Get a Job

On May 4th, 2000, I turned 15 years old. It was time to stop slacking and start getting a job.

I was a very financially adept, even as a young child. When I was very young, one of my favorite things to do was calculate my net worth. I would buy a Beckett and add up all the values of my baseball cards, and find out how much money my collection was worth. Sadly, none of those cards were ever really worth anything and I ended up throwing them away because I hate clutter. The point is, I was always very interested in money.

My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so I knew I would have to pay for the things I wanted. I also knew that I wanted to have a car when I turned 16. How am I supposed to take a girl on a date if I can’t pick her up? I decided that I would buy a car at 15 and work hard to pay for it so I’d have a vehicle when I got my license at 16.

During that summer of 2000, I got a job as a lifeguard at the local pool and worked my tail off all summer to earn money. I made $6.00/hr and I thought I was rich! I loved being a lifeguard and I loved making money. I was also that really annoying kid who would find extra things to clean at the end of the night; not because I cared if it was clean, but because I wanted to stay on the clock for an extra 15 minutes.

Hot Girl Segue

This story has a sad ending. Most of the other lifeguards were girls, most of them were hot, and all of them were older than me. I was a 15 year old punk who didn’t even have a car; I knew I’d never have a chance with any of those girls. Except looking back, I’m pretty sure I did and I was just too chicken to do anything about it. I was talking to one of the really hot girls about how badly I wanted to drive a car and she said, “You can take mine for a spin when we get off work.”

The shift ended, we got into her car, and the two of us took a little cruise around O’Fallon, Missouri. She let me drive her car even though I didn’t even have my permit and had literally never driven a car before. Maybe she was just really nice, or MAYBE SHE LIKED ME! I’ll never know because I was too chicken to make a move. We drove around for a bit, then she dropped me off at my bike and I rode home alone. I told you it was a sad ending.

The Green Monster

I made a good amount of money that summer and was ready to buy my car and start making payments on it so I’d have it all paid off by the time I turned 16 in May of 2001. I was looking around at some cars but the one that  was a green 1962 Chevy Impala. Can you imagine the tail I could pull in a ’62 Impala? Plus the best part about this car was that it was an American Classic. While most cars lose value as you drive them, I could fix this puppy up and actually sell it for a profit one day!

Kevin's First Car

Mine was a dark green version of this exact car. White wall tires and everything.

I bought the car for $2,300. Then I got the Impala Bob’s catalog and just started ordering original interior parts for this car. In my expert estimation, I could restore the interior to its original condition for about $4,000 and then sell a fully restored ’62 Impala for about 10 G’s. Not only would I have a sweet car to get me around, but I’d also make about $3k in the process. Then reality set in.

The stupid thing was consistently broken, and I didn’t know how to fix it. I spent at least $2,000 at the local mechanic over two years. Plus there were some problems that my mechanics couldn’t even figure out. The car had a nasty habit of dieing when I hit the brakes, so the only way I could prevent that was to throw the car in neutral and hit the gas and brakes at the same time (a great habit to learn as a 16 year old driver).

Finally, the first time I ever picked up a girl for a date, something broke after we got shaved ice and I spent the rest of my first date ever worried more about my car than the girl.

Someone PLEASE Buy My Car

Here’s the really sucky part. I refinished the interior, had the car in working condition (at least for the moment) and was ready to sell the stupid thing and get a reliable car for college. I tried to price it at around $5,000 (much less than I originally wanted to sell for and more than I had paid after all the restoration stuff) and people laughed at me.

After years of restoring this car, I learned that four-door classic cars are essentially worthless. Collectors want two-door coupes, and no one cares about four-door cars except for one sad, stupid teenager who wasted basically every dollar he made working part time in high school on a crappy car (that’s me).

I put the car on a consignment lot and eventually sold it for $2,000. THAT’S $300 LESS THAN I PAID FOR THE CAR ITSELF BEFORE I SPENT THOUSANDS RESTORING THE INTERIOR.

The School of Life

That ’62 Impala was the first major purchase/investment of my life, and is to this day the worst financial decision I have ever made. Knowledge is power, and I didn’t have much of it ten years ago. I learned:

  • How important it is to know what the heck you’re doing before you dive head first into a large financial decision
  • When to cut my losses on a bad investment

Oh, and if you’re 15 years old and a hot girl lets you drive her car, grow some cajones and try to kiss her.

*Note: All stories this week are about why I’m not qualified to give you professional financial advice while I am qualified to make you laugh while I give my financial perspective that’s generally pretty good.

*Post featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance @ cashmoneylife