Long Story $hort Episode 9

Putting His Needs Before His Wants

Marlon Ibarra started using credit cards as a young college student with a newborn on the way. His relationship with credit has been tenuous, opening new lines of credit to accommodate his growing family and at one point navigating a scammy debt consolidation program.

Once Marlon found MMI and began working with the debt relief counselors at Money Management International, he paid off $98,000 in just over four years, increasing his credit score 217 points along the way, and learned valuable lessons about understanding needs versus wants.

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Show Notes

  • Guest: Marlon Ibarra
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: September 13, 2022

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Marlon Ibarra: And then all of a sudden you go from , do I really need this? How important is this, what I'm about to purchase? Because it's coming straight out of my checking or my savings account. And so, it was tough. It was tough to go from wants and needs, to just needs.

[00:00:27] 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.

Today on the show I'm talking with Marlon Ibarra. Marlon lives in Pico Rivera, California, which is about 30 minutes east of Los Angeles. While working with the debt relief counselors at Money Management International, Marlon paid off $98,000 in just over four years, increasing his credit score 217 points along the way. Marlon now serves as a Peer Advocate for MMI, which is designed to increase MMI's reach and service delivery to marginalized communities with a specific focus on BIPOC consumers, and low-to moderate income households.

Marlon, welcome to Long Story Short!

[00:01:50] Marlon Ibarra: Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me.

[00:01:52] Adam Walker: Let's start off.

Tell us, give us the one minute flyover of who you are, where you're from and what your days look like.

[00:01:59] Marlon Ibarra: Okay. So Marlon Ibarra. I work for Vsonic, which is a technology company, and I am the manager of business, or business and sales analytics. And so basically I look at sales data, day in, day out.

And from there, I analyze the numbers to try to interpret the story, that the numbers are telling where we're doing well in sales, where we're not doing as well in sales. And then try to give my recommendations to my boss or other stakeholders in the company to see where we can make more money, on a, you know, weekly basis, quarterly, yearly. So that's...

[00:02:42] Adam Walker: Fantastic.

[00:02:43] Marlon Ibarra: that's what my day looks like as far as work. And so it goes everywhere from a 40 hour week to a 50 hour week. So there's no telling how long my day's gonna be.

[00:02:55] Adam Walker: All right. Well, we're here to talk about your work with MMI. So what is your debt story, and what was happening in your life around the time you became a client of MMI, and kind of, was there any particular breaking point or point at which you knew you needed additional help.

[00:03:12] Marlon Ibarra: Okay. And so what happened was, usually when these companies come to college campuses and say, you know what, you're eligible for a credit card. And you're like, oh, cool. I didn't even know I qualified for one. And then you grab one, and then you see you get that your credit limit is a certain number.

And then now, it become, for me, it became a little bit about ego, I guess. Like, oh I'm sure this other credit card will gimme more money than the previous one, because I've done such good job in paying off the minimums. So, and so you go ahead and you grab another one, and then before you know it, you have about four or five in your pocket.

And then you start going out with friends, you start enjoying. Whether it is the nightlife or going away on trips for the weekend. And all of a sudden everything's on plastic, right? Everything's on plastic. And me personally, I am 45 years old. I had my son at 21. So on top of all that, I already had all this debt just going on and enjoying life.

And then I had a child on the way. I was still in college. I was between my first semester and my second semester of senior year in college. And so I needed money to, buy goods for, and, you know, in addition to the family. And so, I started racking up the credit card bills there.

And then after he was born, you know, you keep buying clothes or formula or whatnot. And then you just start applying for other credit cards because you think, oh, okay. The credit limit is not enough here. Now I have a full time job. Another credit card company gives you another card, and then you go from four to five to eight to nine credit cards in your pocket.

And so whether that's like a Visa, MasterCard, or a, like a Macy's card, a department store card. And then you're like, wow I owe a lot of money and all I can pay now is, I can't even think about paying anything other than just a minimum, paying the month. And so, I went ahead and I went with the wrong... that consolidation company, I'm not sure exactly what to call them, to be honest.

