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How I Raised My Credit Score From 585 To 700 In 12 Months On A $30K Salary

I don't remember the exact moment that YOLO began to define my credit score...

Finance

I don't remember the exact moment that YOLO began to define my credit score. Maybe it was the time I bought that $400 game system for my brother that he stopped using after a month. Or the shopping spree I went on every other week because I “needed" new interview clothes, concert clothes, traveling clothes, brushing my teeth clothes and everything in between clothes.

Every time I headed to pay for these things, a ball of guilt formed in my throat. I knew I shouldn't have been spending money. I had JUST paid my card minimum to get my credit balance back to $32. Nevertheless, I shrugged my shoulders, yelled “WHY NOT?" and dug myself deeper into the debt pit of hell.

Living paycheck to paycheck sucks but it was a reality I had accepted after getting my first real job after college. Claiming I had no money, I still managed to travel, eat out, shop, enjoy concerts, and get my nails done regularly. But last year, I decided enough was enough.

Through the loans, the credit cards, and bad habits, a massive debt amount of $86,411.27 stared back at me.

Yes. You read that correctly. This financial burden had also left me with a piss poor credit score of 585.

So, after a major breakdown in my car when I watched my paycheck go to nothing, my best friend ordered Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover for me. After reading it, my edges were not only snatched, they disappeared.

For the first time, I had a vision.

I wasn't becoming disciplined because it was responsible or fun (although it was eventually), but I was choosing to change a pattern in my family. I wanted to be free of dodging bill collectors, attracting high interest rates, and throwing away my check to four maxed out credit cards. I wanted to know what it was like to go into H&M without frantically checking my bank statement to see if I had enough. I wanted to stop the broke and boujee cycle. I wanted financial freedom.

With these new goals in mind, after 12 months, I was able to raise my credit score from 585 to over 700. This was all while earning $30K from my first real job. I had to struggle. I sacrificed the turn ups, girl trips, and even moved in with family to save on rent.

But I pushed myself to break free of a generational habit of “I'm bad with money" syndrome. This is what I learned along my journey from a credit score of 585 to over 700:

I Got Clear On What Happened To My Credit

If I wanted to create a plan, I had to know what I was working with. I realized that I had to face my debt head-on and truly understand my credit score.

Before I started The Total Money Makeover with Dave Ramsey, I sat down and saw what I had been spending most of my money on. The site I used was Credit Karma, which tracked all my credit, loans, and transactions. Can you guess where most of my money was actually going? After credit card bills, it was fast food and shopping.

This brought me to the realization that “paycheck to paycheck" was a choice that I was making because I somehow found coins for other expenses – not necessarily a reality I had to settle for. This helped me cut my budget down to include just the things I needed and pay fast food and shopping to dust.

I Put An End To Credit Limit Increases

This was one of my biggest mistakes ever. When I couldn't keep up with my bills, I would call the bank and ask them to extend my credit line.

Little by little, this dug me in my biggest hole. I thought by receiving more money, I would manage it better, but I was just wrapping more chains around my wrists. Those were truly moments of desperation and I knew I couldn't continue to put myself in a place that forced me to beg for more credit.

This meant I needed a tight budget so that I knew where every penny went. I even cut up my credit cards altogether. This physically forced me to stop depending on them.

I Accepted That Debt Could Not Be Conquered In A Day

Once I totaled all my debt and realized how huge of a mountain I had to climb, I knew I couldn't conquer it all in a day. Instead, I decided to try the debt snowball that money guru Dave Ramsey talks about.

Listing out ALL my debts from largest to smallest, I came face-to-face with this monster I had created.

I picked the smallest debt and just attacked it. That required some missed happy hours and trips to the mall, though. But once I paid off one debt, it created confidence and momentum for me to move on and keep going with paying off the other debts.

Closing Accounts Hurt Credit More Than It Helps

When I actually started knocking out my debt, I wanted to close EVERYTHING. “Just get those demon cards out my sight," I said.

But I learned that closing the accounts would only prove to hurt my credit. What you might not know is credit reports love when you've kept accounts for a long time. It shows that they can trust you.

So even when I began to pay off a credit card, I kept it open to help positively impact my score.

Know That Broke Friends Won't Be Very Supportive

Look, getting your credit score up is HARD. And I hate to say it, but my broke friends did not understand why I was "so serious" about getting in a better financial situation. I had to stop discussing my finances with my deeply-in-debt friends because I often got answers like:

"One purchase isn't gonna hurt anything."

"You have your entire life to pay back your loans."

"It's time to enjoy yourself."

They were like the Hooded Kermit advocating for staying in debt. They didn't mean any harm, but I knew that I didn't have peace. I was tired of going from check to check. I was tired of barely pulling enough pennies together to go on a sub-par vacation.

I had to avoid money conversations with the people who discouraged me from getting my life together. On the flip side, I found some accountable people who walked alongside me during the days I really wanted to quit.

A Financially Free Debt-Free Life Is Truly Possible

When I saw how low my credit score was, I realized that if I wanted to get control, I had to be all in on this financial commitment.

Getting out of debt can be so overwhelming and seem nearly impossible, but as I created a plan and prayed to God, I realized that this was something I could do on my own. Even if it took some time. I had to trust that the process would continually remind me of why financial freedom is something I deserved.

Conquering your credit score is a mindset and it isn't for everybody and I still have a long way to go. But with a budget, a vision, and some sacrifice, I am now able to breathe easier knowing that I'm setting myself up for success.

And I wouldn't change a thing.

Did you know that xoNecole has a new podcast? Hear more about this story and how xoNecole founder Necole Kane, along with co-hosts Sheriden Chanel and Amer Woods, are working to tackle their credit scores and debt on the latest episode of xoNecole's Happy Hour podcast. Listen now on Itunes and Spotify.

Featured image by Getty Images

Originally published on December 29, 2017

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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