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Theresa Carpenter: Navy Public Affairs Officer

by Team Sammy


Theresa Carpenter is an active-duty Navy Lieutenant Commander where she has served for the past 25 years. Her passions include helping military women succeed and the professional development of the craft of public relations.

She loves to write. You can find her muses about the human experience on her blog, Theresa’s Tapestries. Theresa enjoys tapping into her love of storytelling through the visual medium, she and her husband Harry run RWeCrazy, a YouTube channel where they share their experiences with saving money, DIY projects, traveling, and enjoying time together.

She lives in Norfolk, Virginia with Harry and their Boxer dog Jayda, who also has her own social media presence on Instagram. 

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Team Sammy: Share with us a little about you, your current family, your non-professional life, a favorite hobby, etc., so readers can get a sense of who you are. 

Theresa: I serve as a Navy public affairs officer and have been in the military for the last 25 years. I am a divorcee, and in my 40s, after years of poor intimate relationship decisions, I took stock of what I was valuing in a partner. Through the help of free community self-help groups, researching trauma through library books, and support from my friends, I went against "my type" and met my now-husband, a man with no college education, but a mechanical genius who can fix anything. Observing him fundamentally changed my values around work and education. 

We’ve now been married almost three years, and have a Boxer dog who is about to turn 1 years old. We spend our time fixing up our house, traveling for pleasure and going wherever the U.S. Navy takes us. I also am an advocate for women in leadership and for the humane treatment of animals. 

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Team Sammy: Tell us about what it was like growing up - your family and community?

Theresa: I grew up in Clintonville, a neighborhood that’s few miles from the Ohio State University campus on the North side of Columbus, Ohio.

My parents raised me in the Catholic faith and up until my senior year when I moved from home, I attended private catholic schools. I have an older brother who attended military school in Pennsylvania.

My Mother worked off and on while I was growing, most notably as a paramedic and later as a receptionist in a veterinarian clinic.

My father was a commercial radio announcer and was the voice for several local commercials, including one for our local supermarket and another that advertised my high school to prospective students.  

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Team Sammy: What was your first saving experience or memory?

Theresa: My first motivation for saving money was to buy makeup and clothing. Looking back, it seems so silly. But back then, especially I feel as a woman, looking good was a priority.

I felt a sense of peer pressure to keep up with my own sense of style. Although my parents provided for myself and my brother, I wanted name brand clothing and other items I could purchase with my own money.

I felt a sense of accomplishment I earned what I was wearing or putting on my face and that I did not need anyone’s help to get it. 

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Team Sammy: What was your first job (formal or informal)? How much did you earn and what you did with the money?

Theresa: My first formal job was at around 14 years old. I worked for a woman who started a donut shop. She busted her butt getting up in the early hours to make all the pastries. I worked behind the counter preparing the orders and running the cash register.

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Team Sammy: Did your parents talk to you and/or teach you about money / personal finance growing up? What do you remember? What, if anything stuck?

Theresa: My parents didn’t necessary talk to me about money, but they used action to guide me and it affected my relationship with finances. For example, I received a very small allowance, but my Mom would create an extended list of additional chores and if I wanted to make more money, I would have to do those chores properly.

I also did not get everything I wanted.

I can remember flipping through the Sears catalog every year, especially around Christmas, and creating very large “wish lists.” Well, Santa would only give me so much, so it was instilled early on that if I wanted something for myself, I’d have to be the one to make it happen, not somebody else providing it for me.  


Team Sammy: What piqued your interest in personal finance?

Theresa: After working more than dozen menial, minimum wage jobs I joined the Navy at 19 years old because I was frustrated that without a skilled trade, I was only going to go so far in my career and I lacked the funds for college.

Once I got into the Navy, I realized if I worked hard and provided value to the team, I’d get promoted.

I started making more money than what I needed. I felt like the materialism our culture promotes was a way to ensure dependency, so I sought to start saving my money with the hopes that one day I’d only earn money when I wanted to and not because I needed it for my livelihood. This put me on the path I’m presently on set to retire as a senior level naval officer with a full pension. 


Team Sammy: If you have any final thoughts, please feel free to share them.

Theresa: I think every child should learn a skilled trade, which involves countless years toiling away at one craft. If they don’t, they are either dependent on getting money from others, or working menial wage jobs.

It’s so important to find a passion in life that can also sustain one’s livelihood. There are so many fascinating skilled trades that do not require a college education, such as welding, woodworking, cutting hair, cooking, etc.

I would advise anyone else to have a similar mindset. There’s a movement called Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) that’s become very popular in our culture and with financial gurus and community organizers leading this effort. I encourage people to join up, as there are so many opportunities to meet like-minded people who share this essential value.  One I'm attending over Memorial Day is Camp FI, an all-inclusive retreat in a scenic location where strangers meet up to talk about life and money. There are also Choose FI groups across the globe that meet up for seminars, hikes, good eats, and fellowship.   

I knew at a young age that while we all need others for our emotional stability and growth, I never wanted to rely on other people for my financial well-being. Doing so would limit the life choices I could make.

Discover more about Theresa Carpenter.

Visit her LinkedIn profile.

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