Like most people, I have a real soft spot for the underdog.
Yanely Espinal has a unique story to tell, but the theme of trying to make a better life is at the core, and that story never grows old for me.
Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic and had little formal education. As one of nine children growing up in a three-bedroom apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn she hadn’t thought about money as abundant – and when she arrived on the campus of Brown University, her preconceived notions about money and affluence were tested.
Still, there was this undercurrent of shame and a feeling of scarcity that led her into spending more than she could afford. One day, rather than simply pay her credit card minimum (as she had been doing), she decided to really look at what she was paying. Though she had stopped using the card and continued paying her minimum due, she owed a lot more than she had the previous month. What was going on?
It was then she discovered the perils of paying interest as it compounds (which is far less rewarding than earning compound interest). She also found out what rate she was paying and made it a personal mission to get out of debt. About a year-and-a-half later she accomplished her goal and decided that the $1,000 a month she put towards her debt could now be put to a better goal – building wealth for herself.
Most important, she shared her journey for others to learn from as the aptly titled Miss Be Helpful. With over 28,000 YouTube subscribers I would say there are plenty who crave her content and who can relate to her struggle.
I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with her for On Her Mind podcast – and like I said – her underdog tale struck a chord deep within me.
Perhaps my reasons go back to my family – my four grandparents who all came to this country from the same impoverished Sicilian town in the early 1900s; my grandmothers who sewed for sweatshop wages; my father who couldn’t afford an education so he joined the military as the threat of World War II loomed on the horizon – they all struggled in ways I have never had to.
Their experiences have also given me a relentless optimism; much is possible and their successes are proof. My grandfather (who could barely read and write) founded a food import business that survived the devastation of the Great Depression; the proceeds from its sale and his investments would support my grandmother for the 59 years she spent widowed. My father, a high-school dropout who earned his equivalency in his forties, would go on to head up the Cytology laboratory in a hospital and make a better life for his wife and seven children.
Yanely’s desire to help others face their challenges doesn’t end with her YouTube channel. As Director of Educational Outreach, she is teaching a new generation of teens and educators about money through the non-profit NextGen Personal Finance (which offers free personal finance programs and training). This knowledge could greatly alter a child’s future (and all the lives that child touches).
How others face their struggles, overcome their mistakes and ultimately find their way is a story that I never tire of hearing. What unites us is when we can relate to someone’s experiences. When we share these experiences and learn from one another, we find our own way.
At just 29 years old, she has much wisdom to share for those who feel baffled or overwhelmed by money. And for all those underdogs out there — you won’t find a more enthusiastic cheerleader.
Attention Long Island Teachers: NextGen Personal Finance is offering free FinCamp training on Monday, January 28, 2019, at The Old Field Club in Setauket. To register, go to http://bit.ly/FinCampLongIsland.