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Are You "Sort Of" Getting Out Of Debt?

Are you "sort of" getting out of debt? In the ten plus years I've been a financial coach, the number I've times I've heard people say, "we're totally working the Dave Ramsey (i.e debt elimination) plan.... well.... sort of", is staggering.

It seems that even when people 'sign on' to totally kick their debt in the teeth, there are still old ideas, habits and attitudes about money that are hard to kill.

"Sort of" is usually the phrase that encapsulates the old stuff we're trying to get rid of to get them to debt freedom.

The absolute best results we see are from those who are so sick and tired of being in debt and at the same time totally sold out to eliminating it.

They're typically very humbled by their debt circumstances and scared to death enough to completely surrender their old ways.

Sure, they may have questions about how to do certain things in the plan, but they're never challenging plan elements while defending their old, tired and foolish ways. In other words, they've skewered their "sort of".


The Non-"Sort Of" Plan

The plan we use is a modified version of Dave Ramsey's '7 Baby Steps' called “8 Steps To Erase Debt”. We've developed it over the years as a slightly more granular version of the original.

It seems there are some 'mini-steps' in between the big ones that help to eliminate some of the natural confusion we see in clients working the program.

In other words, this fog is minimized by using 8 steps (which are really 9 as you'll see below).

So, the plan is for people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired of: 1) being in debt, 2) not having any money and/or 3) who are living paycheck to paycheck.

It's a detailed roadmap that, if surrendered to, will lead the client to glorious financial future that will include: 1) the elimination of all debt, 2) breaking the tiresome cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and 3) reserves of cash for saving and investing.


The 8 Steps To Erase Debt


  1. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
  2. Build A Budget
  3. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
  4. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
  5. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months' Expenses
  6. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)
  7. College Funding (if applicable)
  8. Pay Off The Home Mortgage
  9. Build Wealth, Serve and Be Ridiculously Generous



The "Sort Of" Plan 

You'll have to forgive me if this section sounds a little snarky. I'm only framing it in this way so as to try to "snag" any part of you that still may be looking to equivocate or otherwise hedge your efforts in this process. 

If you're truly working the plan, there are no exceptions. You're so sold out that your friends are tired of hearing about your little "debt elimination strategy".

This means there is no, "yeah, we're working the plan... "sort of". Or, "we're sort of doing our own version of the plan."

If your truly working the plan you're all in, and you will see results rapidly and your friends will notice a big difference in your mindset, immediately.

So if you're still "sort of", you're not working the plan. Please don't fool yourself. You're actually still doing your own thing.

It's not a crime, it's just a reality.  And, at worst you'll probably never get out of debt or at best, you'll unnecessarily prolong your servitude.

For example, if you're on "Step 1: Build A Budget", but you haven't stopped all retirement investing, you're still "sort of" working the plan.

Or, if you're saving for your starter emergency fund of $1000 and you haven't build a budget yet, you're still on the plan "sort of". 

In order to DO THIS, you have to be sold out, crazy, fanatical, beyond sick and tired of being sick and tired.


More "Sort Of" Conversations

As a coach , it's hard to watch friends, clients and acquaintances caught up in this type of perpetual "dabbling".

Instead of surrendering wholeheartedly to the process and therefore changing their financial future forever, they continue to dip their toes into the process.

You'll hear them continue to say things like: "I'm following the steps, but I still have some credit cards for this, this and that...”.

We often have interactions with people that reach out to us for coaching and say something like the following: “I agree with about 95% of what Dave (Ramsey) says, except for…”.

What they're really doing is picking and choosing parts of the plan that are a little more comfortable and don't challenge them too much in the very areas that where they need to be challenged the most.

And unfortunately, they can't see the “except for” they're skipping, is usually one or two pivotal elements of the plan that are causing them to have the need for coach in the first place (i.e. not living on a written budget or not cutting up ALL of the credit cards).

But sometimes it's easier to see from the outside looking in than it is vice versa.

Again it's a question of surrender. Are they in enough pain to completely surrender? Are they sick and tired enough of being sick and tired?


The Reason For Surrender

If the principles are solid and proven, then total surrender to them is warranted.


There’s a reason we recommend “surrendering” to the system and it’s because… IT WORKS! That’s the most important message I have for anyone that has fears, doubts or may even be in a seemingly insurmountable circumstance... IT WORKS!! I can personally attest to it.

