1. JadeX

    JadeX Senior Member

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    Could this character feasibly be this wealthy?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JadeX, Jan 21, 2017.

    I'm creating a new character who will play an important role in my story. He's the uncle of my MC.

    He's a bit of a rural, outdoorsy, backwoods kind of guy. Wears blue jeans and flannel plaid, drives a pickup truck, owns guns, that kind of thing. But he's also moderately wealthy. He's not super rich, but he's pretty well-off and has several really nice things. Here's what he owns:

    - Custom-built approx. 2000+ sq ft log cabin, located in the woods just outside Redding, California. (Like this, more or less)
    - 2 pickup trucks
    - 3 ATVs
    - A dozen to two dozen guns of all types; hunting rifles, defense rifles, shotguns, pistols, revolvers
    - Ammo for the above mentioned guns
    - Cessna 172 Skyhawk 4-seater aircraft
    - A primitive airstrip, basically consisting of a just a dirt runway and a large barn

    And here's his background:

    Born in 1973, he was recruited to the US Air Force straight out of high school. Served in the Gulf War in 1991. Won several awards and medals for his service. Due to complications from shoulder/neck injuries, he receives an honorable discharge and retires from the military in 1994 at the age of 21 as a decorated veteran. Returns home and lands a nice job in the oil industry. The current year is 2022, he is 49 years old, and he has been working a decent-paying job in the oil industry for 28 years now.

    Assuming he's smart with his money, and perhaps maybe has a few profitable side ventures (like buying/selling stocks), could this guy be wealthy enough to own all the things I've listed?

    If not, is there another more profitable occupation that would fit well with his character?
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2017
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Yes, pretty easily I expect. With good credit I think that's all doable well below the point of being super rich.
     
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  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Land. The timely buying and selling of land (pre-2008 crisis) was a pretty good way to make money if you were savvy. Where I grew up (Melbourne, FL) the Platt family lived like landed gentry, having owned large tracts of land that had previously been deemed questionable as regards value. The area boomed in the 70's and 80's and the Platts made an ass-load of money. I knew a couple of the younger Platts through friends. They also had good weed. Nuff said. ;) They were also known locally as (and please forgive this) "white trash with cash". *shrug* Not my coinage.

    Anywho, yeah... land. With the age you're giving him, he's easily old enough to have taken advantage of a real estate windfall before everything went to shit.
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Sure sounds reasonable.
    As the others have said it is feasible if he happened to be a sharp savvy guy.
    Though he might need snow chains for his Cessna in the dead of winter. :supergrin:

    So yeah as long as you can portray it in a believable way, I am sure the
    readers will buy him being a wealthy ex-Air Force mountain man. :)
     
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  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Or minerals/mineral rights

    Or a killing in the stock market (see for example the big short)

    Or developed some sort of game ( Lucas Davenport in the John Sandford books is rich having run a rpg company on the side - games, not rocket propelled grenades)
     
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Hell if he was careful with his money in the air force and later in the oil industry he could probably afford that lot without needing any windfall (except may be the plane and that could be leased)

    I know a guy who topped out as a Major in the UK army then when into private security contracting, and he has enough cash to have all that if he wanted to (instead he has a nice house in suburbia, a couple of sports cars, a jeep, and a wife twenty years his junior)
     
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  7. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    I saved my pennies, and today own a barn crammed full of Slovenian beauties. Every one is under thirty years old. Biding their time, watering my plants, I summon the loveliest for an aeroplane ride when I have the indefinable itch. Then I rub my hands all over their young flesh. I love creamy flesh against my wrinkles. Otherwise, they water those plants. We supply the states of California, Colorado with the necessary cash crop. Does this answer your question?
     
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  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My concern is what feels like a frugality/spendthrift personality conflict.

    If he worked that job and lived frugally and saved and was at least competent in investing his savings, it seems quite reasonable for him to have enough money to pay for all that stuff--especially if he bought a lot of land early, then maybe sold some of it off to pay for building the nice house.

    But having all that stuff suggests that he's not naturally all that frugal and that he might have been wasting money on cool toys all along, and in that case how does he have all that money?

