Long Story $hort: Season 3, Episode 4

Living Within Your Means to Pay Off Debt

Edidiong Obot is a graduate student living in Washington, D.C. During her undergrad, Edidiong first went into debt after buying a laptop with an Apple Credit Card. A few credit cards later, Edidiong found herself $30,000 in debt.

After being recommended MMI, Edidiong connected with friendly and helpful counselors who helped her pay off that $30,000 in just over three years, while increasing her credit score by 60 points.

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Show Notes

  • Guest: Edidiong Obot
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: December 12, 2023


3:49 | Edidiong talks about falling into debt while in college.

5:51 | Edidiong discusses how her close support group encouraged her to get help for her lingering debt.

7:41 | Edidiong shares her experience working with MMI and the safe space they created to help her tackle her debt without judgment.

9:28 | Edidiong talks about the importance of prioritizing her expenses and changing her relationship with money.


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 people 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.

When Edidiong Obot found herself in $30,000 of debt. She was referred to MMI by her cousin and her pastor. When she finally reached out, Edidiong was amazed at how stress free the process was. Now she has paid off $30,000 in just three years and increased her credit score by 60 points. Edidiong, welcome to the show.

Edidiong Obot: Hi.

Adam Walker: So good to have you here. How are you doing today?

Edidiong Obot: I'm good. I'm good. It's feeling good. I'm having a good day.

Adam Walker: You're having a good day. I love it. I love it. Okay. listen, let's start off with your debt story, which is not a bad story because you're out of it. So, we're feeling good, but let's start with your debt story. Tell us more. Actually, first, let me back up. Tell us more about you. Where are you? What do you do?

Edidiong Obot: Right. So, currently I reside in Washington, DC. And I recently moved here. I'm in a fellowship program now with the National Urban Fellows, and with that program, I'm able to pursue another graduate degree, a full ride. So again, shout out to National Urban Fellows for that. And c coming out of debt last year for the game of the confidence that I needed to take this like leap in this journey and move, because now like I now have the savings to do that. I moved from Houston actually to DC. So, I'm from Houston. I am also Nigerian as well. My parents are Nigerian. My entire family is Nigerian. And so, I am a proud American born Nigerian, a child of immigrants. And yeah, here.

Adam Walker: Wow. That's a great story. Now, did you say another graduate degree? is that what you said?

Edidiong Obot: I did.

Adam Walker: How, many graduate degrees do you currently have? Because I did not know this.

Edidiong Obot: I have one. I have a master's in environmental toxicology from Texas Southern University, and I also have a bachelor's in chemistry from Texas Southern University as well, so I'm a two-time HBCU grad. I always got to put that out there. Now I'm pursuing a master's in policy management at Georgetown University.

Adam Walker: So, that's a pretty amazing resume right there. Wow. I love it. I love also, our listeners can't tell, but the giant smiley face on your sweater is like next level. Like it's so good. So, I love, this is going to be such a great conversation. I can already tell; this is so great. all right. So, tell us a little bit about your debt story. How did you get into debt? and then, what happened that made you realize you needed some help?

Edidiong Obot: Yeah, so I got into debt, and I think this is a cliche, but in college, actually. I was in need of a new laptop, and I was like, oh, okay, I can get a laptop and charge it too. An Apple card that I apply for it? Cool. And then I just started charging other things. And then I got my brother a laptop. And then I was, I had a job, and I was like, okay, I could just pay it down. I'll pay it down. I'll pay it down. I'll pay the minimum. And then like over time, you just abused the card.

And I also was traveling. So, I was like, oh, I'm going to apply for a Southwest Airlines card. And I did that. And it was like, Oh, and then. You have that mindset of I'm going to pay the balance off. And then you look up and you're not able to pay the balance. And for me, I was irresponsible financially. So, I just ignored the balance. I do not recommend that. And so, you just find yourself like applying for more cards, but this notion of Oh, I make enough, I have enough discretionary funds to pay it. And then you are not actually dedicating that money towards the credit card payment. You're buying other things. And you find that you're living outside of your means in a sense.

And so that's what happened with me. I was, what started off is like, oh, I can pay this off now. It was like, I was buying other things that was probably not needed at the time. And I just didn't have that financial maturity, I believe till I really. be disciplined enough with my money to allocate it toward those things. So, I had to learn the hard way.

Adam Walker: It really sneaks up on you if you're not careful and your, story is not unique in that way. so, what point did you get to where you recognized that you needed help? And then what did you do then?

Edidiong Obot: Yeah. So, I realized like in my, as I was getting older, like I wanted to pursue certain things and I was telling my pastor about it and my cousin about it. And my pastor actually was the one that recommended the organization to me. He was like that this organization I think had helped them or, his wife had found out about it. And so, I was like, okay. So, I looked into it. I didn't initially do it. I was still skeptical because I was like, I don't know what kind of organization just does this kind of thing, right? I'm out, so you're like, oh, I can help you with your credit card. And then it's this huge lump sum that you have to pay somebody to Take things off your credit and do all these different things.

So, I just could not understand that my cousin was telling me like, no, I looked into it. I think I'm going to get into it. So, since I had a nudge from her, I went ahead and I looked into it and yeah, I ended up signing up for it. So, I knew that there were just some specific financial goals I wanted to attain personally and also within my family. I really give kudos to my pastor, Prophet Kenneth Okoji with Isaac Knight International Ministries Lighthouse. he was the one that really was like, I'm going to send you the information. also get with the first lady whose Prophet's friend and from there, I got the contact and made an appointment.

Adam Walker: That's fantastic. All right. So, since working with MMI, like I mentioned in the intro, you've paid off $30,000 in debt, you've increased your credit score by about 60 points. You did all that in three years, which is amazing. How did like a personalized debt management plan, how did that help you think about your money? How did it help you balance your budget and see a path forward?

Edidiong Obot: Yes. So, I just have to give a huge shout out to MMI because. I think part of the reason why I was struggling with getting help was because I was beating myself up for not being financially mature, especially at the age that I was. And I felt like I should have had a better handle on, like my money and how I use it. And so, MMI came in, no judgment at all. Very okay. Hey, very empathetic with me. they understood what was going on, tell us about your story. and the counselors that I were I worked with, they were just, just very nice. Like I felt like there was no judgment. So, it made it a safe space for me to talk about my defaults and my areas where I needed help. And they gave me the different options.

And so, I enrolled into the debt management plan, and it was a very vulnerable moment because when you talk about finances, that's like another part of you that you have too basically be naked with someone else with. And usually, you're either that with your spouse, or with your financial advisor, or the person who does your taxes. to be with someone else that is, I have to not expose myself to you, I felt comfortable because they created that safe space for me to do that. And they asked me a couple of questions here and there.

And then what I really thought was, like really good was they looked at, they asked me, how much do you feel you can contribute monthly to the debt management plan? This wasn't like, in order for you to meet this, debt threshold by a certain timeframe, you have to contribute X amount, right? Because then for me, that would have caused me anxiety. Like I can't do it. Can I, do it? It's this. But they allowed me to be able to say, to let them know how much you can, contribute monthly. And I told them that. And then within those years, actually my income increased. And just getting new jobs, obviously that's part of life. But it was definitely something I was like, okay, now I can be a lot more aggressive with getting the debt down.

And so, I felt like over time I was able to learn more of the financial tools and be more responsible. Like I was able to pass the test now with being more financially responsible once I got more income. So yeah.

Adam Walker: I love that. I love it. So, you got the tools. You got the lump sum payment that you're paying this paying off your debt, month over month. And you're going through that for, three years. So, like, what was those three years like? Because I want you, to paint a picture because I feel like a lot of people that are in debt think, oh, I have to give up all fun. And all good food and all of everything forever to pay this off. Is that what it was like for you? Or were you able to still have some things or what?

Edidiong Obot:So, I'm going to be honest. I'm not sure if it took three years. I think it probably took a little bit longer. Okay. In the three years. because I, remember starting off really small, very minimal, with what I can do. I was still trying to break those habits and shift my mind about how I look at my relationship with money. but once I started getting into the swing of it, I still traveled. Like I went on trips.

During the pandemic, I was still paying. And I know the pandemic was very hard as well, but I was paying that, and I was paying student loans and all these different things, but I was still able to travel, also able to buy gifts, still be able to have fun. I just had to look at money differently. Like I had to. Know that this payment was coming out automatically, and I think because I didn't have control Over to stop this payment or not pay it I had to make sure that my bank account had the sufficient funds to cover it Regardless and if I was going on a trip, I had to make sure that First thing is making sure that the things that need to be paid for are going to get paid Regardless. And now I had to just re-budget what that looked like. I also will tell you that I did go to court over debt as well, so sometimes you go through that.

But MMI really helped me, like they walk me through this, the process really held my hand. Also, you'll find that like in, in this process, like your debt gets sold to other companies. So, I also experienced that where me and MMI were working together and next thing you know, my debt was sold to someone else and I'm like, okay, I don't, who am I supposed to, who does this money go to? Because MMI is the, basically the person that, or the organization that is paying the debt for you on your behalf, as you send the money to them. And it was just, I would just say, just throughout the process, MMI was just very stress-free. I didn't have any issues with them, and they were there to help negotiate with me, especially during the depth, the beginning part of the debt management plan. They would, get on the phone with my credit card debtors. And then we would talk about, they basically advocated for me, they told them, hey, this is what my client can pay. She can't pay more than that. Can we come to a consensus this or that? And I felt so good that I have an advocate in my corner, to really like really to advocate for me. Like I didn't have to do it. I didn't have to go through the whole emotional, like stress and turmoil of having to not explain again the story. I just had someone who knew my story, who was there in my corner, and wanted to see me succeed and to win. And I just, I love the fact that like it, MMI was just very stress free for me. Like I didn't have to think about it twice and I had somebody who was advocating for me. So, I felt good about it.

Adam Walker: I love that. And I love that you were able to be stress free going through a process that a lot of people find very difficult. And that's, I think that's the whole point of the debt management plan. So, last question for you. What does freedom from debt look like for you?

Edidiong Obot: It means you can breathe. That's what it means. You have breath, like you can sigh, sigh of relief. It means that you can now, tackle like some of your other dreams that you want to do, whether it's like going back to school, like me, moving across the country, like I did, maybe it's traveling, maybe it's getting married. Maybe it's starting a business, whatever those like things are, maybe it's retiring your parents. I don't know, but like just coming out of that debt, you won. Automatically, like your, credit card, your credit score is going to go up at some point. Just if you don't even have any additional debt, or credit, like just the fact that you've paid it off, and you've been paying it off all this time, it's going to increase, and so you, but an increased credit score, it allows for you to do a lot more things that you probably haven't been able to do. I do advise that if you are going to get another credit card, obviously, just be more responsible.

Now that you've gone through this journey, like you know what it takes, to maintain credit, and just looking at the relationship of money in a different way. But man, freedom, it means that I can breathe. I don't have to worry about paying somebody monthly on a whole bunch of, I can use that money now and put it towards something else that can, really help me invest my money in other ways and grow it in other ways.

Adam Walker: Edidiong, such a pleasure to talk to you. Love the smiley face on your shirt. Love the smile on your face when you talk about what being debt free means to you. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today and best of luck in your studies. Thank you.

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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