Recently, Celie Niehaus, vice president of E-Trade, shared how she managed to pay off $10,000 in credit card debt with Marketplace’s Krissy Clark.Like most consumers in this predicament, Niehaus, then a banker in her late 20s, got focused on “the mechanics of paying off debt,” i.e., reducing spending and increasing revenue.
But Niehaus began leading a secret life to accomplish the latter:
I couldn’t work extra hours at the bank to increase my income, which led me to the second job. I was fortunate enough to know some people [who] worked for the Fayette County school system and they had told me about a janitor’s job.
Niehaus said working five nights a week, four hours a night as a janitor taught her “a lot about cleaning” and even more about how clueless people can be when managing finances. Some workers around the school, including school administrators, started asking her for advice:
“As I went from office space to office space with my garbage can and vacuum they would start asking me financial services questions. Questions about loans, questions about debt.”
20 years later, Niehaus teaches young people about personal finance, using her stint as a janitor as a lesson.