Overcoming a Gambling Problem and Leaving a Soul-Draining Career To Find Well-Being.
I’m Ambus, and I am looking forward to sharing my story with you.
This isn’t your typical “about me” page where you get a summary of facts that you could gather from following any of my social media pages.
If you did, it wouldn’t take long for you to see that I love drums, James Bond, health & fitness, traveling, and financial education.
That’s the basic stuff. I want you to know me and why I am the way I am.
The abbreviated version of my story is that I nearly went broke at 25 from compulsive gambling.
I quit gambling, sacrificed, worked extra jobs, and accumulated $200K of wealth by 30.
I also set out to find my purpose, and align my strengths and interests.
So, I left a job I hated, changed careers-twice, became a financial educator, and started a financial well-being platform.
Throughout all of that I learned how the relationship we have with money impacts more than just our finances.
Money impacts our overall well-being in more ways than we realize, and that’s what this platform is about.
That was brief, I know. But, trust me I can talk so to check out the full story, keep reading!
2004 – Heading To College
You probably don’t care about the morning of my birth, so let’s skip ahead and pick this story up in 2004.
I was freshly turned 18, passionate about drums, and ready to take off to Bowling Green State University (BGSU) on a partial scholarship to study as a music major.
Other than vacations, it was my first time leaving my hometown of Twinsburg, Ohio, and the first major decision of my life.
2006 – Switching Majors
I was LOVING my time at BGSU and advancing in the music program, but by the end of sophomore year I was beginning to feel that a career in music wasn’t the path for me.
To be honest, I was nervous of becoming a so-called “struggling musician”, so I started considering another subject I had a strong interest in: business.
At the start of junior year, I officially switched my major to supply chain management within the BGSU College of Business.
I honestly didn’t know much about what a supply chain even was, but the degree had a good expected starting salary and at the time, I was only thinking with my wallet.
2007 – Becoming A Fitness Trainer + Sparking A Love For Educating
After switching majors, I remained active in various music ensembles, but since I no longer had to attend so many music classes I filled up my free time with working out.
I fell in love with wellness.
Being able to make decisions about my health that could directly impact my quality of life really inspired me.
As I progressed in my knowledge of exercises and the body, I started helping others with their fitness journeys. I loved connecting with people, hearing their challenges, providing encouragement, and watching them experience the joy of reaching their goals.
Wanting to take my interest in helping others to the next level, I became a certified fitness trainer through the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).
After approaching the BGSU Wellness Coordinator about job opportunities, I interviewed and was hired as a fitness trainer at the BGSU Student/Faculty Recreation Center.
This was my first official job as a coach of any sort, and I connected with being able to educate, and encourage others, all while providing my favorite: tough love.
May 2009 – Graduating During “The Great Recession”
During senior year, I had the pleasure of trying to find a job during the U.S “Great Recession”.
This was a rough time to be looking for a job, as most companies had hiring freezes.
Two days after graduation I received two offers: a buying position with Goodyear Tire in Akron, Ohio and a civilian acquisitions position with the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
Goodyear was close to home, but working for the Federal Government offered greater job security, traveling opportunities, and good benefits like retirement matching.
The position also offered an undergraduate student loan repayment program and would cover a Master’s degree. Even though the starting salary of $38k was much lower than what I would have earned with Goodyear, it was overall the better package and I accepted the job.
August 2009 – Out On My Own
I moved out to Dayton, found a townhome to rent, and was officially out on my own.
From the get go, I wasn’t loving the career field.
I just didn’t feel connected to military weapons acquisition, but I knew I had to hang in there while I was getting a steady paycheck, education, and opportunity.
Within the first 3 months of living on my own I was in a good groove with managing my money. Bills were always paid early, I was proactively investing towards retirement, and I was saving roughly 20% of my take home pay.
Even though I knew it wasn’t the career for me, financially, things were smooth.
Spring of 2011 – Vegas Roulette
I was 24, student loan debt-free, promoted, and enjoying doing what I wanted with my money to include cash-flowing fun trips.
One of them was a spring trip to Vegas with a close friend.
It was my first time to Vegas and although I was never much into gambling, I was drawn to roulette and enjoyed the rush and fear of betting.
I should also mention that roulette was a favorite of the original novel-version of James Bond, so ok, maybe I was trying to be him (ha!).
Perhaps it was beginners’ luck because by the end of the trip I won enough money to cover all of my vacation expenses, and I was hooked.
Fall of 2011 – Compulsive Gambling
Throughout the summer and early fall, I was actively seeking out and driving to casinos to play roulette. At first, I was winning quite a bit, so naturally, things were going great and I was having fun.
As my winnings grew, so did my arrogance, and I slowly became obsessed with playing, and the adrenaline rush of betting.
And then, my luck changed and I started losing; a lot.
The first chunk was losing $2k at an Indiana casino on an early November Saturday night; I will never forget that night. On the long drive home, I should have recognized the tide turn and stopped all together, but I was overconfident and figured my loss was a fluke.
I went back to the casino two nights later determined to win back my losses, and lost big again.
Over the course of the following weeks I would drive an hour to the casino after work to try to chase my losses, each time coming home a loser.
