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This post is sponsored by Self Financial but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.

I’m a Finance Expert—Here are 5 Financial Lessons I Wish I Knew Sooner


This post is sponsored by Self Financial but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board. See here for additional disclosures.

Source: Aryana Johnson
Source: Aryana Johnson

Picture this: You’re spending a night out with your friends, having a fun time catching up and gossiping over dinner and drinks. All is well, and everyone’s having the best time, right? But suddenly, someone brings up finances, and the vibe immediately shifts. The last thing you want to be thinking about while sipping a martini with your gals is your credit score. While that’s a fair point, talking about money doesn’t have to be tense and stressful all of the time.

That’s why we were excited to chat with Monique White, Head of Community at Self Financial, a credit-building company with products for people with low or no credit. See, she’s not your typical finance expert—she’s more like that savvy friend who’s here to give you the low-down and details you never knew you needed. In fact, White’s passion for financial education started when she was denied a car loan at age 22.

Since then, she’s made it her mission to share how she’s learned the hard way from her mistakes—so you don’t have to. We asked White for her top five financial lessons she wished she had known sooner, and she did not disappoint, offering her tried-and-true tips for building up your credit to planning for your long-term financial goals. Trust us, you’re gonna want to take notes.


Monique White

Head of Community at Self Financial

Monique White is the Head of Community at Self, a role integral for understanding the needs of Self’s customers and educating the community about finances. After reducing her consumer debt and increasing her credit score to 725, she decided to dedicate her career to empowering others in her community through financial education. Drawing from more than a decade of experience in the financial industry, Monique plays a critical role in building relationships with both nonprofit and for profit partners, serves as a brand ambassador and spokesperson, and educates customers about the importance of financial well-being. Monique is an Oakland, California native and studied accounting at Northwest Vista College. Monique has been featured in publications including NPR, CBS News, CNBC, Ebony, The Everygirl Podcast, and more.

1. Paying off your credit cards isn’t the only way to rebuild your credit

According to White, one of the biggest things she wished she knew sooner was that there are other ways to build your credit beyond just paying off credit cards and loans. For example, you can have your rent and other monthly bill payments reported to the credit bureaus to help elevate your credit score. “This is a fairly new way to build credit, so many people simply aren’t aware this is even an option,” explains White. That’s exactly why she wants everyone who is renting to know about Self Financial’s free rent reporting service, in which they will report your rent payments to the three main credit bureaus—at no cost to you.

Just as someone who makes their mortgage payments on time gets credit for being a responsible borrower, this gives you the opportunity to get credit for being a responsible tenant. “If someone is a renter, it’s really a no-brainer way to maximize the payments you’re already making to strengthen your credit,” says White. In addition to rent reporting, Self Financial also offers the opportunity to have your utility payments like your phone, electricity, and gas bills reported to TransUnion for just $6.95 per month, which seems incredibly reasonable, considering it can further help bump up your credit score.

In addition to knowing about the rent and bill reporting services, White says it’s also important to know the difference between credit building and credit repair. “Credit building (which is what Self Financial does) is about improving your creditworthiness by establishing good habits that can help add positive history to your credit report to try to positively impact your score,” she says. “With credit repair, companies try to remove negative items on your report.” While both can have an impact on your credit, White advises it’s important to do your research on credit repair companies and thoroughly read reviews before considering this type of service.

2. Improving your financial literacy can be as simple as asking for advice

Something that White has noticed in her career as a finance coach is that a lot of people lack basic financial education. “Self recently surveyed over 5,000 customers, and 72 percent of respondents said their financial education was nonexistent or insufficient,” says White. “And 45 percent said they got most of their financial know-how by learning from their own mistakes.” It’s no surprise that White finds these stats to be pretty sobering. “Personally, I also didn’t learn too much about money and the importance of credit growing up,” explains White. “Other than seeing my mom with a store department credit card, I didn’t know how credit worked.”

As a financial coach, White would like to see financial education prioritized at a young age, and she thinks that credit should be a central part of the conversation. “Credit is often overlooked, and it’s essential for adulthood,” she says. A few proactive steps she recommends you can take to improve your financial literacy? Ask others for help or advice (there’s no shame in asking questions), use financial management apps that track your budget and spending, and turn to experts (she recommends checking out the YouTube series she hosts or Self Financial’s blog as great resources).

Source: Mikhail Nilov

3. You’ll stick to a budget more successfully if it doesn’t leave you feeling deprived

When White was working as a financial coach, she saw a lot of her clients go cold turkey off some of their favorite self-care or fun expenses because they needed to make some budget cuts. But she strongly believes this kind of mentality can set you up for failure. “That’s why I like the 50/30/20 budgeting method, which allocates income to needs, wants, and savings,” she says. “So 50 percent is allocated to needs such as housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation, 30 percent goes to wants like dining out, subscriptions, and personal care, and 20 percent goes to short and long-term saving accounts.”

However, White believes these numbers don’t have to be set in stone, and you should feel comfortable adjusting them to your needs. She feels the key to sticking to your budget is creating one that works for you. “This means being honest with yourself about your financial situation and your everyday needs, and giving yourself room for flexibility,” says White.

4. Financial wellness is a big factor in your overall wellness

“I am a big believer that financial wellness is a critical component of your overall well-being,” declares White. She views the journey of building your credit to be one that is not always linear. Life happens, she acknowledges, and when you get a curveball thrown your way (such as an emergency medical bill or unexpected car repair), sometimes you have to make space for yourself and give yourself the grace you need to be successful. Just as you would embrace self-care practices to better your mental and physical wellness, White believes you should apply them to better your financial wellness as well.

Source: Monstera Production

5. Credit is the key that opens doors to your financial future

“Having low credit fundamentally impacts your ability to attain the ‘big milestones’ that so many of us are working towards—buying a home, taking out a loan to start a new business, or even buying a car,” cautions White. Since these are the types of big financial purchases that can help you create the foundation that allows you to build long-term wealth and reach your financial goals, White believes it’s essential to build strong credit as early as possible. And it all starts with knowing what your credit score is—and remembering to monitor your credit report.

White recalls a time when she had applied for an auto loan and was quickly denied. She didn’t realize an old credit card she opened during her freshman year in college (and had stopped making payments on) was impacting her credit score years later. “Had I looked at my credit report sooner, I would’ve been more prepared before applying for a loan,” says White. Checking your credit report is crucial for understanding where your credit score stands and what could be impacting your score—so you can take steps to rebuild it and ultimately be able to attain those big milestones like home ownership or becoming a business owner. As White puts it, “Credit gives you the keys that unlock other doors to your financial future.”

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This post is sponsored by Self Financial, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.