Name: Ryan Masajo
City, state : New York, NY
Amount of debt: $85,000 ($50,000 credit card + $35,000 student loans)
Type of debt: Credit cards and student loans
How long did it take to repay: 3 years
Jobs held during debt payment: Non-profit investment banking and administration
I got my first credit card when I was in college and they offered free beach towels with my school logo if I signed up. I think it’s a perfect representation of everything I didn’t know about finances. At some point, when my income continued to rise, my credit card limits increased and I used it extensively to travel several times a year.
I ended up having seven credit cards and five of them were maxed out so I would move the balances to other cards to get the 0% APR for a year but pay the 3% fee. I also had two student loans totaling $33,000 and a loan of $401,000 when I bought my condo. By the time I decided to get really serious, I had nine credit cards and five of them had a total balance of $50,000.
Our family came from the Philippines to the United States when I was 14 years old. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have much either. I will never forget when we would go to the mall and I would ask my mother if we could buy something and she would say, “when we have the money”. I was conditioned to then ask, “Mom, when we have the money, can we buy this?” My parents are great people and they did their best to provide for us and we had a great childhood, but there were definitely a lot of things that I had to learn on my own.
Eventually I got tired of feeling like I was going nowhere. I was getting my bonus at work and using it to try and pay off the debt, but the credit card debt kept mounting. I tried so many different ways to conquer debt but I really had no idea what I was doing, it took me a while to find what works for me.
First, finding a mentor can be invaluable. My partner and I didn’t have role models in our lives when it came to finances, but we met a couple a few years ago who introduced us to a community of like-minded people. They were able to retire from their jobs at a young age by being entrepreneurs. Now they are stay-at-home dads with their three-year-old twins and they are just 33.
Meeting our mentors has been such a blessing as they have been honest with us and guided us on what to work on. They took me under their wing and were great at holding me accountable for what I was committed to, especially when it came to personal finances. My partner and I now have a YouTube channel called Sage & Rice where we talk about our journey and what we learned along the way.
I was looking for ways to consolidate my debt and came across personal finance company SoFi. I had never heard of the company at the time, but applied and surprisingly got approved for a $50,000 personal loan. It was so game changing since I didn’t have to worry about making so many different payments. On top of that, it really helped me boost my credit rating since my credit card balances went down.
It was good to finally feel like I was on the right track, using that money to pay off more pressing loans. At this point I made a statement to myself, family and friends that I would not be traveling for three years. Nobody believed me when I said it but I stuck to it. Seeing everyone on Facebook and Instagram taking vacations was tough, but I made the most of it. The rewarding part was when I finally paid off my debt.
Consistency is certainly difficult. I didn’t always make it every month, but I kept going. I love eating out and had to learn how to cook and bring food to work instead of buying lunch. I also love bespoke suits and would spend $1000 for one so I had to really plan and budget if I wanted to get one.
Everything was worth it. I now track every dollar I spend. My partner and I have big goals for our future, including starting a family. We go through our budget on a monthly basis. We use zero-based budgeting. In addition to my budget, there is room for charity and savings. I felt that as I continued to increase what I gave and saved, the money no longer had a hold on me and the money kept coming in.
To anyone else working to pay off your debt: Know that your planned budget will never be perfect. There will be months when you overspend, but don’t be too hard on yourself. It will take time to create a habit. If you fall, come back on it. We have built a vision wall and every morning when we wake up we look at it. It’s a great reminder of why we do what we do and what we’re both working towards. Set up a rewards system so you have something to look forward to.