What’s Stopping You From Becoming Financially Healthy?

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Being financially healthy means a lot of things, mainly having freedom to do what you want. I share what got me to become financially well for good.

The following blog post is part of the The Road to Financial Wellness Blog Tour. Over a period of 30 days, the Phroogal team will go to 30 locations to raise awareness about financial empowerment. Today they will be in Omaha! Our goal is to help people learn about money by starting the conversation. We understand that local conversations can help bring about national awareness.

I’m incredibly excited to be a part of The Road to Financial Wellness that has been concepted, organized and is currently ongoing. Long story short, the vision behind #TheRoad as it’s being called, is spurring a national discussion focused on financial healthiness.

Simply put, it’s meant to no longer make talking about money a taboo subject. In practice, the team from Phroogal is on a 30 day, 30 city road trip that started in Portland, Maine and wraps up in Los Angeles. Today, they’re in my fair city of Omaha, Nebraska!

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Jason from Phroogal and love the vision he has behind the idea and the drive behind it. It’s one that I wholeheartedly share and is a big drive behind Frugal Rules. That being said, I’ve been asked to share part of my personal financial story today and what motivated me to become financially healthy.

My Story


I’ve shared my own personal finance journey many times here on the site. I’ve made more than my share of money mistakes over the years – mainly due to ignorance or out of sheer stupidity. I told myself a number of years ago that was no longer the life I wanted to live.

My journey goes back to college. Having never really been taught anything related to financial literacy I was ignorant to managing money and rather than teach myself, I chose to live like an overindulgent person at an all you can eat buffet. I racked up debt like it was going out of style – having accumulated right at $45,000 in debt over the course of three years. Remember, this was 15 years ago! Today that would amount to $65,000! I took out student loans like they were going out of style and loved me some credit cards.

I was living the life I wanted…or so I thought. Really, I was purposely taking shackles and putting them around my ankles and wrists. I just didn’t know it at the time.

At the literal brink of bankruptcy, I was faced with a stark reality. I didn’t have the money to file the bankruptcy paperwork. That day was one of the lowest days I’ve experienced as an adult. I think about it today and I still get a bitter taste in my mouth. It was the tough love of a roommate who got in my face, so to speak, and told me two things – that I was seeking an easy way out of the self-inflicted problems I was facing and that I was not living, but was enslaved.

I will forever be thankful to him for that message.

Over the course of several years, I attacked my debt, began to budget and sought to free myself of enslavement. Fast forward a little over a decade and I’m immensely thankful for the lessons learned and how the experience changed me for good.

Change Can Happen


Tell me if you’ve ever had one of these experiences:

  • Lying in bed, you wonder where next month’s mortgage or rent payment is going to come from
  • You spend whatever you want and realize at month end you can’t pay a bill
  • Your car breaks down and you can’t afford the relatively low repair bill
  • You don’t know what you’ll be able to have for dinner the next evening
  • You feel like you’ll never get out of debt
  • You can’t answer the phone out of fear of it being another debt collector

I’ve been there and have experienced all of these circumstances – and more. Let me encourage you with this – it doesn’t have to be that way!

You can know with confidence how you’ll be able to pay your bills.

You can deal with financial emergencies.

You can have peace of mind.

You don’t have to be enslaved.

You don’t have to be a victim any longer.

As I look back on my financial journey, I remember fearing change. I thought I was living the life I wanted, only to realize it was all built on a house of cards. I needed to change, but the thought of change scared the crap out of me. Why? Because I had no paradigm through which to wisely view money and never thought I’d be free.

Being financially healthy means a lot of things, mainly having freedom to do what you want. I share what got me to become financially well for good.

The change didn’t happen overnight. I slipped and fell several times. But, over time, simply putting one foot in front of another, those baby steps began to allow me to run financially. The fear of change that once held me back slowly moved to a “it’s time to burn the damn boats” mentality and not look back. It’s honestly what has gotten me to where I am today financially.

If you are in a similar spot as I was, I promise you can get there. It won’t be easy, it likely won’t happen overnight, but it CAN be done. As one who thought I was living the life I wanted nearly 20 years ago I can tell you one thing – financial independence is a much better life to live.

Somewhat related to the trip by the Phroogal team, the national sponsor of the trip, Payoff, has launched a cool little three minute quiz to help you see what your financial personality is. I took it (and it came back with the result of “The Rock”…that didn’t go to my head one bit 😉 )and found it to be a breeze to complete. Check it out here.


Why do you think money is a taboo topic in our society? If you’ve paid off debt, what was the moment that change began to take place? What do you use to motivate yourself financially?


