Work was never something that was required in my household, simply because it was never an issue to begin with. I got my first real job when I was sixteen years old, spending my summer lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons to the children in my community. There were family problems at that time in my life, making finances a burden for us. I saw the way that put stress on us all and couldn’t stand the feeling of not knowing what would happen monetarily. I quickly began to realize that when I worked, I felt financially independent and confident. I was hooked. I returned to lifeguard again and worked throughout high school; trying out the restaurant industry, child care, and retail. The car, or should I say clunker, I drove in high school eventually began to decline, leaving me with expensive car repairs and tow costs. I always had the same dream car and it fit the bill in terms of reliability. After months of searching and too many test drives, I walked away with my first real car purchase. It is just nine months later, and it is almost completely paid off. Because of my school schedule, I could only work two days a week at a retail store. The checks were not large, but I simply held a strict rule: 25% went into checking’s which had to last me two weeks, 75% was a car payment. In a very short amount of time, I had thousands paid off simply by always being consistent and rigid. Throughout college, I have balanced a work-life and education and have loved every step of the way. I have made a promise to myself not to take any classes unless I can pay for them upfront. I am happy to say I do not have any student debt because of this. I obtained my Associate’s degree in May, and am well over halfway to my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. There will always be financial burdens in life and unexpected circumstances that shake even the most prepared person. I am, however, learning very early on that such is life. The earlier I begin to manage my own finances, the closer I will be to success and independence. When money doesn’t have to stress you out, that’s when it doesn’t have a hold on your life where it doesn’t need to.