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Millennial Money Expert Tonya Rapley Says Bad Credit Kept Her From Living Her Best Life

"I was using my credit to bridge the gap between my actual life and my ideal life. Instead of understanding how to leverage credit and use it as a tool."

BOSS UP

Tonya Rapley, founder of My Fab Finance, believes that everyone has a financial story. For some, their story may begin as early as childhood, understanding the value of weekly allowances or saving coins in their piggy banks. For others, post-grad adulthood is the first true awakening, as they come to navigate student loan debt and fluctuating credit scores. No matter the chapter you find yourself in, with the right tools and guidance, there's always an opportunity to turn a page and become the hero of your financial journey.

For Tonya, her story began with parents who provided a solid foundation that cultivated her work ethic and nurtured her drive, "I came from a middle class family, so there was a lot of stability there. But my parents wanted to make sure that my sister and I knew how to get our own." At 15, having her own meant juggling a part-time job, maintaining academic honor roll, while paying for school lunches and even her prom dress. "My parents required a lot out of us when it came to the things we wanted to do, but that also required us to learn how to budget at an early age."

Courtesy of Tonya Rapley

As she grew into financial independence, Tonya always had a leveled relationship with her credit, still, she shares how her spending habits left her in a complicated financial situation, "I was using my credit to bridge the gap between my actual life and my ideal life, instead of understanding how to leverage credit and use it as a tool." After seeing just how much of an inconvenience it was to have a fair credit score, Tonya knew it was time for a change, "Having bad credit was keeping me from living my life as the adult I knew I wanted to be."

"I was using my credit to bridge the gap between my actual life and my ideal life. Instead of understanding how to leverage credit and use it as a tool."

Tonya's journey to correct her credit score led her to discover online message boards filled with people on the journey to reverse their financial missteps, "I started looking at what other people were doing and started to implement it in my own life." Learning from their insight allowed her to take her new found knowledge and impart it to her own community, thus creating, My Fab Finance.

Now, Tonya has reinvented My Fab Finance to be a full-scale, "holistic financial picture," providing millennials with financial education and support they need to become financially free and live an abundant life.

xoNecole: What was the inspiration behind starting My Fab Finance?

Tonya Rapley: When My Fab Finance started, we were focused helping people understand and improve their credit. Since then, it's more of a holistic financial picture, it's about how to put money aside for retirement, it's about understanding small business finances, and budgeting to help you achieve your financial goals. It has advanced to incorporate more priorities in people's financial lives, but I think it also served as accountability and a reminder. I think some people need that encouragement, so we're also "financial encouragers" - just letting people know that other people have done this, and you can do it too.

One thing I see you mention on your page is Scarcity vs. Abundance Mindset. In your own definition, how can we learn how to separate the two?

It goes into being mindful of it and calling it out when you see it. It's not like we deal with it once and we're over it, it's something you have to remind yourself of consistently and different circumstances can influence that. It's really about framing and being honest with yourself, are you adopting a scarcity mindset right now or an abundance mindset? And understand that a scarcity mindset is sometimes inherited, sometimes it's the collective culture you're a part of - the idea that everybody around you is struggling, so you don't see how you won't or when you do have thoughts of abundance, people try to bring you down. It happens. Be aware of it and switch this energy. Focus on all that is well instead of all that isn't. I say, "How am I going to become a catalyst for opportunity instead of just waiting for bad things to happen?

How are you learning to find a balance between motherhood, wife life, and entrepreneurship?

I am learning to ask for help. Prior to becoming a mother, I was like, "I can do it all by myself." I'm learning to ask for help because you need a village, you need rest to create and clarity to make things happen. I was feeling like, "Well, everyone struggled through this [stage of motherhood], so I have to struggle through it too." But no: utilize whatever resources you have available to you that will put you in the best position to do what you need to do. I think too often we pride ourselves on doing it without support instead of realizing that doesn't take away from your success. Lean on your support.

Courtesy of Tonya Rapley

Were there any habits that you picked up along your journey that you feel made the biggest shifts in your financial lifestyle? 

Pausing was really helpful in achieving my financial goals. Pausing and asking myself questions like, "Why am I purchasing this? How will this help me accomplish my goals?" Also, being goal-oriented and being specific with my goals helped. Saying, "I want to be a millionaire," isn't not enough. Instead, we had to be specific about how much money we need to make in a day to hit our million-dollar target. Really being specific and gradual with my goals has been helpful in staying on track financially because I know on the micro level when I'm on track and when I'm not.

When it comes to having a positive relationship with money, what is one thing you may not have learned growing up that you look forward to teaching your son?

I look forward to teaching my son that he has options. When I was growing up, there was no other option for me but to go to college, so I look forward to encouraging him to be a creator and a problem-solver instead of a worker. When we look at people who are wealthy, it's because they have created solutions, so I want to teach him how to be solutions-oriented.

The biggest thing I want to give him is examples of what his reality can and should be. He has an education fund and a savings account that we contribute to regularly, so I know that we're doing what we need to do financially, but for me, the mindset piece is so much more powerful. I want to raise him as a proud, young Black man who knows he can do what he wants to do and that he has the resources to do it. And if things don't work out, it's not the end of the world for him. And I think so many people in our community are afraid to try because we don't have that leeway to fail.

What would your advice be to someone who may have shame associated with relationship to money, but wants to become a hero to their financial story?

Realize that shame does not serve you. Sometimes, it's not even ours, we can feel like we're failing at expectations that others have about us. Ask yourself, "Where are these feelings coming from?" I'm often motivated by asking myself, "What can I do to make me proud of myself?" I think pride counteracts shame. Give yourself more things to be proud about than to feel shame about. I think everyone experiences it, and that's OK, but it's about what we do with it that matters.

"Realize that shame does not serve you. Sometimes, it's not even ours, we can feel like we're failing at expectations that others have about us."

Tell us about your latest business endeavor, Club Loofah.

My current task at hand is to scale the Shopify business that I acquired, Club Loofah, and show people that you can actually buy an existing brand and scale that. You don't necessarily have to come up with the idea, you can buy someone else's idea, figure out where they came up short, grow it, and improve upon what they created. Sometimes we feel like we have to start from scratch, but when we look at the other side, they're not starting from scratch. How do we build on what other people have done and make it better? Black people are some of the most creative beings to walk this earth, so how do we lend that creativity so that we don't have to start from scratch and start over? We can just build on what's already established.

For more information on Tonya, follow her on Instagram and check out her services on, My Fab Finance.

Featured image courtesy of Tonya Rapley

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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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