In The Beginning....
By now if you have wandered this far you may be starting to question who is The Wisest Penny and what makes her qualified to help me. Don't tell anyone, but I have been awful mean and hurtful to my money: it is shameful to admit, but I like many others was never given lessons on money. Yes I took that consumer math course given in high school, I learned about balancing a checkbook, but back then I had small amounts of money and no access to getting more unless it was from my parents or working. I never had lessons on credit or debt. I worked a few years to pay for my college tuition in cash. On campus there were always people promoting credit cards and how credit was important to one’s future, and they were always giving things away to people who signed up; so I got my free t-shirt and my shiny new plastic card. I was on my way to becoming an adult.
I transferred to a four year college that paid half my tuition, so up until this point I had no student loans, but I knew that taking out loans was the only way I could attend the school. I was the first person in my family to achieve this and it was beyond important to me. So off I went to school, loan check in hand. I lived off my loans and worked on campus to earn additional money, and I rarely ventured out. Then graduation came and I got my first real salary job. I have been working since I was 15, but I had never had a non-hourly position. I got an amazing office and what seemed to me at the time like a ton of money.
Because I was making “so much money,” I decided to purchase a car for my commute. Now don't make that face, it was an older car and cost me around 5k, but I did have to take out a loan (I paid it off eventually and kept it for 7 years). So here I was a new graduate with a car loan, student debt, and a good salary, but no skills when it came to managing my money. I had no idea where my money went or what I spent it on, but I do know it wasn't in savings.
During the next three years I used that shiny plastic card -you remember the one with the free t-shirt- and I also got a few others, because hey “I was adulting and building credit for my future.” I always carried a balance but expected to be able to pay it off eventually, whatever that meant. I was unhappy with my salaried job, so I quit and ended with hourly positions again. I looked for jobs in any field, and during my search I decided I wanted to pursue a graduate degree -- this was during the time when the economy was booming. I thought this is a good time to figure out my whole life and career, and education was my answer.
I got into numerous graduate programs, one was even free and offered me money to live off of, but it was a public school and I had my heart set on this really amazing private school that was at the top of the rankings for my field (which was art based, by the way). I ended up getting into the Harvard of art schools and with that came a hefty price tag.
So here I was again more student loans, but excited about my future! I didn't worry about how I would pay it back just that it would help my future. What no one tells you is that while you’re doing all this dreaming life happens. I was away at school and I had to suddenly move back home due to a family emergency: I had no job, no completed degree, student loans, credit card debt, and to top it off the economy tanked. I lived off my credit cards and the loan money that I had left. And low and behold, I had accumulated over 20,000 in credit card debt. It sucked.
What I forgot to mention is during college I had been watching this funny lady on tv named Suze Orman; she had an amazing life story and so my love of finance began with her “girl friend!” I understood in theory that managing my money was important, but I still didn't understand how especially when I was making so little. I searched for salaried jobs and went on interviews but nothing was sticking. During this time I had started reading more about finance and found this radio host named Dave Ramsey: Dave is like your really good friend, who has no filter and tells it to you how it is. I could relate to his callers but was never happy when he called them dumb, because you know what? Even with my degrees I was beyond DUMB!!! For those of you who listen to Dave, his plan is great: I have worked on the baby steps, and taken FPU, but I still feel that one-on-one assistance is most important because no one’s financial story is exactly the same nor are his or her goals.
The rest of my story is coming soon...