Credit cards can help in times of an emergency. They are also necessary to help build a credit history so that lenders can decide whether or not we are a good credit risk. However, credit cards could possibly become an addictive quick fix when we are feeling sad or distressed.
Personal finance author Beverly Harzog talks about her past addictive relationship with credit cards in the new book, Confessions of a Credit Card Junkie (Career Press; $15.99). BLACK ENTERPRISE sat down with the money expert for some advice on how to avoid her mistakes.
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What prompted you to write this book?
BEVERLY HARZOG: A couple of years ago, I was a credit card expert for Credit.com, and I wrote an essay about this. The title of that essay was Confessions of a Former Credit Card-a-holic. And I had been watching a movie called Confessions of a Shopaholic with my daughter. We were watching this movie, and about 30 minutes into the movie I realized that I used to be her. After the movie, I decided that I really should share my story. I was young when it happened to me. I talk to consumers all the time and I knew they were going through some of these issues—especially young people. So I decided to write an essay, and my editor at Credit.com loved the idea of me going public with this.
I was a little nervous about it because I’m supposed to be an expert. But it did happen a long time ago, and I learned from my mistakes. I decided to go ahead with it, and I got so many emails from people who read my essay, telling me that it gave them hope. I decided to write a book because I could go into detail about how to avoid my mistakes. So that’s how it all came about.
BE: This was very brave. It’s great to let people know that personal finance experts are real people who run into financial issues.
HARZOG: I wanted people to understand that it can happen to anyone. You’re not alone and you’re not stupid. Even educated people struggle with personal finance.
BE: How would you define a credit card junkie?
HARZOG: I would really put them in two different camps. I know a lot of people who have tons of rewards cards, and they are really into tracking and they’re proud of the all the points they rack up. There’s that group—but they pay their bills on time. They play the system, but they’re paying their bill on time and making money, or getting free trips. Then there’s the other kind, which is what I was. I was basically a shopaholic. A credit card junkie who has shopaholic tendencies will use their card to buy shoes that they don’t need, because they’re feeling depressed. For me, there was an emotional component. Back in the 80s, when I was new to the workforce, I felt like I needed “power clothes” to be taken seriously.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview with Beverly Harzog.