Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

Several times in the past few weeks I’ve been asked about myself (in the Broke Millennial sense). People are curious about my “blog bio” or “professional life.” Others inquire about my financial journey or how I currently handle my assets. So, please allow me to reintroduce myself (props if you get the reference).

To start, I feel incredibly fortunate that people are genuinely interested in my writing. The goal with this blog is to increase financial literacy, mostly through stories from my own life. The general intent is to trick people into finding finances engaging, mostly through my sarcasm and efforts to be witty. In order to do this, I’ve shared a lot about my personal history with money. Here are some quick hits from a few of my favorite posts and notable things to know about my background with finances.

For those who’ve been reading my blog from it’s inception in January, you’re aware of my “origin story.” My relationship with money is intricately linked with my first economic lesson.

DONUTS AND DOLLARS

In the summer of 1996 a glazed Krispy Kreme donut changed my life. My sister and I had two boxes of donuts set up on our Fisher Price yellow-and-blue picnic table right at the edge of our driveway. Our mother’s garage sale lured folks in while my sister’s big blue eyes and my charming sales pitch secured the purchase of our Krispy Kreme donuts. We charged a horrifically marked-up price of fifty-cents apiece.

In reality it probably only took an hour for us to sell all our donuts, but at the time it felt like eons. Handing over those donuts to die-hard garage sale enthusiasts was grueling work in the heat of a North Carolina summer morning. Looking in my teal fanny pack I counted out $12 and proudly told my father I’d made a lot of money that day.

He asked to see the earnings. After being subjected to seven years of “candy tax” at Halloween I clutched the pouch to my chest, refusing to show him.  Feeling the weight of all those quarters I imagined what this money could buy at Toys-R-Us.

My dad scooped up the fanny pack and carefully counted out the money on our picnic table and proceeded to give me my first lesson in economics.

“You have twelve dollars here,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “I am going to Toys-R-Us.”
“Well, it cost me three dollars to buy the donuts you sold,” he said while he picked up three dollars worth of quarters.
“Then, you had your sister help you sell them so you need to pay her.” he rationalized while handing my four-year-old sister $2.00. 
“So, after expenses, your total profit was seven dollars.”

He smiled while pushing the remaining piles of quarters towards me.

At that moment I had never felt so cheated in my life.

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This is my shocked face.

I HATE MATH, HAVE A BIT OF A TEMPER AND LOVE TO SNEAK IN ADORABLE PICTURES OF MYSELF
(aka AN IMPASSIONED PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING COMPOUND INTEREST)

I hate math. I’m not talking about a vague dislike of x+y = z, we’re dealing with full-unadulterated hatred.  Frankly, I blame second grade. My teacher, Ms. Pruitt, insisted we memorize our multiplication tables from 0 through 12. She even made us flash cards to aid the process. As an epic memorizer, I felt confident this task would be easy, but for some reason numbers made my brain want to shut down. Even at seven. Needless to say, there may have been a moment when I dramatically crumpled up a flash card and threw it on the ground in a math-induced-rage.

Going to school

Kindergarten-aged Broke Millennial, before Flash Card Gate. So young, so happy, so obsessed with the Lion King.

As my schooling progressed, math continued to be the bane of my existence. Well, I could still pull a B in the course, but I hated every second of it. As the years went by and the theories (theorems? proofs?) became more abstract or just plain dumb, in my very biased opinion. Instead of trying to understand the pages of numbers or even worse, word problems, my mind would just go on a casual stroll. Only one chapter of math briefly taught during my high school education made complete sense: finances.

I’m not sure if the typical American math curriculum includes a chapter on finances (I spent 5th – 12th grade overseas), but it seems a lot of millennials don’t understand the concept of compound interest. If you don’t understand compound interest then you’ll never get excited about saving and investing your money. Millennials need to grasp the basic fact it isn’t your salary making you rich, it’s your abilities to save your income and invest it wisely.

Every year, month and day matters when it comes to amassing your wealth and preparing for retirement, which is why it’s imperative millennials understand the importance of starting now.

CONFESSION: I AVOIDED THE MILLENNIAL CURSE

I consider the Krispy Kreme “situation” the greatest lesson financial I ever learned, not because I had a burning desire to understand net profit at 7, but because it motivated me to learn about money and how to make more. The second greatest lesson resulted in my current unicorn status in the millennial generation. I’m not only currently debt free, but have never had debt. In a story, once again about my father, I’ve previously explained how my college decision to accept scholarships resulted in my ability to graduate debt free.

With parents at graduations

SURVIVING ON A 20-POUND BAG OF RICE

After graduating college I moved to New York City for a job. While I’ve upgraded my income opportunities and no long sell donuts on street corners, my first job in New York didn’t pay much (that’s entertainment for ya) and I had to hustle. Get your mind out of the gutter. It was strictly legal hustling. I discovered being a barista at Starbucks was not my true calling, nor babysitting, but both provided opportunities to survive my abysmal financial situation by scavenging food. I also got creative with an old staple…

Many of my formative years were spent in Asia which influenced a lot about me, including dietary habits. A bowl of Japanese sticky white rice is my soul food so I came to New York armed with a rice cooker, pillaged from my parent’s basement of course.

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Still my pride & joy

Fortunately, the local grocery store (Trade Fair) catered to the diverse neighborhood I found myself living in. For those who haven’t been in a New York City grocery store, it’s quite an experience. Aisles are barely wide enough to fit a small grocery cart and two standard size humans can barely fit side-by-side, it’s almost enough to make you run screaming for the suburbs. For those of us who dislike being touched, particularly by strangers, it’s a nightmare.

Packed subway

Everyone loves a crowded subway. Just ask my friend here.

