Tamika Stembridge says debt caught her but she broke free
Tamika Stembridge, esq. is the executive director of dfree® Global Foundation. A corporate woman, turned nonprofit “save the children” executive, turned entertainment attorney, talent manager, and creative consultant, turned non-profit “save the community” executive, Stembridge is financially savvy. Here’s her secret.
When did you truly become financially conscious?
When I faced the possibility of having to drop out of law school after my first semester, because I was unable to take out any more federal student loans. When the government says “No,” you know you’re in trouble. All of my borrowing, consumer credit cards, and over spending caught up with me, at the most inopportune time. I had given up all of my work options to pursue an advanced degree; I finally had to face myself … and my creditors. I humbly contacted each one, and practically begged for lowered monthly payments during the semester to fit within my meager earning capacity. After many calls, No’s, and follow ups, they agreed. I was awarded a scholarship to cover tuition because Jesus loves me, and I kept my newly-arranged payment plans, and stopped my crazy spending. And as the system has it, my credit scores actually went up, because I adhered to the plans and kept up my end of the deal. To this day, I can count the times, on a single hand, that I’ve been late on a payment. I’m still paying off my debts, one-by-one, but I am on my way to being debt free.
What does financial success look like to you?
Freedom to live your current life on your own terms, without finance-related worry, and the ability to leave sufficient assets for the ones you love when you’re gone.
Who taught you how to be financially savvy?
I learned how to shop and save, eventually, from my Nanna. But I learned how to stretch a dollar from my mother.
When did you get your first credit card or line of credit?
I got my first credit card during my freshman year of college at Spelman. It was an Express store card. I wanted to be able to buy the fashionable clothes like the other girls on campus. I didn’t pay it off in full until well after graduation.
What do you know about your finances now that you wish you had known earlier?
Though I don’t regret any part of my journey, I wish I had known more about investing and building wealth. Understanding how money grows, beyond just compound interest from saving, earlier on may have excited me to do it versus wasting “my extra” cash over the years.
If you could tell people one thing they must do to live a stress-free financial life, what would that one thing be?
Save some money. Even as you pay down debt, invest for the long term, and pursue your life goals. Saving will always be necessary! You want to be able to help yourself, even if you can’t save yourself completely, when “life happens,” because it most certainly will happen.
What is the biggest lesson about money that you have learned?
It goes where you tell it to go, and follows where you lead it. Most financial challenges aren’t financial at all. It’s all a matter of ordering your life, managing your habits, and focusing relentlessly on your goals.
Connect with Stembridge: @freeblackgirl (Instagram); @OGfreeblackgirl (Twitter); @mydfree (on all social media platforms)
dfree® is the only strategic wealth-building system created to empower the African American community for financial freedom. Join the money and wealth conversation with dfree® founder Dr. DeForest Soaries live this Friday, Nov. 10 starting at 10 a.m. ET @mydfree (FB, Twitter, YouTube) and at www.mydfree.org. Dr. Soaries will spend the day speaking truth to power about Black wealth.