Jaime has always had a deep love for his family. Growing up in Guatemala, he was close to his mother and younger brother, and enjoyed “a comfortable childhood.”
At an early age Jaime became the man of the house. He was only 7 years old when his father made the tough decision to journey alone to the U.S. to provide his loved ones back home with the resources needed for a better life. “I didn’t have any struggles with money because my dad was in the U.S., so he provided for us,” Jaime shared.
Hoping to reunite with his dad, Jaime made the same trip his father had made all those years earlier. Equipped with a strong work ethic and shared desire to help family back home, he found a job in the U.S. and started making money so that he, too, could help his mother and brother back home.
A year later, his dad returned to Guatemala and Jaime found himself alone in his newly adopted country. “It was ok. My father had a lot of friends here and they provided me with a room where I paid, like, $300 a month.” This same welcoming community of friends rallied around Jaime as a teenager when tragedy struck. “I was feeling a little lonely, because after my father left, 3 months later he passed away from an accident. It was difficult.”
Suddenly the sole provider, Jaime took on different jobs to make ends meet and continue supporting his family. “I started as a dishwasher, then I started cooking sandwiches, cheese sticks...and then I started learning English. It was kind of hard learning English.”
Despite the challenge of acclimating to a new culture and language, Jaime decided he wanted to stay and make the U.S. his home. He missed Guatemala and everyone back home, but returning wasn’t something Jaime could consider. “We don’t have jobs in Guatemala. I decided to stay in the country and someday hoped to bring my family here.”
Knowing people he loved depended on him gave Jaime the momentum to keep putting one foot in front of the other. After meeting his wife in 1999, and starting a family, he recognized how important it was to continue building a healthy financial future given how many people count on him.
While he continued providing for his family in Guatemala, the needs of his immediate family began to take precedence. “When I got married and had kids, money was an issue, you know?”
The new roles of husband and father further fueled his pursuits, but not much, however, changed for Jaime in the way of his work ethic. He had worked six days a week since the age of 16, and had little time off to enjoy life’s simple joys - things like celebrating at his kids' birthday parties, exercising, or other activities so many of us take for granted. “Since I work 12 hours a day, my wife is the one who takes care of the kids.”
When the time came for Jaime to purchase a new car, he realized how important credit is toward building stability. “I had to change my job because I didn’t have a car. And I didn’t have enough credit for a new car or money to pursue the job I wanted: being a sous-chef. I only had enough to pay my rent and pay some of my bills.”
Jaime found a company that promised to restore his credit, but soon realized this company that promised him so much was actually not helping him at all. “I had to pay $99 a year, and I only had access to a $200 credit limit.” When the time came to buy a car, the same company that promised so much failed to help bring down his debt. They also weren’t transparent with Jaime about the consequences of unpaid debt. “They never told me that there was going to be all these late fees and interest and it would go on my credit report.”
Despite setbacks, Jaime wasn’t going to throw in the towel. He began building back his credit score slowly, by using his credit wisely and making payments on time. He found he was eventually able to purchase the car he needed, and when the time came to expand his credit, he had no problem due to his solid credit history. “After I had the car for a year, I applied for a different credit card, and they accepted me right away from my payment history.”
Feeling more confident about his financial health, he shares his experiences, life lessons, and money experiences with his two children and already sees his teenage son making strides. “He’s been learning, he likes to read a lot and follows the stock market and all that.”
When Jaime reflects on the best advice he would offer his younger self if he could, the sentiment is simple: “Don’t go crazy on credit cards.”
Jaime is a person who leans into the challenges life puts in front of him. He’s also the first to admit that nothing happens overnight. Focus and consistency were a big part of shaping the future he wanted to create for himself and his family.
“I use my credit card to buy big things, like all the things for my kids. And I pay it off in the same month.” Making smart and responsible financial choices paved the way for Jaime to think bigger. In 2021, Jaime’s family realized their ultimate dream when they moved into their new home in Pennsylvania.
What’s next? Currently, Jaime manages a pizza parlor and has his sights set on something bigger. “I want to buy my own business. Eventually, I will have to get a loan, so I want to keep my credit record strong until I’m ready to buy my own restaurant.”
Confident that he's the master of his own destiny, Jaime will keep working hard to fulfill his next dream.
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