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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


people found Robin's experience helpful.

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I started dealing blackjack for a tribal casino and making hundreds of dollars a night in tips when I was only 19 years old. Watching money come and go so easily in the world of gambling gives many in this industry a bad perception, and I was no exception.

Money had no value to me. I spent it as easily as I made it. I had no idea how to manage what I made, and even though I earned a great salary, I became inundated with debt. In the world of gambling, people forget that winning doesn’t last forever.

I got my first credit card about this time, as well. I charged, paid them off, charged, and paid them off, until that became old. I charged and then “forgot” to pay until I was overwhelmed. It was the first time in my life that I was on my own, and I blew it, big time.

By the time I was 21, I was in debt, in trouble, and pregnant. My partner was in no better shape. I continued to deal poker and blackjack and earned a substantial wage but still had no concept of how to correctly use money.

I was married for a decade, and by the time my husband left the marriage, I had a credit score in the low 400s, tons of late payments, and a handful of accounts in collection. I was now a single mother with a pile of debt and a career that I knew could save me if I only knew how to manage money.

Four years later, I quit working in the casino business, enrolled in college, and took a job at a homeless shelter making $12 an hour. I received a paycheck once a month, and surprisingly, this is when my life changed.

I went from having cash in hand on a daily basis to waiting for payday. My monthly salary equaled what I used to make in one week, and for some reason, I had more money than I ever had before. I learned how to respect money. I began to budget, pay down the collections, and build up my credit score.

What I Learned

You can see results quickly if you are diligent in following a plan. Here's the plan that worked for me:

Make arrangements to pay off debt. Call each creditor, and speak honestly. A representative will help you create a plan that is manageable and effective in repairing your credit.

Wait six months before applying for credit. I learned this from Suzy Orman, the financial guru. The longer you wait before applying for credit, the better. Each inquiry into your credit affects your score.

Open one or two secured credit cards. - This is the best thing I ever did to help my credit. I went to my local bank and opened a secured credit card account, making a small initial deposit of $300. The difference with bank-issued prepaid credit cards is the simple fact that banks report them to credit-monitoring agencies.

These are a few essential tips for using a secured credit card that I learned:

1. Use the card monthly for small purchases. An example would be a tank of gas.

2. Pay off the balance each month.

3. Don’t charge the card to the limit.

4. Don’t pay just the minimum.

These tips are critical. It shows responsibility in managing credit when you use it wisely and pay it off timely.

I did this for an entire year and watched my credit score rise. I was so proud of myself for taking care of my business. It didn’t make me feel good to be irresponsible. What I didn’t expect to learn was that as I began to pay down debt, I gained more confidence. I became aware that for years I had punished myself.

The most important advice I have for anyone in debt is to take care of it. Do not ignore it, even when it seems overwhelming. Here’s why: The unknown is always scarier than the known. The thoughts in your head do not always match reality. Most agencies are kind, nonjudgmental, and easy to work with. Be honest with yourself and with them.

One year into my credit redemption, I lost my job, moved, struggled to find employment, had to quit school because of interfering odd jobs, and ended up in more debt than I had the previous year.

As my debt began to pile up, I became more scared and tried to ignore it. I didn’t take my own advice, because I didn’t realize it until now.

I began working full-time again, three months ago, and I will start all over again repairing my credit. I am not discouraged, because I know it can be done. In my younger days, I wanted instant gratification. This was apparent in my spending habits but was also true in my debt. If I couldn’t take care of it all at one time, I didn’t care to try.

I couldn’t process how time flies and the future eventually arrives.

It's a setback at the moment to owe so much again, but I know I can tackle the credit nightmare.

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