This is one of my first pictures as a hustling teen. I am 13 I think, and babysitting my cousins and friends of my family while the adults are having a fun summer. I had never thought my love of babies could have turned into a paid gig! Adults just put them in my arms and at some point, decided it was worth something.
That was one of my first money lessons: when you provide value to someone, you can charge for it. A full evening of babysitting was maybe $15 (lesson #2, set your rates, don’t let people pay you whatever they please!), but that was more money than I had ever seen. And it was not too hard to earn.
I mean, once the kids were asleep, I was basically paid to watch TV or do homework, which was awesome. But because I was rich compared to my peers, and money was quite easy to earn, I started spending it a bit lavishly. My parents had always been pretty strict with clothing, and I wanted brand names. I didn’t know any better, so I went to the main street shop, and bought my jeans for full retail price.
As you can see, my teen years are immortalized on a paper picture that we had printed! We didn’t have online shopping. Heck, I didn’t even own a computer until the third year of college!
Anyway, it makes me cringe today to think about little young me spending her money like there was no tomorrow. I had piles of CDs higher than me, a fancy stereo system, and the latest tank top in five different colors.
On the plus side, I was way too young to have a credit card, so I was never tempted to spend more than I earned. But saving money for college, or a car, would have been much more helpful.
All through high school, I kept on hustling. I had grown used to my lifestyle and I had to support it. I was living in a good neighborhood and on top of better paying babysitting gigs, I was also getting around $20 per hour to teach the piano.
While that was once again a HUGE amount for a 16 year old, piano teaching required my undivided attention, my head was buzzing afterwards from the kids playing horribly, and it drained all my energy out. I had really earned my $20. I didn’t want to spend it on a whim.
Plus, I had goals now. I wanted to see the world, live on my own, go to college… Everything had a hefty price tag. I think that is what really pushed me to save money early. If you don’t have an end goal in mind, it is easy to spend mindlessly.
Retirement is many decades away, but college was right around the corner. I had a $400 monthly scholarship to live off in college, and thanks to the money I had saved during high school, I could now afford to focus more on my classes instead of working almost full time.
My savings covered the little pleasures I would have had a hard time paying for on $400. As I came to value money and the hard work required to obtain it, I started looking for bargains for every purchase.
No more full price brand clothes, or brand new CDs! I was shopping the sales, the second hand stores, or foregoing purchases altogether. I started investing my money early aware of the power of compound interest over long periods of time.
For example, if you are able to invest $100 per month from age 20 to 65, at an average of 8% p.a., you will have $535,600 saved up for retirement! Finding $100 every month in your student budget is really hard, but the good thing is, you aren’t too used to the good life yet, and delaying lifestyle inflation for just a little longer can go a long way.
My first room in college was 100 sqft and $130 per month through student housing. Most of my friends were paying over $500 for a much nicer room. I was saving the difference, and able to afford international travel in summer.
I even graduated with $25,000 in savings and used it to buy my first rental property, receiving passive income by the time I was 22.
My teen years were not easy, but now, 20 years later, I can afford to live life on my own terms, work when I want, and play when I want. That alone makes up for all the parties I missed, all the clothes I didn’t buy, and all the other sacrifices along the way.