Our Story

Welcome to the Debt To Life Community!

Allow us to introduce ourselves. My name is Wesley Wiley. The beautiful woman in the picture next to me is my best friend Beth, who I am overwhelmingly blessed to also call my wife. The little nugget of love in the picture below is a special little girl we’re very excited to introduce to the world as the newest member of our family!

Our Story

The short version of our story is fairly simple. Through a series of “normal” financial mistakes (such as letting Visa fund our honeymoon in 2007), we found ourselves completely buried in debt, over $119,000 at one point. The greatest pain that we felt at that time wasn’t that we couldn’t afford nice things, trips, etc. (although we certainly felt that pain). It was that we felt like we were sabotaging our purpose.

We came to the realization that our debt was literally a chain around our ankles, keeping us from running after the purposes of God for our lives. Our debt had the potential to destroy our destiny. In a huge step of faith, we both left our jobs in 2008 and began working together as independent insurance adjusters.

We were very comfortable in our jobs, however, after months of barely making ends meet we knew we’d be in a financial hole for years unless something changed. God opened up a door for us and in a season of very little work for most of the people in our field, we had almost more than we could handle.

After 18 months of 60 to 70+ hour weeks, we made our last payment on our consumer debt, which included 5 credit cards, one car loan, one home equity loan, and two student loans. Our mortgage company better watch out because they’re next. (If you want the longer version of our journey, check out our first two blog posts: Our Journey of Financial Freedom Part 1 & Part 2)

Enjoying a white Christmas in Gatlinburg, TN, 2010

Why Debt To Life?

Beth & I have been very troubled by the phenomenon of debt in America, especially in the way it impacts young married couples who are dragging incredible amounts of student loans and other debt down the aisle and into the marriage. We have experienced in our own lives just how easy it is to incur tremendous amounts of debt and how difficult it is to pay it off. More than that, we’re surrounded by couples who love God and have a passion to serve the world, but feel like their purpose is on hold until they can get free from debt. We want to help.

From the outside, our story of getting debt free can be summarized by hard work and focus. However, look closer and it is an entirely different story altogether. It is a story of hope, vision, determination, and transformation. For us, getting out of debt wasn’t just a financial change. We had to develop new mindsets. We had to change the way we related to money and develop new habits. We had to dig into the spiritual aspects and find out what God really said about money and wealth, and let those truths set us free from the inside out.

They say that financial issues are one of the biggest reasons for divorce. While we definitely felt the stress of debt, Beth & I were blessed in that we have never had any major arguments about money. God has given us incredible grace to be able to communicate well in reference to our finances, and we have a passion to help other couples on their journey of getting out of debt and fulfilling their purpose.

Ladies First…Beth’s Story

I grew up in the beautiful state of North Carolina with my parents and older sister. I graduated high school and moved to Tennessee for four years of college, majoring in Human Development. After college graduation, I moved to Texas where I embarked on my first job at a Youth Ministry and took on an adventure by myself. Texas is still home….and I love it.

In 2007 I married my best friend in the world and am passionate about him and our marriage and now we are expecting our first child in the fall (2011). I am overjoyed with happiness at this point in life and thrilled for the next season we are about to embark on. I love change, and I believe it always makes us a better person if we allow it to. I’m passionate about people and I have a huge desire to see others reach their full potential in life, whether it’s finding the job they love, mending relationships or getting out of debt to ensure a better life and reach their full potential. I’ve realized life is about others and it’s no fun if we aren’t helping others along their journey of life and enjoying it with them!

Favorite Activities: Swimming, kayaking, biking, running, reading, sewing and shopping. Favorite TV shows include Amazing Race and Selling New York, college football in the fall, and anything on HGTV. I have a love for cats. Soon after we got married, we adopted Precious (in the picture below), a Siamese mix cat who was 4 years old. She quickly became the added joy into our life. Sadly she is no longer with us as she died of kidney failure at a very young age. We plan on adopting another cat sometime in the near future.

