Mitch Sunderland, Child Hustler
Logan Sachon: Mitch Sunderland. You’re very open about your life in a lot of your writing. Maybe all of your writing. A lot of what I know about you initially came from an article you wrote for us last year about the (alleged) cement butt nurse. You are from Florida. Your mom started a series of puppy shops. You spent a year at Oxford and managed to piss a lot of people off. But it occurs to me that, despite all I know about you, I don’t know much about your money! So let’s talk about that. To start, you go to Sarah Lawrence College. How are you paying for that?
Mitchell Sunderland: I have a partial scholarship. I’m graduating with around 10 G in debt, from federal loans. But I won’t have car payments so I need a loan to build credit.
LS: Do you get help from your parents?
MS: My parents pay like eight grand in tuition/living expenses. I buy all my own food/most my books. They helped me till like June, but now they just help with tuition/medical bills which are expensive since I have an immune deficiency. But they’re super supportive in these departments so I’m grateful and know I’m lucky. But I wouldn’t have left Florida if it wasn’t for SLC aid/scholarships. So I owe the school for getting me out of Miami.
LS: You would have gone to an in-state school?
MS: Yeah. Deal with the parents was it had to be as expensive as in-state or a little more to leave. And I FEAR DEBT. Like minus when I went to Europe, I paid my credit card in full. And I have $700 left from being in Europe, but I’m paying it all off next month. Debt sounds like being Mastercard’s hooker.
LS: Huh welllllll, I don’t know if it’s that painful. You can ignore it a lot of the time, I’ve found.
MS: I have OCD. I can’t ignore shit.
LS: You’re so open about how turbulent your family life has been — I guess it surprises me that your parents are still supporting you in some way. I guess I always thought of you as emancipated.
MS: They don’t support me during summers. It’s just during the school year. But it ends come graduation. I was raised by two black sheep so we are all black sheep and emotionally emancipated. But the nanny taught us how to behave and stuff since they worked all the time. We were super well-behaved. We would go to Applebee’s and all the old retired ladies would tell our nanny how well-behaved we were. And then my parents divorced and she left and I became Mitchell with the Livejournal.
LS: That’s where it starts. So what’s it like to be at Sarah Lawrence on partial scholarship? Is it a lot of very wealthy kids?
MS: Okay. So not everyone is rich at all. It’s pretty economically diverse. It annoys me when people say it’s a rich kid school. If you have money, you pay. If you don’t have money you don’t. IDK the exact statistic but most people graduate with below average debt. I have friends at technically less expensive schools who pay waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than people I know at SLC on aid. My BFF who graduated paid her own way through. There are rich brats, but they pay for me and people from less circumstances than mine to go here, so I LOVE THEM AND WORSHIP THE GROUND THEY WALK ON… albeit while mocking them behind their backs. (And I’m not saying my economic circumstances aren’t privileged. I’m like the definition of fallen nouveau riche.)
LS: “Fallen nouveau riche?”
MS: Yeah. My mom climbed her way out of the trailer park ON HER OWN without a man. She made designer pet stores. If you see a bunch of dogs in a kiddie pool in a store, you’re looking at something stolen from my mom’s brain. She invented that shit. Plus, she was smart and did like Target, high end to low end dogs. But nobody buys dogs as much because who is gonna buy a dog when the economy forces people to foreclose. And she has five kids. No room to save.
LS: Are you stressed about the debt you’re gonna have from school?
MS: I did the federal calculator thingy and to pay it off in 10 years is reasonable. I don’t remember the exact numbers (I did it before I signed the loans; praise Suze Orman) and I can pay it off even if I’m making below $30K and still eat and have an apt and like Netflix. I’m cheap as fuck. I spend like $100 on food a week; $20 on tea; and then my metro card and maybe $15 bucks on entertainment (magazines, movies). And eating out for me is like $14 bucks max without tip and that’s like twice a month. I eat rice and beans four times a week because I love it. Paying more than 10 dollars for jeans make me want to vom. I’ve been spoiled by Ft. Liquordale thirsting.
LS: Did you work in high school?
MS: It was during the recession. Even fucking Coldstone refused to hire me. I’ve never had a normal job. I collected Disney DVDs as a 10-year-old because I was convinced they’d be worth money when they “went in the vault.” Nobody would hire me so I looked on Amazon at Disney DVDs. They literally go for $75–200 if they’re in the vault. I made $2K in Disney movies. And then I started going to garage sales and buying cheap books and reselling them. I once turned a book that cost a nickel into over a hundred bucks.
LS: Wait how did you know that about Disney DVDS?
MS: When I was in second grade I wanted to watch Fantasia. It had been in the vault for over a decade. It was like 70 bucks on eBay. So I started buying two of every Disney DVD I bought with my $20 a week allowance.
LS: Child genius, child hustler.
MS: My parents thought I was insane, but the Disney DVDs ended up making more on the investment than the federal whatever funds some old person bought me as a toddler. And then once I started partying I’d use a fake ID and buy 300 bucks worth of booze and throw parties in my mom’s second home which was full of everything we as a family collectively hoard, and I’d make $700 a night after paying the bouncer and cleaning lady. I paid for my first apartment with the money from those parties. And then when I graduated from high school me and my friend took some of my family’s hoarded shit and sold it out of a car as my friend Ariel bathed outside the car in a kiddie pool, and I made like $100-$200 a day. The only normal job I’ve ever had was as a lifeguard for a year at SLC, and then as a pool boy in the Upper West Side in rich people’s condos. Oh and I worked in the SLC post office for three months. But other than that it’s been childhood hustling and then writing and managing authors’ twitter accounts.
LS: Wait, can you tell me about being a pool boy.
MS: I can’t. I signed a non disclosure. And IDK if it expired yet.
LS: Hah, okay. Have you saved any of your money?
MS: I did when I was younger but when my dad was in a coma it destroyed that. And then since my parents didn’t pay my rent last summer, I used the two grand from pool boy life to pay my rent last summer. And then money I saved from that was destroyed by Europe. But I will have no credit card debt next month and then am getting a 401(k) and an account I can’t touch where I’ll make small 25 buck investments. I have a family friend on Wall Street who is teaching me.
LS: I feel like every detail of your life is a story, in a way like no one I ever met. “When my dad was in a coma it destroyed that.” “I was a pool boy on the UWS.”
MS: I prayed to god as a child to give me a traumatic life so I can be a storyteller like Walt Disney. God delivered. I was obsessed with Walt as a kid.
LS: Did he have a traumatic life? I guess I could look this up. On the internet. Which I have right in front of me.
MS: His dad beat him with a hammer, and he fought in WWI and hated sex. At least I’m pretty sure he was beat with a hammer. He was abused. Neal Gabler’s bio is the definitive account although the family wasn’t happy with it.
LS: Do you plan to be rich?
MS: I don’t think about my financial future outside of student debt and stuff in the near future, although I am making plans to save. I have career dreams. And would like to be able to adopt a troubled 14-year-old girl when I’m 45. But I don’t think about money dreams because I know my generation will never make as much as our parents. Even my friends taking Wall Street jobs don’t get the entry-level salary of a few years back. And that’s not the end of the world. It’s a fact. And it doesn’t depress me.
Mitch Sunderland lives in New York.