Lisa is More Than a Number

This is the latest in our “More Than a Number” series, which profiles individuals and shows how each person is truly more than just their finances. Please leave a comment or question for Lisa below! And if you’d like to be included in a future profile, please email us at ask@readyforzero.com.

Lisa

My name: Lisa
My biggest goal in 5 words or less: Be entirely debt free.
My biggest challenge in 5 words or less: Becoming entirely debt free!

Can you tell us who you are?

My name is Lisa Kovac. I am a 49-year old female from Canton, Ohio. I have a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management, I work full time, and I flip houses on the side. I have 3 fully grown daughters, 2 teenage step children (one female, one male), five cats, a dog, and a chinchilla.

My history: I was taken away by the state and adopted when I was very young from a very abusive/neglectful family life, as were all my siblings. There are 9 of us in my biological family, and 4 of us in my adopted family. I was adopted at 3 years of age after floating around various foster homes.

I went to find my biological family at age 40, and was able to meet 78% of my them after six months of mind numbing searching and countless phone calls. In situations such as ours, the court records are sealed so you are on your own to put the pieces together. It was the most exciting (and by far the scariest thing) I have ever done in my life. A few of my siblings have passed away or chose to travel down a road I will not follow, but I am so blessed to have found my remaining family members.

To answer your question, I am one of the most fortunate people in the world. That is who I am and what I am!

What’s your general financial philosophy?

Do not charge anything!

Although this philosophy seems to disclose that I have a high credit card debt, that is not entirely true. My highest debt, by far, comes from my student loans. Because of my slightly rough beginning in life, I was determined to rise above my genetic predisposition for failure by getting an advanced education. I believed that was the solution to life’s worries. I was the first in my biological family to achieve a Master’s Degree, and I was incredibly proud. Unfortunately, I am also the only one with the astronomical debt too, so I have decided it may have been the equivalent of extremely expensive self-esteem therapy. My second largest debt is from our vehicles, and my third largest is from credit card debt.

What has been your biggest financial hurdle or challenge?

Paying down a mountain of student loan debt ($150k) when my salary has not produced the income that having the degrees should produce. However, I have not given up and I am determined to eventually prevail in this struggle!

What are some of the strategies or lessons you’ve learned from taking on this challenge?

1. Pay cash for as many things as possible – it hurts more and helps control spending.
2. You must have an emergency fund.
3. By going into debt, you are giving others control of your future. You are paying for the past instead of enjoying the current.
4. A ‘mistake’ is only a ‘mistake’ if you don’t learn from it. If you learn from it, it turns from a ‘mistake’ into ‘experience’ and THAT makes you stronger.

Do your finances control you or do you control your finances?

Right now – BOTH. There is a very real struggle going on. I am controlling my finances NOW, but my past decisions are controlling how quickly I can take control of my finances because I’m financially strapped. It is very frustrating, but determination is one of my strengths. Oddly it is also a weakness – because it is what got me here in the first place.

What is the hardest expenditure in your budget to maintain at a reasonable level?

Without a doubt – it is eating out. Since I have a limited amount of time to work on houses due to my full time job, I am much more inclined to pick up fast food rather than waste that valuable time cooking and cleaning up afterward. At least that’s what I tell myself. I am now trying to cook freezer meals on the weekend so during the week there is less wasted time.

What would you tell yourself if you could go back and in time and talk to “you” from ten years ago?

1. Buy $5,000 worth of Priceline Stock.
2. A Bachelor’s Degree is plenty, you crazy over-achiever!

Where do you want to go from here? What are your goals for the future?

I will become debt free eventually. I just sold a flip house and took the profit and bought a cheap foreclosed house with “good bones” with no mortgage. In essence we closed our business to tackle debt. We are now rehabbing this house to replace the house we currently live in to eliminate our $1,000 a month mortgage. It will be amazing to be mortgage free. That $1,000 a month in savings is going to be the plow that helps me start the debt snowball that will eventually knock over and defeat the mountain of student loan debt hanging over my head.

My favorite saying is “if there is a will, there is a way,”and if there is a way, I will find it. :-P

Awesome! You are an inspiration! Thank you so much, Lisa.

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  • Vivian

    Love this, Lisa. I’m in a boatload of debt too and it’s only going to get worse (need a Master’s degree to progress in my line of work, which will eventually bring me to about $100k in debt). I only expect to be making $80k a year, but given cost of living in my city, that’s not much. What are some of your biggest tips for tackling such a huge amount of debt?

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      Glad you liked the post, Vivian! See Lisa’s reply above. And good luck with your student loans!

  • Lisa Kovac

    Oh, Vivian, thank you so much for your kind words. My biggest motivator was taking the Financial Peace University class from Dave Ramsey, that was before I learned about ReadyForZero. I still go by Ramsey’s principles but love the camaraderie of ReadyForZero and they are a big part of my motivation to keep going. My second largest wake up call was to put down the debit card and start paying cash for almost everything. There are studies that prove that your brain has a chemical reaction when you pay cash that it does not have when you use a debit card. I made some radical changes in my life, and reevaluated all my spending. I felt when the debt is as big as mine at my age, you have to do something radical, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
    Also, read everything you can get your hands on about debt reduction. You will pick up a lot of different tricks from experts in the field. Most of all, have confidence that you can tackle it. Without that confidence, you will have a very hard time staying motivated as long as you will need to in order to eliminate such a large amount of debt. And don’t be afraid to toot your own horn because it will be an amazing accomplishment and you will deserve the tooting! So keep tooting Vivian…Toot on! ;-)

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      Great suggestions, Lisa! Thanks for sharing these with our readers.

      • Lisa Kovac

        Sure thing, Ben, although I must also add that it might not be too wise to take advice from someone who is in a worse position than you! HA!