Building Your Credit 101

Building Your Credit 101

Some people are actually scared of credit cards. Often I hear that a person doesn’t want a credit card because it will just create debt. While that’s noble and all, it’s really the wrong answer. You do want a credit card. Why? Because building credit is the ONLY way you are going to get what you want out of this American life. Sure, cash is king in some aspects. But cash don’t mean shit when we’re talking about home buying, business building, or even renting an apartment. I’ve seen many a fine young man believe that cash will get him into a house, or into a rental only to find out that he needs credit or no dice.

Building credit isn’t as hard as some people make it out to be. Whether you’re newly 18, or in the throws of adulthood and just realizing you need credit to do pretty much everything, there’s always a starting point. But first, here’s a few things you need to know right off the bat:

  • Utility bills do not build credit. 
  • A cell phone account under your name does not build credit. 
  • An apartment in your name does not build credit.

All these things have the ability to hurt you if you don’t pay up, but never do they ever help you build a credit score. So now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about what will help you get to where you want to be when it comes to your credit rating.

1.   Get a credit card from major bank. 

Notice how I said “major bank?” Credit cards from retail stores look horrible on your credit, even if there’s a cute lil Visa logo in the corner. This is because retail stores typically have inflated interest rates that are very difficult to pay down unless you’re already big ballin’. Credit agencies look at this high interest credit card and only see a ship waiting to sink. That doesn’t exactly scream financial stability. By major banks, I mean Discover, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Capital One, etc. If you’re a newbie or rebuilding credit, Capital One is your best bet. Other banks have stringent qualifying policies that only give credit to people with an established credit history. Sure, the annual percentage rate (APR) might be lower, but you haven’t proven your credit worthiness for a low interest rate yet. You gotta pay to play. 

2.    Make credit card payments on the due date. 

When you’re working on building credit, the credit bureau needs to see that you’re paying down debt. They only see this once a month. So if you’re paying the card off before the actual due date, they see a $0 balance every 30 days which reads like you’re not using the card at all. Realistically your first credit card is going to have a low limit. Good. Spend as much as you’re able to pay, and pay back the minimum payment or more on time. Once you’ve got some experience and credit history under your belt, you can start paying cards off in full before the due date. Until then, let the balance sit until it’s due to achieve the Magna Cum Laude of credit worthiness.

3.    Get your name on that car loan.

There are some debts that look good on a credit report. One of the most attainable “good debts” is a vehicle loan. Lots of people have the good fortune of their parents financing a car for them, so if this is you, ask to get on that loan! Every month that the payment is made on time is another uptick on your credit report, which means your credit is being built even though it might not be you paying the bill each month. If you’re on your own, then hope is not lost. Buy a car that requires a payment be made each month. This is one of the quickest ways to build credit aside from getting a credit card.

Following this simple guideline will get you to good credit in as little as six months!

The Beginner’s Guide to Financial Security

The Beginner’s Guide to Financial Security

Everyone nowadays wants to start at the top. I hear teens talk about being established by the time they’re 25, house owned, babies, married, careers, etc. Little do they realize many adults are still heavily funded by their parents. This is an unfortunate circumstance of the laws put into place by generations before us. 

With prices of houses, childcare, gas, and goods all inflating while pay wages bottom out, there are more adults living with or depending on mom and dad to support them more than ever before. Many get along just fine with supplemental payments from parents. For others, the heat is on to make every move count.

Do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do.

No matter what happens, never lose your stream of revenue. If you hate your job, think of it as a means to an end. If it’s that intolerable, start looking for a new job, but don’t quit before you have a new one. Even if you’re living at home for free, maximize your efforts and save your money.

Sometimes this means going back to school to get a degree. Sure, you’re not making money but you’re bettering your station in life so you have more opportunities to make money. But be careful what degree you settle on. Robots are sweeping through the workplace and will soon displace many employees. Finding a job is about to get a whole lot harder, so the more competitive you stay, the better off you’ll be. 

Be skilled in a couple of areas. 

It’s not enough to have one source of income anymore. The more you diversify yourself, the better the odds you’ll be able to stay afloat in a tricky economy. The key here is to hustle your talents. You may have to volunteer your time at first to get to the paid position if you’re new. Look at it as one more advantageous section on your resume. If you’re in college, don’t skimp out on applying to internships. It can be a major stepping stone to securing your future.  

