Andy’s story has many twists and turns, including filing for bankruptcy while losing friends and family along the way. As you’ll read below, Andy’s journey to debt freedom was ignited by pure desperation. This was a good reminder to me of how heavy of a burden debt can be on our lives. Debt and other financial struggles have destroyed many families. Thankfully, Andy and his wife Stephanie came together to change the path of their financial journey.
Young Debt-Free Families Interview with Andy from Penny Less Dad
1. Start by telling us about yourself. Please include any details you feel comfortable sharing about your family, job situation, income level, and amount of debt paid.
I am Andy Masaki, a financial advisor and blogger. It’s been quite some time now, that I am in the field of personal finance and helping people to come out of money mess and debt disasters.
I am glad to become a part of Financial Pilgrimage, and it’s an honor to get featured in the Young Debt Free Families, interview series.
Currently I run my own blog Penny Less Dad, and along with work for Oak View Law Group as a content contributor and a part of the financial advisors team.
And not to forget, as it is the only driving force behind all of my achievements, I have my wonderful sweet family.
At times I do feel proud, and love to call myself the family man. My wife Stephanie and my two kids Jason and Sarah have only made my life more splendid over the years.
Without their help, support and patience, I could have never been debt free, and live a financially independent life.
As of now, I have a decent income each month. On the other hand, Stephanie has left her software job, and now gives family planning and frugal home décor ideas.
Together, both of us, bring in a neat monthly amount, that makes it possible to live a medium standard happy life.
The whole family’s net income is standing near $10k per month. I guess that’s enough to build sufficient savings, pay for insurances, and ward off debts!
And, as the question asks, I have paid off approximately $50,000 in debt, over the course of 7 years. The debt trouble started in 2010. In 2013, I filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and finally came out of the debt hole, in 2017.
Troubled years, troubled days, man I learnt a lot from them! At one point of time, it felt too much to bear the debt pressure! Believe I was just about to crash.
You see, debt is not only a financial issue. There are many other projections that come with debt. People seem to turn away their faces. You can’t enjoy that much at family gatherings, or wish your spouse ‘happy valentine’ with shiny presents in your hand. You can’t give your kids the toys they want.
It’s like all the good times felt rusting away, with you in the middle, sinking faster than you can think.
2. What inspired you to pay off your debt? Did you have a specific moment where you decided to make it a goal to payoff your debt?
I don’t know if you can call it inspiration. I would rather call it desperation. After a while I was fed up! I asked God, how long will I remain in this pit of unethical interest charges and financial instability?
Plus to add salt on the cut, I lost my job as an accountant at a private firm. It was back in 2012. Joseph was born in 2010, and Sarah came to our lives in 2012. Me and Stephanie spent days stargazing, and talking about raising kids, paying off the credit cards one by one, a trip to Bali perhaps, in the coming years.
But, then one day I got the news that the firm where I was employed was facing a closure. That’s when thunder fell on my head.
What to do now? The kids will go to school after a year or so. We had this mortgage to pay off, a car loan too, insurance premiums, and obviously credit cards. In total the debt amount was approximately $50,000.
Do you think I really needed inspiration to pay off debts at that stage of life!
I should pay them debts off or else my family will collapse. Getting rid of my debt became the only goal of my life.
3. How did you stay disciplined throughout the process to pay down your debt?
I believe, you have to be specific about how you want to do something. What will be your approaches, and are they realistic?
You can never expect to pay off $50k or more in debt in one night’s time, with zero income and negligible savings. That was my situation.
Also, my debt liability won’t get washed away if I just sit idle and do nothing about the debt figures. With time it will only increase due to interests and penalties.
So, it was kind of automatic. It just happened. I had this sense that I had to go through the struggle it takes to pay off my debts.
If not I may have lost all the people I love, and also could have lost myself!
4. Were there any apps, tools, or websites that were especially helpful in paying down debt?
It was then, in 2013, that I first heard about this website Oak View Law Group (OVLG). A friend of mine suggested me, and said that it has the best panel of lawyers and financial advisors for debt help.
I clicked into the website, and just a small form fill up, and I was contacted by experienced advisors, in no time.
They evaluated my whole debt situation, and suggested me a series of steps, that would not only help me save time but also money on my debt payments.
The first thing the law group did, was settle 2 of my credit cards. That’s where I saved about $5,000.
Then they asked me to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, as I couldn’t afford to lose my assets. Luckily, in Chapter 13, I had my other credit card forgiven, and got a decent time to pay off my secured debts, the mortgage and the car loan.
Also, to mention, I later on joined OVLG as a content contributor, after they asked me to share my debt experiences in their portal.
5. What advice would you provide to other young families who are overcome by the stresses of debt?
All I can say is work hard and don’t let money rule you.
It is surely important to do anything it takes to get rid of debts. But, have patience and don’t let the aggression drop on the family.
If you have a family, then take care of that. If you are someone alone, then have patience and hang around with your good friends and relatives once in a while. The only part is you probably won’t be able to spend too much money at family/friend meetups and get togethers.
But, it’s okay. You don’t always need money to enjoy. Good talks and good vibes are more soothing than spending loads at a lounge or pub.
6. What was the most challenging part in your journey to become debt-free?
Filing bankruptcy was the biggest challenge.
I lost many contacts since I filed Chapter 13. Many of my close friends and relatives started to frown, and considered me as a bloke who’s lost it all!
That was depressing!
I very well know that I have made grave mistakes, I splurged a lot, encouraged my wife to shop heavily, right after getting hold of multiple credit cards.
But I repented right? Yet, no one seemed to understand that. People neglected me a lot.
The only support I got was from my wife (back then the kids were too young to understand what’s going on)
7. How has becoming debt-free changed your family’s life? How do you expect it will impact your family’s life going forward?
The day my Chapter 13 payment schedule ended, and I put down the last dime to say the debts goodbye, there was a huge relief.
But, there was also this certain feeling of fear. My wife and I spent a whole night talking about what should we do now. We got so scared of credit vehicles that we were unsure whether or not to again use a credit card or take out a loan.
Later on I understood that debt can be an opportunity. It’s how we use it that makes it good or bad!
Since my family became debt free we started to focus on savings, good secured debts, investments, and promised never to compromise on hard work and financial security.
Stephanie and I also teach the same ethics to our children and we hope to see a more sensible generation to pass the torch on to.
8. What are future plans for your family after becoming debt free?
We like to go with the flow. Too much planning is also not good.
But yeah, no more splurging, no more indulging into bad unsecured debts, and teaching the kids good money habits from an early age.
Stephanie and I don’t push our children too much, as both of us believe that all are special and unique in their own ways. All we want our kids to be is happy as they grow up, with no debts around. Having a modest lifestyle with a decent income is really all we want for them.
Plus, both Stephanie and I are satisfied with our current profession and job roles, along with the income we are bringing in.
Moreover, the only big plan we have is having a savings vault of a perfect $100,000.
9. Are you pursuing (or have you reached) financial independence?
Financial independence is not easy. Obviously, we are still pursuing it. And, we are far from the goal.
As I have just mentioned, my family will reach absolute financial independence when we reach that big savings goal.
10. Is there anything that you haven’t yet covered that you’d like to share?
Yes, along with my debt clearance, I started to look for ways to increase my income.
As, until and unless you are earning a good amount, it would be difficult to become debt free.
So if you are suffering from debts always try to increase your income for the most impact.
11. Where can we learn more about your story?
And feel free to leave your feedback behind in any post you want!
May you be happy and debt free forever!