The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.
Getting out of debt is hard
Managing your money as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community? That adds a whole new layer.
Fortunately, there are more and more finance creators coming to the forefront to share their financial advice and advocate for the queer community. Today, we are so lucky to introduce you to two of them.
Meet John and David –– The Debt Free Guys. husbands who are living their fabulous life helping other gay men live amazing lives without sacrificing their financial security. Together, they paid of $51,000 in debt, and now help others do the same.
You do not have to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community to learn something valuable from this conversation, and if anything, it’s incredibly important to listen to if you consider yourself and ally and want to better understand how the queer community is affected when it comes to finances.
Hello, financial feminists. Welcome back. I’m so excited to see you. We are recording this in May, but the podcast is coming out in June, and hopefully you’re having the most hot girl summer to end all hot girl summers. Now, hot girl summer is a lifestyle, so regardless of your gender identity, you can have a hot girl summer. I just have a feeling that this is going to be everybody’s hot girl summer, and again, not just a seasonal thing, but a lifestyle thing, like really embody hot girl summer. We are main characters. We are here going on solo dates with ourselves. We’re here putting on our sunscreen. It’s just going to be so good. I’m excited. Financial Feminist can be the soundtrack to hot girl summer. I would argue Financial Feminist is hot girl summer.
Welcome to Financial Feminist hot girl summer. June, as we all probably know is Pride Month, and I am so excited to have a conversation today with The Debt Free Guys, who are David and John. They are husbands who are living their fabulous life helping other gay men live amazing lives without sacrificing their financial security. Together they paid off $51,000 in debt, and now they help others do the same. This episode is phenomenal, a great conversation if you are figuring out how to manage money with somebody else, if you’re figuring out how to pay off debt.
They give us their strategies, their tips and tricks, and fun fact, they actually paid off all of their debt, became debt free and then went back into debt. If that’s been your experience, if that’s something that connects with you, this is a perfect episode. You definitely don’t need to identify as a gay man or as a member of the LGBTQ+ community to learn from David and John. In addition to our talks about managing money as a couple, bringing different mindsets together to start managing and figuring out your financial situation together, and paying off debt, we’re going to spend some time talking specifically about how finances are different for the LGBTQ+ community.
These struggles are relatable for anybody regardless of your identity. They beautifully and very vulnerably share how they came together to not only pay off that debt, change their focus to create a life that they love, but to also build a platform that really amplifies their story and the stories of other queer people. If you have debt or you have a partner with debt, you’ll get something from this episode, and it’s also a great episode to listen to if you are an ally. They dive into the nuances of finances for the queer community and understanding how other communities face different challenges. These are all important conversations of becoming a better advocate and a better ally.
If you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community, this will probably make you feel very seen, very heard. That’s our hope, and if you are an ally to the LGBTQ+ community this is a must listen episode. We talk a lot about the importance of intersectionality on this podcast, and a key part of that intersectionality is recognizing that different communities face a very different set of challenges, and the LGBTQ+ community is no exception, so we go through several factors that queer people face every day that many of us who are straight or cisgendered simply don’t face, the emotional toll, the physical toll, and the financial consequences. But we also talk about what’s exciting about becoming financially stable, financially confident, especially for the queer community.
It’s such a beautiful episode and David and John were just so vulnerable with us and we were so excited to chat with them. Without further ado, David and John, The Debt Free Guys. I’m so excited to have you both here. We connected because you were kind enough to be interviewed for my upcoming book, and I’m just excited to ask you a lot o
f questions about money and questions about your experiences, and one of the questions I love asking people is what your first money memory was, like what is the first time you remember thinking about money or considering money?
Sure. Well, thank you for inviting us onto your show, and you were kind enough to include us in your book, so we want to thank you for that.
I’ll start off with my first money memory and this is going to date me a little bit, but we used to live in a split level when I was growing up just outside of Philadelphia, and I remember my mom and dad would be sitting in the kitchen every Friday night doing their bills. They would do their bills, pay their bills together, write checks, all that kind of stuff. My sister and I would be in the basement watching Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas.
I know from a pop culture perspective what both of those shows are. However, I’ve seen neither of those shows.
They would probably be canceled pretty quickly today.
Yeah, you probably won’t see Dukes of Hazzard.
Oh, I imagine. Well, they made a remake movie in the early 2000s with Jessica Simpson, didn’t they?
Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t ever actually see that one.
I haven’t either. I just remember it getting a bunch of press.
Yeah, and now she’s a billionaire, so what do I know?
How about you? What was your first money memory?
So this is David. I think I have two money memories. I guess one is positive and one is negative. One of my first money memories was I’ll just say this. My sister and I, when it came to school, we totally broke on the gender definitions of my sister was great at English and language arts, and all of that. She loved to read. I don’t. On the flip side, I was good at math. I enjoyed all of that, so when my sister was in first grade and I was in kindergarten, I had to teach my sister how to count change. That was one of my first money memories.
Yeah. We used to play store and stuff like that and we would play with money, but I think that the first time I kind of got this idea of money can be used for something was when I was trying to explain it to my sister. That was kind of for me a little bit of a positive money memory. A negative money memory was when I was younger, I think I was probably around 12, no 13, my family had been living in Ireland. The company my dad worked for moved us over there, but then some financial things happened with the company and we needed to move back to the United States and we needed to do it quickly.
We were standing at the airport in Dublin and we got to the place to check our bags and they said I’m sorry, but your tickets aren’t valid. They’re not good. Nobody paid for them. The company had never paid for our tickets, so we were all there packed and ready to go. Our house was all packed up and being shipped to the United States, and I just remember one of my parents running through the airport to go purchase plane tickets for all of us to be able to fly back to the United States, and that was the first time I learned what a credit card was because my parents were using a Visa credit card.
Where did you live in Ireland?
We were in Dublin, just outside of the city, just north in a suburb.
