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When I take a step back and consider your financial origin story, I don’t disagree at all with your assessment that you’re doing alright. Sure, you racked up some debt, but your income has stabilized and you have a plan going forward. More than anything, what I see is a family that took a while to figure out what it wanted to do career-wise.
I don’t know if you remember this from when we were kids, but I think I always had big aspirations. I don’t remember thinking about getting rich, so it wasn’t about money, but I do remember wanting to do something exciting, like becoming an astronaut or an archeologist (in the mold of Indiana Jones). I haven’t quite made it to space (yet!) or to hidden treasure, but the desire to explore stuck with me.
The other factor is that I always wanted to be really good at something — to be competent, and in that way “successful.” Earning a high income wasn’t the goal, it came about by accident! It took me a while to figure out my career path. I kind of meandered through college and grad school, pursuing my interests, and then found myself in the right place and the right time to land a career starting in 2002, at age 27. Since then, I’ve steadily advanced, and my base salary has ballooned from $39,000 per year to $140,000 now, from around $19 an hour in 2002 to $70 an hour in 2017 (2017 isn’t pictured — the increase is due to a recent promotion).
A note about the charts in this post. The numbers aren’t simply my salary and aren’t exact in terms of total income. I drew the info from tax returns and social security statements, so what you’re looking at is more like Adjusted Gross Income from salary and investments. For example, in 2012 I had a good sized investment gain so that was my highest year. The past 2 years, I’ve been working less than 40 hours a week, which explains the drop.
I’ll add in Mrs. Rich’s income later, but first I want to explain more about my journey, because it was a bit odd, and I think I’ve learned something about education, work, and role models.
So let’s go back to the beginning. The very beginning.
Early Years: Learning, Working, and Following
The Big Bang.
Birth. Obviously! You know this part but for our readers: I was born into a small farming community in Minnesota, the last of 6 kids. The baby of the family, le benjamin as they say in French. The term is a biblical reference — Benjamin was the final son of Jacob by several years. Theology and French will become more important later in my story.
Why mention birth?? Because I’ll never discount the aspect of luck in life. My family was healthy, supportive, fairly well educated (compared to previous generations), and hard working. I wasn’t born on the Kennedy compound (probably a good thing), but to be born in the USA in 1975 with a decent genetic makeup and a nurturing environment is, in the history of human civilization, a winning lottery ticket.
In addition to sports and video games, which you and I played for countless hours, my early years were dominated by 2 activities: School and Farming.