7 strategies that helped a single mom go from earning $14 an hour to $133,000 a year

by William

Insider’s experts choose the best products and services to help make smart decisions with your money (here’s how). In some cases, we receive a commission from our partners, however, our opinions are our own. Terms apply to offers listed on this page.

In August 2009, a traumatic car accident shifted Clarissa Moore’s relationship with money.

A driver in a stolen vehicle slammed into Moore’s car while she and her 11-month-old daughter were sitting in it parked on a Newark, New Jersey street. Her daughter suffered serious injuries and spent weeks in the hospital.

“She stopped breathing. Her brain was swollen. She had blood in her brain, and she had a seizure,” Moore tells Insider.

The 35-year-old had gap insurance, which makes you whole when your financed car is totaled and you owe more on the loan than the car is worth. But Moore still had to pay $300 monthly for three months until gap insurance kicked in.

To make financial matters worse, her commute to work nearly doubled. This meant Moore had less time to finish her bachelor’s degree at Ramapo College of New Jersey, less time for paid work or side hustle income, and less time with her family at home. 

“After that, I realized it was far too dangerous where I lived in Newark, New Jersey,” she says. “I was like, ‘Screw this, I’m moving.’ And that decision really started to revamp my whole personal finances.”

Moore worked a string of odd jobs between finishing her bachelor’s degree in psychology, raising two children, moving to a new city, and dealing with a fraught relationship with her now ex-husband. Finally, in 2013, she landed a stable job at an electric company where she was earning $14.38 an hour.

Today, according to records reviewed by Insider, Moore earns more than $130,000 annually from her corporate job in addition to these other income streams:

Here are seven strategies she used to go from earning $14 an hour to six figures.

1. She invested in her education

Moore started toward a bachelor’s degree in 2005 but didn’t finish until January 2016 because of her various life struggles. She switched schools three times to accommodate her schedule as a single mom, yet each school told her she did not meet certain requirements for her credits to transfer.

She went deeper into student debt, but didn’t quit. After graduating, “I noticed that, at my job, people with master’s degrees get more opportunities,” she says.Moore finished her master’s in business administration in May 2018, and her corporate job rewarded her with a generous pay raise.

2. Moore took control of her family’s budget

In 2014, Moore was working odd jobs that paid roughly $12 to $14 an hour. “Money was dwindling very, very fast,” she says. “I was freaking out.” With one toddler and a newborn to take care of, Moore tracked every penny of her family’s budget and created a plan to make sure they were living within their means.

3. She always kept at least $1,000 in her emergency fund

With limited income, Moore didn’t always have the ability to save three to six months worth of living expenses, the typical amount experts recommend keeping in a high-yield savings account for an emergency fund. Even while she was tackling credit card debt, student loans, and juggling multiple jobs, Moore made it a point to have at least $1,000 to cover emergencies to safeguard herself from getting deeper into debt.

4. Moore found short-term side hustles

After finding stable ground at her corporate job, Moore had time to pursue side hustles that she was passionate about. She started a jewelry line that became so successful, “Stars would wear my stuff,” she says. “They would wear it on reality shows. My jewelry was in a whole season of Basketball Wives. I used the money from that to help me pay down my credit card bills. I got out of debt and paid off my car.”

5. She invested time and energy into a long-term side hustle

Before moving to Easton, Pennsylvania, Moore worked in a credit card department of a local bank branch. There she learned about maintaining a good credit score and money-management skills. Coupled with her own experiences of getting her finances together, Moore’s friends started turning to her for money advice.

In 2019, Moore started Clarissa Explains Money, a money coaching service that helps women create budgets aligned with their goals. She now teaches 127,000 followers on Instagram how to manage their finances. Though it takes time to see income as an influencer, Moore makes an extra $2,800 a year in brand partnerships and $18,000 a year through her coaching service.

6. Moore saved any windfalls she received toward a down payment on a rental property

Moore saved her annual bonuses and tax refunds in a separate account specifically for a rental property. She always dreamt of creating passive income streams through real estate investing, to the point that she would listen to nothing but real estate investing podcasts on her drive to work every day.

According to records reviewed by Insider, Moore saved more than $23,000 to cover the down payment and closing costs of her rental property, which she purchased in April 2020.

7. She invested in real estate to create a passive income stream

When looking for houses, Moore chose a property that only needed cosmetic changes so she could start earning passive income from her tenants as soon as possible. Her three-bedroom rental property costs $1,205 per month and she pays $566 monthly for its mortgage for a net profit of $639 a month.

Of her passive income stream, Moore says, “This is what I always wanted. I did so much research on it. To be honest, the process was very smooth. I don’t think that I would have done anything differently.”

Correction: December 9, 2022 — An earlier version of this article contained inaccuracies regarding the year Moore began working at an electric company, and the number of bedrooms in her rental property. Those figures have been corrected. Further, this article previously contained inaccurate information about Moore’s master’s degree. The course of study was business administration, not social work. The story has been updated accordingly.

Related Posts


Lennie Schneider December 9, 2022 - 12:37 am

I read it and feel at home. Thanks to the creators for a good resource!

Virgil Kessler December 9, 2022 - 6:36 am

I also see that sometimes, but I never paid much attention to it before.


Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More