How can a nontraditional college student gain more income to provide for a brighter future?
I come from a very poor background. I am currently in college to get my BA and plan to get my Masters, as a nontraditional student (I am 32 years old). In the mean time, I am not able to make more than $15,000/year for the employer I am currently with. I love my job, but my monthly cost of living outweighs my monthly income. I am working as much as possible without allowing my grades to suffer. How do I go about creating a portfolio of some kind with these sort of odds against me? I don't want to live like this the rest of my life. The one thing I have going for me is a 401(k), which I contribute 3% to, but the employer does not match anything. What can I do? I am open to any and all suggestions that come my way.
First, always believe in yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to if you believe in yourself, and keep a positive mental attitude. I tell my clients they need to do 3 things in order to reach their financial goals. 1) Decide. Often, people take way too long to make critical and important decisions when it comes to their lives. So, decide quickly as to what it is you want. 2) Plan. It’s great that you have a plan to get a Masters after completing your Bachelors, but be sure to make plans to address more immediate needs as well. 3) Implement. The greatest plans and/or ideas mean absolutely nothing without taking action to implement them.
So, with that being the ground work, let’s dig into some decisions, plans, and implementations. My first question is why are you only able to make $15,000 per year? If your expenses are outweighing your income, changes must be made. It’s great that you love your job, but this job sounds as though it will be temporary since you probably won’t be doing it when you complete your Master’s Degree. I’d look to see if you qualify for a job paying more income, even if it is something you’re not in love with right now. Second, I wouldn’t be worried about the portfolio right now, you should be focused on establishing an emergency fund; 3-6 months of your monthly expenses. If something goes wrong in your life, and you have no emergency fund, you’re going to pull that money from your 401(k) and take a 10% penalty hit. Third, make a balance sheet. List out all of your assets: human (friends/family/teachers,etc), internal (your faith, talents, etc.), and material assets, and build short-term goals around them. Far too often, we will allow our minds to limit what progress we can make due to where we are in the present. Sometimes, the people and things we need to be successful are closer than we think. I know you were probably looking for financial answers like, keep a tighter budget or maybe contribute an extra 2% into your 401(k); but I’ve read too many autobiographies on people who had tremendous obstacles to overcome, to include being impoverished, and the most significant changes started from within. After you’ve identified your assets, identify your liabilities: bad debt, bad people, bad surroundings, bad habit, and do what you can to eliminate them. And last but not least, and I know it sounds cheesy, but find a consistent source of inspiration. In my struggles, both personally and professionally, I always turn to Anthony Robbins. Whether I pick up a book and read through a chapter, or visit a youtube video, he helps me put things back into perspective. Coming from a poor background isn’t a life sentence to be served by being impoverished. Find your source of motivation and inspiration and keep fighting every day. I wish you all the best.
Wow. $15,000 a year income is barely a living wage. One thing I can tell you is that there is no portfolio of any kind that can solve your money problem. Your best investment is not in stocks, but in yourself, which I presume you are doing by going to school. Instead of trying to build a portfolio, make sure you learn marketable skills, and also learn to market your skills. One last thing, learn storytelling. This is a powerful tool. I hired my first employee because he told me a story that touched me. People will open doors for you when they empathize with you.
I think you need to prioritize. Here's what I see as being your order of business:
Get a better job that pays more, or put more hours into your current job that you like. Increase your income so that you can pay your bills on time.
Any extra money you generate, put into a side fund for emergencies. Think about investing only when you can pay your bills and get through any tough times.
Forget college for now. You need to make a living. When you have settled into a satisfactory work situation, you can get a degree on a casual part-time basis.
This is very important, stop thinking of yourself as someone from a very poor background. That was in the past. Don't let it make you overly anxious for prosperity. Every good thing takes time.
Well you could try and win the lottery, search www.ancestory.com for an unknown rich relative, or marry rich. Rule those out and your best alternative is to get that degree ASAP and max out your employment income.
Despite the stories of investment millionaires, the vast majority of wealth is created from income. Yes, the top 10 billionaires mostly created companies with a new product, took it public, and enjoy great wealth and income, i.e. Bill Gates. The middle class and upper middle class have gotten where they are by finding jobs that pay well and saving a big portion of what they make.
Another job would be my first recommendation, but with your income constraints, that doesn't look like it will work. An investment portfolio isn't in the cards without a large amount of savings to build an account. Real estate takes money for a down payment and for repairs if you want to "flip" properties.
Which brings me back to getting your degree as soon as you can. If that is too far away, then maybe consider alternating semesters between working and school. Take a semester or year off, work full time, work a second job on weekends. Save all that you can, then return to school with a little extra cash to get you through the year?
Take cheer! At least you are saving 3%. Don't demand too much of yourself at this point in time. You obviously cannot live on $15,000 per year. Have you discussed this with your employer? Can you bring some ideas to the table about how you can both earn more? If you can't earn more where you are, move to another part-time employment situation. Wait until you graduate to start a portfolio.