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.

Debt
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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People Are Talking About The Secretly Great Aspects Of Quarantine Life And Yeah, It’s Not All Bad

Things That Matter

People Are Talking About The Secretly Great Aspects Of Quarantine Life And Yeah, It’s Not All Bad

NurPhoto / Getty

No doubt the current quarantine has been desperately tragic at times. Still, many are choosing to find the bright and positive aspects of life in seclusion. From picking up new hobbies to finding time to save money and work on home projects, Reddit users are finding the bright side of these current times.

Check them out below!

“Save money on gas.”- jmo_joker

“Not to mention wasting time just sitting in a traffic jam to get to a desk that I also happen to have in the office at home…”-coffecup1978

“I’ve been WFH since last march and I must have saved about £2k in fuel.”-throwRAffff

“I got to spend a lot more time with aging pets. I had to put down a cat this fall but for seven months he got to lay on my keyboard and interrupt zoom calls all day. I also have a 12 year old lab and spending this year with her all day every day has been awesome.”-Santos_L_Halper_II

“A lot of restaraunts have really upped their online ordering and drive through game. Like a well oiled machine.”- Wilhelm_Amenbreak

“And some shockingly haven’t. I got take out from one of my favorite restaurants the other day, and it took so long to order on the phone, that next time I’m just going to go down there and place an order in person. I had to speak to three different people to accomplish it – being put on hold each time – and give my credit card over the phone. And before you ask, yes, they advertise take out on their website and menu, so it isn’t as if it’s a service they don’t normally provide.”- Amelaclya1

“I got 6 to 8 hours a week back in commuting time. That’s, like, about a whole extra work day every week that’s mine to do with as I please. It’s been incredible. And I hadn’t realized how stressed my commute makes me. I don’t have to be careful not to forget anything before I leave for work (or when I’m leaving the office at the end of the day), I don’t have to pack lunch, I don’t have to make sure I’m dressed for the weather both now and in 8 hours when I’m coming home. I don’t have to get wet when I get that wrong, and I don’t have to spend a day at work with my shoes and socks wet, or all of me wet. I don’t have to wait at a bus stop for forty minutes waiting for a bus that should have been here thirty minutes ago.” –S_thyrsoidea

“No Commute =

  • Well no commute
    • No commute people
    • No delayed trains
    • No weather … less health issues (even just less colds) from constant changing temps
  • Time
    • Morning – 2 hours extra sleep and not having to get ready
    • Day – generally chores, laundry, cleaning, dishes get done on work down time. So this frees time on the weekends
    • Afternoon – 1.5 hours of me time.
  • Money
    • Communing total costs for my household (just for work) was around $500 a month. The added cost of heating / cooling, electricity, etc from being home is nowhere near that.
    • Food – I can cook all my own food
    • Dont need to replace going to work stuff. (clothes, shoes, beauty products, etc)
  • Health
    • I can workout more regularly, get sleep, eat better.

Also getting stuck at work by 5 minutes, no longer means getting a train 30 minutes later …. it actually means 5 minutes.”- 424f42_424f42

“Yeeeeep…

I’m not only saving close to 4h a day by not having to commute, but also the costs of public transportation and overpriced lunch near the office. In practice, it’s like having my shifts reduced by 20% and getting a pay raise at the same time” –SchrodingerSemicolon

“I am a recovering alcoholic. Spending most of my time at home exploring my hobby’s, attending virtual counseling, and rebuilding relationships with my loved ones has helped me to realize that no substance has ever given me so much contentment, and I honestly never want to give up what I have now. In 4 weeks, I will be celebrating my 2 year sobriety anniversary. The grass (underneath the foot of snow) has never seemed greener!”- artgirl483

“Corollary: Not needing to act like you want to talk to anyone while you wait for the coffee machine in the morning. And the overall unhealthy coffee culture offices breed, in general.”- dontFart_InSpaceSuit

“No office politics and mindless gossip.”-backdoorsmasher

“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, my dad would be dead right now.

He likes to come over to our place while I’m at work and spend time with my dogs. My papillon got away from him and wanted to play chase in our garage, which is basically a storage unit right now, and she was bobbing and weaving through boxes. When he caught her and took her inside, he noticed he was having a hard time catching his breath.

