Selena’s Journey: Climbing Out of Debt

Selena’s Journey: Climbing Out of Debt

With inflation and the overall cost of living on the rise, more and more Canadians are experiencing the financial stress of debt. Here, one millennial shares her story of how turning to a credit union during one of the most trying times in her life helped her take control of her debt and make a career change all in one.

Meet Selena

Thirty-year-old Selena R. lives in Mary’s Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador. For most of her twenties, she worked as a Child and Youth Care Worker, primarily working in emergency placement homes. Her career took her across Canada- from coast to coast – but it also took a damaging toll on her health. After she was hospitalized for disabilities that had previously gone undiagnosed, her career was brought to an abrupt end. For Selena, the situation was life-shattering.

The following three years were full of trials and tribulations. Selena found herself in an abusive relationship, very ill, and approximately $20,000 in debt. After her relationship ended, she moved back home feeling “defeated.”

That’s when she discovered her calling. In February 2022, she noticed Atlantic Edge Credit Union (AECU) was hiring at her local branch. After doing some research and learning about AECU’s values, she wanted in. She made the decision to apply and by May 2022, she was hired as a Financial Service Representative. The major career shift helped her tremendously. Her passion for helping people was fulfilled, only now, she channeled it through serving members while working on the frontline with AECU.


Overcoming her struggle with debt – the solution she didn’t know about

Selena’s struggle with her finances continued well into the start of her career with AECU. By the time she began working in her role, the debt of $20,000 she had previously accumulated was still hanging over her head. Logging into her banking apps would end in tears. At this point, she contemplated filing for bankruptcy, until her Branch Manager, Jackie Rumbolt, stepped in. Jackie was the guiding light Selena needed to start her journey to getting out of the mountain of debt she was in.

Jackie helped Selena examine her finances and explained to her that filing for bankruptcy was not necessarily something she needed to do. The solution? Selena could consolidate her debt. This entails moving all debt into one financial institution, in this case, AECU. Her next step would be to get a loan to pay off her debt, which would allow her to make one payment monthly, towards the loan rather than making payments towards multiple lenders and cards.

Typically, a consumer with low credit score like Selena, would find it difficult to secure a consolidation loan. However, credit unions operate in such a way that members are prioritized, and their personal history and current situation are taken into consideration when they’re being assessed for a loan. So rather than turning her away, AECU was able to give Selena the loan required to pay off her debt. Feeling “a million pounds lighter,” Selena walked out of the office relieved.

Currently, Selena is well on her way to paying off the debt, and is making her monthly payments without any other help. She states that she’s never felt this financially at-ease!


“It was the first conversation about my own personal finances that didn’t end with me in tears.”

The concept of talking about debt is overwhelming for many Canadians and Selena’s journey was no different. “I put off talking about my debt for a long time,” she says. “Every time I tried to talk about it with someone, or figure out what to do, no one would take the time to explain it to me. I would leave the discussion more confused and anxious than ever before, which made me want to completely pretend my debt didn’t exist.”

Sitting down with Jackie last year alleviated her uneasiness about all the debt she had compiled.

“Jackie simplified the financial jargon and explained it to me in a way that I could understand,” Selena says. “It was the first conversation about my own personal finances that didn’t end with me in tears.”

But, AECU did more for Selena than just help her take control of her debt by providing a plan of action; it taught her financial literacy. “I can say with 100% certainty that AECU can take full credit for teaching me about financial literacy,” she explains. Between her colleagues, superiors, and the mandatory training all staff must complete, Selena acquired enough knowledge on financial literacy to no longer be afraid to combat her own finances.


What Selena would like to Tell Young Canadians about Finances

“I found that dealing with my previous financial institution did not ease any anxieties and even made me feel downright ashamed,” Selena expresses. “I felt I was looked down upon for not understanding financial literacy and even blocked calls from my previous financial institution to avoid any conversation about my finances. But my credit union changed EVERYTHING. They didn’t judge me for the position I was in or what happened in my life. They took the time to ensure I understood my options and it didn’t matter how much money I had to my name. I was still respected.”

In fact, because Selena felt so reassured by her credit union to ask questions about her finances, she was able to feel more comfortable and confident about her finances. She encourages younger Gen Z and Millennial Canadians to have serious conversations about their finances. She also encourages them to do their research in finding a financial institution that best aligns with their needs and values before choosing one for their banking. “Banking is so much more than financial literacy-it’s about trusting others to do what is best for YOU and your financial health,” Selena explains. “If your financial institution isn’t willing to treat you as an individual, are they the right institution for you?”


Key Takeaways

Selena’s journey to being debt-free is looking brighter than ever and that’s due to the help of her credit union. AECU’s support gave her the tools and support she needed to overcome her financial anxieties and conquer her own financial woes. In opening up about her struggles with debt and learning about financial literacy, she is now able to help others feel comfortable with their own finances.


Canada’s Credit Unions Are Here for You

If you find yourself struggling with debt or having your financial questions answered, consider reaching out to your local credit union. Credit unions are best at putting you first and are a great option for any of your financial questions and banking needs. Start the conversation today. Find your nearest credit union here.