INTRODUCING LAUREN BRINGLE ACCREDITED FINANCIAL COUNSELOR®, CONTENT MARKETING MANAGER
We are pleased to introduce you to Lauren. I met Lauren through LinkedIn and our shared interest in financial education.
Lauren is an Accredited Financial Counselor® with Self Financial – a financial technology company with a mission to increase economic inclusion by helping people build credit and savings so they can build their dreams.
NOTE: Views expressed herein are her own – Lauren Bringle’s.
Team Sammy: Please share with our audience a little about you, your current family, your non-professional life, a favorite hobby, etc., so readers can get a sense of who you are.
Lauren Bringle: My life’s great joy is exploration, whether that’s exploring a new hobby, hiking route, language, friendship, or plants for my garden. My goal is to make it to every state by the time I’m 40, and I only have about 15 states left!
I’m currently an army of one surrounded by the family I choose for myself. These days, I’m obsessed with becoming the best version of myself I can be – physically, mentally, financially, career-wise – in the hope that as one person rises, we lift others up too.
MIDDLE CHILD WITH AN OUTSTANDING DAD
Team Sammy: Tell us about what it was like growing up – your family and community?
Lauren Bringle: I grew up a middle child of 3 in a pretty turbulent home. When I was a kid, we moved from Tennessee to Arizona to Kansas to Texas for my Dad’s job. While I couldn’t really depend on my Mom growing up, I was fortunate to have my Dad as a role model.
Having been raised in poverty by a single mom in inner-city Memphis, where he only owned one pair of pants because he couldn’t afford more, my dad went on to be the first in his family to go to college, rise through the career ranks and buy a house in the suburbs. He was determined to provide every opportunity he could to his family, at whatever cost.
My Dad was a trailblazer who showed me that, with the right opportunities, education, scrappiness and people supporting you, you can rise up, change your future and be successful.
THREE PAPER CUPS
Team Sammy: What was one of your first money memories?
Lauren Bringle: My Dad was everything to me, and most of my fondest memories growing up involve him. Having recently lost him, the lessons he gave me resonate even stronger now.
When I was a kid, he took three little paper cups and we labeled them “savings,” “spending,” and “tithing.” Each month, my Dad would give me a small allowance in cash, and sit down with me to divide it between the three cups. We put 20% into the savings cup, 10% into the tithing cup, and the rest was for spending or saving as I saw fit.
This taught me two very important lessons:
1. Saving is important, and you should save before you spend, not after. 2. When you are fortunate enough to have money, you should give part of it back to your community, whether that’s through tithing to the church in my Dad’s case, or a donation to charity.
DREAMS DO COME TRUE
Team Sammy: What was your first job (formal or informal)? How much did you earn and what you did with the money?
Lauren Bringle: My first real job was in high school, working part time as a hostess in a restaurant, making minimum wage. It was a tight schedule juggling 10-15 hours of work with school and nearly 30 hours of ballet a week. I don’t remember sleeping much, but I was determined to have my own money and save up to study abroad in Paris, France someday.
I had this idea that if I could get far enough away, I could somehow become someone different – better, richer, more interesting, more worthy maybe. I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer, and I was determined to make my dreams of travel become reality.
Now here I sit almost 20 years after starting my first job and I’ve lived in Paris and Costa Rica, traveled to 10 countries, and been to 35 states. I definitely scrimped, saved, and budgeted my way through it, but looking back I’m proud of my 16 year old self who had a dream to see the world and do something different…then actually made that happen.
A LEG UP
Team Sammy: Did your parents talk to you and/or teach you about money / personal finance growing up? What do you remember? What, if anything stuck?
Lauren Bringle: When I was 16, my Dad took me to the bank and opened a checking account, savings account, and debit card so I could learn how to use them. I took for granted what great lessons those were until I started working in financial technology and learned how much of the country remains unbanked.
It was yet another way my Dad gave me a “leg up” in life.
LEARNING WHAT’S VALUABLE
Team Sammy: At what age and how did you come to realize money had a value?
Lauren Bringle: I learned at a young age that money has a value, but it is not the only thing that is valuable. That’s why I believe so strongly once you have enough money to meet your needs and provide a comfortable life, you should be conscious your money supports what you truly value.
