From a young age, Mission Lane member Rebekah knew exactly what her dream was: she wanted to help people.
“Since I was a kid, I knew that I wanted to be a pediatric doctor because I wanted to take care of children,” Rebekah told us. “I was always studying healthcare and medical issues, and people knew that they could come to me with questions, and I would help because I had a caring heart.”
But it was while giving birth to her daughter that she realized that she had a different calling.
“I was in the delivery room, and the doctor was barely there. He was only in the room for about twenty minutes before I gave birth. It was the nurse who took care of me. She stayed past the end of her shift to make sure that I was ok and that my baby was ok. She even came back the next day to check in on us. Right there is when I shifted gears and decided that I wanted to become a nurse.”
Rebekah saw her dream come true when she completed her training to become a certified nursing assistant in her early 20s.
“I wanted to become a registered nurse as soon as I became an assistant, but the waiting list for nursing school was too long, so I became a licensed practical nurse instead.”
But while Rebekah thrived in her nursing career, she felt like she could never get ahead financially because she never received the basic financial education she needed to inform her choices.
Rebekah knew how to save lives, but she didn’t know how to manage her credit, and choices she’d made as a teenager hurt her score as an adult.
“I was never taught much about credit when I was young because my parents didn’t even like the concept of credit cards. They don’t like to pay for things with credit cards, and they don’t even have a debit card. They still pay their bills with checks, and they didn’t want me getting involved with credit because they didn’t want me to have access to more money than I could manage, so they just never told me anything.”
Not having a financial education, however, has never stopped anyone from getting a credit card.
“I was only a teenager when I got my first credit card, and of course I went to the mall and maxed it out right away. I looked at it as extra money that I had to spend. I knew not to let it go delinquent, so I would just pay the $25-a-month minimum on it. Right away, I was hurting my credit without knowing it.”
Though Rebekah struggled with her credit, she was financially savvy in other areas and as she grew in her career, she understood the value of owning her home versus renting.
“My rent started off at $800, but I saw how every year it would go up by $100 or even $200. I thought that with the same amount I’m paying in rent, I could be paying a mortgage and earning equity and all of the good stuff that comes with buying a house instead of giving my money away and not getting anything in return for it.”
Rebekah decided she was ready to be a homeowner, but while she had saved up enough money for a down payment, her low credit score meant she would face high-interest charges on any loan she could qualify for.
“It was actually the company that I was working with to buy my house that told me how to improve my credit score. They told me which credit cards to pay off and how I should pay certain bills. They literally sat me down and walked me through the process step-by-step to show me what I needed to do so that my rating would improve and I could qualify for a better loan.”
Rebekah made a plan and spent months saving her money and paying off her debts to improve her credit score.
“I spent months just working on my credit so that I could get the mortgage I needed for my first house. And then when I bought a second house, we went through the same thing, and they told me which credit card I needed to pay down and how to ask for a credit increase on another card so my score could be even better.”
Today, Rebekah loves being a homeowner, not only for the financial benefits but also for the sense of community with her neighbors.
“Oh my gosh, we love getting things nice for the holidays. We have so many boxes of decorations in our basement. I even put up three different trees for Christmas. My son and my daughter love it, and so do our neighbors. It’s like everyone gets into the holiday spirit, and it's almost a challenge to see who can put up the best decorations.”
With her financial life under control, Rebekah appreciates the value of a high credit score for the sense of security it gives her.
“Good credit gives me a sense of comfort. Like if some major expense came up or something happened to my car, I don’t have to worry about where I would get the money to help myself out. I feel secure knowing that I can take care of myself in case I have a major emergency or a situation where I suddenly need to spend money.”
Although she’s in a strong financial position today, Rebekah wishes she could go back in time to tell her teen self about the importance of maintaining strong credit.
“I wish I could talk to my younger self and say, ‘don’t go and blow it all at the mall.’ I wish someone could have just sat me down properly when I was a teenager and helped me understand the importance of taking care of my credit because you need it if you want to get a new car or a house. They can even be reluctant to give you a cellphone if your credit isn’t right. Kids need to be able to get some kind of financial education before they start spending money.”
Rebekah knows that while a caring heart is essential for taking care of other people, a solid understanding of how credit works is crucial for taking care of yourself.
Tell us more about your financial journey–the ups and downs, lessons learned, or anything else that could be helpful for people who are going through similar experiences.Share My Story