My brother, who lives with me, offered to let him use his new oxygen meter, which he bought after he developed some temporary sleep apnea after he had covid. The meter was frighteningly low, so he told our dad to go to the walk-in clinic. They told him as soon as he explained his oxygen level that he needed to go to the ER.

He tests negative for covid at the ER, but they found MULTIPLE blood clots in his lungs. They kept him a few days in the hospital, and he made a complete recovery with no permanent damage.

I know my dad very well. Under normal circumstances, he would have gone home, tried to relax, gone to bed that night, and possibly never woken up the next morning. But covid has us all on high alert, especially when it comes to breathing troubles. I NEVER thought I’d be thankful for it

Also after he got out of the hospital, he gave said papillon an extra special doggy treat for, “saving his life.”- faerytheft

“Similarly, if not for remote doctors and virtual visits, I would have let a potentially bad infection fester. I was too embarrassed for years to see a practitioner in person, and while the infection was very recent, I was dreading an appointment. And then, like angels heralding on high, I got an email from my insurance about scheduling remote consultations. I’ve now talked to more doctors this year on my own than ever before, and even made some progress with a therapist.” –cavepainted

“Playing board games with my teenaged kids. We got away from it as they got older. I still kick ass on Scrabble, but they smoke me on Backgammon. Ticket to Ride is a blast. Yahtzee too.

Edit: Well this certainly resonated with the community. To answer a few questions: We don’t play every night. A couple of times a week is where we’re at now. We have more modern games, but Backgammon and Yahtzee- especially Yahtzee- is the one they like to play the most. Monopoly, when played without ‘house rules’ is fun. It probably won’t last when things go back to normal, so I’m loving it while it lasts. Thanks for the awards!”-2leewhohot

“I have two teens (and a spouse). We really enjoy Spoons and Bullshit. Easy, fast paced card games. We also play blackjack as a family. We have a whole set of cards and chips. We keep a running tally of our chips on paper. My husband gets so mad because our daughter plays her gut and he plays by the “rules” and she is like a fake billionaire now and he’s always panhandling for fake money to get him back in the game. It’s a riot. Our son is always the dealer, our “casino” is named after him and it’s a good exercise in social skills and self control.” –dualsplit 

“Cleaner beaches and ocean in Hawaii as millions of tourists stayed home. Of course the economy went to sh*t, but the Aloha ‘Āina prospered.”- QuackedUp99

“I’ve been asking, no, begging for WFH for 2 years prior, filling in medical reasons, etc. My boss agreed. HR & management basically ignored me. Like, dream on, never gonna happen.

Then Covid came and now all of a sudeen everyone can work from home.

They still send regular “covid emails” thanking us for our incredible adaptability in these difficult times, and they hope we will soon be able to return to “normal”.

Screw your normal…”chicken farm” blue light high strung open office microwawed lunch rush hour commute normal.

Why would anyone hope they can return to that sh**?! Do people really have it that bad at home?”-unikatniusername

“Yeah this past year has probably been the healthiest I’ve ever been. Haven’t ever had anything more than a minor headache, and that’s usually just due to dehydration or something mundane.”- SpicymeLLoN

“I went 2020 without a cold, where I’d definitely get at least two every year. However I succumbed last week. My daughter works in a supermarket and brought it home with her” – Moramug

“I’m missing a tooth fairly close to the front of my mouth and I don’t feel self conscious smiling in public when I’m wearing a mask. It’s a silly thing, but I kinda missed real smiles.

Thanks for the awards, guys! My most liked/commented comment is about my fucked up teeth. That’s… something. Lol.”- GreenOnionCrusader

“Me too! I lost 17 lbs and I just was discharged from therapy because my depression is officially, clinically at a zero. Go us!

To answer some questions:

Weight loss: I initially did a wellness challenge called 75HARD—a 75 day challenge that requires two workouts per day and sticking to a diet of your choice, among several other daily tasks. That kicked my butt into gear and got me into the habit of regularly exercising and eating well, so I’ve lost a few more lbs since I completed it in September. This also helped my mental health a lot, but not completely.

