You’re Cruising Down the Street in Your Mercedes-Benz…
You check the time on your Rolex watch, and then you wave out the window at your friends—making sure they notice your watch AND your car. You know they are totally jealous. You pull into the driveway of your 3-story mansion thinking, Yep, this place is ALLLLL mine! You have the life you have always dreamed of and everyone looks up to you. Life is so good! You can do whatever you want, you can buy whatever you want, and everyone just thinks you are the coolest person ever.
There is a reason adults call the above scenario a “Teenage Dream.” When we are teenagers, it is SO easy to put ourselves into that sort of scenario. Maybe you see yourself in a different kind of car, or different clothes, or a different kind of house, but the story always ends with everyone thinking how cool you are. Everyone wants to be like you.
When we are teenagers, we truly believe we can do anything, go anywhere and that there is no way that we will grow up being anything other than extremely successful. The majority of teenagers see themselves having a great future. They can’t comprehend any challenge keeping them from having the future they dream of.
When I was a teenager, I had my own version of that dream. I was going to be extremely wealthy and buy my first horse ranch at the age of 30. I was going to show horses all around the country and my ranch was going to become famous for producing the finest horses in the country. I was going to retire when I was age 50 and leave my ranch in the hands of my faithful employees while I traveled the world.
Did I obtain that dream? Not even close. Why not? You might ask. I’ve narrowed it down to four reasons why I did not obtain my dream: No goals, no plans, no consistent action, and a low self-esteem.
I was lucky enough to grow up with parents that loved me and were there for me as a youth. They also took in foster children—kids who many times did not have parents who were there for them. I realized early on how lucky I was to have parents that cared about me. My life was not perfect. I did not always learn the best things from my foster siblings and would sometimes do things that chipped away at my self-confidence. Even though I had good parents, my siblings and my foster siblings often made my life miserable. When I was 13, some things happened that turned me into somewhat of a recluse. I only felt happy when I was alone with my horse and my dog. I tried to stay away from everyone else. There were several times I had thoughts of suicide. To me, suicide would be the ultimate escape from all the pain. But then, I started to work on that ‘Teenage Dream’ of mine and the thoughts of having my own horse ranch someday motivated me enough to not go through with suicide. I didn’t want to leave this life without having done something I could be proud of.
During my teenage years, my parents were constantly telling me to “Save Money.” They made it very clear that saving money was important. However, when I would ask what to save for, they were more vague. They would say things like, “Well, for your future!” or “For an emergency!” or things that I didn’t really care about as a teenager. They would give me reasons that made it easy for me to take and justify into something else. For instance, I would save and save, and then I would see something that I wanted for myself or my horse and think, “Yes, I need this. It’s an emergency! And isn’t that what my savings is for? Emergencies?!”
Needless to say, although I got my first job at age 14 and worked all through high school, I had nothing in my savings account when I graduated high school.
I did not know about goals, so I did not make any plans past high school. I just went with the flow and thought that eventually it would lead me to my Teenage Dream.
I got my first credit card when I was a freshman in college. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Free money! I started buying whatever I felt like. Whenever my roommates wanted to go out to dinner, I would sometimes pay for all of them, just because my credit card made me feel rich.
I soon filled up my first credit card and had to take out another. Soon, I had three credit cards. I had to get another job. Because I had two jobs on top of going to college, my grades started to suffer.
I decided after two years of college, that I needed to take a break and get myself out of debt. I actually did do that. It took me about two years, but I worked hard and completely paid off my credit card debt. Then I decided to go on a service mission for my church. A service mission in my church was 18 months long.
When I came back from my service mission, I was completely lost as to what to do with my life. I wanted to travel, but wasn’t sure how. Most of my friends had moved away, and I didn’t have a lot of people to hang out with. I had no goals, no plans, and I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was the first time that I remember thinking that my Teenage Dream was no longer attainable. That thought shot me into a few months of depression, and it took some hard work and a good friend to snap me out of it.
Around that time, I started remembering a lecture from a special guest speaker that I had heard in college. The speaker’s name was James LeVoy Sorenson. I didn’t know who he was at the time; I just knew that he was going to be talking about having a successful life. Since that was during the time where I was working two jobs, going to school, and barely making it, learning how to have a successful life sounded nice.
