How I Got Out of Debt & You Can Too

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and admit to mistakes you've made, especially in a public format, is really intimidating. As honest as I am on social media (and in life), I don't share everything. I cultivate the image of myself that I want to project. It's essential to my business that I'm careful and circumspect about what I say, but it's also about walking that tricky line that's become an issue with the advent of blogs and Facebook and Twitter. Balancing my own inclination toward privacy with the internet's invitation/temptation to share it all. Everything. All the time. With everyone. I think I've spoken here before about money, which is definitely a loaded topic. And I may even have mentioned debt before. But I don't think I've shared the specifics of my story and how I climbed clawed my way out of it.

So that's what I want to do today.

Several years ago, when I was relatively new to real estate, I was also drowning in debt.   Over 50K in debt, to be exact. And it was diverse--student loans, credit card balances, a car loan, medical bills… you name it, I owed money for, on, or to it. Maybe you have similar debt, or more, or less. Whatever the amount, it can feel crippling. It can suck the life right out of you. Sometimes it's a gradual, creeping realization that we may have borrowed ourselves right into a life we can't afford. Other times it's a bright, flashing, blaring siren of dread the instant we signed our name on the dotted line.

This is how I felt: I was in a tunnel with no light at the end of it. The number was so huge to me that I literally couldn't imagine a scenario in which it wouldn't exist anymore. I was working so hard and none of what I was earning felt like it belonged to me.

The light appears...

I was with a small group of friends one night and a gal said there was a book about how to pay off debt for pennies on the dollar. That seemed way to good to be true. But I bought the book and read it front to back and then over again. I read it until I got the courage to start calling my creditors to settle the accounts. (Looking back, I learned some crazy amazing negotiating skills through that experience!) The thing I hadn't realized was that companies will settle with you for less than you owe for a couple of reasons. One is that sometimes the original creditor sold the debt to a company that just goes around buying existing debts for much less than what's owed on them. They then set about trying to collect. So, you can negotiate with them for pennies on the dollar because they only paid a fraction of what you owed in the first place.

Secondly, sometimes a company has essentially given-up on collecting anything on the debt. So, if you call and make them an offer of something, they'll take it.

Still, it is not a fun experience to make those calls. It's the opposite of fun, actually. And the good news for you is that you don't have to do it yourself. Our trusted team has a credit repair expert who does the negotiating for you and, together we can help you create a plan that leads not just to freedom from debt but to home ownership too. For some it’s a 6-month plan, for others it’s 18-months.

Just know I’ve been there. I personally short sale my property and contemplated bankruptcy a couple of times... so I'm not asking you to consider something I haven't already myself. There’s no shame. I know the struggle and I’m happy to help encourage you out of it. We should talk! Call us to schedule a confidential consultation.

I did a short video about my fun real estate math equation, where 1+1=4. Whether you're trying to get out of debt or avoid it, more and diverse income streams are a necessity. Check that video out below!

 

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Are You Stuck in This Vicious Cycle?

 
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What percentage of people in the United States would you guess are living paycheck to paycheck? Are you one of them?  If I told you that 50-percent of us fall into that category, would you believe me?

If you think that's a high estimate, hold on to your hats because the actual number is worse.  

More than three-quarters of workers (78%) who earn less than $100,000 per year, are one unexpected expense away from a big financial mess. I don't know about you, but that number is scary to me. (You can check out the full story here.)

Additionally, and very much relatedly, 71-percent of full-time workers say they have some kind of debt. Of those, 56-percent of them say they don't believe they will ever get out of it. Think about it--if you're living paycheck to paycheck because of debt, and something unexpected comes up, you go into more debt to pay that expense. So, it's kind of a vicious cycle, right?

Consider the emotional toll that belief takes on a person. Working full-time, unable to get ahead financially, operating under the anchor of debt, and believing things will never be any better. What does that do to our collective mental, emotional and spiritual health? The cost of our debt-culture goes beyond a financial one.

Let's talk about the culture of debt while we're at it. It's become more than just acceptable--it's marketed as desirable. Many people get their first credit card offer at 18--I've heard stories of credit card applications being included in freshman move-in packets at colleges! College itself has become synonymous with debt too. Can't afford tuition? Here's a student loan you can spend the rest of your adult life paying off. Want something now, but can't afford it? Why wait? Just fill out this credit application and walk out of the store with it. You deserve it.

We think it's an unavoidable part of adult life, but it doesn't have to be and it really shouldn't be. It is crippling. If you're struggling with debt or just want to learn how to create a budget and make a financial plan you can live with, I cannot recommend Dave Ramsey's books enough. The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness is one of my favorites and a good place to start.

 
Freedom
Freedom
 

In contrast to that 78-percent number, only nine-percent of full-time workers earning more than $100,000 per year reported that they struggled to make ends meet.

What does that tell us? Well, it tells me we need an increase in income and a shift to a debt-is-not-okay mindset. And it reinforces for me one of the big reasons why I'm such and advocate for real estate and Keller Williams in particular.

 
Streams
Streams
 

I’m a self-help junkie and every book I read about entrepreneurship or financial freedom says we should have multiple income streams. That we should be diversifying where our money comes from so that our financial futures are not subject to the whims of one bad boss or the ups and downs of one market. 

If I told you that as a Realtor I have four businesses functioning simultaneously and generating four income streams for me, would that pique your curiosity? The first is the most obvious--I represent buyers and sellers and earn commissions on each transaction I close. Income stream number one.

You might be surprised how many agents don't leverage the other three opportunities: referrals, profit-sharing and investing in real estate. Please don't be one of them! I love talking about possibilities and coaching other agents, so click here and let's schedule a time to meet!

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