Things That Matter

I Have $150k in Debt — Here’s What Financial Experts Told Me To Do

Money is a topic that is difficult to talk about. Traditionally, society has told us that there are three things that we should not talk about in polite company: religion, politics, and money. Well, politics seems to be the only thing anyone talks about these days. As for religion, well, I’m of the “to each their own” policy. But money is something that we often still ignore — especially when it comes to frank discussions about debt.

Nobody likes to admit that they have debt. Whether it’s credit card debt, student loans, or paying off cars, most of us have something that we’re keeping quiet about. According to CNBC, 70 percent of college students are graduating with a “significant amount of loans” which total $1.5 trillion in debt for the over 44 million Americans who have student loan debt. In fact, a recent survey revealed that two-thirds of millennials have at least $10,000 in student debt and more than a third admitted to over $30,000 in debt, according to Inc.

Even worse, 42 percent of those that had more than $30,000 in debt were women and 11 percent of millennials have over $100,000 in student loan debt. Unsurprisingly, credit card debt is actually even higher for millennials (at 46 percent) and car loans come in just behind student loans (at 34 percent). Then there’s also medical debt to think about, as well as the 20 percent of millennials who actually have a mortgage.

Some of us, like me, have debt in all of the categories.

When my husband and I met and moved in together just six weeks into our relationship, we did it because we were in love and knew we wanted to be together for the long haul.

ehplusmoney/Instagram

However, what we didn’t know at the time (and came to learn very quickly) is that we both came with a heaping amount of debt. Now, two and a half years into our relationship and nine months into our marriage, I can tell you that our debt has only increased: Collectively, we have around $150,000 in debt — about $100k of that in student loans, $40k in car loans, and another $10k in credit cards and medical bills. Add to that the fact that we just bought our first house and, well, our financial situation has gotten a bit more complicated.

It’s not easy to talk about finances, and it’s especially not an easy thing to do with someone you love. Sadly, money is often cited as a common cause of marriages falling apart — which is precisely why my husband and I are trying to tackle these issues sooner than later. I know that we won’t get out of debt any time soon, but having a secure financial plan is a good way to step into our future, together. So, shortly, after getting married, we decided to speak with some financial experts about how exactly to tackle our $150k in debt… WITHOUT driving each other crazy or stopping some of our other personal goals (like traveling together or having kids in the next couple of years).

Nora Dunn, a former Certified Financial Planner and blogger behind the financially savvy travel site, The Professional Hobo, told us that a lot of it depends on what we as a couple are earning and what our goals are. Dunn advised that my husband and I evaluate the importance of each of our goals. Was buying a house more important than taking vacation? How much did we expect to spend on a house based on the market in our area? According to her, it was all about taking an ‘everything in moderation’ plan, where we would examine our take-home income and expenses, and then divide our disposable income between different goals, depending on how our goals are prioritized.

After some discussion, we decided that prioritizing goals, and dividing our income accordingly, definitely seemed like a good place to start. In fact, Shana Bickel, CPA and Financial Coach, mirrored that advice when she told me that “it is not for me to tell the couple how to prioritize their financial goals.” The important thing, she says, is “to identify and get very clear about those goals and then develop a plan to pay off debt while saving for a home and allowing travel that makes sense for their financial health and well being.”

Another financial expert took a more straightforward approach.

black_girl_success/Instagram

“Sell those cars!” said Lynne Somerman and The Wiser Miser. “If you’ve got big financial goals like this, there’s no situation where I can recommend $40K in car loans when you can buy a reliable used vehicle for $10K. Even assuming you still need two cars, that’s $30K that you’ve now got towards a down payment. After that, it would depend on the type and interest rates on the student loans. If they’re private loans, go aggressively after them. If the interest is higher than about 4-5% on the student loans, they’d be my next priority. If their income is high enough, you could do both here.”

However, David Rae, a Certified Financial Planner based in Los Angeles, has a more realistic approach.

“Get those cars paid off and drive them forever!” he advised. “You don’t need a new car every two or three years. My car is paid off, and I plan to drive it forever. Each of those car payments is like a trip to Europe each year. Would you rather have a brand new car or a trip to Europe?”

