I held a variety of jobs in high school. I was a babysitter, camp counselor, life guard, retail worker and finally staff at a day care. Having all these jobs meant I could save some money, have a bit for spending, and save up for the down payment for this little beauty. I knew I couldn’t afford much, so I found one of the cheapest cars I could. I got it for $4k out the door, and with a down payment of about $2000, financed the rest for 18 months. Part time jobs are all well and nice, but they don’t pay all the bills anymore.
As previously mentioned, my high school was pretty great. We had an agreement with the local community college that allowed us to take slightly more difficult classes in exchange for college and high school credits. I took as many of these classes as possible, since I knew I was going to be paying for college on my own. Fortunately, academics came easily to me. This allowed me to accrue not only 23 college credits in high school, but also apply for scholarships. I got 3 scholarships for college: one from the local American Legion, one sponsored by a local bank, and my full ride scholarship for academics. I also did a crap ton of extracurriculars, most notably getting my Girl Scout Gold Award. My family has a proud history of joining the military (Army, Navy, and Air Force), so I signed up for the Air National Guard. They gave me a sign on bonus of $20k ($15k after taxes).
Quick summary: Full ride scholarship, part time job with the Air National Guard, a semester ahead of my peers, poor as could be and happy as a clam. At one point my freshman year, I was so poor, I had only $10 in my bank account. My parents would slip me a $20 for gas money so I could come home once a month. Thankfully, my full ride included housing and food, so at least I wasn’t cold or hungry. This stint of not having money taught me real quick to budget my small income and make sure I avoided over draft fees and the like. At one point in the fall, I realized I wouldn’t have enough money to pay my car payment (a paltry $150), so I found the only job I could: going back to my high school retail job an hour and a half away. I think I paid almost as much in gas and wear on my car as I made, but I managed to scrape the payment together. Christmas presents for the family were lean that year, but they understood.
After my freshman year, I missed a semester due to military training. I went to basic over the summer and then spent 4 months in tech school. I was super pumped to be making money, and my expenses were basically nothing. I paid off my car while I was gone, and saved as much as possible. I came back home to do some more training with my unit before I left for school again. It was then that I got my first bonus paycheck. My job in the Air Force was IT related, so I was inspired to change my major to computer science when I went back to school. I went from a semester ahead to a semester behind, but since I had missed a semester, my scholarship would still cover it.
Then that spring, I nailed a full sized female deer one morning and totaled my car. I hadn’t spent much of my bonus, so I took that, my insurance check and a bit of savings to pay for my current car, a 2005 Pontiac Vibe. I couldn’t have made a better choice. Spacious, gas efficient, and pretty cheap. I received the second part of my bonus and put it straight into a Roth IRA. My grandmother passed away and left me a small inheritance, so I turned that into the foundation for my taxable investment account.
The rest of my college experience passed by more or less peacefully. I learned how to play soccer, struggled with the math and coding classes I was forced to take, and got an internship. This internship was not only a great work experience, it also taught me many lessons. How to cook for myself, how to get utilities turned on, and how much I hate studio apartments. I slept on my couch all summer since there wasn’t enough room for a bed and a couch. My back wasn’t exactly pleased lol.
I worked my tail off at my internship and was rewarded with a full time job offer 2 weeks into my final semester. I graduated with honors and started working a month after that. I had savings, but I had to dig deep into them to pay my deposit, rent, and food before I got my first paycheck. That went towards a buffer and some food, and then my second paycheck went towards buying an actual bed. I was tired of sleeping on the couch!
So there you have it. My complete background. I’ll probably reference this in future posts and/or go a bit more in depth in some details that I might have skimped on or skipped over completely.
How has your financial background impacted you?
Great start! Do you have a post on your journey in the national air guard. This peaked my interest.
SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted…Sept 2016 Update
I don’t but I have a post in the works on leveraging your time in the military to help you get ahead in life.
Pat Jernigan says
You are going to be very successful in life. Your motivation in life will really pay off. I love reading your blog. Keep up the great work!
Gina Lowe says
Hi, Gwen. What a gift to have the background you did. I’m now an old lady (years passed quickly). I too spent some time living in public housing in Philadelphia. Went to high school and goofed around a lot , joined the Marine Corps in 1974, got married, raised 4 kids on a very tight budget, went back to school for nursing, and at 58 started researching buying real estate. I used my 403b, which I’ve been told is never a good idea. I disagree! Currently I own 18 2 bedroom 1 bath units. I’m getting ready to retire at 65 and enjoy my grandchildren and do all the stuff I’ve never had time to do. You’re so accomplished!