I have found that a vast majority of those who sign up to attend the Financial Learning Experience are living paycheck-to-paycheck AND carrying debt. In fact, statistics from surveys I have conducted show that 72% of those attending my classes are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Of those 72% living paycheck-to-paycheck, 24% are BEHIND on payments.
Only 3% felt that they are doing well financially.
This is a NATIONAL problem. No matter where I go, I see the trappings of debt – marriages failing, stress, depression, and hopelessness. And all of this is happening in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet! This is entirely unacceptable!
So, as part of my crusade to help America become debt-free, I am going to share the process I followed to become debt-free.
Before I get started, I want to ask you these questions.
- Would you join me in my crusade?
- Would you share this with others?
- Would you commit to become debt-free?
I WANT YOU TO BECOME DEBT-FREE!!! It changes your life! It enables you accomplish far more than you ever thought possible with your personal finances! It allows you to go do exactly what you were put on earth to do – regardless of the income!
Step 1 – Understand WHY you want to be debt-free!
I believe this is the most important step in becoming debt-free! In the hundreds of financial counseling sessions I have held, it is amazing how many people do not have a plan for their lives.
I ask them, “Why do you want to win with your money?” and they stare at me like I am from outer-space.
“Why?” they stammer back at me.
Seriously, I believe that it is the first time that many of these people have ever seriously thought about what they want to accomplish with their lives. As a result, they are bumbling through life just “trying to make it through the day”.
What a miserable way to live!
I cannot overstate this fact – IF YOU AIM AT NOTHING, YOU WILL HIT IT EVERY SINGLE TIME!
Write out your hopes and dreams.
When Jenn and I wrote down our hopes and dreams on paper it opened our eyes to the fact that our money management (or lack of) was literally ROBBING us of our future! We wanted to move back to Anderson, SC to take a job that paid way less than what we were making, but every single dinner at Outback was robbing us of that opportunity. Every single debt payment went off to make the bank wealthy while at the same time robbing us of our God-given dreams!
That made me MAD! It made me FURIOUS! It made me realize how incredibly STUPID I was to be managing our money so crazily! I had $755 PER MONTH going out to pay car debt, credit card debt, and student loan debt. Add in the stupid house payment, and I had over $1,700 per month running off to make the bank wealthy!
By writing out our hopes/dreams on paper, Jenn and I were motivated to manage our money differently. It caused us to view debt differently.
Are you ready to get rid of your debt?
Take your first step today by print out THIS FORM and filling out your own hopes/dreams. If you are married, you need to do this separately and then take time to discuss it with each other.
By the way, one of my hopes/dreams is for you to become debt-free!
What has kept you from attacking your debt?
Step 2 – List your debts.
During financial counseling sessions, it is a guarantee for any person who has debt that I will calculate their debt freedom date. You should see people’s reactions as I put together a list of their debt! Their reactions relay to me the true facts of debt. Here are some very common reactions that I see or hear.
- Hiding their eyes
- “Oh no!”
- “I’ve never added it up.”
- “This is scary.”
- Moving to a defensive position as if to guard themselves against the debt
- Turn their head so they don’t have to look at the debt total
I KNOW that it can be scary to total up debt. The mere fact that it is so scary tells me two things:
1. People do not like debt.
2. People have not been paying attention to their finances and do not have a well-defined plan for their life. Otherwise, they would not have incurred most of the debt. It is literally ROBBING them of their financial future!
Here is what I say to them – “If you don’t know how many heads the dragon has or how large the dragon is, how can you effectively defeat it?”
It is time to slay the dragon. Use THIS FORM to prepare a well-organized list of your debt.
Why is it so scary to total up debt?
Step 3 – Calculate your debt-freedom date.
It is really very simple to calculate your Debt Freedom Date. You need two numbers to calculate your Debt Freedom Date – Total Debt Owed and Total Monthly Payments. I pretend that there is actually only one debt – with one big balance and one big monthly payment.
Look at the sample debt list below. This family will be debt-free in just 33 months!
In the TOOLS section, there is a free tool called the Debt Freedom Date Calculator. If you enter your debts and monthly payments into this tool, it will calculate your Debt Freedom Date for you! If you don’t have Microsoft Excel, click HERE for a web-friendly version.
