This is an entry in the #FinHealthMatters contest sponsored by Center for Financial Services Innovation and FinCon. This will be my first year attending and the prize would help tremendously. One of the winners will be selected by top engagement on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #FinHealthMatters. I’d appreciate your support by sharing this post with the hashtag on Twitter!

financialhealth

 

The term ‘Financial health’ has a unique meaning to someone who has overcome homelessness, identity theft, and living paycheck to paycheck. To me, it means a renewed mindset that proclaims: Poor is not permanent!

I grew up as a privileged child. There was never a need to worry about money or the lack thereof. It was as if money really did grow from trees. My mother and father seemed to never stress about it and so I never did until my father passed away in 2007.

He was my emergency fund. When I needed extra money or wanted a luxury item I would go to the Bank of Dad for a withdrawal. There was no interest to payback or accountability on my part. My dad was stuck with the bill if it was due if I would his credit card. Unlike banks, dad never said, “no” to my personal loans; he was always opened for business.

His demise was my wake up call. I had become homeless, living with unknown debt and unknown health issues. It was shocking to one day find myself living in a shelter, broke (spiritually, mentally and financially), transportation, and ill. I knew that I had to change my mindset and my relationship with money, improve my health and to never depend on someone else’s finances to make my life better.

57% of Americans—approximately 138 million adults— are struggling financially. (Source: CFSI’s Consumer Financial Health Study.)

I’d never thought that I would ever struggle financially. Struggling to improve my finances was the key to improving my health. Without health insurance and money in the bank, my health to a backseat. With a five figure debt bills and I had gained 150 pounds stressing over money and my living situation. By sitting down and connecting the dots that my physical health was also causing my financial health to decline is when I had improved my physical health and my financial health also.

Financial health is creating a plan and planning for the unexpected. It is to never not know where I will live, eat or sleep. It is creating a life that I will improve not only for myself but others in my family and community. It is being able to receive the proper medical attention that I need because I had a plan and finances in place to handle the unexpected. It is knowing that I am responsible for creating a financial plan and healthy body for myself. The only emergency fund that I have outside of God is the one I will invest to create.

Brooks J. Young

 This is the Part 2  in the series, Becoming Debt-Free . Read Part 1 here.

startingabudget

Rebuilding my credit has been one of my top priorities. Last year, while browsing the web, I stumbled across Beverly Harzog’s blog. Her blog shared her debt history and reviews on credit cards (secured and unsecured). I knew for a fact that my credit score was not good enough to qualify for an unsecured card; however, I was interested in learning more about secured cards any benefits they could provide with regard to improving my credit.

I reviewed Beverly’s archives of unsecured cards, then I went to Google to learn more about applying for a secured card and how I could improve my credit score. If you read the first post about my bad money habits and how started on the path to fixing my finances, then you will know that I am making great strides towards that goal.

I can honestly say that the Discover it® Secured Credit Card has been great with raising my credit score by more than 100 points. I have not made a late payment, but I have incurred about $30 in interest thus far.

Since I’ve reached my year with Discover, they will decide if I am eligible for an unsecured card. As much as I would love to graduate to an unsecured card, I think it’s best for me to stay with the secured card for a little while longer. I am not tempted to do any foolishness again with my credit. At this point, I believe less is more.

discoverit

Discover has made a few changes to the Discover it® Secured Credit Card since I applied:

  • Report to 3 major credit agencies as secured rather than unsecured, as they previously did;
  • No longer eligible to receive the $50 Refer-a-Friend promo by using the referral link. Unsecured credit card holder will receive the promo;
  • 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter;
  • 1% cashback on all other purchases

Highlights

  • No annual fee. No late fee on your first late payment. Paying late won’t raise your APR;
  • Earn 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Earn 1% cashback on all other purchases;
  • Discover matches all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year – automatically. New card members only;
  • After your account has been open for 12 billing periods (and is in good standing), Discover will double the Cashback Bonus you’ve earned;
  • Your minimum security deposit amount of $200 or more will establish your credit line (up to the amount we can approve).
  • Reports to 3 major credit bureaus so you can build or rebuild credit with responsible use;
  • FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements & online;
  • User friendly mobile app for general information, payments and FICO score.

Who This Card is Good For:

  • Anyone with poor credit
  • Someone with a thin credit profile who can’t qualify for an unsecured credit card
  • Someone who wants to earn rewards while they build their credit

Who Should Pass:

  • Anyone who wants better perks
  • Someone whose credit is good enough to qualify for an unsecured credit card

 

Brooks J. Young

This is the first post of the Becoming Debt-Free Series.

startingabudget

I grew up in a very financially comfortable home. You could even say I had a ‘platinum spoon’ in my mouth. Money was never an issue; there was never an unmet need or want that was denied.  Our mother worked three jobs most of the time. Although my biological father was not in the picture, he provided child support. My Dad, the one who raised me from the time I was born, provided an unlimited allowance. He was the complete opposite of my mother: She’d spend quite a bit of money on my sister and I, but she had limits; Dad had none. If I wanted it, it was provided.

