The Wealthy Pre-Law Student
The story of saving $50k by age 21 even while growing up on Medicaid, food stamps, and low-income housing.
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Welcome to the 13th edition of The Wealth Letters, a collection of insights from all walks of life on the pursuit of money & meaning.
If you haven’t done so, please read or listen to the manifesto before diving in to the collection, as it will give a clear vision of the project; the Who, What, and Why.
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The following is an open letter written by Maykel for The Wealth Letters. Maykel shares his story of how he saved $50,000 by age 21 while growing up on Medicaid, food stamps, and low-income housing.
Maykel is currently a college student at The University of Texas at Austin who will be starting law school in the fall of 2023.
In addition to his full-time schoolwork, Maykel shares his insights on money and life in his weekly newsletter, as well as on Twitter, where he is active in collaborating and helping others navigate a healthy relationship with money.
I challenge you to listen to this insight as if it is being spoken to you personally.
Be willing to be vulnerable and open your mind to ideas and suggestions that have proven worthwhile in another’s journey. Do not blindly accept any and all advice given, but rather take in the information and distill it down to if & how it can be applied to YOU and your unique self.
Michael Jordan said that he imitated Dr. J.
Kobe Bryant said he studied and imitated Jordan.
But, they mixed in their own uniqueness.
While not everything will relate directly to one’s current situation at the exact moment, there may be some gems that will be worthwhile in time.
Maykel’s Wealth Letter:
I grew up on medicaid, food stamps, and low-income housing and still managed to save $50,000 by 21.
Here’s my story.
I started receiving child support when I was 15 years old. Every month, $500 would get deposited into my account. I thought about everything $500/month could get me:
- 2 haircuts/month
- Dining out 2-4x/week
So that’s what I did.
4 years of high school later, $24,000 of passive income entered my bank account. But when I graduated I only had $4,000 to my name.
I never had a job.
I had no money-making skills.
And I lost my passive income.
With college coming up in August I needed a plan to make money.
I got my first job summer of 2019. Selling snow cones at my Tia’s raspa stand. (My aunt’s shaved ice stand).
I got paid $7.25/hr and wasn’t allowed to work more than 27 hrs/week. I couldn’t make more than $780/month.
I knew I couldn’t spend like I used to.
So I didn’t.
I saved most of the money I had coming in. I paid for:
- Occasional takeout
- Cheap hangouts with my friends
I ended the summer with $5,300.
Now it’s August 2019 and I meet some cool guys at orientation.
But these guys had money to spend.
They wanted to eat out throughout the 3-day orientation.
I looked at my bank account and thought, “There’s no way I can keep this up all semester.”
So I didn’t.
I took advantage of my school’s meal plan all semester. Buffet from 7 am - 8 pm with unlimited swipes and good healthy options.
I didn’t have to pay for food out of pocket. But I took on $5,500 in student loans to cover housing/dining. And I still had no income.
Then I got an email:
$500/month, every month, for the next 4 years?
I saved every penny of the scholarship and ended the semester with $7,500.
2nd semester was a little different.
Right before spring break, Covid sent the entire university back home for the rest of the semester. So, in March 2020 I got a virtual internship at a local law firm for $150/week. But then I discovered something that would change my life.
I didn’t want to work forever.
Like most people, I’d rather do what I wanted, when I wanted, with who I wanted, for as long as I wanted. But I knew I couldn’t do this if my family was low-income. So I googled a simple, but impactful question:
“How do I stop being poor?”
This led me down the rabbit hole of personal finance.
I consumed insane amounts of content:
- Read 1 book/week
- Watched YouTube Daily
- Switched music for podcasts
I learned about investing, side hustles, and credit cards.
But I didn’t take action.
I was afraid.
Now it’s Fall 2020 and I have:
- $11,000 cash
- $10,000 student loans
- A ton of new knowledge
Me and my friends decided we’d all start investing together.
So I invested my first $1:
Then I received an email stating I’d receive my $500/month in a lump sum every semester. This let me start 2021 with:
- $1 invested
- $16,000 cash
- $13,000 student loans
So I decided to invest more money. By February I had a portfolio value of nearly $10,000:
At this point I’m 19 and have:
- $5,000 e-fund
- $10,000 invested
- $13,000 student loans
I never gave my student loans much thought tho.
“It’s an investment in my future right? I’ll worry about it later.”
But what if I could focus on both my future and my debt?
I started working more.
I was available 8am - 5pm for my internship and drove for Doordash from 6pm - 10pm. I started making around $1,400/month. Then I started applying to any scholarship I found. And I started getting them. This helped me save/invest most of my money.
Ended 2021 with:
- $5,000 e-fund
- $13,000 savings
- $21,000 investments
- $16,000 student loans
Now it’s 2023 and I still save most of my money.
But I've gotten better at enjoying some of it.
I’m in my senior year of college with:
- $5,000 e-fund
- $24,000 savings
- $20,000 invested
- $21,000 student loans
And I’m preparing for law school in the fall.
My Takeaways from Maykel:
Education is a must, and for most of us, there is no excuse to learning. Maykel simply started his education by using a google search. Obviously, Maykel is a very driven person being that he goes to school full-time, has an internship, and still works a job whenever he can. However, Maykel didn’t have the knowledge about money that he currently has until he decided to proactively choose to learn.
You can choose your lifestyle and spending habits.
Maykel chose to apply for an internship.
He chose to work for some money in his spare time outside of school / internship.
He chose to apply for scholarships.
He chose to not eat out as often as he used to for example. He still enjoys his life and goes out with friends, but he doesn’t need to spend regularly on these things to feel good.
Maykel realized that status, career, and work isn’t the ultimate end-goal for him. He found that he wanted more freedom to do more of what he enjoyed without feeling like he was trapped into working without an end in sight. Yes, he needs to work to make an income, but he is starting from a foundation of understanding that he wants to build his work/career to fit a flexible lifestyle of more choice.
What are your takeaways from Maykel?
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Thanks for sharing your story Maykel!