Remembering your early financial life

The good old days weren’t always good

What is that saying? You’ve gotta know where you’ve come from to get where you’re going?

Well I had a little flashback this weekend, when collecting some paperwork for my home equity line of credit.

I stumbled across my first paystub from my very first real job at K-Mart. Now before you think I’m hoarder, I try to save judiciously. I purged all the other pay stubs, but kept this first symbolic memento.

This April, this document will be 35 years old.  My pay rate? A whopping $3.40 per hour.

I’ll never forget one time I was wheeling a flatbed cart around the corner and I almost took out an entire endcap of boom box radios.  The store manager and another manager were standing nearby and the store manager said to me. Be careful you don’t break those, or we might need to take away a few months of your salary.  They had a nice laugh.  I kind of stood there a little dejected, but I laughed it off.

This was around the same time I had reached my lofty goal of a net worth of $1,000.  Ten times what I had, just 5 years earlier.  If you missed that story, here it is.

Even though the wages weren’t stellar, I loved pay day, because they use to pay us in cash, and everyone would line up at a little small window to get their envelop.  I’ll never forget standing in that line.

But tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems

I worked that job for about 2 years through a High School Co-op program and learned a lot about retail and business from that job and the people that shared with me.  I also worked in several different departments including home improvements, appliances and the garden center. Eventually I worked my way up to being an area merchandiser and purchasing goods for about one-third of the store.  All at the ripe old age of 19.

This is not meant to be a “resume piece” but it is a note to remind that you can learn a lot from any situation.

I ended up moving on to a job in the city after that, and stayed with a big educational institution for 10 years, which will be funding a small pension for me, even though I haven’t worked for them for 20 years now.

When I would cash those paychecks, I remember the teller at the bank, saying to me, “I need to get a job over there.”.  I said to him, go ahead and told him about the employment office.  It was like a night and day feeling.

Never forgot those lessons or incidents and I still use the same tactics and attitude every day, even though the people, places and technology have changed dramatically.

Change is inevitable, but if you remember where you’ve come from you can help yourself get where you want to go.


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  1. It’s cool that you have your first paystub. With the KMart logo, it may be a collector’s item in a few years! I think it has been about 20 years since I moved to direct deposit. It’s nice not to have to wait in line at the bank every two weeks to cash my paycheck!

    It sounds like I am a few years younger than you. After doing a good job at my first real part-time job for about a year I got a raise to $6 an hour from $5 an hour. I felt like I was the king of the world!

    1. Thanks for commenting! To me, it’s already a collector’s item. I was going to include in the piece that I felt the same way, when I received a 25 cent raise at one point. I don’t remember feeling underpaid. Good memories and an important part of retail history. I really appreciate the feedback.

  2. Hello Jim

    I wish I had the foresight to keep my first pay stub. I’m not even sure what my first job was, As a teen in school I delivered pizza, was a lifeguard, summer camp counselor, washed dishes, and worked in a shop testing and preparing batteries for Uninterruptable power supplies.

    I didn’t have the foresight to save the money either; instead I spent it on a car to impress a woman. Not that it was acutely necessary or that she was impressed, but I felt being mobile would help my case. I am still with the women, so all things considered it was a decent investment.

    Luckily after graduating school and joining the Army, I learned to save.

    1. Michael, great story. Yeah, my first money was from a 5am paper route. I did the car thing too but haven’t owned one since. Big savings! Thanks for commenting.

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