Second-Class Citizen

Have you ever been in a relationship that was blissful and at some point beneficial for all involved? I’m sure you can remember at least one time! Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? After so long, maybe you decide that things aren’t going how you thought they would and you break it off, in a very tactful way of course. What if, all of a sudden, the relationship does a 180-degree turn for the worst? Well that was me when I broke off my relationship with one of my credit card companies.

I got the credit card a number of years ago because a family member convinced me that the benefits were worthwhile. Hesitant at first, because I’d been overly conscious of not accumulating debt, I was easily convinced that I was already financially responsible, so getting the credit card would be great and I’d get to rack up on the benefits. So I signed up for an American Express Airline card.

The timing couldn’t be any more perfect, in my head. My fiancé and I were in the process of paying cash for our wedding so it made sense to use the opportunity to “credit card hack.” No, I didn’t literally have my credit card information stolen. If you’re familiar with the term “House Hacking,” then “Credit Card Hacking” is similar in nature. I view it as the process of benefiting from something that you would have done anyway. In our case, we were paying for our wedding with cash so building up benefits from using the credit card gave us miles to travel. It was a win-win, right?

Let me cut to the chase. It was an awesome relationship until it was time to pay the annual fees. With all my traveling, the amount of miles I accumulated depleted significantly. Needless to say, with no more wedding expenses, I wasn’t racking up enough purchases to significantly increase my accumulation of miles and part of this was also due to me using my cash back credit card more frequently since it provided better savings. So I decided to cut off my relationship with my American Express Airline card; and it hurt.

It definitely hurt since it was my first non-store credit card and I was spoiled whenever I traveled with the airline. I say spoiled but I never received any First Class traveler benefits. However, I enjoyed not paying for my first checked luggage, always boarding in zone one, and, if you were traveling with me, you also reaped the benefit of your first checked luggage being free, among other things.

Boy did I get a reality check when I flew with the airline after cancelling my card. I learned very quickly the true meaning of ‘behind the basic’ economy policy. My experience felt like I was a “Second-Class Citizen.” No longer could I complain about other passengers blocking my path to the gate while boarding because I was now in the last zone to board. Finding overhead bin space was now a reality and, during one of my trips, I was literally in row 45A. That was the last row on the plane! Despite my disappointment, this situation taught me a couple of things:

  1. If a business decision isn’t working in your favor, sever it and move on.
  2. Change will make you uncomfortable, but if you’re doing it for the right reasons everything will eventually fall in place.
  3. Sometimes being weird with your finances will make you do weird things.
  4. Don’t second-guess your decisions just because you’re uncomfortable.
  5. Maybe I was a little more high maintenance in some areas of my life than I thought.

Just be aware that when you make any change for the betterment of your financial journey that it won’t always be “peachy.” You may sometimes feel like you’re missing out on something, but you’re not in the long run. All good things come with planning and hard work. Remember that the next time you experience a relationship change with a lender.

Advertisements

Wakanda Forever

Now let me start this off with a few disclaimers. I am NOT a comic book fan nor am I well versed in any one comic book character. In fact, had it not been for my husband, I would have never gone to a theater to see any of the comic book movies. Now that we’ve established that, I will proceed.

Last fall, my husband and I went to the theater with some friends of ours to watch Captain America: Civil War. This was also where I first got my introduction to the Black Panther character. I was intrigued by him for many reasons, but the most important one was the way he handed Bucky, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier, a butt whooping on the rooftop. Granted, he did confront many of our beloved comic favorites, but something about him and the background story of his country kept me interested for more. I knew at that moment that I would be in pure anticipation until the actual Black Panther movie premiered. My friends even brought a Black Panther workout routine to the gym to get us ready for the big debut!

Fast forward to February 15, 2018 and my husband and I went to see the premiere of Black Panther. That same feeling of excitement came back. At this point in the story, you’re probably wondering, “what does any of this have to do with financial literacy?” There’s a lesson in the story of the Black Panther that we can all take away. We’ll focus on Wakanda and why we can learn a thing or two from Wakandans.

