Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Financial Story

Early Years

Growing up, I was the scrooge of the family. I collected coins for years, and as a result I amassed (what seemed like) a mountain of shoeboxes filled with rolled pennies. I had a piggy bank, a mini “safe” with a numerical code protecting my treasure, and a book bag stuffed to the brim with pennies from my great-grandmother. When I was old enough to earn an allowance, you better believe I kept a wad of money stuffed under my mattress. Once my father went a whole month without giving me an allowance; I took a sheet of copier paper and a black pen, and drafted an agreement stating that he would give me an allowance every two weeks. I made him sign it, and even asked my mother to notarize it (although she refused)! You would think that a girl with this attitude towards money would become a personal finance pro by the time I began my first job, right? WRONG! I developed a love for the hip hop/rap culture and a tiny crush on Damon Dash, so my weekly minimum-wage paychecks often turned into a fresh pair of Roc-a-wear jeans. Then I wanted the Roc-a-wear velour tracksuits…and the Roc-a-wear handbags…and the jewelry. I guess you could say that I was a full blown Label Whore. Luckily all that changed when I went off to college…

College Years

College is a major lifestyle change for most teenagers, and the experience was no different for me. I was unable to have my car during freshman year, so I had to hike anywhere I needed to go. A trip to the mall meant an uphill trek, a 30 minute bus ride, and a possible bus transfer depending on the day. I only made it to the mall for special occasions. Doing laundry was an all day task, considering that I lived in a 12-floor dorm with only 6 washing machines and 6 dryers. Needless to say, my attire became more and more casual as time went on. I was good with “money” during my first couple of years at college, mainly because I didn’t really handle any actual money. I had a huge meal plan, and a wonderful tool called a campus ID card, which was linked to an account that a parent can load with money. Best of all, that card—which sent an email alert notifying my mom when the account balance dropped below a certain amount—eliminated the need for that awkward call home begging for money and the accompanying “responsibility” lecture. I used my campus card for food, magazines, shot glasses, and anything else I could buy on campus. I didn’t experience real money again until about midway through college when I began doing internships and getting a part-time job. At that time, I had my car on campus, so although I was making money, I had a new set of expenses. Between car maintenance, spending money on gas, and the newfound freedom of being able to eat and play off campus, I didn’t build up much of a savings during college. Upon graduation, I had no job, little direction, and no desire to return to my parents’ house, so I did what anyone would do: enrolled in grad school.

Grad School

I studied psychology in undergrad, but I always had an interest in learning about business. After all, I did draft a pretty solid contract with my father as a child, so I think I’m kind of a natural. I had the opportunity to pursue a one year graduate business degree at a respected university, so I jumped at the chance. The only problem is that this was a private institution, so for the first time in my life I had to apply for student loans. Due to the accelerated pace of the program, students were not allowed to have jobs so I had to spend the year living off of my loans. I grew both personally and professionally during this year. I lived alone for the first time ever, and had my first taste of responsibility. I paid bills, bought grocery, and hauled my laundry off to the Laundromat every other week. However, I was maintaining a long distance relationship, and trying to launch a long distance job search, so I spent a great deal of money on gas, dry cleaning and tailor fees, and buying professional clothes. After taking several finance and accounting courses, my long buried desire to manage my money returned and I wanted to begin taking charge of my finances again. However, my mind wasn’t fully ready yet; I used the logic that because I didn’t have any income, there was nothing for me to manage at that time. While I didn’t take any steps to better manage my money at that time, I did manage to have some money left over at the end of the year.

The Present

Within a month of graduation, I found my first full time job and made preparations to begin a new life in a new location as a completely independent adult. Now, I am almost three months into my job and in a completely different place in terms of my finances. I’m dealing with “big-girl” issues, like retirement planning, establishing an emergency fund, and saving for a new home. I’m feeling the pressure of the imminent student loan statements, while aggressively paying down the moderate credit card balance I developed from buying textbooks, funding a spring break trip, and paying only the minimum balance while I was in school. Since I have started working full-time, I have become committed to obtaining financial freedom and reducing my debt. I use online resources, books, television, and anything else I can find to gain more knowledge about managing my money and increasing my earning power. I have outlined the values driving my life, and developed short and long term financial goals aligned with these values. I am taking the steps today to create the future I want, and I invite you to share this journey with me…

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