How did we get here? Part 2, Our Individual Financial Lives

In Part 1 of our financial journey, I talked about our family histories and attitudes to money and finance. In this post, I’m going to describe our financial decisions since we moved out of home. We both moved internationally, away from our families, at age 17, so that’s where I’ll start this portion of the story.

In 1998, I was lucky to receive a scholarship to spend 2 years at an international high school in a big Asian city. At the time my father was unemployed and money was tight at home. Luckily, the scholarship was a generous one, covering airfares as well as tuition and housing. My parents funded my living expenses at $30US every 2 weeks, which was enough to cover the cost of transportation around the city and the occasional meal out – our school had plenty of activities that kept me very busy. I did teach english for a while, but didn’t really need extra money, so I wasn’t extra motivated to pursue it. I funded my vacations by selling meat pies at a high-profile sports event – those two to three days’ work would bring in more than $US500, which was plenty for a few weeks’ travel in the region.

Our school’s student body ranged from children of Middle Eastern princes to people whose home address was a refugee camp, so while i had less than some, i also had more than many.

After my two years there, I was again incredibly fortunate – I was offered a scholarship to study in the US, majoring in a humanities subject at a liberal arts college in the Midwest. That scholarship, a work-study award, and a contribution of around $2000 a year from my parents (in addition to the continuing $30/fortnight allowance), covered all of my expenses during the school year. I stayed here most summers, funding my stay with various (legal!) work arrangements.

So, I was able to cover my expenses by living relatively frugally and budgeting my work-study funds, which meant i could graduate without student loans. But I didn’t save anything while at college either.

H1Worker also left home at 17 – he came to the US, to attend school on the East Coast. He started out in a humanities discipline, but after a year of study he decided that post-BA employment prospects and financial security were more important to him than his interest in the discipline. He transferred to a different school, where he majored in computer engineering. During his first semester, he was supported by his uncle and assisted with his business in return. Later, he supported himself through on-campus work (relatively well-paid at his college) and spent one summer on a paid internship at a large company in his field. He also pursued various investment activities with groups of friends, with a varying degree of success.

H1Worker recieved a partial tuition scholarship. The remainder of his college expenses were covered by his parents, who raised the money by starting a new business venture!

Upon graduation, H1Worker was recruited by an IT company in the Midwest, at a starting salary of about $60,000. Within a year, he had paid his parents back for their contribution to his education – a total of almost $25,000. Even though his parents hadn’t taken out loans to fund his education, he felt it was important to pay them back.

This was how things stood when, one fine autumn day in 2004, the two of us met on a Midwestern city corner. One thing led to another, as these things tend to do… and 8 months later, we moved in together, adopted a dog, and got engaged, all in the same month! And a new financial partnership was born.

In Part 3, I’ll talk about merging finances, and our financial decisions between when we first moved in together 18 months ago and today.


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