I studied abroad in Ireland and it’s my favorite place in the entire world. I lived in Galway for six months.
Oh, Galway’s beautiful. Yeah.
I just got to go back six months ago for the first time since study abroad. Oh, that place has my heart. It took everything in me to not cut your story off when I heard Ireland. I was like oh my God. Yeah, credit cards come in handy right about then.
Yeah, good question to ask David is where he went to school in Dublin. If you’re an Ireland/Irish fan.
Where did you go to school?
I went to school at Mount Temple, which was a primary school that non-religious kids went to because most of the schools there are Catholic schools and I was not a Catholic, and one of my classmates was Bono’s cousin, and one day we were at school and there was a lot of commotion and all of a sudden the teachers were like screw it and let us all out, and U2 was out in the main area between the four buildings and everybody was going crazy.
What was funny is this was slightly prior to when they had broke here in the United States, so this was 1983/84 timeframe, and so everybody in my class and everybody at school knew exactly who they were because they were big in Ireland, but we came back to the United States and my sister and I were all about U2 then, and then it was that summer that they did Unforgettable Fire at Red Rocks in Colorado, and then they blew up. We were like we were trendsetters. We were the trendsetters, bitches.
Yeah, I love it. When I was there, Hozier had started gaining popularity, and he was nominated for the Grammy, I think for best album I think at that time. That was his first album. The energy was palpable was Ireland. He didn’t end up winning, but everybody was so excited that an Irish artist had risen to the forefront again, so that’s cool. That’s amazing. Can you talk through your individual money stories or perspectives on money before you became a couple, and then how those stories impacted your relationship when you started combining finances, learning more about each other, building a life together?
Sure. This is John. I’ll start. I shared my first money memory, but one that was pretty close to that was I remember my mom and I were driving in our Pinto somewhere, and the Pinto at that point-
David‘s already laughing. He’s like I’ve heard this story.
I love the Pinto story, because the Pinto had a sheet metal one where Pintos were known to rust and so you would put sheet metal over it and then you’d drill those and then you’d paint it. It would never look right. It was ugly. But I was sitting in the front seat, the front passenger seat next to my mom without my seatbelt because that’s what you did in those days, and I remember asking her how much money we have. I thought it was an innocent question, and I got quickly scolded that it’s impolite to ask about money and I don’t have any money. She and my dad had the money, and to me that really set the tone for money sort of falls in this category of things that you don’t talk about. You don’t tell people what you do in the bathroom. You don’t talk about money.
< p class="" style="white-space:pre-wrap;">Or the bedroom.
Or the bedroom, right, and so it was not something that we ever talked about, and I was fortunate enough in my life that money was always there. I mean, we didn’t live extravagantly. We weren’t living in mansions or anything.
They had a Pinto with sheet metal attached to the bottom of it. Clearly they weren’t living extravagantly.
Yeah, exactly, but my sister and I never were wanting anything, right? Anything we ever wanted we kind of got, so we were definitely privileged that way, so it was a non-issue for me. Then by the time I got out on my own after I graduated college, I don’t think I really had the concept of money and what the pros of it can be and what the negatives of it can be. After I moved out of my mom and dad’s house and I moved to Colorado, I was out on my own officially for the first time, and I just had no concept of the tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt that I was racking up that at some point would catch up with me and bite me in the butt, and not in a good way.
This is David. My money story, I think my emotions and habits around money, and mindset were created when I was a kid by some significant events that happened when I was growing up. I was born in Germany. My dad was in the military. When we moved back to the United States, my dad took a job working for, for lack of a better way to describe it, a nuclear bomb factory, and so he worked in defense. My dad was making pretty good money, so we bought a home. It was a middle class starter neighborhood, lots of different sizes of homes. We had just a moderate sized home, but during that time period my mother started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She convinced my dad along with other people in the church to also start studying the Bible. Well, of course their religious belief was against war, so my dad eventually had to quit his job.
When my dad gave up his job he took another job and all of a sudden his pay was cut in half. He literally was making about 50% less, and so immediately our family went from being in a fairly decent place financially, middle class family, to struggling. My sister and I were on discounted lunches at school. Most of my sister’s clothes my mom made. I was the kid who always had the jeans that were, what did they call those? High waters because they were so short because I was growing so fast, hand me down clothes, all that kind of stuff. It was during that whole timeframe that it was just constantly drilled into me we don’t have enough money. You can’t have that. We can’t go there. We can’t do these things. We don’t have enough.
I was probably about six or seven years old when that was happening. Kind of coincidentally it wasn’t really until our family moved back from Ireland that financially things started to turn around for us a little bit because while we were in Ireland, the company my dad worked for paid for a lot of our daily necessities, and my dad was smart enough to take all of that extra money and start investing it, saving for retirement as well as investing it. He built up an emergency savings and all that, but the messaging never changed. The messaging was still we always never had enough money. I think it was because at that point in time our family developed a scarcity mindset, and that stuck with me for a long time.
Right. As you’re thinking about coming together, one of you grew up relatively privileged but not with an extravagant amount of money, the other with this kind of scarcity mindset. What did you learn from each other, or were there any moments of tension or things that you were having to kind of reconcile? Because we all do this when you get in a relationship, whether it’s money or something else. You start figuring out oh, it’s not just me. I have to work with this other person, and in many ways it’s beautiful, and in many ways I think it’s challenging, so what was that experience of two very distinct money perspectives trying to Venn diagram themselves together?
Ours is kind of an interesting story. This is John again. We met at a gay dance club in Denver, and so when we first met it would be obviously like most people. Money wasn’t really the reason that attracted us to each other, right? It was all other reasons that we can’t talk about. But it was just serendipitous that-
I mean, we can talk about here whatever you want to talk about. This is your time.
