How I Paid Off $440,000 in Debt

  • By Sylvia Flores
  • March 28, 2014

If I had known this sooner, I would have been saving even in the midst of my personal financial meltdown. Because I am starting over later in life, at 40, I have a lot of ground to cover in order to retire comfortably, while I am still young enough to enjoy those golden years. The 4 percent would not have been enough to cover any unforeseen disasters, and I likely would have run out of money. 

In March 2011, I started working for The Online 401(k), a company whose sole purpose is to provide affordable, flat-fee-for-service retirement plans to the super small businesses the rest of the industry won’t touch with a 10-foot cattle prod. This was a really strange career move for me, going from big time-tech and advertising rock ’n roll to the perceived snorefest that is retirement. But it was truly serendipity. 

I had zero experience in the financial world, but they were looking for a director of marketing and creative who could do for the masses what those amazing women writers had done for me — translate the jargon and make retirement understandable and accessible. It didn’t pay the ridiculous sum of cash I made in the past, but it was a fair salary with benefits, and it offered wonderful flexibility. I needed to have balance in my life — to ditch the 100-hour work weeks and launch myself into a career where I could truly care about other people and their futures. It fit in perfectly with my new outlook on life. I was a single lady who represented the 99 percent. My problems were everyone’s. I had something to lend to the conversation. 
With a new job and outlook, I began focusing on approaching everything in a much more simplistic manner. I don’t need to live in a 2,500 square foot house as an empty nester. I don’t really need to own a house at all. I love the idea of renting something small, where I can call someone up when something goes wrong and they come fix it! I love that I can move to another place with 30 days notice. I love that I can get a place that is walking distance to everything, reducing my carbon footprint, while also not paying absurd amounts on fuel. I also lost the “I want what I want when I want it” mentality. I think twice before purchasing, and I am all about DIY now. I cook 99 percent of my meals at home, I actually look for coupons (groan) and I award myself for good behavior. 

I’ve also started Financial Friday in my house, where I sit down with a bottle of wine, and I go over my spreadsheet, create goals for myself and dream big. I think about where I want to travel; I write lists of the things I want to achieve. Really, I’ve gamified the process for myself. And I am totally winning. 
It’s a slow build to financial stability, but one that I am on a personal mission to make happen. I am dedicated to my future self. Because she really needed an advocate. 

With over 20 years in marketing and advertising, Sylvia Flores has worked with mega clients including Intel, Microsoft, Jack Johnson, Mariah Carey, and Apple. In her documentary film debut, Sylvia Flores embarked on a cross-country discovery tour in early 2012 that served as the foundation for what ultimately became Broken Eggs Film. Follow her adventures on Twitter (@sylviaflores).

You Might Also Like: 
How I Paid Off $30,000 in Debt in 18 Months
I Had My Identity Stolen
Pay Your Debt Off for Good This Time