Conversation and Coffee Birthed Broke Millennial

This is a guest article from Erin Lowry. Erin is the blogger behind Broke Millennial, where she uses sarcasm and humor to make personal finance topics more accessible to a younger generation. 

Broke Millennial was born out of a cliché New York City night. A friend and I sipped coffee around 2 am in a local restaurant. As we sobered up from our night out, we started talking about our careers. The two of us met while working as pages for The Late Show with David Letterman, but had since moved on to “real jobs.” I’d fallen into public relations (completely out of necessity instead of any desire to be a PR girl), while she worked as an assistant for two bigwigs at Viacom.

Broke Millennial

The year working on the fringes of entertainment had been an ideal first job out of college, but it left me craving stability.

In our paging world, it was big money if we earned $250 in a week, so we all worked multiple jobs (or got supported by the Bank of Mom and Dad).

I refused to be on parental welfare, so I embraced the New York City hustle. I’d wake up around 4:30 am, get to Starbucks by 5:30 to work the opening shift. Clock out at 11:30, dash home and shower before scurrying to the Ed Sullivan Theatre by 1:00 to start the page shift. After taping, I’d change out of my uniform and head to one babysitting gig or another and work from about 7:00 pm to 11:00 or midnight. Rinse-and-repeat.

It probably comes at no surprise that after a year I started to experience intense burn out (and some odd body tremors from only averaging four hours of sleep a night). So after my page term ended, I elected to transition over to a steady paycheck, benefits and the ability to get more than four hours of sleep.

My friend also jumped into a desk job, but one she hoped to either leverage into a career in entertainment or just provide monetary support while she continued to pursue acting endeavors.

So there we were at 2 in the morning discussing our futures. As then 23-year-old women, and only a year out of college, we were struggling with the realities of growing up. My friend bemoaned how mean her bosses were and the tasks she had to do – like putting together a complicated Ikea chair and lamp – and the fact she doubted this would ever transition her into a meaningful creative position.

“Why are you working there then?” I asked her.

“Well, I need money,” she retorted.

“Fair enough,” I said. “But if what you really want to do is act and do improv, why don’t you give yourself a year or two to give it a go? You can wait tables or nanny to make money.”

My friend carried no student loan debt, wasn’t married and didn’t have dependents. This seemed to be the time in life to pursue lofty goals and really give acting a try.

“Yeah, but money just stresses me out,” she said. “I basically just don’t pay attention to it and then just hope I have enough at the end of the month to pay all my bills.”

And that right there is why I started BrokeMillennial.com. My friend’s seemingly innocuous comment over a sober-up-cup-of-coffee made me realize how crippling dealing with money was for people of all socio-economic levels.

This friend had grown up solidly upper-middle-class. She wanted for nothing. Had gone to an expensive, private college her parents sent her to without loans. But even with a privileged upbringing she felt terrified of money.

While I’d been afforded a similar privileged upbringing, my parents had leveraged every teachable moment in my life to explain how money worked. They didn’t pay for college in full – even though they could. They didn’t buy me what I wanted when I wanted it – even though they could. Instead, from a young age I’d been taught how money worked.

These early lessons transformed me into a financially competent young woman. Even when I made about $22,000 a year living in New York, I never felt stressed about money and even managed to save some. Understanding how money worked took the stress away and instead encouraged me be enterprising, find ways to increase my income and live within my means.

I didn’t want to be supported by the Bank of Mom and Dad because I wanted to prove to my parents and myself that I didn’t need their financial support. I didn’t do this out of spite, but to show my parents their love and lessons paid off. Sure, I lived off Starbucks leftovers and rice for a while – but those early hustling experiences trained me to be resourceful and led me to continue working side jobs after I earned a reasonable salary.

Why Broke Millennial?

My friend’s comment inspired me to create a safe space for other money-stressed millennials to learn about finance. The foundation of my site began with — and still remains — personal stories about my relationship with money and how my parents taught financial literacy.

I genuinely had no idea the personal finance blogging community existed prior to publishing my first Broke Millennial post in 2013. A bit of a technological hermit (how “un-millennial” of me), I’d never really gotten into reading blogs of any sort. Within two weeks I started to uncover the personal finance blogosphere and have been delighting in sharing stories, lessons and gaining knowledge from my peers ever since.

These days I write a little less frequently because my blog actually helped me ditch my less-than-thrilling PR job and led me to a full-time job with a financial-focused startup called MagnifyMoney.com.

But unlike some of my blogging peers, my goal with the site was never to generate revenue but rather establish a fun, non-threatening place for millennials to read about money. I didn’t have visions of making a profit (and still don’t) off my blog. Instead I’ve leveraged it into other lucrative opportunities, which has enabled me to never stress about the ROI of the site itself.

Tips for Other Bloggers

Regardless of your goals with a blog, my biggest tip to newbies is to stress less about the SEO of your posts and focus on writing well and creating interest content. Great storytelling will drive readers to share and return to your site (and big time news outlets to feature your work). Playing the SEO game will probably leave you pulling out your hair.

Starting Broke Millennial completely changed the course of my life. It gave me a new career direction, opened me up to another way to communicate with millennials, introduced me to new money ideas and even got me an invite to a summit at the White House! For those reasons, and many others, I’ll always be grateful I pushed publish on my first post on January 24, 2013.

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