Grit Vs. Debt
One Determined Couple. 20 Crazy Months. $72k In Student Loans Paid.
1 - Introduction
...and a dedication.
I’m about to tell you a crazy story.
I decided to share our debt story with the world about two weeks after my wife and I paid off our student loans. It was a hard time for me, because I had just broken my ankle and had a major surgery during those first two weeks of debt-freedom. To add onto that, I didn’t have health insurance and was facing the inevitability that we had fallen back into debt just after accomplishing our goal.
As I sat for hours on the couch, drugged-up on pain medicine, I replayed in my mind what had happened during the previous 20 months while we were working to pay it all off. My mental replay was coupled with the deep regret I felt for not having purchased health insurance. I was expecting a surgery bill of $12k - $18k, and I couldn’t work for two whole months.
I was simultaneously inspired that we had paid off our debt so quickly, and devastated that after all that, I was looking at being in a serious amount of debt all over again. The difference this time, was I knew exactly how to tackle the new debt. The thought of jumping back into a heavy workload was definitely not my first choice, but the debt itself did not intimidate or scare me. I had seen what was possible, and I knew I would do it again...and soon.
As all this was going through my head, I knew I had to show those of you who are still in debt what is possible for the underdogs of the world when it comes to paying off massive student loan balances.
After spending much time feeling intimidated and defeated by our debt, we figured out a solid, reproducible method to launch ourselves to debt-freedom. I knew I had to share our story and what we learned with the world. One day, I repeatedly told my wife and brother that I was going to write a book. They weren’t quite sure what to think as they saw me hopped-up on Oxycontin, slurring my words, and displaying absolute determination to write this thing.
Our story takes place just like every other story: in the context of relationship. It happens in the context of our marriage, our community, and also in the context of our relationship with God.
Depending on the person, I suppose, that may or may not be a popular dynamic to include in a book about debt. I will be transparent about our faith as it played a significant part in our story, but I will not give any sort of Christian advice in this book.
This is a book for everyone who hates being under the weight of student loan debt and wants to get out as soon as possible. Our journey was a blend of trusting God, continually improving our methods, and working our butts off. Whatever you believe about God, I trust that if you’ll read with an open mind, you’ll find the inclusion of our relationship with Him something that couldn’t and shouldn’t be left out.
My desire in sharing this book is to bring hope and joy to those of you with student loan debt and to begin the process of helping you gain victory over it. If victory and freedom are what you’re craving, then this book is just the beginning. It’s our small, but powerful story: the inspiration and catalyst—I hope—for many to take control over their financial situation, be empowered, and defeat their debt by paying every last penny in swift fashion.
In the pages that follow, I will cover the story aspect of our debt-payoff with great detail, including full financial disclosure, and the struggles we endured in the process.
The reproducible strategies and actionable wisdom we gained along the way will be available for those signed-up for my email updates. If you haven’t already, you can sign-up at gritvsdebt.com.
I’d liked to close this introduction by dedicating this book to my beautiful wife, Rachel. She has faithfully stood by me and supported me in every high and low of life, and she’s the most fun, adventurous, encouraging, and committed woman I’ve ever known. She is a part of this story in every way and was very much my partner in crime throughout. As I type this, she is pregnant with our first child. I’m so glad I get to raise a family with my best friend!
Ok, enough of the intro and sappy stuff...let’s hear how we got out of all that debt so quick!
2 - Signing Up For Trouble
August 2006 - July 2009
“Guys, clean up! We’re going home early!”
I had just received a phone call that I would never forget. As I left the job-site and hopped into my truck to see what it was all about, I was full of hope...was this really the day I would become debt free?
I had been working my “Prime Payoff Position” strategy for about 7 months and was already ahead of schedule, but it appeared God had heard my prayers for an acceleration. But who knows? Maybe it wasn’t what I thought it was. How quickly my mind can jump from faith to doubt. By this point, I had shed blood, sweat, and tears trying to pay off our student loans.
I was far beyond the nights of regretting taking out debt, the days stressing over the feelings of enslavement, and the mornings wondering how in the world I could pay off a $72,500 loan balance.
I was more like a marathon runner hitting “the wall” at mile 20. I was longing for relief but had no intentions of stopping. As I raced in my truck, wiping tears of hopeful joy from my eyes, it seemed relief was closer than the day’s sunset. Indeed it was, but while I thought that was the end of the story, I learned that life can throw its twists and turns…
...but before I get to any of that, I’ve got to take you to the beginning.
I vividly remember the day I signed up for my student loans. After doing a “gap year” in England, where I worked full-time at a homeless shelter, I enrolled in a private art college in Chicago. My brother also enrolled in the same school, and as we drove north from our hometown in Oklahoma, we stopped at my grandma’s retirement home in Indiana; the last stop before starting our new lives in the Windy City.
We enjoyed connecting with her, but mostly I was feeling that anxiety you get when it’s your first day on the job or in a new place. Everything was changing in my life, and I wasn’t sure what I thought about the changes. The next morning we went to the computer lab to take care of some remaining business with our enrollment. It was in that computer lab that I printed off my loan form.
It was an easy “A,B,C” process to get approved for the loan for my first year’s tuition, which came out to be $20,000. All the private company required of me was a co-signer. My father, wanting the best for his boys, was willing to sign up for the role.
It was pretty clearly explained to me that I would have an abundance of financial trouble in my life if I didn’t go to college. Acquiring the special piece of paper with fancy writing and a golden seal was non-negotiable. If a hefty loan was required to get it, then so be it.
After a couple of signatures and proof of admission, the lender disbursed a sum of $18,000 to the college, and another $2,000 directly to my bank account—spending money. I didn’t need the money, but they offered, and it sure helped take away the borrower’s remorse I felt the moment it all became official.
In addition to my nice sum of spending money, I fought back my remorse with some of the following thoughts. Maybe you can relate:
- “Oh, it’s ok, I am going to graduate college and land a great job.”
- “Everybody else is doing it, it can’t be that bad!”
- “My parents are encouraging me to do this.”
- “I don’t have any other choice.”
- “I’m doing what I’m supposed to, and this is how it’s done. This is a noble risk I’m taking.”
At the end of that first year, I came to a serious fork in the road, and a few things had become very apparent to me:
- If I was going to finish out my four years, I would leave school with a film degree, $80,000 of debt, and no concrete reason for anyone to hire me...like I said, film degree.
- Going to college was never my idea. I just knew I wanted to make a positive impact on the world, and I had several ideas of how to do that, but I hadn’t yet seen how it fit into going to college or a career path.
- While college is incredibly beneficial for many people, and is required to work in a number of fields, I felt like it didn’t make sense for me to continue taking on a huge amount of debt when it wasn’t directly serving a clear goal or purpose in my life.
- I saw those remaining 3 years and $60k as time and money I could spend traveling the world, gaining work experience, and growing in my understanding of my desires, passions, and purpose.
I decided to not take out another loan the next year, and moved back to Oklahoma to figure out what to do next. I have never been a person low on passion, ambitious ideas, or the tenacity to accomplish them, but I just knew I wanted to stop taking on debt while I figured out what I wanted to contribute and get out of life.
During the subsequent 4 years, I began a naturally-unfolding journey in which I discovered how I wanted to define success for myself and the skills and traits I needed to get there.
During this time, I also overcame some major issues in my life, namely an anxiety-and-depression problem that fueled various unhealthy forms of self-medication. I also lost 70 pounds of fat and, with my newly developed athleticism, went on to run a sub 4-hour marathon.
All these experiences empowered me with an overwhelming sense that I could accomplish and overcome just about anything I devoted myself to. They built in me the grit that would later help sustain my efforts to get out of debt.
3 - In Paradise, but Still In Debt
May 2007 - May 2010
During my formative years of self-directed education, I experienced a lot of peaks and valleys and was forced to come face-to-face with myself and figure out who I really was. I spent my whole first year after college continuing and going deeper into the bad habits I had formed while in college. These mostly consisted of the excessive daily use of tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol.
The following year, I attended a recovery program, and held down two jobs; one working for a family of entrepreneur-builders and the other, for a family of restaurateurs. I learned as much as I could about both industries and became more and more interested in having my own business and being my own boss.
While I was advancing quickly in nearly every area, I got stuck in this cycle of lapsing on alcohol every few weeks. After talking with a good friend, I realized the best thing to do may be to move to another place for a while. I wasn’t too sure where to go at the time, but I remember saying a very specific and idealistic prayer. It went something like this:
“God, I would love to go live and work somewhere that is warm all the time, close to mountains, close to the beach, and super beautiful…and it would be cool if I could surf there too.”
Immediately after praying this, I laughed it off, thinking God didn’t answer those kinds of prayers from people like me, and I assumed it would probably never happen.
A few weeks later, I ran into a friend who was visiting from Costa Rica, where he was living and working at the time. He told me all about it; how he was living on a farm 10 minutes from an excellent surf spot, how there were mountains and waterfalls everywhere, and how the temperature never dropped below 70 degrees.
I had forgotten about my prayer, but I immediately told him I was very interested in moving there. He knew a guy who had started up a burger restaurant in a surf-town called Dominical and seemed convinced I could get a job.
I immediately set a plan in place, taking on a third job and saving up as much money as I could.
I knew I needed enough to live on for a little while, pay my student loan bills, and, most importantly, buy a dirt bike and surfboard. Four months later, I landed in San Jose, Costa Rica. After doing a 6-week intensive Spanish course, I hitched a ride to Dominical with a friend.
I was wide-eyed as I experienced first-hand the things my friend had described. There was no doubt in my mind that I had landed in paradise. We drove down a long, winding mountain road and turned onto the Pan-American Highway which runs along the breathtaking west coast of the country. We passed beautiful beaches, rain forests, and fed hungry monkeys hanging out on the road. We even came up on a clearing in the trees where we saw a double rainbow, and yes...it was all the way across the sky!
