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I hope you are doing well and staying safe. As we continue another week, I think we’ve finally found our rhythm. 

Looking at the news, however, we’ll probably have to shift things again as every state is figuring out the best plan and speed to open things up. 

As we all through this crisis, our routines, workloads, and our finances are affected.  

And depending on where we are with our financial journey and whether or not our job is ‘essential’, there’s a good chance that most of us have had to change things up with our budgets to accommodate this new normal. 

Next week, we’re releasing the first of the three-part podcast mini-series on how to handle your finances during this crisis because it’s still going to be a part of our day to day for at least the next few months. 

But as I’m researching, polishing up, and organizing these interviews into episodes, I’ve been releasing lightly edited videos of my chats. 

I’ve been interviewing different people that are not only experts in their field, but they’ve also had to deal with situations where there was something big to overcome. 

And that’s the case with Dr. Jeff Anzalone. He’s a dentist over in Louisiana. 

His story was interesting to me because years ago he had to deal with a huge crisis.

Things were going to be going well. He was a new dentist looking forward to starting his career. Had a wife and baby, but two weeks before he graduated, that job offer fell through.

No job. 

$300,000+ in student loans.

What was he going to do? 

In this interview, we’re going to be talking about how he was able to come up with a plan with so little time and to build not just a branch, but to get out of debt and to change and transform their family’s finances. 

You can watch the video right here or if you can read an edited transcript below.

I enjoyed chatting with Jeff. I hope this interview not only gives you some practical takeaways but also some encouragement!

Elle Martinez: Jeff, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to talk about something that I think is important with a lot of us going through kind of unprecedented times where each at different points in our financial journey. And when you reached out to me, I thought this was very interesting because you yourself have gone through a big change financially. So thank you for coming in. Kind of sharing your story today.

Jeff Anzalone: Yeah, my pleasure. Glad to help Any way I can.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I saw the number itself was huge, but it makes sense with your background is that you started and three hundred thousand dollars of debt. And I know much of it was probably student loans, but were there any other debts that you were carrying as well?

Jeff Anzalone: Well, this was actually 20 years ago. So you can imagine what the student debt load is now. It’s much more. And this was a public dental school at LSU. So the private dental schools, medical schools, a lot of the private professional schools are much more. I mean, I see some people on some of these forums that are asking practitioners, hey, you know, I’m six hundred thousand debt. Should I go another three hundred thousand debt to do a residency? That’s just like, wow.

Elle Martinez: Yeah.

Jeff Anzalone: But to answer your question, yes, there were other debts. Unfortunately, we had a a job offer that fell through. But two months prior to that, we had purchased a home. Now, you gotta remember, this was before the 2008 crash. Yeah. So we purchased a home, literally. I called my friend and went to high school with his dad as a banker. He said, oh, yeah, I know the group that you’re gonna go into practice with. We’ll make this happen to sign this one piece of paper and this house is yours. That’s that’s literally all we did.

Jeff Anzalone: And it was an interest only loan. So between student loans and that, it was it was over half a million dollars total.

Elle Martinez: I mean, that sounds I mean, that’s a mountain of debt. And obviously, you know, with your profession, it’s maybe different. But still, the idea of it’s hard to see light at the end of the tunnel. But I I kind of want to talk to you, like when you were at that moment and you mentioned you had a job offer and it fell through. Can you remember, you know, what you felt like, what was going through your mind because you were married, correct? Right. At that time. And that was the situation there.

Jeff Anzalone: Yeah, we’d been married for about three years, three and a half years. And we had a two month old. And so. So I had, you know, had two two miles to two other mouths to feed besides my own. So it was, I think, the first thought that went through my mind when I was told that the job offered that fell through, kind of started looking around, going am I my own candid camera? Is this a is this a joke? I mean, is so just I think the maybe.

Jeff Anzalone: Thing that kept going through my mind was. Kind of. I wouldn’t say hopelessness, but a lot of helplessness. You know, just helpless. What am I going to do now? Because we’re not taught how to start a business. Start a practice. You know, you get out of law school or any professional school. You know, you earn your trade and you usually you go in with a group to help teach you teach you that. And I think that was the biggest thing going through my mind is how with all this debt that I had had. How was I going to repay it back? Not knowing how to how to run a business?

Elle Martinez: Yeah. Yeah. I think a lot of people kind of. Can feel what you were going through at that time because it is difficult. Like, how do I carve this plan out? What was your motivation for getting out of debt? I mean, besides, I know making the payments and everything. But was there some point or a push you felt like, I don’t want to have this load around me?

