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Natalia Brown and Dasha Kennedy
Career & Money

These Women Are Debunking Myths About Debt And Educating Others On Financial Literacy

Growing up, my parents always told me to save my money. Did I always listen? Of course not, but it’s one of the pieces of financial advice that I remember. I was also told not to depend on credit cards. I often saw my parents use their debit cards to pay for everything, and it wasn’t until I got older that I learned how to use credit cards to my advantage.

While talking to Natalia Brown and Dasha Kennedy, I learned I wasn’t the only one who grew up with similar teachings. Natalia serves as the Chief Compliance and Consumer Affairs Officer for National Debt Relief (NDR), and Dasha is a Financial Wellness Board Member for NDR and also runs the online platform The Broke Black Girl. Together, they are educating Black women and others on debt, the good and the bad.


They each have had their fair share of unlearning to do after going through rough patches that eventually started them on their financial wellness journeys. During our interview, Dasha and Natalia debunked myths about debt and broke down the many things that helped them on their way. One of those myths is that debt is bad. While using credit cards to make purchases on things you can’t afford and will be unable to pay back isn’t a good method, leveraging debt is, especially when building wealth.

Leveraging Debt 

Dasha fell into debt after going through a divorce. While she was always told not to depend on credit cards, it became her only way of survival. However, after going through that experience, she continues to share her story and provide tips on how to get out of consumer debt and use credit cards to your advantage.

“This is something that I've talked to my audience about as just a simple way to decide on leveraging debt, using debt in a way that is going to make you more money. So being in debt, whether it's you know, credit cards to pay for a class or a certification or you need to get financing for a car, like using debt in a way that is going to help you make more money in the long run,” she says.

“So then, as you make more money, you will want to be able to pay off, you know, the debt that you took on, and on top of that, your income as a whole would have increased. So that's one way to leverage debt to build wealth or money by taking care of things or expenses that you need that could catapult your career, help make, you know, income even it's like investing in like a small business that you want to do.”

“This is something that I've talked to my audience about as just a simple way to decide on leveraging debt, using debt in a way that is going to make you more money. So being in debt, whether it's you know, credit cards to pay for a class or a certification or you need to get financing for a car, like using debt in a way that is going to help you make more money in the long run.”

Research

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Debt specialist Natalia recommends that people put the same amount of effort into researching credit cards and debt as they do everything else. She explains by sharing something someone told her. “I used to do more research on a pair of shoes or you know, Amazon shopping like I go straight to the reviews and people do that without even thinking about it,” she says.

“You put a lot more effort into researching the things that you want when you're making a purchase; you can do the same exact thing with like Dasha said, is this credit card the right credit card for me? I drive a lot, so I should have a gas card, right, versus a points card because that doesn't transfer the gas, right? So, you should look at every single aspect of your life. And when you're getting to a point of using it (credit) as a tool, make sure it fits your lifestyle and do as much research as you would, you know, a new car or a wedding dress or whatever those important things are that you've done a lot of research in. You should do the same thing with your debt situation.”

Shift Your Mindset

“It was realizing what I was doing was not the right way. Because I was sticking to what I was told. And I was in a predicament, right? And there were some social pressures, right? You're supposed to do certain things as a woman,” she explains. “You're supposed to get married, have kids, and all these things, and I was following this traditional Caribbean path. That without all the right tools to understand what I needed to make that successful. So it was realizing, you know, if I keep going this way, it's only gonna get worse. So I have to do something different.

“And it was that moment that I decided just like Dasha said, to not be ashamed of it, not to hide it. I made a pact with myself. It was actually 12 years ago; it popped up on my Facebook memories where it said I'm gonna change my life this year. And I just focused on that any way that I could. I made mistakes along the way, but I learned that you know, you learn from mistakes. You can't do everything perfect. And over that year, I decided to change my life."

When she began working for NDR, she learned more about financial literacy, which further enhanced her journey. She also found out that she wasn’t alone and a lot of women are or have been in similar situations. She was no longer blaming herself for having debt and was finally letting go of the shame around it.

“It was realizing what I was doing was not the right way. Because I was sticking to what I was told. And I was in a predicament, right? And there were some social pressures, right? You're supposed to do certain things as a woman.”

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“That's actually when I started with NDR is when I decided to make that shift, right. And one of the myths I had to get over was it was my fault. It was not my fault. There are so many reasons that people end up in debt,” she says. “It could be medical, it could be a divorce, like Dasha. It could be, you know, just not having the financial education.

“At the time, it was not taught in schools, right? I just barely had a macroeconomics and a microeconomics class in college and it was only because I was in accounting that I knew how to balance a checkbook. So, it's one of those things where I just really had to let go the the shame of it, just like Dasha said, and move on, right, and take control and be confident or at least learn how to be confident as I got more knowledge.”

Finding Safe Spaces

As Dasha was learning more about financial literacy, she relied on community, particularly online. The self-proclaimed financial activist created The Broke Black Girl, which started off as a Facebook group and now has become a popular online destination that shares tips on saving, investing, building wealth, and much more.

“For me, when it came to shifting my mindset, it was finding community online, finding places that validated me. At the beginning, I had to create my own space because I didn't easily come across some that approach debt or just money as a whole in an empathetic way in an understanding, meeting you where you are type way, which is what led me to create The Broke Black Girl,” she explains.

“But then as you grow and you learn, and you find more resources, you find more communities, and I also mentioned like resources like NDR that understands that debt is not a morally wrong thing, it's not something that you should feel ashamed, excluded from having certain conversations about money and getting the help."

“But then as you grow and you learn, and you find more resources, you find more communities, and I also mentioned like resources like NDR that understands that debt is not a morally wrong thing, it's not something that you should feel ashamed, excluded from having certain conversations about money and getting the help."

She continues, “So, for me, when it came to the shift in my mindset, it was really finding communities and resources, and organizations that validated my experience. So before I could even start with any tools or tips, I needed someone to validate that I wasn't crazy, that I was making this up, and I think that was a huge play in me learning to look at debt and just money different as a whole.”

Natalia and Dasha are passionate about educating others on financial literacy. Through NDR and their personal efforts, they are hoping to make a positive impact in the lives of others and help them avoid the same mistakes they made. For more information about NDR, visit nationaldebtrelief.com.

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