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Getting started at age 18 (some advice)
Old 08-14-2014, 03:04 PM   #1
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Getting started at age 18 (some advice)

So I just graduated high school and I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life. For the longest time my answer to what career do you want to do is, well, nothing. No careers interest me. What does interest me is making music and writing books and spending time outdoors and going where ever I want to when I want to. But I want to do these things on my own time and without the pressures of making a profit. My goal since I can remember is to have freedom. To not be a slave to society and the predetermined lifestyle that is "good" for me.

So, with that in mind, I have become determined to retire in my 30's and live a life of financial independence. I have already begun the frugal part of this lifestyle. I recently moved out of my parents house and live with roommates in a small house. My total monthly budget is currently $1000.

The next step is income. I currently work a $9.10 an hour retail job. Obviously this won't do, so I've been trying to think of what I want to do next. There are several options. I could get an associates degree and become a dental hygienist or a medical imaging tech. This would allow me to get a salaried income the quickest (by age 20) and are the highest paying associates (avg. income around $70,000). However, I think I have ruled this option out, as the starting salaries are closer to $35,000-$45,000 and that just doesn't cut it for me. The other option is to get a bachelors degree in something high-paying. It must be high-paying because the loans I need to get the degree must be paid back in the first year of employment. One degree would be petroleum engineering. I could make nearly six figures right out of school. However, this profession does not remotely interest me. Something more attractive would be computer science, which is high paying (starting salaries $60K to $75K) and more interesting to me, plus it gives me freelance opportunities down the road should I ever need some extra money. My goal is to save $50K a year for ten years and reach $500K at least before age 35, but preferably by age 32.

Do you have any advice as far as income, degrees, college, and jobs go?

Also, I've always wanted the freedom to move around freely and go to other countries without the need of a job or a work visa. This lifestyle would allow me this freedom. However, the idea of owning a house is attractive to me as well. I would love to buy a house in cash and be the sole owner for as long as I wanted to. But do these two desires clash? Is it possible to do?

Thanks for your help and advice.
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Old 08-14-2014, 06:11 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum! I'm 64 so have been around the block a couple of times but there was a year when I was 18.

Your question is not at all uncommon because at 18 very few people have any idea of what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I can without reservation recommend a couple of books: What Color is Your Parachute? and What Color is Your Parachute for Teens. Admittedly I haven't read the second one but having read other books by the same author I'm certain it is worth your time. And check the library before spending any money on them.

Another item is that (and others will chime in on this) is beware of choosing a job just because it is high-paying. Yes a high income is nice but working at a job you loathe or bores you to tears will kill you just as surely as a bullet. At least the bullet is quick.

Any interest in the trades? People sometime sneer at an aspiration to be a plumber but boy are they needed. The young man in his early 30's who bought my FIL's house was a Master Electrician, and I'm pretty sure they don't give that certification out in Cracker Jack boxes.

When I was 18 and just out of high school I didn't have a clue either so I unloaded trucks at a department store loading dock before deciding that college might turn out better after all. Two years of community college got me a career as a police officer that I (for the most part) enjoyed. I did later get a B.S. degree though.

So don't feel like the Lone Ranger. Take some time - but not too much, you don't want to find yourself still "finding yourself" ten years from now - and think some about where you want to be in ten years and how you're going to get there.
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Old 08-14-2014, 07:08 PM   #3
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I would get the computer science degree if I were you. You could work in almost any type of business, work for yourself, etc.

Your desires of owning a house and moving around freely do clash. But not if you get a condo where you have minimal if any maintenance

Sounds like you're on the right track in thinking all of this through at such a young age. Good luck and don't hesitate to come back with more questions!
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Old 08-14-2014, 07:09 PM   #4
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+1 on trying to find a career that you like, or at least can tolerate. Makes it easier to get up in the morning. STEM careers can be lucrative, but you need to have a fundamental interest in your specialty or you'll be outbid by folks who do.

An entry level job at a Fortune 100 company can provide decent income, more job security than with small/startup operations, and provide the opportunity space to do other, more lucrative things.

+1 on the trades, too. You could also use that experience and money made to invest in rental property, which can be a PITA but a fairly steady income producer if you buy thoughtfully.

