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Paycheck to paycheck: Siblings are serious about saving

Collin Pompilio, 11, and his sister, Brianna, 10, save diligently for the future. It is a lesson learned from their grandparents, who adopted them two years ago.

Collin Pompilio, 11, and his sister, Brianna, 10, save diligently for the future. It is a lesson learned from their grandparents, who adopted them two years ago.

Collin Pompilio, 11, is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind … and especially thrifty. He was allowed to move from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts a year early, and is determined to make Eagle. He eats vegetables; does chores with a smile. He has even opened a mutual fund to start saving for his dream of becoming a lawyer, "to argue for what's right." So far, he has saved $3,700.

His sister, Brianna, 10, opened an account too, and has saved $3,000 for medical school.

Life hasn't always been so ideal.

Two years ago, the children were adopted by their retirement-age grandparents, Carolyn Pompilio, 61, and Rick Pompilio, 69, of New Port Richey. The kids don't like to talk about their father, and when they do they call him Brian. Their mother doesn't come up in conversation at all. Grandma is Mom and Grandpa is Dad.

"We thought, hopefully we'll just take my son's kids for the summer. Maybe he'll get rid of his girlfriend, maybe he'll straighten out. He said he wasn't on drugs anymore," explains Carolyn, who took the children in four years ago, "but after a month or two my son just seemed to forget he had any kids. Time went by. Christmas came and went, birthdays came and went and there was no contact."

She worries about the cost of raising children again. "We were set up financially to care for two people, not four. … What if we run out of money before we die and they're 18 or 21 years old?"

"I have no doubt that if anything happens to us, these two will go to on college and they'll be okay," Rick answers. "They're great kids. They're survivors."

The kids know firsthand why it's important to save — you might have to take care of yourself at any time. Ask Collin what he learned living with his father, before he was adopted, and he grows silent. Shrugs. Remembers something. His face grows taut and tears grow in his eyes.

With his grandmother's encouragement, he explains.

"If you want something, you better save for it. … You have to be prepared and expect what's going to come so that you know what to do when it happens."

About this feature

Seventy percent of U.S. families say they live paycheck to paycheck. American savings are in the negative, the lowest level since the Great Depression. In the Tampa Bay area, the financial pressure for many is acute with average wages lower than in comparable Sun Belt cities and unemployment rising higher than the state and national averages. Add a related surge in property taxes and insurance bills (not to mention higher gas prices) and the challenge to make ends meet is quickly becoming pervasive. It's not a fringe problem. It's your neighbor; it's us. Times photographer John Pendygraft seeks stories that put a face behind the phenomenon. Are you living paycheck to paycheck? E-mail your story to jpendygraft@sptimes.com.

To see more of this series and to watch a video about Collin and Brianna Pompillio click here.

Paycheck to paycheck: Siblings are serious about saving 07/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 2:53pm]
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