Total debt paid off: $1,762
Months using ReadyForZero: 6
Accounts paid off: 2 of 3
The motivation of seeing that you’re paying $4 in interest everyday if you don’t get this paid down was powerful. I was thinking ‘I really don’t want to be paying $4 in interest everyday.’ I’ve now paid off two of three credit cards and the last one will be paid off by the end of the year.
Earlier today we unveiled what we’ve been working on (if you haven’t yet seen it, check it out), and we described how much we’ve been helped by having our users contact us with suggestions, questions, encouragement, and success stories.
Today we want to highlight Jared McFarland, a ReadyForZero user who contacted us recently via e-mail.
First off, love the product. I’ve successfully paid off 2 of 3 of my credit cards thanks to you!
I was wondering if there’s a way for me to include my student loans on the site. It’d be awesome to get the same visuals for those that I have with my credit cards.
We were excited to hear that Jared had already paid off two credit cards using ReadyForZero. And we also took note of his desire to link up student loans (hopefully he’ll be happy to know that is possible, as of today!)
Since we love hearing how ReadyForZero is working for people, we decided to get Jared on the phone to ask him about his experience.
It turns out, he is an engineer at another financial web startup company called FutureAdvisor, which is based in Seattle. FutureAdvisor is an online investment advisory service that helps people plan for retirement and easily manage all their investments. It allows you to see exactly how much you need to save per year to prepare for retirement, and tells you how to reduce the fees you’re paying for mutual funds, while optimizing the diversification of your portfolio. Jared helped get FutureAdvisor off the ground, and in his spare time he’s a cycling enthusiast.
For Jared, his experience with debt began the moment he became an adult, when he turned 18 and immediately started receiving the one type of mail that all American adults seem to get: Credit card offers.
“When I was 18, I did something extremely foolish and I signed up for 2 credit cards – or 3 credit cards – right when I turned 18,” he said. “Basically as soon as the credit card offers started coming in the mail I started filling them out.”
Like the vast majority of people who end up with credit card debt, Jared’s original intention was to pay off the cards each month. He recalled, “I had told myself ‘I’ll be good with these’… and then I got a job where I started making some decent money and I thought ‘oh, I can start buying stuff with my credit card and I’ll pay my credit cards off and improve my credit that way.’”
His plan was a good one – after all, it’s certainly not a bad idea to build up your credit reputation by using your credit cards a little bit. But human nature being what it is, it became hard to stay disciplined about spending once those cards were in his pocket. He said that instead of following his carefully laid out plan, “I basically went out and maxed out all my cards and then paid the minimum payments on them.”
That would have been enough in itself to create a rather nerve-wracking financial picture, but then the company he was working for at the time started seeing a loss of business, which forced them to cut Jared’s hours way back, effectively reducing his monthly income by more than half.
Unfortunately, it got worse. “Eventually, the company went out of business, so I lost my job,” he said. “And then I had to live basically off my credit cards while I was looking for another job. I was having a hard time making the payments on them and as soon as you miss a payment on a credit card, the fees just start stacking up instantaneously. So it wasn’t very long before I owed twice as much on the cards as what my total credit limit was.”
Many, many people are dealing with very similar situations right now all across the U.S., but I’m sure that doesn’t make it any easier to face. Especially when the monthly payments and fees snowball into what seems like an insurmountable pile of debt.
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But thankfully, this story – Jared’s story – is not really about getting in debt, it’s about getting out of it.
He eventually got another full-time job and at the same time found ReadyForZero.
Jared said he had a pretty favorable reaction to the site right from the start. “What I did was I signed up for ReadyForZero. It was incredible – you see the little sliders [for making your plan] and then the interface says how much money I can pay per month if I want to get all my credit cards paid off.”
He said that he immediately felt more optimistic about paying off his cards. “The motivation of seeing that you’re paying $4 in interest everyday if you don’t get this paid down to zero” was really powerful. “I’m thinking ‘I really don’t want to be paying $4 in interest everyday to these credit card companies.’”
More important than that, however, was that he finally had some organization around his financial goals. “Where ReadyForZero really came in is that I didn’t have a concrete plan [before] and I didn’t have a really good way of going about paying off my credit card. So I was just making the minimum payments each month and then if I had some extra money laying around I would kind of just randomly put it towards the credit card.”
He told us, “I think the most helpful thing about ReadyForZero was that it said “okay these are the things you need to do this month and you’re going to pay off the cards in this order and these are the payments you’re going to make to each one every month – so it solidified a plan of action and a plan of attack for me.”
Another thing that helped motivate him was that the site allows you to share your progress (and how far you have left to go) with friends and family. Jared chose to share it with his girlfriend and his mother. “Yeah,” he said, “it was really motivating to know that if I didn’t make a payment that there would be people who would see that and who would chastise me for not doing the responsible thing.”
But perhaps the biggest motivating factor, according to Jared, was the sense of accomplishment from seeing how well he was doing. The site has a progress bar for each credit card account to help track your success in paying down your balances. Jared said the visual confirmation of his progress made him excited to keep it up.
“I would make my payments and then I would wish it would deposit to my account right away so that I could check ReadyForZero to see the bar fill up. It was totally like a game of getting the bars filled up and trying to reach that goal.”
“And then when I got my first credit card paid off, when the bar filled up and turned gold it was incredibly rewarding for me and it was like ‘Yes, I got one of them!’ And then it was like I was on a quest to get all of those bars to turn gold and get them all paid off as quickly as possible.”
So ultimately, did ReadyForZero help Jared get out of debt? He responded to that question by giving a quick tally of his progress so far: “I’ve paid off two of three credit cards and the last one will be paid off by the end of the year.”
“It’s very cool to now see I’m only paying $0.04 a day in interest.”
With that kind track record, it seems very likely he’ll get that last card paid off soon. The question is, how does it feel now that he doesn’t have to worry about paying down three cards? “What I notice,” he said, “is that now that I have paid off two of three of my credit cards I have more extra money every month because I don’t have to make those credit card payments. So it’s like not only do I not have this debt that’s following me around but I have more spending money.”
He said he’d like to eventually start saving up some money for long-term goals. “My first goal is just to get my credit rating up to an acceptable rate. I’ve been carrying so much debt on my credit card for such a long time it pretty much destroyed my credit rating. After that, I’ve always wanted to own a boat or maybe buy a house.”
The last thing we wanted to know was whether his mom and his girlfriend were pleased with his progress. He confirmed that, not surprisingly, the answer was yes.
“They were very, very stoked for me. It’s something I’ve struggled with for 5 years now. Actually getting them paid off and down to zero… they were very happy.”