Can someone pass me the remote?

My Financial HistoryMy financial problems all started when I was in college. I remember going to college as a freshman and setting up a bank account and also getting my first credit card, for emergencies. I had a budget, well, kinda….I had a certain amount of money for the whole semester, but without any planning on my part and too many emotional decisions, I spent it all within a couple of months, having no idea where it went.

The next semester, I allowed myself a monthly budget, and I usually came close, but almost always still went over, as there were too many things that I “needed” to purchase. I could already see the problems coming as I realized I had no concerns about how I spent money, but I figured it would all work out somehow. I remember getting my first overdraft charge. I went to the bank and they ‘quickly’ offered me a line of credit, basically $1000 of money every time if I overdrafted so I would not get the overdraft fees. They tacked on a good 20% interest, so let’s just say it wasn’t the smartest move I’ve made in my life….might have been one of my worst, considering I never paid off this line of credit until right before I graduated college 4 years later. They won…they got my money from tons of interest, and I got…well…nothing.

So for four years in college, I learned nothing about money, except that I never had enough of it and that a budget didn’t seem to ‘work for me’. Oh and I didn’t mention, that I got a great deal (sense my sarcasm) on a couple of department store credit cards, so that my shopping would be much easier and less painful when I went to the mall. I never went crazy with credit cards, but I didn’t pay them off fully until after graduating college, and again, I don’t own one piece of clothing anymore that I bought with those credit cards.

After college, I got my first job working at a ministry for teenagers where I got paid a pretty low salary. My expenses were about the same as my paycheck each month, with maybe $50 to spare. I was renting an apartment, bought a car (couple years old), and had $450 a month of student loan payments (paying for your past). I had no extra money at all. This path continued for the next 6 years. No extra money, but if there was something I really wanted, I just put it on the credit card…somehow it would work out.

Getting married to Wesley in 2007 changed everything, including my finances. I didn’t make more money, but Wesley’s passion for getting his debt paid off was infectious and I realized I hated the trap it had me in and I wanted out just like he did. this is where our story begins.

Beth at the Portofino Bay Hotel

Wesley’s Turn

I suppose if you’re still reading this far down the page, then you’re really interested in who we are….so here goes! I was raised in what the Counting Crows would call, “Somewhere in Middle-America.” Central Missouri to be exact. I went to a great high school (Camdenton), where I found my place to be more at home with the band nerds than the football guys. In an effort to fit in, I tried to do the party scene, however, I always felt like an outsider. My senior year, I was caught stealing beer from a small grocery store that I worked at and got in some serious trouble. The owner showed me grace and did not press charges, but my parents grounded me for three months of my senior year. Literally, all I could do was go to school & church.

The youth pastor at our church knew my situation, and he had a huge influence in my life during that season (yes, despite what the media says, church can be a very good thing for young people). Some people can go through life without really questioning much about the meaning of things. As long as they have the next meal or the next weekend planned out, they’re pretty content with life. I’m not one of those people. I’ve always had a sense of purpose and destiny in my heart about life. The problem is that God never promises to show us the full scope of our purpose, but He is always faithful to provide the next step in the journey, which keeps things exciting to say the least.

In Sri Lanka in 2005. Beautiful country; resiliant people.

In 1994, I went to Mexico on a spring break mission trip during my Freshman year of college. It was the first of what would be at least 20 trips, everywhere from Morocco to South Africa, India, and Sri Lanka. We served in El Salvador in 2001 after a significant earthquake, and again in Sri Lanka after the tsunami.

As I write this, we’re watching the tragedy unfold in Japan from the earthquake & tsunami. There are few things I would rather do than spend my life helping people who have been affected in these ways. These trips have opened my eyes to see and experience a world way beyond the reach of American materialism. Hopefully, in some small way your desire to get financially free is so that you can have more margin to give abundantly to others in need. It really is better to give than to receive.