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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

Latest posts by John Schmoll (see all)


  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way says:

    I married at the very young age and I can say that I can really relate mostly from the above problems. There was an instance that I can’t answer the phone because I knew that the caller was the debt collector again. It was really, really hard.

  • Brian @DebtDiscipline says:

    I love the message be spread with #TheRoad tour. It’s so important to spread financial literary message. We had a rock bottom moment and we knew we need to make a change with our money, if we didn’t we’d still be living pay check to pay check.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    My kids keep me motivated when it comes to our finances. I don’t want to be a burden on them in old age and I want to pay for their college tuition.

  • Mrs. Budgets @MrandMrsBudgets says:

    Financial freedom is my motivation. I want to have the option to work and take more time off to travel.

  • Melanie @ Dear Debt says:

    Love your story! I think so many of us have experienced those situations you describe. It’s not a fun place to be! I am so inspired by #TheRoad because it encourages people to TALK about money and engage in a new way. Thanks so much for participating, John.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Thanks Melanie! You’re right, many of us have been there which is what behooves us to discuss it all we can – it’s our duty in many ways.

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

    I really appreciate your honesty in talking about your financial past–it’s so refreshing to read! And, I think it’s inspiring to see how far you’ve come in your financial journey.

    My main financial motivator is our goal to reach financial independence and retire early. Keeping that goal in mind helps me to focus all of my spending towards it and it makes frugality something that’s fun as opposed to a struggle.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Thanks Mrs. FW! It sucked, putting it very lightly, but I see it our duty to share those experiences to help those who’re struggling know it doesn’t have to be that way.

      I find having a goal can really help keep you on track. The more you want it, in my opinion, the closer you to stay to attacking it.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I love your story John and I relate to your journey is SO many ways. I have no idea why money is still such a taboo topic, especially in a time when people overshare just about everything online, I don’t know why they don’t overshare about money. Even my clients have a tough time opening up on the first call we have together. Once they start sharing, though, and we start working towards change, great things happen!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Thanks Shannon! That’s an excellent point about oversharing online, yet failing to do so with finances.

  • Froogal Stoodent says:

    I’m glad your roommate challenged you to see the light–and I’m glad you’re sharing your wisdom via this blog! More people should hear your message that it’s never too late to change to a smarter way that inspires confidence rather than fear!

    The Phroogal team is doing a good thing, getting people to talk about money and how to manage it wisely. Props to them for this big undertaking! 🙂

    • John Schmoll says:

      I’m glad he did as well, otherwise I might not be in the place I am today. 🙂

      Completely agreed – kudos to the team at Phroogal.

  • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

    Playing the part of a victim is no way to go through life. Take control of your own destiny, and be FREE!

    • John Schmoll says:

      “Playing the part of a victim is no way to go through life.” <----Could not have said it any better myself Travis!

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies says:

    My husband brought debt to the relationship. He had defaulted student loans, and within two years he needed $12,000 of oral surgery. Meanwhile he was earning around $30,000 and I was on disability.

    I put us on a path to repayment but it was soooo slow. Especially because our health problems kept depleting what we had.

    It got especially bad when he lost his job and rent plus his high-risk insurance was 1/3 of our income. Ugh.

    Anyway, there was no question in my mind that we would pay it back. But Tim did have some “aha” moments when I’d track things out and show him that we were making progress. That it really was possible for him to get rid of those hated loans.

  • Jason B says:

    One of the main things that motivate me are you and a few of the other bloggers that I follow. Seeing y’all overcome debt issues shows me that I can do it.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Well, glad to be a motivation Jason! I know if I can do it then I know you, and anyone else, can as well. 🙂

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    I think being a Mom was a huge wake up call for me. I love my parents, but there was lots of do as I say not as I do growing up. I think you have to walk the walk if you want kids to take you seriously. I’d never want my daughter to be drowning in debt, so it was time to get my act together.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I can relate a lot to that Kim. It was much the same way in my family while growing up – that’s not something I want for our kids.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I think fear and being tired is what stops most people. Fear is more about your situation being worse than you think it is, or having to make tough choices, etc. Being tired is just that: I’m too tired to put energy towards my finances! Now that I’ve been out of college for 4 1/2 years and know more of what the “real world” is like, full-time work plus all the other responsibilities that come with owning a home and simply living life can be so tiring that you have no energy left over to do things that seem “optional” like managing your finances.

    • John Schmoll says:

      You bring up a good point with the tiredness aspect DC. I think when you combine that with lack of knowledge or not knowing where to start it can be a crippling combination if you’re not careful.

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