    So I feel that that needs some sort of explanation. There are ample perfectly plausible explanations.
     
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  9. JadeX

    JadeX Senior Member

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    I had had some of the same thoughts.

    All I can come up with is that he probably didn't acquire this all at once, and maybe didn't even buy all of it. Maybe he inherited one of his trucks, like from his father or something. Guns & ammo he could probably get at discount prices for being former military. Maybe one of the ATVs was a gift. Could have bought the plane in used condition from one of his USAF buddies.

    Yeah, there are some things I'd like to straighten out... not like the why and how of it all will really be relevant to the story, but nonetheless I like to answer those questions for my sake at least. After all, the more thought you put in, the more it comes to life.
     
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    If I were king of your story, the explanation would be that he worked worked worked until, let's say, age 45, and saved every bit, making good investments, buying the land because it was a good investment, maybe living in an Airstream or something. Work work work work work.

    And then two events at approximately the same time: He got a good opportunity to sell part of his land at a very nice profit, and he hit age 45 and experienced an overwork/middle-age/is-this-all-there-is? emotional burnout. Maybe something else triggered it--for example, that's around the age when one's parents start to die.

    So he sold part of his land, saved a chunk of the proceeds, but did some serious spending with the rest--built the house and bought the toys. Maybe he even retired early and reconditioned that Cessna himself.
     
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  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Investments alone is more than enough to explain somebody's wealth. I don't think you'll have a problem with that. I can't remember ever reading about a character who was implausibly wealthy before.
     
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  12. JadeX

    JadeX Senior Member

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    Yep, a hard worker for sure! And I like the Airstream idea, that gives a nice touch - going from a trailer to a 2000-square-foot cabin is a great way to say "I made it on my own."

    The good ol' mid-life crisis! I totally see that with this character. Worth noting he lives alone, so that could help fuel such feelings too.

    Hadn't even thought of that! That could certainly help him along -at the very least, it could give him some land to sell. Maybe even in Silicon Valley, considering the family's from central CA - I know property there can get quite pricey!

    Hey, sounds good to me. Thanks, you've given me a few great points to think about!
     
  13. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    That guy sounds like my husband, less the airplane and the army, so yes, it's plausible.:)

    One decent income from a job in the primary sector is enough to get all that stuff, no side venture needed. You just can't get it all at once, you have to prioritize and you have to trust that the right opportunity will come in when the timing is right.

    Can you stand living in a 20' x '20 cabin with your wife and two kids until your land mortgage is paid off and then build the dream house? Are you willing to drive that old beater for an extra 100 000 km so that you pile up money for a 50% down payment on that new truck? Would your wife terribly mind if instead of taking her to a fancy restaurant every Saturday night, you made extra payments on the ATV and have it payed in eighteen months instead of 3 years?

    Your character also sounds like one of his trucks could be a 1994 F-350, (payed for almost two decades ago) because he can fix it himself. He might also own a portable sawmill which he used to cut lumber from trees harvested on his own land, with which he built the barn with his wife. (She had an emotional breakdown in the roof trusses twenty-five feet above the ground and he had to climb up to get her, but that's another story:D)
     
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  14. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    I lived in Calgary during the 1970s, a boom time, and the Holy Grail of jobs ATT was working the oilfields. Those guys made pots of money. Most spent it poorly any time they came 'into town,' but a few did like your character and set themselves up well.

    So, yes. Completely plausible IMHO.
     
  15. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    Completely reasonable even without extra income from land or stock trading. A senior engineer working on an oil rig can easily make up to $200,000 a year. The house could be bought on credit and everything else is worth spare change compared to the house.

    My family came to the States penniless in 2,000. In seventeen years, my father (a software engineer) managed to earn enough money to buy a house (on credit) worth well over a million dollars, a vacation home several hours away for a third of that, and among everything else we have four cars. He makes less than $200,000 a year.

    A man earning $100,000 to $200,000 a year should have absolutely no problem purchasing everything you mentioned. He doesn't even have to be frugal unless he shovels his money into a furnace. Or gambles.
     
