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The survival mentality

Ramsey suggested that Travis isn’t prioritizing his spending appropriately. His monthly take-home pay is $3,600 a month. Travis has a monthly car payment of $441 and consumer debt of $26,000, besides the car. Monthly interest payments are leaving the family without much extra cash to buy groceries on a regular basis.

The situation is unsustainable. Ramsey recommended prioritizing food and shelter before managing debt. “I want to give you permission to feed your children before you pay MasterCard,” he said.

Food, shelter, transportation and utilities are the “four walls” that must be prioritized, according to Ramsey. “The rest of it is just a stupid game [you’re] behind on,” he said. Credit card companies are at the bottom of the list of priorities, and Ramsey believes they can’t do much if Travis misses payments temporarily.

“You know what they can do if you don’t pay them?” Ramsey asked. “Nothing, except destroy your credit and sue you eight years from now. But we’re going to take care of them before we get there.”

Credit card delinquency is rising, according to the Federal Reserve, and for younger Americans (ages 20-39) the rate of delinquency is near levels seen during the 2007-2009 global financial crisis. Defaulting on credit card debt can result in a hit to credit scores, account closures or even lawsuits.

However, Ramsey believes Travis can mitigate these outcomes if he raises his income.

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Boosting income

Travis said he’s going to a trade school three nights a week. This should help him boost his income. Some trades can pay as much as $80,306 a year, according to Indeed. That’s significantly higher than Travis’s current monthly income of $3,600.

However, his income is adjusted upward every six months as he progresses through the apprenticeship program, which means he needs to raise income quickly in the meantime to deal with current challenges. “You gotta get your income up, dude,” Ramsey told him. “You’ve got six months of hell ahead of you.”

Travis might need to spend extra hours and more nights working throughout the week to cover expenses. The spiraling cost of living and the consumer debt boom has left many in a similar position to Travis. As of January, 5.1% of the American workforce had multiple jobs.

Nevertheless, Ramsey thinks this situation is “fixable” because Travis has one big advantage: cheap housing. He pays only $560 a month for his mortgage, significantly lower than the national average.

The average monthly mortgage payment, excluding taxes and insurance, for borrowers taking out a conventional conforming 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was $2,045 in December 2022, according to the latest report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“You’ve got a really nice, low house payment,” Ramsey told Travis. “It’s the best thing in this whole story right now.”

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Vishesh Raisinghani Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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