Within five minutes of his speech, I found out that he was a billionaire. He had invented many different groundbreaking medical devices and equipment for his time, including the disposable facemask, something highly used to this day.
I don’t remember a lot of what he said that day; I was honestly in awe of the idea that I was in the same room as a billionaire. But I do remember a phrase that he used somewhere in the middle. He read a quote that I’ve sinced learned is attributed to Harry S. Truman, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Mr. Sorenson then went on to say that our own personal development is the most critical habit we could possible develop in this life. He said, “The only person that can possibly improve your life is you. Don’t wait for ‘your ship to come in.’ Go out and build a ship.”
As I remembered that speech, somewhere deep inside of me, I suddenly had a desire to “build a ship” or in other words, create something that would lead to financial success.
I started to read books by successful entrepreneurs. I started to listen to speeches and watch videos. I even tried to start my own business twice. I failed both times—and my failures led to a considerable amount of debt from lost investments and capital. My debt would cause me bouts of anxiety and depression, which made me buy frivolous things on credit cards to try to make me happy—which just led to more debt.
I had so much desire in me to succeed, but all I ended up doing was failing. Or, at least, so I thought.
Peeing in a Garbage Can…
Ten years after I heard that speech by James LeVoy Sorenson (five years after returning from my service mission), I had just gotten married and was living in a little room on the second story of a barn. Yes, a barn. The barn was built in the early 1900s when stable boys lived above the horses or in the carriage house. My husband and I had just gotten married. Because of bad financial decisions on both of our parts, and some hefty attorney fees remaining from my husband’s previous marriage, we started our marriage together with substantial debt. Hence, the barn. We lived in the little room and cleaned the horse stalls every morning as rent. This was definitely NOT the kind of life I had pictured during my Teenage Dream.
The room was so small that all we could fit inside it was a twin bed and one dresser. There was no bathroom. To use the bathroom, we had to go down the barn stairs, across the yard, and into the main house. About three weeks into our marriage, I got a pretty bad bladder infection. I woke up one morning and had to pee SO bad that I knew I would never make it to the main house. I grabbed the closest thing I could to relieve myself—a garbage can. As I was crouching, peeing in this garbage can, I suddenly became angry. Angry at myself. Angry at our situation. Angry that other newlyweds go on a cruise while I’m working two jobs, cleaning horse stalls, and peeing in a garbage can.
I made my mind up right then that my husband and I were going to fix things. I had a heart-to-heart with my husband when he got home from his second job. I told him we were going to read one finance book a month until we got out of the mess we were in.
We actually realized very quickly that it would be easier for us to listen to audiobooks, as we both had jobs where headphones were allowed. We also both had to commute to our jobs. So during our commute, and during each shift of each job, we committed to listening to one chapter, which was about three chapters a day. Sometimes, we got more in, and sometimes less, but we listened to as much as could, then had a discussion at the end of the day about what we learned.
We first read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Then we read The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason, which we listened to twice in a row. The third book we both really enjoyed and listened to several times in a row: The 10 Secrets of Abundant Wealth by Adam J. Jackson. After that, we kind of separated ways so we could fit more books in. He would listen to a book and tell me what he learned from it, and I would do the same. He read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo and I read Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker. He listened to My Philosophy for Successful Living by Jim Rohn and I listened to The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.
We continued this way, book after book. Our goal was to take one thing from each book and apply it to our financial situation. We have now read way too many books to list here, but each one has been beneficial, and has offered an idea that came right when we needed it.
After six months, we were able to get an apartment (with a bathroom in our bedroom!). We were both still working two full-time jobs, but we were able to use our first jobs to pay the bills and the second jobs to pay off debt and build a savings account. After two years and more than $50,000 of debt paid, we were able to start a business that was successful. After three years, we had all of our debt paid off, over $80,000, and were able to move into a 4-bedroom, 2-bath rental house. My husband was now running the business full-time, and I was helping him run the back office side and bookkeeping while maintaining one of my full-time jobs.