  1. What is Your Vibranium?
    In the movie, the world’s perspective of Wakanda is of a third world country with nothing to offer. However, as revealed in the film, Wakanda is a technologically advanced country years ahead of the rest of the world; and the rare metal Vibranium can be found in massive quantities there. The thing that stuck out to me was how Wakandans used the resources they had to create their reality, even though the rest of the world couldn’t see it.

    You see, we all have a little Vibranium that dropped into our laps that we could use to turn nothing into something. Something precious that can transform our lives. Who knew that one of my ‘Vibraniums’ was my responsibility towards finances. Who knew that being a good financial steward would have been such a blessing to my husband and I? The future that we are building looks so amazing even if we’ve experienced challenging obstacles in the past. Find what your precious metal is and use it to turn your current situation into one that no one saw coming.

  2. Don’t Become the Thing You Hate
    Don’t get me wrong, when Killmonger came to Wakanda to claim the throne I thought, “T’challa better hand him the same whooping he gave to Bucky.” When that didn’t happen during the first trials, I sat in anticipation hoping that Killmonger wouldn’t end up on top. Now I know that Killmonger has been revered by many for his commitment to seeing blacks liberated around the world, but I could see that the anger and hate for the injustices against his dad and blacks was causing him to become the thing he despised. Revenge was more important than showing any care to the Wakandans who were charged to serve him.

    Just like Killmonger, we can find ourselves becoming the thing we hate if we’re not careful. The sacrifice it takes to be on a financial journey can cause you to build an intolerance for people with too many excuses on why they can’t do better. Be careful not to hinder people when your visions of what they can be is bigger than the effort they’re putting forward. There’s nothing wrong with being a good relative or friend and encouraging others to do and be better. If they are not ready or don’t want the help, turning into a Killmonger won’t help the cause.

  3. How Will You Evolve?
    Let’s be clear, my knowledge of technological innovation is nowhere in comparison to Princess Shuri. She helped to create and maintain the most sophisticated technologies in Wakanda. As much as Wakandians were exposed to the technology and essentially the ‘good life,’ they weren’t corrupted by it. I recognize the evolution of our culture and how having some basic technological know-how will keep you in a position to withstand during changes. Just look at how society, as a whole, has changed regarding how you spend money. Most businesses these days reward you for using a credit card while giving very little perks for using cash. We are becoming a cashless society and the more technology evolves, the more cash will become a thing of the past. That’s why it’s important to embrace change so you can succeed in this ever-changing world. But you must protect your principles.

    I remember when I got my first store credit card at eighteen-years-old. My aunt told me, “when you make purchases, pay it off immediately.” This practice became a norm for me so I never experienced credit card debt that I didn’t have the money to pay back. This is an example of how you can embrace change without losing your principles. Now, of course, Dave Ramsey would say stay clear of some of these societal changes, and he isn’t wrong in saying that. The reality is, most of us aren’t disciplined in our principles or knowledgeable enough on the strategies that some of these companies are using to ‘nickel and dime us.’ Regardless of the path you choose, awareness of the financial and technological climate is crucial. But no matter what, your principles come first.

By now you’ve seen the movie, so it’s only fitting to end this post with a strong Wakanda Forever salute, because we all will be victorious in decreasing our financial burdens so we can increase our financial footprint.

3 Reasons We Never Paid for Credit Repairs

Every so often, I come across a Sponsored Ad for credit repair or a social post soliciting people to sign up for help with their credit score and I shake my head. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against paying for credit repairs just because Dave Ramsey said so. I’ve been against paying for those services even before we stepped into a Financial Peace University class. But let’s be clear, Dave Ramsey’s principle includes not having a credit score in the first place. So from his perspective, you should be working towards having no debt or credit at all.

My husband mentioned in his post, The Stubborn Mule, how he paid off debt and cleaned up his credit. We did this without ever paying anyone else to do it. These days, he is very proud of his credit score and is proactive in keeping it where it is. Here are the three reasons why we decided that paying someone for credit repair was not for us:

  1. Why?
    When my husband and I sat down to come up with a game plan on paying off some debt and repairing his credit score, paying someone else to do it was never an option. Why you ask? We didn’t see the sense in paying for a service that we could easily do on our own. Credit scores are a reflection of how good or bad you’ve been with managing money that you borrowed. Literally, if you dig yourself out of a hole, your arms are more likely to be strengthened in the process. Your patience to dig will be tested based on the depth of the hole, but you may walk away with more endurance and willpower so you don’t end up in that hole again.

