Create a plan: Small steps can make a big difference towards helping you feel less financially stressed. If you plan to use credit, make sure you have a plan for paying back the debts you owe. Doing so can help you avoid paying money on interest.
With all that’s going on in our country, our economy, the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. A time of high inflation, a recession, or unemployment, can be particularly stress-inducing. We know chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. What are stress management strategies that people use to become “Stress-Proof? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help reduce or even eliminate financial stress? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, business leaders, and financial experts, who can share their strategies for reducing or eliminating financial stress. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Christina Roman.
Christina Roman is Experian’s Consumer Education and Advocacy Manager. She is passionate about financial literacy and is responsible for Experian’s Education Ambassador Program — an employee advocacy program that provides credit education to Experian employees with the goal of empowering them to teach credit fundamentals in their local communities. Christina serves as an expert spokesperson on consumer issues, including credit reporting, credit scoring, saving and other personal finance topics. Additionally, Christina helps with the development of Experian’s free educational materials, including Ask Experian — the industry’s first online consumer credit advice column.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
When it comes to my career, I live by one rule: never be afraid to pivot. I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in news editorial journalism in 2006, just as the newspaper industry was going through an identity crisis. The internet had changed the way people consumed news, and newspaper jobs were hard to come by. I decided to pivot and try my luck with editorial magazines.
I landed a job at a local magazine with a small but mighty team. I wore many hats there — I was a writer, an editor, and even managed their payroll and advertisers. Over four years, I expanded my portfolio and gained experience in organizing photo shoots, running events, and more. But deep down, I knew it was time for another change.
This led me to a position as a communications specialist at the Red Hat Society. There, I took charge of crafting content for their quarterly magazine, overseeing email communications, and managing their social media presence. It was during this period that I discovered my passion for cultivating online communities through social media. Additionally, I had the privilege of connecting with remarkable women who openly shared their aspirations and drive for advancement.
One of these connections went on to work at Experian and encouraged me to apply for a social media specialist position there. This was a major turning point for me. I didn’t know much about finances or credit, but I believed in the power of social media to bring people together and show the human side of organizations. Luckily, my new boss at Experian shared the same views. He hired me and gave me the tools to learn about credit and credit management. My focus was building a community of financial experts who could share the resources Experian offers and expanding the reach of our credit education initiatives.
In that role, I soaked up everything I wish I knew about credit when I was younger. It became my mission to make sure everyone had access to the information and resources they needed. Ever since then, I’ve been passionate about financial literacy and credit education. I’m grateful my job allows me to educate consumers every single day.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
Like many people, money and personal finance, were not topics often talked about when I was growing up. The same was true when it came to credit. In fact, I was raised to believe credit was something to avoid. As is the case for many young people across the country, credit and personal finance were also not topics covered in my school curriculum. I didn’t learn credit can be a financial tool to unlock many of the things we want in life until I was much older. This meant I learned a lot about credit and personal finance by making mistakes.
If I had the opportunity to meet my younger self, I’d share that while it’s OK to learn by making mistakes in many instances, money and personal finance are not a time you want to do that if you can avoid it. I would encourage my younger self to seek out information from trusted sources. We know many young people are looking to do just that. In fact, our recent survey of millennials and Gen Z showed nearly 70% are actively seeking a trusted source for personal finance information and 75% stated they would feel more optimistic about their financial situation if they had a better understanding of personal finance. This is good news because we have many free resources to help consumers better understand the nuances of credit and personal finance. By connecting consumers with the right tools and resources, we can make them feel more optimistic and empowered.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?
It wasn’t until I went to buy my first car that I realized just how important credit can be. I was using credit, but I wasn’t using it as a tool that could work for me. In fact, my credit score was working against me for many years.
Thankfully, my boyfriend at the time (and now husband), co-signed on my auto loan so I could get a better interest rate. This experience served as the wakeup call I needed to prioritize improving my credit and overall financial health. My husband has always been my greatest cheerleader. In this instance, he supported my journey to prioritize improving my credit standing and my overall financial health.
A testament to the support he provided along the way, we recently purchased our first home. As my family and I establish roots in our new home, each day I’m reminded of how far I’ve come with the support of my husband. I’m so thankful and proud of what we’ve accomplished together.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?
My job at Experian is always exciting. We have the opportunity to directly influence peoples’ lives, which isn’t something people in every industry can say. On a daily basis, I get to educate people about the tools available to help them live more financially empowered lives. What’s most exciting is there are tools and resources available today that didn’t exist even a few years ago that can help bring financial power to all. For example, today, consumers can get credit for paying their cell phone, utility, video streaming service and qualifying rent payments by connecting them to their Experian credit report through Experian Boost. This is a game changing feature that’s giving people the opportunity to instantly improve their FICO® Score for free. Tools such as this would’ve been so useful in my own credit and personal finance journey.
