College Connect: You Got To Spend Money To Make Money

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By ANDERS MELIN, University of Missouri

It was a late evening in early August of 2007 that I first stepped onto American soil at the airport outside of Charlotte, N.C.

Close to five years have passed since, and the way this nation has embraced my presence has effectively killed any kind of complaint I may have had; falling short in only one single matter – the reluctance to allow me to work and earn money.

My F-1 student visa that enables me to pursue a college degree also eliminates any possibility to earn money by performing any kind of job, whether it is white collar or simply to fetch people coffee. Luckily, through hard work and a generous offer of substantial financial aid from the university, I have been able to finance most of my degree by being a part of Mizzou’s varsity swim team, but as the summers came along,  my fellow international teammates and I would end up not receiving financial aid while still being expected to adhere to our normal practice schedule of 20 hours per week in order to excel in the upcoming season.

Unable to fit most on-campus opportunities for work with our practices, we usually ran out of options almost as quickly as we ran out of cash. When we one day voiced our concerns to a member of our coaching staff – a man holding a degree in economics – he simply told us:

“Seventy percent of our economy is based on consumer spending. Go add value to something, and then sell it. You got to spend money to make money.”

Said and done. Given our low cash flow, we went to the nearest Goodwill. Two hours– and two additional Goodwills – later we had assembled six dressers in our garage at a total cost of $120. Solid pieces of furniture in our eyes – firewood in the eyes of our neighbor, but as the entrepreneurial craftsmen we had turned ourselves into, we determined that they still had a long way to go.

We borrowed an electric sander from the neighbor, bought a bucket of cheap paint and lacquer, and got new, silvery dresser handles for a quarter each.

In between morning and afternoon workouts for the next few days we furiously went at brushing up those dressers. The one guy in our group with Photoshop-experience took responsibility for putting even better-looking pictures of the now fairly nice dressers up on Craigslist.

Then we waited. Two days later, we cashed in a grand total of $845. It sure didn’t make us rich, but it did take care of our bar tabs for the remainder of the summer.

Melin is a senior majoring in finance at the University of Missouri.

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