Financially Speaking…

Financially, I grew up in a very well-to-do home. I never considered us to be rich, but looking back, I drove a Sea Doo to work at a marina before I could even drive a car, so I suppose we were pretty well off. The problem with this, was that I never had to learn to save. Money was always “available” when I needed it. I always knew mom & dad would take care of any financial hole I got in, whether it was wrecking the car, paying the insurance, whatever. (I did save up $250 to pay an attorney to go to court for me after a speeding ticket so the points wouldn’t show up on my insurance…shhh…I never told my parents).

Like Beth, I got my first credit card my Freshman year of college. Also like Beth, I didn’t use it with much wisdom. I worked at a Ralph Lauren Outlet one summer, and because of the nice employee discount, I spent $650 on the credit card my last day there on Polo clothes, shoes, cologne, etc. It was awesome. Everything I had was Polo. And of course since I wasn’t working, mom & dad paid most of the bill. (I did learn a valuable lesson though…you get what you pay for. Those clothes lasted way longer than anything I’ve ever bought at Old Navy).

Until getting married, I had always kept my debt at a manageable level. I think it was the combination of several major life events culminating at the same time that pushed us in over our heads financially. A lot of people are in major debt because of an emergency – major illness, loss of a job, etc – for us, it was mostly poor planning and poor decisions. Wanting to live comfortably before we had the cash to pay for “comfortable.”

Aside from all the ramblings above, I love spending time in nature. I enjoy hiking, fishing, boating, snorkeling, and for you mountain folks, I love snowboarding. I feel too bad after shooting animals to enjoy hunting much, but I’ll hit the tree stand if it means time with my dad. Beth & I are mostly vegetarian for health reasons (read the China Study, or anything by John Robbins to see why), however, I will never say no to BBQ ribs.

My heroes are Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Theresa. My favorite books are Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson), Long Walk To Freedom (Nelson Mandela), Wild At Heart (John Eldredge), and The Silence of Adam (Larry Crabb). If you’re in the half of the population that calls yourself “male,” go to Amazon and order the last two books right now.

There’s so much more to “Us,” but this is an About Page, not an autobiography, so I guess I need to stop typing. Please feel free to shoot us an email; we try to respond to every email we get. We look forward to walking with you on your journey of financial freedom!

India, July 2004

The Role Of Faith

When Beth & I began talking about creating Debt To Life, we seriously discussed the role that faith would play in our communications. We unashamedly follow Jesus, and have been amazed at His grace and redemption in our lives. However, we know there are people of all backgrounds and faiths who are struggling financially, and the last thing we want to do is to cause anyone to feel uncomfortable or alienated.

Our faith in God is the foundation of our lives, and the theme that unites the various chapters of our story together. It is our faith that gives us purpose; it is our purpose that drove us to break free of our debt. To leave our faith out of our communication would be in essence a lack of integrity; it would be sharing with you only half the story. We trust that you are mature enough to hear the full story of our lives, and can judge for yourself if our message resonates with you or not.

All this being said, our specific goal with Debt To Life is to help people on their journey financially. If people are encouraged spiritually by anything they read or hear from us, then we consider that a bonus. If you would prefer to get your financial information from a source that leaves God out of the equation, we completely understand and would be happy to help you find a company to fit your needs. Lastly, if you would like more information about what it means to follow Jesus, feel free to email us. We’d love to hear from you.

Disclaimer

While we may be experts at figuring out how to pay off lots of debt and love each other through the process, we’re not certified counselors, financial advisers, accountants, or attorneys. Please keep in mind that while we strive to provide helpful and encouraging information to you, we do not make any guarantees regarding any outcome in your life in any way. It is impossible for us to know all the facts regarding your personal situation, therefore, it would be ineffective for you to apply any information on this site blindly. Certified professionals exist in every community and you should consult one before making any major financial or relational decision.