This story is part of CNBC Make It's Millennial Money series, which details how people around the world earn, spend and save their money.
Terzel Ron didn't have much money growing up in a one-bedroom South Bronx apartment with three other siblings.
His parents, undocumented immigrants from Guyana, couldn't afford dental care, so he went through his teenage years with a missing tooth in the front of his mouth until he was 18. In high school, Ron worked various part-time jobs, including tutoring, to pay for the dental work, which at that time wasn't covered by his mother's limited health insurance plan.
The experience shaped the way that the now-25-year-old approaches his finances as an adult, particularly when it comes to saving money.
"The most important lesson that I've learned is 'save money and money will save you,'" Ron tells CNBC Make It.
Today, Ron is doing just that. Now living in Los Angeles, he earns around $150,000 a year between his two video production jobs and invests nearly half of what he makes.
"I started to realize that money was the way to always ensure stability in life, and so I never really wanted to spend it. Always wanted to save it and, of course, grow it," says Ron.
Eager to improve his earning prospects, Ron says he "got serious" about academic achievement in high school. Dead-set on landing a scholarship to college, he enrolled in advanced placement classes and joined extracurricular activities, which included a stint as student body president for his school.
When his family moved to Jamaica, Queens, just before his sophomore year, Ron decided to keep going to his high school in the South Bronx, which was more than a two-hour commute each away, since he didn't want to start over and risk losing AP credits by transferring to a new school.
"I wouldn't end up leaving school until about 6 or 7 p.m. to get back home around 10:00 p.m., and I had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. the next day," he says. "It was definitely a grueling routine."
The hard work paid off with a full academic scholarship to New York University in Manhattan, where Ron's interest in media and on-air hosting led to a degree in TV production. But despite his full ride, Ron continued to hustle by working part-time jobs, including tutoring and doing TV production.
"I never partied or had a social life in college, because I was always busy with three or four jobs," he says.
Still, making ends meet wasn't easy: "I took out a large meal plan, and it fell a bit out of the bounds of my scholarship. By the time I graduated, that tallied to a little under $10,000 in student loans."
After he graduated from NYU in 2018, Ron spent nine months looking for full-time work. He eventually landed a job as a production assistant with ViacomCBS in March 2019, and was able to pay off $5,000 of his student loans while working there.
The remaining $5,000 balance is still outstanding, although Ron isn't making payments until at least May, when the current student loan moratorium on payments and interest expires.
Making $150,000 in Los Angeles
Ron stayed at ViacomCBS until last year, when he was recruited by a large television network and moved to Los Angeles with his girlfriend to work as an associate producer. He now makes just under $110,000 per year from that job, as well as about $40,000 per year from a second, part-time job as a production manager for a video chat app, which pays by the hour.
Even though he's making more money than ever before and is currently financially secure, Ron is still hustling. He works seven days a week between both of his jobs, typically from 9 a.m. until about 11 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.
Ron says the long hours reflect his desire to save as much money as possible, a habit he formed when money was tight.
It also helps that his girlfriend, Rupal, works similar hours. "My girlfriend is the biggest hustler I know," Ron says. "She also has like three jobs and a clothing company, so she has that crazy work ethic that I have."
How he spends his money
Here's a look at how Ron spent his money in November 2021.
- Savings and investments: $5,000 in stocks, cash and cryptocurrencies
- Rent: $1,650 for half of the rent, which is split with his girlfriend
- Transportation: $589 for gas, financing and car washing expenses
- Insurance: $501 for life, auto, home and dental. He has health insurance through his mom's plan
- Discretionary: $435 for travel, haircuts, online shopping and clothing
- Food: $300
- Therapy: $150
- Utilities: $146 for Wi-Fi
- Phone: $100
- Subscriptions: $76 for gym membership, Amazon Prime, Starz and iPhone apps
"I'm frugal," Ron says. "I don't necessarily spend too much money — I mean, I spent most of my time at home working in front of a laptop. All I do is just work, put my head down and grind."
Even though he works from home, he still occasionally needs a car, which is his biggest expense after rent. "Cars in general are one of the biggest depreciating assets that you can buy, so I didn't see the need to buy a nice car," he says. "I have used 2018 Honda Civic — I love it."
Ron and his girlfriend split the cost of rent for their apartment near downtown Los Angeles, along with other housing costs, like utilities. They split most expenses evenly, but they alternate which bills they cover, with Ron paying for their internet while Rupal pays for electricity and heat. The couple doesn't splurge on much, except for travel between New York and Los Angeles and the occasional restaurant meal.
Most of Ron's monthly income goes into investments, with roughly $5,000 per month split between a SEP IRA, a brokerage account and cryptocurrencies. He also has a Roth IRA, but no longer puts money into it because his annual income is above the limit to contribute. He has over $70,000 saved between investments and cash, with about two-thirds of that tied up in a variety of cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum.
"With the metaverse coming soon, a lot of that foundation is built upon [the Ethereum blockchain], so that's why I invested heavily into that area," he says. "I'm interested in the future of cryptocurrency and seeing where it takes me."
Ron plans to stay in the TV world long-term, eventually running his own business. "I see myself as a successful television host and producer, creating television shows, hosting those shows and providing opportunities for other people through my own production company," he says. "That's really important to me."
As for his current investing goals, Ron hopes to buy his first property sometime this year: "I hate renting because I feel like I'm just shoveling money away to somebody else. That's why I definitely want to get a house this year and then own some investment property, down the line."
He also hopes to become a millionaire by the time he's 30. "It's not necessarily a hard deadline — it's just a mantra that I started at 15 and told myself while I was growing up," he says.
"However, it does affect the way that I save. I invest most of what I make and try to forget the amount of money in my accounts. Jobs come and go, and when they go, the only thing left to show for it is the amount of money you have saved and invested from it."
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