By Claire Barham Apr 02, 2018
Not every debt story is created equal. Some people find themselves drowning in loans for fast cars and the 6,000-square-foot house they think they need (or at least deserve). Others incur debt by investing in a business; a payment they have every intention of making back. Mike Maletich’s story is the latter, and while an investment may sound financially responsible, Mike learned the hard way that in business, success isn’t guaranteed.
Time to Make a Change
When Mike’s finances hit rock bottom in 2007, it was his wife that took charge, secretly signing them up for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at their church.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it but my wife said, ‘I don’t think our financial situation can get much worse.’ So she took me to the first class kicking and screaming,” Mike said.
But the push-back didn’t last long. By the second class, Mike was sold on the FPU program. His eyes were opened to his flawed approach to money, and the reality of his financial status was finally revealed.
“I didn’t know the final number because we’d never kept track,” Mike said. “When Dave told us to write down all of our debts on paper, I couldn’t believe I ever let it get that bad.”
Mike owed just shy of $200K.
Following the Dave Ramsey Program
This awakening lit a fire inside of him. Mike made a vow that he would do what was in his power to ensure his wife and three children were no longer under his financial strap. And as a man of faith, he promised God he’d never take credit for it if He guided Mike to financial freedom.
The first order of business? Mike and his wife had to set a budget. This meant putting pen to paper at the start of each month to determine (and agree on!) where every single dollar they made would go for the following four weeks.
“It was a revolutionary experience,” said Mike. “It gave us purpose to what we were doing and the ability to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to things we needed and didn’t. For the first time, we were living like adults.”
From 2007 until 2010, their sole focus was simply to “stop the bleeding.” They cut up credit cards to do away with impulse buys and used cash for everything they could – groceries, clothing, date nights, etc. This is how Mike went from incurring $30 - $50K of debt each year to none.
But making even minimum debt payments left Mike’s family with only $20K to live on. To really change his situation, he had two options: make more money or file for bankruptcy.
“I was so far in the hole, bankruptcy was made for someone like me,” said Mike. “It was the easy way out. But it’s not the choice I made.”
Instead, Mike found N2 Publishing. He began as an Area Director in 2011, and in 2012 – 16 months into the role – he had paid off every last cent his family owed.
His secret to success? Mike launched magazine after magazine until, at one point, he ran seven publications, all the while living as if he was making $30K a year.
The Debt-Free Life
Since 2007, Mike knew he would become debt-free eventually. But without N2, he said, it would have realistically taken about 12 years – more than a decade of the “agonizing bondage of debt.”
But instead, he was free. For the first time in a long time, he felt relief.
“When you have no more debt, the sun shines a little brighter. The grass beneath your feet is softer,” Mike said. “But more importantly, you have extra income at the end of the month to help others in need. That’s a miracle.”
The love for giving he and his wife found has changed their life more than they could have imagined. For Mike, it was a truly unexpected discovery.
“As soon as we paid down our debts, we started seeing needs of church members and friends and gave anonymously to them. We hadn’t even noticed those needs beforehand,” Mike said.
“That’s when I understood what it’s all about; not living debt-free so we can retire with millions of dollars, but living debt-free so we can bless the people around us.”
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