My Fight For Financial Freedom
I recently read an article on The Guardian that stated by 2053 the median wealth for African Americans would drop to zero. Zero!
Honestly, I wasn’t too surprised by that number because generational poverty is all I've ever really seen. What the article did do was add more fuel to the fire I have to change that narrative for myself. I strongly believe that reshaping our economic stance will not only provide better opportunities for generations to come, but will also help arm us with the tools needed to fight a lot of the injustices we continue to face.
At the beginning of this year I had two main goals I wanted to achieve. Like many, those two were fitness and finances. While I’ve made some huge strides in the fitness department, getting a hold of my finances has been the biggest challenge I’ve faced. I had to completely reshape my ideas of how debt, spending habits and saving will affect my life.
“It won't follow you to your grave.”
I’ve gotten some horrible advice over the years, so the first thing I knew I needed to do was seek advice from people who were thriving in life and not just surviving. Because I’m far from a guru in this department, I want to start by sharing some of the leaders I’ve looked to for personal growth and who’ve helped me define what financial freedom is to me:
Courtney Sanders of Think and Grow Chick: Covers personal development, financial literacy, and business building.
Myleik Teele of Founder of CurlBox and Mytaughtyou Podcast: Covers personal development, entrepreneurship, career success
Tonya Rapley of My Fab Finance: Covers financial advice for millennials ex. Car and home buying
Dave Ramsey of The Dave Ramsey Show: Covers wealth building, retirement, real estate
Jason Black of The Black Channel Broadcast and Director of 7AM: Covers social issues as well as wealth building/entrepreneurship specifically for the black community.
A very diverse group of people who don't all take the same approach to reaching financial freedom but all believe it is vital. I hope you find your home in one of them.
“The younger you will take care of the older you.”
The best advice I’ve gotten is the earlier I tackle my finances, the more secure I’ll be in the future. This hasn’t been the easiest in the age of “instant gratification,” which I’ve fallen victim to a few times this year. All I do is look back and shake my head because I’d much rather have that money in my savings account right about now. It has definitely been a balancing act to try to enjoy my youth and prepare for the future.
I want to say yes to everything I’m invited to, travel over the world and buy these amazing boots I just saw at Zara. But I also want to buy a house and maybe even investment properties, help fund the dreams of my children and not stress about retirement. All of those things may seem so far away but I swear just yesterday I was a preteen trying to convince my parents to buy Lil Bow Wow concert tickets. So in an effort to not get caught up in portraying to be somewhere I'm not, #bowwowchallenge; I've had to be real with where I am now because time will eventually reveal what I put most of my efforts into.
Three Things I’ve done to Jumpstart My Journey
With the advice I've found from researching financial tips and listening to actionable advice from the experts above, I've done three things that have helped me start my journey to financial freedom.
Get Real With My Account
Have you dissected your debt/spending habits lately? One of the worst habits I used to have was swiping my cards as if the limit was endless. Then playing crazy when I got my balance notification.
It was overwhelming but I knew I had to get real about just how much debt I'm in. I needed to know what was going in and out of my accounts so that I can clearly see what needs to be done to clean them up. I broke down what I was spending vs what my income was to find holes of cash that I can throw at my debt. What did I find? I let things like buying protein shakes after workouts go unnoticed and realized I was coughing up nearly one hundred dollars a month on them! I also broke down my debts from smallest to largest and looked into better understanding their interest rates.
Right now my debt consists of one credit card, my car, and student loans. Since my credit card is the lowest I’ve started tackling that the hardest and paying the minimum on my other debts. This way I’m not overwhelmed and have a better understanding of how much money it will take to pay each off. Once I'm done with my credit card I'll throw all that extra cash on the next small debt, my car.
Sidenote: I also use credit karma to monitor my credit score.
Budget, Budget, Budget
One of the most basic tips, but it’s something many of us struggle with the most. Like the first step, when you budget you really get to see just how much money is going in and out and how much your income can support that. You know exactly how much money you can throw at debt and if you had one too many "girls night out." I now know where every dollar I have goes and make sure to budget in things like going out with friends, which can easily be another hundred dollars a month.
Sidenote: I’ve always been a lover of a good deal, so nowadays you’ll more than likely catch me in the thrift store or sales section if I get the shopping urge. You’ll be surprised the gems you’ll find and the money you’ll save delaying the gratification of buying something new and shiny.
Three tools you can use to budget:
I know, you might not think it’s possible but if you do the first two steps trust me you’ll find the extra money to save. One of my biggest fears is being put in a situation where I can’t support myself or my family, so having some extra cushion for life’s emergencies helps me sleep better at night. I suggest setting aside a minimum each month and remember a little goes a long way when you’re consistent.
Extra Tip: If your due dates for bills are scattered throughout the month like mine were, there is a chance you can have the dates moved to make paying them on time easier and to help you be more financially organized. I got my car payment moved and it has helped me stay on top of my payments.
So, what is my end goal? What does financial freedom mean to me?
Financial freedom is not cringing every time Chase sends an update on my account balance.
Financial freedom is not feeling strangled by monthly payments with high interest rates that keep me stuck.
Financial freedom is thriving in life and not merely surviving.
More importantly, financial freedom is creating opportunities for my children that I didn't have. It's the ability to invest in their dreams, so that they can compete in a world that doesn't necessarily favor them. It is seeing them pass down that wisdom to their children and their children and on and on and on.
There you have it! The first steps I've taken to reach financial freedom. I have a long way to go and so much more to learn that I'll be sure to share with you all!