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HOW I PAID OFF MY STUDENT LOAN DEBT FOR GOOD If you read the Valentine’s Day edition of this newsletter, then you know I’ve had a major run-in with debt. When Marjorie and I first got married, I was $200,000 in the hole, and one of the only reasons she didn’t kick me to the curb when she found out was because I had a plan for how to get out of it. The third thing I did was work my butt off. I put in six or seven days of work a week because I had that debt hanging over my head, and I wanted to pay it off before Marjorie and I started a family. During those years, banks and debt collectors were out of control. I filed many lawsuits against banks, mortgage companies, debt collectors, and Carmen: “Mom, can I have that?” Mom: “No.” Carmen: “What about that ?” Mom: “No.” Carmen: “Why not?” Mom: “Because you don’t need it!” Clawing My Way Out of a $200,000 Hole
Eventually, I stopped asking because I figured she was right — maybe I really didn’t need the latest toy or gadget. It’s funny how the way you grow up can shape your whole life because I carried that thought through college, law school, and beyond. Thanks, Mom, for always saying NO. For those of you who know me, I’m a pretty simple guy. I knew I didn’t want to be the kind of attorney who worked well into their retirement years because they still had bills coming through the door. Fancy cars and suits aren’t worth it to me. Every day I come into the office reinforces that mindset because, in my work, I see a lot of people go through hard times and turn toward their nest eggs. During the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009, I saw people lose fortunes, and I don’t want that to happen to anyone ever again. If you have one takeaway from today’s newsletter, I hope it’s that you can beat your debt. If you work together, create a plan, follow your plan, deal with setbacks, and keep pushing forward, not only will you come out the other side whole, you’ll come out much stronger.
Since that newsletter mailed, many of you have called me up and asked, “Carmen, what the heck was that plan? How did you live to tell this tale?” Well, I’m ready to share my secrets. Today, I’m going to tell you exactly what I did to get out of debt for good. The first part of the plan was simple: If it wasn’t food or gas, we didn’t buy it. For years, other than our mortgage and utilities, pretty much the only thing Marjorie and I spent money on was groceries. Luckily, we already had a house and didn’t have kids yet, so there wasn’t much else we needed or wanted. We cooked at home, and instead of taking vacations, we took short road trips. Basically, we both learned how to stretch our dollars very, very thin. All available cash went to debt reduction. Second, I handed Marjorie total control of our finances. She’s a CPA, so this was definitely a smart move! She set up our payroll so that my paychecks would go straight into our joint bank account, which I didn’t have checks or a debit card to access. I couldn’t have spent money on anything discretionary even if I’d wanted to! My student loan payments came out automatically, so I never saw the money.
insurance companies that deserved it. If I won, they paid my attorney’s fees, so you could say I had a very big incentive to win, and WIN BIG for my clients. We still do this today and have the website: SueTheBastardsNow.com. If you don’t believe me, Google it. I’ll wait for you. And, believe it or not, I have Florida Bar approval — Take that debt collectors! Living frugally and working my butt off was definitely a grind, but I think it could have been a lot harder for me if I had a “spend, spend, spend” mindset to start with. I’ve always been a coupon clipper. I’m just not the kind of guy who needs the brightest, shiniest new thing, and I never have been. While the other lawyers I went to school with were spending on the latest fashions, picking out the most expensive ties, and driving the fanciest cars (yes, there is definitely some truth to those lawyer stereotypes!), I was driving a 4- or 5-year- old beater without a payment. I think I owe a lot of that mindset to my mom, whose favorite word when I was growing up was no! That woman could squeeze a dollar until 101 pennies came out. We had a lot of conversations that went like this:
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