Man Vs Debt Interview – Adam Eliminates Credit Card Debt in 15 Months
About a week ago, I interview Tricia from blogging away debt after she eliminated over $37k in credit card debt in about 3 years. During that week, Adam Baker from Man Vs Debt was hosting the carnival of debt reduction and he listed my interview with Tricia as his Editor’s Choice. Well, I proceeded to check out his blog and turns out that Adam too got rid of his credit card debt and some in 15 months as well. So I requested an interview which he obliged (in fact we’ll probably do a radio interview as well soon – watch this space).
Adam is married to Courtney, has a daughter Milligan and is planning to move to Australia soon to experience life somewhere else. All I can say is that is really cool and what is more cool is that he has got rid of his credit card debt in just over one year. You should check out his blog and subscribe to it. He has an extremely personal style of writing and you actually feel that he is sitting right next to you and actually talking to you. I’m sure his blog is going to take off.
So below is the interview:
Mr Credit Card: Adam – on your blog you listed and broke down you debt via some some names – can you actually list down your actual debt when it was $80+k between your student and credit card debt.
Adam: At our peak, our debt was roughly broken down into 55k of student loans, a 12k consolidation loan from family, 10k credit cards, 2k store loans, and 3k in car loans.
Mr Credit Card: How much did you pay down?
Adam: Of the 82k, we’ve roughly paid off 29k in around 15 months. We also saved up around 13k in savings. During this time around income has probably been around 50k, which has mostly been one income. So we’ve been living on about 1/3 of our income in order to really attack our debt.
12k of the debt came in one lump sum from the sale of our apartments. If they do well we have an opportunity to make a little more off of them down the road. The other 17k or so have come from other sacrifices we made in our budget and lifestyle.
Mr Credit Card: That’s actually a great achievement and more so living on just 1/3 of your salary. You are 25 years old (young) and already you managed to racked up some debt pretty early, how many cards did you apply for when you were in college?
Adam: Oh man, what a question. I can remember having at least 4-5 cards during that time span. My first card had a $500 dollar limit, which I remember thinking was high. Without having almost any income, I eventually obtained cards with $2000 and even $10,000 over those few years (different times than now)!
Mr Credit Card: Why did you get those cards? What sort of marketing tactics did the credit card issuers employ at your school?
Adam: At least one of the cards was a direct result of a booth that was set-up to help the Rugby team. Haha, I remember that clearly. Most of the others were from switching banks and applying for one every time I switched. I had a couple Visa, and Mastercard, and a Discover. I thought it was necessary to have one of each.
Mr Credit Card: What type of expenses did you put on your credit card?
Adam: Everything. I used them almost exclusively. That continued even after college. At the time they were simple, easy, made me feel good, and did a great job a detaching me from my actual spending. Let me be very clear though, they didn’t anything. I made the purchases and I dealt with the consequences. They just helped me justify it for several years.
Mr Credit Card: In your about page, you mentioned that you’ve been Blogger, Real Estate Agent, Landlord, Business Owner, Tax Specialist, Professional Video Game Player, and Degenerate Poker Addict! Can you elaborate on each of these! Like how long were you a real estate agent? How successful were you? How many and what types of properties did you have as a Land Lord? What sort of business did you have? I really like to know more about the life of a professional video player!
Adam: How much time do you have? Just kidding!
Failing out of college initiating a random, but very interesting serious of life experiences for me. Initially, I traveled the country playing in Halo 1 tournaments. This went on for a little over a year. I wasn’t the best of the best, but I was good enough to pay for most of my travels. I ended up helping host and run some of the bigger tournaments in the country. In all I probably visited 15-20 cities around the U.S. Eventually, some of the people I associated with ended up creating what is now Mlgpro.com.
Slowly, another type of gaming took over my time and I drifted away from the traveling video game circuit. I started dealing and playing poker on a regular basis. This was right during the beginning of the new Texas Hold ’em craze that fired back up several years ago. Eventually, I began running tournaments for well over 100+ people a night at some local clubs. I made insane money for my age and maturity level and blew all of it as fast as I could. I also formed a habit for gambling that extended beyond the poker table. Luckily, with the help of my high school sweetheart (now wife), I gave up gambling cold-turkey several years ago. In addition, Indiana changed the laws on how they viewed Poker Rooms, which caused several of the rooms to shut down.
After giving up gambling, I decided to get my Real Estate license. I immediately felt like the industry was a great fit. I spent the first 6 month in traditional sales, helping close a couple million dollars in homes. After a couple month, I realized I wanted to concentrate on the investment side of the spectrum. I switched to a smaller company which specialized in foreclosure, short-sales, and small investment properties. It was an absolute ton of work, but I learned more than you ever could from a book. Within a couple months, my soon-to-be partner and I decided that we were missing out on an untapped market; Property Management. Our local area was practically begging for a reliable, responsible, but yet affordable option for management. We “bootstrapped” the business with just a few clients to start, but within 6 months grew to managing over 120 units for 40 different clients. In addition, we bought an 8 unit low-income apartment complex of our own. I worked longer and harder than I ever had in my life.
Before the business was even a year old, my first daughter was born, which totally changed our lives. My wife and I had several long discussions about the path we were on and decided that we weren’t quite ready to settle down permanently. After discussing options with my partner we decided to split ways amicably. He bought the business from me and I took his interest in the 8 unit we had bought. This allowed me to stay home with my daughter for the first 8 months of her life, while my wife went back to the classroom as a teacher.