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  16. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Sounds like a guy who lived about a mile from the house I grew up in. He had a long field and a handful of ultra-lights. I'd see him flying around every once in a while. ATVs are not that expensive, and pretty much a necessity for someone who hunts. What are you going to do with a deer after you shoot it? Carry it on your shoulders? A lot of people have two automobiles too, what you are describing is upper middle class. Besides the plane, none of those things are even beyond my means and I'm still pretty young.
     
  17. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Am I missing something? When an applicant needs to be between 18-28 ( https://www.airforce.com/careers/detail/pilot ) to get into pilot training, how come he serves in the Gulf at 18 and gets invalided out at 21?

    The rest of it, yeah a bit of luck with investments (I heard of a guy in the UK oil industry whose job involved moving every couple of years. Buy a house cheaply, sign off employee time-sheets that included a bit of time doing-up his house, sell it at a nice profit, move on and repeat.) could easily leave him wealthy enough. As has been mentioned, though, he needs to be having a mid-life crisis.

    Incidentally, how are you going to deal with his Gulf War Syndrome/PTSD? I'm assuming the shoulder/neck injuries are from some horrific flying accident and not just an over-enthusiastic hooker!
     
  18. JadeX

    JadeX Senior Member

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    I never said he was a pilot. I said he was in the Air Force. The Air Force is way more than just pilots. I intentionally left his specific career position ambiguous in case anyone had an idea for what he could have done in the Air Force to help him build up his riches. The shoulder injury could come from any number of work-related stresses, doesn't have to be anything horrific.

    Y'know what, nevermind. I'll just scrap this whole character. I'm absolutely terrible at character development and writing in general. <-- I was being an asshole
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2017
  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That's possibly a bit drastic - just have him born in '69 ... may be he wants to be air force because his dad was an air force pilot killed over vietnam , so he's 23 when he serves his first combat tour over the gulf in 1991 (although the air force had a pretty easy war because the Iraqis elected not to fight air to air and sent their airforce to iran)

    May be his shoulder injury resulted from ejection during a peace time training exercise at Nellis in say '95 and he left the air force soon after because he didn't want to stay in if he couldn't get an upcheck for flying duties .... ergo as soon as he could afford it he bought the Cessna because he's just got to fly..

    as to his money , may be he has a dark secret from his past that he made a few drug courier flights to get the money together to buy his ranch ;)
     
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  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think he's fine. Just possibly push him a little older.
     
  21. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    That's a bit of an overreaction.

    You posted this because you wanted some advice on a specific part of his character. You've had a number of suggestions as to how that part can be credible.

    All I did was point out a flaw elsewhere in his backstory. You've already had some decent ideas on how to fix that.

    Yes, I'm aware the air force is more than just pilots (my father being in the RAF throughout WWII, but never flying until about 1970!), but:
    1/ A shoulder injury that could cause a 21-year old to be invalided out has got to be pretty serious; as in, not just the shoulder equivalent of RSI (not because RSI isn't serious, but because it's an overuse injury that builds up over time...not something you'd get at 21).
    2/ You've given him a Cessna. It's a reasonable assumption that he learnt to fly in the forces.
    3/ As @big soft moose pointed out, the air force had a pretty easy Gulf War, which means that decorations would be thin on the ground...especially thin on the ground considering that most of the medals go to the fly boys and the top brass. So, an assumption, but perhaps understandable, that he was doing more than flying a desk (which, as a 18-year old 2nd lieutenant, would have been in pretty small circles!) if he was retired as a decorated veteran.

    As to building up his riches, the black-market/drug running angle has some legs if you want him to have a dirty secret.
     
  22. JadeX

    JadeX Senior Member

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    Yes, indeed it was. I was going through some stuff the other day and wasn't in a mood to think much about my story - or much of anything. I did overreact, and I was borderline insulting to everyone who has replied to this thread. For that I am sorry.