Bracing myself, I entered the store and after anxiously hunting, finally found my holy grail: a bag of rice. She was a beauty, all 20 pounds of her. The $12 price tag threw me for a loop because I had only budgeted for $30 of grocery spending money. The idea of spending nearly half my budget on just rice caused me to break out in the kind of cold sweat only a financial problem can induce. After several minutes of mentally debating the purchase, and majorly clogging up the aisle for all other standard sized humans, I threw the sack over my shoulder and headed for checkout.

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I still always have some on hand and it still helps me get through lean weeks.

THE NOW

I’ve lived in New York City for a little over two years and desperately miss my childhood as an expat in Japan and China. Or perhaps I just miss flying first class. I have a rather unhealthy love of television and pop culture. In fact, I can link almost anything in real life back to a TV show. I’m quite opinionated, which I’m sure shows through here considering my most popular post to date is still Dear Parents, Charge Your Kids Rent. New York is an incredibly difficult city to navigate financially, so I pretty much always have to be on my frugal A-game. Even though I don’t need to scavenge food (as frequently) anymore, I’m be no means making good money. It motivates (demands) a lot of my frugality, but don’t worry I’m not always the financial goddess I claim to be. Traveling is my weakness and all my friends know this. It takes very little convincing to have my book a ticket via plane, train or bus for an excursion. There are times this can be detrimental to my bank account. I also secretly think I really can help change the world, or at least whatever corner I happen to be in.

 

Posted in First lesson about money Tagged with: , , ,
31 comments on “Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself
  1. Nice to meet you! I dig your sass. Makes learning about $ more fun.

  2. NIce to re-meet you and hear your story. I’m with you on the full-blown hatred for math. I had a couple (side jobs) in my teens and 20’s where you had to count back the money because it was a cash-only type deal. I literally felt paralyzed and it I screwed it up people would yell at me (or I shortchanged myself), which made my math phobia grow bigger. I don’t know why Im totally missing that gene. I think your dad was a cool guy and that was a good lesson to learn! And congrats for never having debt! Thats awesome!

    • Broke Millennial says:

      I always do the math on my calculator when I babysit. The dad for one family I worked for would always ask how much he owed, so I kept neurotically calculating it on my phone throughout the night to make sure I’d know what to tell him.

      I’ll probably have debt one day (a mortgage or if I marry into it), but it feels pretty awesome for now!

  3. Wonderful Erin. I’m glad that you were able to let us get to re-know you. 😉

  4. Michelle says:

    Love this. And I love how you sneak pictures of yourself. I need to start doing that!

  5. Ryan Gibson says:

    Excellent read. Great to be introduced and most importantly I’m excited to keep following the blog.

    Thanks

    Ryan

  6. Love this post! Glad to re-meet you 🙂

  7. “Traveling is my weakness”

    Or to put that another way, “Traveling is my passion and I’m prepared to make sacrifices in other areas to fund it”

    • Broke Millennial says:

      Passion isn’t quote the word I’d use. I was raised traveling around, so it feels more just like a lifestyle choice. I’m rather nomadic and have the desire to up and move pretty frequently. But you are right, I’m willing to make sacrifices to fund the habit!

  8. It’s nice to “re-meet” you, Erin. 🙂 You do a great job here and I love seeing all those adorable old pics of you!

  9. Glad to “meet” you again. NYC grocery stores are cringe worthy at best. I remember my first shopping trip. I had like 3 things and spent $100. I was horrified. I happen to love rice and beans and bf happens to have a really nice rice cooker. A rice and beans match made in heaven 😉

    • Broke Millennial says:

      Oh, I know. The food situation here is outrageous! Thank goodness rice and veggies/eggs can be a cheapish alternative.

  10. Bridget says:

    haha I wish I liked rice =\ Great post though, I like stories of about your financial education from your parents lol your dad taught you well!

  11. Simon Elstad says:

    Awesome re-intro.
    Now I have more “sass” to look forward to each week 🙂

  12. moneystepper says:

    “Woo-woo”! Pleased to re-“meet you”. It seems that you really are a wo-“man of wealth and taste”. That’ll do for the lyrics.

    Its good to travel. Although this always impacts the bank account, the true happiness it provides, in my opinion, is a very sensible way to spend your money!

    moneystepper – “hope you guess my name” (couldn’t resist, sorry).

    • Broke Millennial says:

      I do find experiences are superior to material goods when it comes to spending my money. Glad you got the lyric reference!

  13. NZ Muse says:

    For all my interest in money, I am terrible at maths. Spreadsheets terrify me. Numbers are my nemesis. I was always a terribly nervous and slow cashier.

    • Broke Millennial says:

      Oh man, I hated it at Starbucks when I’d already ring someone up and then they tried to hand me more money and I had to do the mental math. Math is the worst!

  14. Christine Weadick says:

    I’m not that fond of math either, but did OK in grade school. High school however…. my grade 9 math teacher was one of those people that understands math perfectly….if you had a question about something you didn’t understand you got a ‘look’ like you were some kind of idiot for not understanding something so simple… in his opinion. One day he would explain how to do something and the next day he would tell us about an easier more complicated way to do the same thing until I was so confused I almost failed math that year…. still not sure how I managed to pass but I did. Then I got the same turkey for math in grade 11….God help me!!!!!! I gave up listening in class and somehow figured out how to do things from the book and did just enough of the homework to stay out of trouble. I passed with marks in the mid 80’s. I have no idea how I did it and I still have no idea what I was doing but I was doing right so……go figure.

    • Broke Millennial says:

      I had a math teacher my junior and senior year who told my glass we were in the “dumb math class.” We were still in an honors course, but the lower version of the honors class. She was truly a piece of work. Didn’t really help endear me to math. Glad to hear you ended up doing well!

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