My Financial Background, Part 1

I’m not a boring old broker. I’m not a fee hungry financial advisor. Nope. I’m just like you. Just a normal (ok maybe not that normal…) person going through the motions of life.


I grew up pretty poor. My parents divorced when I was 2, so my mom was faced with the challenge of raising 3 girls (aged 2-12) by herself. She did a fantastic job (if I do say so myself) despite the circumstances. Growing up, I ate a lot of Mac n Cheese, a variety of sandwiches involving peanut butter, and my mom’s speciality: Sesquahanna Hash, a truly delicious mix of baked beans, potatoes, bacon and onions. We lived in government housing and were on welfare. I remember crying because we couldn’t afford light up shoes. My sisters and I went to school early every day and got a free breakfast in addition to free lunch. We drove a beat up car that routinely had problems. Mom had to hot glue buttons to the ceiling so the fabric would stay up and not obscure the rear view mirror.

1st grade. Yes, I still have that evil grin.
1st grade. Yes, I still have that evil grin.


Then one day when I was 6, everything changed. My mom married my stepdad, I got new relatives and most importantly, we moved to a new town. Not just any town. A town known in the area as “the rich kids district”. The high school is consistently rated in the top 20, and is one of the top schools not in a major metropolitan area. This town was about as far from my hometown as I could get. Now, my stepdad wasn’t- and still isn’t- rich, but a good education for us kids was important to them, so we moved into a nice house in the best school district. I joined extra-curricular activities, had nicer food to eat, and was surrounded by a better class of people. Before we moved, I was learning how to steal and after we moved, I had no reason to anymore. I will be forever grateful for my stepdad getting us out of that less than savory environment.


As soon as I was old enough, I started accompanying my sister on her babysitting gigs, and then got my own clientele. Most weekends I was babysitting or house sitting for someone in the neighborhood. I got an allowance for doing chores around the house. During the summers, I would help my mom with her house cleaning service. She would pay me for my time, with the condition that half of it went into my savings account. When I was old enough to be legally employable, I put my swimming skills to good use and was a lifeguard for a few years.

I never really thought about saving too much beyond what my mom made me save until I started to think about college. College was never really a choice. It wasn’t a matter of if I was going, it was where. My parents told me I could either go to the local 2 year college, which they would pay for, or I could pay my own way to a 4 year school. At that point, our relationship had deteriorated (a nasty combo of teenage behavior and very strict rules), so I opted for the 4 year route. Then the question became, how am I going to pay for this? I knew I didn’t want student loans, so I got busy.


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