Lastly, this year I worked part time as a tax specialist, helping prepare taxes for individuals and small businesses for a local company. Once again, I learn a large amount in a very short-time span. It helped fortify my passion for personal finance.
Mr Credit Card: What is your official occupation now?
Adam: Right now, I’m a husband, father, and blogger. I’ve been just these three things since late April as we plan for our move to Australia. I’m not sure where our travels will end up taking us or what field I may be entering in the next few months overseas. Writing has come out of nowhere to be a huge passion for me, so I hope I’m able to continue that as much as possible.
Mr Credit Card: What was the trigger that made you realize that you have to do something about your debt?
Adam: Getting married and planning to have a baby. Without a doubt. For the first time in my life, I had to take the focus of of my personal wants and really think about the future needs of a family. It was a much needed shock in the pants.
Mr Credit Card: You mentioned that the first year of living without credit was tough. What sort of sacrifices did you make?
Adam: Mostly it was a mindset shift. I was in Real Estate and that was also the point when I started the business. One big sacrifice was our cars. The combined value of our cars was between 3-4k. Initially I desperately wanted a newer car, as I felt embarrassed about meeting with potential home owners, clients, and tenants in what could be considered a “junker.” I could of easily bought a new car on payments, but luckily common sense prevailed. I did park around the block and/or at the far end of parking lots, though!
On the home front the biggest sacrifice we made was committing to a small apartment. Once again, it would have been easy for us to go overboard on a rental or to even purchase a home since I was in the industry. We maintained low rent and utilities and really focused any large income swings on our debt. We gave up cable (even sold the t.v.) and committed to only eating out once or twice a month at most. A lot of small sacrifices really combined to make a big difference.
Mr Credit Card: How are you different from Courtney in your views of money?
Adam: Luckily, we have very similar views on money now. It’s amazing being able to be on the same page as your spouse and it makes everything that much easier. She was much more responsible in her years before marriage, though. She didn’t really research any gurus or system, but would commonly use different jars to save up or budget for different things in college. I on the other hand spent my time looking for credit cards with better rewards and 0% balance transfers.
Mr Credit Card: How did your debt reduction adventure affect your relationship? What did you folks fight over?
Adam: Our “War on Debt” has really strengthened our relationship. Even though we are sacrificing we have had very little fights over money related issues. Don’t get me wrong, we still have times we want to strangle each other, however money is almost never the issue. We are lucky to have it be a source of strength in our marriage.
Mr Credit Card: Have you thought about how you are going to teach Milligan about money?
Adam: Yeah. I’d like to raise her to be a giver first and a saver second. I would like to make sure she’s exposed to all aspects of finances including credit cards. While I certainly won’t promote her to get involved with credit, I don’t think “sheltering” kids is the right way to go. Hopefully, I’ll be a good enough parent to show her all of her options and help her see why we’ve chosen to handle out finances a certain way. I have a lot to learn about parenting, though!
Mr Credit Card: Did your parents talk to you or teach about money and money skills?
Adam: Not really. I was raised in a very middle-income household. We weren’t spolied, but never really went without things, toys, or vacations. We had an absolutely fantastic childhood by any measurement, but I really didn’t learn much about finances until I went to college.
Mr Credit Card: If you were sitting down with a group of 17 year olds, what would you say to them about money etc.
Adam: I would tell them that they need to educate themselves sooner rather than later. When I was 17, I simply couldn’t find any reason to prioritize getting this kind of knowledge. I would tell them my specific story in an attempt to relate the importance of taking control of their finances early. College can be an amazingly fun, yet affordable experience. I had good friends that managed this much better and I wish I would have learned from them sooner.
Mr Credit Card: You have sweared off all credit cards. You sure you will not use credit cards ever again?
Adam: I’m not the type of person that likes saying “never” a lot. However, I am extremely confident we will never be in a position to use credit cards again. It would take some sort of unforeseen catastrophe for us to even consider the possibility. I’d take multiple jobs, move in with family, and sacrifice just about anything other than the safety of my family to avoid credit cards. I don’t think they are evil, but they certainly aren’t a neccesary part of a succesful financial plan. In fact, they are much more closer to being a “neccesary” part of an unsuccesful plan.
Mr Credit Card: What is the reason for the move to Australia? How long will both of you be there?
Adam: The reason for the move is to experience life. We decided when my daughter was born that we wanted to travel while it was still a reasonable option. I guess reasonable is always subjective, but you get the point. My wife has spent some time in Australia and was amazed by the culture and the beauty. We’ve decided to start out journey there and see where life takes us.
My wife is a teacher and will be trying to secure a opportunity in education once we arrive. Depending on the job market our trip could be as little as 2 month and as long as several years. My employment is a lot more flexible. I make a little income from some minor consulting and am currently working on several online projects that can have the potential to create a some “mobile” income.
Mr Credit Card: When will your student loans be paid off? Any plans to reduce that debt more quickly than the original term?
Adam: We absolutely have plans to accelerate the pace. Actually taking a break from making extra payment to save up money for the trip was one of the hardest financial decisions we’ve ever made. It’s hard to balance these aspects, but I think we’ve done a good job. If we are able to secure employment in Australia, we plan on drastically lowering our emergency fund thresholds and paying off several of our smaller student loans right away. I, personally, am really looking forward to this. In addition, we will continue to live and travel extremely frugally until we can get these fully paid. We have a goal of trying to get these knocked out in two years. It’ll be tough, but is certainly still within our ability given our income potential.
Mr Credit Card: Adam – thank you very much for sharing your story with us
Adam: My pleasure.