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In our society, debt is prevalent. People often incur debt to attend school, get a car, buy a home, just to live a “normal” life. Debt is so ingrained into our American culture that there is no emphasis on the significant financial harm that it causes people. Without proper awareness to the issue, people often spend thousands or hundreds of thousands over time in interest fees. Debt truly is the biggest detriment to our financial well being. Sometimes, people do break free from the mentality of complacency. Today, we will be talking about Brett’s debt free story of how he conquered $67,000 worth of debt in under 3 years.
Meet Brett, 31 years old, and works as an Aerospace Technician in Indianapolis, IN. Just like the many millions of Americans, Brett took out loans to get himself through school and also got himself a car. What sets him aside from most Americans is that he decided to get debt free and pay off all $67,000 worth of debt he had in under 3 years.
Brett’s Debt Free Story
Brett Burton, 31 years old
Resides: Indianopolis, IN
Occupation: Aerospace Technician
Total Debt: $67,000
Total Time to Pay Off: Under 3 years
1 | How much debt did you have to start with? How long did it take to pay off?
I paid off a total of $67,000 in just under 3 years.
2 | When did you first decide to start your debt free journey?
I was very anxious upon graduation, in 2015, to have this burden of debt on my shoulders.
I was actually thinking about it as I was applying for more and more loans to get me through college, so the anxiety really came to a head once I was finished with school and hit the workforce.
I’ve always been very financially motivated, but this really lit a fire under me.
3 | What was your debt consisted of?
After graduating with my bachelors degree, I had about $60,000 in student loan debt (interest rates ranging from 3% up to 8.5%), and soon after graduation, I needed to replace my car, so I ended up with about $7,000 (3% interest rate) in auto debt.
4 | What was your income range throughout the debt free journey?
I started out making about $29,000 per year, and by the time I had paid off my debt entirely, I had made $60,000 per year (a lot of which was voluntary overtime).
5 | Are there any specific things you did to help pay down debt?
The biggest factor in my situation was having great parents that provided me with a home without collecting any rent.
My parents know me as well as anyone, and they knew I was tremendously determined to pay off my debt as fast as I possibly could, so I really owe so much credit to them since they facilitated an environment that was prime for achieving this goal.
During my debt-free journey, I may have sounded ungrateful or frustrated at times due to the stress, driven by the debt scenario, but I can easily see now that I wouldn’t be in such a good situation now if they hadn’t been so gracious in their parenting, helping however they could.
I also worked as much overtime as my employer would allow me; I recall semi-frequent 80-hour work weeks.
Other than that, I was very conscientious about my spending habits, opportunity cost, and compounding interest.
6 | Did you use any tools to help pay off debt?
It’s funny because I didn’t use any tools or look at my situation very technically until after I had already paid my way out of the mess.
I was very aggressive since my money didn’t need to be allocated to any other bills (aside from cell phone). This unique situation allowed me to be very intense with my payments.
7 | Did you use any debt payoff strategies?
I didn’t even know the two methods existed during my payoff, but I can easily identify that I used the Avalanche Method.
It made so much more sense to me to eliminate higher interest rates first since they would be compounding more rapidly. I recognize the value in the snowball method, but I wasn’t lacking any motivation in keeping consistent, so I paid them down like it was scorched earth.
8 | How did you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey?
I think everyone at any given time, mentally, can be found on a spectrum somewhere between anxious and depressed (thinking too much about the future vs. thinking too much about the past).
I can usually be found closer to the anxious side of the spectrum, although finding the balance in the present is something I strive for every day through meditation.
Paying off debt is difficult. Being disciplined and keeping focused on your goals is challenging.
Knowing yourself & your habits and tendencies can be very valuable when you begin to feel that you are making compromises on important goals.
Social pressure was a massive challenge for me during my journey, and meditation & conscious visualization kept me motivated, focused and prepared.
Taking the reins and choosing to deal with my problems head-on was an easy decision for me to make, understanding the lifestyle change that would come with the achievement of becoming debt-free.
After all, choosing to work so hard for your future is quite different from living with stress and having your hand forced, living how your lender determines you will live under your debt to them.
9 | How has your life changed from before and after paying off debt?
A big motivator during my payoff was the goal of owning a home of my own & experiencing the lifestyle change that would come with moving out of my parent’s house. Our relationship has always been good, but I think this has made it even better.
The stress of debt can really make you into someone you don’t want to be, and I recognized the danger in that for my relationships.
