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Travel Nurses Tackle Debt

Oct 9, 2018
Brittany Cline, RN

If you are looking for a reason to celebrate, we’ve got one for you! Not only is travel nursing great for your professional career, it is the perfect way to help you achieve your financial goals. We reached out to Kristie, Synita, and Jay to tell us how being a travel nurse helped them pay off an extraordinary amount of debt in a relatively short amount of time.

Kristie: I have been a nurse for 5.5 years and traveling for 3. I bought a used motor home and have been traveling throughout the country with my husband and dogs. I feel like I have a blessed life and make the most out of each day!

Synita: Hello! My name is Synita and I am former travel nurse. I am originally from North Carolina but currently living in the Nashville, TN area. I have been a nurse for 5 years and have traveled for half of that time. I am currently taking a break from travel nursing to pursue my Master’s in nursing (family nurse practitioner).

Jay: My name is Jay Beckerich, I am a former travel nurse. I just moved to Destin, Florida for better weather and beautiful beaches. My hobbies include personal finance, guitar/singing, and photography.

How much debt did you pay off? What was it?

Kristie: I have paid off $100k in debt so far from traveling. That was mainly credit cards and repairs to the RV. We had already paid off the house before I became a nurse. We have student loans, the RV, and the car left.

Synita: I paid off $36,000 of student loan debt in 9 months!

Jay: The first time I paid off a lot of debt (at least it was a lot of debt for my income) was when I was in the Air Force. I was way in over my head with about $4,000 of debt. I decided to stop spending money on “crap” and auto paid every pay check towards credit cards. It took several months, but I really put the pedal to the metal and the feeling after the credit cards were paid off was way more fulfilling than having any of the “stuff” I thought I wanted or needed.

What motivated you to start the process? What kept you motivated?

Kristie: I attended a Dave Ramsey financial peace university course and that changed my course of debt management. I stay motivated by the $0 at the end of the tunnel.

Synita: My church started a series on financial freedom based off of the Dave Ramsey program and it fired me up. The biggest thing that kept me motivated was my desire to become a curse breaker (financial poverty/lack) and trail blazer in my family. I wanted them to see that it’s possible not to be in bondage to debt. Also, I wanted to travel the world and not have to worry about money being an issue.

Jay: I felt like a slave to the debt. When I actually read about how much extra something cost after interest is calculated, I decided to never let debt control me again.

How did travel nursing help you accomplish this? Do you typically pick up OT? Did this have any influence on where you traveled to?

Kristie: Travel nursing helped me to earn extra money to put towards bills and get out of this ditch I was buried in with no other way out. I pick up OT to have excursions while on assignment. Yes, I do let money talk and tell me where to travel to, within reason.

Synita:  Travel nursing helped me to accomplish this by doubling my income so that I could pay my debt off faster. I worked one day of overtime a week to have the extra money coming in. It did not influence where I traveled, but I wanted to make sure that wherever I went there were extra shifts or agency jobs where I could work those 4-day work weeks.

Jay: When I started travel nursing I was already debt free for the most part (besides a mortgage and truck payment). At this point, I turned my interest into the stock market. I went to the first assignment on my own. I was making $1700/week and my rent was only $1300/month for a small one bedroom, own entrance. I would pick up OT which made my take home around $2200 a week. I was researching the stock market and used investment calculators. Some weeks I would put in 1k into my investments. I have since slowed way down, but there is no way I could have done this with debt.

Did you have any set backs or road blocks?

Kristie: Yes, there were repairs to the RV that totaled almost $10k that we were NOT planning on nor budgeted.

Synita: I had no setbacks or road blocks because I was focused.

Jay: My major set back was that I wanted a new truck. I was towing a car across the country at the time, so I bought the truck I own to this day. I still make payments on it, and it is pretty much the only bad debt I have. I pay an extra $100 a month on it. That is really the key to paying things off, chip away at it automatically.