It was just coincidental that we were both in financial services. I was working for a financial services firm. David was w
orking for a mutual fund company, so we kind of both had this assumption that okay, they’re making pretty decent money. They’re in financial services. He must be doing better than me and vice versa. David will talk about this a little bit further. It wasn’t until a year and a half after we got together that we actually started to have the money conversation. Up until that point, we kind of split expenses and we had actually moved in with each other within a year of dating I think it was, right?
Yeah, about nine months after we started dating.
Nine months after we started to date, and we almost immediately got a shared checking account to pay some of the bills that we were going to split. We were starting to co-mingle some funds but we didn’t actually have the money conversation until we had a big aha, pop a balloon kind of moment.
Yeah, I will say that I think both of us came the our relationship with a very crystal clear façade of who we wanted to present when it came to who we were financially, and John has talked about this before. Both of us grew up in places and times where it wasn’t okay to be gay, and so we kind of had this feeling of inadequacy all throughout our lives. Then finally we start making some money and we were at a point where we could start buying the things that would make us feel a little bit better about ourselves, and to show to all those people who didn’t like us when we were younger that we were just as good as everybody else.
We started to do that and we started to do it excessively, and that’s where the credit cards came in, so I think when we got together, as John mentioned, we kind of looked at each other and said well, they have decent clothes, they have a decent car, they have a decent job. We do all these similar activities. They seem to be paying for everything, so they must have money, right? They must be doing okay financially. That’s kind of the assumption we make about 99% of people that we see in America, right? They must be doing okay. We have no clue, and as John mentioned, it was a year and a half after we got together that we had our oh shit moment. I don’t know if it’s okay to say that on the podcast.
Oh, I curse constantly. Of course it’s okay.
It was very eye opening, right? As John mentioned, we were both working in financial services and to have an oh shit moment, we’re like how did we get here? Sorry, you were going to ask a question.
No, I think it’s really interesting, and I appreciate your vulnerability in that of your I wasn’t accepted for who I was, so let me try to use money as a way to be accepted. I think regardless of your sexual orientation, your sexual identity, I think we all feel that in some aspect of our lives.
Right? It’s like I don’t belong, so I use X to try to belong. It’s interesting that it ended up being money for you all, or what money could buy, right? It was trying the fill this void, which really fucking sucks and is at the societal level, right? Then using your personal money to try to fill the societal void of being gay is not okay.
Right. Then when you add on top of that, when we finally were brave enough to come out to ourselves and our family and to our friends, we finally found a community of other LGBTQ people and we felt like we had to do all the right things, have the right clothing, have the right car, do the right job, all that so that we could fit in with that community, so that they wouldn’t also ostracize us. There was these competing fears on both ends of our lives that the best way to fit in is to look the part and play the part, and that’s kind of what our consumer society, marketing strategy has conditioned most Americans to believe is how you attain happiness.
It’s a glaring example of what is going on in our culture today, right? You have people who are going to these stores. They’re getting empty boxes of Coach and Gucci and all these brand names and they’re having them piled up outside their front door so they can do an Instagram reel or story or whatever it is to show how successful they are, or people who go rent an hour to be in a private jet so they can do a photo shoot, but they have no money to prove that they are successful. There’s all this success porn out there trying to convince everybody that I am amazing, I am good. The easiest way to do that is through the way our parents and that’s why we pile that on more and more and more.
Right, and it might not just be fake private jets or empty Prada boxes. Maybe it’s the performance of your career on social media. I know I got caught up in doing that when I was first out of school. You feel weirdly tempted to flaunt that you’re doing well, and so I think that that becomes really interesting. You’ve mentioned this. We’ve tiptoed around this. One of the things that you were kind enough to share for the book was the fact that you went into a pretty significant amount of credit card debt, even working in financial services. You talked about that oh shit moment. What was that oh shit moment? What did that look like when you were like oh fuck, the debt that I’ve accrued is actually an issue that I need to now take care of or reckon with?
John and I had been together for about a year and a half, and we were still kind of in that honeymoon, puppy love phase of having your friends say would you guys get a room.
We still are, aren’t we, David? Aren’t we, David?
Oh no. I am a financial educator, not a marriage and family counselor.
One weekend we decided to go up to the mountains in Colorado. John had a friend who lived up there with his girlfriend. That’s the guy he moved out to Colorado with to become ski bums, right? We went up to the mountains of Colorado and we visited Dan and his girlfriend, and this was in Winter Park. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Winter Park, but Winter Park is a cute little ski town. The X Games have been there. It has a world class ski scene and a cute little town, and John and I were like this is beautiful. We love this.
Although we’d been there before, I think being there together we were like this is a great place. We really like being here. We love everything that the town has to offer. Wouldn’t it be great to have a vacation home here? We were heading out of town on Sunday and we decided to stop at a realtor’s office and check out land and property and all of that. I love modern architecture, so we kind of start talking about this idea of buying land and building a modern vacation home, the kind of vacation home you invite your friends and family too, the one that you have the parties and the holidays and all of that kind of thing. You let people use it when you’re not using it, right?
The huge window where you’re looking at the mountains.
While you’re sipping your coffee.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally, and I’m reading a book by a crackling fire. I have had this fantasy multiple times a day for five years. I get it. I’m with you. I’m in. I’m putting my credit score down for the mortgage too. Let’s go.
We hopped in the car and we started heading back to Denver, and we come over the top of the mountain, we’re flying down the highway, probably going 65, 75 miles an hour, and we were having this whole fantasy conversation about how fun it was going to be. I don’t know who asked it or how it was asked, but one of us kind of got to the point of well, can we afford to do this? Maybe we were actually starting to look at prices of the things that the realtor had given us, and our conversation went from vacation home that we build to buying a condo that’s already there, to maybe renting during the ski season.
Finally we pull up in front of our home in Denver, grab our bags, open up the door, and literally we walk down a flight of stairs into a basement apartment. It was, I think, that whole conversation that got to us. We show up at our place and we’re like what the heck is going on with our finances? We started to confess to each other. We had a conversation. We were literally sitting on the floor in our dining room and that’s when we confessed to each other how much credit card debt we had.
