I Just Graduated – And I’m Debt-Free with My Own House

Courtesy Of Kadeitra Wells
I became a first-time homeowner at age 22. The April 2018 closing came less than a month before crossing the stage at Emory University for my commencement — another major milestone in my life. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. By the end of my senior year, I knew that I wanted to own a house. I craved activities I associated with ownership — gardening, redecorating, making pies for no reason — after four years of dorm life. I didn’t anticipate buying a home with my fiancé at my age, but thanks to our excellent credit scores and savings strategies, we were able to not only go for it, but stay within our budget.
People assume that millennials aren’t interested in homeownership and that they prefer renting or staying at home with their parents longer. Many of us who do want to be homeowners, believe it’s almost impossible at our age, thanks to student debt and insufficient credit scores. The current average age of first-time homebuyers is between 32 and 34 — a decade older than me.
We were able to make our dream a reality thanks to smart financial planning. During my time at Emory, I borrowed several thousand dollars in student loans with the goal to repay them as soon as possible — even before my grace period began. The remainder of my tuition was covered by scholarships. To make this possible, I worked two part-time jobs while maintaining full-time student status at Emory, each year. I took up jobs as a Kindergarten teacher’s aide at many Atlanta and other Georgia public elementary schools, but needed more savings. So, working weekends and summers for Saturday school and daycare services paid much more than the modest hours I worked during the school week. I made a nice check working as a bilingual paralegal in an immigration attorney’s office in Atlanta, as well as at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where I prepared kids for therapy sessions during my senior year. I put it all straight into savings. I received stipends for conducting academic research for professors during the year. I worked hard to keep all my scholarships, some of which required me to maintain a B+ GPA. I continued to apply for small, easy application grant and scholarships on and off campus. Any amount granted to me, went into my savings and remained untouched unless there was an emergency.
Illustrated by Paola DeLucca
During the school year I lived within my means and just prioritized. I shopped with the local farmer’s market to stay healthy and frugal in spending and stretched my money. Graduating debt-free was my biggest graduation gift to myself. It feels good to say you made it through school all on your own. And, on top of that, my frugality freed me up to choose a career path I wanted — being an artist & entrepreneur— and not just one that would make me a lot of money.
Now, when I’m not gardening, planning our vacations, or decorating my studio, I focus on my art (I do colored pencil realism). I’m currently looking for art and design partnerships with home decor companies and fashion designers. My fiancé, meanwhile, is building his audience as a motovlogger and YouTube gamer. Although I live a very adult life, I enjoy managing my responsibilities. I’m proud that we’ve been able to secure a mortgage and that I can build equity already at 22 — it gives me a sense of independence and the freedom to pursue my creative passions on my own terms.
Kadeitra Wells is a Master’s candidate studying healthcare management at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health. After graduation, she plans to expand on entrepreneurship in pediatric healthcare and add to her design portfolio. She and her fiancé are now looking for new investments and planning their next financial steps. Follow her journey here or Instagram !

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