    Dave says, “You can wander into debt, but you can’t wander out.” I agree so much with that statement. It’s been proven time and time again that getting into debt is easy, but getting out takes discipline. When we pay for convenience we’re looking to save time, but does convenience guarantee a lesson learnt?

  2. We Didn’t Buy Into False PerceptionsPeople will have you believing that credit scores are so complicated, but they really aren’t. In my post, 3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Being A Co-signer, I talk about factors that go into determining your credit score. The key is be diligent in paying off debt, stop creating new credit during this pay off time, getting rid of too many lines of credit, and managing payment expectations with creditors.

    A myth that needs to be dispelled: I need to open several lines of credit to build my credit score quickly. The reality is that my husband got rid of most of his credit cards and now has good credit. Don’t get me wrong, when you close lines of credit your score will take a dip. That’s the nature of FICO; and since none of us know their algorithm on how things are weighted, we don’t need to put energy into such things. Instead, focus on what needs to be done. My husband cancelling lines of credit he didn’t need and paying off existing debt excited him a great deal as he watched his credit stabilize.

  3. No Pressure 

    Oftentimes when I hear people contemplate whether or not to hire help with their credit score, it’s because they’re under pressure. Many times it’s self-inflicted pressure to buy a house, furnish a house/apartment, or buy a car that’s driving a quick fix. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you that the last thing you need is to rush the process. The reason we were able to rebuild his credit was due to never adding any pressure of a big purchase or timeline to have it done by. The focus was to pay off the debt and, in doing so, form a spark of discipline; and through that process, the credit score began to rise. Did we need things that required a good credit score? Of course! Even though we both have good scores, we still aren’t pressured to do any extra things to maintain them. We keep things steady and the only thing that disrupts the flow is when we pay existing debt off. But guess what? The credit score stabilizes eventually.

To be clear, a great credit score does not represent financial wealth. A great credit score just means you manage debt at an acceptable level. Just do the work and talk to creditors that show negatively on your report. Manage their expectations on when you can pay. If they don’t make the cut that month, just call them up and let them know. If it’s an incorrect filing on your report you can dispute it yourself. Don’t get discouraged and think that you can’t be successful doing this on your own. If you ever second guess your choice in not hiring a credit repair company, think on these words from Dave.

What’s Your Why?

My husband and I have been on our ‘War Against Debt’ for about 16.5 months and it has not all been easy. However, I thank God for covering us as we work towards completing Baby Step 2. I’ve learned throughout this process that achieving different levels of success require more than just excitement from a good speech or book. Although those things may plant the seed, you have to do the work to reap a harvest.

Continue reading

Reclaiming My Time

We may be in a new year, but Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-Calif.) “Reclaiming My Time” statement still resonates in my mind. Not necessarily for the context in which she said it but for everything that I allowed to consume my time that had no positive impact on my goals. We’ve all been there at some point, if you think about it. For example, it could’ve been an interaction with someone that you reacted poorly to, yet your goal was to not be so reactionary to situations like that; or bad habits that took you off course from achieving a personal breakthrough. I had some time to reflect on last year and came up with things that I need to be more conscious about in 2018.

Continue reading

Too Much Car For Your Budget

You’ve all heard the phrase “don’t be house poor.” But being “car poor” is just as bad of a situation to be in. I remember my first car like it was yesterday. I gave it a name, and we traveled across the country together. It was a good run but before I knew it, I’d replaced more things on that car than I ever should have. Let’s just say that the failing transmission was my last straw before I reluctantly accepted the fact that I would have to replace the car.

Continue reading

3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Being A Co-signer

We’ve all heard time and time again that you need credit to buy a home, car, or anything else that most people borrow sums of money to purchase. But what does having a credit score really signify? According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it “ …predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan on time. A scoring model uses information from your credit report to create a credit score.” The CFPB states that there are several factors that go into determining an individual’s score:

Continue reading