Whatever you do, practice the frugal thing (good start, by the way), know your expenses, and try to make enough over them to save substantially.
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Old 08-14-2014, 09:53 PM   #5
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It seems like an illogical thing to start off your adult life in debt. Look at the expense of going to college...and I mean the entire expense(transportation, loss of income due to working around classes, etc.) and compare those figures to what you can expect to earn. Also, is the field you want to go into in demand? I know folks with advanced college degrees that are working part time because they can't land a full time job.

In my case I learned to live below my means. Avoid borrowing money. Learn frugality now. Do not saddle yourself with a mate that does not share your goals!
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Old 08-14-2014, 10:19 PM   #6
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I wish I'd had anything close to your perspective when I was 18. I remember being torn between focusing on a major that would pay off quicker, or one that was intrinsically more interesting to me. Ended up starting with the first, getting bored with it after a co-op job, then getting a degree in the more interesting area, and then ending up working in the more lucrative area for a career anyway.

Do your homework before going too deeply into computer science, though. And by that I mean talking to people who are really working in the field, so that you choose a specialty that is 1.) likely not to become obsolete and 2.) difficult to offshore. During my 30+ year IT career, I watched many software development jobs move to cheaper labor pools. Also, constant retraining on advancing technology is part of the job, so it helps to be a quick study.

One tough but lucrative job appears to be nursing - all us baby boomers working our way through the aging process. I believe one of the members of this board retired early due to the income and availability of nursing jobs.
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Old 08-14-2014, 10:25 PM   #7
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A BS in Data Assurance or similar cyber security field can be cost effective and might be more interesting than straight CS. Certainly the demand is good.
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Old 08-15-2014, 06:14 AM   #8
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The lack of a bachelor's degree will significantly compromise your ability to obtain well-paying work for however long you need to work. And obtaining a well-paying job is one of the keys for most early retirees.

So... I would first recommend two years of community college. During that time you can continue to evaluate which degree/field you would like to pursue.

Finish your bachelor degree at an in-state four-year university. Dedicate yourself fully to this effort. Work hard. Take as many course credits per semester as you can manage (the opposite of current trends, which are to take light loads and take 5-6 years to obtain a bachelors). Work part-time when you're not in school or studying. Minimize the student loan debt you have to take on. Finish sooner if you can.

Recognize that most young people your age don't have a clue as to what they would like to do. You're not alone.

Recognize that most jobs, for most people, are tolerable but not wonderful. Pretty much every job has its good parts and and its bad parts. There is no perfect job. And even good jobs come with "the grind" - the necessity to get up every morning and go in, whether you feel like it or not. "The grind" was, for me, the worst part about working.

Beyond that, it's mostly a matter of establishing a very low expense footprint - which is directly related to minimizing debt - and maximizing your savings rate. To retire in your 30's, especially, absent remarkable luck, requires an extremely aggressive savings outlook.

Finally, don't not enjoy life as it rolls along. Some of the things a young adult is faced with - connecting with a partner, having children, establishing a home, etc. - are often very counter to being able to retire early. But they also hold much of what makes life worth living, so don't dismiss them out of hand.
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Old 08-17-2014, 07:26 AM   #9
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You've talked about jobs a lot but just a little bit about savings. The most important thing is to start early as possible, as in the first year you have earned income you should start a Roth IRA. Saving early and often will help you tremendously with the power of compounding. My two youngest started Roth's at 17.

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Old 08-21-2014, 01:24 PM   #10
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At 18 I was working at a factory, and had no daydream of ever becoming an attorney. Then I went into the military (Coast Guard). While on active duty I earned my bachelors degree & went on to law school. I went into the reserves, did a little private practice, then a career & retirement as a federal civil service employee.

A point of my babble is if you do not know what you want to do, or what degree to go for, why not take a shot at some time in the military. In the Coast Guard you would probably end up on a ship, where yes you'll sweep decks, paint, stand watch, etc. You'll also be working beside mechanics, radio operators, medical personnel, administrative personnel, a wide exposure of potential jobs / careers.
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Old 08-21-2014, 01:38 PM   #11
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I have kids your age. They don't have your aspirations, but are doing fine.

But with your gung-ho attitude, I wanted to mention something that I had a conversation with young folks your age just last week: transactional sex. Lots of easy money to be made with that especially for younger folks.

