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Don’t we all wish life were more like “The Brady Bunch”?
Two parents, both in their second marriages, could blend their families. There would be comedic dysfunction, yet all would end well.
But reality is a much different show.
Kids, ex-spouses, custody battles and emotional trauma often contribute to the 67% of second marriages that end in divorce.
Plus, couples bring more financial assets — and debt — into a second marriage. Each person often has goals and spending habits they don’t intend to change.
Pete and Maria Sbashnig knew all that when they got married in 2008.
To keep things the same for their kids after their divorces, each had lived in houses they couldn’t afford on their single incomes and used credit cards to fill in the gaps.
Pete had been divorced for two years when he married Maria. He had joint custody of his son and daughter. Maria had been divorced for six years with full custody of her two daughters.
All four kids played sports, and the whole family would take trips for competitions and tournaments. The sporting events brought the family together, but financially, they added up.
“I just remember being so overwhelmed with the family dynamic and the blending of the family that finances weren’t even a consideration,” Pete said.
About a year and a half into their marriage, Pete found a net worth calculator on Bank of America’s website. His 401(k) had almost six figures, so he thought he was doing pretty well.
Pete, a letter carrier, and Maria, a legal assistant, had never combined their finances, so he figured it was time to see where they stood.
Midway through listing their debts — which included two mortgages, a home equity line of credit, two car loans and over $ 60,000 in credit card debt — he realized it was going to surpass their assets. But he didn’t realize by how much.
Their total debt was $ 332,000, putting their net worth at a negative $ 244,000.
“After looking at this number, I had an emotional breakdown,” Pete said. “I personally felt that I was a complete failure. I was in my mid-30s, already divorced once. We were struggling to keep the new family together, and now it looked like we were bankrupt.”
Maria knew she’d made some financial mistakes, such as taking out an interest-only mortgage. Still, she felt she was managing her finances well enough.
“I had been on my own with my kids for six years,” she said. “I liked the fact that I had control over my own money because I was not letting anyone control me or my money.”
How They Started Blending Finances
The next day on his mail route, Pete changed the radio station from the sports broadcast he typically listened. He came across a guy giving callers debt-payoff advice. That guy turned out to be debt-free living evangelist Dave Ramsey.
When Pete told Maria the advice he’d heard, she knew the timing was too perfect to be a coincidence; she took it as a sign.
So together, they set out to eliminate everything but their mortgages.
“[Pete] approached it like, ‘We’re in this together. We’ve been doing this ‘your debt/my debt’ and ‘your bills/my bills’ this whole time, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be,’” Maria said.
They had $ 5,000 in cash, but they used all but $ 1,000 to pay down debt. That made Pete anxious.
“It’s not like $ 5,000 is a ton of money, but it felt like a big security blanket,” he said.
In the first couple months, they had setbacks. They had to replace their water heater and dryer, pay for a car repair and, to top it off, had a subterranean termite infestation.
But these troubles didn’t happen all in one day. None of them cost more than $ 1,000, so they paid for them using their emergency fund and replenished it every payday.
How Teamwork Helped Them Crush Their Debt
Pete took side jobs to increase their income. He umpired baseball games, mowed lawns for people he delivered mail to, and helped his dad with his landscaping business.
Maria cut the family’s expenses. She clipped coupons, cooked meals at home and limited school shopping.
“He played offense, and I played defense,” Maria said.
They paid off $ 65,000 in 17 months while making less than $ 100,000 per year combined.
“The first year, we didn’t eat out,” Pete said. “We ate out once. We got two pizzas. We spent $ 19 on two pizzas.”
They saw that when they worked on their finances together, they did exponentially better than they did when they managed them separately.
After they tackled their short-term debt, they worked on the mortgage from Pete’s prior house — which was underwater — and its home equity line of credit. They finally sold it in 2013 and started focusing on the last debt: their mortgage.
What About the Kids?
When Pete and Maria started paying down debt, their kids ranged in age from 8 to 14. Needless to say, the change in spending was an adjustment.
The kids started doing more chores around the house to earn money and were limited on what they could pick out at grocery and clothing stores.
They were all allowed to continue doing their sports and competitions — just without the frills, which sometimes caused resentment.
“They didn’t like the fact that we’d go to the baseball tournament and everyone was going out to eat, and we’re like, ‘Sorry, we’re going home,’” Maria said.
The Sbashnigs also wanted to make sure their children didn’t start their adult lives fighting to get out of debt, so they wanted to save for their college. But they made sure the kids had some skin in the game.
Their children all had to apply for scholarships. Ultimately, a state program paid for 75% of their tuitions. Pete and Maria supplemented the rest, along with housing and books.
