Nicole is a Compass program graduate. At a Compass event in 2012, we invited her to share her story of working with Compass to build a stronger financial future for herself and her son. Here is what she had to say:
My name is Nicole Lane and I was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. I have three siblings and my mom raised us on her own. We were on welfare and money was never the subject of our conversations unless we were talking about the lack of it. Although we were on welfare, my mom always had a job. She worked mostly as a housekeeper in hotels or as a service worker in cafeterias. My mom didn’t talk to us about saving money or homeownership. She was too busy trying to feed, clothe, and raise four children the best way she knew how.
As I got older, I began to have dreams of having a successful future. I attended a vocational high school thinking that it would guarantee me employment after graduation. I also wanted to go to college, but I knew my mom wouldn’t be able to afford tuition. I joined the Army National Guard in my junior year of high school knowing they could help me pay for college and that it would be a good experience. I was sent off to boot camp that summer. After high school graduation, I went off to military school to learn my job. I felt good about myself. I thought I had started myself on the way to a bright future. I was working as a hairstylist and went to drill with the National Guard one weekend a month.
My life changed a year after being home from military school when I gave birth to my son at the age of 20. My son’s birth only made me want a better life even more than before. I started college and began living in subsidized housing. I continued to work and drill with the National Guard. I tried to save money but there was always something that needed to be paid. I realized that I couldn’t handle going to school, work, and the National Guard, so I withdrew from school.
I was deployed to Iraq in February 2003, and left my son in the care of my mother. I saw this as a chance to save money and had dreams of coming home and buying a house or opening my own business. Unfortunately, I did not manage my money properly and only had enough money to get a car when I got home. I was devastated, and in pursuit of my dream, I decided to change my career. I decided to become an early childhood educator. I also realized I needed to learn more about money and how to save. That’s when Compass came into my life.
My older sister heard about the Compass Program and immediately told me about it. Compass helps families save money for school, a house, or a business. Since I wanted to start a childcare out of my own home, the program seemed to be perfect for me. I was thrilled! I applied and was accepted to the program.
At Compass, I learned how to handle my finances so that I could provide a better financial future for my son and myself. One of the class assignments required me to write down every penny I spent in a money journal. I quickly became aware of how I had been spending money, and keeping this journal helped me see where I could cut back. With Compass’ help, I created a budget and learned to pay myself first. I learned how to repair my credit, and my credit score improved by more than 200 points since I joined the program. Most importantly, I learned how to save.
The Compass program helped me realize that putting money in my savings account was just as important as paying my monthly bills. I loved watching my savings grow and accumulated over $6000 in savings while in the program.
Toward the end of the program, I was deployed to Iraq for a second time and had to take a leave of absence. But this time around, I found that I was able to make better financial decisions because of the knowledge I had gained in the Compass program. During my second deployment, I paid down all of my debt and saved an additional $10,000 to put toward a down payment on a home.
When I returned home, I picked up where I left off. I continued working with Compass on realizing my dream of becoming a homeowner. The search for a home was long. I placed offers on two houses before finally finding and purchasing my home. I moved in December 2012, just a few days before Christmas!
I am very excited about becoming the first homeowner in my immediate family. The help I received from Compass was invaluable. I wouldn’t have been able to qualify for a loan without the financial education and coaching I received through the program. Everything they taught me around the importance of building my credit and my savings was life changing.
I talk to my son every day about money. I am teaching him how important it is to save. He is already talking about owning his own home by the age of 27!
I am now working on other goals. With financial assistance from the military and One Family Scholars, I am focusing on my college education. After college, I plan to start an in-home childcare business.
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