And I didn't realize how many different types of companies there were out there or how some just they set up a payment plan for you. About really what they're doing in the background is they're negotiating your, how to decrease your debt and not paying. So all they're doing is collecting your money, and collecting your money.

And at the end they give like, I guess like a, like the big payment to pay that off and pay that off. And you see your credit scores start going down and down and down because they're seeing that you're not paying, your monthly bill. So that's basically what led me to MMI, is choosing the wrong company.

And then going to MMI and basically saying, you know what, I don't know what to do. I am underwater basically, and I'm trying to survive here and I need help. I need help. And so they said, you know what, you're not gonna be able to use your credit cards for X amount of time, but we will pay everything off.

I thought, I thought I was in the low nineties until you said I was in the high nineties when it came to how much, money was paid off. But once I got on that program, it was hard, when you're used to using your credit cards for everything, you just figure you have money for anything.

And then all of a sudden you go from do I really need this? How important is this, what I'm about to purchase? Because it's just coming straight out of my checking or my savings account. And so, it was tough. It was tough to go from wants and needs to just needs. I've been like that for, I think, I got on the program and it basically was about four and a half, almost five years that I was on the program.

[00:08:10] Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:08:10] Marlon Ibarra: And it really helped me a lot. Understand again, needs over wants.

[00:08:16] Adam Walker: So you alluded to this earlier and I wanna mention it and then I wanna see if maybe, if you can elaborate on some things you learned.

[00:08:21] Marlon Ibarra: Sure.

[00:08:21] Adam Walker: So you mentioned that since working with MMI, you've paid off $98,000 in just over four years and increased your credit score 217 points along the way.

You talked a little earlier about kind of the differences between wants and needs. And I just want, I wanna elaborate a little bit more, like, how is your thinking changed? How has your spending changed? How has your relationship with money changed through this period of time?

[00:08:53] Marlon Ibarra: Okay. I wanted everything before, and so, and in my mind it's, I need it. Because I need that shirt to look nice. I need those pants to look nice. I need those feet because they're gonna, or those shoes, because they're gonna make my toes feel better, or whatever the case is.

[00:09:12] Adam Walker: Right.

[00:09:13] Marlon Ibarra: So everything, I think it's a maturation for me. I enjoy having money in my accounts. That affords me the option.

Maybe I want to take a little, a weekend getaway or maybe I do want to have a trip somewhere. Where I don't have to worry about how many credit cards do I need to put this on? My flight goes on one credit card and my hotel goes on another credit card and I'm using a third credit card for spending cash, while I'm actually there, you know, just because I need to get, I need to get away.

And so before that, that's quickly how I got in debt. It was always one trip might cost me three to four different credit cards.

[00:09:57] Adam Walker: Okay.

[00:09:59] Marlon Ibarra: And now it's, you put money aside and if I have it, I have it. And if I don't, then it'll wait till next year. It'll wait till I do have the money for it.

[00:10:08] Adam Walker: Great.

[00:10:09] Marlon Ibarra: So that's how, I've changed as a person, I guess. It's understanding...

[00:10:14] Adam Walker: Okay.

[00:10:14] Marlon Ibarra: ...that my needs come first before my wants.

[00:10:19] Adam Walker: Yeah. I mean, there's a couple things you said there that, really kind of opened my eyes. Like one is, I never really thought about you know, taking a trip and having to put it on multiple credit cards to sort of juggle it all.

So I'd imagine not doing that provides like, a good deal of relief because you don't have to worry about it. Right?

[00:10:35] Marlon Ibarra: For sure.

[00:10:36] Adam Walker: And the other thing that comes to mind is, you know, you mentioned, oh, what was it? Oh yeah, you mentioned that peace of mind is like looking at your bank account and seeing it accumulate, and seeing it like, that's more valuable to you now than having the latest fashion or an updated car, whatever, which I think is kind of amazing and a really great perspective.

[00:10:57] Marlon Ibarra: Right.

