“I was the definition of the “good girl” cliche growing up — I made the honor roll, never drank or did drugs, and was terrified of telling a lie (or rather, the repercussions of getting caught) to my parents. I was fortunate enough to have loving parents who constantly taught me the importance of saving, budgeting and living within my means. My mom had worked as a bank teller, and my dad was a CPA, making them both frugal and very cognizant of their personal finances. Most importantly, they warned me about the dangers of credit card debt, maintaining a good credit score, and always paying account balances in full. I also had a credit card as part of a joint account that my parents monitored, using it only for occasional approved purchases to continue building credit in my name. I carefully followed my parents’ financial wisdom through college graduation, where I continued to adhere to a strict budget, make monthly rent payments, and pay the majority of my bills without additional help.
Fast forward three years. Recently dumped by the person I thought was “The One”, I had isolated myself from my friends (my own fault) and was wasting away at a dead-end job. For the first time in my life — at the age of 26 — I wasn’t sure what was next. I was barely dealing with my recent heartbreak, let alone mapping out the next steps for my life.
So I started spending. I researched the benefits and interest rates extensively before opening my first card, internally justifying what I knew was a spiral downward. I quickly made the first of my forgettable and frivolous purchases, raised my credit line, and maxed out my first card. Just like that. The next few months came as a blur of card applications, overwhelming account balances and the increasingly heavy burden of my secret debt. I packed my days with after work happy hours, fancy dinners, spur of the moment shopping sprees, and expensive new hobbies (like photography, which required a brand new Nikon DSLR camera). Even now, I couldn’t recall a single purchase that held any lasting significance amongst the greater financial carnage.
Aside from the painful repercussions of my financial destruction (roughly $8K when all was said and done), I was more stunned by my ability to willfully ignore the financial knowledge that I already had, instead finding solace in my spending and mounting pile of debt. I was also unprepared for the deeply personal revelations I came to learn about myself along the way — mainly, that I was channeling my relationship grief into something equally destructive.
My wake up call came at the grace of my parents, who after coming across a randomly pulled credit report, saw that I had dug myself into a financial hole. After shamefully admitting the amount of debt I had accumulated, they agreed to help me pay off, close and destroy each of my cards, giving me the chance to repay my debts interest-free. I can only describe myself as beyond lucky to have the parents that I do. Not only did they do everything in their power to help me avoid these circumstances in the first place, they generously bailed me out when I screwed up beyond their wildest dreams. They gave me a second chance at financial freedom, which I know how lucky I am to receive.
These days, I’m slowly rebuilding my financial well-being. I’ve had a couple slip-ups along the way, but feel confident in the direction I’m heading now, personally and financially. I’m working to repay my parents for their generosity, and discovering what it means to not live paycheck to paycheck. I’m learning to cultivate my own financial freedom, not only for them , but for me. Because I want more out of my future, and finally recognize this is a crucial step.”