Darius Norman – Rewriting Financial Rules!
Words + Interview by Tyrone Davis
There is a meme floating around that talks about the fact that during high school, we aren’t taught the things we really need to know that will prepare us for life as adults in the real world. Financial management, understanding credit and student loans are at the top of the list. Social worker, advocate, author and radio host Darius Norman sat down with us to discuss all of the above, including his book, “Rewriting Financial Rules!”. Get familiar.
Give us a few details about yourself and your upbringing.
I’m originally from Birmingham, AL. I was born and raised there. My father is a pastor and my mother is a schoolteacher so I grew up in a fairly decent home with a middle class family. Education was very key in our household and they were very stable, financially. I went to Morris Brown College in Atlanta, GA and while attending I realized that I didn’t have the social skills or life skills to handle my personal finances.
I didn’t realize that having good credit and not defaulting on my student loans or becoming delinquent on my credit cards was going to be that important going forward as an adult. Later on in life as I progressed and got into my career as a social worker, those debts were out of control so I had to make some outrageous adjustments.
When I became of age and got to college, I was immediately sent checks, credit cards, and letters offering me money. As young and naïve adults, if a cashable check comes in the mail, we’re going cash it, especially as college students. While you were in college, were you “set up” as I was and a lot of people are?
Absolutely! That’s where I saw the downward spiral financially, for me. The credit card companies prey on new college students because either you don’t have credit or you can become a new consumer. So, they are giving you access to lines of credit and a lot of times we are coming from households where we weren’t given life skills in reference to personal finances. We will max out our credit cards because we don’t understand the terms and conditions and won’t know how to even use a credit card.
My grandmother did try to teach us the importance of how to balance a checkbook but she passed before we could get deep into it so that didn’t carry over. I moved to a bigger city (Atlanta) and had a lot more access to everything. I fell in those same shoes.
Atlanta has a lot of black entrepreneurs and black people as a whole who are thriving. How did you manage to turn things around there?
I’ve been a social worker now for 15 years. I was living above my means, spending more than I was actually generating. I had to make a lifestyle adjustment. I downgraded and moved about 75 miles outside of the city of Atlanta and I rented a 1-bedroom/1 bathroom apartment for $350 (per month). Lol, it wasn’t comfortable but I needed to do that to pay off all of my debts, repair my credit and put myself in a different position.
So that experience caused you to write a book. Let’s talk about your book.
I created Rewriting Financial Rules! because I wanted to create an educational tool for those who are facing some of the same dilemmas that I was once faced with. It’s a playbook, the strategy I utilized to repair and build my credit scores back up to a place where I was able to buy a home with no money down. I was able to purchase a vehicle with only a $170 car note payment. That was just by me making that adjustment. The book gives you different options and shows you how to utilize them correctly.
A lot of times, our people will get a hold of something online and run with it, becoming sellers of that product. People were selling Flat Tummy Tea. People were selling all kinds of health juices, Noni juices, Legal Shield and things of that nature. It seems like now the thing to sell is credit repair services. Some of these salesmen and saleswomen seem like average Joes. I don’t know what’s going on in that particular market but maybe you can give some insight on it.
I’m glad you pointed that out because there are a lot of charlatans out here. Yes, credit repair has become a multi marketing scheme. You’re seeing companies who say they can remove all of these negative items from your credit report and raise your credit score by 300 points within 30 days. It’s not realistic. My process took 2 years. I went from a 527 to a 720 in that time frame. The difference between myself and other companies is that I’m not selling a credit repair service.
It is good to get a credit repair service and there are some reputable companies out here. I list a few in my book. I’m trying to educate individuals on how to repair it themselves. It educates people about their rights as consumers. They have some protections out here. Instead of selling a product, mine is more of a consumer advocacy service. I help people protect themselves from practices of debt collection agencies.
Well, I’ve learned something because I didn’t know some of these people selling credit repair were apart of multi-level marketing companies.
