My Debt Free Story: How Troy Paid Off $152,000 Debt in 24 Months
My debt free story is a OneSavvyDollar series where we interview millennials who have successfully paid off any major debt i.e. student loans, car loans, credit cards.
Please note: If you’re currently unemployed and facing so much uncertainty with your finances, it’s best to save as much as you can right now. If you’re still employed and carrying on with your financial plans and debt-free journey then read on…..
The aim is to inspire, encourage, and motivate you to take hold of your personal finance because “financial fitness is not a pipe dream or a state of mind. It is a reality if you’re willing to pursue it and embrace it.” – Will Robinson
Can you tell us a bit about you?
Hello, I’m Troy Lee Jackson III. I’m 26 years old, married with a daughter and I was born and raised in the Chicago area. I’ve always been interested in personal finance since I was in 2nd grade and made my first $1 with a paper route.
I currently hold a bachelor’s in Accountancy and I am also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
A fun statistic for you to track down would be the percentage of black Certified public accountants. I was shocked when I saw that it was so low compared to other races.
What and when was your “sick and tired” of debt moment?
The weird thing about my “sick and tired” moment is that all the ways I said I would be different from those who made poor financial decisions I ended going down the same path.
When I was growing up, I hated the fact that my family was poor.
The worst part about it was, we were poor based solely on the bad decisions my parents made with finances.
For instance, running up credit cards, borrowing for too much car, not saving for a rainy day, not investing. I always told myself that would not be me.
Well fast forward to the ages of 18 – 22, I managed to acquire $152,000 of debt with the bulk of it coming just 6 months after college graduation.
At the age of 22, my then girlfriend was talking about getting married and I had this horrible feeling of being just like my parents who made a bunch of bad financial decisions and it affected their family and themselves for 20+ years.
I decided at 22 that I would never let my past decisions hurt my future family and got to work controlling my finances and paying off debt.
How did you acquire the debt and do you regret doing so?
I acquired $47,000 of student loan debt. Here’s the kicker: while in school, I had a basketball scholarship that covered 75% of costs plus free money grants.
I completely regret my choice to go to a private school because if I would have attended Junior college or public school, taken AP tests, and taken CLEP tests I would have easily saved $30,000 -$40,000.
Following that, in my senior year, a month before I graduated, I thought it would be smart to buy a brand new car for $22,000. Why? Because the dealership was offering zero dollars down and 0% financing.
I was broke and didn’t have money so a down payment was really out of the question.
To add to the grand prize of debt, only a few months out of college, before my first student loan payment was due, I signed a mortgage for $83,000.
How much debt did you pay off in total? How much money in interest and time did you save in total?
From the moment I started tackling debt until I was debt-free was 2 years.
I saved $12,000 in interest just from the student loan. I didn’t calculate for the house because I sold it to pay off the debt owed and the car’s interest rate was 0%.
How much income were you earning when you accomplished this?
My income level from my main job started at $60,000, increased to $63,000, and ended at $66,000 at the highest. Adding in the income from the extra jobs amounted to $10,000 extra in both of those years.
Can you describe the specific choices you had to make to become debt free?
In order to make paying off debt work, I wanted to be completely out of debt before I got married. I had to spend every extra hour I had earning extra money to put towards the debt.
I had to start and maintain a budget, say no to large expenses that didn’t fit my plan.
To describe in detail, I was probably the only CPA working at Home depot, Marriot, Park District, and Lyft. I was definitely the only 22-year-old paying off debt and probably the only 22-year-old not spending my money on alcohol and partying.
Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to become debt free?
My family challenged me every step of the way! When I first told them my plan, they said: “that’s impossible”.
When I was about halfway, they said; “you can only do that because you have no responsibilities” and when I was done, they said; “congrats, I could never do that because I don’t make as much as you”.
I told my family from Day 1 that we can do this together if they wanted but everyone passed on the opportunity to take the journey together.
Were any resources such as blogs, books, podcasts particularly helpful to you in staying on track? Or where did you find your inspiration to stay on track through your debt free journey?
I started with Dave Ramsey to get insight and I loved hearing other’s stories. From there, I read every personal finance book I could get my hands on. I would say this though, Dave Ramsey’s way is not the only way but is a great place to start.
How did you feel when you made that final payment?
It was an amazing feeling because the last payment was made the same week of my wedding. I was excited to start my new family with no past decisions to weigh me down.
What steps are you taking to ensure that you stay debt-free now?
I am currently focused on Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) and this keeps me from never going back to debt.
If I want to be financially free, I know debt would only interfere with these new goals. I live below my means, have a 6-month emergency fund, and all my finances are automated. This prevents me from making too many mistakes.
If you could go back in time and advise your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give her?
I would tell my 18 old self to get your education in the cheapest and fastest way possible.
What I found out after working for a while is most employers don’t care what school you come from for entry-level jobs. The next advice would be to stay with family and drive a reliable cheap car for as long as possible.
I could have easily saved $22,000 by driving a reliable car that took me from point A to B. I also could have saved even more by not paying a mortgage and home costs.
What advice would you give anyone who has debt and seeking encouragement?
Debt freedom is for everybody! I have met 50-year-olds who pay off debt and become debt-free. If you want to get debt free make a plan and make it happen. It is not impossible!
How can our readers keep in touch with you?
To hear more from me, follow me at thedollarduo on Instagram. Want to get to know me a bit more, visit dollarduo.com currently under construction but explorable.
Congratulations, Troy! Here’s wishing you much success on your financial journey.