Back in 2012, I found myself broke, unemployed, and without a stable place to live.
It was quite honestly rock bottom for me even though I had already grown up in extreme poverty.
My mother tried her best to shield me from the situation as a kid.
But as a 23 year old adult, I was in my own financial nightmare and it was staring me straight in the face.
Fast forward six years later to 2018 and my life looked totally different.
I recently turned 30 and for the first time it actually started to hit me just how far I’ve been able to come in such a short amount of time.
Not only that, I thought about the things that I felt really helped me get to this point.
It was then that I realized a lot of the things that actually helped me escape poverty aren’t talked about enough in the rags to riches stories we see in personal finance.
So this is my story. The 100% truth about the key steps that helped me go from poverty to complete financial stability in 6 years.
Delayed Having Kids
I can certainly speak from experience now when I say kids are expensive! I mean you need to pay for stuff like diapers, car seats, daycare, food, clothes, and so much more.
And that’s just if you have a chill, relatively healthy kid. A kid with an illness or disability could cost you a fortune in medical expenses.
Not only that, but the responsibility of a kid can limit your ability to take certain risks with your career, because, you know, the whole having to make enough money to feed the kid thing.
Not to mention most daycare facilities are only open during the day and have limits on how long your kid can stay. This then limits the extra hours and side hustles you can work.
Being kid-free was also a huge benefit to me when I was able to move to a different city for what I thought was a better career opportunity.
Now is it true that I wasn’t actually being very responsible because I couldn’t really afford contraceptives? Yes.
But hey, not having kids until you’re financially stable is definitely the way to go if you’re trying to achieve those type of results. Even if it means having a little luck.
Ate Crap Food
I saved so much money by avoiding fancy steak restaurants in favor of McDonald’s dollar menu meals and cheaper groceries like Hamburger Helper.
I mean I couldn’t really afford to eat at those nice places if I wanted to but I’m glad to know my life choices aligned with so much of the money advice I see online today.
By trashing my body in my early 20’s with cheap, processed food, I got to save up the money that I now get to spend getting myself back in decent shape. Congrats to me!
Thank God for those beefy 5-layer burritos at Taco Bell and ramen noodles at the grocery store.
Avoided A Major Medical Emergency
Even though I was trashing my body with the crap food, working long hours instead of working out, and stressing hard over how I would pay my bills, I still managed to avoid a major medical crisis.
Which is great because now that I’m making over $100k per year, I’m not stuck paying back old medical bills.
This is also a great time to shout-out my mom for keeping me on her health insurance plan until I landed my first “good” job.
She’s the real MVP because a lot could have gone worse for me health-wise had I not been able to get into a doctor when I dealt with chronic sinus infections and some other small ailments.
My wife even has Lupus and has managed to keep it under control for the most part during our marriage.
Had she gotten really sick when we were deep in debt early in our marriage, we may have had to file bankruptcy and that could have been a real killer for us financially.
Don’t neglect your health as you focus on wealth-building even if you can’t afford decent health insurance, routine checkups, or small stuff like allergy medicine. Find a way to get it done.
Had A Mentor Move Me In Their House
There was a time I was in-between jobs and didn’t really have a place to stay. I had moved back to Houston after a job I took in Las Vegas just didn’t work out.
I’d crash at my sisters’ place for a few nights. Then after a few days, I’d go down to sleep on the floor at my cousin’s dorm room just long enough to not get him in trouble.
My girlfriend (now wife) was renting a room from a friend, so I’d stay there like 1 night a week so I didn’t screw up that situation for her.
And this was my life for like a month. Me and all my belongings in a little duffle bag bouncing around Houston while I went to interviews for low-paying jobs.
(Because at 23 I didn’t have much “experience”.)
Finally, a nice lady that worked with my now mother-in-law opened up her home to me and told me to stay there for free and for as long as I needed.
