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Out of College and Out of Debt

Visiting Dave On Spring Break These friends stopped by Dave's office on their road trip to Florida just to yell "We're debt-free!"

Imagine going with your spouse and your best friends on a paid-for Spring break trip to the beach. And, on the way, you swing by Nashville to make your Debt-Free Friday call on The Dave Ramsey Show from inside the lobby of Financial Peace Plaza. Not a bad life, huh? Well, for two young couples from the Midwest, that dream was recently a reality.

Chris and Allie Hemmen and Nathan and Kira Werstein are two couples who share a friendship and a debt-free story. Both of these couples realized, either in college or right after graduation, that they had no desire to live a life filled with credit cards, student loans and car payments.

“When we got married, we didn't realize how much debt I had,” Chris said. “One day, I came home from one of my three part-time jobs and realized that my debt was much more than I expected. I just wanted to crawl in a hole. I was so embarrassed for being so stupid. But my wife Allie was such an encouragement.”

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Chris said Financial Peace University (FPU) was a big reason they were able to get out of debt. “Allie’s mom enrolled us in FPU, and Dave’s biblical teaching gave us the hope and the tools to endure. We used Allie’s salary as a teacher and my salary as a personal trainer to knock out $45,000 in 16 months,” he said.

Chris added that getting out of debt was difficult but totally worth it. “We watched all our friends get dogs, buy houses, drive nice cars and go on vacation while we lived in a dumpy one-bedroom apartment and shopped at the generic grocery store,” he said. “But, now, we bought a newer car with cash and are moving into a better apartment and building our emergency savings!” He also plans on saving money for grad school.

As for Nathan and Kira, they managed to pay off their debt—$42,000 in one year—while attending grad school and working full-time jobs. They both read The Total Money Makeover and started on the Baby Steps individually before they got married in 2007.

Kira says Dave’s book helped her realized an important fact about money. “He said money is amoral, and it’s what you do with it that makes it moral or immoral. Before reading his book, I had the common Christian idea that people who have money are greedy, and if we talk about money, it’s evil. Dave’s book turned on the light bulb in my brain that said, ‘We can do great things for the kingdom with money. But not if we don’t have it!’”

She said the hardest part of getting out of debt was a six-month period in which they only had one car. “We had to take turns driving to school and work. Every other day, one of us had to ride our bike 11 miles to work, often wearing a heavy backpack. We also ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, didn’t go on vacations, and didn’t eat out or go to movies.”

Nathan says it feels great to be debt-free and preparing for the future. “Growing up, and even in my early 20s, I always thought that I would work until I died,” he said. “I never thought I would have a savings account or a retirement fund. I thought having a car loan and credit cards were normal, because that's what I saw when I grew up. It really feels good not to be normal!

People who embrace debt have got it all wrong, Chris says. “It is a huge illusion that debt is okay,” he adds. “I've heard ‘smart’ people say, ‘It's okay to have debt as long as you manage it.’ How can you manage stupidity? It's like a drunk saying ‘I can drive safely.’ It just doesn't work that way.”

Too often, though, many well-meaning people fall victim to the credit card trap and, 20 years later, they’re still trying to escape. Thanks to a little preparation and a lot of hard work, the Hemmens and the Wersteins will never have to dig out of that hole!

You too can find the peace that comes from ditching debt and the stress that goes along with it. It just takes determination and a plan. We can help with both. Find a Financial Peace University class in your area today to start getting control over your money.

If you have kids in high school or recently enrolled in college, prepare them for college life with The Graduate's Survival Guide. It offers a humorous and practical look at dangers ahead, as well as advice on things like jobs and roommates. Get it today!

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