I think it was at that point we realized that financially and physically we were below ground. We were living in a hole, right? That was the why are we, two 30-something professionals working in financial services, renting a basement apartment from a friend and we’re seeing all of our other friends do things like having kids, buying homes, doing all of the things that we weren’t doing and it was that moment where I think there was some immediate depression or anxiety set in and then the shame of having hid it from each other and really coming out about this is what our financial state is.
That’s an incredible story. We’ve talked a lot on this podcast, like we had Ramit Sethi on and he talked about this concept of a rich life or your why. He’s actually in the book too talking about this, and I think it’s so interesting you guys started these conversations, I think actually in a really beautiful way, which is this is the life that we want and we’re actively making decisions to prevent that life from being a reality.
I think that that, weirdly, it’s definitely a wake-up call, but it’s really kind of a beautiful thing of like okay, talking about this really exciting thing that you both want to do and then realizing okay, fuck, that’s not going to happen so how do we build to a point where that could be a reality or that could happen? Then you have to get really honest with yourself and with each other.
It would be nice if that whole story was intentional, that we started off by having that great conversation about-
We weren’t that smart.
Right, but for us it was probably one of the happiest accidents that has happened in our lives, and I don’t recommend this to anybody, but being locked in a car going 65 to 75 miles an hour down the highway forced us to have the conversation that I think that neither of us were ready or willing to have. But it was all precipitated by this fantasy conversation. I will add that that is one of the things that we do when we work with folks is to start off with what is it that you really want? What would make your life happy? What are your hopes and dreams? We just accidentally did that for ourselves when we kind of had our oh shit moment.
Yeah, we acquired about six more thousand dollars in credit card debt afterwards. When we finally became debt free and we sent that last credit card payment, we had time to be in Mexico for my best friend’s wedding. We had saved enough money that we could pay for the whole thing, the whole wedding experience with cash. We’d come back having paid off our credit card and no debt accumulated from that trip, and so it was kind of like a celebration of her wedding, but it was also kind of a celebration like look what we can do now. We can live these bigger lives.
I think the mistake that we made, and I think a mistake that a lot of folks make when they’re trying to achieve certain financial goals is that we saw a finish line and the finish line was paying off the credit card debt. It was like oh, and then after that everything can kind of go back to normal. We can just live the lives that we were living before. Even though we had done the hard work to figure out what our why is and what we really wanted to achieve in life and started spending accordingly, and using that as one of the strategies to help expedite paying off our credit card debt as fast as we did, we got back from Mexico to Denver and we kind of crept back in to our old lives going and doing the same things that got us into trouble in the first place.
We didn’t learn the lesson the first time, so the universe kind of hits you over the head again until you figure it out. The universe hit us over the head again. A year later David‘s like we’re $6000 into credit card debt again. What are we doing? Prior to that we had all the theoretical knowledge and we should have known better, but we didn’t have the practical knowledge. Now we had both the theoretical and the practical knowledge and we still didn’t do better. Okay, now we got to adopt what we were doing before to pay off the debt, pay off the debt again, and then remember that those habits are going to have to continue throughout the rest of our lives if we’re going to continue to achieve the goals that we want to achieve.
Right. It’s like the diet versus the lifestyle change, right? It’s the crash diets where you’re like cool. I lost 10 pounds in however many weeks, but then it’s like well, in order to keep seeing results, you have to keep that up for potentially your entire life. My mom got a pre-diabetic diagnosis and for her it was like okay, I can’t just go really, really hard until my next doctor’s appointment to get my levels down. I have to change everything about the way that I eat. I’m so proud of her. That takes so much willpower, but it’s also like yeah, these are the things that you have to do that literally change your habits rather than just a temporary bandaid fix.
Yeah, so I think one of things that’s kind of concerning to me right now is I see these folks posting on Instagram how they paid off this massive amount of debt in a really short time period. I saw a couple, I think they said they paid off $230,000 in credit card debt or in debt in like three days. I’m like wait a second. How do you create any sort of habit in three days that will keep you on the path of staying out of that much debt?
I think what’s happening is there’s folks out there who are encouraging people to take risky investments and make some money, and then use that to pay off their debt, or refinancing their home or selling something valuable and using that money to pay off their debt really quickly. Granted it’s great. Pay the debt off, but please create the habits. Create the habits that will keep you from getting back in there because that was our story.
Don’t swing for the fences and make really risky personal finance decisions. Yeah. I literally had a coaching session the other day with a woman who came in and she was like I just have to tell you, because I’m very vocal about my dislike and disdain of Dave Ramsey, and she talked about how she literally had a friend who was such a follower of Dave Ramsey, who had it drilled into her that debt is bad. If you have a mortgage it is bad, that they had a mortgage for a tiny little starter home that they could afford and were working to pay off. But because Dave Ramsey told them mortgages were bad, they sold that home, moved into basically a trailer park to save up for a bigger house that they could buy outright with cash. I was like that is such a bad, ugh, drives me crazy. But speaking of Dave Ramsey, that was like the segue to end all segues. I can retire now. Beautiful.
Oh, this is scary.
We try not to speak of the- [crosstalk 00:31:29]
I know. We don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about Bruno. I think that one of the things that was interesting about you guys is you did what you call the debt lasso method, and that’s one of the things you teach. We hear from Dave Ramsey the debt snowball method, the debt avalanche method. What is the debt lasso method and how did you use that to pay off your debt?
Dave Ramsey tries to position himself as the answer to everybody’s credit card debt problem, but he advocates for the slowest, most inefficient way to pay off your debt.
Yes he does.
You’d think if he was going to be such a guru he would come up with a smarter strategy, but now we think that we did.
I’m the other Dave.