I was able to get a job like a week into that arrangement, and not only did she allow me to stay there and save money, she actually mentored me on life, money, business, etc. even after I moved out.
Her name was Alison and yes she’s the reason why my daughter’s name is Alison.
If you find yourself in a tough spot financially, make sure to always have amazing people in your life that allow you to live with them for free and mentor you until you get back on your feet. It’s a real game changer.
Drove A Piece of Crap Car
Not only did I not have a place of my own to stay, but my car at the time was absolute garbage. There was also no viable option for public transportation to and from my job.
Looking back on it, I probably spent more money every month just keeping the crap car running than it was worth.
But hey, at least I didn’t rush out and get a car payment while I was only making $30k/year like other broke people do! Putting a few hundred dollars in repairs on a credit card every month was so much better.
Let’s also just gloss over the fact that I could never bring in more money from certain side hustles like Uber or Lyft because of my car’s condition.
I mean the car was paid for but I got stuck on the highway more times than I can count which made me late to work a few times.
Which leads me right to my next point.
Got A Life-Changing Job Referral
One thing I’ve always done is work very hard.
But that’s not saying much because I can honestly say the majority of people I’ve worked with when I wasn’t making a lot of money were extremely hard workers as well.
If I’m honest, a lot of them work harder than my current co-workers making $100k.
At one of my jobs, I was doing some fantastic work. I mean I literally broke several sales records for this location.
But nothing I ever did seemed good enough and I just felt super underappreciated. Part of the issue was the car trouble I was having and how it made me late sometimes.
And I totally understood my manager’s frustration with that.
There were also times I had to borrow my girlfriend’s car because mine was in the shop. On those days, I needed to leave early so I could pick her up.
None of this ever affected my work, though, as I led my branch to record breaking month after record breaking month.
However, I wanted to have a discussion with my manager about my situation one day, and the conversation ended with me no longer having a job.
As I was leaving, I stopped and talked to a friend from another department who recommended that I reach out to a friend she had at Coca-Cola who was looking for a sales person.
I had the job before the first unemployment check ever hit my account and my salary jumped from $29k to $55k. It all happened so fast and I didn’t even know Coca-Cola was hiring.
As I mentioned, I worked really hard and had good results in an awful situation. But at the end of the day, my story would have gone a totally different direction without that referral.
Make sure you find people who know people that can position you to almost double your salary. That was crucial to my success.
Side Hustled Like Crazy
There aren’t too many money problems worse than losing your job right after you calculate $61,000 in debt.
But that’s exactly what happened to me. Halfway through our debt free journey, I was laid off.
This had the potential to be devastating for us. We could either revert back to using credit cards to get by or draw a line in the sand and push forward.
We chose the latter. I started working for a food delivery service while I looked for another decent paying sales job.
(This was one of the few times I was happy I bought that brand-new car and got rid of my old beater.)
The only problem: the time I put into the side hustle to keep up with our bills cut into time I could have been applying to more $55k/year jobs. I ended up being unemployed for 4 months.
So yeah…if you need more money just focus on side hustling this evening. Even if the time spent side hustling negatively impacts your future earnings.
It’ll all work out for you just like it did for me somehow. Hopefully.
It would be so easy to look back over my journey from poverty to financial stability and credit hard work for my results. I mean I did work my butt off.
But not hundreds of thousands of dollars in career earnings harder than some of my former co-workers.
The truth is crediting hard work alone would only make me feel better about myself.
This is turn would contribute to me turning a blind eye to broken systems like wage stagnation, unreasonable rent/mortgage costs, and more that can, ultimately, perpetuate poverty in America.
Did I make some bad money choices during my rise from poverty? Absolutely.
But does that mean our capitalist society can’t be better and more equitable? I don’t think so.
We all make less than stellar choices in life. But no one in this country should demonize anyone working 40+ hours a week for being in poverty.
Especially if they haven’t started addressing the brokenness that lies within our current system.