Two slices and a can soda for $2.75 or stick with just a slice of pizza for $1 – tax included (who said the dollar was weak?). While in line at 2 Bros. Pizza, I thought about how I had gotten to this point. I was two years out of school and what felt like underemployed at Dolphin Marketing. I had graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics hoping to become a Personal Banker or a Financial Services Representative. Application after application, my resume was swallowed into the Taleo vortex and the firms that interviewed me went in a different direction (one even sent me a rejection letter BEFORE my interview) although they were kind enough to “wish me the best in my future endeavors” (whatever that meant).
As I took a sip of my ginger ale and let my 2 slices cool, I noticed a familiar face entering the pizzeria. It was my college friend Rich, alongside his fiance. As it turns out they were in the area shopping for wedding rings and like I, they were looking for a quick bite before heading home. Having the same major we saw each other often and naturally struck up a friendship. It had been a while since I saw Rich, after college he moved back to New York City while I stayed upstate. While catching up, careers came up and Rich worked at a security systems company, which we’ll call Siren Security, and to my luck, they were hiring. The role was as a Customer Service Rep in a 24-hour call center. Starting wage was $15/hr ($31,200/yr), solid benefits and potential for growth. He had been with the company for 2 years and liked it, there was however one drawback.
This position operated on a relief schedule, you worked your shift and leave once your scheduled relief arrived. If your relief called out “sick” you were stuck working the shift. This could be unfavorable having to work 16 hours, go home then come back for your regularly scheduled shift all within 8 hours. However if you did get stuck the second shift was all overtime. Additionally, you could sign up for overtime whenever people went on vacation, due to the large staff, overtime was frequently available. I saw this “drawback” as my opportunity to crush my debt. Each overtime shift was one dollar closer to financial freedom. My immediate thought was: “when can I start’”?
Once employed, there was a six week training period. After, I started my regular shift (4pm to Midnight with Wednesdays and Thursdays off). Thus began the grind. Over the next coming years I worked over 1200+ hours of overtime, applying every dollar I could to eradicate my student loan. I had to miss many events (birthdays, weddings, vacations), regular holidays which most of my friends had off (Independence day, Memorial day, etc.) unless if they fell on my days off, I was working. During one period I worked 22 consecutive days, I would wake up not knowing what day of the week it was I just knew I had to get to work. My coworkers thought of me as “insane” that I was “working to hard” that I should “live a little”. While maybe certain elements of these statements were true, I also knew this, I could not be on the standard 10 year student loan repayment plan. Even if the “interest rate was low”, I had no interest in paying interest.
And then it happened.
Three years and 7 months after graduation I made my final student loan payment. Weeks later I received my paid in full letter and the promissory note I had signed when I was 18 years old. Today, a frequent reminder of both financial mischief and dogged perseverance.
Today, I am still employed at Siren Security, having been promoted from the call center to a client facing role. I GREATLY appreciated the overtime as it helped accelerate my loan repayment and establish my emergency fund. However, the traditional work model of “9-to-5 until 65” is not a plan I want a subscription for. There has to be another way, something else, something more. While I am unsure as to what that “thing” is, this will be my road to discovery, along with my thoughts on this thing we call personal finance, one slice at a time.
Thanks for reading!