My Story and Why I Decided to Invest - Part 1

When it comes to investing, getting started can be hard. First there are questions like this:

Should I use a broker? If so, which one should I use?

Should I invest in mutual funds? Bonds? Individual stocks?

Is the market too high right now to invest in? Is the bubble going to burst?
Should I pay my mortgage off sooner instead?

The answer to these questions depends on what point in life you are in, but I believe everyone should do some form of investing. Here is a quick back story on me and why I decided to invest:

There will be a few parts to this story and it will all make sense at the end (I hope)

Growing up for me was pretty easy. I grew up the oldest of 3 children in a middle class family in Brush Prairie, Washington. Food was always on the table, my parents were very supportive and paid for all the activities I wanted to do whether it be Sports, Summer Camps, or going to the movies with friends. Aside from a small list of daily chores (that I half-assed regularly) I never really had to earn anything growing up. I was lazy in school, never doing my homework and getting by with a 2.8 GPA. I pretty much skipped my entire senior year because I found this magical green herb that made activities more enjoyable and I figured I could play video games all day until my friends got out of school. I had the life, I thought.

I somehow graduated High School, and the time came where all my friends decided they would go to 4 year universities. My parents and I got in countless arguments about me going to college. All they wanted me to do was apply to 3 colleges, but just the process of applying made me feel disgusted.

"I already did 4 years of High School and I hated it, how will college be any different?" I thought.

"So when I get out of this 4 years of misery, I am going to have to go to a job I probably wont like, AND have to pay a ton of money back on my student loans? Hell no!"
I was a pretty negative person during these years of my life, and even more stubborn. So I decided to not even apply to a university, go to community college so my dad wouldn't kick me out of the house, and visit my friends colleges on the weekends (most of them were only 3-6 hours away). It was a lot of fun, and I was developing horrible habits. I was drinking heavily and doing all sorts of drugs. See a few of my friends also decided to stay behind and not go to university. They either didnt have jobs or worked at fast food restaurants. They were good people, just lost in life like I was. Some of them had one thing in common, they liked to use a drug called Heroin. I saw this drug take one of my friends lives, and ruin countless others. I knew not to get involved with this drug fortunately, but I still hung out with my friends that were using. I got a "sweet" Minimum wage + commission job at GNC selling vitamins. I was able to save money and was still going to community college. Things were getting turned around a little bit. Because I worked in a "health" store, I felt more compelled to lift weights so my customers would take me more seriously when I offered advice on which products to use. I also had learned one key component from my dad growing up, that saving money was important. I remember having over $8,000 in the bank at the age of 19. It felt good.

However, I kept my partying up. I would often come in every Sunday morning (I was the only one who worked Sundays) hungover in the same outfit I wore the night before. I remember throwing up in a trash can by the cash register in front of a customer once. Luckily he just laughed. I ended up getting fired for oversleeping on a day when the regional manager was in the store.

I proceeded to blow all my savings on party drugs. I also got in a car accident in  my own driveway that cost me $3,000 out of pocket. I decided to just not work and not go to school, I wanted to just relax and smoke pot all day. I was only 4 credits away from my associated degree, but I did not want to step foot in another school. I was a LOSER.

My idea of a fun night

One day in early July when I was 19, my dad decided that enough was enough. He told me if I didnt have a job by August 1st, he was kicking me out of my house. He had told me this multiple times before, but this time I knew he was serious. I could see it in his eyes. He also told me every day until August 1st. All I had to do was get a job, but I didnt. I applied to Walmart and Safeway online and didnt hear back from either.

I had a really awkward 20th birthday on July 28th. This was probably the lowest point in my life. I remember thinking to myself and imagining my 23rd birthday. I imagined my dad being really proud of me for all the steps I had taken to improving my life. I also remember crying as I emailed myself telling myself everything was going to be ok. I was scared.

