After a couple Sam Adams, I want to share my story. Don't worry, it's a happy one.
At 16yrs, I dropped out of high school. Not because I was doing poorly, but because I was bored. The curriculum was uninteresting, and since 6th grade
or so, I had a nagging feeling that I was not learning anything useful. Reading level in 4th grade was post-college grad, math, comprehension,
language grades were all 99th percentile on the standardized achievement tests. Put bluntly, school was boring. Not trying to be a braggart here, just
explaining myself. There was nothing left to learn in school - there were opportunities for advancement, but living with a single mother making a deli
clerk's salary, the means were not there to pursue any advanced learning.
So, I got a job flipping burgers. I had to, as I had racked up a $300 phone bill in mom's name talking to a girl that I met online - a service I paid
for by being a house painter's assistant for $5/hr on weekends. After the bill was paid up - not too hard on the $5.25/hr I started off at, I found
that I sort of *liked* flipping burgers. So I stuck with it for a bit, and got my first apartment at 17yrs old. The next year, I took a promotion.
Fast forward to two years ago, and I'm still flipping burgers, but now I manage the place, and have just bought my first house - a nice little three
family for $152,500. I did this on a burger flipper's salary, with my own credit, carefully built from the age of eighteen.
I rent the other two apartments to my mother and cousin, for WELL below market rates - enough to help cover the rising cost of property tax,
water/sewer, etc. Oh, did I mention the seven year old daughter? I have one of those, too - she's the light of my life. Her mom and I split during
the pregnancy, and I'm the legal guardian. Mom's time with my princess has dwindled from two overnights a week to nothing - haven't heard from her
in a year. Prior to that, she was seeing her once a month or so for a couple years running. Thankfully, in my burger-flipping business, I met a lovely
woman who has adopted the female parenting role in my household. We're engaged, and have been together nearly seven years now - wedding's slated for
May of next year. She, by the by, also happens to manage a burger-flipping business. She also dropped out of high school when her mom abandoned her to
move south - she was 16 at the time and had to make money.
So now we're taking in about $74k/yr between our two incomes and the meager rents on the two other units of our house. Got a few cars; the small SUV
for the kid and the groceries, my beater pickup (gotta have something for all the Home Depot runs and the plowing!) and my car, which is a bit
indulgent and was purchased at the age of nineteen. Yes, I've had it for seven years, and it's my baby; a nicely modified '95 Impala SS.
It's not a lot, but it's also not too bad for a couple drop-outs with limited-to-non-existent wealth growing up. We're looking at an investment
property now, as a way of furthering ourselves and increasing our means. The eventual goal is to own enough good-quality rental properties to make a
living maintaining them well and keeping the tenants happy. We'd like to use this income to buy a plot of land and a farmhouse, and eventually get
back to the old ways of growing and raising our own food, relaxing, and dropping out of the loop a bit. Our first year of gardening has made us see
that this is a realistic option, and something we both plan to enjoy.
In closing, please don't interpret this as a holier than thou post. This is meant to be motivational; you CAN crawl up to a good life on your own
hard work. You do NOT need degrees to be happy (though I'd suggest them if it's feasible) - and YES, hard work DOES pay off, more often than not.
With a plan, the desire to WORK for it, and some sweat, anyone can scratch their way out of the gutter. All is not lost, and there is hope.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. =)