One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to chronicle our “Journey to ZERO.” Yes, you guessed it. ZERO debt. Zero payments on a house, student loans, car loans, credit cards, or any other type of debt. In this post, we will cover our entire financial life as a married couple. I hope this story will provide you with some hope! It will also help keep us accountable to the goals we are trying to attain for the glory of God.
In The Beginning
Once upon a time, Mr. & Mrs. Willhoit were two clueless college kids without a care in the world. We met in October of 2005, started dating in December, and were married in July of 2006. We were two 20 year old kids who were wet behind the ears! She didn’t have a job and I was working part-time in the summer. We were both full time students at a Bible College. Neither of us had much of a plan for our future. We were living on love!
Lesson #1 – I was not ready to support myself nor my wife. I was not ready to be a Godly husband (I Timothy 5:8).
During our brief engagement, it was mentioned in passing that my soon-to-be-wife had a few small student loans to pay off. I didn’t think a “few small loans” would amount to anything, so it never crossed my mind again. Fast forward to the middle of July. We get home from our honeymoon and the in-laws stop by to see how we were doing….
We were all sitting in the living room when my mother-in-law said, “Oh by the way, we brought by some of the paperwork for her student loans we told you about a while back.” There were more papers than I knew what to do with! I was by no means the most frugal person, but I never carried any debt whatsoever. The only paper work I was accustomed to sorting was a monthly bank statement and a few credit card offers that I would throw in the trash. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement!
So, after spending the weekend sorting through all the statements, Mrs. Willhoit’s total student loan debt was (drum roll, please) $50,000! Yes, you read that correctly. $50,000!!! Student loans were used to pay for a mission trip, tanning salon packages, and a vacation to Israel (just to name a few).
Anger, bitterness, depression soon followed. As I mentioned above, at the time we got married, we were in Bible College! We were wanting to work with kids or in a non-profit. We quickly said goodbye to those types of careers!
Lesson #2 – Never enter into marriage without full transparency of everything in your life, including your finances. My wife was very clueless about the entire student loan arrangement, but we should have gone over our finances before we even considered marriage.
Lesson #3 – Never encourage your children or yourself to go into huge amounts of debt for a degree that will not produce a job with the ability to pay off the student loans.
Time to Hustle
I wish I could say we spent the next few years cleaning up the financial mess, but we didn’t. We are very blessed that our marriage survived those first few years. This isn’t a marriage counseling blog, but I can tell you the majority of the fights were over money and debt. I hardly recognized myself. Everyday I sunk a little deeper into a deep, dark hole. I felt like I had been duped. And to compound the problem, neither of us had any skills or ability to earn a substantial income.
So, after a few years of feeling sorry for myself, it was time to get to work. After a few months of research, I decided I could hack it in the accounting world. I was determined to succeed because I had a family to provide for. I took 21 credit hours a semester while working 20 hours a week at a small accounting firm. I graduated in 3.5 years with the 150 credit hours necessary to sit for the CPA exam.
Lesson #4 – It takes a lot of hard work to dig out of a hole. Starting off on solid ground easier than building a marriage in quicksand.
Slowly But Surely
After a few years of having a professional job, here is what our financial situation looks like:
Mortgage -$89,000. We are fortunate that we live in an area with an extremely low cost of living. We were able to buy a foreclosure that we plan to stay in for at least a decade at a very reasonable price. We were able to do the repairs needed saving ourselves a lot of money as well.
Student Loans – $33,000. We have finally begun to see some traction on the student loans. When I went back to school, however, we did have to take out a few additional loans to cover what we couldn’t cash flow.
Car Loans, Credit Cards, Etc – $0.00 – We are happy to have avoided car loans and credit cards for the most part. We had a few bonehead mistakes I will blog about later, but we’re thankful this number is zero!
Medical Debt $1,000 – Even with insurance, having a child is expensive! We were fortunate in that we negotiated with the hospital to accept payments without interest for a year on the portion insurance didn’t cover. This debt will be gone in the next few months!
We do have some assets in retirement accounts and savings accounts, but it isn’t anything huge or over the top.
So there you have it! That has been the financial side of our marriage to date. We are thankful that by the Lord’s Grace, our marriage has survived and thrived. In an upcoming post, I will chronicle our plan to make it to ZERO debt by age thirty. Thanks for reading!
Has debt or financial strain impacted your marriage? How have you coped with the problem?