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Who is Zina Kumok?
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finance (one of the best … she’s done some writing for me).
She is the mastermind behind DebtFreeAfterThree.com, a blog about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years as a journalist.
Zina lives in Denver with her husband, who is a partner in her freelance business.
Zina has seemingly made all the right financial moves in a short period of time. I find myself saying “I wish I’d done that when I was your age” a lot in this interview.
Listen in to find out what all Zina did, and how she accomplished it. Stick around after the interview for my biggest takeaways.
Listen to This Episode with Zina Kumok
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
I hope you enjoyed that. A big thank you to Zina for giving us the gold today.
Share on Twitter
How @zinakumok tracked her expenses to pay off $28k of #studentloandebt // #mastersofmoney #podcastClick to tweet
[2:13] Why tracking expenses was so important to Zina.
[5:40] What prevents people from tracking their expenses?
[8:25] The moment she realized she needed to be a master of her money.
[11:30] The impact of her parents’ debt on her decision to be debt-free.
[15:50] What Zina did with the money she had been using for student loans.
[19:20] Other big financial goals in her life, and how she’s achieving them.
[20:50] The financial tools she’s using to help achieve her goals, including her custom spreadsheet.
[22:10] Why Zina keeps her emergency fund in her checking account.
[24:00] How long it took her to create a 6-month emergency fund.
[24:45] Her goals for the future and how she and her husband are working toward those.
[25:45] Why Zina and her husband rent instead of owning a home.
[26:30] Her retirement goals.
[28:00] Why she uses credit cards and how they help her with travel hacking.
[29:45] Some things she would have done differently.
This episode was sponsored by our list of The Best Automatic Savings Apps (to Grow Your Wealth). Visit ptmoney.com/autosave/ for more information and to get started for free.
Links/Terms/Concepts from the Show
- PNC (personal banking; no monthly fee and your ATM fees are refunded)
- Vanguard (mutual funds)
- S&P 500
- Capital One Banking
- Dave Ramsey
- Mint.com (personal finance management)
- Zina’s budget spreadsheet
- @ZinaKumok (Twitter)
3 Takeaways from My Interview with Zina Kumok
1. Take all your extra income and use it to advance your financial goals.
From time to time you’ll receive extra income from a birthday, wedding, work bonus, income tax refund, or some other type of windfall. Don’t use those funds on more spending. Instead, use them to reduce your debt or increase your savings.
Your budget should be based on known income, not surprise income that may or may come. If you’re using those windfalls to catch up on your spending, you’re budgeting the wrong way. Adjust your budget and spending to match your known income. Then use the excess to meet your goals and achieve more!
Learn how to use your extra #income to advance your financial #goals with @zinakumok #mastersofmoney #podcastClick to tweet
2. Snowball from debt to saving (but don’t neglect savings initially).
Zina saved 6% of her income towards retirement, even when she was paying down debt. She used free matching funds from her employer. I love this. Then once she paid off the loans, she didn’t start spending the excess. Instead, she converted the debt snowball into a savings snowball and started saving 10%.
I’ve talked about The Savings Snowball on the blog before … it’s the act of keeping the momentum you had from your debt snowball progress and shifting it over to savings goals. Start with the smallest (making minimum savings effort on all goals) and work your way up to larger goals once you hit each goal.
Convert your #debt snowball to a #savings snowball and you’ll see massive results. @zinakumok #mastersofmoney #podcastClick to tweet
3. Focus on financial independence, not retirement.
Zina envisions a future different from her parents’ traditional view of retiring in their 60’s. She wants the freedom to work less, travel, and live how she wants.
One of the key takeaways from Zina’s success is the importance of making sacrifices now so you can enjoy the rewards later. If she hadn’t paid off her student loan so quickly, she would still be stuck in debt. Instead, she took massive action and will reap the rewards for decades to come.
Zina mentioned that a crucial step to paying off debt was tracking her expenses. She uses Mint, as well as a budget spreadsheet she created.
Learn how @zinakumok paid off $28,000 in student loan #debt in 3 years, and is living on her own terms. #mastersofmoney #podcastClick to tweet
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