Long Story $hort Episode 6

Removing the Burden of Debt and Stress from Life

Deborah Wang was living life as she thought most people did. As a mom raising four kids in Anthem, Arizona, many of her family’s expenses went on a credit card. When that credit card bill snowballed into an unmanageable amount, Deborah turned to MMI for help.

Since working with the debt counselors at MMI, she paid off a staggering $30,000 in three years and increased her credit score by 144 points along the way. Having removed the burden of debt and its associated stress from her life, she now budgets and pays for things in cash, and most importantly…sleeps easy at night.

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Show Notes

  • Guest: Deborah Wang
  • Host: Adam Walker
  • Publication Date: August 2, 2022

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Deborah Wang: And so now it's one and done. Here's your cash, here's your clothes, we're good. And I get to have more joy in my life because of that, because I don't have that burden of debt and stress.

[00:00:23] 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 Deborah Wang. Deborah lives in Anthem, Arizona, which is about minutes north of Phoenix. While working with the debt relief counselors at MMI, she paid off $30,000 in three years, increasing her credit score 144 points along the way. Here to share her story and more about her experience working with Money Management International is Deborah Wang. Deborah, welcome to the show!

[00:01:36] Deborah Wang: Hi, thanks so much, Adam. I'm glad to be here.

[00:01:39] Adam Walker: Well, I'm excited to talk to you. I'm envious and in awe of your success. And I just can't wait to hear your story. So let's talk let's talk about you first. Give us the one-minute flyover. Who are you? Where are you from? What do your days look like?

[00:01:52] Deborah Wang: Sure. So I've lived in Arizona about 20 years and came from Minnesota. And well, as long as we're talking about Money Management, I'll just throw this in, everyone grows up with, Oh, you're going to have debt. It's natural. That's just part of life.

And so I went into nursing thinking I want to be able to help people and want to be able to make a good living doing so. And I have four children and ended up going through a divorce and raising those four kids mostly by myself. And that's how I became a acquainted with Money Management. I came along and needed a little bit of help.

[00:02:30] Adam Walker: All right. So, so tell us about your debt story. What was happening in your life when you became a client of MMI and did you hit any kind of particular breaking point that pushed you into getting some outside help?

[00:02:43] Deborah Wang: Absolutely. So I was familiar with MMI from years back. And I'll tell you that story in a little bit. But I got the mail, got home from work, got the mail, and got the Discover card bill. Was already feeling a little bit nervous about it. I had managed to rack it up to 17,000, which is like, it's crazy. Won't even tell you what portion of my income per year that is. But I looked at the interest rate and it was pushing $500. Or not the interest rate, the interest each month they were tacking on $500 in interest.

My, the rate was high. I want to say it was like 23% or something. And not because I had terrible credit. But my credit was being affected each time I ran that card and the, I saw my credit number go down and down. And for the first time ever in my life, my credit score was. 525, I think, and that was very troubling to me.

But you get in this trend of, I gotta have it and I need it, and I need that now. Of course the kids need new school shoes for a program, or, you know, and just these little bits keeps adding up and all of a sudden it's $17,000. With a monthly interest fee of almost $500. And that was kind of all I had to send to them.

I was sending them $500. And so, you know, a few dollars was going towards principal. So ended up being just in interest it started going up to the point that it was about $20,000 on the Discover card bill. And that's when I got scared and I thought. You know I don't. I had a house. And I didn't want to do anything that would cost me in my house.

Didn't want to have to file bankruptcy. Kind of didn't know what to do and I remembered distinctly sitting in the chair, in my living room going, Wow what am I going to do? And then I thought of MMI and I thought maybe I can reach out to them and I get a little help. And so, I made a call that night and that's one of the things I like about MMI is, you know they're there for you after hours when you're, you know, you get home from work, you're tired, and then you're worried, and you can't wait until 8:00 AM to make a phone call during business hours.

It was a counselor there to talk to me at, you know, eight o'clock at night. And I explained the situation, they were so kind. You know, you kind of feel this sense of shame. Like, wow, I really screwed up and am I going to be one of those people that has to, know, have a second mortgage or has to file bankruptcy and they were not shaming at all.