What did you do differently than before to make this happen?

Kristie: I used credit cards to get through the humps in life. Not a good answer.

Synita: What I did differently than before was stay focused. Its easy to start something but often hard to continue it, especially when you see no instant gratification. I also had a friend that was also debt free that I asked to keep me accountable so that I could stay on track. I do believe that accountability helps because you don’t want to disappoint or show signs of failure.

Jay: The main difference in my life now compared to when I was in debt. PAY YOURSELF FIRST! Whether that is paying off debt, or putting into investments. Every Monday I have money go into several investment accounts. You can’t spend what isn’t as easily accessible.

What are your top 3 pieces of advice for a fellow nurse?

Kristie:

  1. Get a goal and stick to it.
  2. Get a mentor for everything in life.
  3. Live life, not work for a living.

(From hubby-take advice from professionals, not the person getting you a job. I.e. tax implications of traveling)

Synita:

  1. Have a timeframe of when you want the overall goal accomplished then set monthly goals according to that and CRUSH them.
  2. Get an accountability partner.
  3. Have a debt free vacation destination that you want to visit. Print out a picture and post it where you can see it every day. When you get discouraged, look at that picture and remind yourself of that reward at the end

Jay:

  1. Pay off your high interest debt first. You need to look at how much it is costing you and actually get mad at it. If you have student loans, they may be split into different interest rates, change it so that the extra money you pay goes towards the highest interest first. The other option is called the snowball method. Write down all of your debt and the balances, then go pedal to the metal towards the lowest balance. Once that is paid off, whatever money that was going towards that, now goes towards the next lowest balance. I helped my friend Ryan do this and he is now debt free after paying off 12k.
  2. Whether it is putting your money into savings, putting it towards debt, or contributing to investments, pay yourself first! Some people make 40k a year and have nothing to show for it. Don’t be that person.
  3. Use time to get wealthy. Compounding interest is amazing. If you start investing at the age of 25 compared to 30 or 35, it can be several million dollars difference by the time you are 60.

How did you feel once you paid off you student loans/debt?

Kristie: Amazing! It motivates me to keep going. The stress that comes with debt is unbelievable and can ruin marriages.

Synita: When I paid my debt off, I WAS SHOCKED! I WAS FREE! It honestly took me a while to process what had happened. For the first time in my life, I accomplished something that I never thought I could do. I felt BLESSED!

Jay: There truly is nothing like being debt free and having no financial stress! I think this is also super important before people get into relationships. Finance is one of the biggest marriage killers.

What did you learn?

Kristie: That a LOT of others that need a hand up, not a handout. If I am free from debt, I can help my kids more with theirproblems.

Synita: I learned that the best way to accomplish anything is to have an optimistic attitude, shut out the negative people that say its impossible, pray, and stay focused. If you are determined to get there, IT WILL HAPPEN! Consistency=Results

Jay: I learned the stock market is not as complicated as wall street wants to make it. Wall street wants you to pay someone to manage funds for you, fees, fees, fees. You can do it yourself. If you have zero idea on what to do, look into index funds. Low fees and easy to buy, they even pay dividends. They give you money just for owning the stock/mutual funds!

What is your next financial goal?

Kristie: To get to $0. Then I will save for retirement. I am still following Dave Ramsey’s seven steps, just a little out of order.

Synita: I am actually living one of my short-term financial goals. My goal was to save enough money to pay for my master’s degree while only working 1-2 days a week. I’m grateful to God that I’ve reached that. Another short-term goal is to pay cash for a car. My long-term goal is to reach six figures in my savings account.

Jay: I have hit a pretty good milestone a few months ago, I would like to double that in the next 5 years. I am working on getting more passive income my way. I currently have two mortgages and make money on one of my homes, and  I have a roommate in my other house. I live very close to the beach for a very low cost. With that being said, I am very happy with my current financial situation.

Have a debt story you would like to share? Let us know below!