Job: Research analyst specialist for the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission.

Annual earnings: $37,000

Education: Undergraduate degree in computer science at University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. Graduate degree in public administration at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Last major purchases: A plane ticket home to Little Rock, Ark., and dishes to prepare for his marriage.

Next major purchase: Bedroom accessories, such as bedding and night stands.

Smart money: After looking through the newspaper classified sections, Meadows ended up getting two La-Z-Boy chairs for $150. "They even had the slip covers and everything," he said.

Stupid money: Meadows couldn't think of a personal example but said a friend bought a laptop from a pawn shop for $500 and subsequently had a lot of problems. "That's a stupid idea," he said.

Investments/savings plans: "Trying to get my wife through college."

Investing tip: "I think stem-cell research is going to be big if the government gets over the hurdle."

Se Young Lee