In Part 1 I shared my early days when I left home, attended college, landed my first job, and got married. I spent one year working in the office of an insurance investigation firm with a $20,000 annual paycheck. My new marriage was unhappy, but I hoped it would get better. I quickly learned that a salary of $20,000 wasn’t going to get the job done. Although I made fun of my humble beginnings in Part 1, the truth is that it would take more than 10 years before my net worth would return to that level again! How is that possible? As you will see, I went on a major borrowing spree.
So, what does a history major do when he can’t think of anything else to do with his degree and he wants to make a lot more money? He applies to law school. Before applying, I moved back to my home state of Tennessee so that I would qualify for in-state tuition. My company offered me a private investigator position in Tennessee so that I could continue to work with them while I prepared to attend law school. My (then) wife decided that she didn’t have anything better to do so she applied to law school as well. We bought a house in Tennessee instead of renting because we heard that renting was wasteful. However, we had no money at all. “That’s okay,” the bank said, “We can get you in that house with no money down!” So we did just that.
After a year, we both started law school. We borrowed every dime we could get our hands on. We borrowed for tuition, books, fees, house payments, house repairs, property taxes, insurance, and anything else we needed for 3 years! As if that was not enough, we decided to bring a baby into our troubled marriage. My first child was born in the middle of my second year of law school. Of course, I borrowed for that too. And it was not just the medical bills. I leased a new SUV because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Why did I borrow all this money? I thought I was going to be a wildly successful attorney some day and be more than capable of paying it all back. I remember sitting in the cafeteria telling my classmates that if I could ever earn $50,000 per year I would never want for more. It would be twice my pre-law salary and I would be rich (so I thought).
After three long years, I graduated from law school with more than $170,000 of household school debt and moved back to North Carolina to take my first full-time legal job. My starting salary was $45,000 and I thought I had “arrived,” so I decided to take on even more debt. I leased another car before I even passed the bar! But that’s not even close to the worst part. In fact, as I will discuss in Part 3, I decided to get into the music business … on the side … with no savings. Stay tuned!