5 Steps I Took to Go From $65,000 in Debt to a Net Worth of $350,000

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  • After finishing college, I realized that I needed strong financial literacy to get ahead in life.
  • I now have a net worth of $350,000 and coach other young people of color on succeeding financially.
  • Eliminating debt, cutting housing costs, investing more, and automating my savings all helped me.
  • Read more from Personal Finance Insider.

There is a fundamental gap in wealth. On average, Black people have less wealth than other groups. While there are many causes of this gap, we, as Black people, are the ones who navigate the challenges and live with the consequences each day.

Finding a job with benefits or learning how to invest is not easy or intuitive. To add insult to injury, Black people are more likely to accrue student loan debt while pursuing higher education. Compounded, there are infinite hurdles to building wealth in our community.

I started working at the age of 15. I knew to save my money but I did not know how to build wealth. I thought simplistically: go to college, get a “good” job, and work until I can retire. I thought earning a higher salary was all that I needed to generate wealth.

I was privileged to get into college. My parents believed that my education was 100% my responsibility. I graduated with $65,000 in student loans and then pursued graduate school.

Along the way, I realized I was setting myself up for mandatory student loan payments, limited earning potential, and having to work for 30+ years before I reach retirement age. Faced with all of that, I educated myself in financial literacy and made intentional changes, such as getting a second job and automating my savings, in the hopes of building wealth.

Over the last seven years, I have grown my net worth to over $350,000 after having been $65,000 in debt.

Knowing more about my finances allowed me to do better. Through my company, Moore Wealth, we host workshops and give scholarships to educate students of color on how they can do better with their personal finances.

I want all Black people to have an abundance of wealth. Inspired by others, I used the following five methods to grow my wealth.

1. Became more conscious of my spending

My income is limited. I can’t afford everything I want. The first thing I did when I wanted to build wealth was become aware of how I spend my money, and what I want to spend my money on.

I realized that my actions inform my values, and what I spend the most money on is my primary value. Thinking intentionally about how I spend has helped me align my money with my values.

2. Cut down my housing costs

My inspiration to be very conscious about how much I spend on housing came from Dr. Lakisha L. Simmons, FIRE coach and author of “The Unlikely AchieveHer.” Dr. Simmons learned about FIRE (financial independence/retirement early) after a divorce. With two children and just one one paycheck, she decided it was time to downsize all of her expenses from her.

Dr. Simmons downsized her housing from a five-bedroom, four-bathroom home that cost her $2,410 per month to a 2-bedroom apartment that only cost her $1,400 per month. With this move, she was able to retire within 4 years at the age of 41 with $900,000 saved.

Housing is a huge monthly expense for the average person. Using Dr. Simmons’ journey as inspiration, I reduced my living costs by moving into a smaller apartment, and used my savings from that to take the next three steps.

3. Eliminated and avoided more debt

I graduated with $65,000 in student loan debt. My husband—who I met later—also had student loan debt.

Though increasing our awareness of how we spend our money, we realized if we continued on our current path, we would be in debt for years. So, I set a plan to pay off that debt as fast as possible.

Now, if I have to go into debt for something, I always ask myself — is this really worth it? Is it worth what I would pay in interest? Once I calculate that, the answer is usually no.

4. Maximized my investing

When I was younger I thought being an employee and exchanging my time for money was the way to go. For example, if I worked 4 hours — I got $27.

When I learned more about financial literacy, I realized there were people who had their money working for them even if they weren’t working. For example, while they slept, they made $300. This revelation opened my mind to the power of investing.

Investing can take many forms. From a Roth IRA to an HSA, I have leveraged every tool available to me for my investments. Because of barriers to access and financial jargon, many of the accounts we can access are a jumble of different rules and regulations.

One thing I did at every job was take time to ask human resources about retirement accounts. Which ones could I access? How much could I contribute? What investment options were available in each account? Asking these questions helped me make sure I could set up my money to work for myself.

5. Leaned into efficiency with automation

When I began to pay off my student loan debt, I discovered that after I made a plan, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time each week checking in or seeing how my plan was going.

So, I made 90% of my financial moves automatic. I set up recurring savings to create an emergency fund. I used Mint to track all of my accounts, and set up automatic payments for my student loans.

I even set up automatic contributions for my retirement accounts. I selected one investment distribution, and I had my contributions automatically match that distribution.