I bet most people don’t know that fortunately for me, I was born a millionaire... Well, at least in mind. For as long as I remember, I liked having money. I like playing with it, planning with it and most importantly saving it. Some people collect coins, well I collected COIN!
Growing up my family didn’t have much. But it wasn’t because we were poor, we just didn’t require much. My mother was an expert at preserving and recycling clothes, my father’s hobby was repairing old cars and neither my sibling or I had any use for toys. We were athletes, give us a ball and space and we are happy.
The one toy I did have an held dearly was the annual hess toy trucks that my parents got from work. This was my favorite toy because that’s where I hid all of my money! I am talking “fat Knots” (mostly ones and fives) stashed in the cargo container and the big bills (I’ve seen a hundred from time to time) chillin in the firetruck. I am still not sure how I did it, but I had hundreds at age 8. I had no job, nor did we get allowance... And NO, I wasn’t a thief. I would request to keep change from making runs to the store. I would asked to rummage the house for loose change. I would wrap coins and store them in tin cookie containers for months then change it from the money that jingles to the kind that folds. My favorite memories were of me being able to lend money to my mother and always being asked to make change for big bills before I was even 12.
Fast forward to college, finally on my own and ridiculously broke. I worked my entire senior year and that was just enough to get me to school and provide me with the basics. My overly proud nature and lifelong need to assert my independence, made it impossible for me to ask my parents for money. They would still send some every once in a while even tho I would always respond “I’m fine, you don’t have to”. Thru the thrift store clothes, discount day meals, 2nd day pizza that other people were about to throw away, flirting for more meal card privileges, selling T shirts, drawing tattoos, throwing dorm parties, buying alcohol for people (even tho I was underage myself), I was able to survive and still able to keep my love for handling money. I got my first credit card and did extensive research on how to use credit. I attended any money management seminar that I heard about, I read multiple wealth books, opened a checking and savings account and even invested in a few stocks. Regardless of my situation at the time, my focus was on being wealthy. Almost weekly I would write out a plan of what I would how I would handle my upcoming post graduate paycheck. I created intricate spread sheets that would let me know how much I would have in savings every year, when I would become a millionaire, when I would retire, how and when I can pay for an engagement ring. I had it all figured out.
I decided as a sophomore than when I graduate I will not rent because it was a waste of money so I would purchase a home instead. I learned how to improve my credit by continuously asking for a limit increase and keeping my balance low. I started with a$1500 limit as a freshman and graduated with a $10,000 limit. At one of the financial seminars I attended my Junior year, I met a brother that recently opened a wealth management company. After the seminar I introduced myself and let him know that we will be working together in the future. Imagine his surprise when he received my “let’s get started” email soon after graduation.
I moved to DC and in my typical stubborn nature, I slept on the floor of my then girlfriend’s grandmothers 2nd bedroom and refused to get a lease as I looked for a house. With only a promise of a job, no money, but good credit I finally found a place. I went back home (because I couldn’t afford to stay in DC) until it was time to close.
I closed on my condo three days before I started my new job in good ole corporate America (feel the sarcasm). I had a home, an old car that was paid off and a good steady steam of income. Who would have thought that this would be the beginning of my demise?
In college everyone was broke along with me, It was expected. In DC it seemed as everyone was established, refined; Ballin! Everyone drove nice cars, wore nice clothes, went to nice restaurants and lived a glamorous nightlife. I still saved, I drove my old car, furnished my condo only as I could afford it (over an 8 month period), I kept a tough skin thru all the mockery of my clothes and got into most places for free. I thought I was different.
And then, I finally became and Alpha... in DC... And if you don’t know, there is a culture of arrogance and affluence (image) that is strong within the capitol city Alphas. My crowd was changing and I was changing right along with it. I was performing well in my career and within one year I had already received two promotions.
My car finally broke down, and without even carrying it to the shop, I was on the hunt to buy a new ride (I couldnt wait to have an excuse to upgrade). I set out to be responsible; to purchase a used, reliable, good gas milage car for less than $15,000. I went car shopping with one of my “affluent” friends when I saw the car I have fantasized about... Forget the fact that it was horrible on gas milage and $10,00 ABOVE what I wanted to spend... at least it was used and oh so SEXY! Most of all... for the first time in my frugal life, I could “afford” (defined by the culture of credit that we live in) it! I was persuaded that “you only live once”, “you can’t take the money with you when you die” and “you deserve it” and I made the purchase. Now I am 21 year old home owner with a nice ride and good job... Not only did it place me in a new status bracket among my peers but more importantly, it set me up with a lifestyle to uphold.
I would eat out and drink and would be justified because I did it less than most of my peers. I slowly upgraded my wardrobe, but justified it because I spend less on clothes that my other peers. I did a lot of things in moderation when compared to my peers, but in excess when compared to my actual means. I fell for the image most people presented and never looked deeper. If only these “refined” people I was around would have let me know that they were broke, I could have prepared myself.
Pretty rapidly I started to despise working in corporate america (check out my previous “throwback” blogs). I quickly saw my financial plan unravelling. For the first time I was living based on money that I was planning to make not on money that I had. When it began to get to be too much, I started working a 2nd job at a night club to save up money to leave my career. But I still couldn’t do it. I had a good salary and the bills to prove it. More months passed and I could not keep sacrificing my happiness for my fear of not making ends meet. And one fine day... it was over! I had reached my limit and I was unemployed... What was to follow, I have never imagined would be a part of my story. I reached new depths and was placed in situations I never thought I would be in.... But that is for the next chapter “My Decline, My Change”....
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