Philip Taylor of PT Money on the Perks of Bagging Groceries
Michelle Jackson — Entry Level
Philip Taylor is better known as the “PT” of PT Money, a popular personal finance blog he founded in 2007. Since then he’s been featured in Inc., Forbes, and Men’s Health and is a contributor to Business Insider and U.S. News & World Report. The Texas-based CPA also started FinCon, an annual conference for self-described money nerds. His latest project is launching the Masters of Money podcast, where he’ll interview other personal finance experts about their real-life financial goals and struggles.
But first, we thought we’d turn the tables on Philip and ask this CEO and financial writer to take us back, way back, to his first job.
Michelle: What was your first job?
Philip: My first job was as a bag boy at a grocery store in my town.
Michelle: What was it like deciding what your first job would be? Did you have friends at the grocery store?
Philip: I did have a friend there, yep that helped, but really I lived in a really small town and it was the only grocery store and one of the major employers, so it was one of my only options if I wanted to work in traditional employment at the time. I was 15, so just barely old enough to work.
Michelle: What was the interview like? Do you remember that?
Philip: I do. I was very nervous. This was the first time I was asking an adult for anything like this. I felt like the manager purposely made it uncomfortable for me for some reason… It was an awkward conversation but ultimately he thought I was worthy of the job.... My parents knew enough to tell me to bring some sort of resume even though I hadn't worked anywhere yet. Something that showed I was a responsible student, responsible person, some references, and stuff like that.
Michelle: Do you remember how much you got paid?
Philip: I do, I got paid the minimum wage in Louisiana at the time which I believe was $5.25.
Michelle: How did it feel making $5 bucks an hour? How did your 15-year-old self feel about the money at the time?
Philip: I think I was pretty reasonable about it. What I really liked about it was that it was money that I didn't have to ask my dad for. Up until that point, the money that I had in my life was money that my parents gave me.... I hated having to ask them, even if it just was for stuff that I needed. I wanted to have that independence and to have money where no one could tell me what I could do with it.
Michelle: What was the best thing about working there and what was the worst?
Phillip: By far the best thing about it was getting to talk to cute girls who came through the store.… I'm not going to lie that was how I met one of my first girlfriends. She was shopping there with her parents and I was flirting. It was a social job. People were coming in and out. I got to know people and get a sense for the community. There was always something fresh about it.
The worst thing was probably the fact that with a grocery store you have to front all of the aisles. What this means is you have to move all of the products to the front of the display. And, so, on the days that I would front, that's all I would do [and] it felt like a job that would never end…. By the time you get done [with one aisle] people had raided it and pulled things off and you're kind of back where you started. The sense that the work was never, ever really done. And maybe I never got a sense of completion, you know, from doing the work.
Michelle: What did you do with your first check?
Philip: I know that at the time my dad encouraged me to get a pocketbook savings account. They gave you a black book, and you go and deposit your check. I'm sure I tried to "save" some of it and took some cash out to spend. I probably bought some c.d.s, some candy, just goofed off with it.
Michelle: What lessons did you learn at that job that you still use now?
Philip: Look at opportunities for extra money while on the job. That was one lesson, in addition to the free donuts from the bakery. I learned the better job I did at bagging groceries, the more likely that people would tip me. Believe it or not, people, especially older customers, tipped when you brought their groceries to the car for them…. So I tried to be the person who could provide that full service and take the groceries to the car. And, sure enough I would get an extra two bucks back in my pocket that I wouldn't have gotten paid from my employer.
I learned about taxes and having money taken out of your paycheck. Knowing what your hourly wage was. Knowing what you worked was not going to equal what you took home. Once I finally got paid I was like, "oh man." They took money out for all of this other stuff that I didn't necessarily think about or realize. That became real to me.
Michelle: Were you pissed off by that? Or resigned to the fact that’s just how it was?
Philip: I was kind of resigned. My dad is a CPA so he talked me through this: “Let's talk about your paycheck and why it's not as much as you thought it would be. Let's talk about what these things are so that you can understand and know where that money is going to so that you can understand why you're positive or negative.”
Michelle: Last question. You have three kids, when they’re old enough to look for a job, what is the one piece of advice that you would give them?
Philip: I think that I would try to give my kids perspective that... everything may not be perfect with the job, but that there are things that you do here that will help you out down the road. Some little lesson you'll take away that's going to make you a better employee for future businesses you work for or make you a better business owner if you decide to start your own company. So, look at the little things that you're doing even though they may be drudgery or you may resent them at the time or don't understand why you have to do them. Look at that step, do your best, and then consider that an investment in your future.
This interview has been edited and condensed.