Your Financial Life Depends on It

Dear Dave,

I’ve been struggling for about a year, ever since I made a stupid new-college-graduate decision to finance a car. It’s a 2018 Jeep Compass, and I owe $21,000 on it. The trade-in value is about $11,000, so I really got stung on the sticker price and everything else. I also have $85,000 in student loan debt and around $7,500 on credit cards. The good news is, I make $63,000 at my job, and that should increase to $75,000 by January of next year. My girlfriend and I are renting an apartment and are engaged to be married in 2025. How do I clean all this up before then?


Dear Austin,

Well, the good news is, you have the rest of your life to never make this kind of mistake again. I’m really sorry you’re going through all this, son. What a horrible thing to experience right after college.

So you’re $10,000 upside down on a vehicle you owe $21,000 on, right? The truth is, you’re kind of stuck. If you’re serious about getting out of this mess and not repeating the same mistakes, you’re going to be working like a dog for the next year or two. Right now, you need a serious side job nights and weekends—maybe two. And I’m talking bare-bones living. No vacations, and no eating out for a while. You don’t need to see the inside of a restaurant unless you’re working there. Get what I’m saying? No unnecessary spending. Period. On top of all this, you’ve got to start living on a strict, written monthly budget.

Now, about your fiancée. I get the desire to fix things before you get married. But married people work together on this kind of stuff all the time. Believe it or not, there’s no perfect time to get married. I mean, it sounds like you two have already decided to go there and figured out that neither one of you is perfect. That’s just called being human. So there’s really no reason to wait on tying the knot at this point. And the truth is, the two of you can whip your finances into shape faster and much more efficiently working on it together—as a married couple.

Austin, I want you to tear into this debt like your life depends on it. Because guess what, dude: It does!


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