Welcome to Barlow Street, a site about the intersectionality of money and life. Barlow Street emerged from my efforts to get my financial house in order, pay off my student loans and experience financial freedom.
I, “Barlow”, am a thirty-something attorney living in Chicago. I created this space to write about my path from poverty to financial freedom.
My experience with money was that, until 2013, I didn’t have any. I grew up in public housing with parents who relied heavily on public assistance. Eager to exit the cycle of poverty, I enrolled in a private college and, despite receiving a generous scholarship, graduated in 2008 with $20,288 in student loans. After college, I worked in government, lived minimally with three roommates and tried, with limited success, to pay down my student loans.
In an attempt to become more financially stable, I went to law school and, as a result, I added $87,986 to my debt load. Accounting for accrued interest (and payments on my loans during law school), I had more than $100,000 in student loans when I graduated from law school in 2013.
After law school, I got a job in “Big Law” and made great money. I began treating myself – to a nice apartment, a nice car, expensive restaurants and daily lattes – instead of paying down my student loans. I delighted in being the girl from the projects who had finally “made it”. In the midst of that spending, I battled against the feeling of financial insecurity and in 2016, I found myself staring at spreadsheets and constantly worrying about crashing back into poverty.
After devouring personal finance books, blogs, and podcasts and taking an honest look at my finances, I had a wake-up call. It was what I was doing with my money that was causing anxiety, not how much money I was making. I committed to paying off my student loans, spending money more intentionally and increasing my savings rate.
I often hear people in the financial independence community say they wish they had known about this concept sooner. Let me just say that you’re not alone. The ideas behind financial independence are simple, but they are so counter-cultural that it takes hard work to fight against the social norms that we’re led to believe about money.
I want to end the secrecy around debt and talk freely about the “bad” money decisions we make. I hope you will join me.
I welcome questions, comments anecdotes and/or terrible lawyer jokes, so feel free to reach out.