Tai and Talaat McNeely from the inspirational and fun His and Her Money Show dropped by the basement. They spoke with Joe about how Talaat’s money woes before their marriage almost ruined their relationship and how his subsequent actions helped save his engagement to Tai. We also heard how we should treat “getting out of debt” as a hurdle, not a goal.
Joe: Welcome guys!
Talaat: Thanks, Joe. Thanks for having us over in the basement.
Joe: I love your story and want to get it out there. Tai, how bad was your money problems pre-marriage?
Tai: It was pretty bad. As a matter of fact about three months prior to us getting married, stuff started hitting the fan. I found out some things after we went to premarital counseling. We pulled credit reports….and they don’t lie. I discovered that Talaat was keeping some financial information from me. It’s what we call financial infidelity. We were in a tight spot. I didn’t know if I should move forward.
Joe: Talaat, why were you hiding stuff from her? Were you embarrassed?
Talaat: I was completely embarrassed. I made tons of mistakes early in my 20’s. I was in the military and young. I had money that I didn’t know what to do with. I was reckless and careless. I took out every type of loan possible. I financed furniture, cars, and the sound systems in the cars! There wasn’t piece of debt I didn’t like. I put myself in a bad, bad situation.
At the point I was about to get married I was recovering from all that, and I’d seen the light. I was working toward being wiser with my finances, The mistakes I had made were already there. (At that time) I was stuck to the tune of over $30K worth of debt. I didn’t want to bring that into this marriage. I wanted to start off on the right foot, so I was secretly trying to eliminate the debt on my own while putting up this facade that I had everything together.
As we got closer to the day, I realized that this was not going to work. I wasn’t going to be able to work it out on my own. I had to fess up and be honest about who I was when it came to my finances.
Joe : Despite this you both moved forward and were married.
Tai: I worked in the financial field. I saw a lot of couples inherit each others debt. It was something I did not want to do, having his debt become my debt once we got married.
The one thing I saw that was so encouraging was that Talaat did not give up. Talaat was a hustler. He was delivering pizzas. He was working full time. He was doing everything he could. I saw his actions. He stopped spending money and was genuinely trying his hardest to pay off this debt. To me, that was sexy.
We must not forget too that he treated me like a queen. He wasn’t verbally abusive, physically abusive…none of that. I figured that we could get through this whole money thing together. As long as he treated me right, I feel everyone deserves a second chance. His actions spoke more than words to me.
Joe: How did you work your way out from the $30K? Did you use the Dave Ramsey method of listing your debts from biggest to smallest and paying the smallest off first? Or did you use the Avalanche method of paying the highest interest rate first?
Tai: That is kind of interesting. We were not aware of the Dave Ramsey thing back then….but that’s how we handled it. We took as much money as possible trying to live off one income. We got married, and we said we were going to live off of one income and with the other we’d throw as much as possible to paying off the debt. We did. Thank God we were able to get out of debt within our first year of marriage.
Talaat: It started with us dreaming and visioning what our life would look like if we were debt free. …trying to see what type of things we would want to get into because we were very ambitious and entrepreneurial. All that sort of stuff was going to be on hold while we were pursuing debt freedom. By talking and thinking what our life would be like debt free we were able to use that as motivation to make the cutbacks and sacrifices that were necessary.
Joe: What you are describing is “getting out of debt” as the hurdle to jump so that you can start achieving your goals. People often mistake getting out of debt as a goal….when people look as debt elimination as the goal, they end up going into debt again because they have no other, bigger plan. That’s powerful. What were some of the things that you were dreaming of that you couldn’t do with debt that you can now?
Talaat: We tried some businesses and real estate investments. Neither worked out so well (laughs), but it was fun trying. John Maxwell said, “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.” It was fun because we were going after these goals together. Win, lose, or draw it was Tai and I working on these objectives together. Even though the result of those things were not as we’d mapped them out, those experiences we had are with us to this day. We were able to go after experience together. …vacations and cruises as well. Our goals were all about us trying to stake our claim in the world trying these different business ventures. Because we were debt free our mistakes did not sink us.
Joe: You said you paid off $30K in a year. Do you use any apps that helped you budget or that help you now to stay out of debt?
Talaat: We budget every month before the month begins. We’ve been through Dave Ramsey’s program (Financial Peace University). Even though we had been doing some of the things he was teaching, we found out there were some more areas we could improve. One was the budget that we set before every single month, which is a regular standard practice. We use budgetsimple.com. We tried plenty of tools, but the one that works for us has a name that speaks for itself budgetsimple.com. It is one we find very user-friendly and efficient. We do not make a move without the budget.
Take a deep dive into the Stacking Benjamins podcast to hear Talaat and Tai talk more about how they prefer the term “spending plan” over “budgeting” and how improper meal planning can be the biggest budgeting blunder. You can find Talaat’s and Tai’s His and Her Money Show here.