How I Became A Millionaire (Part 2: Early Adulthood)

Note: This post is part of a series that starts here.

After high school, I wanted to be a professional dog trainer so I enrolled in college to study the psychology of learning, animal science and animal behavior. I was working 30+ hours a week to pay my own tuition and after three semesters, I found myself tired, bored, frustrated and impatient with the required undergraduate curricula. I discovered that I wasn’t happy with the traditional education system, nor with burning the candle at both ends.

I dropped out of college and spent the next couple of years drifting from one minimum wage job to another, paying more attention to the boys I was dating than to my financial future. I ended up broke and alone after my fiancée and I broke up. I learned that I couldn’t count on Prince Charming to sweep me off of my feet and take care of me.

My parents were struggling to make ends meet, so I couldn’t go home and become a burden on them. I became more frugal: I abandoned my broken-down car, reduced my rent by sharing my one-bedroom apartment with three other women, and found free food during Happy Hour at the local bar (free appetizers with the purchase of a $2 draft). I learned to be resourceful and to do whatever it took to survive.

One night, while working the graveyard shift at a donut shop and pouring coffee for a homeless patron, I realized that I was one paycheck away from being homeless myself. That was my wakeup call. Motivated by fear of an uncertain future, I opened the Yellow Pages, called professional dog trainers and negotiated an unpaid apprenticeship. Less than a year later, I was hired by my mentor, and I loved the work. I learned the power of asking for what I want.

My mentor-employer was a great dog trainer but she made poor financial choices and lost her business. So I took two part-time jobs: one with a competing dog training school; the other as a veterinary hospital receptionist. One day, the office manager took me aside and said, “Jen, you have a smart mind and strong opinions. I realize that you have some good ideas about how this business could be improved, but you need to understand that you are not in charge here; the veterinarians are. You’re just an employee. You need to do things our way”. My response? I decided I wasn’t cut out to be “just” an employee.

…to be continued next in Part Three: My Twenties

Did you miss Part One of this series? How I Became A Millionaire: Childhood

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Millionaire Mommy Next Door

A self-made millionaire shares her recipe for success, happiness and financial freedom.

14 thoughts on “How I Became A Millionaire (Part 2: Early Adulthood)”

  1. Pingback: Finance and Real Estate Blog Posts for Monday
  2. I’m loving this series. It’s a great way to see the path that other people take to financial independence and a more fulfilling way of life.

  3. I loved this 2nd part too. Can certainly relate to the realization that being “just an employee” wasn’t for me. Thanks for this series!

  4. Seems it took me forever to learn the power of asking for what I want. It’s amazing how well it works and how few people use it. I just started working again after raising 6 boys and find I am enjoying it. I have never considered myself good employee material but right now I don’t mind it because I have found work I enjoy to a degree and I am also doing it with an end in mind. I also work on call so have the option of setting my own schedule. My point though was to say that in order to become employed at the places I now work I had to be persistant and make calls to get the jobs. It also helped to know someone currently employed there but the truth is if I had not been persistant and ASKED repeatedly for the job I would not have gotten it. Persistance and asking are good partners.

  5. Thanks for this great story. It really is amazing to share in the success of others. You seem like a great person and I wish you all the best with your goals and your future.

  6. Pingback: Fabulous Financials » Sundays With Single Ma 1/25/09
  7. You learned such valuable lessons at an early age. I’m in my twenties and my parents were amazing personal finance role models which has helped me to be completely in charge of my own finances. On the other hand, I know people (some of whom are in their 50s) who accumulate so much debt and really need a wake up call. I can’t wait until part 3 of your story! Thanks Jen!

  8. I had a similar moment in college – working part-time in the business office. Instead of taking my youthful enthusiasm and channeling it into projects and productivity, the old ladies had their boss call me into his office to tell me to stop making them feel like I knew how to do their job better than they did (or words to that effect). Me, an 18-yr. old student. I intimidated them! It was stupid, but unfortunately I did not have an epiphany, I just started hating my job.

  9. I find your story frightening and inspiring at the same time. How did you know to do dog walking? Did you try looking at other things? Sometimes I find myself arrested by fear and feeling “not smart enough” to do more.

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