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October 01, 2007


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Reading your story tells me that you are not just paying lip service to the principles you espouse but in fact have come from some challenging times as a child and have risen above it all. Thanks so much for sharing.

Great post; the background story really adds some context to the blog. Thx.

Great post!

Great post. The American Dream is alive and well. We should all strive for it and help others attain it!

Great posts. Now I know that IT IS possible to reach the american dream!

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks FMF! I think your story is a great example. The American Dream is very much alive, but unfortunately, too many Americans take it for granted. Talk to a recent immigrant and it's amazing how much they make the dream a reality.

My parents and their friends are all doing great despite coming here with varying amounts of money or resources open to them. It's mostly through their perseverance that they are doing well.

Is it possible for a middle-aged poor person to become rich? Realistically, what is the likelihood?

And I'm having difficulty figuring out where (if anywhere) I fit in - what class is someone with a college degree and a minimum wage income?

You should put this in an "about" page. This is really great and I wonder why it took so long for you tell us your story.

Minimum Wage,

Yes, but it takes smarts and hard work.

Smarts and hard work? Okay, I've worked hard with little to show for it. I had 1300+ SAT scores when the average was around 900 and the max you could get was 1600, so I'm not a genius but I think I have at least some smarts.

But can you do it with no money and no available credit?

It is good to know where you are coming from and that you walked the walk (and still do). You are very lucky that you were able to borrow from family, and come out of college with such a small debt. Not everyone is that lucky, but making wise choices with what we have now is something everyone is capable of doing.

MW --

Yes, you can. Your biggest issue is your "can't do" attitude that you've expressed all over this blog. With that sort of anchor weighing you down, it's no wonder you're making zero progress.

Aimee --

If I wasn't able to borrow from family, I had other sources (like the government.) The key issues for me and college were:

1. I worked hard in high school and got scholarships.

2. I worked throughout college, ultimately earning a lucrative assistantship.

3. I picked a good college that I liked and could afford -- not simply one that was "the best" and went to it regardless of the cost (which is what many people do.)

Good post, and good habits.

How did you get scholarships? I graduated in the top 5 percent of my class (and my SAT scores were also in the top 5 percent) and the only scholarship I got was a state competitive scholarship which provided only something like $200 per year at an in-state college for books (anything more was dependent on financial need, and my dysfunctional family situation meant I didn't qualify for need-based aid).

MW --

I got scholarships based on:

1. Academic accomplishments (similar to yours.)
2. Leadership/activitites. (Held several leadership positions in high school and was actively involved in many organizations.)
3. Need. (from a poor family)

The need formulas are messed up and don't take into account unusual circumstances

MW --

When are you starting ""? You certainly have plenty of content for it.

I like this. Hard work + good decision making = good results. I think (maybe I'm guessing) that even before you got to the "riches (kinda)" part, you were seeing the benefits of the work/decisions.

I think that as far as the college goes (looking at the earlier comments) that getting the money, scholarships can put you ahead of the game, but it's doable (might take longer, more difficult path) without those starting assets. My dad had a min wage job in his 40's to help pay bills while he finished his degree. He is working on his master's now. It was hard though, no mistake about that, and he would have been better off financially if he'd done it earlier. But he wasn't really a great student, and life kind of got in the way. But -- he's WAY better off financially than if he'd never done it at all!

I guess the key is making the most of what you have, whereever you find yourself. Sometimes that's lemonade out of lemons, and other times it's just lemon juice and you're glad to just have that, lol. But you still have to work with what you've got, build on your successes and try not to repeat the mistakes.

Hey, that domain name is available!

It could be an interesting novelty or humor site (post your excuses here!), but how can I generate revenue with it?

Hmmm, interesting...

Good post! Your experience is a valuable source for us(people who are aspiring to become rich). Keep posting...


Can you make a post about giving MW advice to build wealth? We could have reader contributions as well.

I worked for a small pottery store for Min Wage when I lost my job. During down time I would do piece work for extra money. I doubled up and shared a place to cut rent costs. Cancelled all extras except one cell phone and cheapest internet.

Interestingly I believe that you cannot get rich earning Minimum Wage. But if you can adapt, trim costs and look for a better job these techniques can really help you to build wealth.

MW, you must have some talents to increase your income. And if you have a minimum wage job I suggest you take one that allows you to supplement your income by taking on other work.

Big Cheese

BC --

I've offered to do that, but first he must WANT to change/become wealthy. He's never responded to my offers (or those from others) to help him better himself financially.

Though if I was to give him advice, it would be along these lines:

"Is it possible for a middle-aged poor person to become rich? Realistically, what is the likelihood?

And I'm having difficulty figuring out where (if anywhere) I fit in - what class is someone with a college degree and a minimum wage income?"

