So, what does it feel like to be completely debt free? In a word, "awesome", but it certainly wasn't easy getting here.
You see, in terms of my financial life, I was just like most Americans about a dozen years ago.
There was WAY more “month" left at the end of the “money". I didn't know how to budget and had no savings.
Yes, a total financial train wreck, I was. Can you relate?
My lifestyle that was WAY more expensive than I could actually afford and I didn't know how to change it.
Like most Americans, I was running on the hope that I would always just be able to outrun my own lack of responsibility by earning more money in the future.
Oh how wrong I was!
If you want a free printable PDF "quick start" resource, check this one out: FREE Debt Elimination Quick Start Guide.
Last week, a friend of mine outlined an epiphany was having about his lingering student loan debt.
Due to some current work circumstances, he made the rather wise decision to eradicate that final part of his student loans.
It was becoming more and more clear to him that his lingering debt was the only thing forcing him go "hold on" to this ridiculously dysfunctional job situation.
He explained to me that he just had a little more to pay off. And, his motivation came partly from a memory of how I responded to a particular work-related situation a few years ago.
Yep, we've all been there. Unspeakable frustration from the day job. Maybe you're there now. How would being debt free change this picture?
You see my friend (we'll call him Stephen) and I worked together in a rather nightmarish corporate software job a few years ago.
In some very particular ways it was oddly reminiscent of the movie, "Office Space", replete with its own version of "TPS Reports".
Stephen was the reason I landed the job in the first place, actually. He had referred me to the (rather amazing) sales director who ultimately hired me.
However, much to all of our chagrin, a few weeks after I had climbed on board, they brought on a new CEO (ala Bill Lumbergh with a WAY filthier mouth) who we all (including my amazing sales manager) had to work directly under.
Ruh roh, trouble in paradise!
Here's a great "aspirational primer" for helping you develop your "money mind".
Suffice it to say, I knew within the first 5 minutes of listening to this new CEO's filth-language-laced introduction that this company was not going to be a good fit for me.
And I wasn't the only one. In less than a month, I saw the sales director who hired me also depart in protest.
He had witnessed some rather unsavory public behaviors from our new CEO that involved a "waitress" and a "$1000 tip". Ugh!
In fact, the details of the story helped me to understand that I would have done exactly the same thing.
Man, this situation was looking worse by the moment.
Lighthouse and epiphany metaphors kind of go together. Okay, maybe not but this is a really cool lighthouse, right?
So, Stephen recounted that his epiphany was largely inspired by his impression of how I handled the situation in this nightmare of a job.
Namely, he remembered how when things got to a certain point, I just decided to resign without having another job lined up.
He was astounded that I could do this.
And how could I do this? Glad you asked.
I could do it because I had not one red cent of debt.
He also remembered how, all of the months leading up to my departure, I had been emphatically encouraging him to start getting out of debt.
He endured my explaining to him how awesome it felt to know that, if things got too crazy, I could just head for the exit.
I'm quite sure my explanation of Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps started to sound like a broken record. Poor guy (not really)...
I promised him that indeed, if things got bad enough, I would just leave because I had "no payments".
I'm pretty sure he thought I was full of it.
Until the day I did it, that is...
You probably don't know about my journey to debt freedom story, so I want to present the cliff notes.
In 2001, I left my first corporate sales job out of college where I was earning close to $100k/yr.
I left to pursue a career as a freelance musician/artist/guitar player. Woo hoo!!
It's pivotal to mention that, before I left said career, I leased (or got fleeced by) a car, bought a condo in downtown Atlanta that was just slightly beyond the salary + commissions income from my corporate job.
I had no emergency fund, unless of course you counted my $43,000 HELOC (Home Equity Line Of Credit). Which of course I did. 😞
You could say I was paying my "stupid tax" with piles of borrowed money during this period.
By the summer of 2004, I had reached the point of utter desperation.
I was getting work as a musician, but the level of income my overhead required was going to take A LOT more time to acquire.
My $43,000 "emergency fund" (HELOC) was all used up and I was quickly running out of any cash reserves.
There was less than $2000 in my bank account which was about my monthly "burn rate" at the time.
My anxiety, stress and depression levels were such that sleep was fleeting.
I was a mess and I couldn't take it anymore.
It was about this time I discovered Dave Ramsey's debt elimination material.
Game changer! It was the perfect timing for me.
I was at the end of my rope and literally willing to do just about anything legal to climb out of the hole I'd dug for myself.
I immediately read "The Total Money Makover", listened to the Financial Peace University CDs and worked with a Dave Ramsey Financial Coach.
Long story short, I sacked the debt, all of it in just 2 and-a-half years!
If you want to read the whole story, just go to my post $43k Paid Off!
I want for you to have the option to just "check out" and "move on" when the situation's nonsense becomes untenable.
What I want for you is to have both the amazing feeling and the awesome reality that "no payments" affords you in this life.
I was able to leave that horrid, crappy job precisely because I had suffered through the process of completely obliterating my debt. It was tough, but is was SO WORTH IT!
If you have a crappy job or a crappy boss, you can fire them!
If you get into a situation where you just can't deal with the nonsense anymore, you can just "opt-out". Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about being irresponsible.
I'm talking about having "options". Being debt-free gives you LOTS of options and I want for you to have as many as possible.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)2. Starter Emergency Fund of $10003. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses5. 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 Mortgage8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!