Sandra Young, 52, is an African American woman living in Brooklyn with her grown children: Tyler, 25, and Kayla, 24. Sandra manages several branches of a tax preparation agency, which means that she earns most of her income during the six months between November and April. She receives more than 50% of her annual income in the months of February, March, and April alone. She carefully plans out her spending to stretch this income across the full year, scrupulously avoiding all debt. Sandra describes herself as being “fanatical about budgeting.” She grew up in a military family, and learned her finance skills while serving in the armed forces herself. It’s tempting to assume that this is why Sandra is so disciplined. But, Sandra says, she learned these skills the hard way: by going through bankruptcy earlier in her life.

Read about Sandra Young in the full case study.