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Transforming Negativity into Positive Experiences

This essay is from a 2020 Student Loan Planner® Scholarship winner.

Elin C.

Fortunately, the 2020 recession hasn’t negatively affected my personal finances. I have used the negativity that is occurring around me to make it into a positive, to learn from it, grow and give back.

I am an educator, so I do not make a lot of money but I was also on maternity leave last school year and I wasn’t collecting a paycheck. We were in a position where we were covering all of our bills and saving, but we were not being smart enough with our money.

I have experienced a lot in my life where I do my best to look at how I can learn from every experience, positive and negative.

One of the main negative experiences I faced was in high school when my high school counselor stereotyped me and did not give me the guidance I needed to apply to college. That was always my goal, I was working hard to be eligible. I received no support with college applications or financial aid.

I pushed forward anyway and ended up going to college and earning a bachelor’s degree, two master's degrees, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Only around 5% of Latinx in the U.S. earn a graduate degree, this includes Masters and Ph.D./Ed.D., I was set on proving to my community and others that it can be done!

However, I still have over $50,000 in student loan debt after pursuing that personal goal of mine.

The reason I bring this experience up is because I turned that negative experience into a positive by becoming a high school counselor so that students would never have to experience what I did, I vowed to not only support students to get to and through college, but to make sure to have important information accessible to all!

Fast forward to 2020… we were living on one paycheck in an expensive city, in an expensive state with our first child. I was at home full time feeling like I needed to do something productive (like raising a child wasn’t enough).

I was introduced to the Brown Ambition podcast a few years back but I never made the time to actually listen to it. I finally started to listen to the episodes from the very beginning around February 2020. As the coronavirus started to hit and our state went into shelter in place, I wasn’t binging Netflix like others… I was binging podcasts! That was my gateway into personal finance and I started going down the path of learning how to budget, invest, and take control of our finances.

Through my journey of listening to personal finance podcasts, I heard Travis Hornsby talk about Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I knew about PSLF but I was always so confused and nervous about pursuing it, mostly because I didn’t know who I could ask for help and I personally didn’t know anyone who went through it.

The way Travis and other personal finance people talked about taking control of your finances gave me the courage I needed to do something about all of the questions and anxiety I had around money!

So here I am, writing an essay to win a scholarship where if I win, I plan on putting the money towards debt and look forward to learning more about investing so that I can make our money work for us. Through this journey, I have learned how to use money to empower us instead of money being something to be scared of not having enough.

We are working towards being debt-free, investing in ourselves through our retirement accounts and breaking down the stereotypes and barriers to build generational wealth. This way my son doesn’t have to take on student loan debt, and can inherit not only the money we can leave behind but also inherit the knowledge and values we pass down to him.

I mentioned how I use the negativity around me and look to make it a positive by learning and growing from it, but also by giving back. I give back by being empowered to talk about money with my family and friends, but it has also shifted my perspective on how I will counsel my students from now on.

I will approach college guidance in a different way, and talk about ways to save for it and pay for it. I will spend more time discussing passion and careers and what their return on investment could look like. I will find more ways to share information with families about lowering their college costs.

I will talk about 529’s more, this may not be as beneficial for my high school students but this definitely applies to any younger siblings that family may have. I am committed to incorporating this form of personal finance into my school counseling practice.

So during the recession of 2020, we didn’t lose a job and we have been able to keep up with our bills but it has definitely affected us… in a positive way, and hopefully will also impact the students and families I work with as a school counselor this school year and years to come.