Long Story $hort Episode 4

Recognizing the Difference Between Want and Need

Melissa Mehaffey is the first to admit that she needs two tries to learn her lesson. She worked with Money Management International twice after she was overwhelmed with credit card payments. Since working with the debt relief counselors at MMI, she has paid off $27,000 in five years, increasing her credit score by 85 points along the way.

After her second debt payoff journey, she shares the lessons she’s learned along the way: recognizing the difference between a want and a need and remembering what matters.

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Show Notes

  • Guest: Melissa Mehaffey     
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: July 5, 2022

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Melissa Mehaffey: Really, it was just a matter of me understanding more about who I was as a person and really doing some self-evaluation and some work to really get myself to a place where I felt more comfortable and confident within myself.

[00:00:19] 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 Melissa Mehaffey. Melissa is from Austin, Texas and has had quite the financial journey over the last few years. While working with the debt relief counselors at MMI, she has paid off $27,000 in five years, increasing her credit score 85 points along the way. Here to share her story and more about her experience working with Money Management International is Melissa Mehaffey. Melissa, welcome to Long Story Short!

[00:01:34] Melissa Mehaffey: Hello. Thank you so much for having me. Pleasure to be here.

[00:01:37] Adam Walker: I am, I'm, I'm so excited to talk to you about this because it's such an important topic and there's just not enough people talking about this. So what you've accomplished, first of all, just, congratulations. It's such a big deal and such a big accomplishment and it's so amazing. And we're gonna dig into that, but to start with, just give us the one minute flyover of who you are, where you're from, what do your days look like?

[00:02:01] Melissa Mehaffey: Yeah, well, my name is Melissa and I live in Austin, Texas. I work for a large vacation travel company and I'm an account manager.

So I would say I'm in the people business, talk to people, build relationships, that sort of thing. So day-to-day is a lot of, well, Monday through Friday is a lot of meetings, a lot of emailing typical work at the computer type of job. But I've been in Austin for about six years, grew up in California, and went to college and graduate school up in Oregon before moving to Phoenix and then made my way a little bit east about six years ago.

[00:02:40] Adam Walker: Oh, that's fantastic. That's fantastic. Well, sounds like an interesting job. I think you're probably pretty good at talking to people. So I'm looking forward to getting to talk to you today. So, so let's start with your debt story. What was happening in your life when you became a client of MMI? And I mean, in particular was there a breaking point where you knew you needed outside help?

[00:03:02] Melissa Mehaffey: Yeah, well, I've actually gone through the program twice. I guess that's either a good or a bad thing on my side. I don't know. But basically, you know, for me in college, I, for some reason had this opinion or thought that I was making six figures as a college student and I just would deal with it later.

So that's when I first encountered issues. In college and then graduating and realizing, oh my gosh, I have all this credit card debt. And you know, what am I gonna do with it? And so I discovered MMI then and worked the program, was able to get out of debt, and then actually when I relocated to Austin, took a job that was you know less money salary wise than I had been making previously.

And I knew that going in, but I ended up getting into some debt again. And so for me, really, it was one of those things where I couldn't continue to live that way, day to day, where it just felt like I had this burden on me, you know, of this, like this major debt that I was carrying around. And so a few different things occurred.

One was, you know I progressed to, to different jobs, different roles, that ended up providing me that opportunity to get back on track in terms of paying off the debt. And that, and because I'd worked with MMI before I knew that really, it was an awesome, basically, experience and like plan to be able to help me work through paying off the debt.

So that was, once I got to a place where I had the ability to stop spending on the credit card and start paying it off combined with re-enrolling with MMI, that's really, I guess, would be my bottom, rock bottom.

[00:04:46] Adam Walker: Gotcha. And I just wanna make sure I understand your story. So did you say, as a college student, you were making six figures? Or you were spending like you made six figures?

[00:04:54] Melissa Mehaffey: No, I was spending like I made six figures.

[00:04:56] Adam Walker: Okay. All right. I just wanna make sure that it's probably a common thing. And I, yeah I'm glad you've managed to rectify that. So so you mentioned that since you started working with the you've paid off $27,000 in debt and increased your credit score, 85 points.

So congratulations. That is just unbelievably amazing. Tell us what were some of the challenges that you faced along the way? What were some of the lessons that you learned about the US financial system and about yourself?