He’s definitely right about that, which is why we have made paying off our cars our #2 priority (after paying off our credit cards), since we’d also like to save for an international trip in the near future. Rae also reminds me that, although student loans are important, so is saving for retirement.

“The student loans are going to take a long time to pay off. Get serious about them, but make sure to contribute to your retirement at least enough to get a company match,” he said. “This will be like free money from your boss, and the government will give you break on your taxes.”

Meanwhile, Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, a money coach who runs The Fiscal Femme, said that it is all about opportunity cost.

“We can only use or spend each dollar we have once, no matter how much or little money we have,” she reminds me. “How can we use it in a way that will maximize our joy per dollar in the shorter and long-term? It’s about looking at each option and choosing consciously. If a couple is paying down their debt and that’s really important to them but they also want to travel, they might decide to let go of expenses in other areas to make that work. What expenses aren’t bringing them much joy? Would they rather live in a less expensive apartment for the time being so that they have more money to travel? When we take a look at each expense annually (including our bills) it’s much easier to see where our money is going and decide if we want to allocate it any differently.”

Taking a look at our overall finances, my husband and I were able to use this advice to devise some financial goals, set some priorities, create a payment plan, and figure out what we want to save for.

barefootbudgetmama/Instagram

It took some serious negotiating but we came away with a clearer picture of our finances. It’s not going to be easy, mind you. Having debt as a couple is difficult, but unfortunately, something that almost all of us face these days. If you don’t have student loans, then you might have a car payment or credit card debt or medical bills from that time before ACA when you didn’t have health insurance and ended up in the hospital (guilty!). But ultimately, the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to your finances, whether you are coupled up or not, is to do the work to figure it out.

As Rae put it, “Get serious about your finances now — it won’t get easier when you have kids. You may make more money but you will be busier and tired. Parenting is hard. Just saying.”

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Elizabeth Smart Revealed That Her Parents Only Learned About The Rape and Abuse She Endured In Court

Fierce

Elizabeth Smart Revealed That Her Parents Only Learned About The Rape and Abuse She Endured In Court

George Frey / Getty

On June 5, 2002, Elizabeth Smart’s story made national headlines after she was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah.

At the time of her kidnapping, the then-14-year-old was tragically raped and tied up daily for the next nine months and endured endless amounts of physical and mental abuse. Thankfully she was rescued nearly a year later on March 12, 2003, after two witnesses recognized her abductors Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. While the details of her kidnapping were splashed across headlines for years after her kidnapping Smart is now revealing that she did not want to talk about the details with her parents.

In a recent interview, Smart revealed that after being kidnapped as a teen, she couldn’t bring herself to share the details of her experience with her parents.

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“The truth is I never sat them all down and had a ‘tell all’ experience with them,” Smart wrote on Instagram earlier this week. “Honestly when I got home I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened I was embarrassed and ashamed… I was brought to an advocacy center where I had to disclose much of what happened to two professionals and they, in turn, relayed much of what happened to my parents. But I don’t think my parents ever heard in detail what happened from my own lips until my court appearance almost a decade later.”

“I have so many thoughts and feelings on this topic, first and foremost I never want anyone to compare their experiences to me, we are all different and unique and we can never accurately compare our experiences to someone else’s,” Smart continued in her Instagram post. “I also want to point out my case was highly publicized, everyone already knew crimes were committed against me. So it didn’t take me coming forward and disclosing the extent of my abuse to multiple people before my captors were taken into custody. Nor did I have people doubt me.”

Smart shared in a separate Instagram post on Monday that she decided to reveal the details of the abuse she endured to prevent other victims from feeling shame.

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“I’ve noticed a lot of comments about dealing with the shame and embarrassment that I felt after I was rescued and didn’t want to tell anyone the details about what happened,” she wrote. “For years if a discussion or a situation occurred that would seem a natural opener to talking about what happened I generally sidestepped it. In my mind what had happened was something that I hated and never wanted to acknowledge so I just avoided thinking/talking about it.”

