Bruce and Stephanie Petersen
I grew up rather poor in south Texas, Corpus Christi in a military family.
My parents divorced when I was in 4th grade and my sister and I stayed with my Mom who was a 9th-grade high school dropout, as such she had no skills being a former stay-at-home military Mom.
In 1982 after the divorce we moved into government-subsidized housing paying $35/month in rent. My Mom worked at the commissary bagging groceries for tips only and stocking cheese on the weekends for $2/hour.
Through all of this I never realized we were poor because of the phenomenal job my Mom did making sure we had what we needed (nothing extra). We kept ourselves warm in the morning by standing around the open door of the oven and weren’t allowed to run the heater or AC.
The part about not realizing we were poor changed forever while living in that government housing apartment complex.
One Saturday afternoon we had been out grocery shopping and when we arrived back home mid-afternoon I noticed a box in front of our door. Opening the box I saw a number of toys, puzzles and other things for children with a note from Toys for Tots wishing us a Merry Christmas.
Well that did it for me. I was 12 or 13 at the time, a time when boys are trying to find their place in life while going through puberty and all of the hormones that went with that. Needless to say, I didn’t handle this well at all. I was embarrassed at the reality that, holy shit, we are actually poor.
Weird that it took that damn box to realize it but here we were. I think that it may have been that experience at 13 years old that subconsciously drove me to make sure that never happened again. I wasn’t driven to be filthy rich or anything like that. I just never wanted that feeling again.
In fact one afternoon I noticed an ad in the newspaper mentioning annual percentage rates compounded quarterly on savings accounts at a local bank. Now, mind you, I was all of about 13-14 years of age at this point but I was intrigued and curious enough to call the bank and ask the person that answered the phone (probably a receptionist or teller) to please explain what the ad really meant. From that point on I was always interested in how money worked and loved seeing my little savings account grow every month.
In high school, I scraped by and barely got out but still decided that I HAD to go to community college because that’s what you were “supposed to do.” I was a horrible student and had no business being in school. I have never been able to thrive in a classroom environment and struggled again in college. After trying, half-assed, for a year and half I finally threw in the towel when I found a job as a stock broker in 1990.
Things were ok for the first few months as I was learning the ropes and doing ok for myself but then we went to war: Desert Storm. Being a full-commission broker that was still fairly new in the job I didn’t have an extensive book to help see me through the murky times when it was difficult to even give stock away. I began to not be able to pay my bills so I walked away from that and got a job at a bank as a part-time drive through bank teller making $5.00 per hour when day a friend threw me a lifeline and got me a great job in “RETAIL”.
I spent the next 18 years climbing the ladder of various companies before finally breaking down from working 80-110 hour weeks at the age of 43.
I gave my two week notice and packed up all of my belongings in a storage unit, rented a car and drove around the eastern half of the US for the next month and half with no plan except visiting the Baseball and Football Halls of Fame, spending two nights in Montreal and three days in Key West. I simply needed to decompress, clear my head and decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Fortunately about that time I read somewhere that the average Billionaire doesn’t figure out what it is they truly want to do until they were 43.
I WAS RIGHT ON TRACK!!!
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