Long Story $hort: Season 3, Episode 7

Navigating Debt With an Unpredictable Income

Kristin Pierre is a freelance singer and model, as well as executive assistant from Weehawken, New Jersey. As a freelancer, Kristin found her income to be unpredictable and she quickly found herself racking up credit card debt from shopping.

When she reached her breaking point, Kristin reached out to MMI and was immediately comforted by a MMI counselor. Now, Kristin has paid off $20,000 in five years and increased her credit score by 120 points.

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Kristin Pierre Long Story $hort podcast.

Show Notes

  • Guest: Kristin Pierre
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: January 30, 2024


1:22 | Kristin talks about the inconsistent income she navigates as a freelance model and singer.

4:30 | Kristin explains how her buy-now, pay-later mindset put her deep into unaffordable debt.

6:52 | Kristin talks about how compassionate her counselor was when she first called MMI.

8:50 | "I felt so embarrassed. I was like, he's not gonna want to date me anymore. He's gonna break up with me." Kristin talks about how her debt impacted her relationship with her (now) husband.

11:07 | Kristin shares her present (very happy) outlook.

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 $hort.

Today's guest is Kristin Pierre from Weehawken, New Jersey. Kristin was first referred to MMI by one of her creditors when she had 20,000 dollars in debt. Kristin was struggling with an unpredictable income from working freelance and her debt was piling up. After connecting with MMI, Kristin was able to pay off 20,000 dollars in five years and increase her credit score by 120 points. Her advice, take it one step at a time. Kristin, welcome to the show.

Kristin Pierre: Thank you for having me, Adam. This is so great.

Adam Walker: That's good advice for everything. Like you can apply that to kids and marathons. Just be in this moment, take it one step. It's going to be okay.

We're going to do it, but we're going to talk about debt. That's going to be the goal for today. So let's hear more about your story. Tell us, who are you? What are you about? What do you do? That kind of thing.

Kristin Pierre: So my name is Kristin and, yeah, I had a lot of debt piling up and I am a singer. So I do freelance gigs. I also do some modeling gigs and then I was doing like a bunch of different freelance stuff. So it was never like a stable, sustainable income. It was always like, "okay, I did this gig. I'm going to get paid in a month from now." So it was never like a constant source of money coming in. Now I do have two other steady jobs that pay me, I'm a singer, I'm an executive assistant for an art dealer and then I'm also an assistant for an executive coaching firm, which I actually do some coaching as well. So, but this all started because I was drowning in debt. Like I was literally one of those people that didn't want to know how much I had just, I obviously love nice things. So I was just racking up credit cards, like nice clothes and you're just like, everything just because I felt like if I had nice things, then I would feel better about myself and it just went back down into a spiral and I got to a point where I literally was like on the phone with MMI crying. I was like, I have so much debt.

That was just one of my credit cards. And I was just like, "I don't know how much I owe. I don't know how I'm going to get out of this." And they were so kind. They were like, "it is going to be okay." So basically they just set me up on a payment plan and I just paid it off. Like I just committed to pay, making that payment.

And then it was like, once you see how much you owe, it actually takes the scariness away from it. Because it's just, okay, this is a lot of money that I owe. But like I said, if you take it one step at a time, if you make one payment down and the one thing that's great about MMI is they take most of the interest away. So you are feeling like you're getting out of debt because these credit card companies pay so much, charge so much interest. You feel like you're never going to get out.

Adam Walker: So, I wonder, like you said, like you were scared to know the amount. But then when you knew the amount, it was the opposite. It was almost like it was empowering. talk about, tell me more about that. Because I feel like a lot of listeners are probably scared to know the amount.

Kristin Pierre: Yes, it definitely has an empowering element to it, because then you feel like you're actually in control and you can do something about it.

If you know it, if you're just sticking your head in the sand, you don't want to know, it's just accumulating and you're not really taking any action into lowering it. You're just like, "okay, I'm just not, ignoring it." So if you know the number, you're empowered to actually take action to do something about it.

And like I said, you can negotiate with these people like you can say, "Look, I can only afford 200 a month or 100 a month." And if you're paying something, it's better than not paying anything.

Adam Walker: Yeah, that's great. Now you mentioned that you have, you like nice things, right? And that was part of it. So, I want to explore that for a second because, it took you, you went through this process of paying off 20,000 dollars in five years. But at the same time you like nice things. So tell me how you balance that.

Kristin Pierre: Most of my twenty thousand dollars was like clothes and shoes and dresses and things that I liked. It wasn't for anything important. It was all you know, I just thought, "Oh, I could pay it off and I'm just going to get it now."

But I think once you, it's a hard mentality to do because it's, once you know okay, I can actually pay, I would rather pay this 300 toward lowering my debt than buying a pair of shoes or buying clothes. It's going towards something good and it's going towards something that you know in the long run it's going to help my credit score. I just got a brand new car, like we just got a brand new car like we, I have so much more freedom now- I still have some debt, don't get me wrong. I still have debt, but it's all handled like everything comes out of a monthly payment. I have a couple of credit cards. I have 0 percent interest to 2025. But it's for important things. Like I have a son, I have a 15 month old son. So, I have things that are- I had a health issue. There are certain things I paid off with a credit card for that. So it's like your perspective changes on what you're actually needing the credit for rather than just "oh, I just like nice things and I'm just gonna waste all this credit on junk."