How many months until you are debt-free?
Step 4 – Establish accountability to become debt-free.
The strongest among us can still fall to temptation! You could be making fantastic progress toward debt-freedom and then a new truck pulling a new boat passes you on the road. If you are not careful, you will also be pulling a new truck and boat down the road!
There are two key ways to ensure you are held accountable to your goal of debt-freedom!
If married, work together with your spouse. If unmarried, have someone you trust (someone who has won with their money) hold you accountable!
There is incredible power when you work together with your spouse toward debt-freedom! It is a common goal that will unify your marriage and cements your commitment to managing your resources together.
I have also found that when I have a bad case of the “I Wants” and “I Gotta-Have” Jenn does not. She shuts me down! Then, when Jenn gets a bad case of “I Really Want This” I do not. I shut her down! Why? Because we are not doing debt! We are THROUGH with it!!!
Plan your spending every single month!
Planned money goes farther than unplanned money! Every single month Jenn and I sit down TOGETHER and spend every single dollar on paper before we are paid. Don’t miss that – that was good! Every. Dollar. On. Paper. BEFORE. We. Are. Paid.
From the day that Jenn and I started budgeting, we have not incurred any new debt. In fact, we became debt-free (minus the house) in just 14 months!
I can tell you this. I HATED the idea of budgeting and now all I do is yell from the mountaintops about how important it is and how EZ it is to budget! There are FREE budget forms that are available HERE. Use one of them to start your journey to debt freedom!
Your budget will hold you accountable. I wouldn’t be surprised if it helped you free up $200 – $500 per month to attack your debt even harder. It did for me!
If you’re already debt-free, how did accountability help you stick to your debt-freedom plan?
Step 5 – Secure your debt-freedom.
Save at least $1,000 before attacking your debt!
I have seen so many people calculate their Debt Freedom Date and get all fired up about attacking their debt. They sell everything and everyone in sight. They can’t shut up about getting out of debt. It is all they talk about with their spouse. They have even sold their Clay Aiken AND Celine Dion albums!
Everything goes great for two months. They smile every time I see them. “This is awesome”, they tell me enthusiastically.
Five months later, they avoid me. When I ask them what is up, they say something like, “Well, Johnny broke his arm and the emergency room bill and doctor bills cost me $1,500. I had no savings so now I am right back where I was – falling back into more debt.”
How demoralizing is it to attack debt so fervently and then have to go right back into debt? It is AWFUL! Don’t do that! Instead, save up at least $1,000 into an emergency fund before attacking your debt and THEN you can attack your debt all you want!
What happens if you have an emergency pop up while you are attacking your debt? You can use the emergency fund to cover the expense. To replenish the emergency fund, slow down on the debt pay-off plan until you have the $1,000 back in the emergency fund!
By the way, if you have a house, kids, or more than one car I highly recommend $2,500 for your emergency fund.
Secure your debt freedom plan with your emergency fund!
Congratulations! You now know the process that Jenn and I used to become and STAY debt-free! You are now equipped!
What are you going to do now that you are equipped to become debt-free?
You can be debt-free!
I want to equip you to become debt-free! Jenn and I became debt-free in 14 months by following this process, and I can tell you this – there is NOTHING like living life without the trappings of debt!
Let’s review the steps to debt freedom.
Step 1 – Understand WHY you want to become debt-free! You greatly improve your chances of becoming debt-free when you understand the reasons that you are making sacrifices in lifestyle!
Step 2 – List your debts. If you don’t know how large the giant is, it makes it really difficult to understand the overall situation!
Step 3 – Calculate your Debt Freedom Date. When you have put together your Debt Freedom Date calculation, print it out! Put it on the refrigerator! As you pay off each debt, draw a big line through it! You will not believe the conversation this will start with your family and friends as they come over to visit.
Step 4 – Establish Accountability. If married, hold each other accountable. If unmarried, have someone who has won with their own money and has your best interest in mind.
Step 5 – Secure Your Debt Freedom. Before attacking your debt save at least $1,000, or $2,500 if you’re married with children, so you have an emergency fund.
I hope that you have taken the time to write out your plans, hopes, and dreams for your life. Knowing these will help you stay the course. It will motivate you to say no now so you can win later!