Clean Slate Podcast – Episode 6
In episode 6 of the Clean Slate Podcast, Wayne and Juan talk about how bad credit can happen to anyone and how it is more common than you might think.
About the Speaker:
Juan Valladares is the Vice President of CreditGuard of America, Inc. and has been working in the credit counseling industry since 1997.
Juan began his career at a major answering service center, responsible for the training and supervision of over two hundred employees. Now in charge of managing CreditGuard’s counseling department, Juan’s management, organizational and motivational skills are all vital to the company’s success.
Juan is a devoted father of two and a passionate racquetball player who competes regularly to satisfy his competitive instincts. He has dedicated his professional life to helping people get out – and stay out – of debt.
“Clean Slate” Podcast Episode 6: Bad Credit Can Happen to Anyone
Wayne: It’s pretty amazing how we often individualize what challenges us. We take it very personally, obviously, and sometimes we think that our situations are more unique than they really are. And sometimes we may feel embarrassed or feel extremely emotional in a certain way about a situation we’re in, and certainly credit would be one of those situations.The reality is millions of Americans are feeling a credit crunch. You’re not alone. I promise. Nobody is alone in this. There are millions of people feeling what you’re feeling every single day.
Juan: Including myself.
Wayne: Including myself as well. It was about 14 years ago when I met my wife, and luckily she’s brilliant, and she was like, ‘Holy cow! You’re a mess! You’re like $12 or $13,000 in debt.’ I actually can’t remember the exact amount. ‘I’m not sure about getting too serious with you,’ she said, and I said, ‘No. Wait. We can fix this.’ So we put a small plan together. I was not aware at the time of CreditGuard, unfortunately, but we worked through it and I did become debt-free just a couple of years later.
We had small business startup a few years ago that didn’t get off the ground and I incurred a ton of debt on that. It’s been extremely stressful, so I totally understand how it feels. I’ve been there now, twice. I have to pick my kid up from camp, and we have to go to the grocery. And I know she has some type of swim camp or party she has to go to. I don’t know . . . my wife makes all these plans; I just do what I’m told. I have to get her a swimsuit or an outfit, and that’s just one expense, right?
When you compile American life and our social experiences and our consumer demands, yes, you can responsibly use credit. There are people who successful do. And then there are a lot of people like me who have a track record of not doing so by not watching their credit and not managing it and not pre-budgeting, and all the things that a counselor at CreditGuard could help with. It’s real, and it’s human and emotional, but it’s not a dead-end.
Juan: I completely understand also. Just to give you a little bit of my personal financial background . . . it’s ironic because you’d think that if you had been educated in finances or if your parents were really good at managing their finances then you should be really good with managing your finances too. My mother is unbelievably good at managing her finances. I don’t think my mother has ever owed more than $1,000 on her credit card. She has a credit score of like 800—the best I’ve ever seen in my life. And she always tried to educate me when it came to these things, saying things like, ‘Juan, don’t get into debt. Juan, don’t do this. Juan, don’t do that.’ And here I am, a young teenager, 18 years old, going to college, and I’ll never forget this: one of the credit card companies was out with a booth, and they said, ‘Hey, apply for this credit card and we’ll give you $500 rebate. You’ll get some pens, t-shirts and a few other things for free.’ And that was it. That was the beginning of my demise (laughing) when it came to getting into debt.
I incurred a significant amount of debt when I was in college. And then my wife was also the same way. My wife and I are high school sweethearts. We’ve been married for a very, very long time. And maybe because we were together at such a young age, and we started to go out–
Wayne: (interjecting) Shared habits?
Juan: (laughing) Yeah. We just incurred so much debt. And if I told you how much debt we had, you may be like, ‘Ok, maybe I shouldn’t give them a call.’
Wayne: No. It doesn’t work like that. How much doesn’t matter because how you feel about it is different. Someone could be under a tremendous amount of stress, like your mother would be under a tremendous amount of stress with $1,500, but someone else may think that $80,000 in debt is no big deal because they make $250,000 and their mindset is different. The amount of stress is not related to the amount of money, right?
Juan: Absolutely not, and that’s the main thing. Debt is debt, and no matter what it is, it’s all relative to the person who owes it.
Our debt load was intense, but we had a lot of fun. I hate to say it, but we did have a lot of fun. But at the end of the day, you have to tell yourself ‘Ok, this is starting to cause too much financial stress.’ It strained our relationship to begin with, and as we got older and said we wanted to have children, we want to buy a house, a condo, whatever it may be, having all this financial stress and burden just wasn’t a good thing.
Wayne: It just makes everything so difficult.
Juan: Exactly. It just makes things very, very difficult. So again, I started with the same advice I give everybody: start putting down the money that you owe—your expenses, income and everything else and let’s create a budget. And let’s stick to that budget as much as possible and not fall into the immediate satisfaction of needing to get things right away. If you can do that for a short period of time, that initial action starts to become a habit, and before you know it you’re in control of your finances. You’re in control of your money, not your money being in control of your life. You need to be in control of your finances just like you need to be in control of your health. It doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day you have to just take that initial step.
But yeah, we incurred so much debt ourselves in credit cards. My parents didn’t help us out with the marriage. We were very young, and they had money but we said we wanted to handle it. So what we did was start to charge it all on the credit cards. So over $20,000 later here we are in debt, and I’m like, ‘Ok, we’re young and we’re starting our careers and we shouldn’t be starting it this way.’
So everybody goes through it. Every. Single. Person goes through it. I don’t think I’ve ever had any of my friends, family members, including my mother—as good as she is—again, it doesn’t matter what the debt load is, there were points in her life where she wasn’t employed and things were very tight and she got into debt. But it definitely is something that everyone will experience at some point in their lives, and there are services out there that can help you. There are so many tools out there that can help. And this is why I’m so happy to have been in this company for such a long time, because we are that tool. And we’re an overall financial tool, not just debt management for credit cards and department store cards and stuff like that. We look at their entire budget: car loans, mortgages, whatever type of debt they have, they can give us a call and we’ll come up with some type of solution for them.
Wayne: You mentioned you were in school when you started with the company. Habits form when we’re young, don’t they? And habits that you form when you’re young, unfortunately, as much as credit products vary in quality, and people who work at the banks and the banks themselves are all members of our community. At the end of the day, schools really seem to be the starting point for bad habits, and it’s almost predatory on a lot of college campuses and I think that’s it’s something that a lot of Americans—most Americans—interface with when they’re in school. And it sort of seems like the beginning of your morals, your habits and the structure of how you’re going to think about these things moving forward for the rest of your life is built foundationally in the space.
Juan: Yes it is. We’re very impressionable at that time. The habits that we form during our formative years follow us for quite some time, and it’s very difficult to break those habits sometimes. That’s why our organization has a significant amount of focus on the educational part. It’s almost like we re-educate individuals when it comes to finances. We have so many brochures and videos, and you can visit our website. But you’re absolutely right. You hit the nail on the head. It’s about re-educating ourselves to look at things a little bit differently. This way you can finally take control of your finances.
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