Back in 2004, I was living my life as a 20-something ‘single but married’ woman. I was in a lifeless marriage with someone I thought was “the one.”  He was stationed in Germany living his life; his military income was his. I had to take care of myself. When my marriage came to a screeching halt in September 2003 (less than 1 year after saying, “I do”), I realized I was literally financially unstable. We I did not have mortgage or credit card debt; however, someone stole my identity and racked-up $75k worth of debt. I finally sat down to put a pencil to the paper and crunched the numbers: I had a personal loan, utilities, and medical bills that totaled nearly $20k in addition to the damage done by the identity thief.

Daddy to the Rescue

Instead of tackling the debt, I decided to ignore it and fix it later. Courtesy of Dad, I moved into a new rental home and got a new car in his name. My non-teaching job with the local school district was on the line because I was not a union member. Instead of waiting on a pink slip, I put in my resignation and began working full-time at the nonprofit I founded 2 years prior. Dad wanted me to follow my dream and vowed to support Touching Heart for the first two years of after it was founded, that way I could do the work without the stress of seeking funding. Unexpectedly, he died four months later. It was one of the toughest moments in  my life. It was also an eye opener.I had no one. My mother and I never had a great relationship so I knew that I would be on my own.

Becoming an Adult

In the fall of 2011, I was living on Club Crackers and H2O. I’d became so strapped for cash that I had to apply for food stamps. There I was: Nonprofit founder, helping hundreds of women to restore, rebuild, and renew their lives and my life was spiraling downward. I felt ashamed because my mother never received any government assistance even though she raised two children.

It was time for me to grow up and be an adult. Dad was gone; I had to make it on my own.

I walked into a homeless shelter. I had nowhere else to go.  It was one of the lowest moments of my life.  However, at the same time, it was life-changing. In that moment, I had hoped to never allow myself to get into that situation again – no matter what life might throw my way.  With that motivation and determination, I worked two jobs and battled an unknown illness. It was time for me to take complete control of my life and ensure that it was headed in the direction I wanted.

By Any Means Necessary

I sat down and requested copies of my credit reports (FREE), then made a list of my debts. I went so far as to phone any company with which I’d previously done business, just in case I owed them money. Once I had a clear understanding of what I was facing, I created a budget. My budget was for debts, rent, utilities, and savings. I had foregone my weekly manicures, pedicures, shopping excursions, dining out, and hair appointments. It may be hard for most people to cut all the fun out of the finances, but not me. I am a cold turkey person. If I want something I will make the sacrifice. I do not have children so it’s easier for me. If I had children I would not have eliminated all those things at once. I’ve never been a fan of watching television. If there was a certain show I wanted to watch, I went to my grandmother’s home. For over a year, I did not have internet service. I would go to my grandmother’s house or the local library to get online. I did not own a cell phone for 2 years; I used Google Voice for personal and business matters. All I needed was an internet connection and I could make and receive calls online. I am still using this service and I LOVE it. I use it for my business also. Although I received $200 in food stamps each month, I also used coupons. I was able to purchase nearly $800 worth of groceries from my food benefits. It took me from less than 2 hours to compare store prices, clip coupons, and head to stores. It is worth every second as I am not only able to feed myself but other families as well.

Trusting God

I am not a worrywart. Every day I start fresh and handle the things I can reasonably handle. I’ve had a number of setbacks and am still overcoming homelessness. My savings were depleted when I became ill. I have $13,997.77 to pay before I am debt-free! My goal is December 31, 2016.

I’ve read a number of blogs that has inspired to become debt free and have a side hustle. My journey has not been easy. I’ve shed tears, been ill a number of times and, yes, I’ve even become homeless again. But, I’ve never given up. I have fought through every obstacle that I’ve faced. God never promised an easy journey but knowing that He has carried me this far and beyond is a blessing.

Your pain can become your purpose. God will take your mess and make it your message!

Brooks J. Young

About Brooks

I’m a thirty-something advocate of domestic violence and homelessness both of which I've survived. I write every day. I design things. I am a VORACIOUS reader. I am a runner. I LOVE nail polish. I try too hard to achieve perfection...and fail repeatedly. I love Starbucks. I'm obsessed with gadgets. My faith is the only thing that has sustained me during the hard times. God is my EVERYTHING! And I'm happy to have you here! {Read More}

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