I’m the other Dave. That’s a good tagline. We should do a commercial. We had $51,000 in credit card debt. When we started to crunch the numbers and look at okay, if we do the snowball method it’s going to take this long for us until we’re debt free. If we did the avalanche it was going to take this long, and I think between the two of them it was going to be six to eight-
Somewhere between four and six years.
Four and six years, and we are, and by we I mean me, very impatient people. When I hear the strategy of paying off $230,000 in credit card debt in three days, I’m like sign me up. I wanted to come up with a strategy to pay it off as quickly as possible, and we just thought that four years, six years is going to be way too long. I don’t know that we could stick with it that long. The longest relationship we had before that was like our mom and dad and we couldn’t even leave them.
We did some number punching and David‘s like there’s one variable that’s slowing this down and that is our high credit card interest rates. We started to ask ourselves is there a way to make this credit card interest rate go away? We weren’t that educated on credit cards at that particular point in time, so we started to do our research and we found that there are zero interest rate credit card offers and at that time there were some that the offers lasted anywhere from 18 months?
18 to 21 months, I think. I think the longest one we got was 21 months.
Yeah, some ridiculous terms and we thought well, geez. Even with the transfer fee, if we focus on paying off our debt, the transfer fee’s going to be negligible. We probably will only ever have to transfer our credit cards once, at most two times until we get this credit card paid off, so that’s what we ended up doing. We decided to call that the debt lasso method, because what you’re doing is you’re reining in all your credit card debt to as few locations as possible with the lowest interest rates possible.
Now everybody can’t get a zero interest rate credit card loan to cover all of their debt, so we try to do it with as much debt as you can, or they don’t qualify for a zero interest rate credit card. That’s fine. There are other low interest offers out there that you can look into to help try to lasso your debt. That’s kind of what we’ve come up with as the debt lasso method, which we’ve now parlayed into five steps.
Yeah. I’ll add that part of the reason why it was so glaring to us is because when I did our spending analysis, when I sat down after we had our oh shit moment, I sat down and I looked at every single penny that we had spent on all of our accounts over a 12 month period and what I started to see was how much we were paying in interest on the credit cards. We were paying $10,000 a year. I was like well, we’re not going to make any progress if we’re paying $10,000 a year. We were making decent money. It’s not like we were making a ton of money, but we were making decent money.
Yeah, but if you’re contributing $10,000 a year to paying your credit cards off, but then you’re going an extra 10K into the hole every year, it’s like you’re not going to go anywhere.
Exactly, yeah, and that’s the strategy, I think.
Yeah, so the debt lasso method is more than just doing the refinance piece. That is a part of it, because a lot of folks use that refinancing as a way to just kick the can down the road as to when they’re going to pay their debt off.
That was what I was about to warn, I was about to say for listeners out there. This is a great solution if you have a plan that you will stick to. This should not be yet another bandaid where you’re like okay, cool, well I’ll just put it off for 18 months or 12 months. It only works, it beautifully works, if you actually get honest with yourself and create a plan that you stick to.
That’s what the five steps of the debt lasso method really are. The first step is commit, and commit is broken down into two pieces. That is one, commit to not adding any more to the balance on your credit cards because you can’t pay them off if you’re racking up debt on them. The second part of commitment is to commit to making a specific payment amount to your debt every single month. A lot of folks will just send money here and there when they have it.
They pay their minimum plus five dollars or oh, I’m doing well this month. I’m going to pay my minimum plus $25. We recommend you make a commitment that every month you’re going to send a specific amount. It becomes a bill. You pay it every single month and then when you do have extra, say from a tax return or a bonus, or mom and dad gave you money for your birthday, use that extra money when you can. That’s the first step.
The second step is to trim, and this is where we kind of do piggyback a little bit off of Dave Ramsey, and that’s if you need the motivation, find that credit card that has a balance where you can pay it off in one or two months. Knock that one out. Get that one out of the way so you feel like you’re making some progress. Then the lasso starts in where you try to get all your debt into as few locations at the lowest interest rate as possible. Then after that, we encourage folks to automate everything.
Remember we said make that commitment as to how much you’re going to pay. Make sure that’s automated just like all your other bills. Automate those paym
ents so you’re not missing them because one missed payment on some of those zero balance transfer cards can cause you to go from zero percent to 27 or 28%. We don’t want that happening. Then the last piece is just monitor it. Check in once a month to make sure everything is still working. You don’t need to be looking at it every single day. Move that out of your worry zone and automate that part and then just check on it once in awhile.
Yeah. We have an amazing episode, I think it’s episode 11, about financial self-care and we talk about a money date once a month, where you’re sitting down, a dedicated amount of time where you’re sitting and looking at your money as opposed to either obsessing over it or also never looking at it. Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful method, and again, I can’t emphasize enough it works beautifully as long as you have a plan.
To your point about kicking the can, if you’re just prolonging the inevitable, this does not work. If you’re just giving yourself a lifesaver for 12 months and then the interest kicks in sometimes even more aggressively, this doesn’t actually help you all that much. Please make sure if you’re going to do that method that you have a plan and that you’re doing everything possible to stay out of debt. Don’t go into more debt while you’re trying to pay off debt.
Right. When you transfer the balance off of one card to another card, don’t go back to using that old card that has a zero balance now, right?
That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Don’t necessarily close it, but don’t use it.
Right. Don’t rack up a bunch more debt. Yeah. Anything you would have changed on your debt payoff process or things that you would not do again?
No one’s ever asked us that before.
yeah, that is a brand new question.
Atta girl, Kristen. Kristen asked the question. Thank you Kristen.
I don’t have a quickie response for that.
Kind of going back the what we were talking about, I think that thinking that getting the zero was the finish line, this isn’t a race. This isn’t a marathon. There isn’t a finish line. This is becoming a lifestyle, I think would have helped us continue. We may have made some better financial progress in the year or two after. We could have made better progress.
Yeah, I think in hindsight I wish we wouldn’t have beaten ourselves up so much about it.
