By Eric D. Hackley
Proverbs 22:7—The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce two biological sisters who came together and formed their own business, C&K Budget Mentors. And, now here’s their story:
Kisha Johnson: My name is Kisha Johnson. My sister Cliffunya Haney and I are the owners of C&K Budget Mentors. What stimulated our idea of starting a business was when our pastor at the time was talking about becoming debt free and teaching us that the borrower is the slave to the lender. Then one day, while sitting in the car listening to the radio, I came across a radio channel talking about getting out of debt and the speaker was saying the same things my pastor was talking about and I became intrigued.
So, I got into the word and actually started studying scriptures about debt and becoming debt free. I told my sister about it and she got on board with the idea. We came up with a system of becoming accountable to each other as we got ourselves out of debt. I’m married and she’s single. So of course for me to get out of debt, I had to get my husband and kids on board and it took a little longer for my situation than my sister’s situation.
We started working a plan centered on different things that we could do to generate more income and pay down our debt. We worked side jobs and had garage sales to earn money to decrease our debt. I felt that I was doing things that most Black Americans were doing. I was waiting for tax time to pay off bills and doing the same old things year after year, after year and it wasn’t working. We had been in debt for half of our marriage and I knew we had to try something different. That’s how this whole thing came about.
It took us about four years to become debt free. We paid off our home, student loans and I’m debt free. Today me, my husband and children don’t owe anyone anything except for our normal monthly bills. It was a long, long process. I noticed that while we were going through that process, other’s began coming to me asking, what should I do to get rid of my debt? How should I do this? So I started helping other people at my job. Then my sister told me that at her job, she started helping people and that’s how we got together and turned what we had been doing for ourselves into a business to help others.
Cliffunya Haney: My situation was a little different. Like my sister said, I was single. I have been working for a company where I’m presently employed for 13 years. I was always running into people on payday saying, I don’t have enough money to do this and that. Even when I’m sitting with them at lunch time, many complain about not having enough money. I usually just sit there and one day a coworker asked me, “Why don’t you ever complain about your money?”
I told them that usually I have a plan written down. I write a budget down every month and I try to stick to that budget to stay out of debt. I’m basically out of debt. The only thing that I now owe is for my house and I have a plan to have that paid off during the next five years. But, when I was explaining to everyone what I did, more and more people came to me asking me a lot of questions. I helped them out and I knew right then it was time for me and my sister to make a business out of this because we were giving out so much information and people were having success stories in paying their bills off and of us helping them out.
Eric Hackley: Once you got the idea in your mind, how did you obtain the focus and discipline to follow through to bring it to reality? A lot of times people get ideas, but that’s where it stops.
Krista: It wasn’t easy. Prior to the four years it took us to get out of debt, we would start and stop, start and stop. Then finally like I said, I went to the scriptures. It was Habakkuk 2:2—write your vision and make it plain. So I started studying that. In Romans 12:2—renewing your mind. I had to renew my mind to stop thinking like everyone else around me and realize that God had so many promises for me, and he wanted me to be debt free so I can be a blessing to the Kingdom. Once I really internalized that, it became my stepping stone to getting out of debt. It was trial and error along the way and we messed up, but once we became grounded on the word, that was it! It was no stopping us after that.
Cliffunya: My situation was different because being single, it was just me. And, having a job that didn’t give many raises, I had to do other things to create income. So, I started cleaning on the side, babysitting, other things to pay off my debt.
Hackley: In being a single woman with a job, many other women would be focused on partying, but instead you focused on creating an income and getting out of debt.
Cliffunya: In order to get out of debt, you have to make a sacrifice. We knew this is something we wanted to do and we didn’t want to continue being in debt.
Hackley: How did you friends feel about your decision to go into business? Were they encouraging or pessimistic?
Cliffunya: For myself, I have an excellent support system of friends and family. They back me up 100 percent. They actually picked up on some of the things that I talk about in the business and they started to apply it to their lives.
Kisha: Of course I have good family support too, we’re sisters. But with my friends, I had both good and bad experiences. Some would ask, why would someone pay you guys to help somebody get out of debt when they’re already in debt? We got those type questions. I had to point out to them right away that, if you’re in debt and you’re still doing the same thing and you haven’t got out of debt doing what you’re doing, then that means you’re doing something wrong.
To me, it’s like a gym membership. We can workout on our own. We don’t have to go to the gym to work out. But, a lot of people choose to invest in their health and go to the gym. I feel you have to invest in your financial health as well and if that means paying someone to help you and guide you by giving you the tools that you’re not able to implement on your own, so be it. We invest in getting our hair done, our nails done, why not invest in your finances?
I feel that a lot of blacks invest in cell phones, I-pads and the latest gear that depreciates in value instead of things that appreciate in value. We’ll buy a big fancy car instead of a 401k, or paying down your debt or preparing for your kids’ college expenses.
Hackley: Are your parents responsible for planting finance and budgetary insights within you sisters?
Kisha: Our parents didn’t teach us anything about money. Like most people, we had to learn the hard way. They didn’t know about money. All they knew about was how to work and pay bills, getting a credit card and getting in debt. My mother and stepfather are actually on our system right now, on a plan they say is just a miracle and it’s working wonders for their marriage. They couldn’t believe how long it took them doing it their way that wasn’t working. Doing it our way since August, they’re down to one bill to pay off.
Hackley: Why do we tend to be financially illiterate when it comes to handling our money?
Cliffunya: I just think in a lot of people, what they want, they’re going to get it at that time. It doesn’t matter about the consequences of that decision or what they have to pay. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. A lot of times, people don’t like for you to know their finances either. So when you meet someone and they’re having a situation, they’re only going to tell you part of the story. When you get to know them a little bit better, you’ll see they have a problem with spending or just want the latest, or it’s just people they’re being around and trying to please those people.
For more information, go to www.ckbudgetmentors.com.