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When Natalie Breen was a teenager, she made a conscious decision not to go into debt.
That meant lots of sacrifices along the way. But today, at 26, she believes those sacrifices were worth it.
“The decisions I made in college allow me to spend freely now,” says Natalie. “After I put away a portion of my paycheck into my 401k and other investments, I don’t use a budget. I go on about ten trips per year, I eat out and I stay in nice hotels. I attend concerts and get seats up front.”
Check out Natalie’s money journey:
What is your current net worth?
“I am an Account Manager for a large commercial real estate firm. I manage the accounts for roughly 140 local clients in the Greater Boston area.”
“My pay varies because I work on commission. But I recently hit $100,000 a year on my W2 for the first time which was a money goal I had since graduating college in 2014. My first job out of college was at a downtown ad agency where I made $37,000 per year. So this is a big jump for me.”
How did you avoid going into debt?
“The fact that I have no debt is the result of being intentional and making an informed decision when I was a teenager.”
“When I was applying to colleges and was accepted into a number of them, my dad took a scrap of paper and wrote down each school with four columns.
The column included: the total market cost, any financial aid or scholarship that would be applied, what my parents planned to contribute, and finally how much debt I would be in when I graduated.”
“I stared at that scrap of paper for a week. I wanted to go to Northeastern University. But staring at the six figure debt number next to it I ultimately chose the school that would leave me with no debt.”
“I got my degree in marketing from Suffolk University. It was not my first choice, but I thrived. Looking back, it has allowed me to jumpstart my adult life. I do have a credit card, but I never carry a balance and only use it to help build my credit score.
“I moved back home and commuted to college to save money on rent and I have never bought a new car.”
“Some may look at this as big sacrifices but these decisions allow me to spend freely. After I put away a portion of my paycheck into my retirement account, I don’t use a budget.
I splurge on experiences, always. This past Saturday, I brought my brother to see The Lion King on Broadway. I paid $600 for our two tickets but it was a memory that will outlast the time it takes me to earn that $600 back.”
What is the best money book you’ve read?
“The best money book I’ve ever read is You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. I realized my mentality about money was limiting me. I also used to listen to Gaby Dunn’s ‘Bad with Money’ podcast religiously.”
What is the biggest money mistake you’ve made?
“My biggest money mistake, which I am in the midst of right now, is letting $100,000 sit in my 0.2% interest savings account when it should have been invested in a portfolio given my age and ability to see a long term return.”
What is the best money decision you’ve made?
“The best decision I made was opening a 401k when I was 20 and learning to live within my means.”
Do you have a side hustle?
“I don’t have a side hustle, but even with my full time job I have never turned down a babysitting gig. And I still do those market research surveys where they gift you money for participating.
Every dollar matters to me because I know the more I save and invest now the bigger the dividends will be later.”
Strategies for Building Wealth
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Next, you’ll want to grow your income. Maybe you want to create a passive income stream, start a business, land a new job, or take an online class that will help you command a higher salary. Whichever you choose, the right tools will help you get on the right track in your money journey.