Today I’m going to share how I got to have 5 figures in the bank while still being a full-time student in college with two majors and three minors. I did not have a trust set in place nor did I win the lottery. I did it through an insane work ethic that got me to that bank account when I graduated. I did have stressful nights and days where I wanted to quit but I powered through and was able to achieve what I wanted.
Insane Work Ethic and Insane Savings
When I say insane work ethic, this is what I mean. My freshmen Spring semester and all of my sophomore year, I had 2 jobs working 20+ hours a week while being a full time student taking 5, sometimes 6 classes (with upper division classes sprinkled in between while being an underclassman).
I saved every single penny that I could get my hands on, tracking everything that’s in my budget. Every day when I woke up, I knew exactly how much I could spend on that day. Saving money was on my mind every breathing moment that I had.
Saving was one area in which I felt that could be a significant differentiator. There were tons of my classmates getting A’s and tons of my classmates joining organizations and leadership positions, but not a lot of my friends had a lot of money.
I can bet there weren’t a ton of students who had 5 figures in their bank account (I did know a couple whose parents owned oil rigs in the Middle East so they had more than an ample money supply but that’s not who I wanted to compare myself to).
It was fascinating to me how saving brought real-time rewards. A dollar that I save today will be in my bank account tomorrow when I come back to it. I couldn’t believe that. It was something real, tangible, and quantifiable that could separate myself from others. I had this extreme motivating desire to save absolutely anything that I possibly could save on, especially my food budget.
I used to live on a $2 food budget, which I did for a semester. I realized quickly that the lifestyle wasn’t healthy but since Mark Cuban did it to make sure he was successful, I wanted to do it also. It’s the Elon Musk challenge and I can proudly say that I completed it. I won’t be doing that again unless it’s come to the point where I can’t afford to live the next day.
First, I want to say that I am telling you my journey not to brag but to be transparent and to inspire you that if I could do it with little earnings that I had in college, you can do it too while working full time.
Year 1. Freshmen year. Before starting college, I had ~$6,000 in the bank through working minimum wage jobs in high school summers, not buying anything, and saving every birthday money for the past 17 years.
By working two jobs in college, saving everything that I could through any means, scholarships paying for my tuition with a little leftover that was paid out to me, and parents paying for my living situation, I had about $17,500 in the bank at the end of the school year. I also worked during the summer break after visiting my parents in South Korea for a month. Net worth: $17,500
Year 2. Sophomore year. I didn’t manage my expenses as well because I stopped doing the $2 a day challenge and started eating out more. I did get promoted in one of my jobs that lasted in the school year to a supervisor position which came with a nice ~38% pay increase (from $9 an hour to $12.50 an hour!).
I also got a big fat hourly rate ($18 an hour!) at my internship my Sophomore Summer working in corporate finance and when you’re not paying rent, bringing your lunch every day, and increasing earnings, it’s easy to save. Sophomore year net worth, $31,000.
Year 3. Junior year. Junior year is when I vamped my expenses up dramatically. I was stressed out from working so hard the past two years so I figured it was time to treat myself. I ate out twice every day, didn’t buy groceries as much, and spent a marginal amount going out.
I didn’t have the supervisor position anymore. Instead, I got an internship working in corporate finance in my fall and spring semester which paid $15 an hour (which was great for a part-time internship) and my Junior Summer year internship didn’t pay nearly as much as my Sophomore year’s ($16 an hour) but I took it because it’s just an internship and it was in financial services, which was somewhere I wanted to go to. Year 3 net worth, $38,500.
Year 4. Senior Year. I wanted to relax this year, it’s my senior year! I still had a job to make sure that I was self sustaining and able to save a little bit each week. By this time, I knew the ins and outs of how I wanted to spend my budget so budgeting became very simple and easy to adhere to. I saved about $1,500 in the year to bump up my net worth to $40,000.
This has been my savings amount each year in college. A disclaimer is that I don’t remember with 100% accuracy that these were the exact amounts that I had by the end of the year but it’s a great rough estimate.
Also, my college expenses were limited because my scholarships paid for my tuition with a little leftover every year and my housing costs were paid for by my loving parents. If my parents hadn’t paid for my living situation, I would have about $20,000 in the bank (had a one bedroom apartment with a roommate so my share would be $5,000 a year). I at least wanted to come up with the money that it WOULD have taken to pay for my college if I didn’t have those advantages.
Was it Easy?
No. It certainly wasn’t easy and I would say that I got a lot of luck on my side, especially my sophomore summer internship. Classes were over and the recruiter contacted me a week after finals ended to give me the offer. It was my last shot at getting an internship that summer. However, I’m a firm believer that I only need one win for everyone to tell me I got lucky and doing well.
For my junior summer internship, I’ve gotten rejected by anyone that could have rejected me before being scooped me up by the financial services company (I believe I interviewed with 20+ firms). I got a full-time offer from them of $65,000 plus a discretionary performance bonus plus a 2.5k signing bonus which I turned down.
I accepted a lesser-paying job but at a bigger company that I feel has more potential and opportunities than the job I turned down. I won’t know if I made the right decision but I believe I did.
Readers, how is your net worth doing? Is it ticking in the right direction? Let me know in the comments below!
My goal is to enable your success in personal finance so that you can realize the American dream. The first step is starting today!
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