But be careful or this might happen:

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Old 08-22-2014, 02:28 PM   #12
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I work in the restaurant industry in Las Vegas. I do have a four year degree but it obviously isn't necessary. Being that you're 18 you won't be able to serve until you're 21 but bussers and food runners make 30-40k per year. If you are good at it you can make 40-80k as a server by the time you are 23-25 years old. Las Vegas also has a very low cost of living. I do recommend getting at least a 2 year degree. The nice thing is that all the action happens at night and you are free to take your classes during the day. The only downside is that this kind of money is really only possible in Las Vegas. In L.A., Chicago, or New York you might make as much but your cost of living will double. Also in many states servers only make $2.13 per hour. Stay away from these states. It's just something to think about. Also here are some links from MMM.

50 Jobs over $50,000 – Without a Degree (Part 1)

50 Jobs over $50,000 – Without a Degree (Part 2)
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Old 08-22-2014, 02:46 PM   #13
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Community college. Take some employment interest/aptitude tests there to zero in on what really fits you. Find some cooperative education programs in that field where you work part of the time for $$ and take classes part of the time. Get a roommate to share housing expenses. Saving $50k a year might be a little unrealistic right off the bat but perhaps you could catch up in the higher earning years.
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Old 08-22-2014, 04:15 PM   #14
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Generally most creative people don't like to be defined by tests. This young fellow will need to find his/her own way. Also the military is not an option for creative types.
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Old 08-22-2014, 04:25 PM   #15
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Also the military is not an option for creative types.
How do you figure that? I have worked with many creative sailors - musicians, artists, writers - who used the Navy for four years to get the GI bill and a little bit of money in their pocket before they pursued their goals. It's a means to an end for them, but they did very well, did their time and got out.

Sorry, but your statement is stereotypical and narrow-minded.
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Old 08-22-2014, 04:34 PM   #16
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I have lots of family in the military, three generations in fact. They all walk the company line. I have a more contrarian attitude that wouldn't fit within the military structure. I auditioned for the Navy band once upon a time and I've met other military musicians. This kid wants to write books, make music, and spend time outdoors. The OP also talks about wanting freedom, not the type of freedom that the military provides (freedom for all) but freedom to do what they want. I respect the military and there are creative and innovative people in the military. It just isn't in the line that the OP is headed. My .02 cents.
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Old 08-23-2014, 07:50 PM   #17
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Generally most creative people don't like to be defined by tests. This young fellow will need to find his/her own way. Also the military is not an option for creative types.
Interesting. First, the OP said:
Quote:
I could get an associates degree and become a dental hygienist or a medical imaging tech.... The other option is to get a bachelors degree in something high-paying.... petroleum engineering. I could make nearly six figures right out of school. However, this profession does not remotely interest me. Something more attractive would be computer science, which is high paying (starting salaries $60K to $75K) and more interesting....
So surely he/she might be helped with some testing to choose among these fields being considered: dental hygiene, medical imaging, petroleum engineering, or computer science, none of which are in the arts.

And secondly, DH left teaching to serve in the Army. And then used the G.I. Bill to oay for art school, which led to a career. In the creative arts. So just maybe the OP might consider that option too. Although he/she has not been back here since making the initial post....
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Old 08-24-2014, 05:57 PM   #18
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And secondly, DH left teaching to serve in the Army. And then used the G.I. Bill to oay for art school, which led to a career. In the creative arts. So just maybe the OP might consider that option too. Although he/she has not been back here since making the initial post....
Of course my opinions about the military are my own, YMMV. Also there will always be exceptions to every rule. Interesting about the OP, I thought it was written a little to well for an 18 year old.
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Old 08-24-2014, 06:33 PM   #19
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I have lots of family in the military, three generations in fact. They all walk the company line. I have a more contrarian attitude that wouldn't fit within the military structure. I auditioned for the Navy band once upon a time and I've met other military musicians. This kid wants to write books, make music, and spend time outdoors. The OP also talks about wanting freedom, not the type of freedom that the military provides (freedom for all) but freedom to do what they want. I respect the military and there are creative and innovative people in the military. It just isn't in the line that the OP is headed. My .02 cents.

I am certainly glad you've made that determination on his behalf based solely on the experience of relatives.
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Old 08-24-2014, 06:43 PM   #20
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I am certainly glad you've made that determination on his behalf based solely on the experience of relatives.
You're right, I was broadcasting my personal bias just as you are now. Let's both call it quits.
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