With two kids now out of college and two entering their sophomore years, the Sbashnigs say their children are making their own financial decisions. They’ve seen what you can accomplish by saving and investing, and they’re on the path to doing well with money.
Debt-Free Now — So What’s Next?
In November 2017, Pete and Maria paid off their house — the culmination of a $ 332,000 debt-payoff journey that spanned almost a decade.
Now, Pete and Maria travel and live with a freedom they’ve never experienced before.
Shortly before they paid off the house, Maria’s employer cut her work-from-home hours. Because they were so close to being debt-free, she was able to take a part-time job at a law firm. The job change cut her income, but it allowed her to be at home even more. It was a choice they wouldn’t have even been able to consider before.
Moving forward, Pete and Maria want to help others in similar situations — people in divorced or blended families — through their blog, books and counseling.
Pete and Maria hope their story will encourage others to work together to get stronger.
“One Belgian horse can pull 8,000 pounds, but you put two of them together — and train them properly — they can pull three times that amount,” Pete said. “That was the same thing we found when we worked together.”
Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She gives money saving and debt payoff tips on Instagram at @savingwithspunk.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
First Lady Melania Trump just completed her first solo excursion in a political capacity, touring Africa for five days and stopping by hospitals and orphanages, hanging out with elephants and visiting famous sites like the Sphinx and the Pyramids on her journey. And while plenty of attention has been paid to both her ongoing promotion of her ‘Be Best’ campaign and her fashion choices for the jaunt, Jimmy Kimmel wants to focus on something different: her facial expressions.
Kimmel drew a sharp contrast between the First Lady’s seemingly joyful spirit while photographed and videoed during her public engagements in Egypt, Ghana, Malawi and Kenya in comparison to clips of her taken while back in the U.S. at the side of her husband President Donald Trump for a spoof.
“This is Melania’s first trip overseas, and she really seemed to enjoy herself,” Kimmel suggested. “It’s not scientific, but draw your own conclusion.” (They added in some ominous Star Wars music for effect to really draw out the stark difference between her U.S. self versus her cheerful African tourist self.)
Taylor Swift is one of the most talked women in the world, with everything from her love life to her girl squad analysed by the public.
It’s hardly surprising therefore that the 28-year-old keeps some aspects of her life close to her chest, among these being her current relationship with Joe Alwyn, her feud with Katy Perry and her political stance.
One of these changed this week however, as the Look What You Made Me Do singer opened up about her political opinions for the first time ever, ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.
‘I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee,’ Taylor posted to her Instagram alongside a black and white photo of herself. ‘In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now.’
Going on to talk about her own political stance, Taylor explained: ‘I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.’
‘I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values.’
So who will Taylor be voting for?
‘I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives,’ Taylor explained to her followers. ‘Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.’
She concluded: ‘So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! .’
Human rights advocate Kerry Kennedy, who is leading the controversial mass bail-out of Rikers Island prisoners, collects a boatload of cash as the leader of the non-profit named for her slain father. Kennedy, 59, who has had her own brush with the law, raked in $ 352,298 in total compensation in 2016 as president of the… News | New York Post
Officially wrapped on Avengers 4. It was an emotional day to say the least. Playing this role over the last 8 years has been an honor. To everyone in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the audience, thank you for the memories! Eternally grateful.
It has emerged however that also during their break up, Kate had a brief romance – and it is reported to have annoyed William more than most.
Why? Because it was with one of William’s Eton school friends, shipping heir Henry Ropner.
It gets even more dramatic as Harper’s Bazaar Australia reported that William once dated Ropner’s ex back in the day.
‘We were both very young,’ Prince William explained of the split in their 2010 engagement video interview. ‘It was at university, we were sort of both finding ourselves as such and being different characters and stuff, it was very much trying to find our own way and we were growing up.’
He continued: ‘It was just sort of a bit of space and a bit of things like that, and it worked out for the better.’
Kate certainly seemed to agree, explaining, ‘I think at the time I wasn’t very happy about it, but actually it made me a stronger person.’
I’ve never been to Miami, but I know that when I do eventually go, ethical fashion boutique Antidote is going to be at the top of my list of places to visit. In the meantime, I like scrolling through the retailer’s online store to see what sustainable brands it’s currently stocking — there are …
In a clip aired on Tuesday night, Colbert and the Late Show team parodied UB40’s hit, “Red Red Wine,” with lyrics that reference the controversy surrounding allegations of drunken behavior, along with interpolated clips of Kavanaugh’s testimony in the song.
The song comes after Monday’s reports that inspired the parody; according to a report by the New York Times, the fight allegedly started when Kavanaugh and friends thought they spotted the lead singer of UB40 at a bar, a misunderstanding that escalated.
For their part, UB40 seems to want no part in the Kavanaugh drama, taking to their Twitter to address the renewed focus on their band.