I’ve seen people get taken advantage of. A friend of mine that I’ve helped recently, his daughter paid a lady like $800 to repair her credit. The lady said she was going to get the repossessions removed from her account and after she was paid, she never showed back up. If you’re going to pay for a credit repair service, make sure they have reputable customers who have verified that their services have worked.
You can actually go through the Better Business Bureau as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was put in place in 2011 under the Obama administration. The agency protects us against fraudulent practices. You can go in there and check out any credit repair companies that you may be thinking about utilizing.
With that being said, we spoke the other day about millenials and aspiring entrepreneurs. A lot of my generation is suffering from student loan debt. People like myself were told that we needed to go to college to become successful so a lot of us did go. Some graduated and some didn’t. Also, we’re not making as much money as the generations before us. Times are changing and the cost of living is going up but the pay is not.
Anyone who has student loans and who might be working somewhere where they are not being paid enough can enroll in an income based repayment program with their student loan provider. Since that is based on your income, you can get a payment that you are comfortable with. If you’re in the public service sector, your loans can be forgiven in 10 years. One thing I would also encourage people to not do is incur so much debt. Don’t buy an expensive car. If you’re a new college graduate or you are an aspiring entrepreneur, there may have to be some delayed gratification.
If you do get a credit card, only utilize a minimal amount. For me, I went to an historically black college and university. Morris Brown College was undergrad, then I went to Clark Atlanta, grad. Those schools are very expensive so if you can go to a state school that is less expensive, go there. Also like you said, the model of going to college and getting a great paying job was 30 years ago. Nowadays, you can create something that can develop into a career. If you do go to college and can avoid student loan debt all together, avoid it.
Entrepreneurship is on the rise within our community. I believe over the last few years, a very large number of black businesses have been started. One thing that I’ve noticed about Atlanta is that there are entrepreneurs all over the place. Pretty much, every type of business you can think of, there is a black owned version of it in Atlanta. What kind of advice do you have for those who aren’t going to college and want to get straight into starting their own business?
Sure, you don’t have to go to college and have a traditional 9-5. I’d say make sure you have a good credit score. You know, as a new entrepreneur, you only need a credit score of 680 to obtain a small business loan. Also, make sure you have a business plan in place as well as a team. You need support around you to get your vision off the ground. You might have to start off from your home where it’d be inexpensive.
Take the baby steps. Make sure you get your company registered, business license, EIN number (Free), etc. Those are only $100-$160. Don’t forget your business bank account as well. Establish business credit by contacting Dun & Bradstreet. From there, you can write your own ticket. Lastly, make sure you have integrity. Do what you say and mean what you say. That will solidify you with your customers and that will sell your product.
Speaking of product, where can people purchase your book?
My book Rewriting Financial Rules! is available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats. Once again, the book is about credit, the importance of credit, how the credit bureaus and your credit scores work and I give you 3 strategies to boost your credit scores. Last but not least, I educate individuals on how to utilize the consumer financial protection bureau to protect themselves from the credit bureaus and debt collection agencies. The book is also available at Barnes & Nobles.
Lastly, you also have “The Darius Norman Show”. Do you care to care to talk about that as well?
Yes! I’m glad that you brought that aspect up because Rewriting Financial Rules! put me in position where I’ve been on close to 100 radio shows and podcasts throughout the United States speaking on this matter. I was offered a new radio show in Central City, Kentucky.
On the show, I talk about subject matters like what we’re discussing now but I also deal with a plethora of other subjects and people from different industries. The show airs Monday – Friday from 1pm – 2pm CST on WMTA 107.3 FM/1380 AM. It’s been a great endeavor so far, man. I am enjoying it and I’m still growing as a host. I like to reach out to young people of all races, backgrounds, etc. That’s my motto.
Follow Darius Norman on Facebook: Darius Norman, on Twitter @dariusnormshow and on Instagram @the_darius_norman. Follow “The Darius Norman Show” on Instagram @darius_norman_host. Also, his website for the book is www.rewritingfinancialrulesllc.com.