[00:10:57] Adam Walker: So, you live in California, not exactly the cheapest place to live, but more importantly you're a peer advocate and I know you talked to a lot of people that are in debt and are you're working to normalize the subject.

So I'm just curious. How do you see stories of debt playing out in your community and with the people around you?

[00:11:17] Marlon Ibarra: Well, I do live in Los Angeles. One of the major markets in the country. It's easy to fall into the trap that I fell into. Everything, you see on TV, whether it's commercials or listen to the radio or anything on the socials, it's always about going out and doing this or the latest fashion trends. And, now even just to go out, you need a nice bank account just to put gas in your car, unless you have an electric car and those are little more expensive than a normal gas car. And so, for me, I live about nine miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

And so, if I wanna go into downtown Los Angeles, just driving in, not a big deal. Traffic, a big deal. And then looking for parking can cost me anywhere between $20 to $50, depending on where I'm gonna park. And that's before I'm even in wherever I'm gonna go. And so it's like, okay.

Now with the pandemic, not every place accepts cash. Everything. A lot of places are cashless now.

[00:12:34] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:12:34] Marlon Ibarra: Do you wanna take out your debit card or do you wanna just, rather take out your plastic. And maybe you wanna get the points for it and you think, oh, you know what I'm gonna get the points because I get cash rewards or whatever it is, or the 2% back, but I'll pay it off at the end of the month.

And then you start accumulating so much debt that, oh, maybe I can't pay it off, but you know what? I'll pay it off next month. I'll go ahead. I'll pay half of it this month. I'll pay the other, the rest of the amount next month. So I can see how a lot of people start falling into that trap because you want to live the LA lifestyle.

[00:13:15] Adam Walker: I wanted to make sure I didn't miss an opportunity here. So, we're having a conversation that's hard for a lot of people to have right now. Right? Because there is kind of a, stigma around debt that impacts a person's willingness to talk about it and to seek help. So I'm curious, like, talk about that stigma.

How did it change for you to be able to talk about your own debt story, and then how do you think we can help change it for other people?

[00:13:42] Marlon Ibarra: Well, I think the biggest, the one for me is that price tag, that you say that I paid off.

[00:13:50] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:13:51] Marlon Ibarra: Because if they say, if it's something like, if it'd have been like 20 K, then it's you know what, that's manageable, but you're talking about almost close to a hundred that I paid off.

And now we're talking about eye-opening numbers. And so, yeah, first of all is how do you get that bad with money. And basically it's about a little over 20 it's almost about 25 K that I paid off a year. Let's make it easy round numbers, and so, for me, I feel like, I accomplished something, something huge.

So it's like saying, you know what, I'm in my mid forties, I started sinking, I guess, about 20 to 25 years ago. So if I can do it. I'm not, I'm not gonna lie to everyone and say everyone can do it. It takes, you have to make sure if you want to do it, if you want to try to do this. First of all, you have to acknowledge that you have a problem, and then you have to come to terms with other people helping you, because that's the big to me. That's the big thing is for me to tell someone else, Hey, I have a problem with money. Can you help me? And that person being a stranger, it's not even someone, you know, I mean, first of all, when it comes to, when it comes to money. So if the last person you wanna talk to is people who know you, I feel like you feel more comfortable with strangers than you actually...

[00:15:43] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:15:43] Marlon Ibarra: ...people who know you, because for me, I feel like if I talk to somebody who knows me, then they're gonna judge me.

And I don't wanna be judged by people that I know. And so realizing that you have a problem and then opening up to that, about that problem to a stranger is a big deal. They're not emotionally invested. They're not here to judge me, but they do want to help me.

[00:16:12] Adam Walker: That's right.

[00:16:13] Marlon Ibarra: And so that made it easier and it was about an almost two hour conversation with MMI the first time that I talked to them. So it's not something that you say, you know what, let me call them and let me do this between a commercial break or anything like that.

[00:16:29] Adam Walker: Right! Yeah, yeah. It's a little more involved in that, right?

