Cream City Hustle: Chapter Three, Part I

Cream City Hustle. A Personal Finance Thriller. Available at Amazon

A listing of released installments can be found at the end of each installment

Grabbing a corner table, Marcus and Train sat down with their large burritos and sides of pico de gallo and guacamole. Marcus began by describing the situation. “I was conducting business down the street from the apartment when I glanced up and noticed a new face. It wasn’t so much the fact that it wasn’t someone who was familiar to me, it was the fact he gave me a real hard, long stare. It was clear that he wasn’t interested in conducting business. It was more like he was sizing me up, for what I don’t know.”

Before Marcus could start describing him, Train jumped in. “What did he look like?”

“A dark-skinned brotha, a little shorter than me, kinda stocky and bald with a goatee with clean lines. Seen him around?”

“Doesn’t sound familiar. What was he wearing?”

“Some dark boots, maybe Doc Martens, baggy jeans and an old, faded Army coat. I think they call them field jackets,” Marcus responded without a moment’s hesitation.

“Hmm, nothing,” Train said. “The description doesn’t sound familiar, but I’ll keep my ear to the ground and talk to some people, see what they know.”

“Switching gears for a minute, man, let’s go back to that whole emergency thing.”

“You mean the emergency fund?” Marcus interrupted him.

“Yeah, man. It seems like every time we talk, you get me to thinkin’ about my money or thinkin’ about it in a new way. I know you had mentioned something before when we were talking about building a financial foundation, but I don’t remember that piece.”

“Like I said before, it’s the money kept in a savings account just for emergencies or to meet unexpected expenses. Should something out of the ordinary come up, you don’t need to dip into the money earmarked for savings and investing. As an example, remember last year when I had to replace the brakes on my car?”

“Yeah, I remember.”

Car Dashboard - Benjamin Child

“Well of course I ended up getting rid of it, but at the time I thought I was going to keep it for a long while. Too many issues though. Better to cut my losses and sell it. Instead of using money intended for my savings and investments, I just pulled the money out of the savings account where I maintain my emergency fund.”

“One of the first rules of personal finance that I came across is that you should pay yourself first, meaning, do things like build an emergency fund and contribute to your savings and investment accounts before anything else: paying bills, going out to dinner, going to the movies, buying new clothes, buying a new cell phone, everything else. You’ll never get around to meeting your financial goals if your income is constantly diverted to other obligations. The worst is credit card debt. Too many people turn to using credit cards to not only buy stuff they don’t need, but to cover emergencies also. They end up spending money that could have gone to meeting a financial goal to make payments on credit cards with those high-ass interest rates.”

“I’ve seen plenty of that,” Train agreed.

“My immediate goal is to save enough money to start college and my secondary goal is to build the foundation for my retirement nest-egg. According to the Department of Education, two years at a community college – where I plan to start, keeping the cost lower – is about $18,000 on average. The last two years at a university will run about double that. Therefore, I’m probably looking at somewhere around $54,000.”

“Damn, that’s a lot of money!” Train proclaimed.

“No doubt, man.” I’m not trying to get it all at once though. I figure if I can have two-thirds of it, $36,000, saved before starting at a community college, I can work part-time while I’m going to school. That should put me in a nice position to finish without any student loans, without the heavy burden of debt.”

“How close are you to the $36,000?”

“I’m at $21,489.85. Just over $14,000 to go.”

“What about that retirement money? How is that going?” Train inquired.

“Not too bad. I opened an IRA account last year and I’ve been steadily making monthly contributions of $100. So I’m at about $1,000. Once my education is paid for, I will be in a position to contribute a little bit more until I get to the point where I can contribute the maximum.”

“Was it difficult opening an account, hiring one of them financial advisors and everything?”

“Nope. A lot of people don’t realize you can go through good companies like Fidelity or Vanguard and open the account yourself in a matter of minutes. No need to pay somebody to do something you can do yourself.” Basically, the accounts that are forming my financial foundation are in place. My savings accounts for the emergency fund and college; and my investment account for my IRA are all set. Now, it’s all about funding them.”

“As long as I can get through the next year or so without any drama associated with dealing weed, like that shit over on West Capitol Drive the other night, I don’t see a problem hittin’ my goals and then making my move.

“What drama?” asked Train.

“You didn’t read about that shit in the paper or hear about it on the news?”

“Nope,” said Train as he shook his head from side to side.

“You need to read a paper or check the news once in a while, my brotha. Find out what’s going on in the space around you.”

“Apparently, a couple of days ago, in the middle of the afternoon, like 2:00, some fool named Q-Ball, now there’s a name for ya, and several of his partners went looking for this dude named Redbone and ran across him on Capitol Drive. They exchanged some words and then just like that, Q-Ball broke out his piece and shot Redbone twice. Once in the shoulder and once in the thigh. They say all hell really broke loose after that. Witnesses said gunfire exploded from damn near every direction. Hard as it is to believe, they say nobody died, although that Redbone was shot up pretty good. A bunch of kids was in the area, but thankfully, none of ’em got hit. It can be crazy out here, man.”

“Let me know what you can find out on the dude I described. Something wasn’t right with him.”

“Like I said, the description doesn’t sound familiar, but I’ll keep my ear to the ground and talk to some people, see what they know,” Train assured him.

“Appreciate it, man.”

I will be sharing a half chapter or so of my first personal finance thriller each Sunday. Check back on Sunday, May 29th for the next installment.

Listing of Installments


Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. I remember signing up for a checking account at a big bank when I started college. I had heard of IRAs, and the teller encouraged me to sign up for one right there.

    So happy I waited and took the advice of Marcus and didn’t pay someone to do something I can do myself!

    • ” … didn’t pay someone to do something I can do myself!” Indeed. So much more can be learned and gained when one takes the time to educate themselves and manage their own financial lives.

      Thanks for following the story and it’s gratifying to know you’re enjoying it.

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