Michael’s Story: Keep Pressing Onward

Meet Michael, a homeless shelter employee and aspiring truck driver who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

What does your day-to-day look like right now?

I just completed an eight-month recovery program here at the homeless shelter. Next week, I’m starting truck driving school. It’s 20 weeks of classes. I don’t know where I’ll be placed after I graduate from the school, but I hope it’s somewhere close by.

In the short term, I do want to be able to have an emergency fund. Here at the shelter, they try to teach about finances and things like that, but the class is only 45 minutes and meets just once a week.

What have you learned so far in that class?

Not much. We’re reading The Money Answer Book by Dave Ramsey right now. It’s kind of simple, common sense advice like “don’t use credit cards to pay for debt.”

What do you wish you were learning?

I want to learn how to better manage my money. I’ve never had a credit card before, but I have spent a lot of money in my life. I’d really like to be thrifty with my money. It’d also be helpful to learn how to have an emergency fund and how much I should put in there.

What do you do?

Right now, I’m working 42 hours a week at the shelter. I get to help out in the kitchen. It gives me a stipend of $40 every two weeks. I’m using that to pay my phone bill and bus pass. My phone bill is $50 (used to be $60), and my bus pass is $36 every month. The bus company has a discount for students, so I’m going to see if I can get a deal since I’m in trade school. Now I’ve added the cost of $52 for my truck driving class. I couldn’t quite afford that with my monthly stipend, so the director of the course said I could work part-time for him to make up the difference.

What’s nice is that I don’t have to worry about a food bill. At least not yet. I eat at the shelter, which has helped me save lots of money.

What did your upbringing teach you about finances?

I remember my dad was thrifty, but my mom called him cheap. We didn’t run out of anything though. He made sure all four of us kids and my mom ate. We ate beans and potatoes and things like that—simple, home cooked meals. He was the kind of guy who didn’t buy anything stupid.

My upbringing influenced me a lot. Like, I know it’s cheaper to prepare your own food. As a truck driver, I know that I won’t be able to do that as much, so I’ll have to save in other ways. I was thinking I could put together sandwiches for the road.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?

Always have something to fall back on so you can last two weeks or a month without any income.

What are your goals for the future?

With truck driving, I have the opportunity to get a local job here after I graduate. There’s this program at the shelter where you can stay a year or two as you save up money. I was thinking of doing that because I want to be able to save enough money to get established somewhere modest or humble.

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