Now that I’m out of debt, money doesn’t stress me out, and I have freed up mental space for things that I find more valuable and productive. I put in my time, now I can begin to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Home ownership has been a blessing & I’m experiencing freedoms I’ve been chasing for a very long time. I’m still working like a crazy person because I still have some “habit-carryover” from paying so aggressively on my loans; now I’m paying down my mortgage with similar intensity.
I have learned so much about investing (retirement, stock market, real estate, etc.) and I think I will benefit significantly later in life from educating myself on these things early on.
I could very easily choose to relax at this point in my life, but I choose to keep the momentum I gathered in order to position myself for the future.
Soon I plan to “let off the gas” and begin to let myself enjoy this life I’ve worked so hard to earn, but for now I will continue the grind, understanding that the early dollars are so powerful (compound interest!).
10 | Was there anything you wish you did differently during the debt free journey?
Not particularly. If I had the same amount of debt today, I think I would treat the situation very similarly.
I had to tell myself, “You borrowed this money. Now it’s time to pay it back.” Taking responsibility is underrated; it’s what my parents taught me, and it’s how I live to this day.
I did find myself compromising on my goal a couple of times and I had to correct my path and remind myself to keep disciplined, but I think those challenges forced me to make decisions that made my conviction stronger, so I wouldn’t say that I regret any of that either.
Finding the balance between staying the course and not absolutely killing yourself (taking the time to enjoy simple pleasures, but not living lavish) is a real hurdle, especially when social pressure begins to get to you.
11 | How does it feel to be debt free or close to?
Aside from my mortgage, I am 100% debt-free.
It is truly an amazing feeling. I know many don’t include mortgage debt in their net worth, but I do.
For that reason, I still feel very much in debt, although I understand this is a very long-term investment that will take quite a while to pay down.
Having the freedom of choice to invest my income however I wish is something special though, without a doubt.
My mind isn’t always concerned with money like it was during my pay-off and I can focus that attention on things that matter more to me and those around me.
12 | Would you like to offer any words of encouragement to other readers?
It can’t be understated that acting early is of such significant importance to becoming debt-free, regardless of individual situation.
The longer you wait, the more interest will stack up against you. The quicker you can pay it down, the quicker you will feel the momentum tip in your favor.
There will be major challenges along the way.
They can be great resources, communities, and sources of inspiration to keep you focused and remind you that you’re making the right decisions as you chase freedom from debt.
There are plenty of ill-advised financial decisions that you can make (getting yourself into debt in the first place is a great example!), so having free resources to keep you in check is absolutely a plus.
Having relationships in your own life that will help to hold you accountable can be powerful too.
The most effective source of motivation for me was getting fed up with being broke. Life doesn’t have to be so stressful, and getting your finances in order is a game changer.
Brett’s debt free story shows us that paying off debt is possible especially if you’re determined to achieve your goal. Yes, social pressure can often be difficult to overcome but staying focused on your future goals and having the help of supportive loved ones will help you get there.
Why was Brett so adamant about paying off his student loan and car loan? Let’s do some simple calculations to see how much interest would be paid if he just held on to his loans over time.
According to CNBC, people usually take 20 years to pay back student loans.
Let’s say, Brett took 20 years to pay back his student loans at an average interest rate of 5.75% and 5 years to pay back his car loan at 3%, how much interest would he pay?
According to Bankrate:
|Loan||Term||Interest||Total Paid||Total Interest|
|Student Loan $60,000||20 Years||5.5 %||$99,055.77||$39,055.77|
|Car Loan $7,000||5 Years||3 %||$7,546.85||$546.85|
Over time, Brett would have paid $39,055.77 and $546.85 in interest alone! To prevent this from happening, Brett’s debt free story shows us that it’s important to hunker down and get serious about paying off debt to prevent wasting money on interest fees.
There were times when Brett worked 80 hour work weeks to make extra income to pay off his debt. Everyone’s debt free journey will be different and ultimately it will be your decision on what pace you want to go for your own debt progress.
Brett’s debt free story shows us that hard work, determination, having supportive loved ones, beating social pressure, all amounts to becoming debt free. Thank you Brett for sharing your debt payoff story with us. Through your story, we can see that a little bit of hard work now will only provide financial benefits in the future.
Are you ready to start your own debt free journey? Get started by grabbing this free Debt Thermometer and join us in the free 5-Day Debt Free Bootcamp to pay off $500 worth of debt in your first month.