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When Mathew told his mother he was leaving India to move to the United States, she had him pull up a map so she could see exactly where her son was going. But he couldn’t find Tuscaloosa, AL on the map, so he showed her Atlanta instead.
“I didn’t know [Atlanta] was three hours away. I didn’t even know it was in a different state,” says Mathew, laughing.
He was headed to Alabama to pursue a master’s in mechanical engineering. Only, he couldn’t have known then that he was about to gain an entirely different sort of education—a master’s-level understanding of the toxic money culture.
Following some confusion about how his tuition would be paid, Mathew found himself down to his last $20 within 48 hours of arriving in the U.S.
“I had no family, no nearby friends, no bank account, no social security number, no credit card, debit card, nothing,” he says. Mathew managed to secure an apartment, and after pulling a mattress out of a dumpster, he had his first bed in this country.
In the years that followed, Mathew bought into the American Dream in a big way—new cars, a hefty mortgage, debt piled on top of debt. Turns out, the dream was a nightmare, and Mathew had to find a way out. It was time to start his debt-free journey.
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Today, Mathew is a full-time financial coach in Houston, showing his clients exactly how to get out of debt, build wealth, and create the financial future of their dreams. It’s a process he can walk them through because he’s been there himself, having survived both bad decisions and heartbreaking circumstances beyond his control.
Living the “American Dream”
After nearly six years in the U.S., Mathew had it all—the degree, the fancy new job, a wife and a baby. Add to that a house purchased with a 10% down payment and an adjustable-rate mortgage, and the picture-perfect image of an American life was complete.
“I told my real estate agent that our budget was $120,000,” recalls Mathew. “[Our agent] said, ‘Do you know that you are approved for $160,000?’”
Mathew didn’t understand, so the agent told him, “That means you can buy a bigger house.” Mathew’s response? “Go for it. I love it.”
Mathew parked two new cars in the driveway. Then he and his wife, Kitty, watched in confusion as each month their money came in but then rolled right back out.
Soon after, Mathew’s father, who was battling cancer, passed away. As the oldest son, it was his responsibility to fill the role of head of the household. This meant many trips to and from India. It also meant borrowing from his 401k to fund his travel expenses. The debt continued to pile up, but for Mathew and his family, the hard times were only just beginning.
The Dream Becomes a Nightmare
In 2008, Mathew watched as the U.S. automotive industry—his bread and butter—was brought to its knees. He didn’t lose his job, but layoffs around his company meant working extra hours with no pay under constant fear that he might be the next to go.
But the collapse of the U.S. auto industry was nothing compared to what came next.
“For reasons I can never, never explain in this world, my good Lord decided to take my son away. My wife and I said goodbye to our [second] son Jeremy on November 1, 2008,” says Mathew. Shortly thereafter, hospital bills started to appear, and now there was more debt than ever before.
Mathew remained the sole provider for the family since his wife’s visa status didn’t allow her to work outside the home.
Then one day it hit him.
“We are actors, my wife and I,” he said. “When we go to church, we have this perfect picture of an American Christian family. We say all the right things, and if someone asks for a prayer request, we say not for us. We were living this fake life.”
The jig was up.
“We were sick and tired of it. We said this is not the abundant life God promised, and if we have to deal with it for the rest of our lives, then I don’t know why God called us to be Christians in the first place. So, we decided to change.”
Mathew’s “I’ve Had It” Moment
Mathew called a friend and told him he needed help with his debt. His friend asked him if he’d heard of Dave Ramsey. Mathew hadn’t.
“I was desperate and went to [Financial Peace University],” he says. “It was 13 weeks for $99. I had $9 and they don’t take credit cards, so I couldn’t even buy it. I waited for the next paycheck to buy FPU.”
“The next three years were tough. It was extremely difficult. We did everything FPU taught us, and we paid off close to $40,000 in car, medical and 401k debt,” he says.
And as the couple started to crawl out of the financial hole they’d been living in, they noticed how many people around them were struggling too—people filing bankruptcy, marriages ending in divorce over money fights. They wanted to help others.
“God gives us [our] stories to empower and inspire other people,” says Mathew. “God gave us everything we have. This country gave us everything we have. How can we give back?”
That’s when the idea for Mayanah was born. Meaning “Jacob’s well” in Hebrew, Mayanah was the site of one woman’s life-changing encounter with Jesus, as described in John 4. At their meeting, she was neither judged nor shamed. Instead, she was loved and shown a different way to live. This is what Mathew and his wife wanted to offer anyone struggling in the same ways they had struggled—no judgement, no shame, only a better way forward.
A Call to Coach Others
Even with a vision for Mayanah clear in their minds, it was another four years before Mathew enrolled in and completed Financial Coach Master Training (FCMT), Dave Ramsey’s online financial coach training program. By this time, Mathew had changed jobs and moved his family to Houston to be closer to the oil industry. Mathew worked full time and traveled all over the world for business while his wife homeschooled their children.
Despite his busy schedule, Mathew started coaching on his free nights and Saturdays. What began as a ministry—Mathew and his wife working with local pastors and their congregants—continued to grow and then naturally evolved into a business.
Since Mathew started financial coaching at the end of 2016, he’s coached more than 200 clients and conducted more than 1,000 coaching sessions. After being laid off earlier this year, the man who once only had $20 to his name was able to transition into a full-time career as a financial coach.
Continuing His Father’s Command
The night before Mathew moved to the U.S. from India, his father shared some advice with him:
He said, ‘Son, there are only two things that matter in life,’” recalls Mathew. “‘One is your relationship with God, and the other is your relationships with people that bring them closer to God.’”
At Mayanah Financial Coaching, Mathew puts that advice to use every single day, helping others transform their lives one coaching session at a time.
If you want to help people with their money and don’t know where to start, we’ve got a training program for you! Sign up for a free webinar to learn about Financial Coach Master Training. Get a front-row seat learning how to change lives one coaching session at a time.