6 Secrets From Couples Who’ve Paid Off Debt, Built Empires and Semi-Retired by 35

Are you one part of a couple? Someone’s better half? Partner in crime?

That’s good news, because we’ve got plenty of money tips from real couples who’ve paid off debt, improved their credit scores and built business empires.

They share their tips and secrets to financial success. And, hey, you two can even start using some of their strategies right now.

Secret No. 1: Boost Your Nest Egg By “Starving and Stacking”

Whether you want to build a nest egg or pay off a substantial amount of debt, the “Starve and Stack” savings method is perfect for couples, especially newlyweds.

Here’s how it works: As a couple, you’ll combine your money and live off one income for 18 to 24 months. The other paycheck goes directly into a high-yield savings account or toward your debt. (Shoutout to Nick Vail over at Remove the Guesswork’s website who coined the term!)

Personal finance writer Jen Smith put this strategy to the test. Her and her husband were able to pay off $78,000 of debt in two years due, in part, to this strategy. And, no, they didn’t have to starve without meals.

Secret No. 2: Enjoy The Spoils of Passive Income and Semi-Retire by 35

Have you ever thought about investing in some real estate? No, you don’t need to have enough money saved for a down payment — you can start with a minimum investment of $500.

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be invested in portfolios of real estate around the United States. 

You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina. And you don’t have to be the landlord — Fundrise does all the heavy lifting.

As tenants pay their rent, you can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation of the property. 

We talked to Christopher and Meghan Miller, who at just 35 and 29, quit their full-time jobs and bought two acres in Berryville, Virginia. They live off their savings and income from side gigs — and use sources of passive income, like Fundrise, to add to their financial security.

They own rental properties, too, but Christopher said Fundrise is even better: “I view our investments in Fundrise as something even more passive than the rental properties we own. I don’t have to manage them; I don’t have to do the work to improve the properties; I don’t have to find tenants, evict tenants.”

Plus, it only takes $500 to get started with Fundrise — not $50,000.

Secret No. 3: Make Improving Your Credit Scores a Team Sport

If you and your partner have plans to buy a car or home — or even rent a place — you’ll need a healthy credit score. But if you’re like many of us… when’s the last time you even checked your score?

Let’s start there. We suggest using a free website called Credit Sesame. We like it because, again, it’s free, and it takes less than two minutes to sign up. Once you have access to your score, you can take steps to improve it with Credit Sesame’s personalized recommendations.

Salome Buitureria and her husband, Alfredo, both struggled with bad credit. Both of them got laid off from their jobs, and the credit card bills started to stack up as they tried to support their nine kids. Their scores were in the low 500s.

They signed up for Credit Sesame and started taking its recommendations. For Salome, it helped her find an error on her report and dispute it. It also recommended a rewards credit card she could qualify for that’d help her improve her score.

Today, Salmone’s score is around 690, and Alfredo’s is at 701, and now they have big plans to buy a home soon.*

Just because you have bad credit now doesn’t mean you have to live with it forever. Credit Sesame will help you get there — it takes approximately 90 seconds to get started.

And if you have a partner in crime to keep you motivated along the way? Even better!

Secret No. 4: Leave Your Kids $1 Million (Without Being an Actual Millionaire)

If you have kids, you’ve probably worried about what’ll happen to them if something were to happen to you…

That’s where life insurance can provide a peace of mind. You sign up for a policy and pay a monthly rate, and if you die, your partner and kids will receive the payout.

Traditionally, life insurance was seen as something only the wealthy needed, but that’s not the case anymore — especially since policies are so affordable.

Consider a life insurance company called Bestow. The application doesn’t take more than about five minutes to fill out, and you can leave your family with $1 million — for as little as $5 a month.

Derick Davis understood the importance of life insurance when his dad passed away. His dad had a life insurance policy, but it wasn’t enough coverage, and Davis, then 5, remembers his family struggling to stay afloat financially.

When he started looking into life insurance policies for his family — his wife and two sons — he found that life insurance was actually much more affordable than he expected. And now?

“It makes me feel that I’m doing the right things in order to give my kids the best chance if something should happen,” he says.

It takes minutes to get a free quote from Bestow.

Secret No. 5: Start a $350K Business Empire

Back in 2007, Adam and Coryn Enfinger were a young, broke married couple who’d just had their first baby. Both of their cars broke down within the same month, and they couldn’t afford a new one. So Adam bought a bike to ride to work.

On one of his 17-mile commutes (one way), he had a business idea: Sell screen-printed T-shirts with animals on bikes.

Adam and Coryn worked odd jobs to make ends meet while they worked to launch what would become a $350K business, Dark Cycle Clothing.

Now, their first few attempts at selling products didn’t go so hot. At one event, they sold maybe two items. Coryn decided to list the extra products on Etsy, and that’s when things started taking off. In 2009, Dark Cycle Clothing became the couple’s full-time career.

Since then, they’ve started selling their T-shirts at markets again, which now makes up about a third of the company’s revenue. They’ve even hired someone to help out with photography and customer service.

“We were so busy,” Coryn said. “We grew really fast. I sometimes feel like we’re still catching up from the growth in the beginning because we didn’t start with a plan.”

“It took three or four years for us to really believe it was going to be our career,” Adam added.

The key to building a business together? Get creative, don’t give up, hustle hard and enjoy it!

Secret No. 6: Vow to Pay Off Your Debt, For Richer or For Poorer

If you’re like the majority of Ameircans, you’ve probably got debt. And unfortunately, it doesn’t just disappear when you get married. In fact, it might feel even more overwhelming if you’re trying to tackle your combined debt together.

Here’s what we suggest: Refinance and consolidate your debt.

What’s that mean? Take out a personal loan, one that has lower interest rates and more favorite terms than your current situation. Then, you’ll use that personal loan to pay off your debt. You can do this for your debt, their debt and even your combined debt.

It might sound counterintuitive at first — like you’re just moving one form of debt over to another — but the truth is, paying one bill each month will be a lot easier, and this could even lower your payments, save you tons of money in interest and/or allow you to pay off your debt faster.

If you’re not sure where to start looking, use a website called Fiona. It’ll match you with a low-interest loan — rates start at 3.84%. It won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. (We know you don’t have time for that.)

Refinancing and consolidating debt was one of the moves Deacon and Kim Hayes made to pay off $52,000 worth of debt in 18 months.

They had a few high-interest credit cards that carried more than 13% interest. This kept them from making any real progress paying them off, so they refinanced, which lowered their interest rate and, in turn, lowered their monthly payments. This helped speed up their process and within just 18 months the couple was debt free.

If you’re worried you won’t qualify for a refinancing loan, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars.

Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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.

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