LaTisha Styles is a motivational speaker and millennial money expert for YoungFinances.com, teaching simple finance for millennials. Her latest book I’ve Graduated Now What? 4 Steps to Take After College to Find a Job and Start a Life You’ll Love, teaches the recent college graduate how to become a financial success. LaTisha has been quoted in Forbes and Mainstreet, featured in The Economist, and mentioned in US News as a top personal finance expert to follow on Twitter. You can follow LaTisha on Twitter for daily millennial money tips to budget, invest and achieve success!
I first started my relationship with debt at the age of 18. I had just graduated high school and I began classes at a local college in Georgia. One day, while walking to class, I passed a table with a stack of t-shirts. I slowed down a bit to find out how I could get one, and I quickly realized that I could get a free t-shirt if I filled out a few papers. “What papers?” You might be asking. Well, those papers were a simple credit card application. The kind lady at the table quickly informed me that if I filled out an application for credit, I would get a free t-shirt. “Wow!” I thought, what a cool idea. So I quickly filled out the papers and grabbed my free gift, happy to have a new t-shirt to snuggle in at night.
A few weeks later, I received my brand new credit card in the mail, and I began to shop. Each weekend, I would head over to the local mall and pick up new clothes. I was partial to dresses, and I often used the ATM to withdraw cash from my credit card to pay for lunch. I worked at a local daycare to cover my credit card bills, and for the first few months I paid the card off in full. After a while, I realized that I could save some cash by only sending in the minimum requested payment, and so I did that. For the next few years, I opened new lines of credit, shopped, vacationed and dined out. I continued to pay the minimum payment each month, sure that I would pay everything in full once I graduated and started working a full-time job.
When Things Got Tough
Graduation day arrived and I did not have a job lined up. Like many graduates in 2010, I was unemployed and entering a workforce that was full of other unemployed workers with more experience than me. It would take me 11 months to finally find a full-time job. During that period, I worked odd jobs here and there. I delivered sandwiches, I babysat and I worked as a personal assistant. I did not make enough to pay my credit card bills with any of those jobs. I began to miss payments, and subsequently, my credit score began to fall. I started to get calls from my creditors, and then calls from the collection agencies that purchased my debt.
When I got the phone call and offer letter from my new job, I was ecstatic! I could finally pay my bills. I began to call my creditors to see if they would accept payment arrangements. Each creditor that I spoke with gave me the same answer. They wanted the entire balance in three “easy” payments. There was no way I would afford three easy payments of over $22,000. And so, I decided to work with Clearpoint. I had heard of them from a friend that used the service as well. They contacted my creditors, set up a three-year payment plan, and arranged fee concessions and rate reductions. In most cases, they were able to get my interest rates reduced to 0%.
How it Feels to Dump Debt
Because of the help from my counselor at Clearpoint, I was able to set up a budget that worked for me and stay on track to pay off my debt. And in September of 2014, just three years and one month after I began my debt management plan, I paid the last dollar to my creditors. It feels really good to be debt free. These days I work to help young people find the same freedom and financial success that I have found. When I started, three years seemed like a very long time, but with consistency and help from my counselor at Clearpoint, I made it!