My Five Worst Money Decisions
Let's take it back to where it first began. Here's my money story. My childhood started with a typical two parent household. I would say that it wasn't fancy. But there were so many things I wasn't aware of as a child--especially when it came to money. Until, my parents divorced. My first experience with money is when my my father left to find work and didn't return. Shortly after, I remember my mom telling me and my younger sister we were moving in with my grandmother. We had to leave everything at our house. All we had were our clothes. We moved from a middle class house on a hill to a bedroom in my grandmother's house in the middle of the school year. We were only 8 and 4.
Little did I know we lost our home due to foreclosure. We struggled for years. My mom worked as a nurse at as many as three jobs at times. She filed for bankruptcy and experienced garnishments and often sacrificed new things for herself so we could have the things we needed. Yes we even saw her put cardboard in the bottom of her shoes instead of buying new ones. We didn't grow up fancy but this was the relationship with money that I learned at the tender age of 8. As I grew up and started making my own money decisions I made bad ones to say the least. Some things I didn't know and some things I just wasn't prepared for. Thank God I've recovered from them. Whew!
Here's some of my worst money decisions:
I gave into the pressure. Both of my parents were first generation college graduates. They both expressed the expectation for me to go to college, whether I knew what I wanted to major in or not. That expectation is what forced me to start college right after high school. Although excited, I had no idea what I was doing. But I figured everyone had to do it. And even if they didn't I had no choice. As a young black woman that grew up in less than ideal circumstances my parents, especially my mom, did not want me to become a statistic. They wanted their first born baby girl to go to college, flourish and be successful. And college was the only avenue to do that...
Believing the hype of student loans. So, it began. My father always told me my whole life that my college education was paid for. But a couple of weeks before I was set to start classes he told me I had to get student loans. Because the expectation of college weighed on me I was panicked. I called the financial aid office and asked what my options were. At this point I figured my mom was single with two kids surely I will qualify for grants or something. Nope. All they had for me were student loans. There was no turning back at this point. I had to go to college. So, I signed those promissary notes. I was told that I would just have to get the loans for now and then start working for a company after college that offered to pay off my loans. I later learned this didn't exist. Looking back I probably should have taken a gap year and really focused on maybe taking core classes at a local community college while I determined my major and a better way to afford college.
Getting store credit cards. I attended college and like many other millennials I got student loans and credit cards. I remember shopping for new clothes at Old Navy and being told during checkout that I was preapproved for a credit card. Well, in my mind I was an avid shopper there and Old Navy had just merged with the Gap, another favorite store of mine. This card is heaven sent, right?! Wrong lol. I was approved for a $900 limit. The interest was so high on this card and I eventually maxed it out and it charged off. I then repeated the same pattern with an Express card. And I was also a target of a popular college campus scheme of filling out a credit card application in exchange for a free pizza. And guess what...I don't even eat pizza. I did it so my friends could get a free pizza. Man was I naive. lol
Overdrawing my checking account. I started out in college with a simple student checking account. Nothing fancy but again I had no idea what I was doing. This was prior to the luxuries of online banking so I kept a bank ledger. I tried my best to 'balance' my checkbook but it was a disaster. I would frequently overdraw my account and then run to the bank before the 2 p.m. cut off time to deposit money...sometimes even a few cents. My first checking account charged off.
Failing to budget. Every semester when I signed those dreadful promissory notes I received a refund. Yay! right?!?! Um no. Instead of budgeting that money to last through the semester I either shopped it away or just simply let it slip through my fingers. Looking back the best thing to do would've been to save a portion for emergencies, start making interest free payments on my outstanding student loans or budgeting out my expenses for the semester.
These decisions made the process of being a college graduate and young professional in my 20s extremely hard. It wasn't until I was 30 until things turned around. But losing time in my 20s, yes a whole decade, were challenging to say the least. At times, even considering suicide. It was a long.dark.decade. I've since learned that life is not linear and that you can't compare your journey to others that seemingly have it all together. Boy what a lesson lol.