1. How did you get into debt?
Like many recently-former students, I had student loan debt. On top of
that, when I finally got my career started, I was working in a
non-profit organization and my salary wasn't covering my basic living
expenses. I was going further into debt each month, and I wasn't even
spending extravagantly. I didn't have a runaway shopping habit, but in
order to live within I means I would have had to make sacrifices I
didn't want to make -- like living in a run-down apartment in a
2. How deeply in debt were you at the worst point? What did it feel like?
more. I know that's not as much as some people's rock bottoms, but it
was enough for me to eventually realize I needed to make some changes.
It felt... well I felt nothing. I was able survive on credit cards.
With access to credit, I was able to ignore my declining situation for
a long time. And ignoring the problem was a defense mechanism that
prevented me from feeling bad about the situation. But eventually,
when I lost my job, my apartment, my car, and my girlfriend, I knew it
was time to make some changes.
3. When did you decide to get out of debt and why?
for myself. I had to move in with my father. That's fine for someone
just out of college, looking for their first job, but it wasn't how I
wanted to living at that time. So I made a conscious effort to make
changes to my life, my attitude, and my philosophy to get myself out
of that situation.
4. How long did it take you to get completely debt free?
first people to track his finances online, publicly, this information
is pretty easy for me to find. My first happy milestone was having a
positive net worth, which seems to have occurred in December 2002.
That's almost a year after starting a new job, and after a few months
of greatly reduced living expenses within that time. But I finally
paid off the last of my student loan debt in December 2008. That was
the last of my debt. I have never owned a house and have never had a
5. What advice would you give to someone trying to become debt free?
Commentary, I always start people off by advising them to start paying
attention to their finances. But if they're trying to get debt free,
they may already be paying attention. But not everyone who tries is
really, actively, trying. And that attitude is the key. It's one thing
to want to get out of debt, it's another thing to take actions to get
out of debt, but the only thing that works is to let the idea of
becoming debt free become part of the overarching philosophy of your
life. It's a priority, and you can't afford lapses. The right mindset
is so essential to getting out -- and staying out -- of debt that
without it, any positive steps you take could easily be negated in one
unfortunate circumstance. Every financial decision is a choice.