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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.