If you’re not in school, you’ve probably already had different jobs or are working two jobs already. Find a couple trades that interest you and expand. For example, if you’re getting a real estate license, look into becoming a notary as well. Or look into mortgage brokering. The longer your skillset, the better. 

Only buy things you absolutely need. 

While you’re slaving away to make ends meet, stay away from buying things just for the sake of buying it. Sure, treat yourself now and then. Life is all about balance. But clothes, purses, shoes, jewelry— all these things won’t make you any money. 

Also, be aware that most of the people you see decked to the nines have other people paying their bills or have gotten themselves into crippling debt. If you don’t have someone else footing the bill or want to be able to get a house, car, apartment— basically anything on your own, then keep your debt to income ratio in check. Frivolous spending will kill your financial security. Don’t be that asshole with a Louis bag on the unemployment line. The shit ain’t cute. 

Keep your credit score as high as possible

A utility bill does not build credit. I repeat, a utility bill does not build credit. Neither does renting an apartment or having a cell phone. In order to build credit, you need a credit card or a car loan under your name, not someone else’s. 

Start building credit immediately. Setting a solid financial history will be super beneficial to you when it comes time to pull out a loan. You don’t need millions of dollars to start a business or buy a home. What you need is good credit. Stick to major credit cards like Capital One, Discover, Chase, etc. Retail cards have high interest and are considered high risk. No bank wants to loan money to someone who clearly has a shopping addiction.

Good credit will get you the things you need without tens of thousands of dollars up front. Good credit helps you save on interest, and makes life easier when you want to advance in your adult life.

For more on where to start, check out The How to Reach Your Financial Goals Starter Kit

What’s stopping you from achieving financial security? 

To the Broken Being

To the Broken Being

Have you ever felt like you were tired of your own bullshit? That moment of revelation when you recognize the negative patterns in your life and finally begin take responsibility for it? If not, there’s hope for you. Our come-to-jesus moments happen at different stages in our lives. Until then we cope with our own bs in hopes that the pain disappears, or at least becomes a dull ache we learn to live with.

When you’re broken the pieces are shattered glass. The jagged edges can cut the soul, leaving you wounded and wanting. You do your best to keep it together, to smile through cracked skin, to hold the shape in place until no one is looking. You don’t dare touch the pieces; it’s too sharp. The scab is always trying to heal.

To avoid pricking your finger, you deflect and point it at someone else. Someone that mirrors qualities you hate in yourself, or someone that you envy. Take out the pain on the people closest to you, who will ask that you try and touch the stabbing edges of your broken self to piece it back together. But we build a callus instead, become numb to the snags of day to day life until we just can’t anymore.

Being broken is a wound that refuses to heal. Until we’re ready to suffer through the scrapes and stings of our own shards, the flesh remains tender. Forcing the pieces together will lead to bloody hands. This is why it’s important to be gentle with yourself, to smooth out the edges, carefully shape it to press delicately to the next.

The best thing about being broken is that you have the ability to build yourself up to whatever form suits you. All that’s required is for you to pick up the shattered pieces of yourself. This requires you to dig deep, to be consistent in addressing issues that are and are not your fault. It means acknowledging reality, taking responsibility, apologizing— all that fun stuff no one likes to do. 

It means forgiving yourself for your shortcomings and forgiving others for theirs. It means trying every day to be a better person, to keep your reactions in check, to stop blaming others for the drama in your life. 

It means setting boundaries for peoples. It means sticking to those boundaries no matter how badly it hurts to let someone go for crossing the line. Some people live their whole lives pissing people off and that’s their path. The only person you have the ability to fix is you. Heal together or heal alone, just make sure you’re healing.

Realize no one is perfect. We all have scars—some of us more visible than others. The important thing is that we stay on our grind everyday to heal the past and lay the foundation for the future. The only time you’ll fail is if you give up. And alls we got is time… 

The only place to start is at the beginning. How gently you decide to do that is at your discretion. But keep in mind all the consequences of haphazardly playing with sharp objects. Proceed with caution. 

