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Living the Debt-Free Dream – Part 2 

Catherine Pegram

How’d you like to live without debt? Sounds like a pitch for some sort of TV gimmick. But its a real goal for a number of Mainers – and they’re reaching it. Take Lynne Dumont. She’s looking forward to the day when she doesn’t owe anybody a dime. The debt-free dream will be quite a difference from the nightmare that nearly cost her everything… including her life. “I was in a coma, a drug induced coma for three and half weeks. They didn’t think I was going to live.” Lynne Dumont’s life turned into turmoil when she crashed her car in Kenduskeag nearly three years ago. “I had to file for bankruptcy,” she says. “I lost my condo, everything except for my house. I was able to hang on to my house and so I was out of work for a year. I lost my job.” When the single-mom returned to work, she took a seven dollar an hour pay cut. Today, her finances are back on track and she’s working toward a life without debt, following a plan by financial advisor Dave Ramsey. He suggests you cut up your credit cards and live on cash. As Dumont explains, “Once that cash is gone, it’s gone. That’s it. You don’t spend anymore money going out to eat or entertainment. So I broke those things down further in my budget and it’s incredible the money that you find.” Peter Witt helps teach Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program in Bangor and says it’s no wonder so many people are in debt, considering society’s standards. Witt says, “It’s always about entitlement and you owe this to yourself. You should have that. You deserve it. You don’t deserve a break today if you don’t have the money.” Financial advisor Marion Syversen says “People ask me what’s the secret? The secret is to spend less than you make – that’s the secret. But it’s a stinky secret because we don’t want to do that.” Syversen says Ramsey’s plan is not the only way to get out of debt. Syversen likes another attack by money expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade, which breaks down a household budget into percentages. Once you figure out where your money goes, then set limits like 35-percent for housing expenses, 25-percent for life expenses and 15-percent for debt repayment – unless there’s a lot of debt to get rid of. Syversen says “Debt is the thing that’s going to make you be free. You stop spending on life, you start attacking debt any way you can. $10, $100, $500, $2,000 extra per month. Get yourself a different job, everybody pull together.” Rick and Teri Schultz are already living the debt-free dream. In about six years, they paid off all of their debt – including their mortgage – with the guidance of Ramsey’s plan. Now they share their success and encouragement with other families. Rick Schultz says, “Getting out of debt, living debt free, living with a plan, living with a monthly budget, it’s just making it so that money is not an area of friction, a bone of contention.” The Schultz’s say getting there did mean some sacrifice and Dumont agrees it’s not always easy.”I have a really hard time saying no to my son,” she says. “So that’s been hard, saying no, you need to wait – let’s save up for it.” Still she’s determined, with a goal to stay away from credit cards and pay off her house in about 10 years. “It’s doable. Anybody can do this. It’s very simple. But you really gotta want it.”Lynne Dumont says she still lives paycheck to paycheck, like everyone else, but she doesn’t go beyond those paychecks and rack up debt. Another benefit, her 10 year son is watching her and already learning how to take control of his money. For more information on the Financial Peace University plan, go to www.daveramsey.com. Then look for the Financial Peace University icon and click on “Find classes” to type in your zip code and search for classes near you. For more information on Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s debt-free plan, go to www.gailvazoxlade.com.