Jameela Jamil knows what it’s like to mishandle money.
Though she’s now a certified star on The Good Place, things looked far less good three years ago for Jamil, who says she found herself eight years into a successful career with no money to show for it.
“I was never set up through school or the people around me or magazines or anything to know how to protect myself, which is why at 30, I kind of lost all my money,” she tells PEOPLE. “Thirty was the rock bottom, was having no money.”
Jamil, now 33, says the universe granted her a “second chance” when she booked The Good Place, and today, the actress and activist hopes to prevent others from making the same financial mistakes, hence her new partnership with Credit Karma, which is launching Credit Karma Savings to help people open free, high-interest savings accounts.
“There’s a lot that I didn’t learn and that’s why I feel passionate about making sure no one else makes the same mistakes that I have,” she says.
The British actress grew up “incredibly poor,” but came into cash at 22 years old after launching a career in show business. Still, she didn’t think to open a savings account, and would get “absolutely demolished” each year at tax time, as she didn’t understand how to properly file her taxes.
“There’s no good reason that someone who isn’t completely stupid, like myself, was able to make so many stupid mistakes, other than the fact that the information just isn’t readily available to me,” she says. “It also feels so intimidating, the whole financial aspect of life. You just don’t even know where to start. It sounds so complicated.”
Jamil also continued draining her bank account by overspending in the name of being a good friend, and as a means of temporarily helping ease her depression and anxiety.
The actress said that for years, having significantly more money than her friends “embarrassed” her, and as a result, led her to constantly pick up her friends’ tabs so as to avoid an awkward splitting of the check.
“That was something that was, while generous, was also incredibly daft,” she says, adding that it set up an “imbalance” in her friendships with pals who felt they now owed her. “I would say just split things in a fair way with your friends, because the moment of generosity is short-lived, and also creates a feeling where people feel as though they’re using you in some way.”
Mental illnesses that plagued her throughout her 20s also contributed to her reaching “rock bottom,” as Jamil says she’d turn to online shopping to bring herself fleeting happiness.
“When you are depressed, which so many young people are, you end up spending and spending,” she says. “You buy things that you think will make you feel better in the moment and you don’t think about the long-term impact of that.”
With an eventual new lease on life, Jamil buckled down and got her finances in order, calling on various experts in accounting and business to help her better understand her situation.
“There really is just no set-up in our society for young people being taught how to look after their cash,” she says. “People in America desperately need young people to learn about credit ratings. Like, they can’t even rent an apartment. They can’t get a phone. There are so many things that stand against you if you have a bad credit rating. You are banned from so many important things pretty much for life, and so I want to do whatever I can to promote this message.”
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