Money story: “I’m 21 and pursuing the path to financial independence.”

This guest post from Cody is part of the “money stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all stages of financial maturity.

In January, I attended Camp FI in Florida. While most of the attendees were thirty- or forty-somethings pursuing early retirement, one young man stood out. We were all amazed at the presence of Cody Berman, a 21-year-old hustler who defies the Millennial stereotype. Cody works hard, saves tons, and has a vision for his future. I asked if he’d be willing to share his story with GRS readers. Here it is.

From a young age, my parents instilled the value of saving into me. Throughout my early childhood, my father would match my contributions to my savings account dollar for dollar. This made me excited to save birthday money and miscellaneous earnings because the money would double. (Thanks, Dad!)

When I turned eleven, I started my first job working in the snack shack at my uncle’s local disc golf course; I earned five bucks an hour. Throughout middle school and high school, I worked various jobs and saved nearly every penny. At age sixteen, I bought my first car with the money I had accumulated over the years. I still drive that car to this day.

During high school, I took several AP courses and received college credit for them. If I had only known then what I know now, I would have taken nearly every AP course and CLEP exam available. When it came time to select a college, I was torn between Bentley University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I calculated that Bentley would have put me in approximately $80,000 of debt after four years but that I could attend UMass Amherst virtually for free. My frugality won. I chose the latter.

Making the Most out of College

Upon my arrival at UMass Amherst, I joined as many clubs and organizations as possible. Simultaneously, I obtained a job as a teacher’s assistant to financially support myself. After several weeks of attending dozens of meetings for multiple groups, I decided that the Investment Club, Fixed Income Fund, and Finance Society were particularly interesting to me. [J.D.’s notes: Where were clubs like these when I was in college?]

I soon realized that in order to get a leg up on my peers, I needed an internship. I applied to nearly thirty positions and heard back from only one. That summer, I worked in a low-tier operations role at a small branch of a major bank.

I came back sophomore year with increased confidence and a motivation to achieve the best internship possible. This time, I applied to nearly 35 positions and received responses from about 20% of them. Initially, none of my top prospects were interested in me.

Then, one day in early April, I received an email from a private equity company who asked me to come in for an interview. Three interviews later and the position was mine. That summer, I commuted two hours each way to my internship and worked long days. I thought I was on my way to become a rich, successful investment banker. What could be better, right?

Finding Financial Independence

During my junior year, I networked relentlessly and received offers from various top-tier investment firms. I knew that whichever firm I chose to work for following my junior year would probably be the firm I received a full-time offer from. I aimed for high-caliber, high-paying jobs in New York City.

It was during this year that I…

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COO @oneqube | Angel Investor | Proud mom | Advisor @TheTutuProject | Let's Go #NYRangers
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