We arrived in Dominical on my 22nd birthday. As I walked up to the beach, I was greeted by the sight of big waves, rich coast, and the sun beginning its glorious departure behind the horizon. I was energized and anxious to get started learning the sport I had dreamed about for years...surfing.
It was finally in that moment on the beach that I remembered the simple, idealistic prayer I had voiced months before.
It came to pass precisely and completely. There was warm weather, beach, mountains, beauty, surfing, and a job grilling burgers outdoors, a baseball’s throw from the beach.
My life essentially became a continual cookout at the beach in paradise; surfing and exploring around with my new friends.
There I had been, battling to recover from a whole mess of addictions and bad decisions I had made, and God treated me to the most ideal time and place I could imagine.
I was reminded of the story Jesus told about the Lost Son. In the story, the son disgraces his father by asking him for his inheritance in advance, then spends it all on “reckless living” and prostitutes. Out of money, he took a job feeding pigs on a farm, where he became so hungry he hoped his boss would give him some of the pigs’ food.
Finally, he came to his senses and travelled back to his home, planning to beg his father to let him at least become his servant. However, when his father saw him in the distance, he ran towards him, gave him a big hug, and threw him a huge party, overjoyed that his lost son had been found.
I saw myself as the son in that story, my answered prayer the “big hug”, and my year in Costa Rica the “huge party”. I grilled (and ate) lots of burgers, surfed huge waves, dirt-biked in the mountains, explored jungles, learned Spanish, and stayed 100% clean from all my addictions. I will never forget that generous gift from God.
You may be asking yourself about now...
“Jared, if it was so great, why were you only there for a year?”
Well, I was working a minimum wage job in Latin American, which earned me precisely $2 per hour, 32 hours per week. It was enough for me to live on, but not enough to cover my $220 in monthly loan payments. My savings depleted, and I returned home to figure out what to do next.
My hatred for my debt grew, as did my desire to get out of it.
4 - New Debts and a Lesson in Grit
September 2010 - February 2011
Shortly after I came back from Costa Rica, I decided to move to Seattle, Washington.
This was a great decision. Seattle’s beauty easily rivals Costa Rica’s, and I felt at-home in the culture.
Why Seattle? At the time, I was growing in my desire to follow Jesus, but I was also very weary of “religious-types”. I had the opportunity a couple years earlier to meet a bunch of people from my sister’s church there, and I was impressed that somehow they all seemed totally committed to Jesus, but also totally cool, and most importantly, not totally weird. I saw a community of young people that were authentic, non-religious, and committed to actually live-out what they believed. I was attracted.
I was also attracted to the fact that my brother-in-law told me that there were many eligible bachelorettes there that were my age. I moved to Seattle and immediately noticed Rachel. She was beaming with life, had brown curly hair, perfect skin, and the aura of a princess. She carried a peace about her that seemed a perfect counterbalance for my continual intensity and excitement. She had her eye out for adventure, and from what I could tell, would be willing to live abroad; something I wasn’t ready to stop doing.
We happened to be peers in a class that our church was doing at the time. The class lasted a number of months, and I decided not to ask her out until after it was over. While at times I didn’t like that decision, I stuck with it, and it actually helped me to get to know her better on the front-end without some of the pressures or illusions of dating.
During this time of waiting, I became increasingly interested in Rachel. In fact, if you would have asked me back then, I would have told you that I was about 90% sure I was going to marry her.
Around the time my confidence had grown to that level, I overheard her talking with a friend one day—a conversation that revealed a giant circumstance that would mold the next three years of my life.
In it, I heard Rachel tell her friend that she was going to graduate from her university with more than $50,000 of debt.
My heart sank. More than $50,000?! How much more?? How the heck was I going to pay off both of our debts? I saw how debt affected me living overseas just a year before, and one of my top goals at the time was to get out of debt. Now, the girl I was seriously considering marrying indirectly dropped this huge bomb on me.
At the time, I owed about $18,500, which was a heavy, but seemingly manageable load to deal with. However, with this news, my thoughts raced wondering how in the world I would pay four times that amount in a reasonable time frame.
I didn’t want to live with debt one more day, much less for the 10-15 years of payments the creditors were suggesting.
I entertained the idea of not dating her, but that didn’t last more than a few seconds. I knew there was something special about this girl, and I knew that the thing I was ultimately seeking—marriage—was a beautiful, but messy and challenging thing. So, why back down from this difficult situation? Though I hated the news, I decided I would continue with my plan to begin pursuing her, and along with that plan, accept that I would share the burden of debt with her if we did, in fact, marry.
Looking back, there was something in that decision that brought me into a new level of manhood. When you make a hard decision, based in love, that puts you in a position to receive trouble and hardship on someone else’s behalf, it molds your character in a very uncomfortable yet beneficial way.
I was scared, overwhelmed, anxious, and felt pressure to get to work. While all this was going on though, there was another part of me—hidden deep down—that had no fear of such a situation. There was a part of me that craved challenge...real challenge.
I think we all have this unknown craving deep down inside us for challenge and adventure.
Just think about some of your favorite movies. They probably contain stories of immense challenge, trial, intensity, unknowns, and usually some epic, triumphal ending. We like those movies, because there is a desire built inside of us that wants to go through a similar adventure...danger and all.
A couple months before I heard the news of Rachel’s debt, I was training for my first marathon. My goal was to run it in under 4 hours. Training was going well, and I was feeling pretty good about my long-run times. Then, three weeks before the race, I injured my foot during a 20-mile run that kept me from being able to finish the training.
During those three weeks leading up to the race, I ran once...at a very slow pace, for two miles. When race day came, I showed up, telling myself I didn’t care if I had to crawl, I was going to make it to the finish line. Running it in under 4 hours would have just been a bonus at that point. My goal was simply to finish, and I chose to find the grit deep within me that would not let myself miss that goal.
A good friend of mine offered this advice: “Bro, you’re just gonna go out for a normal jog. The only difference is, when you get tired, you’re not gonna stop.”
Stopping wasn’t an option. Five miles into the race, my left knee began to hurt tremendously, and I was running with a sensitivity to my right foot’s recent injury, though it was feeling pretty good. By mile 7, I completely reinvented my stride to deal with the pain I was feeling in my knee. At mile 13, I was feeling rough and actually had a vision (or maybe a hallucination??) of Jesus with a headband and white jogging suit running next to me, smiling big, and jumping up and down, telling me that I could do it.
A couple hours later, I entered Memorial Stadium in downtown Seattle and burst into tears of joy and relief as I crossed the finish line and saw my official time on the scoreboard: 3 hours and 49 minutes. Somewhere in me during that experience, I learned that taking on a big, scary challenge would be the cause for ample celebration and victory if I endured.
My stubborn grit had taught me that, indeed, stubborn grit was exactly what ordinary people like me need to accomplish great and unlikely things.
I would love to say that I operated with this mindset all throughout our debt pay-off, but mostly it was something I knew in the back of my head. I generally got sick to my stomach when I thought about the debt and desired to be in a more comfortable situation with few intimidating circumstances.
5 - A Girlfriend and a Need for a New Plan
February 2011 - May 2011
It looked like my life was headed in the direction of marriage and deeper debt.
I began to strategize about how I could work to get us out.
For the most part, I felt completely overwhelmed and had no clue how I was going to pay such a large sum of debt. When I moved to Seattle, I was a pretty skilled tile installer and remodeler, and I planned on starting a specialty tile business after getting connected a little bit with the community and construction industry.
In the meantime, I picked up a job delivering pizzas for a startup company that sold gourmet organic pizza. The company launched with an audacious plan for growth, debuting their brand by opening 3 stores on the same day. They spent the subsequent 4 years opening 8 more stores, and I joined the crew when they had just opened their 4th store. I enjoyed the job well-enough, mostly because I got to ride around on a scooter and eat lots of pizza, but I constantly felt a fire underneath me, knowing that I could triple my income once I got my business going.
I have always taken having a strong work ethic very seriously. I suppose I can attribute this to two things:
- When I was growing up, my parents encouraged me to get a job throwing newspapers, telling me that if I wanted spending money, I had to earn it myself. I picked up a paper route when I was 10 and have been working ever since. In high school, I played drums for a punk band, and my continual need to upgrade my battered drum-kit, coupled with my desire to buy a Ford Bronco when I turned 16, gave me the financial need and motivation to carry on working diligently.
- Around the time I started my paper route, I stumbled along a piece of wisdom in a book called Colossians. It said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” When I read this, I knew it would serve me well if I put it into practice. So, at a young age I began to develop a lifestyle of putting my whole heart into everything I did.
Four months after I got my job with the pizza company, they put me in charge of the store I delivered for on Capitol Hill in Seattle. The promotion helped my wallet a bit, but it mostly just took me from “barely-scraping-by”, to just plain “scraping-by”. Making extra payments on my loans at the time wasn’t even close to a possibility.
I continued making plans and connections for starting my tile business. A few months later, there were rumors around our company about a salaried Regional Manager position opening up. I had an interest in the position because it was decent, steady money, and I was eager to learn more from the seasoned entrepreneurs who started the company, one of whom, played a key role in growing RedBox to its ubiquitous status it has today.
They ended up giving the position to another candidate who had been with the company a year longer than I had. The next day, however, the owner of the company visited my store and told me there would be a similar position opening up soon that he hoped I would fill. He gave me a window into more of their growth plan and where he saw me fitting into it.
I was honored by the gesture and genuinely interested. I also expressed to him my need for an income change soon. I was just days away from asking Rachel out, and I was increasingly aware of the possibility my debt would quadruple. I still had no conceivable, calculable plan of how to get out of all that debt, but I knew I needed to keep moving forward and find a way to make as much money as I possibly could.
During this time, I was planning for the day that I would finally begin pursuing Rachel: May 16th, 2011. It was my roommate’s birthday the night before, and I knew we would both be at his party. My plan was to stay just until midnight, when I would ask Rachel if she wanted a ride home, and then confess my feelings to her.
