Expert Interview Series: Steph Halligan About Eliminating Debt While Saving For (or in Preparation of) Retirement

Eliminating debtDo you want to eliminate debt and save for retirement? It’s not impossible.

In today’s world, it can be easy to feel rushed, overwhelmed, and spread thin. But don’t let that stop you from meeting your goals.

If you want to be debt free, it will require some discipline and sacrifice; but eventually, it will have been well worth the hard work.

Just ask Steph Halligan, Financial Education Consultant and Cartoonist at The Empowered Dollar. Steph has chronicled her personal journey in a way that empowers others to free themselves from the shackles of debt and start building for a better future.

What are 3 ways to eliminate debt while saving or preparing for retirement?

I paid off $34,579 in student loan debt in less than 4 years by doing 3 things:

1. Earn money on the side: I tried to earn as much extra money as possible, from selling things on Craigslist to finding freelance jobs on the internet. A lot of that extra money went toward my debt and some of it went towards savings and retirement.

2. Negotiate your salary: I spent hours preparing for and asking for a raise at my full-time job. And even though the economy was bad and I was working at a nonprofit, I made a strong case and got an increase. I also negotiated my starting salary at a new job. In total, I negotiated an extra $13,000 and that really helped with my debt and savings!

3. Prioritize your spending: I knew that if I wanted to pay off my debt and save, I had to make saving money a priority. I picked what really mattered in my life (like eating healthy groceries) and cut back on all the rest (like buying new books or going out for drinks).

What common obstacles do people encounter along the way?

It’s hard to stay motivated or feel inspired when you have tens of thousands of dollars in debt staring you in the face. That’s why telling people about my goal to become debt-free was so important. It kept me accountable and kept me going even when I was struggling to stay motivated.

How can the simplicity of a comic present complicated information in a more user-friendly manner?

I love drawing cartoons about money! Money can be a boring or scary topic sometimes, and I know that paying down student debt is a lot more fun when you can pretend you’re battling a debt monster in a super hero suit. Cartoons also do a great job of explaining complicated concepts like 401(k)s in a fun and visual way.

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