    Back to it:

    This would work perfectly! I've never been in the military, and I only have limited knowledge of the Army, Navy, and Marines from relatives in the service. When it comes to the Air Force I was just guessing, and applying the same time frame to that as the other services. As @Shadowfax pointed out, the same time frame does not apply to the Air Force, a longer time frame is required for the type of training they'd have to do. Makes sense, actually. Giving him another couple of years to train and get acquainted before serving in a combat role is perfectly logical.

    Excellent points. I did imagine him being a pilot, but didn't mention specifically in this thread in case anyone had any alternative ideas. And you've just laid out a few good reasons why he'd almost have to have been a pilot. So I'll now formally cement that as part of his backstory - he was a fighter pilot. Probably flying FA-18s or F-16s. Using @big soft moose's suggestion, the shoulder injury is the result of a peacetime training accident. (as opposed to a wartime incident like I'd originally thought of)

    I am running into another problem, however:

    My home town sits right on top of oil fields. We have a giant refinery here (actually John D. Rockefeller's first refinery, if what they taught us in school was correct). All my life I've pretty much taken the oil industry for granted, because it's always been a part of everyday life here. I didn't even think about it. I wrongfully made the assumption that oil is a prolific business everywhere - I mean, the whole planet's filled with it, right?

    Apparently not. My story is set in Northern California. I just did some research regarding the oil industry in California, and found that literally every single oil field and offshore rig in the whole state is located in Southern California, tightly packed around the LA and Fresno areas.

    So, let me bounce a few ideas around:

    Idea #1: He works at one of the oil fields in central or southern California and flies his Cessna to work every now and then and stays down there for a while to work
    Idea #2: He is now retired, having built up enough in savings (from work and perhaps through other side ventures, such as stocks) and it no longer matters where he worked
    Idea #3: Since my story is set a few years in the future, perhaps I create a fictional oil field that has not yet been discovered.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2017
  23. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    Idea #1: This is probably the best option. From what I understand oil rig workers go to work on their rigs for months at a time and are helicoptered to the platform. They don't drive to work daily, they live on the rigs. So where in California he lives doesn't matter too much. He could drive, fly his Cessna, or take a bus to LA from North California. It's an 8 hours drive by car, probably a 3 hour flight. Then he works for a few months on the platform, and is then rotated off to go home for a month or two. At least, that is the impression I got from what I know about oil rigs. You might want to research their work cycles in case I'm wrong.

    Idea #2: This one is a bit less likely, but not improbable. It would free up your character to do more than go to work on a rig for months and you as a writer would also have more freedom with this character. On the other hand, people tend to become wealthy through side ventures are people who have a strong drive to earn money and love doing what they do. There's been a lot of focus in our media and culture for the last eight years on the concept that capitalism doesn't work and the poor stay poor no matter what they do, and it's all the system's fault. But the truth of the matter is that most people who are poor for decades and decades are poor in part because they don't know how to manage their incomes. An overwhelming percentage of poor people who win millions in a lottery end up poor again a year or two down the line. They don't know what to do with their money. In contrast, people who start out poor or middle class and become wealthy managing businesses or stocks are very driven people who place great emphasis and value on money. This is why even billionaires who have too much money to spend still fight for every last penny they can earn. I don't know if most people will agree with this statement, I know some won't, but this is how I understand the psychology of people who get wealthy vs those who don't. I don't expect you to agree, just throwing out my 2 cents.

    Idea #3: A good option.
     
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  24. JadeX

    JadeX Senior Member

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    I don't know much about offshore rigs either, but I do have some knowledge of onshore oil work because, as I mentioned, I live near a large oil field. I work as a cashier, and most of my regulars are oil workers, and this the impression I get from some of them. One, for example, lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, but comes to Ohio for several months at a time to work in the oil fields. I imagine offshore workers likely have a similar rotation, but probably with shorter shifts. So naturally idea #1 is my preferred option as well.

    I like your philosophy. I don't know if it's factually correct or not, but on an ideological level I understand what you're saying and I agree with it. I definitely envision this character having a "strong drive" like you say, with a good work ethic. This is a "Worked-Hard-And-Made-It-Myself" kind of guy for sure.
     

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