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I’m incredibly excited to share this post below with you today. The moment I heard Camilo’s story for the first time, I reached out and asked if he would be kind enough to share it with the MikedUp Blog Team. He obliged and I’m thrilled.
Are you ready to see what perseverance and drive can do for you? GOOD.
Hi everyone! My name is Camilo and I run the personal finance site The Finance Twins with my identical twin brother. Our site is focused on providing our thousands of regular readers with all of the basic personal finance information they need to effectively manage their money. This means not having to pay someone else tons of fees to do it for you, unless you want to. And once you get the hang of it, managing your money won’t even be that time-consuming. From building your first monthly budget to opening a Roth IRA, we’ve got you covered.
You might be wondering how we learned all of this information. Even though I have an MBA from Harvard and my twin brother has an M.D. from the Mayo Clinic, we actually learned it the hard way. You see, we grew up super poor and knew that if we didn’t learn how to manage our money effectively, we’d never be able to escape the life we were born into. Today, I’m sharing my story with you.
When you think of the average Harvard grad you might think of someone who’s eaten off a silver platter their whole life. My story is different.
The early years in Florida were great
My family came to the U.S. when I was four years old. Immigrating from tropical Colombia, my folks figured Florida would be the ideal place to set up shop. And it was. Regular trips to Disney World, lots of visits from our family in Colombia, life was great…
… Until my dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Pouring their life savings to extend my father’s life, we were left with nothing when my dad died. I was seven years old and my life turned upside down. My mom was suddenly in a foreign land with three young boys. She moved our family to Minnesota because she wanted us to be in a safer community. We didn’t have enough money to rent an apartment so we lived with my mom’s host family from when she studied abroad in the U.S.
Financial hardship forced me to focus on school. Education was going to be my ticket out.
Growing up we were never homeless or hungry, but there was never a doubt that we didn’t have very much. Coming home to having the cable bill disconnected or the power shut off was never a surprise. Seeing my mom’s card get declined at the grocery store, while embarrassing, wasn’t a rare occurrence. I easily qualified for free lunch at school, and my tray was always empty before I stood up.
Seeing the fancy cars in parking lots, I always made sure to notice what the families in them were wearing. I made a mental note that the dad’s always seemed to be wearing blazers or suits. Clearly businessmen. Out of all of the things in the world I didn’t have, curiosity wasn’t one of them.
I knew that in order to break the cycle I needed to do well in school to get a scholarship to college. My twin brother and I studied constantly. When we weren’t studying we were reading about college admissions. As a 15-year-old, I could recite the ranking of the top 25 universities in the country in order. Unlike many applicants to the top schools, I couldn’t afford to take SAT or ACT prep classes, hire tutors, or get special attention from faculty. I also wasn’t a “legacy” applicant (the top schools give preference to the children of alumni).
Thankfully I got help from others and took advantage of every single opportunity.
Seeing my mom work tirelessly to keep a roof over my head, I was never too tired to study or complete my homework. The day I turned 15 I also started working at a car dealership cleaning cars. I knew I would need the money to help pay bills and any application fees for college. My mom always stressed the importance of education — she never wanted us to struggle the way she had to.
The hard work and a healthy dose of good luck begin to pay off.
While reading about my dream school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, online when I was 16, I stumbled across a summer program for high school students. I had read that these summer programs would give me a leg up when applying to college. Unfortunately, the program fees were many times more than the amount I could afford. I also didn’t think I would be accepted, so I almost didn’t apply until my older brother encouraged me to not give up on my dream.
When I received the acceptance call, I was stunned. When they said I wouldn’t have to pay a single penny, I was elated. As the plane landed in Philadelphia I could hardly believe I would be spending the summer surrounded by peers who came from the top boarding and private schools from around the country.
Fast forward 13 years and I have graduated from Wharton, gotten my dream job in Manhattan as an investment banker where I got paid over $100,000 in my first year, have moved on from that job to join a high growth start-up that was eventually acquired by Walmart, have gotten married, and have also been accepted to and graduated from Harvard Business School with an M.B.A. Simply writing that sentence feels like I am writing about someone else. Rereading it gives me goosebumps. Not a single one of those things even felt like a possibility when I was a teen!
A new chapter begins.
After Harvard, I joined another start-up as their director of strategy and analytics. It’s a dream job, but I wasn’t happy. After a week, I knew I had made a huge mistake. My gut was telling me that I needed to help other people. I had seen my life come full circle, and I had become the guy wearing suits, that I used to see in parking lots as a child.
Over the years, I began to receive an increasing number of calls and texts from friends and family asking for personal finance advice, and I realized that the majority of people don’t know very much about how to save, manage, or grow their money. It’s a topic that seems complicated and most people are afraid to make money mistakes.
That’s when I decided to quit my job to start The Finance Twins with my brother. The site is our platform to share good, actionable personal finance tips, and to spread the knowledge we’ve had to learn the hard way. Do NOT give up on your dreams just yet, you never know where you’ll be in 13 years.
The story is undoubtedly incredible, but I want to know – what difficult obstacles have you overcome in your life to get to this point? What tactics have helped you do just that? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!