Kiara’s Story: Maybe Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But It Can Buy Security

Meet Kiara, who lives in Taylor, Michigan with her 11-month-old daughter and her two young cousins.

What do you do?

I don’t have a job. I take care of my daughter and my two cousins because I have a kinship guardianship for them.

One is my biological cousin and the other is his half-brother. Their grandmother, who had adopted them, passed away March 2017. Originally I had only the older one, but then the person who was taking care of the younger one couldn’t take care of him anymore, so I ended up taking care of both of them. Right now they are 7 and 11.

Two young black boys wearing Tommy Hilfiger striped polos smile while sitting on either side of their infant cousin who is wearing a blue and white dress and holding carrots in both her hands

I want to start doing some work from home, but I can’t do things on the phone right now because of the baby.

What did your upbringing teach you about finances?

I had an upper-middle class upbringing. My parents had really good jobs and rainy-day funds and savings. They both worked for the auto industry.

They taught me that it’s important to create a savings nest egg, but I haven’t had the same opportunities that they had to create that.

What’s the highest financial point of your life?

The highest was in 2009. I moved to Alabama, I had a job that paid a lot more, and I didn’t have credit cards or much financial responsibility. I was doing really well financially.

What’s the lowest financial point of your life?

My lowest point began around 2013. I had a decline in health, which led to me being out of work for a while. I had long-term disability, and then eventually social security disability.

Now is one of my lowest points. I wasn’t prepared to have children when I started taking care of my cousins. For the first three months of guardianship, you don’t receive any financial support. But I still had to buy them beds and clothes. I just had to make it work.

Now I’m working with a consolidation company to get my finances back in order.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?

If you can’t afford to buy it, don’t get it. Credit gives you a false idea of setting up a goal. You think, “I’ll start out with this low interest, then I can pay it off.” It sets you up for failure.

It’s okay to have a credit card, but you need to only use it when you know you can pay it off.

What are your goals for the future?

I just want to get a new financial start. I want to be able to save for my cousins and daughter so that when they start off in life, they’re not in the same situation I’m in.

I want to be able to have savings for my daughter, even if she doesn’t go to college, so that she can go into adulthood with a little bit of money.

What do you want to teach your daughter about money?

I want to teach her the things I wish I had known. Education is important, but it’s not worth it to go to college and put yourself in $40,000 or $50,000 of debt just to fit into what society wants from you. A lot of trade schools can get you jobs that pay just as well or better, like being an electrician, as what you could do with a degree from college.

I was always an Honor Roll student, but I didn’t like school. My first year out of high school, I started working. I had two jobs and was happy with that. But people talked down to me, so I went to school and it wasn’t a good fit for me. I didn’t finish and now I have these loans that I still haven’t paid off. I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to do that.

What does money mean to you in your life?

I know people say you can’t buy happiness, but money would mean happiness to me because opportunities are presented. Knowing you’re secure brings happiness. I would say money brings happiness.

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