[00:16:32] Marlon Ibarra: Yeah. Yes.

[00:16:33] Adam Walker: Yeah. That's good.

[00:16:34] Marlon Ibarra: So it, it did take me about two hours, and we went into almost everything when it came to money.

[00:16:41] Adam Walker: That's great.

[00:16:44] Marlon Ibarra: And it, I, I'm not gonna say that I wasn't embarrassed in the first few months, maybe even the year, first year, because now I am telling people no, oh, you know what?

I can't do that. Oh, I can't afford to do that. All that's embarrassing at the beginning. It really is.

[00:17:02] Adam Walker: Yeah. For sure.

[00:17:03] Marlon Ibarra: I feel like it is embarrassing at the beginning until you get comfortable with it and understand that, once you start seeing that dent into what you owe and you start getting a little more okay with it. Like, you know?

[00:17:18] Adam Walker: Yeah, yeah. You're willing to deal with like the pain cuz you see that you're making progress. Right?

[00:17:24] Marlon Ibarra: Correct. Correct.

[00:17:25] Adam Walker: Yeah. I love that, man. I love that. Well Marlon, last question for you, we'll wrap up here.

[00:17:31] Marlon Ibarra: Sure.

[00:17:32] Adam Walker: What does freedom from debt look like for you?

[00:17:39] Marlon Ibarra: Well, when it comes to credit card debt, because I still got my house debt.

[00:17:43] Adam Walker: Well, yeah, that's fair. That's fair. Yeah.

[00:17:50] Marlon Ibarra: But it feels like you've had an elephant on each shoulder, and a gorilla on your head finally come off. It feels like you don't have to be embarrassed anymore, around anyone. You feel like you're back to, my normal life basically. And I keep putting up the quotes.

[00:18:18] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:18:18] Marlon Ibarra: But it's it really, that's what it is. When, as you're getting into debt, you're establishing what your lifestyle is.

[00:18:29] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:18:30] Marlon Ibarra: Once you're, once you see that you can't maintain that lifestyle, it's hard to detach mentally, because you've been so far involved, depending on how much you've spent creating that lifestyle. Now it makes it really hard to detach yourself and seeing that, that isn't you.

[00:18:56] Adam Walker: Right.

[00:18:56] Marlon Ibarra: Cause you still feel like you should be doing that when you're no longer doing that.

[00:19:03] Adam Walker: Gotcha.

[00:19:04] Marlon Ibarra: So now that everything has been paid off, you feel like if you want to participate in something, you have the means where you can participate in something.

[00:19:17] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:19:18] Marlon Ibarra: But you also have the knowledge of understanding that, if I don't have that money in my pocket, then I don't need to be part of that anymore. I make sure that if I have the means to be able to do it, then I do it. But if not, then it's okay. It's okay.

[00:19:39] Adam Walker: That's perfect.

[00:19:40] Marlon Ibarra: The next opportunity will be right around the corner for me to do something.

[00:19:44] Adam Walker: That's great. That's great.

[00:19:45] Marlon Ibarra: I'm not missing out on something because I'm not able to do it this weekend or next weekend or next month or whatever it is.

[00:19:53] Adam Walker: Man, that's well, Marlon. That's great, man. This has been great. I mean, I just really appreciate you sharing your story with us. Love your perspective on this. And just so much of the stuff you shared is just so valuable to our listeners. So thanks for joining me on the show today.

[00:20:08] Marlon Ibarra: Well, thank you for having me, Adam. Hey, this is the first time I opened up and so it's hopefully, hopefully someone gets a little bit of the message that, I'm trying to get out there. That as hard as this is, there is a way out. There is a way out.

[00:20:30] Adam Walker: Yeah, that's right.

[00:20:31] Marlon Ibarra: It's hard. It's not easy, but as long as you're willing to work at it, there is a way out.

[00:20:39] 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. Scriptwriting and production by Clara Jennings, editing by Brandon Ellis, and show hosting by me, Adam Walker.

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