“But I remember one day my dad came to me and started discussing the charges Brian Mitchell was going to be charged with, and I felt anger, because of all the charges he was faced with none of them included the worst things he did to me. It was ultimately in that moment that I stopped caring and worrying about the shame and embarrassment that I felt.”

Smart revealed that speaking out about what happened to her ultimately made her feel empowered.

“If someone judged me for what happened, in my mind I came to the conclusion that they did not matter and clearly were not worth my time,” Smart explained. “Since then I became more and more involved in advocacy and as I went out I realized I was not alone in being a victim of rape and sexual abuse. This more than anything made me want to do more, change the culture, speak and share my story if it helped others. In my eyes the first step towards changing the culture of how we treat victims and survivors is to start by believing them!”

Since her kidnapping, Smart has become a mother of three and created a campaign for her Elizabeth Smart Foundation called #WeBelieveYou. The campaign works to encourage people to believe victims of sexual violence.

“For these and many other reasons I want Victim’s to know that #Ibelieveyou and I hope that as all of us move forward when we come across Victim’s and survivors our first reaction is to believe them!” she wrote on Instagram. “Should we have friends or family disclose to us just listen, they don’t owe us answers to our questions or curiosities. Love them, support them, and be their friend.”

Seventeen years after her rescue, Smart continues to express her thanks for those who helped find her.

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“For my seventh day posting about gratitude I feel I can not go without saying thank you to every person who searched for me, prayed for me, followed my story, and did everything they could to bring me home safely!” she wrote on Instagram Sunday. “I shudder to think what my life would be like if it weren’t for good everyday people! Would I still be with my captors? Would I even be alive? How could I survive so long if I were still with them? All terrifying thoughts that I will be so eternally grateful that I never had to find out… My life is absolutely different than I ever imagined it to be, even from the day after I got home when this photo was taken my life is still drastically different than I imagined it to be. However I also know I wouldn’t be where I am today without everything that happened and so for that too I am grateful! During this season of holidays and giving I wish you all the joy, peace, and happiness each one of us deserves! God bless you all!!”

Smart’s kidnapper Brian David Mitchell is currently serving a life sentence. His wife Wanda Barzee was released from a Utah prison in 2018.

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People Are Sharing Humbling Acts Of Kindness Tales And The Stories Will Bring You To Your Knees

Things That Matter

People Are Sharing Humbling Acts Of Kindness Tales And The Stories Will Bring You To Your Knees

Fox Photos / Getty

Good deeds make for a good world. We all know there’s some sort of truth in that, but these days there’s so much in the world to shadow goodness and kindness in the world. Fortunately, people have been quick to share their memories of acts of kindness and good deeds.

And on Reddit no less!

Users on Reddit are sharing the most humbling acts of kindness they’ve ever experiencexd.

Check them out below!

“This is a few humbling kind experiences all wrapped into one: My mom got suddenly diagnosed with cancer and deteriorated unbelievably quickly. She seemed totally healthy when she was diagnosed, yet died 6 weeks later. She had me when she was older (45) so it was always her dream to live long enough to see me get married. When my boyfriend of 8 years found out she was sick, he immediately asked me to marry him. Humbling experience #1.

We then tried to find a justice of the peace ASAP to officiate the wedding at my parents’ home. There was only one in the small town my parents lived in. She was all booked up but when she heard why we needed to book ASAP she reworked her whole schedule so that she could be there for us (humbling experience #2)

Our family and friends then went out of their way to plan the wedding for us so that I could be with my mom in pallative care. My aunt and uncle drove 5 hours to us, got flowers, candles, a cake, champagne and set up the house for the wedding. Our neighbours took care of our dogs and planned a catered reception for us. My best friend (the only person I really wanted as a brides maid) nearly got fired from her new job in order to get the time off to be there, and she and her boyfriend drove for 6 hours to be there. Everyone was so wonderful, well beyond what I could’ve ever expected or asked for. It was so amazing and heartwarming. (Humbling experience #3)

