One of my favorite things about this site and the M$M community is how many awesome financial stories come across my inbox from readers! So many of you are doing great things in your life professionally and financially, and one of my goals is to find awesome reader stories from all of you and share them.
Recently, I got to interview Alison Bouman! She's a professional basketball player in Europe right now and regular M$M reader. She has some killer travel hacking tips and peeled back the curtain on what I think is a fascinating career path. She's also maximizing her income in a huge way to get ahead at a young age. Enjoy! ~M$M
Let's start with the big one: How did you become a professional basketball player and get through college with no debt?
I worked various jobs since I was in middle school and have always been financially aware. My parents taught my siblings and I the value of a dollar very early and working hard. I received several full-ride scholarships in high school for college from all levels.
I played college basketball first at Wayne State University, NCAA DII, and transferred after 1 year to Davenport University (now NCAA DII but was NAIA).
While a majority of my full-ride was for basketball I had academic scholarships as well.
Choosing to go to a lower division allowed for me to work during my summers to save up. My senior year I came off of a shoulder surgery and had a terrific year on the court which allowed for me to get noticed. I was contacted by an agent in Europe after that year about the possibility of playing overseas, and she worked on reaching out to teams and putting my name out there.
2. You mentioned to me that you aren't making Lebron James money…how much do pro basketball players like you typically get paid?
A typical contract could be anywhere from $750 to $3,000 euros a month to start. The contract will also include 2 roundtrip flights, one to bring you there and at the end of the season and also for Christmas break.
I average about $1,000 a month, but housing, health insurance, Visa's, and some sort of transportation are also included in every contract.
3. What countries have you played in so far?
I have played in 8 countries so far: Bulgaria, Turkey, Australia, Portugal, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, and of course United States of America.
4. I'm a big fan of people that make sacrifices to get to where they want to be in life. What have you sacrificed to follow your dream of playing pro basketball?
To follow my dream of playing professional basketball I have had to give up the dependable life. I could have been working a boring office job making a good salary but I am doing what less than 1% of athletes get to do.
I have had to miss multiple family and friend get togethers and holidays when I am overseas. I am thankful that I have never missed a Christmas yet as most teams fly you home for two weeks. I work during the off-season full-time and train everyday at least 2 hours if not more to set myself up for success.
You never know when you are going to receive a contract and have to be ready to go within a few days of receiving one.
5. What are your long-term career goals?
Long-term I would like to work in international business and something that helps people. I could never be ready to stop exploring the world and I love helping people whether it's coaching other basketball players in my position or volunteering!
6. You mentioned that you travel a ton – how many countries have you traveled to since you moved overseas and what was your favorite?
Overall, I have traveled to over 20 countries, and this past season in Czech Republic I traveled to 8 of them. My favorite two have been the Netherlands and Italy. Amsterdam was amazing and the savory pancakes were worth the trip alone! I was able to travel to Italy twice this past season.
Once to Rome, Naples, and Pompei with a Mt. Vesuvius wine tasting and the second time to Venice. The food, architecture, and scenery were better than I had expected.
7. What are your best travel hacking tips?
One of the best tips I have used is to research before you go. I have couch surfed in the Cairns, Australia on the Great Barrier Reef and in Paris, France for free for a week.
Couchsurfing is and app and a website where hosts accept travelers for free just to hear stories of travels and maybe pick up a new recipe.
There are hosts, travelers, and just adventurers looking to meet up with other adventurers. If you are uncomfortable doing that look into hostels. They are super fun and affordable.
AirBnB is great as well. I used that in Venice and Amsterdam and it saved us a lot of money being able to cook and have a washing machine.
Looking into travel hacking sites can be intimidating because they recommend quite a few credit cards. I picked just one that was a travel rewards that offered a ridiculous amount of points and rewards.
Having a card that offers a lounge pass at the airport is almost a life changing when you miss you flight and have to stay there for 8 hours.
Only get into travel hacking if you know you will pay off your card every month!
8. What have you been doing to get ahead financially at a young age?
When I graduated from college I did not understand personal finance that well even though I have been working since middle school. I read a lot of blogs, yours in particular and books.
I picked a no frills credit card to get my credit score up since I have never had to use loans.
When I went overseas I started travel hacking and opened up a credit card for travel hacking and to avoid foreign transact fees.
I changed my savings account to Ally bank for a higher interest rate than what my normal bank was offering. Since I have not had a salaried job yet I opened a Roth IRA which is an after tax retirement account but is still a big benefit for me since I plan on being in a higher tax bracket when I retire.
Every book I have read on building wealth focuses on a diversified wallet. I started investing and learning about stocks, efts, bonds, and cds. Learning about what fits your style and getting started is what matters.
The last and most important piece is to start an emergency fund ASAP. I had to pay for unexpected medical bills and replace the radiator in my car in the same month but had a solid emergency fund that covered it without having to rely on credit.
9. I love that you're an overseas reader of M$M!!!! How did you find the site?
I was chatting with another a friend overseas about finances and she mentioned your blog and I have been reading ever since! Your book recommendations and blog course have been very helpful. I use most of what you post and what I read in Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry!