Long Story $hort: Season 2, Episode 7

How MMI Taught Mike to Use Credit Wisely

For Mike Clement, a septic tank was his ‘tipping point.’ After he and his family moved to a larger house on four acres, unexpected repairs started piling up. Mike and his wife used store-sponsored credit cards to cover the costs. When their septic tank needed to be replaced, they took out a home equity loan. Mike knew he needed help.

While working with the debt relief counselors at Money Management International, Mike paid off $72,000 of debt in 4.5 years and learned how to use credit responsibly.


Available wherever you listen to podcasts, including:
Spotify logo. Google Podcasts badge Apple Podcasts badge

Mike Clements, MMI Long Story $hort.

Show Notes

  • Guest:Mike Clement
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: May 30, 2023


2:57 | Mike explains how simple home maintenance and sporting equipment for his kids started a snowball that left him $72,000 in debt.

6:18 | Mike talks about the different options he explored to help with his debt situation.

7:52 | Mike walks through the specific aspects of his debt management plan that made becoming debt-free finally feel possible.

9:48 | Adam and Mike talk about the lack of financial education most people experience growing up.

12:13 | Mike talks about how his experience with MMI has made it easier for him to talk to others about money and personal finance.

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 on the show I'm talking with Mike Clement. Mike lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia, about 90 minutes outside of D.C. While working with the debt relief counselors at Money Management International. Mike paid off $72,000 in debt over four and a half years. Here today to share more about his debt payoff story is Mike.

Mike, welcome to the show.

Mike Clement: Thanks, Adam. I appreciate it.

Adam Walker: Man that is, that's some, that's some impressive numbers and we're gonna get to that in a minute, but I'm just gonna tell you right now, I'm in awe of that from the start. So, but let's start with you. Let's learn a little bit more about you.

Where do you live? What do you do? What do your days look like?

Mike Clement: I live, as you said, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. I work for the US Coast Guard. I'm a branch chief at a local installment here. I'm not active duty. I'm a civilian US government worker. Married, three sons, two in college, one still in high school.

He's a junior. He'll be a senior next year of course, but a day usually looks like-

It's a little slower now that we only have one left in the house. But usually we are going to work, coming home, packing up, and either going to sporting event or practice or something like that. And it was that way with all three of 'em.

And it's a little slower now, but-

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Mike Clement: We're still running.

Adam Walker: I can, I can empathize. I got kids in sports. We're sitting out in the cold right now, that like fake spring. It's still cold and enjoying lacrosse and baseball lately. So I'm right there with you. Okay. Okay. So, so walk us through kind of what was going on in your life at the time that you sort of ended up getting into that financial situation and was there kind of any specific moment where you knew you needed some outside help?

Mike Clement: Well, I mean, we were-

We seemed like we were doing fine, you know? In the back of our minds, we knew we were digging a hole. We had bought a new house, you know, it had four acres of land, so we had to get a new riding lawnmower. We had to, there was some upkeep and things like that, that we weren't expecting.

The septic tank had some issues. We had to fix that. You know, and then the boys were younger then. They were all three, in three different sports all year round. There was travels ball for baseball and football and lacrosse. We had our oldest played lacrosse and you know, with a new house. It was bigger than our old house and we needed new furniture and you know, it just, Hey, they'll give us a credit card for this.

Then there was a Home Depot credit card, and then there was a Lowe's credit card, and you know, with the boys it was, there's a Dick's Sporting Goods credit card. You know, and school shopping, there's a Kohl's credit card or wherever we were taking the boys shopping it, you know, it just, sort of snowballed into, well, $72,000 worth of holy crap.

And that's where we ended up.

Adam Walker: And what, so was there any specific, like catalyst or moment where you, when you decided now's the time to stop and reach out and get some help, and like, what was that like?

Mike Clement: It was, right around when the septic tank had its issues. We had to have it completely replaced.

And, you know, we didn't have anything saved. We were shelling out all this month's money and monthly payments to the credit card companies. We were making minimum payments. We couldn't get beyond making the minimum payments. And we finally had to take a home equity loan out. In order to pay for the septic tank to get repaired.

And that payment right there was going to put us close to what we were earning every month almost.

Adam Walker: Right.

Mike Clement: And we just knew we had to figure something out. And besides the fact that we knew that we weren't gonna be able to pay these things off, making minimum payments.

Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, listen, I can empathize.

Those septic tanks, man. Like when they go, when they go down the tubes, it is bad. Just all around. I've been there. And that is, it's brutal. It really is.

Mike Clement: Yeah. And you definitely wanna get 'em fixed in a hurry.

Adam Walker: Oh man. I mean, you don't, there's no choice. There's no, yeah, there's no choice.

Mike Clement: Yeah.

Adam Walker: So, yeah.

Mike Clement: Yeah.

Adam Walker: No, that's great. Okay. And so, so how did you first get connected with MMI or hear about MMI and then like, what was the start of your debt counseling journey like?

Mike Clement: You know, we, we'd seen, I think, commercials on tv. And in the, in the back of my mind at least, and I've talked to my wife about this, when we'd see 'em, I'd think, oh, that might be something for us to look into.

Adam Walker: Yeah.

Mike Clement: But besides Money Management International, there were other companies out there that seemed to, to look, at least from my perspective, like maybe a scam of some kind, you know? And so there was a little trepidation there with, you know, do I really want to get in bed with these one of these groups, just to try to figure this out?

And when we were going through that whole home equity line of credit stuff, we decided to give Money Management International a call. We thought of the ones that, we had seen, that they looked the most reputable. We did some research online and saw some good things, and as soon as we called, they put us at ease.

And the rest is history. We came up with a plan, we stuck to the plan. And here we are, $72,000 paid off in, four and a half years later.

Adam Walker: Man. So yeah. So let's talk more about that, right? So, you started working with MMI, $72,000 in four and a half years, which again, is just phenomenal. Like, how did getting a personalized debt management plan help you balance your budget and see a path forward?

And I'm wondering like, if you can even call out like any specifics around that, cause I'm just so curious how you go from being sort of, like you said, barely making the minimum payment. To then, I mean, that's a colossal amount to pay off in a short amount of time.

Mike Clement: Yeah, well, the, I mean, they put the program together.

We, we gave them all the credit card information, our income information. They worked with the creditors to reduce the interest rates that we had to pay, to pay the, the balances back, and we ended up having to pay our monthly installment to Money Management International was $1,300. Which was almost a thousand dollars less than our monthly minimums were, for our credit card payments.

So not only were we able to make that payment, we were also able to, you know, buy groceries and gas and stuff like that. So.

Adam Walker: Yeah. Okay. Wow. So then in a sense, like, it sounds like you almost got in a better financial situation by going with MMI, because I mean, like you said, like it was less than the minimum payments were originally, right? Is that what you're saying?

Mike Clement: Yeah. Yeah. It definitely helped us. And once we saw that, you know, cuz the-

We had been down the road of, okay, we're gonna buckle down, we're gonna, pay these credit cards off. You know, we had taken out loans to pay them off in the past and paid the loans off, but then we'd always get more credit cards.

And we came to the point where we just decided once we crossed this bridge with Money Management International, that we couldn't do that anymore. We've, we had to change our behavior, or in 10 years, we'd be doing this all over again.

Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and it just, a change in sort of your whole relationship to money, right?

Mike Clement: Yeah, exactly.

Adam Walker: And like the way you think about money has to change and just all of that stuff, right?

Mike Clement: Yeah. Yeah. It's, you know, we-

I've never been great with money. You know, that, that's one of the things we've tried to teach our boys is, you know, they don't teach you all this stuff in school.

Adam Walker: Right, yeah.

Mike Clement: You know, we have two in college, or one just graduated. He's made it through college debt free. And the second one is there, he's looking like he's gonna be able to do the same thing. You know, I had student loans, my wife had student loans, so that, it all just, you know, and then back when I was in college, they-

And they, I'm sure they still do. They were throwing credit card applications at you. You know, sign up for this, you get a t-shirt. And so by the time I left college I had two or three credit cards. And you know, it just snowballs.