Mental health: I did Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which is a form of CBT that focuses on accepting your feelings and mindfully working through them, rather than avoiding them. My therapist had me fill out a questionnaire every time we met and based on my answers, he was able to calculate numbers on a depression scale. I can’t go into more detail about that, cause I don’t know, but I started at a 42/100 and last week was at a 3 on one scale. And on another I started out at a 7/10 and last week was at a 0. So I’m clinically not depressed I guess. Plus, the last several weeks I’ve come to him feeling great and having little to talk about, which meant it was time for me to be discharged.

Why was I discharged? My therapist works out of a medical facility, rather than private practice, so they go based on a medical model. It’s more of a “let’s give our patients the tools they need to cope and once they no longer NEED us, we’ll let them go,” so they can make room for more patients with acute needs, rather than a “we’ll see patients as long as they pay us.” I could’ve been referred to someone like that, but, like I said, I didn’t have much to talk about by the end.

What specifically helped me? Mindfulness exercises and writing down 5 good things about myself each day. My negative self talk was the biggest factor in my depression. I don’t do that anymore. I am a badass!”- yojothobodoflo

“Man I feel totally the opposite. I’ve gained weight and feel totally anxious and depressed. I think I was before but now feel like deffff am. Considering therapy but feel overwhelmed by the different options. Like there are so many different titles and qualifications and methods and the insurance is even more confusing than finding a primary care. Which I also need to do….”- Pficky

“No pressure to go somewhere on my days off. I don’t feel like I’m wasting time when I have days off and don’t spend them traveling or seeing people. I love staying at home and just hanging with my two cats. Sweat pants on, messy bun, junk food and games. I’m content with that.”- not-a-real_username

“Yes. I think I have learned to accept my homebody nature instead of feeling like I “should” be going out and doing things. There’s nothing wrong with making a home for yourself and then enjoying being there.”-notreallylucy

“My employer now knows for sure that working from home is completely doable and really doesn’t fuck up productivity.

I’ve also learned that I like going into the office once or twice a week just to break up the monotony of working from home all the time.”- AcrolloPeed

”For me personally, online learning. It just clicks with my brain somehow. I’ve gotten the best grades these past few semesters of my whole time in college. I’m off academic probation, I got an A in a class I failed twice before (required for my major), and I am able to do a second major I really wanted. I’m so much less stressed about exams and it feels so good to be able to show my parents grades I’m proud of. I don’t know how I would’ve been able to do this without online classes. I had a lot of trouble with attendance, and my bad memory, and now I’m able to go to class from my room and re-watch lectures and have some notes for exams. I felt so low my first few years of college and I finally feel good about myself as a student. It’s still hard to believe that it’s me getting these grades and graduation is scary but I’m so glad I get to do it.

Edit: thank you so much for all of the support and the really interesting discussions people are having! And a special thank you to the people who gave me awards, that’s very kind of you all!

I think the big takeaway here is that neither online nor in-person classes are objectively better, and that different learning formats work for different people. Hopefully colleges will be able to offer all or most classes in either format post-pandemic so that students can choose which version works for them. Good luck everyone, I believe in you!”-pastelkawaiibunny

“Seconding this. I can pause the recording to think through something I don’t understand, or work through a proof that clearly isn’t trivial despite the lecturer’s insistence so it won’t distract me for the rest of the lesson. The easy parts I can juat fast-forward through.”-Vampyricon

“You learned something important about yourself.. Several somethings, actually. You now know where and how and under what conditions you thrive.

The world has also learned several somethings too. “Out of the box” is no longer a metaphor. There are many ways to achieve. Remote employees can and will deliver. Embracing all this improves the bottom line!

Put these two things together: You now know what place you seek, and that place now EXISTS! Enjoy the finding of it, friend…”-JuliusVrooder

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Beauty Queen Who Was Abandoned At An Airport As A Baby Reconnects With Her Birth Mother 40 Years Later

Fierce

Beauty Queen Who Was Abandoned At An Airport As A Baby Reconnects With Her Birth Mother 40 Years Later

Marcel Thomas / Getty

Like many adopted children, Elizabeth Hunterton grew up aware that her nonbiological parents loved her. According to a recent interview with the former beauty pageant queen, she also had many dreams and ideas of how she came to be one of millions of children to be adopted every year in the United States.

