What I Wish I Knew About Debt in My 20’s

by Sahirenys Pierce

Now that I am 30, there is a lot I wish I knew about debt in my 20’s. The terms debt, financed, loan, and credit are just some of the confusing wording that keeps us lost. Since we don’t know, we cave into the basic advice that tricks us into debt. This is the cycle of debt that keeps our community broke and living paycheck-to-paycheck from a young start. I want to share the tips that have helped me pay off over $99K and stay out of debt in my 20’s. It was a hard lesson after a hard lesson, so hopefully, you can skip some of the beatings of living indebted to others.

Use your credit card like a debit card

My high school economics class was the first place that taught me about money. My econ teacher taught us a saying that I would never forget, “Use your credit card like a debit card”. It might sound like a pretty obvious statement, but when you get into the real world…OMG, you get overflowed with such bad financial advice that the simple stuff becomes golden. This quote is a good beginner’s step on how to use credit. This saying is so memorable, that I still use it today to avoid getting stuck into any consumer debt.

Save for your wants

I know how it feels to want something and be tempted to pay it off in small installments. But I always remember the popular saying my mom would tell me, which is that nothing in life comes free. The reality of those payment plans is that it holds your money hostage while charging you interest for the inconvenience. What I wish I knew about debt in my 20’s is that I can actually save for what I want. I know it sounds so simple, but it’s true and doable if you don’t let society bully you into consumers. For this strategy to work, I use the short-term goals account within the High-5 Banking Method as a sinking fund. This allows you to slowly save for your wants in one safe place.

Build Credit with a Secured Credit Card instead

My Dad always mentioned how smooth it was to build your credit with secure credit cards. He was a real estate agent who focused on helping Latinos and other minorities get into their first homes. He noticed that a lot of families needed help building their credit, so he would recommend secure credit cards. This is a smart way to build or rebuild your credit history. This card is a credit card that acts like a pre-paid debit card. The only difference is that it helps you build credit fast. The only downturn, which is extremely good, is that you need to pre-load the card with money to use it. This strategy allows you to build credit without falling into debt.

Drop Debt Like a Bad Habit

The most valuable lesson I learned in my 20’s about paying off $99K of debt is to face your debt and then drop it like a bad habit. Understanding why you truly got into debt is one of the hardest truths I had to face in my 20’s. One of the biggest lies about debt is that there is a good kind and a bad kind. In my household, we had to drop that saying and restate it as good decisions vs bad decisions. This consciousness allowed us to accept the debt and pay it off without resentment or arguments. 

The next lesson I had to face was actually dropping the habit of going into debt. It became easier once I understood that the advice I was got only benefited the companies who gave it to me. At that point, I didn’t want to be a chess piece on their chess game. I wanted to become a chess player.

Get Yourself a Debt Repayment Plan

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to create a realistic debt repayment plan. I say this because no one’s debt-free journey is the same and assuming it, will result in disappointment. I had to learn this the hard way, constantly trying to compete with others who didn’t have debt or the same situation as me. It made it very difficult to create a balance of paying off debt and creating a life I wanted. Once I let that insecurity go, my spouse and started to see a change in how we communicated. It made the journey more enjoyable and not so much of a drag.

the next step of a repayment plan is going to take a little bit of number crunching. Because as easy as it is to get into debt, it’s going to take the polar opposite to get out of it. This is why it’s so necessary to get on a budget, increase your income, and pick a debt payoff strategy. I say this because you have to create a plan that helps you stay the course of paying off debt. It’s so easy to get suckered back into the old habits that got you into debt. Two of the most popular methods is the snowball and avalanche method. Both are great depending on what kind of debt you have and knowing what motivates you.  


In this series of “What I wish I knew about debt in my 20’s” I want you to know that these lessons can be learned at any age. I just wanted to share my top money lessons that related to debt and my debt-free journey that took 5 years to accomplish. It took me a while to let go of the black and white solutions that the financial industry provides. I had to stand up for myself and figure out which debt I was okay with and which didn’t serve me and my journey. That I exactly what you have to do if you want to drop the debt that’s holding you back.

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