Jeff Anzalone: One word fear. Mm hmm.

Elle Martinez: Mm hmm.

Jeff Anzalone: And that I really that was a point of my life that I really shifted my mindset about money and how I thought about money.

Jeff Anzalone: Because before I was thinking, hey, I’m going to get out. I’m going to get a good job, good income. I’m not really worried about paying off these loans because I don’t have a decent income. Yeah. To pay everything just got pulled out from under me, like, you know, the lot of people are experiencing with the coronavirus crisis. And, you know, depending on when you’re listening to this, so that that just kind of goes to show you that things can be taken away from me very quickly. Yeah. And I think that was the catalyst to really push me forward to get going.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I know. Sometimes it’s… It would be ideal if we can have these changes and pivot points like kind of like on our own, but I’ve seen a lot of situations where life kind of puts us in that position and we have to make a decision like, do I want to keep going or do I need to kind of pivot or redirect where I’m where I’m going? But you eventually became debt free. Just so I mean, congratulations. That is amazing. What was the hardest part of your journey? Because I know that wasn’t an overnight thing like you. You weren’t debt free. Then what changes did you and your wife have to make with your finances?

Jeff Anzalone: Well, we we had to start paying a lot more attention to them and know where the money was going and budgeting, and I’m a very visual person. So we bought one of those cheap dry erase boards and just involved the Dave Ramsey plan at that time. It just listed the debts smallest to largest, the smallest one that we had. I had six or seven different student loans. Yes, I just picked the smallest one. And then once once that went away, it just it just kind of got that snowball going and made me want to start trying to put more money to the next one, next one and so on and so forth.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. So what was the hardest change in your budget and what was the easiest change?

The let’s see the. I would say the hardest change…. We couldn’t do things that that we had planned on doing or were starting to do, like, you know, eating out as much or certainly not vacationing, and we had to put off, you know, self-sacrifice. You know, the easy as saying was whatever. As mentioned previously, whenever things started going and snowballing. That just made us want to get involved with it more. Hey, you know, we just paid off this one. Do you think we could put any more extra money at the next one? And then so on and so forth. So once it gets go on, it’s it’s pretty exciting seeing those numbers, you know, come down and you’re paying off that debt.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I do think that Dave Ramsey, his system works with that debt snowball because of those psychological wins and doing it based from lowest to largest loans with them. Was there any kind of like, you know, during a milestone, would you celebrate or how did you guys keep yourselves motivated besides seeing the numbers go down?

Jeff Anzalone: Yeah. You know, occasionally we would go out to eat or something like that, but that we we lived and we still continue to live frugally. But during those times, it was it was really lame. But, you know, when you’re when you’re first married and you have a a two month old, you really don’t leave much, you know. So. So it really it really wasn’t too tough as it is would be now with two teenagers. And, you know, they have all of their iPhones and all that stuff. So it’s a whole lot more expensive than, you know, when they’re a lot smaller.

Elle Martinez: Yes, most definitely. I appreciate you sharing your story, Jeff.

I know there are listeners right now like they’re going through this pandemic, like the financial stress of just staying at home and maybe not being able to work or bring in the income like they want to.

But they know things have got to change and they want to change their finances. So what would you say to them as far as like first steps?

What should they start doing now to set themselves up when things hopefully return back to normal soon?

Well, you know, as now that we’re still in the middle of this crisis, you know, I’m not able to work at all either.

You know, it’s been almost two months, so I’ve been just doing things to help with self improvement. I don’t think you can make a better investment than on yourself because as you as you improve, your income is going to improve. So that would be my recommendation for now. And then just, you know, I have to answer things based on my personal experience. So I would I would encourage people to to look at those baby steps that we went through, the seven baby steps that, you know, you’re going to have some people say, well, that doesn’t make sense. You should look at the one with the highest interest rate first. But, you know, if you have a two thousand dollar loan and then you have that’s, you know, maybe seven percent interest and then you have, you know, of thirty thousand dollar loan, which is twelve percent interest. Well it’s just it’s just hard to get go in paying off that $30000 loan. But once once you get that two thousand car loan and things start to happen.

Yeah. I think whatever method couples decide, it’s important to be honest with yourself which way is going to keep us motivated because it really is about consistency.

You know, those you might have some big wins upfront, but it’s the family, the couple that can keep a consistent back pay off that debt.

Thank you so much, Jeff. I appreciate you coming on!

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..