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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

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