Long Story $hort: Season 2, Episode 8

How Home Repairs Left Ilia in Over Her Head

Ilia Mack thought her finances were under control. She purchased a home and still had savings left over, until it came to fixing up the house. Underestimating the cost of repairs, along with exterminating a squatter raccoon left Ilia with $20,000 worth of debt.

Ilia connected with Money Management International to help pay off her growing debt. Three years after meeting with MMI, Ilia has paid off her debt and is now free to enjoy her life the way she wants to.

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Ilia Mack Long Story $hort podcast.

Show Notes

  • Guest: Ilia Mack
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: June 13, 2023


2:09 | Ilia talks about being able to recently start her own business and how life has changed since first connecting with MMI.

3:42 | Ilia explains how underestimating the potential repair cost for her fixer-upper home put her into debt.

4:49 | Ilia shares the story of how a raccoon living in her attic cost her almost $5,000.

6:39 | Ilia explains how being denied a debt consolidation loan led her to MMI.

9:38 | Ilia talks about how surreal it feels to see her debts finally disappearing and her credit score going up.

Episode Transcript

Adam Walker: Debt. We've all heard of it, most of us have it. Debt is an almost unavoidable reality of life, but what happens when it starts consuming life? The experts at Money Management International believe that financial challenges aren't meant to be faced alone. On this podcast, we hear stories of peoples whose lives have been changed by MMI's role as their toughest coach and loudest cheerleader. Their stories are unique, personal, and inspiring. So stay tuned because we're sharing each guest's Long Story Short.

Today we're speaking with Ilia Mack. Ilia is from St. Louis, where she was denied a personal loan and the lender recommended that she check out Money Management International to help with her debt. Through consolidation and negotiating lower rates. Ilia was able to pay off $20,000 in debt, in just three years. Ilia, welcome to the show!

Ilia Mack: Thank you for having me, Adam. How are you?

Adam Walker: Well, I'm so excited to talk to you, to hear your own story. Every story is unique and always inspiring to me, and so I love to get to do this and talk to people like you, that have done amazing things. So, let's start with you. Tell us a little bit more about who you are and what your days look like.

Ilia Mack: Well, first of all, that intro was amazing. I'm like, wow, who did all that? That's, oh my God, I gotta meet her. She's so cool, so first thing.

Adam Walker: No doubt, no doubt.

Ilia Mack: Second of all, I am now 43. My daughter is, an adult, she's in college. So I get to support a slightly independent adult, and I say slightly so you know what that means.

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Ilia Mack: My days look like, I go to work. I work remote, so I get to be in an awesome house. You see the background, I did the wall. Yay. And I love what I do. And I get to do that. A lot of it is because of Money Management.

I recently started a business, and I'm starting to get that off of the ground and I'm so excited about that. That's also remote. So I'm excited about what that's gonna entail, what I'm gonna get to do with that. And I get to hang out with friends and actually eat, with them. You know, I don't have to just, you know, order water and say, oh no, I ate, you know, before I came.

Adam Walker: Right. Yeah.

Ilia Mack: And I really didn't.

Adam Walker: Yeah, yeah.

Ilia Mack: You know, those days. So I've come a long way from, you know, when I first called you guys, to today. Today I'm having a blast. My life is fun. I am enjoying. I'm enjoying the rain, the rainy days are fun. MMI has just, you know, it's changed my life and changed how I look at finances and money. So that's where I am today.

Adam Walker: That's amazing. I mean, you've gone from debt and struggling with a loan to starting your own business and really enjoying your life. I love hearing that. That's really, really encouraging. So, but let's talk a little bit more about your debt. Do you mind sharing like, kind of where it came from and tell us a little bit more about that.

Ilia Mack: Absolutely. At the time I bought a house, you know, I changed jobs, got a little bit of increase, so that was awesome. But I bought a house and I had savings. I actually had savings, but I wanted to fix up on my house.

Unfortunately, it costs more than I realized. So I- And, I already had credit cards at the time. I used the credit cards, and up until then I always had a plan. I was not going to spend anything on the credit cards that I couldn't pay off, and I had a plan to do that.

Well, time went on and I couldn't pay down the credit cards, and then things just spiraled after that. For a while, I had things under control. I was paying the debt down and oh I had a groove going with the bills. We were getting a footing. I actually paid, I had like three or four credit cards at the time. I actually paid one of them off and I was headed towards the second one doing the snowball thing. Right?

Adam Walker: Right, right.

Ilia Mack: And then of course I got a squatter. And what I mean by that is, I got a raccoon in my attic. So, panic. And my daughter was here at the time I called the exterminators. Well, they charged me about $5,000. Now everyone is telling me now, oh, that should have only cost you a couple hundred. Well, $5,000 later. Thank you for telling me that.

Adam Walker: Right? Yeah.

Ilia Mack: So while I was in the midst of paying off, you know, fixing up my home to get it to my dream home. And I'm still in it today by the way. I tacked on that, but I had to take out a loan to do that.

Adam Walker: Right.

