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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