That first few months after we kind of had that aha moment was pretty tough, and I think we felt some shame because we should have known better having been in the industry. But now that we’ve been doing personal finance for so many years, the system is really rigged for us to get into credit card debt, and all kinds of debt. That’s how it designed. We get sold these amazing perks from these credit card companies. Who’s subsidizing those perks? Well, it’s all of us who don’t pay off our credit card debt every month, right?
Right, or businesses because you have a transaction fee, the 3% transaction fee that businesses pay. Literally we int
erviewed a credit expert about this, and so yeah, it was partially the folks who are not paying their credit cards on time and also the businesses who are paying a fee to allow consumers to use their credit cards. Yeah.
Right, and then we have marketing. Marketing is a science. I think a lot of us think marketing is an art. It’s a science and the science is to get you to take actions that don’t necessarily support your best interests. Then we have companies making tools or products that have planned obsolescence so that you’ve got to keep buying more and more every year and so the system is rigged against you. If you’re in credit card debt, if you’re in any kind of debt, it’s hard to say don’t feel any shame, but try not to beat yourself too much about it. Like David said, we were in financial services.
I used to do compliance and I would help onboard advisors onto our platform. Part of that would be doing a compliance and a background check and looking at their credit scores and reports. I can’t tell you how many financial advisors have delinquencies, liens, bankruptcies, horrible credit scores. We weren’t anomalies in the industry and I think a lot of non-financial service people think that oh, these answers are secret and all these specific people have all this information and they can use it to their benefit, and that’s why I’m losing here. But it’s not that way. Lots of people are struggling whether they’re in the industry or out of the industry.
I think one of the most compelling parts of your story is you, of course, getting to a point where you were financially stable and then of course very similar to my story where it was like okay, I feel a motivation to help others, and you all went to a financial conference that I’ve attended as well, and basically came to this conference for creators in the finance industry and realized that you were the only, at least out members of the LGBTQ community that attended that conference. Was that the turning point? You’re like okay, something needs to change. We need to start having conversations. As members of the gay community, what do you feel like is different about how you are managing money or forced to manage money?
Up until 2015 when we went to that conference, we were doing a little blogging and a little bit of writing. We didn’t hide the fact that we were a gay couple, but it wasn’t a main platform of ours and it wasn’t until we got there that we kind of had this aha moment that there are all these different content creators creating content for various niches, right? You have your military families, your Christian families, parents, moms, and all sorts of different niches.
We noticed, and several people at the conference at that time told us that they noticed as well, that we were the only out LGBTQ couple there, and so we were like should we do something? Some people were encouraging us to do something. That was about 2015 after we came back from that conference, shortly after that, that we decided to go a little bit more gay. That was when we started the first iteration of Queer Money, which was on a platform called Blab, now defunct. It doesn’t exist anymore. We have had several iterations since then. That was kind of how we got into the LGBTQ money space.
I will say what was interesting is that back then there wasn’t a whole lot of data either, so we wanted to go out and we wanted to talk about the nuances of how money is different for folks in the LGBT community. Every time these corporations or organizations or universities would go out and do these studies, the demographics always broke down on gender, men versus women, and then on race. We were like so where are we at?
How do we know if it is different? Anecdotally we knew it was different. We started to talk about it, and talking with our friends and the people that we had worked with.
Of course. Yeah.
Then we started to find little pieces and bits of data from time to time. John and I are really excited. We’re working with rather a large media firm this year to come out with a study that is focused solely on the LGBT community and the intersection of money. But you asked about what makes it different and this is kind of one of the craziest things is we get this, this goes back and forth on all our social media all the time, when we post something about the LGBT community and money and we always get the “no it’s not, it’s not different, it’s all the same,” and John and I like to say that money kind of breaks down to the 80/20 rule. 80% of money is transactional and is exactly the same for everyone else. My credit card swipes just like your credit card. My balance transfer is exactly like your balance transfer.
We all need emergency funds regardless of how much money you do or not have, right?
Exactly. Right. All of that transactional stuff is the same, but the other 20%, that is made up of who we are. That’s our gender, our gender identity, our sexual orientation, our race, our family background, our religion, all of that.
The privilege we may or may not have, right?
Exactly, right. All of that has an impact on how we interact with money. There have been systemic issues that the LGBT community has had to face over the years that now show that there are differences and nuances, and so John and I are pulling a lot of those out now. There’s a sexual orientation and gender identity pay gap just like there is a gender pay gap, and some of that has to do with the way we think about ourselves but also some of that has to do with either discrimination or perceived discrimination that is actually happening out in the workplace or in society in general.
It’s those kinds of things that we talk a little bit more about. Here’s a kind of glaring example I like to share with people because it really makes a whole lot of sense. If you’re a couple, a same sex couple, and you’re in your early 30s and you do not have familial support, and you want to get married, you decide okay, we’re going to take $25,000 out of the money that we have and we’re going to have a wedding.
That $25,000, if it were put into retirement accounts, in the next 30 years it would grow to somewhere between 375 and $500,000. The straight couple that has the family support that basically gets their wedding paid for has that financial advantage. This is just one of the things that we call legacy financial exclusion. There’s all sorts of other ones. 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. We know what kinds of jobs they’re starting out with. Highly likely they’re not going to college. It’s highly likely they’re getting into service sector jobs, which were hugely impacted by the pandemic. It’s those kind of little slight nuances that is affecting our community.
Yeah. I think of an even more general example, which is if you are a member of the LGBTQ community, it is literally safer for you to be in certain cities than it is for other cities, right? You’re more likely to live in a higher cost of living area that is more accepting like the Bay Area, or I live in Seattle, or I’m in New York right now. You’re more likely to be in an urban city that’s going to cost you more than let’s say hypothetically rural Alabama, right? Just like that, you’re more likely to pay more in rent, pay more for the gallon of milk, pay more for the price of a gallon of gas in a bigger city because that’s where you’re more accepted and your literal physical safety is more likely in a bigger city.