Adam Walker: So it sounds like you found that you really didn't, like that you gained this perspective where you found you don't need a lot of the stuff that you were spending the money on and what you needed instead was to get out of the debt and so putting money into that made more sense to you at that time, right?

Kristin Pierre: Yeah, and I think what helped with MMI is they didn't make me wrong. I felt like I was beating myself up so much that I got into this much debt; because then you're paralyzed. You're just like, "I'm already in this much debt. So I might've what am I going to do about it?" But they made me see that it was possible that I could get out of debt. I could pay off a credit card when I saw that I paid off 20,000 dollars. That was so- you said the word empowering, but I was so proud of myself. I was like, "wow, if I could get out of debt, then anyone can get out of debt." Because I was like the least likely case to actually do anything about it.

Adam Walker: Wow. Okay. Wow. So let's talk a little bit about the credit counseling experience. Like they gave you a debt management plan, did they help you with budgeting? Like walk us through a little bit of that.

Kristin Pierre: They are amazing. First, like I said, when I first called them, I was on the phone crying and the woman on the other end was so compassionate, so sweet. Like she made me feel like I was going to see the other side of this. They have always been just so great because during COVID, I will definitely lose all my jobs because I'm freelancing and I sing for a living at weddings and everything's canceled. So I didn't have any income.

Thank God for unemployment and all these other things. But they put me on an EMT plan. So I wasn't paying my full amount. They were like, "okay, what can you afford? 100 dollars?" So they didn't just cut me off. They were like, we're still going to work with your creditor and we're going to have them pay- we're going to pay them something. And when I saw at the end of the year or two, or at the end of the payment plan, the fees they took out for themselves, I was just like, "they really owed themselves way more than it took." Like it was- they held my hand through the whole thing and whenever I had an issue or say, for example, I lost a job that I was dependent on or we go on a hiatus with our band and I don't make the same amount of money monthly, I would call them and be like, "I can't make this payment this month." And they'd be like, "okay, let's do something about it." "What can you afford?" And then they would put me on an emergency plan. So they really work with you. And they are so compassionate about what you can afford, and they still keep you on a plan that still will allow you that freedom at the end of the whole thing.

Adam Walker: Yeah. Wow. I love that. I love that. It's really good. So let's talk a little bit about debt, right? So there's a stigma in talking about debt. I'm curious, what's your experience like having gone through this process? Do you talk more openly about it? I know you mentioned you've got a podcast, do you talk about on your podcast? You talk about friends or family? Or tell me a little bit about that.

Kristin Pierre: We haven't yet, but that's a great idea I was so embarrassed for a long time about my debt to the point where, so I had started dating my husband, now husband and I still have maybe like hundreds in credit card debt that I have in a plan, like whatever, 0 percent interest. And I was so scared to tell him when I was dating him that, because I still had the debt. I actually didn't pay off the 20,000 dollars. I still had probably I don't know, 4,000 left or whatever of the MMI plan. And I was, I felt so embarrassed. I was like, he's not gonna want to date me anymore. He's gonna break up with me.

If you find out I have credit card debt, like I was so ashamed for so long about it. But then once I got out of it or once I felt empowered around "Hey, like I had a set plan and everything." I was definitely like "it's handled. I'm not hiding my head in the sand I'm not getting calls from bill collectors. I'm not getting letters." It's handled with integrity in a way that I know it's being paid down. So then I was just like, okay, told him my debt. He's like I" have debt too." It was like, "oh, okay. He has more debt than me." So I was free. Then you're just more free about it. And I think there is a stigma around debt and like you're a bad person if you have credit card debt, but you know what life happens, things happen. Sometimes it happens like you have a medical issue and you need to pay on credit, you can't afford this and you need to pay for it. Or you know, you have to pay with groceries because you didn't get the check that you thought, you know? Having control around it and being empowered around it, is definitely the way to go. And MMI has taught me that. I am so much more confident talking about it and if this can serve someone and help someone, i'm happy to talk about it. But yeah, I think we really need to change the stigma around like it's bad and wrong to have debt.

Adam Walker: Yeah. and not only that, but it's incredibly common and, it is overcomable. I don't know if that's exactly a word, but it can be overcome and you've proven that. You got out of 20,000 dollars in debt in five years and that is profound and amazing and congratulations on doing that. So Kristin, last question for you; what does freedom from debt look like for you?

Kristin Pierre: It looks like having an amazing life. Like I have a beautiful husband, a beautiful baby boy. I had, we just leased a brand new car. My credit score is so high now. It's almost 800. I think it's 740 right now. It gives me more financial freedom. And because in a way it actually helped me because I've had so much debt over time and I have paid it off with integrity, the creditors look at that and they're like, "wow, she's reliable. Like we can give her more credit." And, it will help me in the future when we do decide to buy a house or- we're renting right now. But, it just is free. Like it's very freeing and it's amazing. I'm so grateful to MMI.

Adam Walker: Well, we're grateful for you sharing your story with us today. Kristin, thank you so much for being on the show and thank you for being an inspiration.

Kristin Pierre: Thank you so much, Adam. This was great. 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 $hort, 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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