Yanely Espinal’s rags to riches story is one she’ll never forget.
The 33-year-old Brooklyn native and financial educator grew up in a large household where her father was the sole breadwinner and there were few discussions about money. Although Espinal’s father earned just enough to pay utility bills and rent, the family often relied on food stamps to make ends meet.
“The conversations I often heard in my home were more like an attitude towards government support,” Espinal recently told Benzinga. “I find [my parents] had this attitude of being dependent on the government… My mother was dependent on my father and my father was dependent on the government.”
She recalled that Espinal’s father would sometimes give her money for food if she asked for it. On days when he had nothing to give, he scolded her instead.
“It was clear that money controlled him so much that his behavior depended entirely on whether money was tight or not,” she said.
However, while attending Brown University on a full scholarship, Espinal quickly realized that she had inherited her parents’ attitude towards money. During her freshman year, she came across a booth on campus that offered free pizza and a t-shirt in exchange for a completed credit card application. Intrigued, she filled out a form and received her credit card — along with a $1,500 credit limit — in the mail.
Initially, Espinal used the card to buy daily necessities for the university, such as textbooks and a laptop. But in doing so, she also realized—in her own words—“how easy it was to swipe that credit card.” In just one semester, she exhausted her card and ended up applying for another card. After receiving her second card, Espinal continued shopping, buying shoes, clothes and plane tickets. Though she tried to justify her purchases by saying she would pay for them later…