During Marco Rubio's first year in the Florida Legislature in 2000, the 29-year-old lawmaker filled out the required forms detailing his personal finances. On the line listing his net worth, Rubio wrote: "0."
Since then, he has risen to lead the state House as speaker, won election to the U.S. Senate and earned at least $4.5 million at a series of six-figure jobs and by writing a best-selling memoir. Yet his net worth has improved only modestly.
Like many Americans in the days since the recession, Rubio and his family — he has four children — have struggled in the housing market.
Factor in some questionable moves with money and a hefty load of student loans, and it's clear that the Republican presidential candidate's real estate dealings often have been a drag on his finances despite an income most would relish.
"He's like any normal American with four kids that has a mortgage," said Bernie Navarro, a past president of the Miami-based Latin Builders Association, who has advised Rubio on his real estate transactions.
"He goes through what any normal family goes through, living with a salary, and he has to make adjustments."
Rubio made two in the past few weeks:
—he sold a home in Tallahassee, Florida, that he owned with a former colleague. That freed Rubio from a monthly payment on an interest-only loan and the cost of upkeep. But he lost money on the deal.
—he consolidated the debt on his primary residence in West Miami, Florida. The original mortgage required only payments of interest on the principal in its first decade. Rubio has only paid off about 4 percent of overall principal since buying the house.
At end of last year, Rubio was worth no more than $355,000, according to an analysis of his personal financial disclosures records filed with the Senate. That does not include any equity he may have in his West Miami home or proceeds expected from his second book, published in December.
Rubio, 44, has spoken of being torn between a drive for public service and the need to support his family. At times, he has made decisions that put politics ahead of his personal comfort.
He and his wife, Jeanette, moved in with his mother-in-law to make ends meet at the start of his political career.
At other points, Rubio's political connections have helped financially.
One of Rubio's biggest political backers, Miami billionaire Norman Braman, hired Rubio as his attorney after Rubio left the Florida Legislature in 2008, and Braman funded a teaching position at Florida International University that Rubio still holds.
In his 2012 memoir, "An American Son," Rubio writes about how early in his career as a lawmaker, he was initially unsure he could keep his full-time job as a lawyer while spending months at the state Capitol.
In 2000, he listed the value of his household furnishings at $5,000 on state records, but reported more than $160,000 in student loan debt plus $30,000 in "assorted credit + retail debt."
To save on rent, Rubio and his wife moved in with her mother. He was climbing the GOP ranks, but, "I imagined telling my children someday that I had been the majority whip of the Florida House but ... had to leave politics to make a living," he wrote.
Rubio soon landed a new legal job at a $93,000 salary. It was enough for the Rubios, who had their first child in 2000, to buy a 1,200-square-foot three-bedroom house in the working-class West Miami neighborhood where Rubio grew up.
In 2003, Rubio secured the votes needed to become state House speaker. Months later, he moved up to a new, politically connected law firm and a $300,000 salary.
In March 2005, Rubio and fellow state lawmaker David Rivera bought a house in Tallahassee, Florida, to live in while in the state capital, making no down payment and taking out a $135,000 mortgage that initially only required interest payments. Meanwhile, the Rubios upgraded to a newly-built four-bedroom 2,600-square-foot home with a pool in West Miami, Florida.
Once in Washington, and making a $174,000 salary as a senator, Rubio felt the bite of his old real estate transactions.
The bank moved in 2010 to foreclose the house in Tallahassee after Rubio and Rivera fell behind on the payments. Rivera paid $9,200 to avoid foreclosure. The pair sold the house for $117,000 last week — $18,000 less than the original purchase price.
(Federal prosecutors have said Rivera, who served one term in Congress, is being investigated by a grand jury in a campaign finance case unrelated to Rubio.)
The home next to Rubio's in West Miami was foreclosed, which he says is part of the reason why the county has assessed the value of his current house at $400,000 — well below the $675,000 price Rubio sought when he put it on the market in 2013. But the house did not sell.
Instead, Rubio decided to refinance his initial mortgage and a separate home equity loan. On May 26, Professional Bank in Coral Gables, Florida, wrote Rubio a $604,000 mortgage at 4.5 percent interest, according to records and Rubio's campaign.
Navarro said that lowers Rubio's monthly payment by about $1,000 a month. He and his family still call it home. "It was a good financial move for him," Navarro said.
Follow Nicholas Riccardi on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/nickriccardi