So the other day, I wrote a pretty hefty to do list in regards to the things that I would like to tackle. I figure that it’s only fair to explain why I want to tick these things off of my list.
Obviously the closer to the top of the list, the more important it is to me and the more it worries me.
Numero Uno. DEBT. The real four letter word in my book!
A lot of people are alright living with debt. However, for me, debt feels like a chastity belt on my wallet, a vise around my neck or a really constricting and uncomfortable corset.
My first encounter with debt was when I first started college. Like many people out there, I had to pay for college myself. My parents were immigrants to this country and the notion of a college fund was not something that crossed their minds. They were too busy working and keeping food on the table. So when it came time for me to go to college, I had to do my best to get some scholarships and apply for a LOT of financial aid.
Like many clueless kids of my generation, I didn’t worry about the student loan debt that I was acquiring at all. I figured that once I graduated college, I’d get a job and I would be fine. If I only knew….
On top of just my student loan debt, I was one of those students that got suckered into getting a credit card for a free c.d. holder. Bad idea! I essentially traded my financial future away for a c.d. holder. But, like the clueless freshman I was, I was so excited that I had gotten my first credit card because it finally made me feel like an adult. Not only was I living on my own, I was charging things like I was a Rockefeller! Food, clothes, I even charged a freaking vacation. I was an idiot. I was charging so much that shortly after I got my first credit card, I received an offer from American Express for a gold card and I was like, hot damn! No credit limit! It’s gold, I must be special!
Not to blame my parents but as the child of Asian immigrants, I was never really taught much about the real world. The only thing that had been drilled into me was to do my homework, get good grades and no! no! no! to any boyfriends!! Things like fiscal responsibility and sex ed were verboten topics at home. They were considered vulgar and unnecessary. If I needed something, my parents would say yes or no and I either got it or I didn’t. I received a small allowance and from that I was supposed to budget my lunch money, my gas money, clothes and going out…with my girlfriends. Of course, boys did not exist. Anyhoo, long story short, I was stupid when I was 18 and there wasn’t anybody hovering over me to tell me what I should be doing.
Those first two credit cards got me in some major trouble. As the bills got larger and I couldn’t handle them, I started just tucking them away into non-visible places, unopened and unread. I was like the kid who thought if I can’t see you, you can’t see me! When I finally started getting collection letters and scary ass phone calls was when I finally dragged my parents into the financial mess I had gotten myself into.
I was lucky. My parents bailed me out. That was when I finally got my financial responsibility lectures. My parents shamed the hell out of me. They didn’t yell at me or make me feel bad because I had spent so much money on lots of stupid stuff. They did something that made me feel worse instead. Asian parents are the best at filial guilt, no doubt. My parents told me that they were sorry because they felt like they were bad parents because they could not afford to give me what I wanted in life. Dun dun dun! I felt guilty as hell. I was a bad bad kid that was making my hard-working parents work even harder. The switch had finally hit in my head.
My dad explained to me that what I was doing could ruin my life because so many things in life are based on credit history and fiscal responsibility. I took his words to heart and since then, I’ve tried my best to keep my credit strong.
From that point on I was extremely careful with my money. Gone were the days of vacations on credit and buying dinner for my friends. I stopped buying frivolous things and started being as frugal as I could. However, my debt story doesn’t end here. Stay tuned for Part 2!
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