6 Top Finance Experts Share Their Debt Free Secrets!

inspirational debt free roundup

Today, I am honored to feature some of the top influencers in the online personal finance space. Throughout my time blogging and helping others with their personal finances, I have heard a recurring theme from people in debt. Most of them feel hopeless and do not truly believe they will ever be able to get out of debt. In addition, many of them have trouble finding the inspiration to start a process they don’t really believe is possible.
As I thought about these issues, I decided to reach out to the experts in the field of personal finance. I asked the experts these exact questions and their answers are featured in this article.

I hope these real-life experiences and words of wisdom will inspire you to believe in yourself. The only person holding you back from a debt-free and financially secure life is yourself. If your current way of doing things isn’t working, it is time for a new approach!

Many of these success stories started out in similar situations. They were not taught how to manage their money when they were younger, and they suffered the consequences when they were older. Many of them racked up large student loan and credit card debt and did not see a way out.

These people are not unique. What propelled them out of debt was a will to live a different way. Most of them are ordinary people like you and I. Their drive and determination is what sets them apart. By making a plan and sticking to it, you can also achieve their debt-free status!

The question I posed to these experts was this:

  • Who or what inspired you to start this debt-free journey and what advice would you give others who feel hopelessly stuck?

J.D. Roth @ Get Rich Slowly

My first guest is J.D. Roth. He is one of the pioneers in the world of personal finance and created a very successful personal finance blog at Get Rich Slowly. In 2004, J.D. suddenly realized he had accumulated $35,000 worth of debt. His debt ranged from credit cards, personal loans, and a car payment.

He now is living debt free and money stress is no longer an issue for him. Here is J.D.’s inspiration and advice to you:

get rich slowly banner

“I got myself into debt during college. I discovered the power of credit cards and quickly built up my balances. After graduating, my debt problem just got worse. Eventually, I’d accumulated over $35,000 in consumer debt. My darkest hour came when my wife and I bought a new home in 2004. We could afford it on paper, but in reality, it put too much strain on my finances. I resolved to turn things around.

For me, the secret to getting out of debt was accepting that the journey would take time and perseverance. Previously, I’d wanted quick fixes. There aren’t any quick fixes to getting out of debt. Looking for them just made me feel hopeless. When I surrendered to the idea that in order to defeat my debt, I have to create a gap between my earning and spending — and then INCREASE that gap — everything fell into place. It took me more than three years, but eventually, I did destroy my debt. I’m much happier for it.”

-J.D. Roth @ GetRichSlowly.org

I love his advice that getting out of debt is not a quick fix. In our world of instant gratification, it seems we expect Google to give us a quick solution to our problems. There must be an easier way seems to be a reoccurring theme and hard work is a thing of the past. The truth is, in order to live debt free, we must work for it!

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner @ Making Sense Of Cents

My second guest is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. She also is one of the pioneers in the world of personal finance and created a very successful blog at Making Sense Of Cents.

In 2012, Michelle graduated with her MBA in finance and found herself with $38,000 in student loan debt. With focus and determination, she was able to pay her loans off in 7 months!

Here is her inspiration and advice to you:
michelle schroeder-gardner making sense of cents

“Two things inspired me to start my debt free journey – 1) The personal finance community and – 2) My student loan bill.

I started my blog to track my personal finance progress, and in the process threw myself into the personal finance community. I saw so many people making extra income, paying off their debt quickly, and retiring early, and I knew I wanted to be one of those people! My student loan bill also motivated me to pay off my debt, as I was shocked when I received my first bill and it was for so much money – money that I realized I didn’t have to pay each month.

Due to these two things, I made a goal to pay off my debt as quickly as I could, which led to me paying off my $40,000 in student loan debt in just 7 months. I was able to do this mainly by finding ways to make extra money. And, this is what I recommend that more people try. The average person watches around 35 hours of TV each week. if you could save just half that time and put it towards something else, you could earn a good deal of extra income to put towards your debt.”

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner @ MakingSenseofCents.com

Michelle offers great insight as to how she was able to get out of debt so quickly. She was not satisfied with waiting around forever to repay her debt so she went out and found side hustles. By avoiding time wasting exercises like watching TV for 35 hours a week, she focused on making money doing odd jobs until she was debt free. Because of this, it only took her 7 months to pay off about $40,000 worth of debt!

