I’m a Financial Planner: How I Got into $50,000 of Debt


cfpHave you ever done something that you weren’t proud of? Or been in such a bad place that you didn’t know how you were going to crawl your way out? I have.

My name is Tahnya Kristina. I am a certified financial planner™, and for a long time I kept a secret that almost cost me more than just the interest charges on my mounting debt.

When I was 25, I graduated from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. I had a full-time job working as a financial advisor at a bank and within just four years I found myself over $50,000 in debt. I couldn’t talk about my debt with my co-workers and family because I was ashamed that—especially given my career choice—I couldn’t manage my money responsibly.

When you are working with money and giving financial advice to clients, it is expected that the financial advisor has a better-than-average financial situation. No one wants to take financial advice from someone who can’t even manage her own money—so I kept my debt a secret.

I became a financial planner because I was fascinated by money. I spent four years of university and two years of additional financial training learning how to advise people to manage their money and achieve their financial dreams; unfortunately I was too naive to take my own advice.

RELATED: The Day I Decided to Become a Certified Financial Planner™

How I Got Into So Much Debt, So Fast

Some people may say I accumulated so much debt in such a short period of time because I was young and didn’t know any better; but the truth is, I did know better. I had a university degree, and every single day I saw the damage that using credit irresponsibly can do to a person’s life, yet I still spent money uncontrollably.

I know you’re wondering why. I wish that I could say that my $50,000 of debt was well spent, but that wouldn’t be true. I started accumulating student loan debt while I was still in university; after I graduated and started working full time at the bank, I also started accumulating credit card debt for no other reason other than I wanted to go shopping. I thought that having a lot of credit made me credit worthy, and to a certain point it did, but it also added the temptation of wanting to spend money on anything and everything.

RELATED: Confessions of a Trust Fund Baby

  • Nonya Bizness

    I really enjoyed this story.I think a lot of us who have been down the CC road can relate to knowing the debt is there,but not wanting to tally up the total.Once we do, it seems horrendous, but after taking the first step, it does get easier,and for those who learn from the experience, it’s a great lesson.Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Tahnya Kristina

      Thank you Nonya. Adding up the total and admitting that I had a problem was the hardest part. Thanks for reading

  • trying

    Do you think your better at your job now?

    • Tahnya Kristina

      I definitely focus more on debt with my clients than I did in the past. I also more open to discussing debt because I have lived through it. Thanks for reading.

      • L J

        Hi Tahnya,
        Great story. I am interested in taking classes to learn more about money. Could you advise what kind of classes you took to become a cfp? :-)

        • L J

          And do you have an email to inquire about your services?

  • gea2006

    This is an incredibly inspirational story, and I really appreciate the courage it took to tell it. Bravo! You’re a living example of the financial wisdom you teach!

    • Tahnya Kristina

      Thanks for sharing Gea. When I tell my story it’s like a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders.

  • Alice

    I’m in this exact spot. I just graduated with $60k in student loan debt, and yet my job is to counsel students on their loan debt. It feels hypocritical, but I’m definitely determined to unbury myself as soon as possible.

    • Tahnya Kristina

      Oh Alice, that’s a great job. I wish that more schools and banks gave debt advice before they hand over loans…of any kind. Good luck with your debt, just remember that it’s a process, it won’t be paid off overnight. The day you make that last payment will be the best day ever. Thanks for sharing.

  • rubymer

    I can’t not even imagine why this person tried to declare bankruptcy! They made well over their debt amount in wages each year! I had just as much debt as the person in this article did at age 24 (52,000) and I was making 36,000 at the time and never even thought of bankruptcy Now, at age 25, I just barely got to where my annual salary is a few thousand over my debt loan (41k/40k). Luckily I paid off the credit card debt first. I never had more than 7,000 of credit card debt at one time, but I also never made more than 41,000 a year. Now it’s just an 8,000 auto loan and student loans to go.

    • thepixinator

      I agree with you. Plus, when you factor in the reality most Americans face which is, there’s not adequate public transportation, so one has to have a car, the school loans and a car loan are a reality that most working professionals have. Either one saves up and pays cash for a car, new or used, or one has a car loan and student loan debt. It’s harsh, but it’s true. She is darn lucky she lives somewhere that doesn’t require car ownership.

      • Tahnya Kristina

        I miss my car sometimes, especially when I want to take a road trip, but most of the time I am happy with my decision to sell it. Thanks for reading.

    • dtayl869

      I believe she was only thinking bankruptcy in the very beginning because she felt overwhelmed and helpless in her situation. When you first realize how deep you are in debt, and that you know it was your own actions that got you, some people shut down and want to choose what seems like the quickest and easiest solution out.
      I know when I had the initial realization of how much credit card debt I was in, bankruptcy felt like the only (and easiest) way out. I was 21, still full-time in college for another year, and had maxed out all my CC’s and owed a pretty penny on them of over $9,000. I was working 3 part time jobs (2 off campus, 1 on) and still couldn’t seem to make ends meet.

      I love this story because it is something I can 100 percent relate to. She acknowledges that she recklessly got herself into her own mess, for the sake of feeling ‘financially independent’. She thought about bankruptcy as an option, but knew it wasn’t a good choice for her once she thought of all the other options she had (and the fact that the B word follows you around for years).
      I admire that she mentioned the thought of declaring bankruptcy, because so many people do. The day you realize you can successfully reverse your financial mistakes on your own, and more importantly – learn from them, will be the beginning of the end of your debt.

      • Tahnya Kristina

        I definitely wanted to find a quick way out because my debt was very overwhelming. But in the end I am glad that I paid it off on my own. Congrats of paying off your own debt, not many people talk about it but everyone has their own debt success story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Tahnya Kristina

      I considered bankruptcy because I was way over my head and thought it was an easy way out. However I am glad that I paid off my debt by myself. Congrats on paying off your credit card debt.

  • HH

    Thank you for sharing that story. I am 24 and I feel overwhelmed. I have a mortgage, $40K in student loan debt, $ 7000 credit cards debt. I make about $30K a year. I hope I can get out of debt in the about 5 years.

  • toosexyforthenwo .

    Everytime I tell people that 50K would basically pay off all I owe, including taxes and get my credit back to 750, they say to me things like “you should have not got into that trouble” or “why’d you get yourself in that situation” , and I am looked DOWN UPON, so I don’t ask anybody anymore on advice or help about finances. I just don’t really give a crap anymore. Hows that for a post? But its how I feel right now as I type this.

  • Trish

    “If I don’t need it to keep clean, stay warm or be full, then I don’t need it.” Brilliant. Love your new motto!

  • Courtney

    I read your other article, “How my boyfriend and I learned to live on one income” and couldn’t believe you had a career in finance, but I’m happy to have read this article and see that you realize how in denial you were and that you weren’t taking your own advice. I do have one question though. Why were you using your employee discount for work clothes? Had you drastically changed sizes? There’s no reason to spend money on clothes when you don’t even have money to pay bills or buy groceries, especially since you admitted you used to shop quite a bit. I think you still have a lot of learning to do, and I hope you offer your clients better advice than you give yourself! Good luck! Also sorry if I sound mean, but I just don’t understand how a financial planner could get herself into such a tight spot and then still think it’s okay to spend money on clothes.

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  • George Carlin

    I got out of debt by changing my eating habits. No more eating out. with friends. No more starbucks. No drinks with my lunch except water. I made my own lunch… (Here you can save a lot). Dont ever use credit cards. Dont buy it unless you need it. Every now & then practice self discipline, for example I want a coffee & Im able to buy it but I chose not to at least for today.