Ilia Mack: That tipped the scales. And during the last recession, I actually did file bankruptcy and I lost my house. I didn't want to do that again.

ow this happened before this current recession, so I didn't want to go back. I had momentum with my credit score, it was going up. I was paying down my credit cards, got a new job, making more money, making momentum. I didn't wanna, I didn't wanna go back to bankruptcy. I didn't want it to take my score. I didn't wanna go through that. I was scared.

And everything, you know, Google. You Google everything, and it either tells you one of two things. You're going to die, if you Google symptoms or it tells you apply for every credit card there is known to man. Get a loan and there's money everywhere. Right?

Adam Walker: Right. Yeah.

Ilia Mack: Wrong. I applied for a personal loan. Of course, they asked you, what's the loan for? And I said, debt consolidation. They said, well, you have too much debt to consolidate. And I'm like, what?

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Ilia Mack: That doesn't make sense, but- So the guy on the phone told me, he said, you know, I went through this company called MMI, Money Management. He gave me your information. You know, I've heard, the loans. I've heard bankruptcy, but I've never heard of anything like your program. I've heard of money falling from the sky. You win the lottery, you fake your own death.

Adam Walker: Let's not plan on that.

Ilia Mack: Exactly. You know, so you see the options that I had. And I didn't see a way out. So he gave me your information. I asked him all the questions, and then I called you guys. You guys actually picked up the phone. It wasn't- It was a live person. It wasn't a, leave a message and we'll get right back to you. No, you picked up the phone. They all answered my questions with empathy. They didn't judge me. They didn't, well, look, are you gonna sign up because we have another call. They weren't impatient. They were patient with me. They didn't rush me. They gave me my options. I've even had a couple of phone calls where I hung up. And they called me right back and said, Hey, you know what? We came across other information that may be beneficial to you.

So I felt like I was not just a number to MMI, you guys actually cared. You know, I was worried about, well, if I have to pay this monthly, what about the extra fee? I understand business. You guys need to get paid and you should for your services. Am I gonna be able to afford this if I can't pay, you know, all my creditors? No, here's our amount. You know, they reassured me. And then of course, COVID happened. I lost my job during Covid. They put me on, they actually allowed me to change my payment plans from a big monthly payment to biweekly when I got paid, cuz I got direct deposits.

Adam Walker: Right.

Ilia Mack: They allowed me- And when my income, it wasn't even half, it was less than half, because I was working part-time. I never missed a payment and, but I did ask, I said, what are my options?

Adam Walker: Right, right.

Ilia Mack: And they said, you need to pause. We, we're, that's available. I never even asked for that option. I was still able to make all my payments. I never missed a mortgage payment. And I actually paid off all of that, like you said, early. I think I was on a five year plan.

Adam Walker: What?!

Ilia Mack: I was on a five year.

Adam Walker: Oh man. You paid it off early! Wow. That's amazing.

Ilia Mack: Yeah. So when you said that I paid all of that, all of that,

Adam Walker: yeah.

Ilia Mack: in three years, losing my job.

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Ilia Mack: Losing my job and still, and like I said, it took a while for me to get back on my feet. It took me three years to get back to pre covid status.

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Ilia Mack: And I never missed a payment and paid all that off early. It felt amazing. It felt surreal and people kept asking me, well, how does it feel? You gonna make this? They, again, that was another phone call where you guys called me back. I said, Hey, I'm making an extra payment. If it doesn't pay everything off, let me know. I got a call back in like five minutes.

And I again, I forget these ladies. You guys are awesome. It's so many of you. And she said, no, you're done. I'm like, what do you mean I'm done? I only paid this one off. I know there's something left. I think it was maybe like 21 cent left that I didn't pay. She says, no, you're done. You are done. And I'm like,

Adam Walker: And how did that feel?

Ilia Mack: I, it didn't catch up. And I'm just being really transparent right now, cuz so many people have asked me that. I haven't felt it yet because it feels surreal. I still, and then I see it on my credit score.

You know, things are closing, things are paid off now, and even that took a while. It feels surreal because I can, I think I can just remember feeling scared, not seeing the end of the tunnel. I just could never see the end of the tunnel. But now that I'm on the other side of it, it's like- I think to accurately answer that question, there have been times during that, where I just imagined myself not having this debt over me.

Adam Walker: Right.

Ilia Mack: And that felt amazing. And I imagine what I would do with the money, the, like I said, the lessons that I learned that you guys taught me, talked me through. And I celebrated then. So now that it actually happened, it's hard for me to kind of, feel in the moment, I guess. Cause I already felt it back then.

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Ilia Mack: But it still feels kind of- But you know, like I said, when you said it in the intro, it's like, it still is like, wow.

Adam Walker: Yeah. No, that's great. I mean, you did say, you can go order dinner with your friends. That's a, that's an improvement. You know, you're not drinking water when you're going out with friends. You can go order some dinner. That's great. So, well. So, I wonder, you know, you talked a lot about MMI and the process, and the empathy. And I wonder like, is there any specific lesson that you learned through this process? Any real like takeaways that you'll carry on with you as you, you know, go into your entrepreneurial venture and everything else?

