My journey from credit chaos to financial stability
For much of my life, I could have been the poster child for financial illiteracy. Signing on dotted lines became one of my favorite pastimes in college. I liked to brag to friends that I had a credit card for every color of the rainbow and then some. My very first credit card, opened at one of those tables set up outside campus bookstores, led to a rash of frivolous purchases, including a $125 Howard University starter jacket that took me two years to pay off.
When in the market for my first car in the mid-90s, I never once considered buying used. I did no shopping around. I negotiated nothing. I left the dealership with a brand new Ford Escort and a monthly car payment I couldn’t afford to make. When creditors eventually started calling, I simply wouldn’t pick up. At 24, I found myself filing for bankruptcy thinking it a quick fix to rid myself of those pesky bill collectors.
Years later, I and my now ex-husband signed the dotted line on our most significant purchase to date—a brand new home we couldn’t afford. What’s worse is I knew it and proceeded anyway. Foreclosure inevitably ensued, and both our cars were eventually repossessed. Ashamed and fed up with my own poor decision-making, I finally got educated. Now, it’s my life calling to help others do the same.
In my new book, “Stop Wasting Time Blaming Others for Your Life,” I reveal the intimate details of my years of blissful financial ignorance. I do so in an effort to help others avoid my mistakes. It has taken me years to rebuild my ravaged credit, but I’m so pleased to say I am on top of my finances, I know my credit score, and I will never be in a place of financial disarray again.
Three of the 15 chapters in my book address the good, the bad and the ugly of the years I spent living outside of my means and not “knowing my numbers.” On the occasion of National Get Smart About Credit Day, officially recognized on October 15, I am telling all.
I share my story of being financially unaware to demonstrate how rash financial decisions and a lack of financial education can have long-term implications. It’s the theme of my entire book—to talk candidly about the real-life issues that many people face and share the specifics of my experiences, financial and otherwise, to help others make new and better choices.
Now a success coach and entrepreneur, I feel my clients relate to me because I’ve been in the trenches. I’ve been where they are, and my counsel is grounded in reality. I’ve been able to create new pathways and make positive changes in my life. Never again will I spend more than I make.
I’ll be checking my credit score today as I now do on a regular basis. I encourage you to do the same. As I say in my book and time again among family, friends and clients: Know Your Numbers!
Tamara Hartley is the author of Stop Wasting Your Time Blaming Others for Your Life, and REAL Advice from REAL Experience. She uses her personal life experiences and lessons learned to give others a different perspective and help them make critical decisions in their life, relationships and careers. Email questions to advice@YourAdviceGuru.com or on Twitter @YourHowToCoach using the hashtag #AskTamara.
Tamara is also a personal success and “How-To” coach and helps individuals figure out “the how” to make their dreams their reality. Learn more about her coaching programs at www.YourHowToCoach.com.