I was a complete mess at the party, terribly nervous and continually speculating what her response might be as I offered her my heart. We had been getting to know each other over the previous months, and I was fairly confident she was at least somewhat interested in me. However, I didn’t have much to go on, having made a conscious effort to keep some distance from her until I was ready to make my move.
I struggled to enjoy the night as I jittered and fidgeted, constantly checking my watch, anxiously awaiting 11:55pm. After the longest 2 hours and 55 minutes of my life, it was finally time. I nervously told Rachel I was headed home and offered to give her a ride. She kindly informed me that her car-owning roommate, Jocelyn, was giving her a ride home. “Sure, that makes sense,” I said, forcing a smile and looking for more courage to finish the mission.
“Here’s the thing though, I was hoping I could talk to you about something tonight, and I’d love to give you a ride home.”
She obliged, and as I took her home, my heart raced as I confessed my growing interest in her since the day we met.
I was delighted to learn that she had had feelings for me just as long as I had for her.
Then, I blushed as she commented unfavorably on my decidedly delayed initiation. But, that was the past, and our future had a first-date in the forecast just 16 hours later. I took her home and finalized my preparations for the following night.
6 - A Fiancé and a Struggling Business
May 2011 - June 2012
Dating Rachel was a blast.
The summer we started dating was also my first in the Pacific Northwest. We had picnic after picnic at various parks in Seattle overlooking its gorgeous summer views of lakes, evergreens, and the beautiful mountains that had been hiding behind the clouds all winter. We took a road trip to a German mountain-town called Leavenworth on my birthday, we saw the world premiere of “Aladdin: The Musical” at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, we borrowed my friend’s motorcycle to go explore the Olympic Peninsula in all its beauty, and we weaved through mountain roads to visit the natural hot springs in Olympic National Park.
It was a fun summer, and also a long one, as I continued to wait for my promotion at work that seemed like it would never come.
After mulling it over during a couple weeks of slow business, I decided I was going to take the plunge and leave my job to start my tile business. To be sure I wouldn’t back out on the idea, I called my boss that same day and put in my notice. I began the process of getting all my licenses and looking for clients.
I started off with a small little job doing a backsplash for a customer in her kitchen in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle. That job led to another lead with a homeowner down the street, and I also put a bid in for some tile work coming up at a new-construction job that was also happening on the same street.
During the same month, my roommates and I happened to find a new rental house just around the corner from all these jobs. It seemed like things were coming together almost magically. I signed a contract on a bathroom remodel for the homeowner, and had a strong feeling I was going to get the new-construction job, as I was working to make a good rapport with the general contractor. I was feeling positive and like everything was going to work out.
As I was doing the job for the homeowner, it was the middle of autumn, and I began shopping for an engagement ring for Rachel. My mom gave me an heirloom ring that had a number of diamonds on it but told me it would need a new setting. Almost immediately, I found the perfect design, and assuming I would get the new-construction job, I ordered it to be made, knowing that it would take 4 weeks to craft.
After I finished the job for the homeowner, I discovered that another contractor was chosen for the other job, and there began a drought of work that lasted far longer than I was comfortable with. While I was waiting for new jobs, I picked up work helping various other sub-contractors. I began nervously awaiting the phone call from my jeweler saying the ring was ready and asking for the $1,000 I owed him for the new setting. That was just about $950 more than I had in my entire bank account at the time. I had no clue what I was going to do.
As the time drew near for the ring to be ready, my mom texted me while I was working for a friend...“How much is the ring again?” I quickly texted her back the price, to which she replied, “Got it!”
I immediately faked a bathroom break and went downstairs to see what her message was all about. She told me that she sold some old jewelry to help me buy the ring and was surprised to have received more than $1,000! She sent me a check for the full amount, and the next day the jeweler called.
The ring was ready.
Aside from that story, there are no other financial victories to tell of during that time. I was bidding on jobs full-time and felt like I was spinning my wheels, as I saw the jobs continue to go to other contractors.
We got engaged on New Year’s Eve 2011, and I was increasingly aware that our wedding was getting closer and my finances getting slimmer.
Knowing that I had to take some action, I inquired about how things were going at the pizza company, which now had seven stores. I was surprised to find out that the second-in-command had just decided to leave the company for an upper-management job at Starbucks. I was confident that I had enough favor with the owner to fill his shoes.
As I started talks with the owner, I seemed to be getting a number of tile jobs coming in. I wanted to do both jobs for a while, but had to turn down the construction work after injuring my hand and struggling to find employees to get the work done in my place.
I got the job as a regional manager with the pizza company and was given responsibility over 2 stores, the company’s payroll, and the general operating systems. It was a consistent $30,000/year salary plus bonuses, which wasn’t awful for a 24-year-old without a college degree, but the amount was simply not enough to get us out of debt quickly. It was at least half of what I expected to make with a busy construction business.
At any rate, I was thankful for the opportunity and for the work, and I began to learn a ton about business and leadership while I was in that role. I knew the experience was far more valuable than the salary.
Meanwhile, Rachel was finishing her last few months at school, where she was earning a Studio Art Degree. After she graduated, our wedding planning went into full gear. We also went to her “Student Loan Exit Counseling” together, which was a bit depressing and unhelpful.
Shortly after that meeting, we calculated up Rachel’s debt owed on her four different loans that got her through school. The total: $55,000.
At the time, I owed about $17,500 on my loans, making our total debt $72,500.
We knew previously that it would be in that ballpark, but it was still a tough pill to swallow when we had the actual number staring at us.
7 - A Sacred Day and a Scary Goal
On August 11th, 2012, I married the girl of my dreams.
The wedding was great. We had a live band do all of the music, headed up by my good friend Mike, who did an incredible job. Our friend Steven does slam poetry and performed his poem “The Hotel of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. Rachel’s sister did an interpretive dance to one of Rachel’s favorite songs, and my friend Andrew performed the ceremony in a skillful and entertaining way.
We washed each other’s feet during the ceremony, and afterwards, enjoyed a great buffet of fresh Northwest berries, specialty East Coast “boiled” bagels and spreads (including a killer Seattle salmon cream cheese), and it was all topped off with a variety of home-baked pies. All of our friends and family were there, and it truly felt like a sacred day.
We spent the night in a mansion turned bed-and-breakfast on Seattle’s former “Millionaire Row” in Capitol Hill. The next morning we met my whole side of the family at Salty’s on Alki Beach for an incredible gourmet brunch buffet. It was so great to have family in from all over the world, and to eat such great food with them!
Right after brunch, we hopped in my truck, which my friend Josh had thoroughly cleaned and outfitted with a tandem kayak, and we made our way up to the San Juan Islands which sit in between the mainland of the state of Washington and Vancouver Island.
On our honeymoon, we did a lot of relaxing and lying around. We watched Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, ate out at a lot of incredible restaurants, did some kayaking, explored the islands, and even ran across some porpoises in the water one day.
We got in the hot tub at our resort often, and traveled to a couple of the other islands to explore them as well. All in all, it was a fun time of relaxing and enjoying each other’s company, free of the responsibility and fast pace of the weeks leading up to the wedding.
On one of the last days there, we hiked up Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. Some friends of ours had recently done a small retreat, where they spent time praying and asking God for direction in various areas of their life. When we heard about it, we thought it would be good for us to do as well. We had just started our new lives together and felt like we could use some direction.
When we reached the summit, we got out the lists of questions we made and sat separately for a couple hours while we prayed and asked God about all sorts of areas in our lives. As I looked at my list of questions, I valued them all, but I was most curious about what I would hear when I asked about our debt. The main question we asked was this:
How long should we expect it to take to pay it all off?
On our descent down the mountain, we talked about our time and what we felt like God was saying. I was shocked by the answer I got to the debt question, and to be honest, wasn’t sure if I heard correctly. I felt like He said that we would pay it off “by the end of the school year”. I interpreted this as the college school year, so figured it would be about a year’s time. That seemed completely beyond possible to me, and when I shared it with Rachel, she agreed. Either it was impossible, or some miracle was going to happen.
Well, the response she heard wasn’t much more realistic, as she felt like God said we would pay it off in two years. I was surprised and encouraged to hear that at least I wasn’t the only one with an insanely audacious answer to the question.
Before going on that hike, we would have both agreed that it was going to take us 5-10 years to pay off our debt. I dreaded the thought of living on a tight budget and paying off debt for 5-10 years. At that rate, I would have been somewhere between 30 and 35 by the time we were free to do any traveling or we could feel good about spending any disposable income.
All that to say, I was half encouraged and half dumbfounded by the result of our time on the mountain.
We didn’t really get much direction on the debt issue other than our conclusion that it would somehow only take us 1-2 years to conquer it.
There was also one other out-of-the-box thing I got direction for on the mountain, based off a crazy idea I came up with a couple months before. It came when my friend Josh and I went on a long-distance kayak adventure in the waters of Seattle that summer. Seattle is incredible for such a trip, because right to its east is Lake Washington, right in the middle of the city is Lake Union, and right to its west is the Puget Sound. All three bodies of water are connected by canals and a lock system that changes the water level to let boats pass through to the ocean.
Our journey started on the east side of Mercer Island and went through every body of water I just described, all the way to Golden Gardens Park on the Puget Sound in Northwest Seattle. In all, the journey was about 16 miles and took 4.5 hours to complete. It was one of the most fun and beautiful adventures I have taken.
At the time, I knew that I was going to be opening a new store for my company on the other side of Lake Washington. I had this crazy idea during our journey that I could commute to work by kayak, rather than using the toll-bridge that was always jammed with traffic.
As I quickly thought of all the practicalities and time it would take to make that happen, I knew the only way I could justify doing it was if I made it a second job by somehow getting someone to sponsor me; like an energy drink company or something.
Personally, the only energy product I liked, other than coffee, was 5-Hour ENERGY. I then got this crazy idea to make a video of myself biking, then kayaking, then running to my new store in Redmond and asking them to sponsor and pay me to do this on a regular basis.
