Back in 2010, I graduated from college into the greatest financial downturn since the Great Depression. It would be several months before I'd find any sort of employment and 12 months before I found full-time employment.
Needless to say, this was a stressful time. People were still trying to figure out what happened. Jobs were scarce. I moved back home. Everywhere I turned there was some article about how entitled millennials are.
I wasn't entitled, but I was pissed off. I was angry at the world. I was angry at our financial system. I was angry at my education for not having taught me anything about how to deal with real-world circumstances. I was angry that I was broke and unemployed.
As trying as all of this was, and as depressed and anxious as I was feeling, this was quite possibly the best thing that's ever happened to me. Wait, what?
It forced me to start questioning things
Up until this point, I think I'd always done things because I was supposed to do them. For the first time in my life, I was trying to do the right thing (find a job) and life had different plans.
The more media outlets kept arguing about millennials and trying to figure out what happened to our economy, the more I started questioning conventional wisdom about life and money.
For example, if I couldn't find a job in the traditional sense, could I just make one up? Did I have to find a regular job? What are the alternatives? This led to a quest where I started freelance writing to earn a little bit of money here and there to hold me over.
I've been questioning things ever since. Now I make life decisions based on whether not it makes sense for me, not because I'm supposed to do something.
It forced me to look at my finances
This was the time I realized I knew nothing about money and that school hadn't really prepared me for much of anything.
As I was picking up small writing gigs here and there, I saw that there was a request for financial content at one of my clients.
The wheels in my brain started turning. Could take these assignments in an effort to force myself to learn about personal finance? Could I get paid to learn about money?
I wasn't being paid very much back then -- in fact, I was making almost nothing as a writer -- but it did set the foundation for my financial education.
That's why I ended up opening a Roth IRA at 22. That's why I practiced frugality even after I found a job. That's why I kept pushing to run my own business and invest what I could in the stock market – because it was during this time I learned that if I wanted to build wealth I needed to become an owner, not just a consumer.
Would I have learned all of this if the economy was great and I could have gotten a cushy desk job? I don't know. What I do know is having hit my own personal financial rock bottom at such an early age was the catalyst for the career and financial life I have now. And I wouldn't trade it in for the world.