Then when you add on top of that, we get paid less in the general population by and large, so we’re in a larger city, we get paid less. That also makes it harder to save for retirement and it’s harder for us to find a place for retirement. One of the most common questions that we get is where is an affordable place that I can retire in the U.S. and not have to be concerned about holding my partner’s hand? That’s a hard question to answer because all the places that we dream of retiring, Palm Springs, New York City-
Right, but we say the same thing with women, right? It’s like okay, if we’re getting paid less and then we’re not growing our wealth at the same rate, there’s many factors in the investing gap, but one of the biggest is well, we don’t have as much money. We don’t have as much money to invest.
I’ll add too, think about current events that are happening right now with all these anti-trans bills and don’t say gay bills that are coming through. That has an emotional impact on members of that community. I know that the religious right wants us to believe that they’re trying to save the children, and I know that that’s affecting, having been a guy child, I know that they’re hearing these messages and that it’s affecting those kids, and it’s going to affect them throughout the rest of their lives unless it’s adequately addressed. It probably won’t be.
But even if you’re a 40 and 50 year old LGBTQ person, and every time you go on the news you’re hearing more and more of these bills being passed, it has an emotional toll on you. Many of us, unfortunately, especially post-pandemic, we’re gravitating towards not the best vices to help us get through times. We’re already prone, the LGBTQ community, already prone to smoke more than the general population, drink more than the general population, do more drugs than the general population, follow other vices more so than the general population. This just exacerbates that and that has multiple financial consequences to folks.
Or the cost of mental health care, if you even have access to that, if you even have the ability to go see a therapist, and even if you’re in a city that is largely welcoming.
An affirming therapist.
Yeah, and if you’re in a city that’s largely welcoming, it’s not like you’re never going to see discrimination again. I joke I can’t get through this podcast without crying, but I think that it’s so true. Yeah, the emotional toll that that would have on you for every day of your life, right? Then the financial consequences of that toll, of either turning to something that both is expensive, alcohol, drugs, and then to recover from that, expensive, or to just deal with the mental issues that come with that constant discrimination or that constant feeling of watching your back. That’s horribly difficult.
And it’s always there. David and I were in Miami several years ago when Miami was still known to be very gay-friendly, and we were literally holding hands on the sidewalk, walking to the gay beach in front of Gianni Versace’s old house, and some guys threw either bottle caps or stones at us. At that point in time, maybe San Francisco was a little gayer, but you couldn’t get a much gayer location to go to in the United States and even the discrimination there still existed. When you have that constant stress every single time you’re going to hold your partner’s hand, you’re not exactly sure how it’s going to be received by the people around you, that just adds to you and adds to your financial security.
Yeah. I was thinking Trump Florida, not Miami, Florida. I was thinking purely like Trump Florida. I forgot Miami existed for a hot second there, completely forgot.
There’s a joke that midway up in Florida is the south and everything midway down Florida and south is actually not part of the south.
We have that down the Pacific coast. It’s like Washington, Oregon, California.
I think it’s anything that’s above Fort Lauderdale.
Yeah, there you go. I think we feel that way in Seattle, Portland. Washington, Oregon, California, if you split it literally right down the middle it’s like super progressive, literally on the left, and then on the right it’s not as progressive. We talked briefly, again, about some of these costs, the cost of dealing with the discrimination, the cost of living in a more expensive city to be safer. I think there’s other costs, surrogacy, adoption, healthcare costs. What about financial advice, or what about the financial community do you think can change to better at least accommodate that these things affect the LGBTQ community?
Well, with traditional financial services, I think that some companies could start being more inclusive in their collateral and marketing. David and I worked for a large financial services firm at the time and we actually had financial advisors. We were the head of the LGBTQ/BRG business resource group at the time, so we would have financial advisors who were working in more progressive areas of the country, who had LGBTQ clients and they were asking us for collateral that showed them, because the standard collateral is a straight white couple walking down the beach with a golden retriever.
Well, two lesbians from Portland, Oregon, that’s not their dream retirement, right?
Maybe the dog. They wanted a collateral that their clients would identify with, and we were told flat out no we won’t do that. Our company wasn’t an anomaly in the industry, so one thing that financial services can do is to be more inclusive in its marketing collateral, and that shouldn’t be terribly difficult because they’re going to be making commercials anyway. They might as well start making commercials that look like America.
I’ll add that I think for the personal finance side of finance is to just include LGBT people when you’re telling the stories of what happens in personal finance. For the LGBT community, the vast majority of us, the way that we have gotten acceptance is by people hearing us tell our stories about how we are the same. We are human beings. We want the same things that everyone else wants.
We want love, we want happiness, we want to feel secure, and we want to be able to thrive in our lives. I think telling stories of how individuals in the LGBT community have done all of those kinds of things when it comes to personal finance, it’s important to show that it’s not just whoever it is that you’re always speaking to. We encourage folks, fortunately there’s a small number of LGBT people who are out talking about personal finance, and so we encourage folks reach out to them.
If you want to work with someone and you want to tell a story, just reach out to an LGBT person in the personal finance space and say how can I tell this story from the right perspective? It’s okay to ask for help when you want to do that. Then I would say the other thing is if you’re listening, listening to those stories with an open mind to see how they are, how money does affect them as individuals.
That’s beautiful. That’s great advice. I have one last question for you. Any advice, encouragement to people in debt or people who are financially struggling who don’t feel like they see the light at the end of the tunnel? They feel overwhelmed, feel like there’s nothing they can do. What piece of advice or encouragement do you have for them?
Well, I’ll go back to one of the things that John mentioned earlier, and that’s the idea of shame. There’s no shame in having debt. The shame really is not having a plan to pay it off. I think one of the things that I learned in our whole process was that credit card debt anchors our future to the past. Remember that it’s okay to have had it happen, but let’s do something to change it, and as soon as you start to change it, even if it’s taking the smallest step possible, reading something, listening to something, getting rid of a bill that’s $3.99 a month because you no longer need it, those little things, those add up. Eventually it does snowball into something much bigger. That’s where the snowball works.