I was always amused by this idea and thought it would be really fun, but mostly I just wrote it off as crazy. However, for some reason, I put it on my list of questions to ask God about on the mountain, and what I heard was a simple, “Do it. It will be successful”.
I shrugged my shoulders and figured I might as well give it a try.
8 - 8 Months and 6 Grand
September 2012 - April 2013
Coming home after our honeymoon, we began our new life together. We merged our finances and had our new goal of paying off our $72,500 of student loan debt in 1-2 years. Was it possible? We weren’t sure. Were we believing and living like it was going to happen? We were trying.
Right after we got married, Rachel got the best job she could quickly find, which was working full-time at a deli in a fancy grocery store near our apartment in Seattle’s U-District. It paid $12/hr, which averaged out to about $20,000/year, accounting for inconsistent scheduling.
So, with a combined $50k/year coming in, we weren’t exactly well on the way to meeting our goal. We were living on a strict budget in an expensive city and wanted to continue giving 10% of our income, like we had always done before.
After our tightly-budgeted monthly expenses, we had $750/month leftover to put toward loans. Of course, that’s a lot of money to be spending each month paying off debt, but at that rate, it would have taken us 8 years to finish. That was way too long, especially to live on the kind of budget we had chosen…eventually all your clothes wear out!
That points us back to the title of this chapter; within the first 8 months of being married, we only paid off 6 grand. It was April 2013 and we were still $66,000 in debt. We felt discouraged to say the least. We knew something had to change, but we weren’t really sure what to do.
During this time, I followed through on my video idea with 5-Hour ENERGY.
I delayed making my video out of doubt that it was worth my time, but I finally finished it a few months after our honeymoon and sent it to two addresses I found for the marketing department of the company. A week later, one of the letters came back, return-to-sender.
One day a couple months later, I woke up, checked my email, and was pleasantly surprised by what was waiting for me. I was still getting my eyes focused when I saw an email from someone at 5-Hour ENERGY with the subject: “Got your proposal”.
The email read:
Hello. I received your proposal and watched your video. Nice job. I recognized the Washington State area right away. It’s lovely. I’d like to talk to you further about this proposed project. While I don’t see it working on TV, we are looking for web and social content to share with our thousands of followers. Serializing your story into multiple episodes could work great. I know you want to get out from under student loans. Maybe we can help a little. Please write back when you get a chance or give me a call.
I couldn’t believe it. We talked back and forth and eventually landed on the decision for me to just make a few edits on my video, add a voiceover, and send it back to him in his requested format. In exchange, they gave me $2,500! It was a smaller scale than my original idea, but I received the check in June, having totaled a little over 10 hours of work on the project! If you do the math, that’s a fine hourly rate.
I was pretty excited.
Another big thing that happened during this time was that Rachel and I decided to pull an audacious move and make plans to go on our first international adventure as a married couple, even before we were close to being out of debt. We figured if we continued working hard and praying hard, we would make our 1-2 year goal.
We talked it over with some trusted friends and decided that we would make plans to move to Morocco the following summer. Why Morocco? We had traveled there with a group of friends before we started dating and really enjoyed the place; it had surfing, exotic locations, friendly people, warm weather, a booming construction industry, and a cheap cost of living. It was also a quick, cheap flight away from anywhere in Europe.
We knew we wanted to live in another country for a while after getting married, so we chose to go back where we had a little familiarity, a connection in the tourism industry, and some other business opportunities.
Then, we did something that scared me. We sent out an email to all our friends and family telling them our plan—that we were going to try to pay off all our debt in 12 months, and hopefully leave for Morocco in June 2014.
I’m sure everyone thought we were crazy.
Amidst all of this, I knew we needed to make changes in how we were approaching paying off our debt. A potential opportunity came up for me to partner with a friend of mine and his business partner to start flipping houses. That had actually been a dream of mine for a while, and I was excited that they were interested in flipping houses with me.
We began the process, but in the end, it didn’t work out. However, my takeaway from the experience was that I really missed construction, and I was reminded of my earning potential if I could find a way to keep my dormant business full of work.
9 - Chasing Greener Grass
March 2013 - July 2013
At the beginning of 2013, after the flipping houses opportunity came and went, I began to keep my options open and look for opportunities to increase my income. I toyed-around with a number of side-business ideas, but ultimately decided not to do them because of our plans to move after we got out of debt.
I needed a short-term, quick-earning solution. I couldn’t really get a second job, because I was in a salaried, somewhat chaotic position that had me working well beyond 40 hours per week.
In March, I got an unexpected call from a contact from my dormant tile business. He told me he had several projects coming up, and he wanted me to be his go-to tile guy. I updated him on my work situation, and he offered to employ me as a laborer in between the tile jobs. It seemed to be a great setup; he offered me $17/hr in between tile jobs, and then would let me make bids on the tile work with my normal business rate (ranging anywhere from $30-$40/hour).
Around this same time, my boss at the pizza business began buttering me up for a new position that was going to be created around the end of the year. It was a position that would oversee all the Seattle stores, essentially replacing the work he was doing in Seattle. The salary potential had a wide range of $50k-$80k/year.
It was far beyond anything anyone had ever offered me.
I was honored by the likelihood of being selected for the position, and it really made my decision a hard one. Ultimately though, the position was at least a year away from being created, and I decided to leave the company to move toward raising my earning potential in the short-term. I started working with the contractor, which turned out to be a great learning experience for me.
Every time I work with a new contractor, I try to learn as much as I can to advance my knowledge and skills in the industry. The time with the company was invaluable for me, but I was barely earning more money since all the tile work was still in the distance. Also, the culture at the small company wasn’t great and seemed to consistently be getting worse. Rather than respect and teamwork, there was constant distrust and disrespect. Around the time all this started to get to me, I had two other construction opportunities knocking on my door…
...almost banging down the door.
The first was from a neighbor and friend of mine who was a general contractor/handyman. Agustin was born in Mexico, but spent his whole adult life in Seattle. I originally made friends with Agustin by speaking to him in Spanish (even though his English is near-perfect) every time I saw him around the apartment complex we lived in.
I had worked with him just once or twice before, but we had a mutual respect for each other, and he appreciated my work ethic and knowledge. He began to get a lot of work coming in and persistently asked me to start working for him as soon as possible. He offered me $20/hr plus the occasional bonus.
I knew from before that he was a joy to work for and always positive, respectful, and encouraging. There was only one catch…he couldn’t guarantee to keep me busy consistently throughout the year, and he lacked the offer of occasional tile work at my business rate. I knew that if I left my job to work for him, I would need to have some other work lined up.
In comes the second opportunity...
I had a friend and business contact that had bought a beautiful, but very old and run-down Victorian house in Seattle’s U-District, just 4 blocks from our apartment. Dr. Smith was going to move into the house after doing a full remodel, and he had a general contractor doing work for him for about 3 or 4 months.
After the contractor finished the mother-in-law basement and structural work, he and the homeowner began to have some differences and decided to part ways. So, there was a half-remodeled house, just a few blocks from my apartment with no one chosen yet to finish it.
The homeowner was feeling a bit burnt-out from working with contractors and had put a pause on the project. I had done work for him before and was good friends with his son-in-law. I wondered if I might somehow get the opportunity to finish the work on his house.
I came to him and told him that I was thinking of leaving my job to work for Agustin but was expecting there to be times when we were in-between jobs and I would need some extra work to keep me busy. I asked him if he thought he might have some projects for me, and he expressed enough interest to make me feel comfortable moving forward.
I began to wonder if I was crazy to keep leaving steady jobs for less steady ones, but I was looking at the risk/reward scale and knew I needed to take some risks to get the reward I was looking for. I was wanting to move-on from the company I was at and learn from Agustin who is proficient in just about every trade in the business. Also, I knew there was potential to do work on Dr. Smith’s house, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like.
I knew if I made this move, I’d be jumping off a cliff into a new adventure of risk, unknowns, and potential rewards.
10 - Increasing the Workload
July 2013 - September 2013
In July of 2013, I started working for Agustin.
I had a blast on his job sites, because he was such a great guy to work for. I expanded my knowledge on some new trades, kept my Spanish alive, and enjoyed a free lunch every Friday, courtesy of El Hefe. I stayed pretty busy with his business until the end of September, when things started to slow down.
There was a week in the middle of that time where Agustin went out of town, and I checked to see if Dr. Smith had any small projects that needed tackling. He didn’t seem ready to pick things up again at the house and was headed out of town two days later, showing little interest in getting any work started with me. Knowing I was going to have a week with no work, I stayed persistent and discovered a simple, little project that I could do while he was gone.
I pointed it out to him and told him I could type up a bid for the work and have the project done by the time he got back. He was pleased with my idea and agreed the work needed to be done soon. I returned the following day with my price, and he wrote me a check for the deposit right before he left town. I had no idea how much my relationship with Dr. Smith—and my persistent act—would help me in the future.
During our time in Seattle, we really enjoyed being a part of our church, specifically being a part of their college ministry and mentoring young men and women. We were carrying a pretty active role and had no desire to discontinue doing what we were doing with them.
However, I came to a point where I realized our plan for getting out of debt was a bit lop-sided. We were going off of this “1-2 year word” that we had received on the mountain top, but I became concerned that we weren’t doing enough to play our part to make this audacious goal come to pass.
Although some interesting work opportunities were in the pipeline, we still had made very little progress.
When August 2013 came around, a year after our honeymoon, we were still $60,000 in the hole. We had only managed to put aside an average of $1,000/month, and that was including my payday from 5-Hour ENERGY.
My friend Paul was working as the second-in-command at our church and was aware of our desire to get out of debt and live abroad. I was talking to him one day and just vented out a lot of my frustrations about our situation. I knew I wanted to continue to have faith that God was going to do what He said, but we also needed to kick it into “high gear” on our end and start doing everything we possibly could to make more money.