My mother was able to attend the wedding and it was a very joyous occasion, despite the circumstances. She passed away 3 days later. Even though it wasn’t a traditional wedding, it was perfect because so many people that we loved dropped everything to help fulfill our dreams.” –awkwardmumbles

“In a thread asking what things my children don’t know, I shared that we were struggling financially, that I often lied to them and said I’d already eaten, but I knew the situation was temporary. Reddit users suggested I create an Amazon wish list and sent us food, gifts for the kids, and even a pair of shoes for me to replace the pair I’d been wearing for years. The words of encouragement got me through a very tough time. I’m working now, and while I’m still digging out of lots of student loan and medical debt, last Christmas I was able to pay it forward, by sponsoring a family for Christmas. I’ll never forget the kindness of the people here.” –surpassing_disasters

“I’m not the richest guy in the world. I was in grade 11 and at that point I had been playing the same cheap $150 guitar for 10 years. One day during the year, it was my birthday. My girlfriend at the time had already told me that she couldn’t make it on that day because she had a family thing. I didn’t expect much. Two of my friends finally convinced me to grab dinner with them so we did. We then headed back to one of my friends houses. When I got there, about 20 friends (including my girlfriend) were there. They had thrown me a surprise party. They then pulled out a guitar case. They all put their money together and bought me a $2000 brand new American Fender Telecaster. I don’t think I have ever been so humbled by the kindness of my friends and I will never forget what they did for me.” – Krebsy92

“I was living in another state with my family,my husband and son (I was also pregnant). we hit some hard time. Money was very low and that week we only had 30 dollars for food for the next 4 days. I went to the grocery store and picked out some food (rice, beans, smoked sausage, eggs, etc..). I went to the self service register to check out and it came to 25 dollars. I went to my pocket for my money and it wasn’t there. I turned red in the face with embarrassment and I told the cashier maning the self checkout lanes I must of dropped it so please cancel the order. He didn’t. He paid for it out of his own pocket. I thanked him up and down. I went to my car and cried.” –thepurplefrog

“My uncle gave me $500 when I left for college (he usually gave money to me and my cousins). He was murdered months after, the day one of my older cousins was getting married. She gave EVERYTHING from her wedding that could be useful at the funeral (food, alcohol, sodas). My cousin is poor, by the way.” – mrcolon96

“I was arrested for possession of marijuana in Texas and before I even made a phone call out, a random lady bailed me out and drove me to my car, paid to get my car out of the impound, and let me pay her back like 5 weeks later.” – echo_astral

“In 2004 my father died somewhat suddenly after fighting very aggressive cancer for a month. My family and I witnessed an overwhelming outpouring of kindness and love from our community. The local businesses adopted us for Christmas(dad died in early December), people brought us meals for weeks, and the local funeral director made sure that the services honored dad’s life while making it affordable for an already struggling family. The biggest thing, though, would have to be the hospital bills that my mom never saw. After a month in and out of the ICU and multiple surgeries the bills must have been huge, but someone picked up 90% of them without ever telling our family. We always assumed it was my dad’s boss, but we will possibly never know. There are countless more instances from that first few years, but I cannot begin to name all of them. It is truly amazing to see a small community pull together for a family in their time of need.” –perrydise_livin

“one winter, i spent a saturday with my mom. that evening, she’d bought tickets to a college production of jesus christ, superstar, and invited me to go with her. i wasn’t terribly excited about it, but i know it’s one of her favorite musicals and it would mean a lot to her if i went, so i just sucked it up. we would up having a lovely day together. we were walking back to the car after the show, and were in the middle of talking about something that had happened to her at work. an elderly woman walking in front of us slipped on some ice, fell, and started to kind of cry/moan/wail.

the elderly lady had two people with her (her kids, i found out later). one rushed off to get help, and the other (a man) stayed with his mother. as soon as the woman went down, my mother stopped talking mid-sentence (a difficulty for an italian-american woman who grew up in NJ) and rushed over to help. the man was kind of panicked. he kept kind of loudly asking his mother if anything hurt, what hurts, can you move your arms, your legs, etc. I’m sure he meant well but in his panic he was somewhat aggressive and it was scaring his mother even more.