Little by little I burned through all of my summer profits, the money in my checking account, and the majority of my emergency fund savings.
Close to $10k was gone in a matter of weeks. Talk about “easy come, easy go”.
Even after losing the money, my thoughts were still consumed with the desire to gamble.
I struggled with focusing at work, I wasn’t sleeping, and my anxiety was through the roof as all I wanted to do was get to the wheel and win the money back.
Things got so ridiculous that I even created an excel-based roulette simulator that I would play when I was “working” so I could test new betting strategies.
I convinced myself to gamble one last time, withdrew the last $2500 I had, and went back to the roulette wheel. I burned through half the money in about 30 minutes and left before I ended up completely broke.
It finally hit me that I had a problem and needed to stop before I drifted further into addiction and made things worse.
I decided to quit gambling, and started changing my thoughts and attitudes around my overall health and relationship with money.
Not only was gambling not good for my wellness, it gave me a false trust in quick and easy money. Just like there wasn’t a shortcut to getting my money back, I learned there was no shortcut to wealth or anything else I wanted to achieve.
December 2011 – Owning My Mistake + Creating A Plan
I knew I messed up and knew that only I could fix it.
I sat down and determined that if I cut out all unnecessary expenses, and worked two extra jobs, I could rebuild my savings within 5 months.
I started cutting what I didn’t need.
Cable? Gone. Home Internet? Cut off and I tethered data from my cell phone. Social life? Nope. Thermostat? Lowered.
I was absolutely determined to not have much beyond rent, food to live, utilities, gas for work, and my then car payment.
On the income side, I took on two part-time jobs in addition to working full-time. This was also at a time when I was taking graduate classes every Friday night and Saturday morning, so I was busy every day of the week.
One of the jobs was mystery shopping and I did it every evening after work.
Some of the mystery assignments were at restaurants, so I was getting paid and getting free food. That definitely helped my grocery budget.
On weekends I was a brand ambassador for various liquor companies. Basically, I was one of the guys you would see in bars passing out free liquor. Can’t lie, that was a fun job.
I have never been much of a fan of “frugal living” and that period was about the closest I ever got to it. It wasn’t how I wanted to live long-term, but I knew I needed to do it for a season.
I trusted that consistency and time would get me to my goal.
February 2012 – A New Job Opportunity + A Gambling Slip Up
In February of 2012, I accepted a new full-time position at the Naval Air (NAVAIR) Command in Maryland, and was scheduled to move later in the year.
It was similar to the job I was already doing so I wasn’t thrilled about that, but I saw it as an opportunity to build a new network and it came with a raise.
Things were taking a positive turn, but I still had some unhealthy temptations.
The following month during a trip to Louisiana, I walked right into gambling again. I thought I could just play a few spins, but that turned into a few days and losing another grand.
When I got back to Ohio, I put the setback behind me, recommitted to giving up gambling, kept working the part-time jobs, and continued working the savings plan.
My efforts paid off, and by mid-April I met my original savings goal. Keeping that momentum, I then went on to finish my Master’s degree over the summer.
Fall 2012 – Moving To Southern Maryland
It was getting close to my move date, and by the fall I had saved the equivalent of 8 months’ worth of income.
After 10 months of pushing myself, I finally felt like I could move past my gambling nightmare.
The best part is that I was experiencing a proactive new spirit, and wanted that to continue into my new chapter in Maryland; I just needed to find a place within my budget.
To live alone and get the same in square footage and amenities that I was used to having in Ohio, I was going to have to pay more than double in rent.
I searched Craigslist and found a listing that would keep my total house expenses at what I was used to paying in Ohio. The catch was that it meant sharing a house with four other people.
I was so used to keeping my expenses minimized so I went for it, moved to MD, and started my new job.
2013 – Getting Back To Drumming + Another Move
By the following year, I was drained.
I was living out of one bedroom, had minimal privacy, and the growing disconnection in my career was really getting to me.
To help me stay grounded, I picked back up the drumsticks, started a music business, and began regularly performing in a jazz trio.
Doing something that I loved helped me to balance the discontent I had in my main career. Plus, the 4-5 gigs a month provided great part-time income.
As an entrepreneur, I was also learning a ton about working with other business owners, negotiation, business taxes, and partnerships.
While music did help me to be less grumpy, I eventually grew tired of sharing spaces with four other people, so I decided it was time to move on.
I found a listing with more space and only two roommates for not a bad increase in rent.
By then, I was bringing in good side hustle income so I was able to cover the rent increase while still saving/investing 50% of my income.
Definitely worth the move.
2014 – Work Stress, Influential Mentors + A Fresh Career
Most areas of my life were on track. I had much more privacy in my living space, my jazz trio was staying busy, and I was saving loads of cash.
The one area that was still dragging me down was my career in military acquisitions.
Honestly, I hated going to work every day and felt miserable every moment I was there.
My productivity was low and many days I did just the bare minimum to not cause any red flags with my boss. Even though I had been promoted 3x, I had little motivation or aspiration to continue to climb the “ladder” into management.
To be honest, the only thing that kept me going was the money.