For all those skeptics who think that you can't become wealthy on minimum wage. Here is a short blurb about a women on welfare who became a billionaire...

"Is it possible to get rich while you are on welfare? Well, one single mother in England did just that. Billionaire Joanne Kathleen Rowling started writing stories about "Harry Potter" while on "the dole" during the time her child was sleeping."

I think welfare beats minimum wage anyday (smile). I know you already have a comeback or an excuse ready to let me have it, well let me beat you to it.

"In life there have been people who have had it better than you and done worse, and there have been people who have had it worse than you and done better." There are no excuses only results...(emphasis added) -Anthony Robbins-

Here is what I learned as a kid who grew up with a 5 gallon bucket as a toilet; the more excuses I come up with as to why I can't achieve wealth the harder it becomes for me to achieve it. Once I got off of my pity pot and got rid of the excuses, the money started rolling in!!!

Oh and Tebitby means (The eagle born in the barnyard)

FMF- nice story, but here's a question. How did you know to do those smart things with your money after college?

I ask because I have discovered that even though spending less than you earn should be common sense, I had no concept of what to do with my money and I thought it was normal to borrow money for cars and use credit cards to live beyond my means. Did your parents teach you? Did you learn on your own? Did you just know it?

Once I got out of grad school and started earning "real" money I did two things:

1. Tried to manage my money (especially investments) on my own. This was learning from the school of hard knocks. It cost me a lot, believe me, to learn what worked and what didn't. ;-)

2. I started reading everything I could on finances and sorting out the good from the bad. This was a bit of trail and error, but at least I had some good advice, followed it, and made mostly good choices.

Great Post FMF! I am a recent immigrant from China. My parents came over for my brother and me. Since they don't speak English, they work jobs that pay below minimum wages. My brother and I support ourselves through college by working full time. We're both making 6 figures in the engineering field.

What a great country America is and long live the American Dream!!!


This is my first time visiting your About page. No wonder I relate to your posts so well. Sounds like we had a similar upbringing. I got a few academic and need-based scholarships and grants as well. Too bad it wasn't quite enough for U of M. Should have started in Dearborn or even Wayne State. Oh well. Student loans and credit cards have put me a little behind, but I'm determined to get ahead.

Thanks so much for your content. Great stuff.

BTW - Minimum Wage should start "". That way she could keep her pessimistic comments contained in one place rather than spreading them through out the PF blogosphere.

Why are we so quick to dismiss what 'Minimum Wage' has to say?

For example, they posted the question "But can you do it with no money and no available credit?" By no available credit do you mean that you haven't established a credit history or that you've exhausted/maxed out your available credit? If no credit history, open up a secured credit card and make regular, timely payments. If you're maxed out, go through all of your stuff and sell whatever is not critical. Use that money to save up a small emergency fund of $500 and take the remaining and apply to the smallest debt while paying only the minimums on other debts. Snowball the debt from lowest to highest balance and you WILL see progress.

Another example, "The need formulas are messed up and don't take into account unusual circumstances" Is there a particular unusual circumstance that is prevent you from saving regularly each month.

You might need to market yourself a little bit better. There is no reason for a college educated person to be making minimum wage. Are there any side jobs you can work (pet sitting, tutoring, etc) to raise your income? Just here to help....

Evan --

1. You know this post is almost four years old, right? You're unlikely to get a conversation started at this point.

2. MW was a commenter several years ago who hit every post with a "woe is me" and "it can't be done" set of comments. Readers tried to help him by offering suggestions for improving his finances, but he was mired in self pity and lack of ambition. Eventually they came to disagree with everything he said simply because he said it...

Yes, I saw the timestamp of the previous commenter. I figured new readers would most likely click on the "About FMF" link, and your story is the first link on that page so the chances of someone seeing this page is quite high.

Evan --

Ok, good to know.

Still, the last comment was in December, 2007. ;-)

This is my first visit here.....very informative and inspiring. I think thats the key, far too many times financial experts speak about the do's and dont's to reach financial freedom but usually dont make it this personal. I like how you communicate to us and right or wrong, I will be back. Keep up the good work.

Great Job, FMF!
I have been reading your blog orr and on for about two years. One question I have never found the answer to yet is what is your age? I agree with most everything you say but I feel like a underperformer when I look at your achievements but I would like a frame of reference to compare to.


Steve --

In my mid-40's now...

Even I stumbled on to this post today FMF!
Awesome job and truly inspiring. Age 37 and back in a full time graduate school not a wise call but trying to make it! hope to start saving by 2013 once i get some part time job. Any hope for an oldie yet to make the mark in this world!

RJ --

There's always hope. :)

FMF great advice. I recently graduated and got my all I need is a job which I haven't found yet (searching for 3 months now) But hope to get a job soon and learn how to administrate my finances well.

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