Tamiko’s Story: Pay Yourself First

Meet Tamiko: Tamiko lives in Dothan, Alabama with her two children, Ayonna (13) and Aidan (8). She has worked as an administrative assistant for her church for 16 years.

What did your upbringing teach you about finances?

My mom was a single parent, so she always managed money. It was a struggle for me, but as I got older and had kids, I saw that I needed to save money.

My mother had savings accounts, one in particular called her “emergency cash” to keep at home. She put away money out of each paycheck.

When I was younger, I didn’t think about saving. But as I got older, I had bills and I realized I can’t spend the way I wanted to, as though I was younger. When you have kids, the dependency is on you now.

What are the lowest and highest financial points in your life?

My highest point would probably be now because I have money to do the things I couldn’t do.

My lowest point was during the time I was transitioning away from my kids’ father. All the financial responsibilities fell on me. At some point, I couldn’t see a way to pay for it all.

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

My grandmother’s sister used to say, “Pay yourself first.” At first I didn’t understand what she was saying, but then she said, “You know what your bills are every month, but put $20 or $30 aside first. Think of yourself first.”

I try to do that now. If I don’t save the money, I’ll treat myself and the kids to something special.

What are your goals for the future?

I’m working to finish up my bachelor’s degree and get a job in my chosen field, and to be financially stable. I’m getting my degree in health administration. In the past, I’ve worked in hospitals, and I’d love to get back to that in an administration role.

I only have one course and I’ll be done by the end of the year. I’m so excited!

What does money mean to you in your life?

Money means stability, being able to pay and do the things you want to do without asking anybody for it. It’s freedom.