, but watched his family & friends suffer in his home country Ironically, while he worked at ‘the most magical place’ in the world … Walt Disney World

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great story. This man is the true American dream and proof that it isn’t quite dead. We all need to take a few notes from this man. Planning, persistence, and a little self-education can lead to a wealthy, free, and fulfilling life. Not to get too political, but I fear more than half of our country no longer believes this dream is still possible, and are willing to trade their souls to socialism for immediate mediocrity, which will eventually lead to abject poverty and loss of freedoms. We seem to have spiraled into this abyss within the last few years, but I fear it started much sooner in our education systems. Hopefully, wonderful people like this man, and the many FIRE stewards, such as yourself, can continue to spread the word to future generations, that dreams are still possible here. We have such a wonderful and special country, but as the saying goes…”We are just one generation away from losing our freedoms.” I think those of us who have reached wealth have a duty to teach others the options of that freedom. There’s no other option. Great story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great observations, Thom. To build on your thoughts, I’m afraid that in the future, like many Scandinavian countries, the idea of retiring early will be less and less of a possibility. Those systems just aren’t set up for people to quit the workforce early and live freely. I have read that so many Swedes retire to France, where the cost of living is lower, that the politicians in Sweden go to France to campaign for votes among those that are retired.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Here are a couple snippets on Swedish Socialism. At its worst there was a certain income level where the government actually charged you more to continue working. They were actually taxing 102% of your incremental income.

        Guess what happened next. Either people stopped working or they moved to a more tax friendly venue.

        “In 1976, Astrid Lindgren learned that because of tax laws requiring her to pay both income tax and employer’s fees, she would effectively be taxed at a rate of 102 percent. Though she was generally a supporter of the principles of socialism, paying more than she actually earned appalled her. And so she published a satirical fairytale, “Pomperipossa in Monismania,” about a children’s book author forced to pay exorbitant taxes, in the Stockholm tabloid Expressen. The satire ignited a furious debate over both the tax laws and the reigning Social Democratic Party. Because of her popularity, people listened to Lindgren. Later that year, the Social Democratic party lost the election, giving up power for the first time in 44 years.”

        “Mr. Kamprad (the founder of IKEA) didn’t want to pay Sweden’s high taxes. So he moved to Switzerland, and spent 40 years there building his empire. He had to pay some tax in Switzerland, of course, but not the full freight he would have paid in Sweden.”

        Here are my thoughts:
        1) If a country charges too high taxes, people move away to another country, where their money is treated more fairly. Countries that lose productive tax payers to others, actually lower the tax revenue.
        2) Eventually Sweden realized that charging 102% in taxes is crazy. It chased away good, hard working people which halted their business growth and reduced the taxes collected. They were forced to have an honest discussion about arithmetic.
        3) My wife and I are in similar situation ourselves. I have calculated because of AOC tax credit phaseouts and Medicare IRMAA premium adjustments, every dollar over $160,000 in AGI and over $172,000 MAGI (adds tax free muni income to your AGI) is taxed at 65%. Guess what happened next. We decided screw it, let’s retire. Why bust our butts getting up early to work? We made the conscious decision to work less (retire) because the majority of the fruits of our labor goes to others instead of ourselves. We could easily increase our income and pay more taxes, if we only got to keep more of it.
        4) The USA is the only industrialized country that makes it very hard for you to expatriate to a more tax friendly country. They still want to get paid despite the fact you are no longer in the USA. Abraham Lincoln originally put this in place during the Civil War to stop people from moving out of the country to avoid his newly enacted ’emergency’ income tax. Jimmy Carter is responsible for really cranking up enforcement of this policy.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Heeding the history of what has gone on in Venezuela and any other country where Communism / Socialism should not be a part of politics. I consider it recent history, or even current events. It simply amazes me that there are certain politicians, who refuse to recognize what is playing out in front of their very own eyes.

    If the politicians who are pushing Socialism really cared for their constituency they would want to assure that everyone possible heard the Venezuelan Gents secrets to success.

    Personal finance would become a part of every high school’s curriculum. I personally did not attend a great high school. It is rated 3 out of 10, with 10 being the highest. Yet, they still had personal finance that was taught by a small business man.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, the arc of our society is toward socialism, collectivism, or transferism. It’s using government to try to rebalance inequities in society by insuring every hardship – real or imagined. Unfortunately, it will never work and creates its own inequities. As Ezra Klein of the WaPo observed, “government is now an insurance company with an army.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My two favorite thought leaders regarding why socialism doesn’t work are Thomas Sowell and Robert Woodson.

    “Most of the economic resources used by people in the bottom 20 percent come from sources other than their own incomes. There are veritable armies of middle-class people who make their livings transferring resources, in a variety of ways, from those who created those resources to those who live off them.” Thomas Sowell

    “Using government data, Robert L. Woodson (1989, p. 63) calculated that, on average, 70 cents of each dollar budgeted for government assistance goes not to the poor, but to the members of the welfare bureaucracy and others serving the poor.”

    The problem is that there is no incentive by those who dole out welfare to help their clientele elevate themselves out of their situation, because they lose their customer base and their job as a result.


  6. The participants in this forum are offering a way for almost anybody to elevate themselves out of their situation. The only problem is that it takes 20 to 25 years, so it isn’t a quick fix. And, it requires discipline and hard work, so it isn’t for the rash or lazy.


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