It has worked for me and it has worked millions of others that have followed it to eliminate their burdensome debt. When we fully engage in working the plan, we declare debt our mortal enemy for the rest of our lives.

Case in point: I spoke with a gentleman a couple of weeks ago who makes several hundred thousand dollars per year and has just as much debt (in other words, several hundred thousand dollars IN DEBT).

Of course, he had an “except for”.

His “except for” was the idea that he could just not imagine NEVER using debt as a tool again for the rest of his life. He spoke at length about all of the “credit” that’s extended to him and mused endlessly on the question, "how could I possibly turn my back on low interest credit that I can leverage forever and ever, amen?"


The Response:

My response to him was very similar as it has been to other people in his situation.

It usually goes something like this: “I hate to break it to you this way man, but your opinions about the "faults" or "limitations" of working the plan and eliminating debt, are totally irrelevant. Why? Because you’re still totally broke!

You see, when you're broke, your opinion about your version of "the plan" holds no weight with those who are actually working the plan or those who have totally eliminated their debt.

Why? Because you've paid no price to get to the other side, to see how the hard work, sacrifice and diligence actually pays off.

You have no credibility with people who are actually paying the price and making it happen. In other words, you’re still in a version of the same mess you started with regardless of how much you've dabbled.

This gentlemen went on to inform me that he had a couple hundred thousand dollars in his 401k (that he was still contributing to despite a mountain of debt).

We did the math together and I gently pointed out that, when you back out his debt, his net worth is only about $30k, despite all the zeros at the end of the number in his 401k. Why would you want that?

I've heard it said that it's the easiest thing to lie to ourselves. I believe it.


"Sort Of" Is Really Self Deception: 

Don't deceive yourself about this and waste your time and energy "dabbling". You're either in or you're not.


Unfortunately, with people who are still caught up in self deception like the fellow we just talked about, there's little chance to win them over.

They're usually engaged a never ending and circular argument about the merits of their own perspective. Why? It's because they're still too comfortable in their situation even if it is miserable. 


How sick and tired are you?

They haven't gotten sick and tired enough of being sick and tired to really do something about it. It's much easier to play armchair quarterback and poke holes in the merits of doing the plan than it is to bite the bullet and get going for real.

That's okay, they may come around.

In the meantime, we'll focus on helping you. After all, you're just totally sick and tired of your slavery, right?


What's Your "Sort Of"?

So, the point of this exercise is not to beat up on this fellow or on any one else for that matter. Rather, it’s to encourage you the reader, to submit to the process and to skewer any part of you that wants to bend the plan and not totally submit.

Decide that you’re going to follow it to the letter! Do you want to be out of debt? I mean do you REALLY WANT IT??!!

Again, I walk away from conversations like the one above and just have to conclude that this person has not yet hit rock bottom and maybe he never will.

The truth is that it hasn’t been painful enough for him to want to savagely attack and kill this debt. 

Perhaps he hasn't yet experienced a catastrophic loss yet or hasn't been put in a place where he couldn't "shimmy" his way out using debt to temporarily "solve" his problems.

That’s okay, everybody has a different time frame and a different way of colliding with the truth. The plan will be there when the hour of desperation comes and, sooner or later it usually does come.

But the more important question is not about him, it's about you. What’s your "sort of" or  “except for”? Are you so sick and tired of this debt that you're ready to kick it in the teeth or are you still dabbling? Tell us where you are in the comments below.


The 8 Steps To Obliterate Your Debt:

This is the blog post that outlines the 8 steps I followed to eliminated $43,000 in debt in 2.5 years.
And whether this is your first or thousandth time on the blog, I want to make sure you have this “8 Steps” framework that ALL of our content is centered around. 
These are the steps I personally followed to obliterate $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years
Maybe your number is bigger, maybe it’s smaller. Either way the principles are the same and I want you to have them.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
2. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
3. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses
5. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)
6. College Funding (if applicable)
7. Pay Off The Home Mortgage
8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!
I’ve created a simple, easy to follow guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilation of your debt forever.



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When You Need More Help

And again, if you’re looking for some resources to get started, you can download our free budgeting forms. Also, if you’re in a place where you’re ready to kick your debt in the teeth, here's the link to our free “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide for you to use as your foundation.
To your freedom,
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps keep Zero Debt Coach up and running. Read my full disclosure policy.

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