Rushing to stuff my books in the locker, I headed straight for the lunch line. It was Tuesday, which means they were serving pizza or turkey sandwiches; the former being my favorite. I sat down ready to indulge. As soon as I took my first bite, a girl looked at me with disgust dripping on her face, and says,
“You’re so fat, why are you even eating lunch?”
I was frozen. Inching my glasses back up my nose with my chubby index finger, I forced myself to laugh; it was the only thing I could do. The pizza shamefully sat on my tray, then made its way to the trash.
I was a 9th grader weighing 205 pounds. My doctor never hesitated to show the obesity chart, and circling exactly where I fit in.
I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, and although that girl had no right to say what she did, it sure as heck was a wake up call.
I needed to start making healthier choices and getting daily exercise. That was 12 years ago, and I’ve been regularly working out and eating well since.
So what do food and finance have in common, you might ask? Well, I believe that bad habits are connected.
Chances are if you aren’t taking care of your physical health, you’re less likely to be taking care of your financial wellness.
Unlike my body, which people can see and judge with a quick glance, no one could see my bank account in the red. They can only see the outside choices I make — the jewelry, clothes and “name-brand” shoes — but in reality I had nothing.
I remember feeling the same sense of embarrassment from my real life Mean Girls reenactment years later when my older cousin candidly asked,
“What’s your net worth?”
It was a question I’d never been asked before, and quite frankly wasn’t one that I asked myself.
My cousin told me that if I was 23, then my net worth should be $23,000. $23,000! How could this even be possible when I graduated with $38,000 of student loan debt, on top of my credit card debt?
I didn’t want to sit down and calculate that number. It was a reality I never wanted to face because its truth scared me. I knew that when I did, some serious life changes would need to be in order.
I finally started my financial transformation by creating a money plan, and it all trickled down the tree from there. I began saving, learning how to invest, and was able to set up a system to pay off debt more efficiently.
Although I am not debt free today, each day I am becoming closer to my money goals. I now pay off my credit card bill in full each month. I’ve paid off over $25,000 of student loan debt in less than 5 years. I created a debt challenge that helped 10 people pay off $39,500 of debt in 11 weeks.
I have a Roth IRA account, brokerage account, 401(k) retirement plan and multiple savings’ accounts. Most importantly, I’ve made it a habit to check my net worth each month.
To me, financial health means having the courage to face reality and making the necessary changes.
It means taking care of the parts that people can’t see, and living life not just for today but also for the future.
Financial health means that you’re no longer going to accept the low standards that you once allowed, battling the side of you that doesn’t want to be great.
Just like I had to learn which foods were good for my body, I had to learn healthy financial habits that would turn my net worth from negative to positive.
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