How My Lack of Money Knowledge Landed Me Bankrupt at 22

This is a guest post by an awesome blogger that I met last year, Kenya.  Check out her bio at the end of the post. 

I remember my first day on campus. My short blond haircut, my gray colored contacts, a new pair of Reebok Classics. I was ready for all the possibilities.

I wish I could tell you my four years of college ended in a degree and left me ready for a job in the world.

Eventually, I got the degree and the job, but not before a few other things happened first.

I started college at 17, graduated early.

Prior to going to school, I didn’t fully appreciate the lifestyle I had been afforded.

My mom grew up “down the way” as we called it where I’m from. And so she made every effort to make sure I didn’t.

I went to a predominantly white school, lived in a nice neighborhood and had everything I needed and most of what I wanted.

But by the age of 22, I had filed bankruptcy.

You are probably wondering how this happens. Well, let me share.

How My Lack of Money Knowledge Lan

I was given everything I had. I didn’t work for it.

Don’t get me wrong. Momma made me do chores. I had to get good grades. That was my currency. But if there was a time my mom was struggling, I never knew it. On top of that, my Godfather made up for what she didn’t give me.

I never had to stand at the register and make a decision. Put something back. Sacrifice what I wanted for what I needed.

My point. Children need to experience delayed gratification. They need to see how it feels to have to make a choice between what they really need versus what they want.

We didn’t talk about money and credit

Money wasn’t a topic in my house. At least not with me. I saw my Dad put his money on the table on Friday, and I saw my Momma pick it up. But I never saw the ins and outs of paying bills and how what you make has to cover your expenses.

I knew my Momma had excellent credit. She bought new cars every year or two. She pretty much bought whatever she wanted. And she would go to the better business bureau on a place in a minute if they were trying to mess with her money or her credit. That’s how I even knew what credit was. Kinda.

My point is kids need to learn the value of the dollars. That money doesn’t just grow on trees and good credit is not just handed out like a test returned that you got all the answers right on.

I wanted to keep up the lifestyle I had “inherited”

I struggle with this often. My children lead a pretty good life as a result of the life my husband and I have built. But in no way could they leave my house at 18 and sustain it.

I wanted the freedom but not the finances of the lifestyle. So after I came home from my first year of school I decided I wasn’t coming back.  I wanted it to feel like home so I got an apartment. And I tried my hardest to make it feel like home. With every dollar I had and even the ones I didn’t.

Kids need to be transitioned. They can’t just jump out at legal age and uphold the life they have led under their parent’s roof without fame or illegal activities.

So back to me and this bankruptcy business.

When I got on campus it seemed like there were always these tables set up where you just “fill out an application” and get a free shirt. In a matter of days, a new card came in the mail with a couple hundred dollar limit.

Well, my silly self-repeated this a number of times.  It was pretty dumb to think I could just charge what I wanted and it’d be cool without a steady income.

I had no idea how credit worked.

Once I got hip, I started paying them. When I felt like it. But that wasn’t what did me in.

I had a car note from the time I was 16. And I inherited my mom’s habit of wanting a new upgraded car every other year or so. By the time I was 22 I was on my fourth car.

What I didn’t mention is that at 21 I had a baby.

I know I know. The plot thickens right.

When I had my baby I buckled down and was ready to do right. But the last three years caught up to me. I had a great job that I got let go from right before I found out I was pregnant. The replacement job paid half of what I was making. Managing my monthly bills, car payment and everything became too much. And now with a mouth other than my own to feed and the threat of garnishment of my minimal wages I turned to bankruptcy.

While I was the major player in this scenario. I believe there are some things that could have been different in my upbringing to better prepare me for life outside my parent’s walls.

We have to educate our children about money and credit and how it works.

It worked out for me. I was able to buy my first home at 27 and improve my credit standing. But it took work.

To this day, I still don’t know how my Momma did it and made it look so darn easy.

And that’s just my point. Kids should know it won’t always be easy but it’s worth working for.

So knowing what I know now. I talk to my daughter about money, the struggles we have and plan to have the conversations and prepare my daughter for her first year on campus and how to not be all cute and broke!


Bio:  Kenya is the blended family momma and transparent sharer behind the Kenya Rae.  A space of personal growth where she shares openly and honestly about life as she sees it on marriage, motherhood, good food and more.


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