I know this sounds not only counter-intuitive, but also tortuous. I mean why would someone who has a decent shot at middle class living choose to go back to the "'hood" and raise a family? In the African American culture especially, you are taught that your education is your ticket out of even the most hellish inner-city trap. My parents had such high hopes for me once I graduated and got my degree. Then it happened: we got a home free and clear in "Chiraq" or at least that's the epithet that filmmaker, Spike Lee, made Englewood, Chicago famous for.
To go back for a moment, I need to be clear that our path to middle class aspirations started on a rocky, financially insecure trajectory. Both my husband and I had a combined $60k in student loans and would go on to add another $60k for a whopping total of $120k in debt. We didn't even own a house! Like our peers, we were limping along and financing our way to the American Dream. We eventually realized that what we were doing was unsustainable.
We felt ashamed. Eventually, we got fed up. Then, we got smart. We went on a budget along with a quest to increase our income and vowed that we would never finance another thing in our lives- not a home, a car, private school tuition, vacations, renovations, emergencies or anything else. Once we made this crazy commitment, something really strange happened. We started to have the cash to cover these things. Eventually, a relative of ours inherited a home they didn't want to live in and asked us if we wanted it. The only problem was that it was in the deepest of hoods. We had small children. We envisioned ourselves living into old age. This couldn't be it. This wouldn't be it. This shouldn't be it. But after awhile of deliberating, we said yes.
Why would we move our small children to a place where gang activity, violence and all the wonders and tragedies of abject poverty exist? The answer was simple: a shot at a better life. This home was paid for free and clear. We would be able to live rent free- forever. Even today, I am humbled by the blessing and opportunities we've had access to because of this. We did not take this "unfair advantage" lightly. We took the freed up cash plus the surplus from our business pursuits and aggressively threw it at our debt. In 2013, we made the last payment on our all of our debt. We become totally and utterly debt free. Since that time, we've been able to make major headway in saving up for retirement all the years we couldn't while in debt.
Being out of debt and gaining a financial foothold is only the tip of the iceberg. Because we have no rent or mortgage payments, I've been able to stay home with my two children and home school them. Unlike traditional school, we can go far and wide in subjects that will give them an advantage in life: music, language, investing, and entrepreneurship, Bible and the list goes on. My 11-year-old has her own YouTube channel and does all the video editing and graphic design on her own. At 11, she is employable by even very high standards. Also, this stay-at-home-mom freedom has allowed me to support both of my children in their entertainment careers: they've gotten paid as talent in TV commercials, radio spots and print ads. This money goes to their college fund and they get to learn to pick and analyze stocks to build up their savings. My 7-year-old just got a letter to join the actor's union. Life here in the 'hood is good.