We decided then, with our debt paid off, that it was time to start a family together. We started saving up for the baby and continued saving throughout my pregnancy. Unfortunately, our son’s birth was actually double the amount of money we had saved up for the birth, so we did backtrack a little and go back into debt. However, we pulled out of it quickly and were able to buy a house a year later. I was also able to quit my last full-time job and be home full-time with our son.
After a year of living happily in our new home, we added a second child to the mix. We had just expanded a section of our business and believed we would really be on our way. However, six months later, our business fell apart. We had tried to expand too far too soon, with not enough qualified employees, and it all fell out from underneath us. My husband decided to go to a trade school and expand his career during the day while I found a job and worked nights to pay the bills.
Gratefully, we didn’t forget the skills we had learned from our initial financial rut. Within one year, we had another business up and rolling, this one with NO employees. I was able to quit my night job, and we went back to my husband running the front end of the business while I stayed home with the kids and ran the back office and paperwork of the business.
By this time, my husband’s older kids (from his previous marriage) were living with us. Since they were all teenagers, life got a little crazy. They had school activities going on, homework they needed help with, and there was never a dull moment. During their time with us, I bought the Foundations in Personal Finance: Middle School Edition for Self-Study from the Dave Ramsey website and began working through it with them. I shared with them their father’s and my finance journey and explained that I never wanted them to have to experience what we went through.
What I Wish I Would Have Known About Money as a Teenager…
When one of my friends found out I was teaching finance to my kids, she asked if I could come give a short talk about finance to a youth group she supervised. I made a one-page printout of the biggest points of finance that I wished I would have known as a teenager and young adult. I was nervous on my way to give the talk and, in fact, at the beginning of my speech as well, but as I kept talking and sharing my story, I realized I was actually enjoying myself . I had no idea how much I enjoyed public speaking, especially to teenagers! I wasn’t sure if any of my message would get through to the kids, but afterwards, one of the youth who had been there sent me a message and asked if she could get the digital copy of the print-out. She said she had learned a lot and wanted to discuss the printout with her family.
I can’t even describe the amount of satisfaction and happiness I felt after she sent that message. I suddenly realized that I wanted to speak again. I decided to enroll in an online course about building an online business and becoming a public speaker.
Throughout that course, I was invited to speak in front of other teenagers about finances. I received more feedback from many teenagers who told me they appreciated what I talked about because their parents didn’t really talk about money, and they didn’t realize how important it was. I also received feedback from parents, many of whom admitted they had not talked to their kids about money because they didn’t know much about it themselves.
Because of their feedback, I started to put together a list of everything I wish I would have known about money as a teenager. I added to that list as questions came up from some of the teenagers I taught or their parents.
Then I went to work creating a course to answer each question on my list. Some questions were basic, such as What is a Goal and why should I have one? Other questions were more complex, such as What is Credit, why is it important, and what steps do I need to take to have good credit?
I wrapped all of that into a course called Personal Finance for Beginners. Even though I created the course for teenagers, I decided to make it equally useful for adults who never had the chance to learn this information as a teenager.
I have used this course and its information to speak to teenagers from all over the country about money and learning how to use it. My goal is to equip as many teenagers as possible with the financial knowledge and skill they need to actually achieve their own Teenage Dream.
Money is not as hard to understand as some people think. But handling money properly is a skill that must be learned and used consistently to achieve the desired results.
I am dedicated to helping any financial beginner, and especially teenagers, achieve their financial goals.
If you have any questions at all about money or personal finances, or you are a teenager that needs a listening ear from an adult, please use the contact form below. I will do my best to respond to your question or concern within 72 hours.
Together we will make that Teenage Dream come alive!
Work With Me
Have a group of students in your youth group, middle/high school, or college classes that need to learn about money or personal finances? Learn how to book a speech here.
Want to learn how to dominate your money before it dominates you? Do you need to learn more about credit, debt, and money? See finance courses and coaching curriculum here.
1 : 1 Coaching
Are you a teen or young adult that feels a little lost about what choices to make or which direction you want your life to go? Would you like to know how to set goals, make plans, and finish what you start? See how here.