So August 1st came, I packed my car with all my clothes. My first stop was WINCO foods. I bought a few things, I can only remember three; a 24 pack of Top Ramon, peanut butter, and a gallon of Arizona Ice Tea. Then I went to hang out with my friends. It was a nice summer day. I told them all my situation and one of them offered to get me an interview at a place they used to work. It was a boiler room, telemarketing job. He told me I would probably get fired in less than a month, but it would get me back in my parents house. I remember being excited about the opportunity. I slept that night in a 24 hour fitness parking lot. My parents were still paying for my gym membership. A few days went by of eating Top Ramon dry out of the bag. I had my interview, and I was pretty excited. I went to the public library and printed out map quested directions and my bleak resume. I showed up 30 minutes early, and then had to wait another 45 minutes for the Branch Manager to get out of a meeting. The office was in decent shape. It was on the top floor of a two story building. I was nervous, this was my first interview for an office job. The Branch Manager was different than I expected. He told me there was a lot of mediocre sales people there and he was looking for a young ambitious person to spark some life into his sales floor. I told him I am that person. I would have told him anything to get the job. Before I left his office, he offered me the job. It was for $2,000 a month, more money than I had ever made in my life.

The first day I was handed a call-script and a sheet of paper with phone numbers. A senior salesman, Tim told me to spend 5 minutes reading it, then to hop on the phone and start making calls. He said to sit at an empty desk and to start dialing off the sheet of paper.

"I dont have a computer?" I asked. Everyone else had a computer.

"You dont need one." He said.

I was confused. "Can I get a headset?"

"Let's see if you will last, then we will get you a headset." Tim said with a smirk.

I read the script, then headed over to an empty desk. I stared at the phone numbers on the sheet of paper for 15 minutes. Was this really what I wanted to be doing? I had never seen an environment like this. Some salesmen were screaming at the top of their lungs, yelling at their prospects. Others were huddled underneath their desks talking to prospects, trying to block out the rowdiness around them.

What I began to find out about this job, was that it was a high-turnover position. I saw over 150 people get fired in my 1 year there. My manager publicly fired an entire row of people once because none of them were on the phone. This means that employees were always on the brink of getting fired, which caused them to act more manic, creating a very intense work environment.

I remember my first phone call I ever made. A woman answered in the credit department. The scrip said to say an 'Attention Getting Statement.' This was pretty much as it sounds, a statement to get the other person's attention. There were a few examples on the script, and many more I came up with. Here are a few examples:

  • How in the world are you doing today?
  • So your the king/queen of the headache department over there!
  • So you're the one cracking the whip in the credit department!

I actually learned to enjoy saying these, but the first one I chose went horribly wrong. The lady I was talking to was very soft spoken. A simple, "Hey Julie, happy (almost) Friday" in a soft tone would have done the trick. But I decided to do say what everyone around me was saying.

"So you're the one running the show over there!" I bellowed.

She immediately started grilling me about how unprofessional I was and hung up. What a great first call.

Over time, I actually started to enjoy the job. I got to talk to people from all over the USA and Canada. I was making people laugh, learning a lot about the business world and I was closing fairly large deals. By my 3rd month there, I had become a top performer. I was more confident than I had ever been.

This continued for the next several months and the checks started flying in. I started dating a girl, who quickly became my girlfriend. Life was good.

Then my girlfriend and I started having problems, and I let it affect my work. Her and I eventually broke up and I let it destroy me. All my life I have had anxiety and depression, so I tend to blow things out of proportion. I ended up quitting my job and sleeping for 18 hours a day.

A few weeks later, shortly after my 21st birthday, my dad and I went to Vegas. It was a lot of fun and showed me that there was more out in the world for me to live for. I came back, decided to get on anti-depressants and get my life going in the right direction.

I had a goal to buy a house since I was 16, so I decided to make that a reality. I had about 8 uncashed checks in my car, some of them were over 180 days old so I had to get new ones issued. After cashing all the checks, I found out that I had over $10,000 saved up. With an FHA loan and a good credit score, which I had, that could easily be a down payment for a $100,000+ house in Washington. I was excited to make this happen. There was just one problem, one of the requirements was that I had a job in the same field for at least a year. I was currently unemployed. So I immediately start levying for my job back. My intention was to get the job, get my house, then quit and have 2 roommates pay my rent for me while I lived in the third room.

There was one problem. I did not exactly leave my previous job on good terms. Turns out, texting your boss "Im sorry but I quit" at 10am on a Monday morning doesnt leave a good taste in their mouth. My boss told me no over the phone. He told my friends who worked there no when they asked him if he would re-consider about me. Finally, I decided to surprise him in person and win my job back. He literally told me to get out of his office. My goal was about to be crushed.

As I was walking out of the building, on of my previous co-workers stopped me. He was a large Italian man who loved chain smoking cigarettes.

