JoAnn met Working Credit through her employer, Family Focus, which offers the program as an employee benefit. “When I took the [Working Credit’s signature Introduction to Credit Building] workshop, I said to myself ‘let me write this down!’ There was so much I didn’t know.”
Shortly after that workshop, JoAnn started working one-on-one with her Working Credit counselor. “I got Ramiro and he’s been awesome. He went over my credit report line item by line item. Now I’m addicted to my credit report!”
JoAnn was drawn to the program because she “…was tired of being in debt.” She first became mired in debt during college, when credit card companies were allowed to market their products to students on campus.1 “I got deeper and deeper in debt [over the years] because I didn’t understand the problem of only making the minimum payment.” But it wasn’t until she took out a car loan at an exorbitant interest rate and was told by the seller that she had “bad” credit that JoAnn “…realized I had no idea what credit was or what it meant down the line. I was dumbfounded.”
Working with Ramiro opened JoAnn’s eyes to the connection between improving her credit profile and reducing her debt load. Together, they strategized ways for JoAnn to negotiate with creditors to pay down her debt. “I had over 20 credit cards and Ramiro gave me tips on how to pay them off, while still keeping some open in order to keep my long credit history. I also keep at least one in case of an emergency.”
As she paid her debt down, JoAnn’s credit score improved. Ramiro encouraged JoAnn to try to refinance that high-interest car loan. She found a credit union and now pays $250 less a month, plowing the savings into a savings account that currently has around $2,000 in it.
Through tears, JoAnn emphasized how powerful her experience has been. “I adore him [Ramiro]. I never had a savings account. I know you can’t feel what I feel – it was so empowering to not have to pay that high interest rate on the car and to not have to miss out on so many things because you don’t have the money.”
Asked what she would like others to know, JoAnn noted that “You don’t go around telling people that you’re in debt. But I want to share my story if it can help. I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. Knowledge is power. If you have knowledge, you have power. I would have liked to have had the information sooner, but no one talked about it in my family. Because of that I didn’t learn how to manage credit as a young person. Today I would say keep one credit card in case of an emergency but don’t go into debt. My 26-year-old daughter, who is an inspiration to me, already knows this. I’m a social worker and a youth development program manager. I want to empower all of the young people in my life.”
1The Credit CARD Act of 2009 is a federal statute that was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2009. The Act introduced rules for young adults seeking to open credit card accounts by setting a general minimum age requirement of 21 to open a credit card without a co-signer (with exceptions for young adults who prove they are independently able to repay their credit card debt). The Act also restricts on-campus marketing and disclosures to help young people make a more educated choice in signing up for a credit card.