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You may be broke, but not broken

“What’s the point? Does it even make sense to try?”

We don’t know if everyone in that room felt it or if we were just in tune with this young brotha as he asked a question about investing. Though looking back, it was more of a peek into his emotional well-being than an inquiry on what to do with his money.

He started strong but as he began listing his debts, his voice got softer and softer. You could see the wheels turning as he considered whether he was truly comfortable blurting out his actual debt balance in front of 50 onlooking strangers. Finally, he settled on murmuring”six figures in student loan debt” with a sad smirk on his face implying; it is what it is.

After hearing us and a few other people on a panel talk about investing, expected returns and the anticipated ROI on our portfolios, his question was a common one. He wanted to know if the interest rate on his loans were about 5-6% does it even make sense to invest if the stock market historically has produced an average return of 7%, adjusted for inflation.

The other panelists agreed that in general, it’s always a good thing to invest your money even if it’s just a little bit. After all, there is value in overcoming the emotional barriers of investing and getting into a rhythm of putting your money to work for you.

We sensed his shame and wanted to add our two cents but figured we’d catch him privately after the panel. Unfortunately, when we looked up, he was gone.

His question was a good one and we really wanted to answer it. More importantly we wanted to give him hope because we could sense how broken he was by the debt balance he’d accrued over the years.

For us, the last few weeks have been filled with incredible highs and some deeply heavy lows. On one end, we’ve hung out with some of our favorite people, knocked out a couple podcast interviews, got featured by 60 Second Docs and made some key moves to grow our blog/business. On the other end, we’ve met people who are going through some really difficult times. This young man was one of those people but there were others.

Not too long ago, we were hanging out with a dear friend of ours. She’s brilliant, one-of-a-kind and capable of doing anything she puts her mind to. But, by her own admission, she’s also clueless about money.

She’s one of our biggest supporters and while she ‘gets it’ on paper, she can’t envision actually taking any of the steps we’ve taken. We don’t push because she’s a grown ass woman and we respect her boundaries. It just sucks knowing she may be spending the money she needs for her future; today.

Then, we had the pleasure of meeting another young woman that nearly brought us both to tears. She was a twenty-something single mom, working hard to ensure she had enough money to get by and make sure her young son had a steady supply of the medicine he needs.

Against all odds, she was actively investing and ready to do more. She made about $30K and drove for Uber on her off time but she was drop dead tired because of it. Have you ever met someone that had great energy? Well this girl had it in spades. Either that or she was hopped up on Redbull…not sure.

Either way, after speaking with her, we couldn’t help but think about how fortunate we were. Not just for the decisions we’ve made for ourselves but because our little chat may have contributed to her holding on a little longer and potentially helping to dig her out of the hole she was in.

For some reason, hearing words of optimism from us, made her feel like she could actually do it. We don't take that lightly. Click To Tweet

We did our best to give her confidence that this was just a season and that she had the tools she needed to get ahead. Towards the end of our talk, she got a little choked up and came in for a hug. It was a tender moment and a reminder of the “why” behind our decision to share our story.

The good news is, for every really sad and hopeless encounter we have, there are a handful of people who have taken some steps to better prepare for their future. Getting those random emails or DMs is always special to us and owns a soft spot in our hearts.

It brings us back to when we were in seemingly hopeless situations. Back in 2007, Mr. r&R found himself the proud owner of a new home while he was a grad student, working at the school during the days, and waiting tables at night. Don’t believe it? Here’s a pic we found on the interwebs of him.

Mr r&R waiting tables

Well, in 2008, the value of that home dropped in half, the economy tanked and despite having a strong culinary background, PB&J’s were on the menu several times a week. He was a not-so proud homeowner of a fixer-upper and picking up extra shifts whenever he could to keep the lights on.

Back in the early 2010’s during Mrs r&R’s post-college years, she was tearing up the ATL club scene, looking cute but broke AF underneath the surface. Slowly but surely, she racked up over $30K in consumer debt with no end in sight. To make matters worse, she was bailed out of her situation and slowly spent herself right back into the hole she was in. Dont believe it? Here’s a pic of one of her shoe collection.

Luckily, when we met each other in 2012 we stumbled into an uncomfortable conversation about money after a trip to Panama. At the time, Mr. r&R was well on the path to debt freedom so he had a better sense of where she was on the journey. Since she was just starting out and hadn’t quite come to grips with how cancerous debt can be, Mr. r&R encouraged her to ‘own it and get on a plan to eliminate it.

At the time, you couldn’t have told her she would ever be debt free. Today, she’d be the first person to tell you she was wrong. The moral of the story is, we’ve both been broke AF before, but we didn’t let it break us.

Listen Linda, we don’t have a magic eight ball, tarot cards or Jesus’ on the main line. What we do have is our own life experience and a growing network of people who have done what we’ve done and more. That alone has given us faith, first and second hand experience to guide us to where we are today.

We don’t know who needs to hear this but please know, the dollar amount you owe today, doesn’t define you.

A poor credit score doesn’t define you.

The decisions you made in your younger years, do not define you. The job(s) you’ve had and lost don’t define you and neither do the people who can’t quite wrap their arms around the vision you have for your life.

You define you and if tomorrow you want to change your definition, you can do that too. The tactics to paying off debt are endless and the people trying to help you along that process are plentiful. You can pick a few, all or none of the above but ultimately, it’s up to you.

Hang in there ya’ll. You got this!


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