[00:05:27] Melissa Mehaffey: Yeah. You know, I think for me it was definitely one of those situations where the first time wasn't enough to teach me the lesson.

So definitely needed the second go around there. But I think for me, ultimately, what I learned going through the second round of paying off the debt is that, you know, you feel just so much better once you've accomplished it. And I had to go through it twice to truly understand the lesson. And I guess that would sort of be a sum for my life in general seems that I'm, you know, kind of slow to learn the lesson.

But for me, you know, I think some of the greatest challenges were just distinguishing between is this purchase a want or a need? And really being able to come up with a plan and a budget that worked for me and sticking to it. I think as far as what did I learn in terms of the financial system in our country?

I think that there's a lot of ways to fall into debt, but not as many ways, or it's not as, I guess not celebrated might not be the right word? But shared advertised, as for ways to get out of the debt. So it's like, you know, you can find a credit card anywhere, but can you find people and companies that are willing to help you, if you find yourself in a situation that isn't ideal.

And so I am very glad that I found Money Management International,, simply because the plan and the way that they work with you to get your interest rate as low as possible is something that really was nice for me. Because it took me out of having to deal with the credit card companies. And then it was one every month is a payment. And I just knew that was coming out of my, you know, checking account and it was, and then they would be dispersing it out to the credit card companies. And I didn't have to worry about, Okay, this much to this company this month, this much to this company, you know, it was just a flat thing. And it really made it a lot simpler for me and less stressful.

[00:07:31] Adam Walker: I love that. I mean, it's having a plan simplifies everything. Right. And so I wanna revisit something you mentioned earlier, you said you learn to differentiate between a want and a need. I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit more on that. You know what is your thought process when you're thinking through that differentiation? And I'm also curious, related to wants, do you employ any tactics? Like, oh, I want this but I'm going to wait for two weeks and see if I still want it in two weeks? Or in any tactics like that. So could you talk a little bit more about that?

[00:08:04] Melissa Mehaffey: Yeah, definitely. You know, when it comes to like a great piece of chocolate, if I want it, I'm not waiting two weeks. So, you know, I think it depends on what we're talking about. But yeah, really, you know, for me, it was a situation where I was very fortunate growing up and very fortunate with having, you know, a lot of financial support through college. And even then I still felt like, you know, oh, I want this, like I deserve it.

And so really it was more of like I guess more of like just a journey within myself to realize that you know, certain things, you don't deserve certain things just because you're alive, I guess. And that sounds a little, maybe that sounds like too heavy or too deep. But really, it was just a matter of me understanding more about what who I was as a person and really doing some self-evaluation and some work to really get myself to a place where I felt more comfort, comfortable and confident within myself. And I think that you know, I can only speak for myself, but a lot of what my spending was maybe dealing with things that I hadn't wanted to deal with, you know, mental health wise.

And that's what I discovered through my journey. I think the twenties are a challenging time for so many people and that sort of just flowed over into my thirties as well. And so I think that for me you know the want versus the need really came down to, Hey look this is what I have to work with every month in terms of you know, a budget. Right.

And so I know that these different things have to be paid. And so what I'm left with is this sum here. And of this sum, what do I really determine is a want or a need? So like food. Yes. That's a need. A new sweater or a new pair of shoes? That's not necessarily a need, that's more a want.

And so I guess, to touch on your question about how did I sort of determine between is this, you know, a need that is, or pardon, a want that is very highly rated or not highly rated? That again took self-reflection and it takes you being comfortable with yourself to realize that this item this thing is not going to fulfill whatever it is that I think I may need right now from this item.

And I think that's really my, what my journey was about. And again, that was my personal journey because I was filling up voids or feelings with things. And it was easy to do that with a credit card. And then lo and behold you're in this debt. That really is, you know it's not like I had any specific, like rocket science you know, formula for determining a want versus a need. It was more just about realizing why I was purchasing and, you know assessing things before I just swiped the card.

[00:11:16] Adam Walker: I mean that, but that's brilliant. Right. Knowing why you're purchasing something is so critical and it occurs to me as you say that I think a lot of times we make purchases without really knowing why. Like, why do I want that other pair of shoes in addition to all the other shoes that I have, or why do I want that gadget? Why do I want it right?

