This story is part of CNBC Make It's Millennial Money series, which profiles people around the world and details how they earn, spend and save their money.
You could say that an entrepreneurial spirit runs in Jesus Campos' family. The 24-year-old grew up in Brooklyn, NY, working in his grandparents' bakery.
As so many of the mom-and-pop shops across New York City's five boroughs get eaten up by national chains and families get priced out of the neighborhoods they've called home for generations, the Campos family has held firm in Williamsburg, with La Guadalupana Bakery as their anchor.
Growing up, Campos' grandparents and mother — his father left when he was young — didn't know a ton about personal finance basics, like investing in the stock market, Campos tells CNBC Make It. But they did know how to work hard and run a profitable business.
That work ethic rubbed off on the perennially upbeat father-of-two: On top of his day job as a supervisor at a utilities company that subcontracts with Con Edison, Campos buys and resells products on Amazon, building a side business that could see six figures in sales this year.
While he didn't grow up middle class, Campos is striving to provide a better life for his kids. "That's what is really pushing me to work harder and live a different lifestyle," says Campos. "I want a childhood for my children that's a lot different than mine."
A few years ago, Campos' story would have read much differently. He and Carolina, his wife, had their first child, now-five-year-old Jayden, while they were still in high school. Campos dropped out at 18, and worked various jobs — as a grocery store cashier and at the bakery, among others — to support his fledgling family.
"I had to drop out from school and just go straight to work to make sure I had enough money to cover the cost of a newborn child," he says.
After dropping out his senior year, Campos got his GED at 19 and started working for the utility company in 2017. This year, he'll earn around $80,000 pretax from his full-time job — he is an hourly employee, eligible for overtime – and supplements that income by bringing in tens of thousands of dollars on the side reselling things on Amazon.
Tax records show over $71,000 in Amazon transactions in 2018; Campos took home just over $20,000 of that, pretax. So far this year, he's sold over $80,000 worth of merchandise (he says he expects to top $100,000 by the end of December), banking him around $30,000 pretax.
Credit card statements show the mix of retailers he routinely scours for products to resell, including BJ's, Staples, Target and Walmart. The amount he sells varies widely by the month. He sold over $19,000 worth of product last December, while November 2018 saw just north of $7,000. He spends around 10 to 15 hours per week shopping, packing and shipping.
At first, Campos kept the products in the apartment he shares with his wife, two children and his wife's family. But the eight occupants were already squeezed for space in the 800-square-foot home; piles of unopened electronics and baby toys took up valuable real estate the family needed to live their lives day to day. Now Campos pays $201 per month to rent a storage unit nearby. He drops off the merchandise at the unit after store runs, where he and Carolina also sort, package and prep the products to mail to Amazon.
Campos started reselling on Amazon in 2018, and plans to keep ratcheting up his sales volume each year. He hopes that will give him enough money by the time he turns 28 to start buying rental properties and earn more income.
He wants to expand his business to build a family empire. "That's my dream goal," he says. "And from there, give my businesses to my children, and my children's children, as legacies."
Here's a breakdown of everything Campos spends in a typical month. (This does not include all of his wife's expenses.)
Most of Campos' budget is reinvested in his Amazon side hustle. He spends around $2,000 per month on products — sometimes more, sometimes less. There's also the additional cost of the storage unit, shipping materials and his quarterly taxes.
He recoups the money he spends on products when he sells them; he then puts the profits back into his business, which he says enables it to keep growing. He works with retailers and gets a wholesale rate on many products, which helps him take home more money.
Feeding a family of four isn't cheap, especially in New York. But Campos manages to keep monthly food costs relatively low, spending around $500 a month.
The total is fairly evenly split between groceries and eating out; he and his family like to go to diners near their apartment once a week, and Campos often buys fast food when he's on the go between his day job and the storage unit to package Amazon orders. He tries to buy his one-year-old daughter, Milani, organic meals from Whole Foods, which he says are especially pricey, but worth it: "They have Omega-3s," he says.
He adds that having so much family nearby is helpful; both his and Carolina's mothers love to make meals for the whole family throughout the week, and spoil Jayden and Milani with treats and other small gifts.
"Grandma loves to cook," he says. "That comes in really handy."
Campos and his wife pay $400 per month to rent one of the bedrooms in a four-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that they share with his wife's parents and two brothers, who are 16 and 9. They also spend another $80 on utilities.