For more helpful tips, be sure to check out my post Reflection

The Teacher Dilemma

The Teacher Dilemma

I fell in love with teaching sometime around my mid 20s. I had made some good investments after being laid off from my corporate job and had some free time to do anything I wanted, so I decided to volunteer as a writing coach in a high school classroom.

It didn’t hit me until the next year. I didn’t have time to volunteer and I was genuinely upset. It was then I decided to get into a teaching program, because you know the saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I knew teachers didn’t make a lot of money, but I wasn’t doing it for the money. I wanted to teach because I loved it. 

I’ve been teaching for five years now. Between being an adjunct college instructor and high school English teacher I’ve learned one thing for sure: If you want to teach, you must, absolutely must have another form of income. If that’s a possibility, and you have heart for the job, there’s really nothing better. There aren’t many people who can say they truly love what they do, and even less that can say their job touches lives on a daily basis. But to be in this teaching game, you have to love it. Because once you’re in, the situation gets bleak. Hella bleak. 

1. Teachers simply do not make enough money to survive. Now some of you might be saying, “I thought teachers don’t teach for the money,” and we don’t. But basic survival is a necessity no matter which way you cut it. Think about it: you need at least a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential to qualify, of which most teachers go above and beyond with master’s degrees and professional development classes. Yet, teachers make between $40-60k a year depending on where they are teaching, and how long they’ve been teaching. You can work retail with no degrees for the same amount. 

In California, that salary doesn’t even qualify you for a one bedroom apartment, let alone allow you to save to buy a house, or fix your car. Most teachers have a second job. Ok great. So you’re on your feet all day working with kids just to go work some more after school which means less prep, less R&R, more stress, and overall unhealthy lifestyle. This boils over into your classroom whether you want it to or not. But don’t worry, in 20 years you’ll be at $80-100k a year and be able to afford that one bedroom apartment you worked your whole adult life to afford! Congrats on your long awaited financial stability ::eye roll:: A person shouldn’t have to sacrifice his/her life to be a teacher. If education is so important, then why aren’t we doing something for the people who are providing it? 

2. The majority of schools do not supply the necessary materials for students to succeed. That means out of a teacher’s poverty wages, he/she must purchase paper, pencils, tape, folders, notebooks, and anything else needed to make the school year go by smoothly. Going into my second year of teaching high school I’ve had to purchase:

— lined paper

— staples and stapler 

— desk organizing material

— my own copy paper for printing worksheets (this was the best, lemme tell ya)

— a projector 

— books (entire class sets, not just one or two)

— class decor 

— tape

— hole punchers

— monthly fee for a hot spot on my phone to show supplemental videos

— adapter to use my computer

— markers

— colored pencils

— glue

— arts & crafts supplies
— pens and pencils 

And that’s just for starters. At least colleges supplied me with whiteboard markers and paper! Ever walk into a classroom and it’s so unorganized you’re not sure how the teacher manages a group of kids in that hot mess? Yea, because organizing resources cost money! Some districts are better or worse than others, but throughout America this setup is all pretty much the same. 

3. More times than not, you’re treated like crap. This isn’t always the case. Lots of teachers find work homes where they fit in and are supported by their surrounding peers. But the majority of the time, the administrative staff gives NO fucks about you and it’s everyone out for themselves. I’ll never forget the one district I worked in where the office woman in charge of restocking the printer paper reprimanded me for using too much. She was never very helpful to begin with and certainly didn’t like me after that. How dare I make worksheets for students.

And if a kid decides he or she doesn’t like you and takes revenge for whatever it is the kid thinks you did, forget it. Every year some poor shlub just trying to make a living gets booted out on admin leave because some jerk kid wanted to get out of a test or something. Where’s your work pals then? Steering clear from you. In the teacher world, you’re guilty before found innocent. And if the union isn’t pulling their fees out of your pitiful paycheck then you can probably just kiss that job goodbye.  

Despite all of it, teachers stick around. Fewer and fewer each year, but the ones with financial support are able to stay. It’s the students who keep us going, who light our lives with gratitude even after they leave and grow into adults. When you’re a teacher at heart, there’s no other job like this one. I have to say that despite what I’ve seen and experienced, I still go to work happy and come home happy 95% of the time. 

But I have other sources of income. If you want to survive in the teacher game you’ll need it too, or be happy living broke as a joke. Like college dorm years living with five roommates splitting the rent and still can’t afford to fix your car broke. It’s impossible to be financially stable in a teaching career in California.