[00:11:36] Melissa Mehaffey: Well, but that's gonna, I mean, that's gonna open up a whole other conversation about just the way that we live in our country. You know, you feel like you need to keep up with the people. You need to be presenting yourself a certain way. And, you know, I hate to say it because it feels so something like my mother would say, but, you know, I think as we get older, we start to realize more and more that.

All of that stuff doesn't matter. And especially in the last couple of years with the pandemic and just a lot of other things that have gone on in our country and continue to go on in the world. I think for me personally, I've realized that it's not about what I have or what I you know, can sort of, you know show off to the world.

It's more about like, who am I as a person? And what kind of impact am I leaving on the lives of others? And that has become to matter more to me than having the latest and greatest iPhone or the latest and greatest purse. Right. I'm not gonna say like, suddenly I'm like Mother Teresa and I live with, you know, like I, none of it matters. I mean, I do still, you know, splurge, but it's just a more thought out splurge.

[00:12:40] Adam Walker: And that makes all the difference. I mean, that really makes all the difference more thought out splurge. Wow. So, all right. So you mentioned that you're in Austin's a growing city. It's a booming city. It's a hot housing market. When you look around at friends and you look at your community as a whole, how do you see stories of debt playing out?

[00:13:00] Melissa Mehaffey: You know, I think it's still one of those things that feels like that hush, let's not talk about debt. You know, I, when you ask me that question, I immediately start to think about friends and conversations and, you know, It's not like we're sitting around having a an adult beverage and talking about like, so how many thousands of dollars have you racked up in credit card debt this month?

Right. And so it's one of those things where I think that it really is something that you like, I car, I personally carried shame around it. And so it certainly wasn't a topic I was going to bring up with my friends. I think going back to what I mentioned previously, which is just this idea around trying to impress you know. So much of social media now allows us to sort of what I call post to boast, you know, this idea of oh, I need to post just so people see that I did this, or I have this.

And I think that is something that in Austin, because it's such a young city, so many people are moving there every day. It's definitely a situation where you could feel like, Oh, I need to keep up with these people. I need to, you know, make sure that my friends and the greater circle at large know that I'm, you know, with it and hip and whatever.

So again, it goes back to this idea of really assessing what, what matters. And you could be living in a small town in Idaho and still be struggling with the same things that people in Austin or larger city, like New York, Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, I mean, you know, on and on.

I think that it's just a matter of like within your own self, what matters to you and I, if you, if you aren't able to identify that and so you continue to fill it up with things or posting about experiences that, that, you know, are really more of a, Hey, I wanna boast about this rather than, Hey, this was something that mattered to me.

From a perspective of just being a person that cares about others and that sort of thing then you start to. Have a different opinion about it. So I really have tried to stop being as focused on the things and what that represents. And that for me has changed, it changed things for me a lot. But I also think that's a challenge within Austin within any large city. But it could also be a challenge for someone, like I said, in a small city.

So it's really just about, it's about mental health and it's about assessing where you are with your own journey.

[00:15:39] Adam Walker: Yeah. And you mentioned a couple things, right? So you mentioned the stigma around talking about debt and you said, and I think what you said is, you know, you don't wanna be out for drinks with friends and say, Oh, how much credit card debt do you have?

Right. But I wonder too, like how amazing that would be for like, to be open about that and to start talking about that and how much help, you know, people could be for one another. Because I think the reality is that we all struggle in this area or at least most of us do. But we just never talk about it. Right. But if we did talk about it, make the struggle a lot easier. Right?

[00:16:10] Melissa Mehaffey: Right. Well, I agree completely with you, but again, it's, even though I did work through so much, you know, debt repayment and all this, it still isn't something that I necessarily wanna be, you know, you don't wanna be known for it, right.

[00:16:25] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:16:26] Melissa Mehaffey: Right. Exactly.

[00:16:27] Adam Walker: I get that. I get that.

[00:16:28] Melissa Mehaffey: But it's like any other taboo topic, you know, it takes a big person to sort of open up the conversation and there's always that fear of, Well, what if no one else can relate? Or what if no one else, yeah, you know, you kind of create this experience in your own mind.

And so you know I do agree. I do agree. And, you know, I would be open to disc, obviously I'm open to discussing it. But it's not something that I necessarily lead with. Right. And so right.

