Tess Vigeland: Fire up the grill, cut the watermelon, hang the bunting. Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone. In honor of our national holiday, we're highlighting a theme throughout the show today, financial independence. Do you remember when you first felt financially independent?
Ben Marks: Hey, this is Ben Marks calling from Charleston, S.C. I first felt financially independent after graduating from college when I realized that that t-shirt I got for filling out a credit card application was costing me about $1,000 a year in interest. To this day, it is the most expensive t-shirt I've ever owned.
Erica Icoltz: My name is Erica Icoltz. I am from Kansas City, Miss. I first felt financially independent when I left my parents' house at the age 17. I joined the military and before then, I hadn't worked then at all during high school or anything. So when I got into the military and I got my first paycheck, then I was able to buy things with my own money. That's when I first felt financially independent.
My first big purchase was actually a 32-inch TV. I first felt scared, knowing that it was up to me to provide finances for myself. I didn't know what to do with my money at all. So I was pretty scared to spend it actually.
Mike Ravenscroft: Hi, my name is Mike Ravenscroft. I'm a grad student at American University. I am doing a Master's in literature. The first time I paid rent by myself when I moved to Washington D.C., that was when I felt financially independent. That was the first time I felt like I actually had control over my own well-being. I think for the first six months, I was so excited to be living on my own and supporting myself that I didn't really realize how much rent was in this city. It was only when I realized half my paycheck was going toward just having a place to live. That did start to become kind of a mental axe. But now, I have a grad student stipend and that goes entirely towards my rent, so I have no money. So, once again, financially dependent, I guess, on other sources.
Deborah Finfore: My name is Deborah Finfore and I'm a stay-at-home mom currently and going to school. I think I first felt financially independent when my parents cut me off. I was about 25 and not going to school and I was working, but they were still helping support me. And they decided if I wasn't going to school, I was no longer their dependent. I don't think it's possible to ever feel completely secure that you're never going to need help, but, of course, I hope not to. Luckily, I'm in a financial position now and a family that's supportive both financially -- my husband and I. So I'm lucky, I'm one of the fortunate ones that if I do need help, I'll have it.
Collin New: My name is Collin New. I'm from Pelham, Mass. I first felt financially independent about three months after I graduated from college in 2007. I was an environmental studies major in school, but I moved to New York to be an actor and a singer. What I first did when I got to New York was intern for the parks and recreations department and that didn't pay all that well, so I was still calling home to my father, being like, "Hey dad, not quite gonna make it this month. You wanna send over some rent money?" But that ended when I got a job in the service industry, like every good actor, I suppose. It was a restaurant job. And I was financially independent for a number of years, but now I find myself back with my parents again. So my days of financial independence are over for now. But hopefully that will change.
Danny Curr: Hi, my name is Danny Curr. I'm from Anchorage, Alaska and I reside in New York now. Been independent financially, I think that debt-free, don't know anybody. Not having to worry about where you're gonna get your income at, that's more of independence. I think as long as you have a mortgage, you're not independent. As long as you owe for a car loan, you won't be independent. I think that to feel financial independent, it would have to be until being able to work and do something I enjoy doing without having to worry about pay or money.
Amy Dylan: My name is Amy Dylan and I live in Indianapolis, Ind. I don't remember a single, defining moment of financial independence for myself. I think it was an accumulation of experiences over a period of time -- round when I got my first job, my first apartment. And probably the most defining experience was probably my first real experience with the health care system and health insurance. I was diagnosed with narcolepsy around the same time I began my first job. It was on my own health plan, so working within that system, navigating that system, I think that was probably when I felt like an adult, financially.
Joyce Hur: My name is Joyce Hur and I teach high school and college in Amarillo, Texas. I think I had an "aha!" moment when I realized that I was responsible pretty much for my own bills. But in the same degree, I went through a pretty painful divorce, lost a lot of my income and my parents were still able to help me in my 40s, kinda get back on my feet. So I guess, sort of for us, it's been kind of paying it forward. And so with our kids we hold them accountable, but still when they get stuck, we still help 'em out.
Heidi Kendall: My name is Heidi Kendall and I'm originally from Auburn, Maine. I felt financial independence probably shortly after my move to New York City in 2001, so post-my graduation from college. Well, I got my first full-time job and I didn't have any debt from college, so I didn't have a great deal of debt to pay off. And I was able to apply my salary to living expenses and then start to invest it through my company's 401(k). So, I would say by probably age 23, I felt financially independent.
Vigeland: We'll hear more stories throughout the hour. We also asked followers on Twitter for their 140-character responses, you can find those by following me @radiotess. And check out our Makin' Money blog for a story from a Somali refugee with a new home and financial independence here in Minnesota.