Adam Walker: It does.

Mike Clement: And nobody, and nobody wants to talk about it. You know it's,

Adam Walker: Right. Right. Yeah.

Mike Clement: It's just weird.

Adam Walker: Yeah. I mean that's why we're, and that's why we're talking about it because nobody else wants to talk about it, someone talk about it right here. Let's talk about right here. It's gonna be great.

Mike Clement: We'll be the ones.

Adam Walker: Yeah. That's it. We'll pave, we'll blaze the trail. So, alright, so what was, so what was the credit counseling experience with MMI like, and what would you say like, your biggest lesson throughout that experience was?

Mike Clement: Most of the counseling took place while we were figuring out what the payment was gonna be, what they were gonna be able to do for us. They would reach out every now and then, just to see where we are, you know, just to make sure, check up on us, you know, you haven't got any more credit cards that we need to know about, you know?

Adam Walker: Right. Yeah.

Mike Clement: We were paying off this Home Depot credit card. You didn't go out and get a another Home Depot credit, you know?

Adam Walker: Right.

Mike Clement: And, you know, we, we never did any of that stuff. They helped us understand right at the beginning that this- besides it being a, maybe a lack of knowledge issue, it's a behavior issue. And if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you're just gonna end up in the same spot.

Adam Walker: Get the same results. Yeah. That's right. That's right. Yeah. We gotta, we gotta change the way we think, the way we act, the way we behave. That's right.

Mike Clement: Yeah.

Adam Walker: That's right. Okay. So, so something talked about a minute ago, like, debt's super common. We don't talk about, slash, while we're, while we're talking about it now, how do you think debt counseling nonprofits like MMI helped to break through that debt stigma?

Mike Clement: I think the more people out there that are helped by companies like this, the, hopefully the-

I'll put it this way, I probably wouldn't have talked about our financial issues prior to them being resolved or Money Management International, helping to resolve them. Now that I've been down that path and it was successful for me. For some reason, I don't mind at all telling other people that, that's what we had to do and it worked for us. And I suggest if you're in the same boat we were or somewhere close that you give it a try. It seems like to me at least, it's something you have to go through in order to be able to, talk about it or feel like you can talk about it.

Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah. That's right. Yeah, and that, I think that's commonly true and that's been a common theme through a lot of the people that I've talked to on this show. And I, and I really appreciate you being willing to do that. Like, I've been there, I've done that. That means that other people, can also go there and do that.

Mike Clement: Right.

Adam Walker: Yeah. And that's why we have this conversation. All right. So, so Mike, last question then. What does freedom from debt look like for you?

Mike Clement: We do have a couple credit cards now, but instead of using them whenever we want to, we plan things out. We use them if we have, like, we have one kid left in high school, he has a, baseball tournament coming up in South Carolina for spring break. We're gonna use one of the credit cards like we did last year, and use it on that trip and then pay it off when we get home.

We use them for points, whether they're for trips or, or cash back, things like that. But we make sure that we pay them off every month and have a zero balance. It's been, helped, our financial situation's been helped. Of course, the older you get, usually you get promoted here and there, you get raises.

Things like that have helped out a little bit, but I think the, the biggest thing is, was paying off that $72,000 and learning that lesson of how to use credit, if you need to use credit and taking it from there.

Adam Walker: Man, that is, that is fantastic. Such a great story. And one I think that, that many of us can certainly appreciate and relate to.

So, Mike thanks so much for joining us on the show today.

Mike Clement: Thank you, Adam. I appreciate you 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.

Return to main podcast page

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Financial Counseling Association of America Financial Counseling Association of America
    MMI is a proud member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), a national association representing financial counseling companies that provide consumer credit counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, bankruptcy counseling, debt management, and various financial education services.
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.9/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Equal Housing Opportunity Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.