I Thought I Was Rich
By the time I was 23, I had an income of about 200K annually. This was more money than most people I knew were making. I was a 100 percent commission mortgage banker in a small suburb of Orlando called Maitland, Florida. This is where I learned the art of sales, developed a heart to help others get from where they were to where they wanted to be, and learned that making a lot of money doesn’t make you immune to the issues that those with less have. Because it’s not what you make but how much you keep.
These lessons would prove to be instrumental to my development. At the time, I felt that I had enough money to spend. Trips to Aruba, long weekends at the beach, boats, nice cars, clothes, and all the exotic handbags my wife could carry became my reality. I was armed with a total disregard for managing money and a desire to have those things that I wasn’t exposed to. That was my driver. Although I thought I was different, separated from those with less money, I possessed the same mindset. To my surprise, it was a poverty mindset that would keep me broke no matter how much money I made.
One day I was sitting around the house in Florida, bored. I began to think about some of the clients that I had been assisting who had large credit limits but marginal credit. This was the mid-90s when as long as you had a decent credit score, a pulse, and could fog a mirror, you could get loans, credit cards, or anything else you wanted to borrow pretty easy. At the time, I had no credit cards. Everything I wanted I just paid for with cash. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I hopped on the computer and applied for a shiny new credit card online. Why not, I thought, what did I have to lose? I didn’t realize that I actually had a lot to lose. I was applying for credit just because I could. I had no plan of action and was about to do something really dumb. In what seemed like seconds, I was approved for a new credit card and, to my surprise, this new card came with a $20,000 limit. I was elated with my new tool, one I really shouldn’t have had.
My first mistake was getting a card I didn’t need, nor one I was prepared for. My second mistake was not paying attention to the interest rate. When the card came in the mail, I noticed it was one of the newer mini credit cards that could fit on my key chain. Cute, I thought. But it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, one that I had no clue how to tame, as well as the 12 percent interest rate that came with it.
I still didn’t realize the power I truly had, and what I could have done with it only if I knew how to use it appropriately. I charged it to the point where I had so much debt that I couldn’t pay it off entirely in 1 month. The interest was building rapidly. I could have used it to build my credit, help with emergencies. I could have even used it to start a business. Instead, I used it foolishly and often. It became hard to pinpoint exactly what I had purchased by the time I had maxed out the card because I had invested in many everyday things like food, groceries, clothes, and other things that made me feel better. I used this card until the magnetic strip was fading off the back. As I continued to consume many small things with the card, I lost sight of how much I was actually spending at any period in time.
Without the physical reminder of bills or lack of bills in my wallet, I thought my supply was endless. It takes a long time to spend 20 grand is what I thought. But I was wrong. In truth, when I thought I had only $250 on small items in any given month, I actually had spent triple that, and simply not remembered because there was no accountability.
My monthly minimum payment on the card was $1,200. I can remember making the payment with little to no effort when the money was coming in rapidly, which really wasn’t helping me, because that monster called interest, that can either work for you or against you, was definitely not on my side.