In 2007, after reading Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, my wife and I decided to start putting our family on the road to freedom from debt. We want to live an extra-ordinary life. We wanted to live like no one else, so we could later live like no one else. Que the radio show intro!
With motivation in hand, we had about $25,000 in student loan debt and about $145,000 in mortgage debt. Not a lot by most peoples' standards, but it was all future commitments that our family was obligated to pay. $170,000 in future commitments to be exact.
Fast forward eight years, with only $75,000 left to payoff, and we are on the home stretch of road to debt freedom! It feels like we are coming to the end of a marathon. At this point we are at about miles 20 of 26.2 miles. This is where our body has been depleted of all glycogen stores, and you are operating solely on endorphins! Each mile feels harder and harder from this point on. With that said, here are a few of my feelings on how paying off debt isn't for those who are faint at heart.
Paying off debt isn't like day trading stocks
When we started paying extra on our student loans and mortgage, I thought it would feel like I was day trading. Something like I was playing a casino slot machine and when I clicked submit, then my computer would start dinging and flashing. Instead clicking submit feels very sterile and uneventful. It just says, “Payment Confirmed”. So if you are looking for a lot of excitement, then paying off debt isn't for you.
Paying off debt can be boring at times
Like I mentioned above, debt payoff can be boring at times and monotonous. Often times it feels like it is more about perseverance than it is about finances. Ultimately, if you can outlast the monotony of paying extra on all your credit every month, then you can win. It definitely isn't like playing the slots at your local casino. The whole phrase of, “Payment Confirmed”, should come with bells and whistles that get set off from your computer when you hit submit. I think this would make it a lot more exciting! :) Would you agree?
Paying off debt isn't always socially accepted
In a marketing driven culture of so many wants being projected on us, it has many people in the financial rat race. Since most Americans are in debt up to their eye balls, then people who are pursuing financial freedom aren't always accepted. They think, “well my neighbor should have $10,000 in credit card debt, a $300,000 mortgage, and two car payments just like me.” (just like Stanley Johnson)
If you live like or tell people your intention is to pay off all your debt quickly, then they look at you like you just land in Nebraska from a space ship that flew in from Pluto!
Paying off debt is more about psychology than numbers
“If all finances were was about math, then why don't you see more mathematicians as millionaires?” Interesting question isn't it? I remember hearing this quote on Dave's show one day, and thought, “You know what? He's got a point. If becoming a millionaire was all about numbers, then why aren't more mathematicians millionaires?” After thinking about it a while and through our own debt payoff experience, I've quickly realized the debt freedom is more about small individual choices you make from day to day. Those small decisions are all driven by our wants/needs/desires, which drives numbers. A lot of the psychology behind debt freedom is constantly evaluating and modifying behavior to suppress wants and desires to modify long term financial behavior.
So as our family tries to finish up this hard journey, I just wanted to share some of my thoughts. I would like to hear other people's thoughts on their road to debt freedom. Do you agree or disagree? What is hard and what is easy for you?