Invest In Yourself

K. Clyde Vanel, the son of haitian immigrants, learned how to manage money from watching his parents stretch their resources to raise him and his nine siblings in Queens, New York. Vanel’s mother, who cleans offices, and father, who drove a taxi and now works as a porter, were able to pay for eight children to attend Catholic school. All 10 children graduated high school and went on to college. Vanel, 31, is now a talented intellectual property attorney.

Because he went to a private Catholic school, Vanel realized the value of a quality education early on. When his parents couldn’t pay for his last two years of high school, he worked part time to pay for it himself. Vanel made the connection between education, business, and one’s ability to generate wealth. That is why he has adopted Declaration of Financial Empowerment principle No 8: to support the creation and growth of profitable, competitive black-owned enterprises.

When he was ready for law school, Vanel conducted his search like a savvy consumer. First, he made sure he scored well on his LSAT exam to attract scholarship money, then he focused on finding a school that would help him out the most financially. “A number of factors went into my decision, but it was important to me to find a school that would offer me the most scholarship money,” says Vanel.

When Boston University agreed to pay $18,000, or half of his tuition for each of the three years he’d spend in law school, Vanel decided to go there. For two years, the university paid his room and board because he was a resident advisor. This saved him about $10,000 a year. He also won two highly paid summer internships. His first summer in law school, he made between $6,000 and $8,000 working for the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s office. He spent his second summer working for intellectual property law firm Fish & Neave, and made about $30,000. At the end of his internship, the New York-based firm offered him a job upon graduation. He accepted it, with a starting salary of $125,000.

By the time he graduated law school in 2001, Vanel owed about $60,000 in student loans but he also had about $60,000 saved as a result of the scholarships he had, being a resident advisor, and his summer internships. And instead of moving back to New York and getting his own apartment, he moved back into his parents’ home and shared space with seven of his siblings.

“What I was doing was saving,” Vanel explains. His first financial goal was to invest in a home. He put $40,000 down on a $280,000, five-bedroom home in Queens in 2001. Today the house is worth $500,000, well worth the sacrifice of sleeping on his mother’s couch for a few months. “A lot of the people I worked with lived in Manhattan and their rent was more expensive than my mortgage,” he recalls.

Having a home with a garage was just what Vanel needed to accommodate