I told him we loved what we were doing with the church but wondered if it would just be better for us to take a step back from it so Rachel and I could get second jobs in order to increase our debt payments. We had each been investing about 20 hours per week of our time with the church.
I wondered out loud if the only way to avoid having to stop investing our time with the church, would be to make our work with the church our second jobs by coming on as paid staff. The idea was completely out of the box, but we were both intrigued by it. They valued the work we were doing and didn’t want us to have to leave. He said he would check in with the leader of the church and some other people and get back to me.
About a week later, he called me and told me that they wanted to go ahead with the idea, essentially employing us both to do about 30-40 hours per week. It came at a good time, because they were starting to partner with a homeless shelter in Seattle and needed someone with experience to coordinate volunteers and make sure things went smoothly.
Because of my year in England working at a homeless shelter, I was the ideal guy to fit the role, and it happened to come up at the same time I was suggesting to be hired. Also, they wanted Rachel to head-up designing and remodeling several rooms in the office space. We all agreed, and made the plan for us to begin a “seasonal job” with them in October 2013, lasting until June 2014.
Our combined monthly salary was $2,550, just enough to cover our monthly living expenses. We were only earning about $9/hour each, but it was worth it for us to continue doing something we believed in.
As in most times of transition in our lives, we prayed through all the decisions we made during this time. We felt God leading us in each of these decisions, and He also spoke something to Rachel that she felt pretty strongly about, but had no idea what it meant.
What did she hear? “April”. That’s it. The word April. She had felt it so strong that at one point she got very frustrated with me that I wasn’t taking it seriously enough.
Newly married and rough around the edges, I bit back, “What in the world can I do about the word ‘April’? There’s no application here. I’ll keep it in mind, but I can’t just make up a meaning for it. We gotta keep moving forward!”
Indeed, there was something significant there, but we wouldn’t know it until much later.
11 - Knocking on Opportunity's Door
September 2013 - October 2013
By the middle of September, it appeared that work was dying down a bit for Agustin, and the awareness of my need for work spiked. I paid Dr. Smith a visit to see how he was feeling about things at his house. Indeed, he was feeling a new sense of urgency after his home insurance company gave him an ultimatum.
During the summer, they added some square-footage to his kitchen, and there were still no windows, doors, or siding on the add-on to protect the house from the fast-approaching winter. The insurance company told him that if he didn’t get the place covered up by the end of October, they would no longer insure the house.
It was as if our paths met perfectly.
I was desperate to find some high quality work, and he was desperate to have someone button-up the exterior of his house ASAP. I was in the right place at the right time, and I discovered that Dr. Smith really liked my work and the proposal I came up with on the previous project.
What was my proposal? That we would tackle the huge project by breaking it up into smaller projects with a defined price and time period. That was in stark contrast from the setup he had before, where he was paying the contractor hourly, without much defined limits or boundaries in place. The job had begun to feel like an endless, mysterious money pit.
I just had one last hurdle to jump over. Up to this point, Dr. Smith had only hired me to do tile work, and indeed, he had only seen my tile work. My skills and knowledge in the trades had advanced leaps and bounds since my original attempt at just a tile business, but it remained that I hadn’t fully convinced him of my ability to do all the work that was in front of us. My confidence was almost completely there, but at 26 years old, it was easy for me to question if I could do it all ‘on-my-own’, despite all my experience and comfort with my abilities.
We reviewed different aspects of the job, and he picked and chose what he wanted me to do. His thought was to hire another sub-contractor to do the siding and carpentry work, which was quite intricate and complex, particularly the trim around the doors and windows. Indeed, carpentry had quickly become my favorite trade, and siding was something that I had plenty of recent experience in.
When I went home that night, I had thought about all my skills and background and knew completely that I could tackle all of the work. I also knew that if I didn’t take the entirety of the exterior project, I might end up competing with another contractor for future work.
I made Doug two quotes. The first was for the work he asked me to bid on. The second was for all the work I knew needed to be done on the exterior in order for the insurance company to be at ease.
When I returned the next day, I said, “So, here’s the bid you asked for, but truth be told Dr. Smith, I can do all of this work. If you decide you want me to finish up the whole exterior, this is my price, and I can have it done in 3 weeks.” I handed him the other bid sheet, which was complete with a list of all the tasks, materials, and terms of contract.
I stood nervous, but trying to exert confidence as he looked at my bid sheet that he didn’t ask for.
He looked up at me, then back at the sheet. I remained nervous. Then, I saw a smile cross his face as he looked up and extended his hand...
“Alright, let’s do it!”
We both signed the contract on the biggest job I had negotiated up to that time: $6,750 for me and my worker’s labor. While I knew well how to bid on tile work, I was incredibly thankful to Agustin for coming out to the job-site with me and coaching me on making bids for larger, multi-trade jobs.
That night I called a good friend of mine that needed a job, asked him to join me for the work, and the next day we got started. It took a while for Dr. Smith and I to get comfortable working together, but after a few days, there came a moment where I knew I had probably won myself the remaining work on the house.
It came when Dr. Smith and I were discussing what to do about the intricate, complex trim work I mentioned before. We knew what the end product needed to look like, but we disagreed on exactly how I was going to get it there. I offered an idea that he had already thought of but didn’t think was feasible to pull off. I insisted that it would work, and eventually just asked him to trust me and let me try it on one window so he could see.
When he came home from work the next day, he walked up to my carpentry work on the window and examined it. I watched in suspense as he took the time to quietly look it over. He was exceedingly pleased with what he saw, happily admitted I was right, gave me a big high five, and wore a huge smile on his face during the rest of our conversation.
I knew I had gained his trust as I perceived that a big relief and joy had come over him, knowing his house was in good hands that came at a reasonable, defined price. Truly, my price was a win for both of us, as he was saving money from his previous contractor, and I walked away from that job having made about $37/hour.
I was also now his go-to guy for the remaining projects. I was incredibly encouraged and filled with new hope for our financial situation.
12 - Progress, At Last!
October 2013 - November 2013
After that first big project with Dr. Smith, I continued to bid on project after project at his house, staying abundantly busy on the remodel, which had plenty of work remaining to be done.
Driving four blocks to work from my house was a dream, because my schedule was so busy. It also just happened that my favorite coffee shop was halfway between my house and his, where almost everyday I bought an 8 oz drip coffee for exactly $1.
I continued to make $35-$40 per hour during that time, working 40-50 hours a week with my construction work, and putting in 30-35 hours with my responsibilities at our church.
A typical work day for me started at 5am and ended around 8:30pm, usually 6 days a week. Saturdays were our day to catch up on sleep and rest, and they truly were a lifesaver for us, because I think we both might have fallen over dead if we hadn’t rested a full day each week.
Meanwhile, Rachel got a better job, leaving her work at the deli to start a nanny job, working 25 hours per week at $17 per hour. She worked less and made more per hour, which really helped her to balance out her schedule. Like me, she was working 30-35 hours per week with our church, and we decided together that—because of my higher earning potential—Rachel would run all the affairs of our home including all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
She sacrificed so much of her time and energy to help me continue to get things done on the job-site, and I’m so grateful for all she did. She even came and dropped off a lunch for me every day on her way to work.
It was during October of 2013 that we felt like we really hit a flow with our debt pay-off. When we first got married, we were putting about $750 toward loans each month. Once October hit, we began to consistently pay $4,000 - $6,000 each month on our loans.
We were really cooking, and it felt great to finally have some solid momentum. It was also fulfilling for me that—for 3 years—I had been trying to make my construction company busy and successful, and then all at once, I became slammed with work, and not just with the job at Dr. Smith’s house. I frequently had people calling me, asking me to do their roof, kitchen floor, bathroom remodels, and restaurant-space remodels.
I had the luxury of picking and choosing which jobs I took, and many times I had to turn down work because I had so much already. I was very grateful for the abundance of work coming to me. Much of it came from the seeds I had planted when I first started my business but struggled to actually see work come in.
My encouragement about the actualization of our opportunities quickly met the reality of the challenges that came with them. We had finally found our groove financially; what I call the “Prime Payoff Position”. Now we just had to work it.
And work we did.
This is roughly what my schedule looked like:
- 4:45-5:00am - Wake up, throw on boots, $1 coffee at McDonald’s drive-thru (I know, I know; living in Seattle, it’s basically a crime to get your morning coffee from McDonald’s when there’s such a wealth of great coffee shops, but at 4:52am, I couldn’t be bothered to make it myself and no one else was open).
- 5:00-7:30am - Arrive at church office, work on administrative tasks, and ask God to help us and give me strength for the day.
- 7:30-8:00am - Eat breakfast and head to job-site.
- 8:00am-4:30pm - Remodel: tear-down, clean-up, buy materials, install, repeat. 30-minute lunch and free coffee on lumber store visits.
- 4:30-5:00pm - Go home, take a shower, and eat a snack of peanut butter, chocolate, and raw milk. Hopefully sit down for five minutes.
- 5:00-8:30pm - Administrative tasks, mentor college students, check-in with homeless shelter, respond to needs, and somehow find something to eat.
- 8:30-9:30pm - Come home, connect with Rachel, and go to sleep.
Do as little as possible, catch up on personal stuff, and have fun with friends.
- 7:00am-1:30pm - Involved in all aspects of church operations.
- 1:30-8:30pm - Lunch w/friends or family, accounting (11 total accounts between business, personal, and loans), input job receipts, make new bids, construction meetings with Dr. Smith or other clients, and of course, watch the Seahawks dominate every week on their way to Super Bowl 48.
Yes. Progress, at last…from the trenches.
13 - Lights of Hope
January 2014 - February 2014
By the time January 2014 came around, we had been sustaining our schedule for a few months. We were tired but feeling encouraged about our progress. As we started 2014, we were down to owing $45,000.
One morning, I had a meeting with a friend at 5am. I arrived a few minutes early and just sat in my truck until he arrived. I began to pray while I was sitting there, and all of a sudden something very unexpected happened.
