How This Single Mom Overcame Homelessness and Raised Her Credit 100 Points

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Kariel Morrison photographed in St. Petersburg Fla., May 17th, 2018.
Kariel Morrison in St. Petersburg Fla. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder


On March 31, 2017, a truck sped downhill in Anchorage, Alaska.

It had just snowed and rained. The roads were slick with ice.

The driver of the truck lost control, barrelled through a median and T-boned 23-year-old Kariel Morrison, who’d just dropped her two kids off at daycare.

Morrison, six months pregnant, was rushed to the hospital.

Stuck on three months of bedrest, without work and no guarantee the other driver’s insurance would cover her totaled car and medical bills, the single mom remembers the thoughts running through her mind.

“My credit is going to get worse. I’ll never be able to buy a house. I’ll never be able to do anything.”

Five years prior, Morrison had fought her way out of homelessness. Although life had become more stable, her credit score hadn’t recovered — it was somewhere in the low 500s — and unpaid bills lingered in collections.

Now this accident.

She didn’t want to go back.

It’s been a little over a year since Morrison laid helpless in the hospital. Now, her financial situation is looking up. She took out a credit-builder loan through Self Lender and raised her score by 100 points.

She’s making strides to pay off those bills that have haunted her for five years and counting.

How This Single Mom Overcame Homelessness

About six years ago, Morrison, then 18, lost her job as a receptionist. Her utility bills began rolling over to collections. Her car was repossessed. Her landlord kicked her out.

“We had nothing,” Morrison says.

With her 1 ½-year-old on her hip, she had nowhere to go but a cheap hotel.

That’s where she lived for five months. The room was infested with bedbugs, so she had to purge everything afterward, including their clothes. For food, she frequented Walmart, looking for anything under $1 — usually a fruit cup.

Finally, she received her tax return — “the only thing that got us out of that rut,” she says.

That boost was enough to get Morrison back on her feet. She secured another receptionist job and continued forward.

This Tool Helped Increase Her Credit Score 100 Points

After overcoming homelessness, Morrison found a place to live, maintained a new job as a receptionist and enrolled in classes to become a certified medical assistant.

But then, the car accident.

From her hospital bed, she tuned into her favorite pastor’s Sunday sermon on Facebook Live. That day, he talked about personal finance, specifically building credit. He mentioned how helpful credit-builder loans through Self Lender could be.

You can create an account online for free. Once you sign up, you can play with Self Lender’s simple tool to determine your monthly payment and total loan. Find the balance you want, and you can fill out your application online and be approved quickly.

Credit-builder loans aren’t your traditional personal loans. Self Lender uses the funds from your loan to open a certificate of deposit (CD) for you, and you make monthly payments to unlock the CD. Once the loan is paid off, the money is all yours again.

The company reports your payments to the major credit bureaus, helping you build your credit responsibly — without racking up credit card purchases or taking out major loans. And it helps you build savings, because at the end of the term you’ll receive the sum you’ve been paying into.

Morrison did a quick Google search for Self Lender: Positive reviews. She checked in with the Better Business Bureau: A rating.

So she signed up.

Morrison chose a one-year loan. She paid a one-time administrative fee of $15. Then, each month, she made a $48 payment.

Throughout the year, she says she never felt like the company was harassing her for payments. It sent her an email the week before each payment was due and another the day it was due. Then she had a 15-day grace period to make her payment without incurring late fees or dinging her credit.

At the end of the 12-month period, Morrison’s credit score had increased more than 100 points to 626 — and she had more than $500 stashed away.

She could receive her money via check or put it in a secured credit card. She chose the latter as a way to continue to build her credit.

The Grass Is Looking Greener in Florida

Morrison and her three kids recently moved from Anchorage, Alaska, to Tampa, Florida, to be closer to family.

She started a new job as a medical assistant, and in the next month or so, she plans to move out of her sister’s apartment and into her own.

Now, she’s looking at debt-repayment plans to finally wipe the outstanding bills from her name. And she says once she feels like she’s on steady financial ground, she’ll take out another credit-builder loan through Self Lender to keep increasing her credit score.

Eventually, she wants to purchase a new car — one that’s a little more reliable than what she has now — and a house.

“It’s hard, and it’s difficult, but if you really want something bad enough, things will get better for you,” Morrison says.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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