My Background, in a bit more Detail

So where exactly am I coming from? This is actually a fairly challenging question for me, which changes depending on location. Presently I am from Seattle, but if you go far enough back one finds that I am not from here at all but rather grew up in Africa, the son of missionaries. As this is a finance and investing blog, I shan't go into great detail on my adventures in Africa, however I must highlight Africa primarily because it is through the observation of my parent's work, in particular my father's efforts to assist locals in launching their own livelihoods through what I now know to be micro lending (although at the time I had no clue what that was).

That is how I ended up here in Seattle. I decided that I wanted to study business, with the idea that I too could help people learn to make a living for themselves in Africa (or Asia or wherever it ends up being). The best Christian university business program in the United States just so happened to be provided by Seattle Pacific University. So upon graduation from high school, I packed my bags and left Africa for the hustle and bustle of the United States to apply my mind to the task of learning business.
I loved the business courses I took and applied myself quite thoroughly to the processes therein. My freshman year I participated in a business plan competition, called the Social Venture Plan Competition. I still participate to this day, although now I do so as a coach for current students. 

Unfortunately, even though I scored some pretty good scholarships, which brought the costs of tuition down considerably, living costs in Seattle are not cheap. While my education continued to increase, gradually I discovered that my costs of living were increasing. This wasn't such a huge issue while I lived in the dorms, and I managed to secure a decent part time job with a local non-profit my sophomore year. However, I had never before been required to manage a budget, track expenses, or pay bills. 

By the start of my Junior year, a buddy and I moved into a house together and we began paying rent. At about this time, my bank conveniently introduced a $15,000 line of credit, which made it easy to transfer money to my checking account for expenses. This occurred just in time for me to realize that my earnings from my part time job were not providing enough for me to cover all of my expenses. Being unable to work full time, I could not increase my income, but still had rent to pay and I had no idea how to apply for more student loans (indeed loans were scarier to me at the time and withdrawing money for rent from the line of credit was easy) so I took the path of least resistance. After all, I was going to graduate, my bosses at my current job absolutely loved me, and I could reach graduation without maxing out my line of credit, whereupon I'd be able to work full time and easy double, if not triple my income.

Unfortunately, human plans don't typically pan out the way we anticipate. It would prove to be a full year and half after graduation and 3 jobs later, that I would finally be able to achieve positive monthly cash flow. Due to internal issues, I was not able to scale my position as a job developer and employment consultant into a full time income. Instead I was forced to get a second part time job with another non-profit, also offering employment assistance services. But this only complicated my daily routine and long commutes between clients for both jobs cut into my earnings. 

I then secured a full time sales job, which, while being commission only, promised to promote out the best candidates to become area managers, running their own show. This transition taught me a ton about business dress, sales, and gave me plenty of practice approaching business owners and managers, however, after only six months, due to a lagging performance over the holidays I was let go in January 2014, right as I had begun to turn sales around with the start of the new year. 

In the mean time, I had moved to live with some family friends, who graciously allowed me to live in their basement, and, during my hour of greatest need, a close friend from Africa graciously gifted me with enough money to cover my monthly credit card bills during my short period of unemployment. 

Without the support of my family and friends, I would have been on the streets and broke. Oh and my girlfriend of 2 years, decided to run off with another guy during this time period. So I was pretty much at rock bottom, worth more dead than alive (courtesy of my life insurance policy). I definitely did not feel that great.

Fortunately for me, my boss was less patient than I am as that firing spurred me onto locating a new job, which just happened to be delivering restaurant catered food to businesses as an independent contractor. Through another friend, I managed to score a job working at Pizza Hut, and between the two jobs, I finally began to earn enough income to cover my bills. Additionally, without a girlfriend to spend money on, I was able to keep more money and use it for paying down loans and credit cards. I was already behind on several payments though, so I spent the first half of 2014 just getting caught up on bills.

The second half of 2014 involved several moves, identifying affordable locations to live (unfortunately I had to move out of the basement where I lived rent free). I ended up first moving closer to my job at pizza hut, and then moving a second time to a micro-apartment where all my utilities and internet are included and I simply pay one flat rate of $715 each month (parking included). 

Now, in 2015, I am settled and I am still earning more than my monthly expenses, so it is time to kick some serious debt. It is going to take a LOT of work, and I'll frequently be throwing over half of my income at it, but it has to be done. Debt is the biggest factor in preventing me from achieving my dream career. Without debt, I could easily live off of half, perhaps even one third of my current income, however the loan, interest, and minimum payments alone tally up to over $1,000/month. So in order to accelerate the repayment of debt, I need to increase my ability to allocate more and more money into my debt. 

This should provide you folks with a good general background into where I've come from and how I've gotten to where I am financially. I am not in a good spot, financially, however as I am able to cover all my monthly bills and have managed to sock away some money into a small emergency savings fund, I am in a much better financial position than I ever have been. From here I plan to keep working my way up and I'd be delighted to have you folks join me for that trip. :) 

Thanks for reading!

The Dividend Pizza Guy
 


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