Money, after all, is a form of energy. By being conscious about where your money goes, you are putting your energy towards the businesses you buy from, the communities you invest in, the causes you support, the people you believe in, and the experiences that make life joyful, to name a few examples.
Choosing where your money goes is one of the best ways to take a stance too, whether that’s personal, political, religious, etc., because you vote with your dollar. And your vote has value.
Team Sammy: What piqued your interest in personal finance?
Lauren Bringle: There were several things over the years that piqued my interest in personal finance:
● How poor I was in my 20s. As a Millennial (yes, I dropped the “M” word!) who graduated in the heart of a Great Recession, I learned to be frugal or face dire consequences such as not being able to afford rent or food.
● My love of budget travel. I’ve always been obsessed with traveling as far as I can on as little money as possible. (I once spent 2 months in Costa Rica for just $800).
● Witnessing my family’s money mistakes. Growing up, I watched people around me get stuck in the payday loan cycle, declare bankruptcy, default on debts, have cars repossessed and drown in credit card debt due to impulsive spending.
● Almost going bankrupt due to a personal medical crisis. After an unexpected medical emergency, I faced about $400,000 in medical bills, which forced me to dive deep into learning about medical billing, personal finance and debt management. Over time, I was able to negotiate my bills down to $20,000, pay off my debt, build an emergency savings, and pay it forward through the work I now do in personal finance.
ONE MONEY HABIT
Team Sammy: One question I ask everyone is: If you could only teach a child one money habit, what would it be and why?
Lauren Bringle: Save for emergencies, not just to buy something later. Growing up, I thought you only saved for something specific, like a car or house. While saving for your dreams is important, so is having savings that you only use to cover emergencies such as job loss or medical bills.
WE NEED SCHOOLS
Team Sammy: Should personal finance be taught in schools?
Lauren Bringle: Absolutely. Not everyone has access to parents who can teach them personal finance. Public education provides an opportunity to level the playing field so all kids have a chance to get ahead in life and money.
I wonder, for example, how different my Dad’s life would have been if school taught him about topics like emergency savings, how to maintain good credit, and how to pay down debts without taking on more debt.
CLEAR THINKING ON CREDIT CARDS
Team Sammy: Do you have any thoughts on credit cards?
Lauren Bringle: A credit card shouldn’t be your only emergency fallback plan. Credit card interest can be high if you don’t pay your bill off before your due date. And a credit card could turn an already expensive emergency into an even more expensive one that takes years to pay off. That’s why emergency savings is important.
When used responsibly though, credit cards are great tools that can help you build credit and access rewards and fraud protections that aren’t otherwise available.
FAVORITE PERSONAL FINANCE READ
Team Sammy: Do you have a favorite book on personal finance or money management? If so, does one lesson stand out and what is it?
Lauren Bringle: For a practical how-to guide on personal finance, I like Ramit Sethi’s “I Will Teach You to be Rich” book.
If you want to turn your money situation around, don’t just look for information on personal finance, though. Look for information on changing habits and mindfulness, since what drives our money decisions are often unconscious habits we picked up from our families and communities of origin. Some of these habits may no longer serve us, and may even get in the way of our money goals as we grow.
Mindfulness is key when it comes to your finances because awareness is the first step to improvement. If you can become mindful of your spending habits, for example, and what drives them, you can work to change them and choose new, more positive habits over time.
QUOTABLE THINKING ON MONEY
Team Sammy: Do you have any favorite quotes on money?
Lauren Bringle: Here are two.
“An emergency savings turns a financial emergency into a financial inconvenience.” – Maria More, RadioOne
“Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.” – Ramit Sethi
READING IS A GREAT HABIT
Team Sammy: Do you have any favorite magazines, websites, resources on personal finance?
Lauren Bringle: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has some great personal finance guides and resources in English and Spanish. Clever Girl Finance, The Budgetnista, and Ramit Sethi have unique perspectives on overcoming financial challenges and building wealth too. I’m also proud of the resources we provide on the Self blog, which cover the basics of building and maintaining credit, saving money and managing debt.
Team Sammy: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Lauren Bringle: We are the sum total of the people who surround us in life, love, career, money – you name it. Surround yourself with people who build you up, light you up, support and encourage you along your path. Life’s too short for anything else.
Discover more about Lauren Bringle. Check out her LinkedIn profile.
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