I felt the presence of God fill my truck. I felt very good and very light, like I was high. Then, it was as if Jesus was sitting right next to me in my truck, and we began to have a very brief, strange conversation. I didn’t see him with my eyes, or hear him with my ears, but it was the most real spiritual experience I have ever had. I knew that I was talking to Jesus and hearing him clearly. I was not dreaming.
This was our conversation—call me crazy—word for word:
- Jesus: Jared, do you want to ask me for some money?
- Me: Uhhh, yea?
- Jesus: Ok, how much?
- Me: Uhhh, $10,000? (I was completely shocked by the conversation I was having and just said the first number that came to mind)
- Jesus: How about $20,000?
- Me: Ok!
- Me: So, when should I expect this $20,000 to come in?
- Jesus: By the end of April.
- Me: Ok, well should I do anything differently from what I’m doing now? (“Like, work less???”)
- Jesus: Nope, keep doing exactly what you’re doing.
That was it.
Ok, so plenty of times, I have told our story to people who tend to be a little skeptical, or maybe don’t even believe in God at all.
Typically, when I arrive to this part, they give me weird looks and think I’m crazy, if they didn’t already think that by this point. Every time, I just smile and tell them to hang on until the end of the story. I have yet to get to the end with someone still thinking I was crazy or making it up.
Truth be told, though, I felt like it was a bit crazy, and I avoided telling my wife about it for over six weeks. I was 100% sure the experience happened, but my faith it would actually come to pass hovered around 50%. In fact, I only told one person during that time about the conversation, and that was my friend Shelby. I knew he was a man of faith and would encourage me to believe what I had heard.
Finally after six or seven weeks, in late February 2014, I told Rachel about it while we were eating dinner one night. I casually asked, “Oh hey, did I ever tell you about what I heard from God?” When I recounted the conversation, her face lit up as she jumped out of her chair to grab her journal.
She showed me in her journal that, just two weeks earlier, she had been at work feeling exhausted and vented to God, “how much longer do we need to be working like this? I am getting really tired!” Immediately, she felt like she heard the response, “Rachel, I will be true to my promise, and you will be out of debt by the end of April.”
We were so happy and encouraged to hear that we had heard almost the exact same thing from God, and seemingly out of nowhere! We both felt a fresh wind in our sails as we saw that God was showing us He was serious about answering our prayers, and He was alluding to something big happening in April.
The cool thing about this too was—by this point—we were actually on track to be out of debt by September 2014. There was an end in sight no matter what, but now it seemed as though we might get some sort of miraculous shortcut to our debt-freedom, although we had no idea what that would look like.
We kept on working.
14 - Never-Ending Work
February 2014 - March 2014
The first few months of 2014 were marked by toil, lack of sleep, and a dull, day-by-day working of the plan. My highlight from those months was definitely when the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl 48 in an incredibly decisive fashion. I stayed entertained at work listening to the Seattle sports-radio guys have the most exciting months of their careers.
By the time March came to an end, we had paid our loans down to $28,000.
We were making great progress, and we were feeling the price that it came at. We had been sustaining our busy schedules for over 5 months.
It kind of felt like being near the end of a long work day and looking at the clock, seeing a whole two hours remaining and wondering how we will possibly make it until the end. Except that by March, I began to feel like I never “got off” from work, and more like I just went home to sleep, only to come right back before the sun even came up.
I was at the point of “looking at my watch”, but instead of their being 2 hours left, I saw $28,000 left.
The work was growing on me, and I was getting tired. I remember calling Andrew, a friend and mentor of mine, feeling pretty low and emotional. I felt ready to give up, and I made it clear in no fuzzy terms. Thankfully, he is a good friend and knew that I needed to be encouraged and challenged in that moment. He pushed back at me, telling me to continue persevering and reminded me of our incredible, recent progress.
It wasn’t shortly after that conversation, that my friend Shelby sent me an odd message. It said, “I had a dream last night that someone gave you guys a stack of one hundred dollar bills. Praying it happens!” When I saw this message, it instantly put a huge smile on my face followed by one of those laughs that comes out when you feel like you’re going crazy. It was a laugh of relief, a reminder that God was hinting at doing something big for us, and also an expression of my exhaustion.
Do you remember at the end of Chapter 10 how Rachel got the solo word “April” from God, and we had a little scuff about what to do with it? Well, during the whole time leading up to April, even after these three other signs, we never remembered how Rachel had strongly felt God speak that word “April” to her.
Still, the ‘word’ remained amongst the others, maybe even laughing at us, as we struggled and our faith ebbed and flowed.
15 - April Comes...And Goes?
When April started, we still owed $28,000. We hadn’t brought our loan balance down at all since the beginning of March, because I was owed quite a bit of money from some other clients that were late in paying me.
Even though it had been a while since I got paid, a few exciting things happened for us financially in April:
- Rachel got rear-ended by someone at a stop sign. She was ok, but had a little soreness in her neck. After a couple physical therapy visits and talks with the other guys’ insurance company, Rachel was feeling better and we got cut a $2,500 check to settle with the insurance company. Free money!!
- My dad was very kindly paying $250/month on one of our loans. In addition to being a generous father, I think he also felt bad that he had pressured me to go to college, therefore taking on debt, when I wasn’t really ready to. He had been doing this for about two years, and one day I asked him how much longer he thought he could continue paying on my loan. It had a balance of around $11,000, and he told me he planned to continue making those payments for another two years, which comes to about $6,000. I asked him if it would be ok for me to make a $5,000 payment and then transfer the rest of the payments over to him. He agreed, and in a moment, we took $6,000 off of our goal. Thanks dad!!!
- Then finally, I persistently tracked down all the money that was owed me, and by the 3rd week of April, it all came in. It was from a few different projects I did around Seattle and totaled about $9,000.
After using a large chunk of this money to pay our taxes, I took the leftovers and made a huge payment on our loans that got our balance down to just under $14,000.
Wow, that was a good feeling!
We were finally down to just one loan after starting with five, and we were under the $20,000 mark. It really felt like a milestone and like victory was just around the corner. When calculated at the pace we were going at, it was now just three months around the corner.
We also became increasingly aware that the end of April was rapidly approaching. We had seen a lot of progress that month, but would April pass by with us still in debt? Would the month come and go without anything miraculous happening like we were hoping?
We were growing antsy as the month came to a close, and on April 29th, I began crunching a whole bunch of numbers to find out exactly where we stood financially.
I was shocked to calculate that—after everything listed above and our various incomes—we had brought in a total of $22,000 in April. That was definitely a record for us, but it was also an anomaly...much of that money coming in “past due”, by transferring $6,000 of debt to my dad, and from the fender-bender.
When I knew we had brought in more than $20,000 in April, I began to question what it meant. Could this have been the $20,000 that Jesus had said He would “give” me? Yes, we did have $8,500 come in that was essentially free, but we earned the other $13,500.
I felt incredibly disappointed at the thought that this could be the fulfillment of that conversation in my truck back in January.
At the same time, I felt bad even thinking that. It was such a blessing that we were making so much money and only had $14,000 in loans left. I felt that God had provided us with so many great work opportunities, and I couldn’t take all the credit for our progress.
At any rate, the mix of disappointment, gratitude, and the awareness that there was only one day left in April, plus my built-up exhaustion from so much working, put me into a strange place emotionally.
I just felt broken. That’s the best way I can describe it. I remember sending a long message to my friend Andrew, venting my exhaustion, frustration, and disappointment, followed by my decision again to be grateful, and look completely to God for my joy and peace, not my desired circumstance.
The next morning, April 30th, was my third morning in a row to arrive at the job-site at 6:00am. I was helping my plumber finish up some work on the master bathroom before he had to leave for his other job at 8:00am. By the time 10:00am rolled around, I was walking around like a zombie, feeling tired and having lost all hope that we would actually become debt-free in April. I was also fully aware that it was the last day of the month. I was considering just leaving work early that day.
When 2:30pm came, I was about to call it quits for the day when my friend Paul called me.
- Paul: “Hey bro, what are you doing?”
- Me: “Oh just working, like always. What are you doing?”
- Paul: “I got two important things to talk to you about. First, I might have found a ski-boat that we can borrow for free for the summer (We both lived very close to Lake Washington). The only catch is that we would have to go pick it up in Idaho. Would you want to take that trip with me?”
- Me: “Awesome! I would be interested. When?”
- Paul: “I don’t know yet, but I’ll keep you updated. So, the other thing is that I need you to come to my office this afternoon.”
- Me: (The tone in Paul’s voice seemed very strange.) “Why?”
- Paul: “Because someone just anonymously gave me a huge wad of cash to give to you guys, and it is too much for me to keep here overnight. In fact, you need to come get it right away and take it straight to the bank.”
What?! Could it be??
Too much for him to keep overnight??
It sounded like a ton of cash. Tears immediately filled my eyes as I felt overwhelmed by God’s love. There I was, having lost all hope of something miraculous happening, aware probably more than anyone on the planet that it was the last day of April, and I got news of a “huge wad of cash” waiting for me with my name on it.
I immediately executed a simple, three-step plan:
- Step 1: Hide in the bathroom until I can make it look like I’m not crying. After all, I was wearing a tool belt and leading a construction crew.
- Step 2: Come out of the bathroom, play it cool, and tell my workers to clean up the job-site and go home early.
- Step 3: Hop into my truck, head to Paul’s office, and go see what in the world this wad of cash was about.
As soon as I got into my truck, I started crying again. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. Tears of knowing that God cares about what’s going on in my life. Then, I pulled it together, telling myself not to get my hopes up yet, not knowing how much money was actually there.
When I got to Paul’s office, he handed me a black gift bag that was overflowing with shredded office paper. I yanked out the paper, and inside I found a glorious answer to prayer. I removed a thick stack of one hundred dollar bills. LOTS of them. It was rolled up in a rubber band, about the size of a baseball. The tears came back as I looked up at Paul and asked, “how much is here?” He said with a smile, “I don’t know. Let’s count.”
