Note: We work with many clients through challenging transitions, including retirement, selling a business or death of a spouse. We want to share our personal experiences of major life changes. They help us provide thoughtful advice. This is the third installment of our series. It features Johanna Hammond.
Have you ever thought about how culture has shaped your attitude towards money? My culture and upbringing definitely shaped mine. I was born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa. If there is one thing about Nigerians and money that anyone should know, it should be that Nigerians do not like debt.
We do not like to owe. It is something we pride ourselves on. So, the concept of credit cards in Nigeria is almost non-existent.
When I moved to the US and was introduced to credit cards, I found it interesting. Knowing that debt disturbs and rattles my peace, literally, I decided that I would treat my credit card like a debit card. I would only spend the amount I knew I could pay off when my credit card was due. My peace is priceless, and I guard it. My financial plan was working, and things were going great – credit score, check; credit card, zero balance. Life was dandy!
Alas, life happened. I had an unforeseen situation arise, and my finances took a hit. The outflow surpassed the inflow, and I had to pivot. I reluctantly resorted to using my credit card to cover the unexpected expenses. My credit card ended up being a blessing in disguise, but it also came at a cost.
Like clockwork, I had racked up debts and had almost maxed out my credit card. The debt made me quite uneasy and the high interest each month was a sore sight. Debt made me angsty, and I was eager to get rid of the thorn in my flesh.
Thankfully, life is generous. Things started to rebound eventually. However, debt does not pay itself. There seemed to be two options available to me to pay of off my credit card debt. I could gradually pay it off, or I could pay lump sums. I say “sums” because it wasn’t a one-time payment. I chose the latter, and thankfully there was some privilege that afforded me that option. Yet, it was still not easy, and I felt as though I was pouring all of my money into paying off debt.
Now that I have had time to reflect on this challenging time when I had to pivot from my long-standing financial goals and a deep rooted cultural belief, I still feel the best decision was for me to aggressively pay off my debt. Emotionally, I experienced a 360, and I was brought back to my core financial plan – to be debt free.
The interest on my credit card consistently went down as well, while my credit score went back up. I have never been happier. Talk about full circle!
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