Debt Interview Series

Debt Interview Series: Wanderlust Wendy

debt interview series

Week 2 of the debt interview series is here! (cheers from the crowd)

This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Wendy from Wanderlust Wendy! She’s going to share her story and fill your life with some inspiration!

Something that I absolutely love about Wendy is that she isn’t bragging about paying off a lot of debt in a short amount of time.

She intentionally asked that we not focus on that because she recognizes that her salary and cost of living had a lot to do with her success.

I think she’s being a little too modest, but I also appreciate her honesty!

Wanderlust Wendy Debt Free Interview

That’s Wendy, and she’s pretty dang cool!

Tell us about you

I was on the fast track to the American Dream. I went to college, joined the Peace Corps, got an Ivy League graduate degree, joined one of the biggest tech companies, and worked my way to a 6-figure salary.

To echo the dark side of the American dream, I got a degree I couldn’t afford, and then spent years paying it back. My degrees left me with US$120k worth of debt.

In order to pay off this debt, I made an impulsive decision to move to Shanghai and hustled my way into a fancy job. My husband and I were on track to reach our version of financial freedom by 2020.

A plan to freedom made me realize what financial freedom actually means to me. I was bored, and my wanderlust thirst needed to be quenched. I wanted to travel the world before having children.

I needed a break to have new experiences. With a significant saving and investment portfolio already in place, we were already free to take a break. My husband and I left our established lives in Shanghai last summer and have been traveling the world. 

Let’s Talk About Your Debt

How much debt did you have

By summer of 2012, I had around $120k USD worth of student loans.

(record screech) whoa…

Break your debt down in detail

My debt was almost entirely in student loans. I had carried a balance on credit card for a couple of months while getting my life established in Shanghai during the fall of 2012.

When and why did you decide to become debt free?

When I was job-searching during my final semester in grad school, it became apparent that my student loans were interfering with the type of jobs I felt comfortable applying, i.e., only high paying jobs.

I realized I need to pay off my loans as fast as possible in order to pursue a career in the social sector or any of my pipe dreams.

Describe the process you used to pay off debt

debt interview series wanderlust wendy

I hustled with all type of odd jobs when I first moved to Shanghai to earn enough to live and start paying off debt. It took me nearly a year to secure a high-paying corporate gig.

During my first year in the corporate grind, I kept two side jobs that were bringing in decent income to pay back debt quickly. My goal was to reach a positive net worth by the time I was 30, which was a bit over a 3-year timeframe.

I don’t believe in budgeting in the traditional sense; I find it cumbersome. But I do track my expenses meticulously to get an idea of my monthly spending.

I then would leave only this amount in my checking account, and divest the rest toward debt and investments, with 50/50 allocation.

It was important to me to not just pay down debt, but also build a nest egg at the same time, taking advantage of employer matched pension, and stock market returns.

Meanwhile, I consolidated my loans, refinanced them at a lower interest rate, and used the credit card balance transfer scheme to help pay off debt quicker at a lower interest rate.

Do you have any debt remaining?

I reached my goal of positive net worth by my 30th birthday. I stayed on with my corporate job for another 2+ years to pay off my debt free and clear. I’m so addicted to the freedom of being debt-free that my goal is to never take on debt again.

How did you celebrate paying off your debt?

I went on a yoga retreat for my 30th birthday, met a couple who had retired early and traveling. Decided to double down on my savings so I could do the same.

What are your top 2 – 3 tips for anyone just starting on their debt free journey?

Set explicit goals, even if they feel far reach at the moment. You’ll be surprised how they can come true.

Be disciplined on expense tracking, practice mindful spending, and envision the debt-free life that you want to live every single day.

What are your financial plans for this year?

I am giving my blog and writing a real chance, after blogging off and on for nearly a decade. My goal is to bring in at least $1k per month via the blog, both the platform itself and related opportunities.

What’s your ultimate financial goal?

The ultimate financial goal is true financial freedom, which to me does not mean never have to work again, but rather, never have to do jobs I dislike again.

Where can people read more about you?

More about my debt-free journey can be found at my post, “Road to Positive Net Worth”, otherwise I write about simple living and travel at Wanderlust Wendy.

Leave us with what helped inspire you to continue paying off debt.

To me, the freedom to give back to the world without constraint, and living a life free to choose meaningful work without considering income is financial freedom. But my definition is not universal.

Define what financial freedom means to you, and get after it!

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