A Military Mom Changes Her Family’s Financial Future
Back in 2015, Patricia was drowning in debt. As the sole income provider for her family, she was more financially stressed than she had ever been. With over $32,000 of debt ($7,000 of which was owed to USAA), two children, three stepchildren, a dependent mother, and a temporarily disabled husband, Patricia was struggling to keep everything running, let alone cover her family’s daily living expenses.
“At the time, I was the only one working,” says Patricia. “My husband had back problems and was going through multiple surgeries. Our finances were all over the place because we were just trying to stay afloat. There were charges that I didn’t even know were on my credit card.”
The Unique Financial Strain of Military Service
But even before her husband’s temporary disability, Patricia and her family were experiencing financial strain. As a proud military servicemember, Patricia is used to moving every few years, but the financial stress of cross-country relocation has always thrown her budget into chaos. In fact, about 60 percent of her credit card debt had originated when the family moved from New York to Texas.
“When I moved west for work, our debt increased,” Patricia explains. “It was a tough situation because I had to get a place in Texas for myself, but my family couldn’t move out right away, so I had to continue to take care of everyone back in New York at the same time.”
A Call for Help
When Patricia first spoke with a Money Management International (MMI) debt counselor in January of 2015, she felt hopeless about her finances. But even beyond that, she didn’t know who she could turn to for help.
“One of my coworkers knew I was struggling and she mentioned that her mom had just paid off her debt with a company called Money Management International,” says Patricia. “I was a little hesitant because you never know if companies are legit, but my friend vouched for MMI based on her mom’s experience. She gave me the contact information and I called them. The intake counselor was really nice and there wasn’t any pressure to sign up.”
Beginning the Journey
On that first call, Patricia and the counselor did a complete breakdown of her budget. They also listed all of her creditors and found that MMI could significantly lower her interest rates on many of them through a debt management plan (DMP). This would allow her to pay off the debt much faster, and with just one manageable monthly payment from her USAA checking account.
But the best news came near the end of the call — based on Patricia’s income and the financial hardship she was experiencing, the usual nominal client fee for the DMP was reduced. This was a huge relief because Patricia’s budget was tight and she was looking for every opportunity to reduce her expenses.
A few days later, Patricia called back and embarked on her journey to a debt-free life. That’s when hard work and discipline came into play. For the next three years, Patricia and her husband prioritized their DMP payment over all non-essential spending.
“It was very hard and sometimes it felt horrible. We didn’t go out to eat and we didn’t go to the movies. We only went to work and then came home. There just wasn’t any money left over for anything else,” Patricia says.
The Winding Road to Success
But even though Patricia was fully committed to the process, life still threw her a few curveballs. There were times when things came up, and she had to call her MMI counselor and let him know that she couldn’t make her payment that month.
“During this time period, my grandmother died and I had to go to New York for the funeral, so there was no way I could make the payment that month. MMI was very understanding and said that they would talk with the credit card companies and schedule the payment for the next month. Three years is a really long time to work towards a goal, so It was really nice to have a counselor to support me --- a person who knew my story.”
Thanks to her commitment to the process, hard work, and open communication with her counselor, Patricia became debt-free in June of 2018.
“When we finished I felt lighter. I was so happy, ecstatic,” says Patricia. “I don’t even know how to explain that feeling to someone who hasn’t felt it. I love to travel, so the first thing we did was take a trip. We took a family cruise to the Caribbean and then took another trip to Myrtle Beach for my daughter’s 16th birthday.”
Ready for the Next Adventure
Even though her debt payment plan is complete, Patricia still uses some of the tools and strategies she learned from MMI — she keeps one credit card for emergencies, utilizes money-saving tricks like an app for finding the cheapest gas stations, and sticks to the budgeting guidelines she used while on her DMP. Thanks to her new money skills, Patricia feels more in control of her money, and that sense of control has positively affected many areas of her life, especially her parenting.
“I talk with my teenage daughter about money all the time now. I try to make her very money-conscious because I didn’t have anyone talking to me about finances when I was her age. Ever since this experience, I’ve been very proactive about teaching her about money, and I know she’ll be better equipped than I was.”
Even though Patricia is the first to admit that she still has financial challenges (she’s still the sole provider for her family while her husband finishes school, for example), she’s proud of everything she accomplished.
“It was definitely a challenge, but it was a good challenge. For anyone going through the process of paying off debt --- it’s not going to be easy, but the end result is so worth it.”
MMI is proud to support financial wellness at USAA. Patricia is a real MMI client and USAA member. Her success is a result of her personal dedication and hard work. Similar results are not guaranteed.