We divided the stack and began counting.
- Me: “How much you got?”
- Paul: “$7,000. How much you got?”
- Me: “I’ve got a little over $8,000.”
- I paused in shock.
- Me: “That means there’s like 15,000 bucks here.”
- I paused again, forgetting for a moment how much we still owed...
“Dude, we only owe $14,000...I’m debt free!”
16 - Celebration Turns to Devastation
As the truth set in, I felt a sense of peace and relief.
We had been working so hard towards our goal, and then all of the sudden, we were freely catapulted to the finish line. It was an incredibly humbling and peaceful feeling. I felt well taken care of.
It was so encouraging how God spoke and then provided:
- He gave Rachel the “April” word a year-and-a-half before.
- He spoke to me in my truck about giving us $20,000 in April (which ended up being $23,500 when adding all the free money we received that month).
- He spoke to Rachel about us being out of debt in April.
- He gave Shelby the dream about someone giving us a stack of $100 bills.
And EVERY single one of those words came true accurately.
I had Paul come with me to the bank to help explain to the banker why I had $15,135.16 in cold, hard cash. Then, I went straight home to make the final payment I would ever make on a student loan. As if the day wasn’t glorious enough, when I checked the mail on my way into our apartment, I saw that we received our new passports for our upcoming move.
It seemed like the heavens were opening up for us to carry on with our plans for adventure and business in a foreign country. I paid off our last loan, prepared to break the news to Rachel, and set up plans to take out Andrew and his wife to a gourmet dinner that night…on me, of course!
When Rachel got home from work around 6pm, she found a note on the door telling her I had a surprise for her and that we were going out for dinner. We had been using a big drawing of the Seattle Space Needle as a sort of “debt-meter”, and we painted it in every time we made a payment. Rachel walked in the house to see our Space Needle completely painted in, surrounded by printed pictures of the large amount of cash that we had received earlier that day.
I told her what happened that afternoon. Like me, she was in total shock, bearing a huge smile on her face. We hugged each other, repeated over and over to each other that we were out of debt, and then spent some time praying and thanking God for His faithfulness in getting us through the long and trying journey.
We celebrated with our friends that night for dinner, and I happily picked up the $200 bill. It was such a strange feeling to pay that kind of money for a dinner after so much time of skimping on spending.
The next day, I declared a holiday and skipped work. My brother went with us to the top of the Space Needle, where we celebrated, enjoyed the day, and took pictures of us with our Space Needle Debt-Meter; on top of the tower and on top of the world. It was a warm Seattle day, and we had not a penny of debt to our name.
I remember FaceTime-ing my dad from the top, and breaking the news to him. He was beyond ecstatic. He had been praying for that moment for us every day for years.
Later that afternoon, Rachel had to go to work, but my brother and I took to the lake and went tubing and riding around on our friend’s boat (the boat Paul and I would later replace after our road-trip to Idaho).
I resumed work the next day, still having commitments to my various jobs. I knew that I had some weeks, maybe even months ahead of me with my busy work schedule, but it was a whole different playing field mentally and emotionally. Now, I knew that I could KEEP all the money I was making. I was working for myself now, not my creditors.
There were all sorts of things that we could actually start buying.
- Replace our ancient computers with new MacBooks.
- Buy Rachel a wedding band to match her engagement ring.
- I could get back on health insurance.
- We could replace our wearing clothes.
- I could afford my goal of going to a bunch of Seattle Mariners games that summer before we moved.
- And, of course, put lots of money away for our new adventure.
All these things would be possible for us in the coming weeks. It was an exciting thought to have the resources to begin getting these things we had been wanting.
In comes the bummer...
At the time, we were playing in a co-ed, recreational soccer league. About a week after our glorious debt pay-off, we were playing a game at the Magnuson Park soccer fields in Seattle. I was never a great soccer player, but I was a fast runner. Rachel, on the other hand, was one of the best on our team, and consistently stole the ball away from the best guys on the opposing teams. Men, she will hurt your pride if you play against her.
Andrew and I both were basically soccer newbies, having more of an aggressive football mindset, rather than playing with finesse and actual soccer strategy. Andrew was goalie, and I was a defender. Our team had lost every single game up to that point, and we were determined to not let anyone score on us.
I paired up with their quickest forward, and followed him around like a shadow the whole game. At one point, he began to race toward the goal, calling for his mid-fielder to send the ball on ahead so that he could score. I thought to myself, “Oh no you won’t!”
I raced him at a dead sprint toward the ball that was now entering the goalie box. I beat him to the ball and went to kick it out of the way.
But it wasn’t just me and the forward that were racing to the ball. Andrew was also going after it, and in the same moment I went to kick it, he dove to the ground to grab it.
I was very quickly also on the ground, and I had some pretty strong words coming out of my mouth.
I was in pain. A LOT of pain.
Our collision had sprained my ankle at best, and caused some very serious damage at worst. I sat out the rest of the game as I watched my ankle swell to the size of a softball.
After we lost the game, I called up Dr. Smith and asked him if he could take a look at my ankle to see if it was just sprained or if I needed to go in for x-rays. Andrew, Paul, Paul’s wife, Rachel, and I were all sitting in Paul’s living room as Dr. Smith looked at my ankle.
He could immediately feel that my fibula had broken in two, and judging by my pain response, he thought the tibia was also broken. He told me I would most likely need surgery, and then asked if I had health insurance.
It was actually written on my to-do list to buy health insurance that week. I just hadn’t gotten to it yet. The expression on his face immediately went somber and empathetic as he told me that the hospital was probably going to give me a huge bill. Everyone in the room knew our situation and that we had JUST gotten out of debt seven days prior.
“How much do you think?” I asked.
“Probably somewhere between $12,000 and $18,000.”
We all put our heads in our hands. What awful news. What an awful accident. What awful timing.
I went to the hospital that night, and they confirmed everything Dr. Smith had said. Both bones were broken, and I had to have surgery or basically guarantee having arthritis in my ankle within a few years.
It felt totally devastating.
17 - Uncomfortable Unknowns
May 2014 - June 2014
A few days later, I had surgery and experienced two weeks of agonizing pain.
They had to put 9 screws and 3 plates into my ankle to get the bones aligned so they could heal correctly. I was taking the maximum dose of painkillers that was allowed and distracting my mind with the NBA playoffs and by trying to keep a busy schedule of visitors coming to hangout with me at my apartment.
I was totally couch-bound for about 3 weeks, unable to walk for 6 weeks, and stuck in my cast for about 8 weeks. This was a tough time for me mentally and emotionally, because I still did not know exactly how much my hospital bill was going to be, and I was also totally unable to work to begin saving for the payments.
Aside from not being able to do construction, my job with the church was scheduled to end at the end of the school year, but we decided to end it a few weeks early, since I was unable to do anything or go anywhere. I was just lying down on the couch every day, with my foot elevated, a bag of unknowns in my lap, and nothing I could do about it.
Despite the challenge, though, there were moments where I was thankful that I could do nothing but rest on the couch all day. I was coming out of such a busy and exhausting time physically, that there was a sort of comfort in not having anything expected of me for weeks on end.
Dr. Smith guided me through the surgery process in a way that helped me get the best care and keep costs down. He personally asked the hospital’s best ankle specialist to take on my surgery, and rather than spending the night at the hospital (and paying the hefty hotel fee), I went home the same day.
He came to my place periodically to check on me. He also told me about a program the hospital had called Charity Care. It was a charity setup to help people who had no insurance and no hope of paying their hospital bills. He said it would be worth applying for.
I called Charity Care to inquire about the process, and I learned that they typically help people with either 0%, 40%, 60%, or 100% of their bills, depending on their income. Our income had been rather large the whole past year, since we worked so many jobs, but all the excess, of course, went to debt.
In the application, they asked for a letter describing my situation. In a moment of faith, I decided I was going to tell them about our debt story, and boldly ask them to consider covering 100% of my bills.
I knew our high income would work against us, but I also thought they might be moved by our story, and the fact that I could no longer work, and have compassion on me. I also invited a lot of people to pray that this would happen.
After my first check-up, two weeks after the surgery, I visited the Charity Care office and turned in my application. The kind lady at the office took a look at everything and was impressed when she read about our debt story.
After crunching some numbers, she said I would only qualify for 40% assistance. It was encouraging that it wasn’t 0%, but also hard to hear that it wasn’t the 100% I was audaciously hoping for.
Then about a half-minute later, she apologized profusely, as she realized that she miscalculated our income and said that I actually did not qualify for any assistance at all. Feeling bad about her mistake and my situation, she told me she was going to refer my case up to her manager as a hardship case. She said it would take about two weeks for us to hear back from her manager.
And so, the waiting process continued. After about three weeks of being couch-bound, I was able to start getting around on crutches. By this point, cabin fever had set in pretty bad, so I bought a wheelchair for $15 at Goodwill and began wheel-chairing my way to the University Village Starbucks every day so that I could get some human interaction.
I enjoyed my daily visits to the University Village Mall that had not one, not two, not even three, but four Starbucks at the outdoor shopping center. I chatted with people, read books, began plans for writing this book, and just generally enjoyed being in the sun and getting some exercise “wheelin’ around”.
Rachel and I felt like we heard two things from God during this time of waiting. I felt like He strongly told me to not worry about money at all. Rachel felt like God said we would not pay a single penny.
We had times of feeling full of faith about these words, and other times where we were full of dread and weariness. I still hadn’t heard back from Charity Care about my assistance, and I still hadn’t even found out how much the final bill was.
Finally, one day I was fed up with the unknowns, and I called the hospital to track down my bill and find out how much I actually owed. I had received two bills in the mail, but I knew there were two more coming. The person on the phone was able to track down all the costs for me, and told me the total I owed:
The moment I heard that number, it felt like the world was crashing in on me. It was one of the more emotional moments of my whole life. It was twice what I was expecting.
