Tomeka Purcell knows what financial failure looks like. It took her two bankruptcies, four foreclosures and two repossessions to get control of her finances. After finding strategies that worked for her, she began writing personal finance books sharing the money lessons she’s learned and children's books with money lessons she wish she learned as a kid. She spoke with Easy Money about how she turned her finances around and the knowledge she learned from financial strain.
Want alerts about our Pro Tip profiles? Sign up for our Easy Money newsletter, sent to your inbox each Friday.
This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
What led you to your first bankruptcy?
I thought if I could stop the repossessions and foreclosures by filing the bankruptcies, I could get everything under control, but I was definitely wrong. I wasn't managing my finances. I was given the opportunity to have so many things all at once, I never understood the value of each and what it would take to maintain them. I was in over my head and had the mentality of ‘the more you have the more that people will like you.’
What did it take for you to make a drastic change to your financial situation?
Having a stroke at 29 years old and sleeping in my car with my three kids. I knew that I had to make some changes and fast.
I first started by making a budget and then making sure I had enough money to cover the debts and to be able to save some money. I also have a budget journal that I utilize each year that helps me plan out my goals, teaches me different ways to save and allows me to write out my challenges.
What’s the No. 1 financial lesson you’ve learned from financial strain?
That your position is not to be the Joneses — but yourself. Trying to be like or better than other people will keep you in trouble.
What advice do you have for people who are struggling financially?
Work on solutions, and understand that the right solutions sometimes are not always fun, but required.
You also write about personal finances for kids. Why is it important to teach kids money lessons?
Being an African American woman, growing up we did not learn about money, so when I decided I was going to move out I had no idea how to manage money or the importance of it, so I failed unnecessarily several times.
What’s your No. 1 tip for parents teaching their kids about money?
Allow them to be a part of your monthly bill planning, explain to your kids what it costs to run your home. It chips away at the entitlement some of the children today are expressing.
What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
The advice I gave myself which is: “Don’t settle for anything less than the security you want, the finances you need and the credit you deserve.”
Image: Nastia Kobzarenko