Living On $39K A Year In Oklahoma | Millennial Money

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Published at : 23 Oct 2020
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Chance Wimberley, 32, lives in Colbert, Oklahoma, and earns $39,000 a year as a child support case specialist for the state of Oklahoma. The 32-year-old accrued roughly $13,000 in credit card debt after he graduated high school. He still has around $4,500 left to pay off, including $3,400 he consolidated into a personal loan at a lower interest rate. On top of that, he has around $22,000 in federal student loan debt left from undergrad.

This is an installment of CNBC Make It's Millennial Money series, which profiles people across the U.S. and details how they earn, spend and save their money.

Read more about about Chance's budget breakdown here: https://cnb.cx/2HpBJD9

Chance Wimberley admits he’s made his fair share of financial mistakes over the years.

“I applied for as many credit cards as I possibly could, and I basically allowed myself to drown under the debt,” Wimberley says. “My credit was ruined for seven years because I had no plan to get out of that debt.”

Around 2013, Wimberley says he had an “ah-ha” moment about his finances when he was shopping for his first car.

“One day, I woke up and I felt miserable,” he says “The debt just created more anxiety for me.”

Since then, Wimberley’s made a point to prioritize saving money. Today, he earns $39,000 a year as a child support case specialist for the state of Oklahoma, a job with responsibilities similar to a paralegal. He lives with his parents in the small town of Colbert, in the house in which he grew up.

In the past few years, he’s managed to put away $35,000 in a savings account and $15,000 in his 401(k), despite never earning more than $40,000 a year. He’s steadily decreasing his debts and plans to completely pay off his credit card balance, personal loan and car note, all of which totals around $22,000, by December.

There are lessons for everyone in his financial journey, he says. A big one: Understand how debt, including credit cards and student loans, work. Don’t just sign whatever document a financial institution offers you; take the time to do your research.

“I looked at debt like it was nothing, I could just pay it off,” he says. “But in the past few years, I realized that debt drags people down.”

A second lesson: Don’t be afraid to make changes and go after what you want. Wimberley has wanted to be a nurse since his early 20s, but in college he didn’t think he’d be able to handle the coursework. Instead of pursuing his passion, he played it safe and studied history and political science at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. His student loan payments, currently deferred because of Covid-19, are monthly reminders of a path not taken. “I didn’t want to challenge myself because I was scared,” he says.

That’s all changing soon. In January, Wimberley’s going back to school to get his master’s degree and become a nurse practitioner. It’s a big life change, but after overcoming a health scare and doing the work to build up his confidence over the past few years, he’s ready to take on the challenge.

“When the pandemic hit, it made me realize that life is too short and I need to pursue my dreams while I still have the chance,” he says.

Wimberley says he is sometimes “embarrassed” to still live with his parents. But given his monthly income, he sees it as a choice between “ramen noodles and an apartment” or living more comfortably at home.

For him, it was an easy decision. He contributes $100 per month toward his parents’ mortgage and handles his groceries and some of the home’s maintenance costs.

He’s close with his parents, especially his mother. The family didn’t have a lot of money when Wimberley was growing up. His mother lost her job when he was in kindergarten, and his father is a disabled veteran with dementia. Some months, the family of four lived on less than $700. But as a child, none of that bothered him.

“For a lot of people, money is of the utmost importance. But as a kid, all I remember is my sister and I enjoying our life, and my mom and my dad giving me the love that any parent should give,” he says. “Regardless of how much money we had or didn’t have, I knew they would love me for the rest of my life.”

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Living On $39,000 A Year In Oklahoma | Millennial Money
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