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The morning that I began writing this post I read an article about Stanford tuition being free for families with income and assets under $125,000. I applaud them for this move and am so excited for the students who will leave their college studies without the burden of student loan debt.
What a Gift
For me, student loans have been both an initial blessing and then a long-term curse on my adult life. I was the only child of divorced parents and super intelligent. I received a ton of scholarships and grants but like most 17-year-old kids was ill-equipped to manage making huge financial decisions that would affect me for my entire life.
All I knew at the time was that college/university was a huge opportunity and that I would do anything to attend and get through as quickly as possible. And, I was able to graduate in four years because I didn’t have the money to stay any longer than that.
I Got it Done.
And, I found out that many people made similar decisions based on the resources and information that was given to me at the time. African-American women are currently the most educated segment of American society and while I’m very proud of this achievement I do worry that by attaining this milestone that we have unwittingly burdened ourselves with huge amounts of debt that will affect their decision making going into the rest of their lives.
Student loan debt has become the payday loan of high achievers with little or no money. And the interest is on the future life decisions that they will make, long-term investment in retirement and savings vehicles, future home purchases, and even family planning.
But, when I look back it wasn’t just student loans that was an issue for me it was basic financial education. Recently a report was published detailing how far behind African-Americans are in wealth building. Basically, this report stated that married African-Americans have less in assets than a single white person.
Blogging about money for as long as I have isn’t sexy. But, if I’m able to make a difference in at least one person’s financial life I’ve achieved my mission. The Shop My Closet Project is my small way of sharing financial information and having a financial discussion without telling people that they are wrong for making the financial choices that they’ve made with the resources, knowledge, and skill set that they had at the time.
My goal and mission is to help people look at all of their financial decisions from a long-term perspective. That long-term financial conversation was what has been missing from my financial education.
My mom and I were just trying to survive and not be homeless when I was younger. So, when I see blog posts judging people about the financial decisions that they’ve made sometimes I just think-SCREW YOU.
Having been in survival mode for a large part of my financial life and then spending what is now a significant part of my adult life learning financial skills, habits, technology, and strategies I can see why so many people just give up, grab the nearest credit card and just charge something to make themselves feel better.
In the five+ years that I’ve blogged about personal finance I’ve learned that people have to learn about and focus on variations of the following financial decisions/financial conversations:
- Cultivating good financial habits
- Earning more in order to apply that money towards long-term financial tools
- Career development
- Home ownership
- Credit Cards
- Fun money
- Car costs
- Kids-and all of their expenses
- Older Parents who don’t have retirements
- Insurance-All types
- Earning more (because you’re underearning but not really thinking about it in that way)
Now, imagine that the only financial conversations that you’ve ever really had about money centered around survival. Just having enough, struggle, and not having support. This reality is why I continue to blog about money-because there are a lot of us who are starting at financial ground zero. And, if you’re starting at financial ground zero it’s hard to know where to start. But, I will offer an observation. You have to start by admitting that you’re starting at zero so that you can begin making substantive financial changes.
Have been both a blessing and curse because I use my education every day because my college focused on developing growing the ability to question everything and yes-learn all of the financial skills that I’ve had to learn as an adult in order to change my financial life.
But, I think it is my calling to help share resources with younger people (of all colors) to help them go to university for free or for as little as possible. I want to tell young people to spend all of their junior year researching and applying for scholarships at least once a week and that there is a scholarship for everything under the sun.
Not to be woo-woo but I realize that I have an opportunity to help a lot of people because of all of the financial situations that I’ve experienced.