They're like, Yeah, it happens, Deborah. And let me see what we can do for you. So they negotiated on my behalf to reduce the interest rate and that's what I needed. I was all about hey, this is my debt. I bought the things. This is my stuff. I have to take care of it. I'm not willing to write off or have it forgiven.

This is my debt I need to take care of. And so they contacted Discover and negotiated it down to a much more reasonable interest rate, a manageable one. So more of what I was sending that $500 payment was going towards the principal and just a little bit to interest. Discover still got their stuff. But, you know, they helped me. And they wrapped in and I have another smaller credit card from previous things.

I think I had done a cash advance because I needed it for something. And so that, that went to a lower interest rate and then I just hit it hard. Every, every time I had extra money, I sent it in still tried to live life because I kind of knew like if I don't enjoy, also, if I don't enjoy, you know, a latte once in a while, or I don't enjoy a little weekend getaway with the kids. You know, little things affordable, things like going camping. I'm not talking, you know, going to the Hilton. I'm talking about, you know, a $10 camping site. But it's time that we could spend together. So I made sure that I still enjoyed things while I was trying to pay down this debt. Same thing with the medical bills. Just kept hitting them. And I did, can I mention Dave Ramsey here?

I used Dave Ramsey's philosophies as well. You know the, he talked about a snowball. Snowball debt. So hit your smaller ones first and then every little bit that is, so if you let's say you have a $10 a month bill, you try to get that bill paid off, and then that $10 applies to the next credit card or next bill that you have. And then you have, in the end, you have more and more to throw at the bigger ones and get them paid off.

And so I use that philosophy because it motivates you. As you see one bill at a time being paid off in full it's like, Yeah, okay, I can do this. There's a light end of the tunnel. That light might be three years. It might be five. It might be 10 years for people, but it's so worth it because once, once you that's off your shoulders, it's like this huge burden has been lifted.

[00:07:38] Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah I can imagine. And so speaking of the burden, I mean, since working with MMI, just to reiterate the intro from this show, you've paid off $30,000 in three years and increased your credit score 144 points. And so you mentioned you know, one of the things you learned along the way or realize along the way is that you still had to enjoy life.

But not frivolously, right? So you talked about like doing things that were still fun, but were affordable and appropriate, so it really didn't set you back from your plan. So that I think, I feel like that's a really great lesson. Are there any other lessons that you learned along the way? Or . Any other challenges that you faced that you can share with us?

[00:08:14] Deborah Wang: I think a great lesson is to learn how to say no. You know, we have this this culture, again of, I need this, we justify it, we spend the money we say we'll pay for it later. But I really had to learn to say no. And question, do I need this or do I want this? And just having some kind of accountability.

So I had friends and family that knew my significant other was a huge cheerleader. He's, you know, he knew my situation and we had goals, and I wanted to reach those goals without bringing a bunch of debt to the relationship. And so he was a cheerleader. So, you know, don't be ashamed. You know, people get in bad situations for whatever reason. Sometimes it's completely outside of your control. It could be a medical situation, or a former spouse, or, you know, a accident. If you don't. You know there's a multitude of reasons. Like I own mine, I just. You know, wanted more than I could afford and kept spending. But don't be ashamed. Like there's help out there.

Money Management has been so good. Every single time I called them with an extra payment. They're like, Wow, you're doing this, good job. And it really does. You think, Oh, it's just words. Well, words have power. And so, you know, as you tell yourself, even your own self talk. You could tell yourself every day, Wow, this is too hard.

And you know, it's just natural. We're just, we're always going to have debt. I had parents who said, you know, that's just part of life, credit card, bill, car loans. That's just part of life. Well, it doesn't, it actually doesn't have to be. And so that self talk, learning to be kind to yourself, even when you say no, that, you know, reminding yourself that this is going to apply to my future.

[00:10:07] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:10:08] Deborah Wang: Know?

