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Juju’s Debt Introduction

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Note: Juju wrote this post as an introduction of herself for the blogger position for BAD. Please take the time to read, then ask questions or leave comments on what she has written. You can find information about the BAD blogger position here

I have been reading this blog for about a year now. I have always been interested in personal finance (the savings part, not the debt reduction part). I started really evaluating my own debt when I married my husband in 2012. Prior to our marriage I was a single working mother going to school in the evenings to attain my MBA. I went into labor with our son (my second, his third) a few hours after my final presentation for my Master’s degree. Talk about timing! Soon my family of two became our family of six. We have a 10 year old boy, 6 year old twin boys and our now 2 year old son.

We decided back in 2012 that what my husband lacked in education was made up for by his determination to become the best father to our sons. We decided that I would go back to work while he stayed home with the kids. This solution was perfect; however, this meant we needed to really look at our spending also known as the dreaded B-U-D-G-E-T. Previously, I was living the high lifestyle of supporting only two people but now I am supporting four on one income plus child support for the twins.

First I had to do research, which is how I stumbled on this blog. Though I am used to saving I had never really focused on debt reduction. I set things off in motion by paying off the $14,000 left on my car loan within 5 months. This freed up $388/a month in my budget! This allowed me to invest money in our next purchase.

We bought a 1950’s rambler in a good neighborhood within walking distance to an award winning school. I never thought I would ever be able to buy a home, especially in the Puget Sound market so this was another major accomplishment. Unfortunately, because we used up most of our savings to pay off the car, I had to get a 401k loan to pay for the down payment. Fortunately, around this same time my manager decided to retire and I was promoted which increased my income.

With my increased income I decided to bump up my 401k to 12% and my H.S.A. to $100 a paycheck. $225 a paycheck goes to my savings leaving my take home after taxes and employee benefit deductions to $3000 a month. I also receive child support for my oldest son. Of course higher income and assets means higher debt and liability. We are far from being debt free.

Debt:

  • ACS Student loan (undergraduate): $6,026.64
  • Nelnet student loan (graduate): $49,544.76
  • Mortgage: $143,674.69
  • 401k loan: $7,233.44

Yep, that is $206,479.53 in debt. No sweat, I am up for the challenge. My first course of action is to pay off my 401k debt. That would allow me to eliminate debt and increase my savings at the same time-a win-win. I should be able to do this by summer. I have a goal and a plan to be debt free but I will also need the help and advice from others to guide me along my journey.


7 Comments

  • Reply Meghan |

    Hi Juju-

    I have to admit, so far I think you may be who I would vote for, I like how you laid everything out there among other things. I appreciate you putting all the numbers out from the get-go and showing us that you have experience kicking at least one big debt out of the way (you mention using some savings to pay off your car but I hope there was also some sacrifices made to make it happen so you are familiar with what many of the readers on this site expect). I also think your debt to income ratio is in good proportion for you to see it through to the finish line on this blog (whether or not you consider your mortgage included).

    I do, of course also have a few questions:
    1. Are you familiar with or aware of the possible time commitments involved with a blog of this nature? As such, do you feel you have that kind of time available to commit every week?
    2. Is your husband on board with your debt pay-off commitment?
    3. You mention that you have followed this blog for a while, are you willing to discuss things such as your husband working or not? (If only part time as 3 of your 4 children are school-age?) And more specifically, are you okay addressing that these and other hot-button issues are topics that not only would readers like to hear you address, but, unfortunately, some can be rather harsh in their criticism? (I promise I am never one of those people, I will only ever offer encouragement and suggestions I think are realistic).
    4. A lot of the readers do have opinions on how they think debt should be eliminated, are you willing to take their advice into consideration, maybe even apply it for a period of time, and then let us know the results? (This may actually be the most exciting part for me!)
    5. Finally, you told us our debt but didn’t mention the interest rates. I ask because I wonder if you have considered lowering your 401k contributions if any of those debts have a higher interest rate than your average return on investment? (Or at least lowering your contributions down to the matching rate your company may have?) Although, I love how much you are contribution and think too many folks to not contribute enough these days.

    I wish you luck in getting selected. And I love that you added the story about going into labor right after your final presentation. My story was actually the opposite, I was headed back to school (my first day) and ended up thinking along the way that maybe I should swing by the hospital and get checked out cause I felt a little funny. Turns out I was in labor and didn’t know it (and this was my second child, so I know what labor feels like!) Anyway, good thing I ended up doing that because I gave birth before my first class ever even started! (It all happened so fast I wasn’t even able to reach my husband before it happened and my mother made it as far as the hospital parking lot!)

    -Cheers!

    • Reply Juju |

      Thank you Meghan! Wow your labor story is even better than mine!

      In 2012 I paid for a wedding and a Hawaiian honeymoon/family vacation so I can assure you we used up pretty much all of our savings. There were many sacrifices we had to make in order to pay the car loan off but I learned a lot from blogs as well as from my husband who is super frugal. So to answer your questions:

      1. I do not have any prior experience with a blog. However, there was a time in which I was a full time worker, part time student and 24/7 single mom. Time commitments were never an issue for me.
      2. My husband supports all my decisions- especially when it comes to finance.
      3. My current position has me handle hot button issues constantly so go ahead, it doesn’t faze me. Sure we can talk about my husband staying at home. We have talked about other options for him to work from home but for right now this is what works for us. My current position has me working long hours and at times I need to travel out of state.
      4. Yes I love to research so I have an idea about what they might say but if I could hear their experiences I would love to try it.
      5. My interest rate for my house and undergraduate degree are low (5.375 and 4.25 respectively). My graduate degree is rather high at 6.875%. My investment returns have still gotten better results that this though. I do like to save for the future ?

  • Reply Joe |

    Best of luck with your debt reduction, I admire your efforts to take control of your finances and willingness to “put things out there” for us readers.

    I would, however, flag two points of concern with respect to the blog:
    1. I personally don’t have a big interest in reading about someone paying off their mortgage. Just my own personal opinion, of course!
    2. When you talk about your investment returns outpacing the interest rates on your student loans, that is obviously terrific from a financial perspective, but not really compatible with the spirit of the blog (e.g. making a conscious choice to take on some financial risk and NOT pay down debt in order to get a better long-term outcome). Again, just another personal opinion.

    On the plus side, I think you’ve made some interesting/creative financial decisions just in what you’ve disclosed that could definitely spark a lot of discussion. The flip side of that is that I’m guessing there is a degree of financial opacity that drove some of these decisions and one thing I’ve learned from reading this blog for the last 7 years or so is that many of the readers don’t like financial opacity!

    • Reply Juju |

      Thanks for your input Joe. I just put all my debts out there. My total debt free journey would take possibly over 10 years so I can exclude mortgage in this blog. I do want to tackle the high interest student loan but I am not sure yet if I should start with that or the smaller student loan. That is where the readers can advise me.

  • Reply andrew |

    That’s an amazing story! The part that impresses me the most is the fact that you paid off your car debt in 5 months; $14k is a lot to come up with so quickly! How did you do it?

    • Reply Juju |

      We made a lot of sacrifices, including moving to a very, very cheap place for a 6 month lease. I no longer drove to work but walked 2.5 miles to work and back home. There were many other extreme budget cuts but my family was on board since it was temporary.

  • Reply Maria Johns |

    Hi juju,
    I am completely satisfied with you. Your story is awesome. I am happy for you because you have greatly dealt with your fiscal problems easily. you should be focus on dept reduction part.

So, what do you think ?