At a young age, black women are encouraged to further their education in hopes of it bringing them a successful career and a financially stable life. Many times, these young women are the first in their families to go to college and don't have the necessary resources to navigate the loan and education system to their best advantage. They then take on these loans, as well as credit card debt, to earn advanced degrees, hoping to make enough money to one day pay it all off — but suddenly finding out how challenging it can be to meet payment deadlines.

According to new research from the Urban Institute, people who default on their student loans are more likely to live in black neighborhoods. And more than any other group of students, black women take on the most debt and take the longest to repay their loans, making them more likely to default. There are a lot of reasons for this, from a persistent gender pay gap to disparities in access to career opportunities for women of color.

I've seen these statistics come to life for many women, and like them, I have faced similar challenges in the pursuit of higher education to provide a secure future for my family. After a divorce over financial disagreements, I found myself struggling to make ends meet. Living paycheck to paycheck, I was unaware of how financially unstable I was until I found myself facing a medical emergency and unable to pay the bills. Existing at the intersection of being both black and a woman in America, and feeling like I was in an ongoing struggle against sexism, stereotypes and socioeconomic barriers, I realized that I could no longer fight these battles alone.

These struggles are unique to our experience and were what inspired me to start The Broke Black Girl Facebook group: a community where Black women come together each day to empower one another to take charge of our personal finances. It serves as a safe space where we can support one another in the discussion around maintaining a healthy budget and taking care of our well-being. Through the group, I've been able to connect over 50,000 members to one another, not just in my hometown, but across the country and the world. This global network of beautiful and powerful women have hard conversations around financial struggles, and challenge the stigma that "we are beautiful, yet broke," or that "we go broke trying to be beautiful." In this group, we join hands to help each other in ways that would otherwise not be possible. When one sister's apartment was flooded, there was an endless amount of support from members who offered to bring her diapers, food and clothing, while others even offered her a place to stay. It was a true testament that the bonds formed in this group go far beyond the internet.

Many of us struggle between balancing self-care and financial obligations. One motto in the group is “priorities over prettiness,” to encourage women to practice self-care in cost-effective ways such as reading a book or going for a walk. Through this, we want to emphasize the importance of physical and mental well-being, and redefine self-care to include financial literacy. We share live videos, host sessions on credit repair, offer career advice and share tips on topics ranging from savings to life insurance to home buyers programs. The Broke Black Girl focuses on building a sisterhood where our collective efforts in sharing knowledge can be passed down to help future generations of black women achieve financial freedom.

We have the power to write a better story for our communities, our families and ourselves. Throughout my life, I've felt the weight of being a black woman in America, but The Broke Black Girl has done so much to help uplift me and my sisters. We're more than just a support group — we're a sisterhood, determined to break the cycle that keeps us from achieving financial and personal freedom, and work to create a legacy.