As a young girl, Hunterton spent her youth dreaming that she’d come from royalty and had “been lifted away on the talons of a majestic eagle.”

Eventually, she learned that the truth was far more personal and tragic.

In January 1980, Hunterton was abandoned at the gate of a Nevada airport by two pilots

“I was about 10 days old,” Hunterton explained to People magazine in a recent interview. “I grew up my entire life trying to figure out what I did in those 10 days that ultimately led to them saying, ‘Let’s just leave her at the airport.'”

While Hunterton was adopted into a home soon after her abandonment the beauty pageant queen says in the years after, she often lamented a part of her life that she felt was missing. Fortunately, after taking a 23andMe test this past August, Hunterton has connected with her biological mother for the very first time.

Having had little to work with in regards to finding her biological parents (this includes having no birthplace, birth date or race) made life difficult for her when she was younger.

“It was really through this process of finding my birth mother that I’m able to rewrite my narrative,” she explained in the interview with People. “I had really prepared myself to be rejected by both sides of my biological family… And It ended up being so much more beautiful than anything I could’ve written.”

Hunterton was raised by a white family and crowned Miss Nevada in 2004.

Despite having a happy and loving upbringing, Hunterton felt lost about the uncertainty surrounding her own race. According to People, she often wondered if “everyone from her friends to her Starbucks barista were somehow related to her.”

“When this all started unfolding, there were certainly points that I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I’ll just walk away now,’ because it just got hard,” she explained. Eventually, in 2018, DNA databases helped Hunterton track down her biological father. Unfortunately, she soon discovered that he had died in 2004, and had never known she had been born.

Soon enough her search brought her to 23andMe where her profile found a few hits in March. Eventually, Hunterton reached out to three different women hopefully that one of them would be a match. All three ultimately proved not to be a match and Hunterton decided to give up after so much disappointment.

“I pulled out my bucket list, crossed it off, wrote her name down, and that was it,” she explained before sharing that just as she began to change her focus back to raising her 5- and 6-year-old sons, she received a ping for another connection. This time it came from a second cousin who offered to help put her in contact with her birth mother.

Hunterton soon learned that she had a Black father and a Japanese mother both of whom met at the Fort Ord military base. She also learned that she was born in a hospital in California and had not been intentionally abandoned.

“When I received her email, she shared that she wasn’t able to take care of me as she believed I deserved,” Hunterton explained to People. “Therefore, she gave me to her roommate who was supposed to take me to an adoption agency. When my birth mother was told that I was actually left at the airport instead, it took quite a toll.”

Hunterton explained because of her connection to her biological mother she was able to track down her birth certificate.

In an emailed statement to People Hunterton’s biological mother explained that at first she was “surprised, scared and truly overwhelmed” by the idea of meeting her daughter.

“I was shocked to hear from her and by the amount of research she did. It was all very overwhelming and brought back a lot of painful memories,” her biological mother who remains anonymous to People but shared that she is 65-year-old explained. “However, it’s also a tremendous blessing to find out what a strong and wonderful woman she turned out to be. One day, when we’ve all healed a bit more, hopefully, we’ll be able to meet.”

“She has such a good heart,” Hunterton explained of her mother. “We exchange occasional emails and texts and holiday niceties. But the good thing is, I have a mom. I don’t need to put any unfair, unrealistic expectations on her. I just give her permission to be exactly who she is and it’s perfect.”

“She’s now giving herself permission to live her life and it’s actually pretty beautiful,” Hunterton went onto explain of her biological mother. “She says, ‘All my hopes and dreams are in you. I never thought that anybody that looked like you could come from me, somebody that’s poised and eloquent and successful. Those are just things that never happened for me. But here you are.’ So now she’s living her life, and it’s pretty beautiful to watch her heal and kind of come to life… I think that was a really beautiful way for the story to unfold, that in the end, it flowed so beautifully, both through my mom, myself and my birth mother. It really kind of unified all three of us in different ways. But it was all I could’ve ever hoped for to hear from her.”

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