I’ll add, back to what Vernette said on your show before, one, figure out what is it you really want in life and there’s a good chance if you’re in credit card debt there obviously are exceptions, there’s a good chance that you got into credit card debt pursuing things that aren’t actually providing you true fulfillment and satisfaction. Then after that, to David‘s point, look for the stories of people who’ve done it.
We talk about our $51,000 in credit card debt, but there are people who paid off $230,000 in a legitimate way. Use those people as inspiration. Go look for other blogs or podcasts or YouTube channels, whatever. There are thousands of stories out there if you look. Don’t go to Dave Ramsey. It’s not a good example. Look for other podcasts and there are tons of stories out there who people have paid off a little amount of debt to tons of debt, and use those people as inspiration because if they can do it, no doubt you can do it too.
Try to get off of the comparison game game board, whether that’s giving up social media for awhile.
At least unfollowing people that don’t make you feel good.
Exactly. The unfollow button is your friend.
The mute, even if you can’t unfollow them, mute them. Yeah, totally.
Right, right. It is 100% okay to do that and I think a lot of us, we forget that. We see something and it triggers us in some way. If it triggers you, unfollow, unsubscribe, mute them, whatever the case may be, especially if you’re putting yourself in the comparison game of this person’s paying their debt off faster. They have a better life than me. That’s really where it’s kind of like okay, maybe I need to take a step back and just enjoy my life for a little bit instead of comparing it to everyone else.
Yeah. I know there’s plenty of people who post online that don’t make me feel good, like batteries. I’m like okay, I don’t need this toxicity in my life. Then there’s plenty of people who call me out in a really good way that it feels almost very similar. It makes me temporarily uncomfortable and then I go okay, why do I feel weird? I know one of the things that happens a lot, unfortunately, on Her First $100K, is a lot of women will come and they’re like I feel like you’re bragging about your accomplishments and that makes me feel uncomfortable.
I’m like why does that make you feel uncomfortable? Why does seeing me be successful make you feel uncomfortable? I think there is that potential balance of not getting called out, that sounds too aggressive, but a potential flag in your brain in a good way. But yes, if a person’s making you feel like shit or is making you do the “I don’t have this and I wish my life was different” in a really negative way, yeah, unfollow, mute. Do what you’ve got to do, totally.
I think, to your point about it’s not just finding stories, it’s finding stories with inclusion in mind or finding stories that make you feel positive as opposed to ashamed. I could go off again about Dave Ramsey, but you know, one of the things I think that is appealing about him and about his platforms is you’re seeing people pay off debt all the time and that’s very exciting.
But it’s also coupled with judgment and shame and a lack of acknowledgement of systemic issues. The people you do seek out, there’s opportunity there to not just find good stories, but also stories that are going to make you feel good about yourself and acknowledge that there’s other issues at play just besides your personal choices. I love that advice. Thank you so much for being here. Where can people find you?
Of course. Thank you so much for having us, and thank you for being inclusive and showing an LGBTQ couple in your book and on your podcast because the more examples of having this the easier it is for our community to feel inspiration too.
I appreciate that, but that’s what we should be doing. I appreciate the cookie but I give you the cookie back. This is what we should be doing. But thank you.
Other than that, we’re The Debt Free Guys. We’re debtfreeguys.com and we’re Debt Free Guys on all social media platforms. We also have the Queer Money podcast, and we have the Queer Money podcast on all social media platforms. If you’re looking to connect with us, feel free to do it there.
Of course. Thank you.
Again, I so appreciate David and John‘s vulnerability. I just had such a blast recording that episode. They also were kind enough to share some thoughts for my book, Financial Feminist, that’s coming out later this year. We’ll link that in the show notes if you want to be the first person to hear when that book comes out. They also have their own podcast called Queer Money. Highly recommend you check it out, again, linked in the show notes. We talked about this in the episode, but it is worth reiterating that members of the LGBTQIA community are more likely to face depression, anxiety, and unfortunately die by suicide in higher rates.
We want you to know that there is help. We are linking several organizations that provide mental health and other services to the LGBTQ+ community and to LGBTQ youth. A great organization is The Trevor Project. I support The Trevor Project. They’re absolutely fantastic. You can learn more about The Trevor Project at thetrevorproject.org, again, also linked in the show notes. We’ll also link several organizations that David and John personally recommend in our show notes. As always, financial feminists, we so appreciate your support of this show.
Rating, reviewing, subscribing, sharing with your friends, tagging us on social media, @financialfeministpodcast on Instagram, all of the ways to support the show are so helpful, of course not only in amplifying our work but also making sure that the movement of financial feminism is spread far and wide, that as many people can learn from our show, become more educated about both their money and about different financial issues, as possible.
As always, we so appreciate your support, and leave us a voicemail if you have a question, if you want to tell me about some really good fried chicken you just had, if you have a comment about any of our episodes, or want to share your thoughts. As always we would love, love, love to hear from you in your own voice. Also linked below in the show notes. Leave us a voicemail. Call me, beep me if you want to reach me. As always, financial feminists, we can’t wait to see you back here next time. Have a good day. We’ll talk to you soon. Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist, a Her First $100K podcast.
Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap, produced by Kristen Fields, marketing and administration by Karina Patel, Olivia Coning, Cherise Wade, Alena Helzer, Paulina Isaac, Sophia Cohen, Valerie Oresko, Jack Coning, and Ana Alexandria. Research by Ariel Johnson, audio engineering by Austin Fields, promotional graphics by Mary Stratton, photography by Sarah Wolfe, and theme music by Jonah Cohen Sound. A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting the show. For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests, and episode show notes, visit financialfeministpodcast.com.