"Looking at my daughter and knowing that before she’s out of elementary school we will be financially set is a major motivation."
Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from and why are you passionate about your personal finance?
I’m Naseema, a 35-year old, single mother of a sassy 2-year old. I work as a Labor and Delivery Nurse and I am also a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner. I’m originally from Oakland, CA and currently reside outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.
I have endured several financial struggles. I lost four homes to short sales and foreclosures in 2008 and filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010. This coincided with a career change as I left my job in Healthcare Administration and went back to school to be a nurse.
In 2012, I finished up my graduate degree in nursing and had amassed over $200k in student loan debt. Working as a nurse, I had a good salary and didn’t think much about being in debt. I mean, who didn’t have debt? Student loan debt was good debt after all, right?
What was your "enough is enough" moment?
Before my daughter’s first birthday I felt uneasy. I had no savings and every month was a struggle to pay the bills. I made too much money to be that broke. I had no savings and I had no idea where all my money was going.
I decided to sell my condo in Los Angeles, my first property and the only one that made it through the recession. Researching how to invest my profit, I googled the top financial podcasts. That’s when I came across Dave Ramsey. Hearing concepts about paying off your mortgage, not having a credit score or not having any debt at all sounded crazy to me. It wasn’t until I started listening to the debt-free screams did it seemed possible.
I started paying down my debts in April 2015 but really didn’t get gung-ho until July. From that point on I religiously budgeted, told my money where to go in advance and realized major reductions in my debt.
How much debt did you pay off in total?
Over the last 21 months I have paid off $287K, actually yesterday I made a $13k payment so now I’m at $300k. (It seems like a ridiculous amount as I’m really just doing this math as I am typing)
How much money did you save in total?
Because I am following the Baby Steps I only have $1,000 in an emergency savings fund. I did recently start a 52-week money challenge to save for Christmas gifts but that just has a few bucks in it. I’m just really focused on paying these loans off.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Looking at my daughter and knowing that before she’s out of elementary school we will be financially set is a major motivation. I now know the value of money and how to make it work for me. Knowing that my family’s financial future will forever be positively changed drives me to keep pressing on. I share my story so that others know that it is possible for them as well.
How did you manage the days where you just wanted to go out and spend money?
Staying focused is not easy but practicing gratitude helps. I try to write down 5 things I’m grateful for every day. I also leave room in my budget for fun things. Every month I set aside $500 for travel and every other month my daughter and I take a trip. Rewarding myself after meeting a set goal helps as well. After paying down $10k, I try to do something special for myself and my baby.
What would be your money advice to your 21-year old self?
Knowledge is power; though I was well educated I had no clue about money. I would have learned more about managing my finances. My biggest regret is that I hadn’t learned about the Total Money Makeover earlier. I would have found alternative ways to pay for school. I wouldn’t have leveraged debt to buy houses. I also would have started investing.
What steps are you taking to ensure your debt freedom is permanent?
I am working too hard paying these loans off, taking on more debt is not an option. Now that I have a plan, my net worth is only increasing from here on out.
What advice would you give anyone reading this looking for encouragement?
- You have what it takes to be where you want to be financially. It won’t be a quick fix and it has to be done with intentionality, but you can do it.
- Figure out what your financial goals are and most importantly, why they are important to you.
- Take some time to dream. What would it be like if you had no money worries?
- Your income is your greatest wealth building tool; look into ways to increase it.
- Avoid debt and save for the future.
- Have a plan. If you aim for nothing you'll hit it every time.
Thank you so much for this amazing interview Naseema and congratulations on your amazing progress! You can keep up with Naseema and her progress on her Instagram page HERE.