Our politicians don’t seem to care that teachers are becoming scarcer throughout the US because of this. Between low pay, low school budgets, and shabby treatment, it’s not surprising people would rather tend bar. There are many who can say they don’t need this job, but who can say America doesn’t need teachers? 

Check out more of my thoughts on education in America here

Are you a teacher in the US? Comment with what state you’re in and what it’s like being a teacher there below. 

2084: The New American Classroom

2084: The New American Classroom

A lot of things about life don’t scare me. I wasn’t scared to move 3,000 miles away from home by myself. I wasn’t scared to go out into an unknown world, find financial footing with minimal help from family—but definitely with a little help from my friends. (I see you, fam!) I wasn’t scared to survive on my own. I persevered through sexism in the workplace, racism in schools & education, the death of friends and family, my own chaotic mind— nothing kept me down. I still show up and give it my all everyday. I’m not scurred.

Even when I thought this one student was totally capable of coming to class and taking us all out, I showed up. I notified the school, but there’s no protocol to handle that. Sure, the argument is if I was armed and trained I maybe could’ve handled a hostage negotiation. Or maybe the argument is just to shoot the damn kid? I don’t know. Luckily, Jeremy never spoke in class that semester. What I do know is that I don’t want to do shoot or maim anyone.

It is a fact that the United States has a teacher shortage nationwide. It is a fact that California is getting hit the hardest being the 5th largest economy which equates to high cost of living. A teacher’s salary simply can’t stand on its own. This is why the majority of teachers are middle-class women who provide, yet wouldn’t be able to do it without another form of income, whether that be on her own or with a wife/husband. On her own means, she would need two or three jobs just to pay the bills, or a family with money to supplement her income. This is the same for other gendered faculty as well. The point is, people can’t afford to be teachers. 

Once they’re in the game for a couple years, they realize they can make more money bartending or serving and be less burnt out every day. Or they decide to get a master’s degree to do something else. Whatever it is, the turnover rate for teachers is 50%. Enrollment into teaching programs continues to fall as well, so 50% of what number is my new question.

Now with the President of the United States, Mr. D. Trump calling for guns in every classroom, I am scared. I swear the long arm of fear tactics just keeps swinging. As a teacher, I don’t want a gun. I don’t want a gun in my classroom so some punk kid can find it and do something stupid. I don’t want the gun in my hand. I don’t want blood in the classroom; I want books in the classroom.

What kind of nation are we where guns in classrooms take priority over books in the classroom? That sounds to me like we are turning into a militant society. What are guns used for? Killing, wounding, protecting; yes. But there are too many hands in the pot in this situation. Kids find a way into everything and schools are filled with kids. 

I would never send my child to a school where I constantly had to worry about another student getting a hold of the gun, or the revolving door of teachers who have access to the gun around my kid. 

I would never send my child to a school where I was the teacher with access to the gun! I’m clumsy. You don’t want me wielding a weapon. I have a master’s in English, not in Law Enforcement. And if the solution is, “get both,” well then we had better start working on tuition prices.

Either way, if every teacher is armed in the classroom, this lover of opening minds will gracefully bow out. Call me a quitter. I will not be part of a society that prioritizes guns over books. Americans are already average intellectually, and that’s with the highest amount of academic dishonesty in history. We’re below average in important subjects like math and science: subjects that provide the know-how to lead our country into the future of robotics, medicine, energy, you name it. Some argue Americans live an anti-intellectual lifestyle. 

Next thing you know, we really won’t have any intelligence to be world leaders and we’ll just start taking it by force. We can train little armies in classrooms around the country. We’ll show videos of how to build and shoot weapons. Empathy is already on its way out, so we won’t have to work too hard to get our little armies to kill. Don’t worry, you won’t have to read anything. Just follow the video. It’s easy. Forget books, who has money for that? We’ve already started speaking in Newspeak with “wya, tbt, hmu,” the Newspeak Dictionary keeps updating. Next we’ll do away with books altogether and focus on guns and power. Who will be the enemy today?

This ain’t 1984, folks. It’s 2084. Hold onto those tape ins. 

What are your thoughts on guns taking over American classrooms?