5 career and money tips from Millennial Money 2021

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A 25-year-old real estate investor who earns over half a million dollars a year. A family traveling the country in a motorhome. A first generation immigrant who hopes to teach others in her community about personal finance.

These are just a few of the people CNBC Make It featured throughout the year in our Millennial Money series, which details how people around the world earn, spend and save their money.

In addition to breaking down their monthly budgets, those profiled shared hard-earned wisdom and advice on finances, careers, and achieving their dreams. We’ve featured everyone from self-made millionaires and small business owners to teachers, and they’re all inspiring in their own way.

Over the past few years, it’s been gratifying to see a community forming around the show and catching up with some of the millennials we’ve featured.

Ahead of the start of season four in 2022 (you can apply here if you’d like to be featured), I wanted to highlight some of my favorite profiles from this year. You can find all the videos and articles from the series on YouTube and on our website.

Note: All of the following information was true at the time of each story’s original publication.

You can always start over

Karen and Sylvester Akpan in their camper van.

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At the end of 2019, Karen and Sylvester Akpan collectively owed over $ 110,000 in student loans and were paying $ 4,200 per month for a five-bedroom house in California.

“We were poor. It’s the honest truth,” Karen told CNBC Make It. “I thought to myself, why are we living this life, trying to keep up with all of this?” “

The couple knew something had to give. With their now 8-year-old son Aiden in the lead, they decided to sell their house and live in an RV in early 2020. Now they are cruising the country, making money blogging. and social media campaigns. They have paid off all of their student debt and are focusing on investing and building wealth for their son.

Starting over like they did was scary, but in the end, it was worth it, they say. “There’s no way to go back to a house or a career or anything like that,” Karen says. “We love the freedom that has been given to us to work for ourselves, to be entrepreneurs.”

Have a plan B

Destiny Adams outside his living room in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Destiny Adams works for the State of Michigan as a Child Protection Specialist, earning approximately $ 60,000 per year. It’s not the most exciting job, but it does give her stability and benefits like Medicare.

It’s what she does outside of work that really inspires her. Adams also operates a consulting business on YouTube and manages the Destite Hair Collection, a small business selling wigs and hair extensions.

“Working 9 to 5 really limits your income,” Adams says. But as an entrepreneur there is always the possibility of making more money if you increase your production. “I like having that control.”

For Adams, the various sources of income provide the peace of mind that she can always live the life she wants.

“If anything happens with my job in the state of Michigan, I also have the salon. If something happens with the salon, then I have my YouTube income. And if something happens with my YouTube income , so I have my personal brand, ”she says. .

It’s never too late to learn

JD Wilson, 38, is a teacher in Kailua, Hawaii.

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At 38, JD Wilson is still learning to budget.

“I’m not good with money, and that’s probably one of my biggest flaws and the thing I have to work on the most,” he says. “But I’m learning, I’m still learning, every day.”

Wilson shut down Lead U, an event business he started that runs empowerment workshops in schools across the country, during the coronavirus pandemic, sold most of his belongings and moved from New Jersey to Hawaii to teach in third grade.

Hawaii is more expensive than New Jersey, but Wilson is learning how to make it all work. Aside from rent, groceries, and student loan payments, he doesn’t spend much else, preferring to live a minimalist lifestyle. He loves Hawaii and his new community, and his time there has helped him achieve what he really wants out of life.

Invest in you

Emma Sadler, 29, works as a UX designer for a tech startup in New York City.

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When the Covid-19 pandemic hit New York City in early 2020, Emma Sadler almost immediately lost her job as restaurant manager for Union Square Hospitality Group at the Museum of Modern Art.

The search for new jobs in the food industry proved unsuccessful. Eventually, Sadler decided to take a three-month UX training camp that might help him find a job in an entirely different field. The course cost $ 12,000, or about a quarter of his previous annual earnings. But Sadler knew it would pay off by opening up new career opportunities.

“It was scary,” she says. “I remember talking to my mom saying, ‘Am I making the right decision? Is it going to be worth it? Am I crazy spending all this money on this investment?'”

Today, the single mom earns around $ 60,000 a year as a UX designer and knows she will have plenty of opportunities to move up the career ladder, potentially winning six figures soon.

“You don’t need a four-year degree to be able to get on the right track financially,” she says. “Even in dark times, you can take control of your life and set yourself on a path that makes you truly happy.”

Money is not everything

Jason Y. Lee, 33, is the Founder and CEO of Jubilee Media in LA

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As a child, Jason Y. Lee believed that winning six figures would prove that he was so successful. And when he graduated from college, that’s exactly what he did, landing a consulting job at age 21. Fast forward a few years, however, and Lee rethought everything he believed in building a life.

He quit his consulting job in 2012 and started a nonprofit organization with his brother, earning zero pay. Eventually it became Jubilee Media, and Lee’s annual salary went from $ 0 to $ 30,000 to $ 60,000 to $ 97,000 today.

That’s a far cry from the checks he wrote in consulting, but for Lee, the fulfillment he finds in his job is well worth the pay cut.

“I felt like I was learning and growing every day,” Lee said of the career change. Running your own business “has really changed the way I think about money and being successful.”

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