my mom told the guy sternly but softly to calm down and bent down, in the snow/mush/ice, to talk to the woman. she cracked a few jokes about how she was clumsy and fell all of the time, it could happen to anyone, and how unfortunately her clumsiness seems to have passed on to her daughter (me). in between jokes, she took off her coat and put it over the woman and gently told her to keep still until help arrived. by the time some workers from the theater and security folks came over, the woman was smiling and talking about holiday recipes with my mother. she was laughing and saying how she felt embarrassed everyone made such a fuss over her. an ambulance arrived and after consulting with the EMTs, the woman was standing up and seemed okay. she agreed to go get checked out, and gave my mom back her jacket and thanked her profusely “for keeping her head” better than her own kids. her son tried to give my mother some money for “dry cleaning” (her clothes were wet and muddy from sitting next to the woman) and she told him it wasn’t necessary.

we started to walk away, and she continued our conversation from earlier – like, word for word, picked up with the sentence she’d left off with. it occurred to me that helping someone like that was just second nature to my mom. she didn’t think twice, and it would never have occurred to her to keep walking and let someone else handle it. and not only that, she handled it like a champ, calmed everyone down, and had folks laughing by the time she was through.

not a huge thing in the grand scheme of things, but it really struck me in that moment just how selfless she is. she is constantly doing things both big and small for others without ever expecting anything in return.”-MsSusieDerkins

“My dad took my brother, sister and I out for lunch at a local diner/ice cream shop. About three tables away was a very bedraggled mother with twin infants in carriers and two other small children, and it looked like today was the day for all of them to act up. After I was done eating I went to look at the pinball machine ( a lifelong obsession) and on his way over to collect me, my dad stopped at the counter, paid our bill, and the lady’s as well. He never mentioned it later, and did it in a way that no one other than the cashier would have even known, but I managed to catch it. I know its a very simple act, and it probably wasn’t very expensive, but the fact that he did it without much thought, and not even to use as a kindness lesson to us kids, always stuck with me.” – CigaretteCigarCigar

“I was in the hospital for passing out in class at college. I was 4 hours away from my parents and they couldn’t come to take care of me and I didn’t have a roommate in my dorm. I was pretty much by myself. A nurse drove me all the way back to my dorm. She then went to walmart, bought me soup, crackers, gateraid and a bunch of other things for when you’re sick. She said for me to call her if I needed anything. I didn’t know this woman at all. I almost cried. She saw I had no food or anything and was so kind to me. I will always be thankful for her kindness. She didn’t have to do that at all. She is an angel.” – ThatRedHairedGirl

“I was homeless and walking from Huntsville Alabama to Nashville Tennessee. I had no money, hadn’t eaten or bathed since the previous morning, and I was pretty much exhausted from walking all night. Stopped at a gas station to ask directions and a Jamaican guy who worked there was kind enough to give me a free sandwich. I remember sitting on the curb trying not to cry while eating what remains the best goddamn sandwich I’ve ever eaten.” –blkhatRaven

“When I was 19 and rapidly deteriorating on the waiting list for a liver, and the doctors decided we’d try the last ditch option of living donation. We called my only blood match, my paternal aunt. She agreed to be tested and was a perfect match. She came to my house in late August and told me that she was a match, and she’d set the date for September 30th.

On that day we rolled into surgery together, and 14 hours later I came out. She was in surgery for about 8 hours. I woke up 3 days later in a ton of pain. But I was alive and the liver was working. My aunt was doing great. She went home on day 4. I had another 2 weeks in the hospital and a hotel near the hospital.

That was 5 years ago. I’m doing great, never had a bout of rejection (which is rare and pretty awesome) my aunt says it’s like she never had surgery. I’m now 24, 25 in July. I wouldn’t have seen 20 without my aunt. I wouldn’t have gotten to travel, or have met my soulmate, or adopted 2 cats together. I moved across the country to live with my bf, and we’ve been together for 3 years. Life is very good.” –greffedufois

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