I don’t have perfect credit.
Yup. I am admitting to something embarrassing for most.
Years of battling several illnesses and now Cancer, I have often had to “rob Peter to pay Paul” to make ends meet and still acquire what my family needs to survive.
Along with that struggle comes guilt.
I know that each time the mail arrives and there is a bill from a medical establishment, it is mine.
They seem to always grow with each passing month and never decrease.
Some months I barely juggle the funds enough to get by.
Some months, by the grace of God, we have extra.
With that said, my savings is typically non-existent.
Whatever I manage to save goes to surprise medical bills that shows up like an unwanted guest on your doorstep.
Every two weeks I sit over my budget binder and run numbers until my eyes begin to water with frustration.
Every two weeks my self-talk involves saying how stupid my immune system is and “why can’t you do anything the easy way?”.
Recently I went down the rabbit hole of watching undercover predatory lending stories on You-Tube.
I would suggest doing it but know that you will be down that hole for a while that day.
I watched story after story of folks just like me struggling to make ends meet and typically by no fault of their own.
They had exhausted all of their resources and were just walking that narrow rope each month hoping to successfully make it to the next.
Some of them had fallen to predatory lenders such as pay day loans and check cashing locations.
I don’t need to tell you that the folks that went that route found themselves in an even bigger mess than before.
The pay day lender loan was taken out.
The due date for payback arrived and went.
Another pay day loan was taken out to cover the first loan and add a bit more for the next week.
And so the toxic cycle goes.
The average loan number of pay day lender loans that one individual gets once they start is seven.
So, the desperation led them to seeking a quick loan band-aid and ended up costing them hundreds and even thousands in fees which they still cannot afford.
I can understand that desperation.
I can understand how folks get to that point.
I had an acquaintance that had been waiting for housing assistance for quite a while.
She finally got the apartment that she dreamt of but had nothing to furnish it with.
That led her to a Rent-A-Center type of home good establishment.
No credit? No problem!
Soon she had a couch, end tables, a tv, washer and dryer, a bed…
The first few payments were made, and she even commented how easy it was to acquire all of these items.
Then life happened.
She had a trip to the ER and missed a payment to the center.
Soon after, she received her medical bill and missed another center payment.
Before she knew it, they were knocking at her door and clearing out the items from her apartment.
Not only that, but she was also then slapped with a bill for each item, plus interest, plus a pick-up fee, PLUS a contract break fee.
The total ended up being more than the items that she had initially had from them.
She could have had 3 couches, 2 sets of washers and dryers, 3 beds, 6 end tables and approximately 4 TV’s.
My point being, sometimes we are doing the best that we can and then life slips in and says “hey there, friend…”
My friend and her story don’t make her an irresponsible person.
She thought that she was doing things the only way that she could.
She trusted the promises of the predatory lender.
She was excited to have a place of her own and be able to furnish it on her own.
Her story is a lot like the ones that I started to watch on YouTube.
Some just wanted to be independent and tried to make choices they could afford.
Some fell down that medical vortex where the walls are made of Vaseline, and you can’t ever seem to crawl back out.
Some just had a weak moment and made a bad choice.
Recently I became a Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor and had a moment where I felt the imposter syndrome feelings.
How could I counsel anyone when I struggle myself?
What right do I have to tell anyone how to budget?
Then it dawned on me that perhaps that is the exact reason I will be a good one.
I KNOW that life happens.
I know that sometimes your body fights against you.
I know that medical bills can pile up on you.
I know that sometimes you must juggle the little funds you have to make it work until the next payday.
I’m not perfect.
Not in life and not in finances, but I know without a doubt that if you do your best to work with what you have, you are succeeding.
I know that I can positively coach and counsel knowing that I can empathize and look at their situation without judgement or causing embarrassment simply by saying, “I understand. I have been here. I am here. I will be here again, I am sure.”
With prices of just about everything going up, we are faced with some scary scenarios for ourselves and our members.
When groceries have almost doubled in price, we have to take a moment to take a step back and adjust how we work our money.
I guess what I am saying is, we can help each other at any stage.
We can relate.
We can empathize.
We can share our own struggles.
We can connect authentically and try our best to steer our members from predatory lenders who make it so easy to sign that dotted line.
At the end of the day, the connection we all share is humanity.
Tossing a life preserver out into the water of finances is not below or above anyone.
Sometimes we need that savings.
Sometimes we can give that safety.
We can all learn from one another, and I am excited to share my continuous journey with someone who just needs to hear, “I get it. I totally get it. Let’s see what we can do”.