I have only shared this story on my podcast (1st episode), but never publicly in writing. I am the eldest of 5 children (technically the 2nd of 6) and I take my role very seriously. My baby Tister (no typo, that’s what we call each other) always wanted to go to med school. It was her dream to become a pediatrician. I remember the night she called all of us for a family meeting. She wanted to tell us that she got accepted! It was a big deal! We were raised by a single mom (my dad passed away when I was 4) and now the baby of our family was just accepted into medical school. The kicker – she was going away to med school and, of course, needed money. This is when it hit me. I had this amazing job and no savings to show for it!
I had a high paying job. I think I thought I was saving. I was investing in my 401k, but I wasn’t really doing anything self-managed or on my own. I remember very clearly, in the midst of all the celebrating and congratulations, I got super sad and started crying… I, as the eldest, could not help my baby Tister in any way! I know it wasn’t my situation per se, but I took it on personally. She was my baby sister and she needed help. I had a two-income household, with no real debt other than our house… or what should have been my only debt.
I was embarrassed. All of my debt was consumer debt. It was all me and it was just… embarrassing. It was hurtful that I couldn’t help her. I felt really bad. I felt like I had let her down, that I couldn’t contribute anything. Right then, I said to myself, “I have to turn this around… this can’t be what I worked so hard for, what I have such a good paying job for!” And besides helping my sister, I had kids that I wanted to teach values to about money. I was working in accounting and I was handling people’s money – and I was great at handling their money – but my own money situation was not up to par. This realization was the catalyst that made me change. It made me turn around and say, “I need to do this better.”
I started budgeting. I created my Healthy Money Menu®. I decided to stick with it and I was intentional with it. I listed everything that I was spending. I listed everything that I needed to pay down. I found out that I had about $32,000 in consumer debt that was unnecessary, and I decided I was going to pay it all down. I didn’t care what it was going to take – this was not going to be my story 12 months from now!
That’s what created my passion to get this information out there. I created my podcast so that people could hear my story. I want everyone to start living financially savvy. Being financial savvy doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody. It means that everyone should be able to live the life they want to live without worrying about debt and without worrying about living from paycheck to paycheck. I want people to realize that once they take control of their money, their life can be that much more fulfilling – allowing them to do the things they want to do!
~ Atiya S. Brown, CPA
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