Joseph McKinley, 37, hasn’t forgotten what it was like to deal with a $21,000 debt load. He’s become a debt guru of sorts since being featured in the magazine. “I have had people come up to me at work and ask me what I did to lower my debt. I tell anyone who wants to listen about my experience and what I would do differently if I had the chance,â€ says McKinley, who has paid down another $1,900 of credit card debt since entering the contest. He plans to have his credit card bill eliminated in about a year.
Before entering the contest, his focus was solely on getting rid of debt, leaving other financial issues a distant second on his priority list. But McKinley has learned that he can do more. He’s been able to boost his emergency savings to $1,500 from virtually zero; save for retirement; get life insurance; and map out a plan for his children’s education.
“You have to take responsibility for your financial actions. It’s easy to lay blame, but it’s up to you to get yourself out of debt,â€ says McKinley. Secondly, “You’re never too young to start estate planning.â€ Since applying to the contest, McKinley sought the advice of an insurance professional and obtained life insurance. Don’t be shy about asking for help. “Use your Employer Assistance Program if you have one at your job. It’s free and they are there to help.â€
Overall Grade B+
McKinley has made some great progress, but he needs to know his credit score. Your credit does not matter only when you’re applying for a loan or a credit card, but it can affect insurance rates and employment opportunities.
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