The apartment is cramped — Milani sleeps in a crib in their room — but Campos says it's worth it so they can minimize their expenses and save for the house he hopes to buy in Connecticut one day.
"My financial goal is to, obviously, move out from this tiny apartment," he says. "I've been accustomed to living in such a small space where it doesn't really bother me. But my children will be getting older, so I do have to get a house pronto."
His day job gives him access to a car to use during work hours, and he is reimbursed for tolls and gas from driving around the city. Campos also has a three-year lease on a 2018 Honda CRV, paying $406 per month for the car and $50 for gas outside of work. He plans to buy the car outright at the end of the lease.
"I know that the vehicle is very expensive, but I'm trying to minimize as much [as I can]", he says, by watching how much he spends on gas.
Paying off just under $1,000 in credit card debt is a top priority for Campos. He also borrowed around $2,000 from his 401(k) earlier this year, which he is now paying back, with interest. That will be paid off by February. (Learn more about 401(k) loans.)
Campos invests just over $300 each month in his 401(k), and his employer matches up to $2,000 annually. This is his sole savings for now. He does not have an emergency fund. Any extra money he earns each month is put back into reselling on Amazon.
"Overall, I was very impressed," Boneparth tells CNBC Make It, adding that it's inspiring to see someone Campos' age working so hard for his family and to fulfill his dreams.
"I love the hustle. He's working a full-time job, making a great wage and he goes above and beyond," says Boneparth. "That's music to my ears."
That type of drive will be a boon to the family in the years to come, and Campos is a great role model for his children.
That said, there are a few key ways that Campos can improve his financial situation.
The most glaring issue with Campos' finances, Boneparth says, is that he has no liquid savings. Especially with two children, building up his savings account needs to be his top priority.
That might mean diverting some of his Amazon profits for a time, or contributing slightly less to his 401(k) and putting those contributions into a high-yield savings account.
"You need to strike a balance between what's invested back in the business, and to having some reserves to catch you if an emergency arrives," says Boneparth.
Boneparth notes it's also necessary for Campos to build up his cash reserves for two other reasons: He'll need tens of thousands on hand for a down payment on a home and he'll need cash to tide him over if he really wants to expand his business.
Campos doesn't have much debt when compared to how much he earns, so Boneparth recommends he pay off his credit card debt and 401(k) loan now, with Amazon profits, rather than prolonging repayments. He'll save on interest and put himself and his family in a better spot.
"I'd like to see him get rid of the credit card debt and debt all together, and start building a cash reserve equal to three to six months of expenses," says Boneparth. "That's pretty lofty, but how do you put a price on sleeping well at night?"
Borrowing from a 401(k) sets a bad precedent, Boneparth says. Campos should pay himself back as soon as he can and avoid going back to the well for short-term needs and goals. A 401(k) isn't meant to be used as a savings account; it's meant for retirement.
Plus, Boneparth says, if Campos' goal is to buy a home, no bank will give him a mortgage with just 401(k) investments to show. He needs to build up a down payment in cash and stop relying on his retirement account.
He also needs to plan for increased living expenses after he buys a house. Presumably, his mortgage payments will be much more than $400 per month. While it's nice to plan on the Amazon business expanding to cover those costs, he needs to be realistic and have an emergency fund just in case.
"You want to use a 401(k) as a place of last resort," says Boneparth, not as your primary savings account. "You're going to need cash on the balance sheet. You're going to need cash to close, and cash in reserve. If he needs $20,000 to to move into a house, he'll need at least $15,00 more for an emergency fund."
Boneparth advises Campos to make an estate plan as soon as he can. That includes a plan for what will happen with his financial accounts if he dies, but also who will get custody of his children if something happens to both him and his wife.
"I want to make sure they have the appropriate documents in place," says Boneparth.
He also advises looking into term life insurance, which offers coverage for a set period of time and is fairly inexpensive. Given that Campos has no liquid savings currently, his family would be in a bind if something happens to him and they had no insurance payout.
"If there isn't any life insurance, and there's no liquidity, you can paint a pretty dark picture," says Boneparth.
This planning is necessary now, but it will continue to be important as Campos plans to expand his businesses and build wealth, and hand it all off to his children.
For now, Campos is focusing on giving Jayden and Milani a stable, memorable childhood in Williamsburg and beyond.
"In five years, I would love to be in a house, living a normal life where I just have a car — doesn't have to be too fancy. And we travel as much as we can," says Campos. "I would love to show my children what it is like out there in the world."
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