To make things worse, the unfulfillment in my career was causing me stress to the point I was getting sick a lot and calling off to avoid work. The stress also bled into my then long-distance relationship and I would spend hours on the phone venting about my job.
Things eventually got to a point where the money was no longer worth the misery. The money was good, but I hated where it came from.
So, I decided to pursue switching careers.
I didn’t know which direction to go in, but I just knew I needed to get back to valuing my overall well-being, which career fulfillment is part of.
Around this time, I gained two mentors. Through meeting with both of them, I began to gain clarity on what I had to offer, and what topics interested me.
My growth was noticed, and one of my mentors started advocating on my behalf with her peers in leadership. Through her sponsorship, I secured an interview with our Diversity & Inclusion Division as an analyst.
I got the job and it felt good to have a fresh career start in an area I had interest in, wanted to excel in, and believed in.
February 2017 – Accumulating $200K + Living In Baltimore County
By early 2017, I was 30 and now renting in Baltimore County as my then long-distance girlfriend moved to Maryland.
The previous 4.5 years of living with craigslist roommates had paid off.
Between saving on rent, bringing in extra side-hustle income, paying off my car two years early, controlling my spending, and investing, I had a combined $200K in cash and investment accounts.
To this day, I still believe living with roommates for all those years was one of the best financial decisions I ever made.
October 2017 – Taking A Solocation + Leaning Into Financial Education
I was always a big fan of social media.
Regularly posting my thoughts about fitness, personal growth, and finances was fun for me, and seemed to help others. It was not long before I was receiving DM’s from others who wanted advice on their financial journeys.
Around this time, I was listening to the Ken Coleman Show podcast. A show where Ken helps callers brainstorm ideas how to find their “sweet spot”, which Ken defines as the intersection between individual strengths, passions, and values.
Diving into this podcast really got me thinking about my own life and what I could do to identify, and step into my sweet spot.
To help me sort things out, I decided to go take an 8-day “solocation” to Vancouver, Canada, and contemplate what I wanted out of life.
Through a series of questions, I figured out that what gave me the most energy was engaging and educating others about money and the role it has in our overall well-being.
I made the decision in Vancouver that I would pursue opportunities to educate people on how to better manage their money in order to become and remain financially healthy. After self-sabotaging and rebuilding my own financial health, I wanted to help others along their journeys.
I messaged numerous non-profits and inquired about volunteer or shadowing opportunities. I just knew I had to get around others who were doing what I wanted to do, and see where it would lead me.
My initiative worked and by the end of 2017, I was a volunteer financial educator with a financial wellness non-profit: MakingChange.
January 2018 – Buying A Home
The new year came and I was feeling more confident in my life path and decided to take a step in stabilizing my home situation; I became a homeowner.
For years I actually wasn’t interested in buying a house. I enjoyed the idea of being able to jump up and go anywhere without any real financial obligation, but I guess you could say the property was too good to pass up.
The best part is that I was able to put to good use the money I saved from living with roommates and working my jazz side-hustle.
I put down a 20% down payment, something I never thought I would be in the financial position to do.
This was a proud moment for me, especially considering the roulette fiasco of 2011.
It was a long road of sacrifice, delayed gratification, and discipline, but it was all worth it to get to get that point.
April 2018: Managing a Mentoring Program
In April I took a new career opportunity and moved over from NAVAIR diversity/inclusion to the Career Development Division to manage a mentoring program.
This was definitely a full-circle moment for me as it was 4 years prior when mentors helped me reboot my career.
Side note: This is my current full-time job and there is not a day I don’t wake up and feel grateful for the opportunity to impact the careers of others in a positive way.
2019 – Starting An Online Business
Continuing to volunteer with MakingChange, I then partnered with the CASH Campaign of Maryland and started leading classes around Baltimore County.
I enrolled in a three-year certification program to become an Accredited Financial Counselor through the AFCPE, and continued sharing thoughts about money on social media.
A few friends mentioned that I should start a blog, so I decided to do it.
I developed AmbusHunter.com and a financial coaching program geared towards Millennial professionals aspiring to find balance by becoming financially healthy.
The goal of the platform is to encourage you to examine and transform your relationship with money in order to reach financial well-being.
I want to help you:
- Understand and strengthen your relationship with money
- Overcome financial challenges
- Create and direct healthy thoughts and behaviors
- Find and fund your passion
- Align strengths and values in money decisions
- Embrace consistency and intentionality
- Eliminate debt and invest towards the future
- Create your results
- Become financially free!
Helping others reach financial wellness and well-being feels right and I am enjoying the journey.
I want to do what I can to help as many people as possible make sense of their relationship with money and live the life they desire.
Whether the goal is to own a home, start a new business, experience the world without debt, or just simply feel in control of their money, I want to show people how they can create a life of options by becoming financially fit in a healthy way.
If you are ready to experience peace and wealth building in a way that is in line with your values, you are in the right place.
To help you get there, join the community of like-minded people on the journey to get in their best financial shape. In my weekly newsletter you will get advice and insight on what it takes to reach comfort, health, and happiness in your finances.
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Chat with you soon and thank you for reading,