[00:16:57] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:16:57] Melissa Mehaffey: You know, I guess I need to I point taken, I need to consider that and just because, and obviously I went through it, so I, that means others have or are going through it as well. And I want them to know I'm supportive of their journey

[00:17:11] Adam Walker: Right. Yeah. Well, I mean, it sounds to me like you've already, you know, you've already started on that path. I mean you're willing to talk to me about your story to help other people, which is. That's the whole point, right? That's why we talk about these things is because it does, it helps massive amounts of other people when we're willing to just be honest about the things that we are dealing with in, in this area.

[00:17:30] Melissa Mehaffey: Right. Right. Exactly. And so much of going through life is about lessons and choices. Right. And for me, the lesson wasn't learned the first time around and that's okay. And you know you continue you, you get up and you go on and it doesn't make you a bad person because you struggled with this. But I just think that for me, and I'm guessing for a lot of others the spending is a coverup, right. And so it's just about being able to really get right with yourself, I guess.

And that's why I like, you know, the fact that I'm able to talk about MMI, because again, like with mental health there's a lot of things out there that can cause someone to have some issues, like with the credit card, lots of ways to get credit cards, but there's not a lot of ways to necessarily know about getting help. And that's why I think MMI is a great option.

[00:18:21] Adam Walker: It is such a great option, such a great option. So, so last question and kind of a broad question, and I think there's lots of different ways to think about this, but I'm curious what this means for you. So when you think about freedom from debt, what does that mean to you?

[00:18:38] Melissa Mehaffey: I think in life, there's a lot of different ways you can measure success and success equals things, different things for different people, right. But for me, freedom from debt really signifies for me, adulthood really like becoming somebody that is able to manage their money. Somebody who's able to make decisions that an adult would make. And I think that for a long time, I had a young. Sort of approach to money and handling money and finances. And so for me, being debt free, just signifies and symbolizes really you know, sort of that progression into adulthood.

[00:19:13] Adam Walker: I love that. I love, you know and one thing, one final thought that I have that I wanted to share with you is, you know, you made the, you made a comment once or twice about, you know, you didn't learn your lesson the first time you had to go back again. To be honest, I really admire that. Like, I like you saw, I need this help again. And you went and did it again, like there's no, like that's, that is the definition of being an adult and being a solid person, right? Like, yeah, like that's an admirable quality to me. And so I, I really admire that you've done that.

And that you've had the success in it that you've had like this such an amazing accomplishment. So man, this has been fantastic. So I guess this is the real last question. Do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to share with our listen?

[00:19:55] Melissa Mehaffey: Yeah, I think that, you know, we hear this often that don't be afraid to ask for help and realizing that you have the problem and acknowledging it is sort of the first step, but as you know, maybe obvious as that seems that truly is what you need to do.

If you're in a position where you have this financial debt that is just crushing you because continuing to go to sleep every night and just thinking I'll deal with it tomorrow, doesn't fix the problem. It only continues to cause the stress and make it worse. So I really think being able to acknowledge that there is this debt and you need to deal with it and you're ready to deal with it is the first step.

And so I encourage people and hope that they do really Find the ability to acknowledge it and start on the path to fixing it because it really getting that stress taken away makes such a difference in your daily life.

[00:20:50] Adam Walker: Yeah. And I would say that stress begins to be reduced. The minute you start to make a plan to fix the problem, right? It's not a stress that comes off only after it's all done, but once you have a plan that you can walk down, that's when the stress starts to get reduced.

[00:21:05] Melissa Mehaffey: Yeah. And it's just, as you say that, I just start thinking about other things in life. I'm like, that's so true with so many things in life. And, you know, I just think that it's important for, I think about this in my work life, you know, educating my clients about options they have when they have choices to make.

And I think that's the same thing in terms of, you know, Reducing your debt dealing with your debt. It's about knowing what's out there. And so that's why that's a big reason of why I wanted to participate in the podcast is because I think that people need to know that money management international is out there.

And if you don't know, how can you start to get your help? So you know I think that's what it is, but I agree with you completely, that it starts to dissipate the moment you make the decision to acknowledge it.

[00:21:52] Adam Walker: Yeah. So if you're listening and you need a plan, You need to check out money management international, because that's how you can start that plan to get rid of or reduce that stress.

So, Melissa, this has been amazing. Your story's amazing. I really admire what you've accomplished. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

[00:22:10] Melissa Mehaffey: Hey, thanks for having me.

[00:22:17] 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 the 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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