Ilia Mack: Yeah, absolutely. Number one, the fact that I can do it. Number one, walking into the situation, I didn't know that I had options, and you guys taught me that, there's options. There's people out there that are there to help.

And the company that I'm starting, even though it's along the lines of what I already do, because I love what I do, I wanna be able to help, like you guys did. I wanna create something, even in my sector, that can provide like you guys did. Because what you guys gave back to me, like you gave me my life back. And it is just, I wanna be able to do that for people.

Like I said, I can remember being scared and right now I'm just living in the moment that I'm free. And, I'm not- What you guys gave me, I'm not afraid anymore and that's what you taught me. I don't have to be afraid anymore. So now even if I see debt, I'm not jumping into it, by the way. Like, oh my God, give me all the credit.

Adam Walker: Right.

Ilia Mack: Give me all the debt. But I see debt now and I'm not afraid of it anymore cuz you guys taught me that I can do it. Manage it responsibly, you know? And, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It's not hopeless.

Adam Walker: As long as you're walking out of the tunnel, there's light at the end of it. Right?

Ilia Mack: Absolutely.

Adam Walker: And that's the goal. That's the goal. Right?

Ilia Mack: And as long as you keep going one step at a time, one day at a time.

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Ilia Mack: You guys taught me that.

Adam Walker: Yeah. It's all about one step, one foot in front of the other. Right?

Ilia Mack: Yes.

Adam Walker: So, let's talk a little bit about kind of just consumer debt in general, right? Like, it's super common, far too common. I think. I wonder like, how do you think debt counseling nonprofits like MMI can help sort of break that stigma and can help people overcome those things?

Ilia Mack: So, It's a common misconception. These, debt consolidation loans, that they actually consolidate debt. The reality is they just shift it, from one to another with the interest rates. And what I learned, cuz like I said, I personally ask a lot of questions in which I asked you guys. I know as a business you guys need to get paid for your service. What most people don't ask when they see debt consolidation is, people need to get paid for their service. So when they get these consumer loans or they get credit cards or whatever it is for these purposes, they're not thinking of it as a business. They're thinking of it as, I need money to take care of a situation. If they look at it as a business, they'll understand that somebody, somewhere needs to get paid. And then if they then do their calculations. If I have, let's say, $10,000 worth of debt, most people look at, let's say a credit card. I'm gonna pay this, and the credit card says, 0% interest. Well, how long does that last? But what about other fees? Those are things that people don't ask.

Adam Walker: Right.

Ilia Mack: And then they get surprised and then, oh my God, it's outta proportion. Or they have this debt and then they transfer it. Well, if you transfer it for debt consolidation, that consolidation now owns that debt. If you do that from a credit card, what some people have done, is now they have a free credit card and then they start spending that credit card. So now you've got double the debts.

Adam Walker: Well, Ilia, you know, you're an inspiration. Really appreciate the work that you've put into this. Just last question here. Other than ordering your food at a restaurant, what does freedom from debt look like for you?

Ilia Mack: It looks like, I get a bill. I get my house note. I get my electric bill, that's not due till the end of the month, and my phone bill, that's not due to the end of the month. I get to pay it immediately. I get to. And I'm weird like that. I like to, because I don't like to see that I still owe something. I get to look at my paycheck and see that I still have an entire paycheck coming, and all my bills are already paid for the month. I have a savings account now, and I have money in that account now.

Adam Walker: That's great.

Ilia Mack: When I go out to eat, I don't, I haven't touched that.

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Ilia Mack: You know what I'm saying?

Adam Walker: Yeah. That's great.

Ilia Mack: I don't have to give up on the things that help me have an amazing day, every day. I enjoy going to work. I don't have to give that up to pay down my debt.

Adam Walker: That's right. Right. That's great.

Ilia Mack: And I have the same income that I did when I joined you guys. Well, I don't, but, you know what I mean? I'm doing some extra things, but I-

Adam Walker: That's great.

Ilia Mack: You see what I'm saying? I don't have to make an extra 10, $20,000 to be able to say that. That's what you guys taught me, and I think that that's what's missing from the consumer debt conversation. It's always, whatever it is that you enjoy outta life, let's get rid of that so you can pay off your debt. It's never, let's see how we can shift and you need to be saving before you can enjoy life, you know?

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Ilia Mack: It's never that. It's, let's see how we can fit your life and pay off your debt. Because you guys, I did that with you guys, so.

Adam Walker: Yeah. That's great. That's, that is, that's really encouraging and really impressive Ilia. $20,000 in three years. Congratulations to you and thanks for joining us on the show today.

Ilia Mack: Thank you for having me.

Adam Walker: This guest is a real MMI client whose success is the result of hard work and dedication. While MMI cannot guarantee results, taking early action can increase available options and improve long-term outcomes. Thanks for listening to this episode of Long Story Short, brought to you by Money Management International. To learn more about how MMI helps people from all walks of life get unstuck and out of the vicious cycle of debt through personalized solutions that inspire hope, visit moneymanagement.org. This episode was produced by Edgewise Media. Script writing and production by Clara Jennings. Editing by Brandon Ellis and show hosting by me, Adam Walker.

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