The following is a guest post from my buddy Ben Edwards. He is a co-author of the Debt Heroes book and writes about money over at Money Smart Life He illustrates how you can solve your debt problem by piggybacking off the inspiring story of a man everyone wrote off as having no chance to succeed. Let’s hear from Ben and get fired up to make it happen.
Everyone loves an underdog story, and perhaps there is no bigger underdog story than the story of Rudy Ruettiger who achieved modest success as a high school football player. Despite his small stature and his poor academic record, he dreams of playing football for Notre Dame. His inspiring story is documented in the 1993 film, Rudy.
If you’re in debt and struggling to get out, you may feel much like Rudy did pursuing his dream of playing for Notre Dame. However, Rudy’s story should give you confidence that anything is possible.
1. Wake up to the reality of your situation.
Rudy works at a steel mill after he graduates, but an accident at the mill that kills his friend is his impetus to decide that is not the life he wants to lead. He quits the job and moves to Notre Dame to follow his dreams.
Perhaps you’ve fallen in the same trap–you charge up a bunch of stuff, buy a house, a car and soon you’re deep in debt. For awhile, you might just go on living your life because this is what happens when people become adults, right? Debt is a part of life? You should just learn to live with it?
While this may be the mentality of the majority, it doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you. If you’ve been sleep walking through life as Rudy did, now is the time to wake up and ask yourself if this is the life you want for yourself. If not, it’s time to make a change and escape the debt trap.
2. Change your lifestyle to make maximum progress.
When Rudy moves to Notre Dame and volunteers to work for free with the Notre Dame groundskeeper, he is in financial trouble. He doesn’t even have a place to stay and resorts to sleeping in the groundskeeper’s office at night. Rudy is willing to sacrifice everything, even material comforts, to make his dreams come true.
If you’re buried in debt and want to get out, you’ll have to sacrifice creature comforts for awhile. Maybe you’ll decide to cut cable, sell things you don’t need, sell your second car, move to a smaller apartment or house. The more you sacrifice, the more likely you are to achieve financial freedom, and quickly.
3. Work with others to discover why you went into debt in the first place.
Rudy works with someone to try to raise his grades so he has a chance of being accepted as a transfer student to the University of Notre Dame. His tutor discovers that he has dyslexia, which is why he previously had so much difficulty in school.
Paying off debt is an admirable achievement, but it’s also useful to figure out why you got into debt in the first place so you don’t end up owing a lot of money again. Whatever the issue is, you need to get to the root of it so you don’t go back into debt once you achieve financial freedom.
There are many different reasons why people end up in debt so it’s difficult to come up with a simple prescription on how to stay out of it. I talked to 21 different personal finance authors and bloggers that struggled with large amounts of debt in the past to look for common reasons why they ended up owing so much money. The project ended up becoming a book called Get Out of Debt Like the Debt Heroes and profiles how as a group they paid off over $1.7 million in debt.
As we suspected, there were a range of circumstances that led people into debt but at the end of the book we summarize 6 common reasons that the “Debt Heroes” fell into debt. We follow that up with the 6 common ways that the group of 21 people was able to finally pay down their debt.
Rudy’s journey to playing for the University of Notre Dame’s football team was not quick or easy. It required a great deal of hard work and sacrifice. However, he did accomplish his dream, and that accomplishment continues to define his life.
Getting out of debt will likely not be quick or easy, but with hard work, just like Rudy, you can accomplish your goal of being debt free. Rudy’s story is an inspiring one for anyone who is trying to reach a goal that seems impossible, but is within reach with perseverance and dedication.