Additionally, I manage our Education Ambassador program, which is an employee advocacy program that provides Experian employees with credit fundamentals and resources they can share in their local communities. My boss, Rod Griffin, often says we have the best jobs in the company, and I whole-heartedly agree. I feel like I’m making a real difference.
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?
I believe stress is our physical response to external factors we feel are out of our control. It can make us feel like hamsters on the wheel of life, running as fast as we can and getting nowhere.
In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?
Given some of the recent advancements in technology, it feels like we are often in a state of information overload. We have a view of the state of the world from the palm of our hands. While there are many benefits to this, I think it also has the potential to make many of us feel stressed out with so many events taking place that feel out of our control.
What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?
For me, physical reactions to stress can lead to racing thoughts, trouble sleeping or a general sense of uneasiness. I find that stress robs me of my present joy because I’m nervously anticipating the unknown. (And I’ve never been more stressed about the unknown than when I purchased a house. I suppose that’s good stress though!)
Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?
I don’t believe stress is always a bad thing. In many cases, stress can be viewed as a motivation for change. When I’m feeling stressed, I often ask myself, “What could make me feel better about this situation?” From there, I can create a plan and take steps to address whatever issue I am facing which helps me feel accomplished rather than stressed.
Let’s now focus more on the stress of a challenging economic time. This feels intuitive, but it is helpful to spell it out in order to address it. Can you help articulate what causes financial stress?
As mentioned, I believe stress is caused by factors that feel outside of our control. For many people, this is their sentiments when it comes to finances and the current economic environment. In fact, as part of the recent research we conducted with millennials and Gen Z, we learned nearly 70% believe the current economic environment is hurting their ability to be financially independent adults and more than 1 in 4 don’t feel optimistic about their current financial situation. The good news is, with the right education and resources, consumers can feel more empowered and less stressed about their finances in our current environment and beyond.
Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 Things You Can Do To Reduce Or Eliminate Financial Stress?” Please share a story or example for each.
As the saying goes, knowledge truly is power. If you’re feeling financially stressed, here are five things you can do:
- Get engaged: Many people think checking their credit report will hurt their credit scores, but this is not true. This is one of the most common myths about credit reports. You can, and should, check your credit report regularly. This is one of the best ways to understand where you stand from a credit perspective. You can get a free Experian credit report and FICO® Score once a month through our mobile app. You can also get a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Use the tools available to you: There are a lot of helpful tools available today that weren’t even just a few years ago, including Experian Boost and Experian Go. Experian Go makes it easy for people with a limited or nonexistent credit history to establish, use and grow credit responsibly. With Experian Boost, you can self-report your cell phone, utility, telecom, and video streaming service payments directly to your Experian credit report for an opportunity to instantly improve your credit score.
- Seek trusted resources: In this age of information overload and social media, it can be hard to find trusted sources of personal finance information, but we’re here to help. You can find answers to common questions by joining our weekly #CreditChats on Twitter or by visiting our Ask Experian blog. We also have free resources available at www.experian.com/consumerseducation.
- Avoid making mistakes with lasting financial impact: I know, I know. This can be easier said than done, but it’s an important consideration to protect your financial health. If you’re using credit, make sure you have a plan for paying the debt you owe. Credit can be a financial tool, but debt is a financial problem. Make sure you understand your needs vs. your wants and try to keep your balances as low as possible.
- Create a plan: Small steps can make a big difference towards helping you feel less financially stressed. If you plan to use credit, make sure you have a plan for paying back the debts you owe. Doing so can help you avoid paying money on interest.
Can you help address some of the potential obstacles that get in the way of implementing your ideas? What can be done to clear the way and remove those roadblocks?
When it comes to credit and personal finance, we know many people struggle with not understanding how to get started or where to go for help. Overcoming this challenge is part of my job. The aforementioned tips are a few easy steps consumers can take to help overcome some of the financial and credit-related obstacles they may be facing.
Thank you for that. We are nearly done. Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is one book I will shout from the rooftops for the rest of my life. Atomic Habits by James Clear is another book I put into practice every single day. Another great source of joy for me is my faith. I find great joy and peace when I put my faith in God and attend church regularly with my family.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would continue Experian’s work in advocating for financial literacy in the classroom. We are given a curriculum and syllabus to follow in education for most of our lives, but when it comes to a crucial topic like our finances, we are often left to figure things out on our own. A mandatory, comprehensive course around financial topics like budgeting, credit, taxes, saving and more would be life-changing and empowering for so many students entering adulthood.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.