Michael Dinich @ Your Money Geek

My next guest is Michael Dinich. He runs a blog over at Your Money Geek and helps people reach financial independence on a daily basis. He has been in the personal finance industry since 1999 and has helped people plan for retirement, reduce taxes, eliminate unnecessary expenses, and plan their estates.

Here is Michael’s inspiration and advice to you:
Michael Dinich at your money geek

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“There are numerous similarities between being in debt and needing to lose some weight. In both cases, it is easy to ignore the problem, make excuses, and procrastinate implementing a solution.

Eventually, both in fitness and debt repayment you have to have that moment where you realize you are not happy and you’re going to seek action. The first step is to be both honest and forgive yourself. Debt is bad, however people in debt are usually good people and it’s important to accept the mistakes and fixate on moving forward.
The second step is to realize there is not a quick fix. It may take as much time to get out of debt as it took to get into debt. There is often a temptation to ignore all other areas of financial planning to focus solely on rapid debt repayment. Doing so can ultimately lead to more debt, and leave debtors on an unstable footing.

When debtors focus on rapid debt repayment, they often save too little in emergency funds or miss out on value tax credits that ironically could help them speed up debt repayment. These debtors ultimately may end up back into debt at the first sign of trouble. it’s the yo-yo diet version of debt repayment.

Most debtors would be better served building a reserve cash cushion, and simultaneously contributing to cash reserves and debt repayment. As the cash cushion grows, debtors can escalate debt repayment. Paying debt slightly slower may cost more interest, however if going slower has a higher chance of success, it is an acceptable cost.”

-Michael Dinich @ YourMoneyGeek.com

Michael is right in line with what I preach. You can not start paying off debt if you do not have any cash reserves! By putting all of your money towards debt, you are setting yourself up for failure. Ensure you have cash reserves before you start paying down your debt so you can avoid going further into debt if unexpected life issues arise.

Peter Anderson @ Bible Money Matters

My next guest is Peter Anderson. He runs a successful and influential Christian personal finance blog at Bible Money Matters. He helps regular people gain control of their finances and live financially free. Years ago, Peter and his wife found themselves deep in debt. With a plan and determination, he was able to free himself from his financial past and he now lives debt free!

Here is Peter’s inspiration and advice to you:

Peter anderson at bible money matters

“We had friends in a church small group who were going to be leading a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class at our church. They invited us to attend the class, and we did. The class inspired us to think differently about debt, to do our best to live independent of debt, and to dump all of our remaining loans, which at the time consisted of a student loan and some credit card debt. We got rid of all of our debt within a year or two of that class, and were inspired to help others get rid of debt through our site, Bible Money matters.

My advice to others who feel stuck, and don’t know where to start is to find a debt reduction program that will work for you, find a trusted friend or loved one to keep you accountable, and just get started. Start tracking what’s coming in, and going out, find places you can cut, and then start your debt free journey one step at a time. It may seem daunting, but it’s all about making small positive steps forward, one day at a time. Tomorrow you’ll be a little bit closer than you are today, and before you know it you’ll be celebrating debt freedom!”

-Peter Anderson @ BibleMoneyMatters.com

Peter shared with me an additional link to get out of debt on his site. His reply resonated with me because it is not easy to get out of debt alone. By finding others who share your common goal of getting out of debt, you can hold each other accountable. With a strong plan and supportive friends, your debt free journey will be much easier!

Andrew Schrage & Trevor Davis @ Money Crashers

My next guests are Trevor Davis and Andrew Schrage. Andrew is the owner of Money Crashers and Trevor is an active team member. For this post, Trevor put together a few insights for my proposed question.

Here is Trevor’s inspiration and advice to you:

money crashers

“The ‘who’ behind my debt-free journey was my mom. She had noticed for a modest period of time that I was struggling financially, and at first she didn’t want to step in, but finally she did. It was a pretty blunt conversation – she essentially told me that if I didn’t do something about my credit card debts, other debts, and my spending choices, that I would struggle financially forever. Luckily, at that point in time I decided to listen to her advice.

She gave me pointers on what I needed to do on an initial basis to begin the journey of getting out of debt, and provided helpful tips and strategies along the way. She also provided me motivational support as I progressed. And she taught me the key step of rewarding myself when I reached one of my debt elimination goals. The ‘what’ was an excessive amount of debt. After years of overspending coupled with some other expenses, I found myself in a hole that I thought I could never dig myself out of. Thankfully, my mom convinced me that I could.

