In 2015, Credit Karma went to Austin and invited people to talk to us about their experiences with money and credit. We talked to people with many different backgrounds. Some were Credit Karma members, others were not. Participants were told in advance their stories might be shared online. These stories helped us understand the financial struggles that many people face. We thought they might help others too.
These are real stories, told by real people in their own words.
They received a financial gift for sharing their stories, but we want to take this time to thank them again. Check out our My Money Story series on YouTube.
When Viridiana was 18, she moved from Mexico to the United States to attend college in Texas. Around that time, she got her first credit cards. Unfortunately, this was her first time being financially independent, and she didn't know how to budget.
"That's where a lot of it went downhill," she says. She didn't realize that the cards she was signing up for had very high annual percentage rates (APR). And to make things worse, she was only making minimum payments, which made little difference in paying down the principal. "I thought as long as I give my minimum payment, it should all work itself out."
Unlike many young people, Viridiana didn't have anyone she could ask for help when it came to navigating the credit system. "I took (my credit score) very lightly and I think it was just because nobody in my family could explain to me...the importance of having good credit."
The turning point came when Viridiana went to the banks to see what she could do about her credit score and the fact that her balance - which was around $1,500 - never seemed to go down. Because her credit card accounts were delinquent, she set up a payment plan with the debt collectors.
"It was a difficult time at 18 years old, but you learn from messing up." And, unlike many 18-year-olds who can turn to their parents for help, Viridiana knew that if she didn't pay back her debts, no one else would do it for her.
It took her a year of repayments before she could close the accounts. To help rebuild her credit, Viridiana got a secured credit card with a $500 limit. She now has a job as a technology consultant, and even though she's making good money, she's a careful budgeter, partly to ensure she's able to send money to her mom in Mexico every month.
It can be difficult being frugal, particularly when she sees what other people are doing on social media. "I see (them) eating at a 5-star restaurant and I'm here making my own meal." But she takes her responsibilities very seriously. "I have family back home that I'm trying to help, so it's not just about me."
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