I’m really glad no one was around to witness my reaction once I hung up the phone. I was fed up with being in debt, and I was devastated to have that much come back to my doorstep.
Pretty soon, I started testing out if I could drive with my cast on. After a little practice, I got comfortable with it and increased my mobility even more. I still hadn’t heard from the hospital, and I was anxious to get back to work.
I knew I could at least be at the job site and direct my employees, while also doing tile work on my knees. I wouldn’t be as efficient, but I would at least be getting started. I began to plan working again at around the 6-week mark.
Around the time I was planning to work again, my brother-in-law and sister bought a good house at a great price and wanted to hire me to do some remodeling work to it, specifically the kitchen and master bathroom. I was up for the work, seeing it as provision, and a way for me to be able to work hard, yet again, to get back out of debt.
I booked the remodel job, and also mapped out with Dr. Smith the remaining projects I was going to do on his house.
I had a schedule full of work and opportunity to climb us out of whatever amount of debt we would end up having to pay.
18 - Free to Adventure!
June 2014 - October 2014
Having booked my schedule, I was feeling like I had somewhat of a plan to get back out of debt. This felt good, but I wasn’t looking forward to jumping back into such a wild schedule of working and giving away all the fruits of my labor.
One day shortly after booking all this work, I was spending time at the U-Village working on some preparations for my quickly approaching remodel job. When I was done, I “wheeled” my way home, and stopped by the mailbox before heading upstairs.
My heart began to race as I saw that I received a letter from Charity Care. I knew the contents of that letter would have a great affect on what the coming months of my life would look like. It felt like a big moment, so I waited to open the letter until I had “crutched” up the three flights of stairs to our apartment.
I arrived, threw my stuff on the ground, sat on the couch, and stared at the letter. I was sitting in the same place I had sat a couple weeks earlier when I learned that my bill totaled $30,000. Now I would learn the actual bill, the final number that I would have to pay.
As I slowly opened the envelope, I was expecting that I would receive either 40% or 60% assistance. When I pulled out the letter, I read something like this:
Dear Mr. MacIlvaine,
We have processed your application and are pleased to inform you that we are granting you 100% assistance on all of your medical bills from this incident. Your final amount is $0, due immediately (my favorite part).
What?!?! 100%?? How could that be?
In a moment, I felt a huge weight lift off my chest, and again, I felt that feeling of grace, relief, and love. I was also very grateful to find out later that Dr. Smith advocated for me at the financial aid office, and it seems he was effective.
God had told me not to worry about money and told Rachel we wouldn’t pay a penny. However, what did I do? I spent the better part of a month-and-a-half worrying and planning my way out of my problem.
Of course, it was right of me to make plans to pay it, but worrying? I guess, in retrospect, I feel I should have learned from my first “catapulting” out of debt that God was going to come through and that worry doesn’t accomplish anything anyway. Well, what I hadn’t fully applied to my life had just been cemented into my heart and brain forever.
Once more, I was a debt-free man…FREE!
- FREE from feeling like a slave when I went to work!
- FREE to spend time making a difference in the world!
- FREE to adventure!
- FREE to put all my energy toward my dreams and passions, to move on to pursuing what I cared about!
- FREE from $4,000-$6,000 in monthly payments!
- FREE to be generous and decisive with my money!
- FREE to travel and live where I wanted without debt holding me back!
- FREE to actually buy things that I wanted to buy!
- FREE to go to plenty of Mariners games and not feel bad about it!
- FREE to take that celebratory weekend vacation that had been thwarted by my injury!
As I finish writing this book, I am sitting in my apartment in an ancient, walled city in Morocco. If you remember the movie Aladdin, just picture the market where he’s running away from the police…that’s basically what my neighborhood looks like.
I now speak Arabic, live a 5-minute walk from a great surfing spot (which I try to visit every day), and enjoy sharing life, culture, stories, and experiences with locals over many cups of Moroccan Mint Tea.
I am starting a couple online businesses, talking with investors about the booming construction industry here, and generally continuing life as usual in this new, exotic context. We have the added bonus here of a low cost of living, coupled with an incredible proximity to Europe and all the adventures it has to offer.
After celebrating the news of that letter, I worked my crammed schedule for a number of months and then sold off my business. With the earnings from those final big jobs, selling our cars and my business, plus the help of some friends who believe in us, we were able to come here with enough money to keep us going until our new business ventures sustain us.
Life isn’t perfect, but we’re here on the adventure we had been planning for years.
Ok, if you’re like me, you want to know the numbers. I threw a lot of numbers out there during this book, so let me compile them all in one place for you.
We’ll call it our Financial Statistics from 8/11/12 - 4/30/14:
- Starting Loan Balance: $72,500
- Duration of Time: 1 Year, 8 Months, and 20 Days
- Total Contributed by my father (my co-signer): $10,500
- Total Contributed by Generous Gifts from Friends: $18,000
- Total Contributed by our Personal Incomes: $48,800
- Total Interest Paid: $4,800
- Total Paid on Loans: $77,300
19 - Action!
Where do we go from here?
“Action is the real measure of intelligence.” - Napoleon Hill
Thanks so much for reading our story! But seriously, enough about us...what about you?
What would you do if you were free from your student loan debt in just a year or two?
- Enjoy the benefits of being free from the feelings of enslavement, and keep your hard earned money?
- Pursue your world-changing dreams that are being held back by your debt?
- Buy a home?
- Start a family?
- Start giving more to others?
- Enjoy saving thousands of dollars on interest?
- Treat yourself to an extended vacation?
- Backpack Europe?
- Move overseas?
- Buy a motorcycle? Eh? Eh?
One thing is for sure, I am your biggest fan!
When we were facing the mountain of our debt, I felt like such an underdog. No degree. No big-salaried job. No calculable plan.
BUT it’s totally possible to exit the debt trap even if the odds are stacked against you. Maybe the odds aren’t even super stacked against you, but you need some inspiration and direction towards freedom and saving a bunch of $$$ on interest.
If you find yourself in student loan debt, and maybe you know others in debt, I want to invite you to take a moment to do a simple, three-step exercise right now.
- Take a moment right where you are to think about what it is you would do if you were out of your debt in one or two year’s time. Maybe you already know.
- Take a deep breath, and give yourself permission to dream an audacious dream. It doesn’t have to be ten years away...that’s a whole dad-gum decade! (Ok, seriously...take a moment right now to do this.)
- Tell some friends about your dream and about this book...let’s get people inspired and thinking positively about the future!
Because your dream is possible and this book is encouraging! If you haven’t already noticed, the climate around the student loan issue is just straight depressing! I have a new, audacious dream of my own to bring joy, freedom, and victory to post-college young adults through this story and what I learned in the process.
You can use the Twitter or Facebook icon at the top-right to share your dream and refer your friends to the book. Why not take a leap and do it now?
So, what did I learn?
Well first, I learned that our story is not some anomaly. As I have heard similar stories and look back on our journey and what we learned, I have found several powerful, reproducible principles that lead to what I call the “Prime Payoff Position”.
I’ll give you a hint...the first principle is NOT to work hard.
The first principle is to work smart.
...but I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I finish writing this book, I am in the beginning stages of creating a video course on the step-by-step principles of arriving at the Prime Payoff Position and staying there until you pay every last penny.
What exactly is the Prime Payoff Position (or PPP)? It’s simply when you arrive at the point where your reality is in line with your goal. It’s when your monthly loan payments are on track with meeting or beating your audacious deadline.
38 months passed between the moment I learned our collective balance would be over $70,000, and the day we paid off our loans. That was when I truly started planning to get out of that massive amount of debt.
However, we paid off our last $57,000 of debt in the final 7 months! And that is because it took me 32 months to learn the principles of—and then arrive at—our PPP. But, once we got there, boy did we fly. Even if we didn’t have our generous boosts at the end, we were on track to be out of debt just 3-4 months later.
AND, because we paid it off so quickly (rather than over 10-20 years)...
...we saved $15,000 - $37,000 in interest!
We also experienced an incredible emotional boost from a major life victory.
The math on interest-saving is mind-blowing. Aside from attaining the financial and emotional freedom from student loan debt, the savings in interest is one of the most powerful reasons for starting the adventure towards your PPP.
I will close this book with some actions points and the same quote from Napoleon Hill that opened this chapter. Who is Napoleon Hill?
He is famous for writing the book Think and Grow Rich, which has sold over 70 million copies since 1937 and is essentially a study on how rich people think, and why their way of thinking made them rich. It’s a great book.
When you’re in debt, you’re neither rich nor poor...you’re just in the hole. However, there are powerful lessons to be learned from those who have been successful with their finances.
Ok, here’s the quote again:
“Action is the real measure of intelligence.” - Napoleon Hill
That is why I want to encourage you to use your abundant and unique intelligence to take action towards getting out of debt sooner. To be free. To say no to rewarding your creditors with stacks of interest. To maybe even take revenge on them by denying them of the profits they could make if you paid your debt over a decade or two—like they want you to.
Here is a summary of the action steps I recommend in this chapter:
- Think about--and write down--what you would do if you were out of debt in 1-2 years.
- Give yourself permission to dream big!
- Tell some friends about your dream and this book. Whether it’s FaceBook, Twitter, email, or—my personal favorite—face-to-face, get your dream out there to at least 3 people so that it becomes real to you and others can cheer you on. Also, when you’re sharing your dream, point your friends to gritvsdebt.com, so they can get my book for free (for a limited time!) and be inspired to dream big too.
Also, as promised, I will be sending you some great content on how you can accomplish your dream, so stay tuned for more action points.
NOTE: You will need to be signed-up for email updates to receive actionable tips and strategic content. If you haven’t yet, you can sign-up at gritvsdebt.com.
Again, thanks so much for reading our story. I truly hope you were inspired to go after your dreams and become a victor of circumstance.