"I hear you want back in the collection biz." He said as if he had an opportunity for me.

"Yes I do!" I replied.

"Call Ray" he said taking out his cell phone. "He runs a good operation across the river."

He gave me Ray's number, and I called him that day to set up an interview.

The day of the interview, I pulled up to what I believed to be the parking lot of about a 7 story building. I called Ray to see what floor he was on. He told me he would meet me in the parking lot, that he was smoking a cigarette out by his car. I looked around and saw a 40 something man in jeans and a sports blazer smoking a cigarette by an old Jaguar.

Ray greeted me with a cigarette and we started chatting.

"You like the Jag?" Ray asked proudly. "You start working for me you will get one someday."

We went up to the 4th floor and into Ray's office he called an "executive suite."

I took a quick look at the sales floor and they all seemed pretty quite and miserable.

We did the interview with the door open and he started by asking me to handle his objections. I started role playing with him, speaking fairly loudly. I was used to having to handle these objections with a loud proud tone because of the chaos that was around me at my previous job.

A guy poked his head in. "I remember this guy." He said with a smile. I had worked with him previously before he decided to come work for this company.

The interview was going well when another guy I hadn't seen before came in and started asking me questions. He was wearing a pink shirt with a black tie and was very confident in the way he spoke. He had me come in his office and he started talking about his career and how he got to where he way. I was unsure who the owner was now. At first I thought it was Ray, but I was beginning to believe that this guy, Brian, owned the company.

Brian seemed successful and he was funny. He reminded me a lot of Stephen Colbert, in both the way he looked and acted. He hired me on the spot. I was filled with excitement. I could finally buy my house.

Something that we failed to do was negotiate a salary. On my first day I was talking to the people on our smoke break and they all said they made $10 an hour and only worked 25 hours a week. This was not going to be enough income for me to buy my house. I knew I had to stand out so I could get my $2,000 a month salary.

My first day their was probably the hardest I ever worked in my three years at this company and everyone could tell. I probably made over 300 dials from 7am to 5pm. My goal was simple, to close one deal cold calling from a list. It didn't matter how much the deal was for, it only mattered that I made the statement that I was different from everyone else there. I closed a $536 deal (very small) at about 4:30pm that day. Brian came up to me and asked me to come into his office.

He said he was pleased with my performance and that he needed more people like me around there. I told him I was making $2,000 a month previously, and asked him point blank if he could give that to me. Without hesitating he said yes. Now it was official, I was buying my first house.

I moved out of my parents and in with a friend a few days later. It wasn't a forced move by my parents, I just felt it was time to start being self dependent. I paid $350 a month to live with two of my friends. I had my own room, that had almost nothing in it. I slept on a yoga mat with a sleeping bag. My clothes were scattered all over the room. I had a 24 pack of Top Ramon in my closet at all times.

I did most of my shopping at the dollar tree. I would buy a 3 liter (yes, 3 liter) bottle of coke almost everyday, along with some frozen pizza pockets, breakfast sandwiches and corn dogs. I also bought their $1 energy drinks daily. I established this diet when I was 21, and would continue to eat some form of it for about four more years.

During my stay at my friends house, I only did about six things: I worked, ate, slept, played video games, partied, and looked for a home to buy. I had a great credit score, and the housing market was down, so I knew I could get a pretty nice home.

On January 26th, 2011, four months into my stay at my friends house, I had finally closed on my house. I was beyond excited. The home was 1,115 sq ft; 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, with a huge backyard that overlooked an orchard. It was about a 20 minute drive to Portland, Oregon where a lot of jobs were. I bought the place for $132,000. My mortgage was $906 a month. After paying for electricity, trash, internet, ect it came out to around $1,100 a month. Now I just had to find two roommates. I had one girl, Tamber, I previously worked with who agreed to move in with me and pay me $700 a month until I found one more roommate who would pay $550, which would bring her cost down to $350. That would be $900 of the $1,100 cost and I owned an appreciating piece of property.

About three months later, Tamber invited a friend of hers, Jake over to play poker. We got to talking about the available room, and he was excited about the opportunity to move in. He paid me $550 that day. Apparently, he had just moved out of his parents house and all his belongings were in his car at the time, so the timing was perfect.

Over the next 7 years, I would make many mistakes. The first big one involved Jake.

My house, where real life really began


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