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

[00:10:09] Deborah Wang: My children's future, even though they're mostly grown now, my last one's about to graduate. I will have funds to help them and help my daughter go to college. Whereas boy, if you were to ask me five years ago, I'd been like, I don't know. I don't know. I guess we'll just take out more loans, right. Because that's what people do. Yeah, so that's kinda my story.

[00:10:34] Adam Walker: That's great. I mean and I love like how you've talked several times about, you know, keeping up with the Joneses and how breaking out of that mentality has meant a lot to you. You know, you mentioned to yourself, like you mentioned that, you know, you think you need a nice car, but do you really need a nice car?

You really just need a car that'll the safe and gets you from point a to point B. That's really what you need. Doesn't really have to be that nice necessarily. Right. But we think for some reason it has to be nice. Right. And I think it's the same thing with lots of other things as well. And so is there any advice you can give to our listeners to help break out of that mentality of keeping up with the Joneses?

[00:11:06] Deborah Wang: Part of it is looking at your future. Because whatever you spend now, you're going to be paying back that plus some. So when you talk about financial freedom. So, okay, so here is like at this huge trap that I had. If I had a credit card that in my mind represented freedom I have financial freedom because I got good credit.

You know, so I, that told me if I want to, I can fly to California. If I want to or need to. I can. I'm okay. I have financial freedom. If the kids need new outfit for school, I have financial freedom because I have credit versus having the cash. Like this, I'm not even kidding, this is the first time in my life that I've had cash to do what I need to do, and I don't have to pay interest on it. It's cash that I've earned. It's sitting in a bank and when I need to use it, I use it. And then I don't have to think about it again. And that's truly freedom. You know, I don't have to think about it again.

Whereas I have, I spent 30 years going, Okay, I'm going to buy this now, yeah, I know. I gotta make sure I put it in the budget. Gotta put it in the budget and make sure that I'm going to be able to make the payments. Okay. Maybe that might be three months, and three months turns into six months, and so now it's one and done, here's your cash, here's your clothes, we're good. And I get to have more joy in my life because of that, because I don't have that burden of debt and stress. So.

[00:12:36] Adam Walker: Yeah, I love that. I mean, that, that's such a, sort of statement, right? Like, like real financial freedom is being able to pay for it one time and be done and you never have to worry about it again because the budget's there, the money's already there, right. You've already saved the money it's already there. You don't have to pay for it, and then pay for it, and then pay for it, and then pay for it, and then pay for it.

[00:12:58] Deborah Wang: Right. Yeah, and then you look at whatever you bought, that's sitting on a shelf that you've never used. And I go, Wow, I'm still paying for that. I really thought I needed that ice cream maker that goes with the blender, so that.

[00:13:10] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:13:10] Deborah Wang: I can make my own ice cream. It's like, yeah. How often do we use the ice cream makers? Maybe some people. Yeah.

[00:13:17] Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah, but how much less expensive is it to to run out and grab some ice cream, right.

[00:13:22] Deborah Wang: Right, right.

[00:13:23] Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:13:24] Deborah Wang: So it's all what you tell yourself, you know?

[00:13:28] Adam Walker: Yeah. Well I was going to ask you as my final question. What does freedom from debt look like to you? But I think you've already answered it, right? It's the ability to have the freedom to pay for something one time and be done with it. Right. Is there anything you'd add to that though?

[00:13:42] Deborah Wang: What does freedom from debt? I sleep well at night. I go to bed and I sleep well at night. It's more fun to plan trips and I know that I'm going to budget for it. So I'm still, you're still budgeting. You're just budgeting in advance.

[00:13:59] Adam Walker: Yeah.

[00:13:59] Deborah Wang: Instead of on the back end.

[00:14:00] Adam Walker: Right, right. Yep. Yep. Wow. I love that. I love that. Wow. That's so great. Well, you're, your outlook is so inspiring. Your story's and I love your definition of freedom. Thank you for sharing that with us. Deborah, just thank you so much for being on the show today.

[00:14:16] Deborah Wang: Thank you, Adam. It's been a lot of fun to talk with.

[00:14:25] 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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