I have $25,000 in credit card debt. I am not behind on my payments, my son is going into high school and I am turning 56. I want to pay off the debt as quickly as possible and start to save money for college and retirement.
I applaud your awakening. The ability to achieve your goal can be accomplished rapidly, in about 90 days, by filing bankruptcy, or slower by paying down or settling the debt.
There is no one way, last resort or the best way to achieve this.
Getting out of debt is more about self-awareness than it is about math. For example, while you are motivated today, will you be just as motivated a year from now when you have been going steadily without fun? Many people start strong in repaying their debt only to lose focus and efforts falter.
You have one primary issue that is not in your favor, time.
Each year you lose in paying off your debt and getting to saving, is so much money lost once you reach retirement.
And if it takes three years to pay off your debt and then start to save for college, you will miss the mark.
The best outcome here would be to eliminate the debt quickly, start saving for retirement right away and come up with a Plan B for paying for college.
But you have to deal with immediate fundamental questions before you can move ahead. For example, is having a good credit score now more important to you than retiring in 20 years with a hundred thousand dollars more in your retirement account?
Would you rather have fun today and deal with your lack of savings when you can least afford it? That might sound like a stupid question but most people fall into this trap.
Can your son consider a less expensive approach to college like completing the first two years in an affordable community college? But are you even willing to have the difficult conversation if college today is even the right investment if he is not motivated to finish?
It is amazing how such a simple question can have so many factors to consider. But if you want a simple answer then the math is obvious. All you have to do is reduce your expenses to free up additional money each month to direct towards repaying the debt. And if you can increase your income at the same time, great!
But will directing all that extra money leave you exposed to a weak emergency savings account balance. If you can’t save for emergencies at the same time you are paying off debt then one unexpected event can wind up back on the credit cards, eroding the efforts you made.
If you really care about making the right decision that is best for you it will require a conversation with either a personal life coach who understands money or with someone like my friend Damon Day.