According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, problem debt is a primary contributor to mental health issues. It destroys relationships, suffocates personal and professional growth, and kills marriages.
Since debt makes future borrowing both necessary and more expensive, it leads to an endless cycle of financial insecurity characterized by perpetual anxiety and stress.
The result is that millions of people feel they exist only to make their minimum payments and keep the wolves at bay for one more month. But, some people overcome the odds and break the cycle.
According to Debt.org, 340 million Americans share $16.9 trillion in household debt — but GOBankingRates spoke to three who found a way out. Overcoming debt is no easy task, but those who break free find that personal, professional and financial goals that previously seemed impossible are suddenly within reach.
Few people know more about debt than Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer, a personal finance site dedicated to the subject. However, his experience with the topic isn’t purely professional.
He excels at helping others conquer debt because he knows firsthand what it feels like to exhale after making that final credit card payment.
“The biggest difference I noticed once I’d paid off my debt was how much more money I had each month,” Hill said. “When you’re paying off large amounts of debt, it can be easy to lose track of just how much the monthly fees are costing you; and, once you no longer have those payments, suddenly you have $600-plus, in my case, of extra money every month.
“This was a pretty significant upgrade for me personally, as it took so much strain off my finances and allowed me to actually begin creating meaningful savings for the future.”
David Reid is the sales director at VEM Tooling, a fast-growing mold manufacturer with operations in five countries serving the steel and automobile industries. For a long time, though, his professional success was clouded by personal debt. Then, he finally made his last credit card payment.
“Once burdened by debt, I can now attest to the immense financial security I now enjoy,” Reid said. “With the weight of monthly debt payments lifted off my shoulders, I have experienced a significant increase in disposable income.”
The moment gave him a monthly increase in disposable income similar to Hill’s; and, like Hill, it offered life-changing financial freedom.
“Upon successfully repaying my credit card debt, I managed to increase my monthly savings by an extra $500,” Reid said. “As a result, my savings grew to a total of $6,000 within a year. This newfound financial security has empowered me to make more informed financial decisions and plan for the future with confidence.”
As His Finances Improved, so Did His Life
Even more important than the boost in savings, Reid gained the luxuries of time and flexibility.
“Previously, I was caught in a cycle of working extra hours to meet debt obligations,” said Reid. “Now, with my financial commitments cleared, I have the freedom to pursue activities that bring me joy and fulfillment. Achieving a healthier work-life balance has enabled me to prioritize the things that truly matter, such as spending meaningful time with loved ones, traveling, and pursuing hobbies.”
Reid cited an American Psychological Association study that showed a direct correlation between financial stress and diminished physical and mental health.
“The significance of reducing financial stress cannot be emphasized enough,” he said. “After achieving freedom from debt, this burden is alleviated, leading to improved overall health and wellness. I have experienced a significant decrease in stress levels. This has positively impacted my overall well-being, enhancing my focus, productivity and relationships.”
An Entrepreneur Dug Out of a Six-Figure Financial Hole
Gene Caballero is the co-founder of GreenPal, a marketplace for landscaping and lawn care service providers, and he can personally attest to the transformative power of overcoming debt.
“At one point, my financial situation was challenging, with GreenPal accumulating a debt of over $300,000,” Caballero said. “I found myself maxing out three credit cards, each with a balance of $200,000, and relying on two lines of credit totaling $50,000 each. This debt made me unbankable and caused significant stress and uncertainty in my life.”
But, as the business grew and money began flowing in, he dedicated himself to digging out — and he finally did.
“I successfully paid off that debt and regained control of my financial well-being,” Caballero said. “The impact on my life has been truly remarkable.
“Eliminating the burden of debt has provided me with a sense of financial security that I hadn’t experienced before. It has allowed me to make wiser financial decisions, invest in business growth, and secure a stable financial future. I now have peace of mind knowing that I am in control of my finances.”
Like Reid, the final payment opened the door to freedom and luxuries that Caballero couldn’t have entertained while struggling with debt.
“One of the most significant changes in my life is the newfound ability to travel and explore the world,” Caballero said. “By freeing myself from debt, I have the flexibility to travel for five months out of the year. This freedom has allowed me to immerse myself in different cultures, gain new perspectives and create cherished memories.”
Overcoming debt also led to a healthier work-life balance.
“I now have the freedom to dedicate more time to my personal life, including spending quality time with family and pursuing hobbies and interests that bring me joy,” Caballero said. “This balance has significantly improved my overall well-being and happiness.
“Beyond the financial benefits, overcoming debt has had a profound impact on my personal growth. It has taught me valuable lessons about financial responsibility, resilience and the importance of strategic planning. These lessons continue to shape my approach to business and life.”
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