As far as advice for others who are hopelessly stuck, hopefully you’ve at least admitted that it’s a problem. That’s half the battle. The next tip is to understand that if your debts are significant, you’re not going to solve them overnight. Third, you need to realize that it’s going to take a lot of hard work, and unfortunately, a good bit of sacrifice. But here’s a good road map to potential success. Get yourself on an actual budget. Use the website Mint or some other strategy you feel comfortable with for getting down on paper what you make and what you spend.

Then, find ways to reduce expenses in every financial area of your life. This is where internet research is key. You can find plenty of ways to cut back on entertainment expenses, groceries, utility bills, and just about everything else. Once those strategies are in place, you’ll eventually see a surplus in your bank account.

Put the extra money towards any or all of your debts. But be sure to choose a strategy – debt snowball and debt avalanche are two of the most popular. Research each to find what’s best for you. Then, create one long-term goal (getting totally out of debt) but break that down into mini goals. As a quick example, you commit to shaving $5,000 off of your debts over the next five years to be debt-free at the end of that period
If you achieve a mini goal, reward yourself, but modestly. Maybe a dinner at a nice restaurant. The road to a debt-free life may seem impossible, but coming from someone who went down it, I can tell you that it can be done. And the best part about it is, you only have to cut back and sacrifice until your debts  are gone for good – it’s not a lifetime proposal.”

-Trevor Davis @ MoneyCrashers.com

Trevor shared with me a link to the 35 Best New Bank Account Promotions & Offers for March of 2019.

I love how honest Trevor was. He was blinded by his debt until his mother took the initiative to sit him down and show him his financial mess. This is a common problem in our society. Many parents are not good with money so they pass their poor financial ability down to their children. By getting our personal finances in order, we can teach our children the correct way to manage them!

If you have trouble finding inspiration to get out of debt, do it for your children or future children!

John Schmoll @ Frugal Rules

My final guest is John Schmoll. John is the owner of Frugal Rules and teaches financial freedom through frugality. He has been seen in Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, U.S. News, and lifehacker.

Here is John’s inspiration and advice to you:
frugal rules

“It was my first roommate out of college that inspired me to pay off debt. I was at the brink of bankruptcy, but couldn’t afford the money needed to file. I asked him for a loan to file, and he challenged me to question why I was pursuing bankruptcy.

I was there simply because of my overspending, and he told me I was taking the easy way out – that I was responsible to pay off my debt. Instead of the loan, he set up an appointment for me to meet with a financial counselor. That was the beginning of my learning how to budget, and we made a plan there to kill my debt.

The key to paying debt is to start. Looking at thousands of dollars of debt is overwhelming. You’re not going to kill it with one simple action, but with a change of mentality. It’s the small steps that build the discipline needed to have the commitment to go the long haul. Don’t put off starting to attack your debt, even the small steps will make a difference and help build the momentum needed to kill it for good.”

-John Schmoll @ FrugalRules.com

John’s roommate was an inspiration! His roommate made the keen observation that John had a spending problem and bankruptcy was only a temporary solution. Had John not changed his financial direction and way of spending, he would have ended back in debt after the bankruptcy cleared up.

His roommate set him up with a plan and encouraged him through his journey. I wish I had roommates like that!

The Take-Away

This team of experts had some very different experiences yet they all suggested similar strategies to be successful. For reference, my initial question was this:

  • Who or what inspired you to start this debt-free journey and what advice would you give others who feel hopelessly stuck?

Here are the similarities and big takeaways from this roundup:

  • Who or what inspired you to start this debt-free journey?

    • There were 2 main factors that inspired our experts:
      • Their inspiration came either from a close friend or family member.
      • The motivation came from being “fed up” with being in debt.
  • What advice would you give others who feel hopelessly stuck?

    • Here are the main points to consider as expressed by the experts:
      • Be realistic about a time frame to get out of debt – it is not a quick process.
      • Decrease spending and increase debt repayment.
      • Pursue a side hustle to pay your debt off faster – be intentional with your time.
      • Protect yourself from going further into debt by ensuring you have a safety net with cash reserves. Don’t spend everything on debt.
      • Make a plan to get out of debt and stick to it.
      • Surround yourself with people who will cheer you on and who share similar financial goals.
      • Reward yourself for the progress you make. But don’t reward yourself with more debt.

I want to extend my sincere gratitude to my panel members who helped put this great post together. Through their selfless actions, they help people get out of debt on a daily basis and are creating new financially free paths for others to follow.

I encourage you to follow in their footsteps! Make a plan and stick to it my friends, you work too hard to be this broke!

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