One Couple’s Journey From Debt to $1.5 Million in Savings


Andrea Coombes | NerdWallet

hen Al and Lesia Riddick got married 16 years ago, they had about $150,000 in debt, including a student loan, a car loan and a mortgage.

Now they’re debt free and have about $1.5 million in savings, despite the fact that their income was essentially cut in half for a while, after Al lost his job in 2010.

How did they do it? In addition to the obvious — cutting expenses — a big part of their success has been careful planning.

Tackling debt — and a new career

About two weeks after Lesia and Al met, Lesia bought a new car. “I was so excited. ‘I got a car!’ He just looked at me like, ‘You already had a car. Why did you need a new car? That’s just more debt,’” she says. “So I brought a car note into the relationship, but we paid it off and I’m still driving that car.”

The car wasn’t the only thing they paid off. Soon after they married in 2002, Al and Lesia started to focus on tackling their debts. They trimmed expenses, including ending a tendency to frequent high-end restaurants. They paid off all of their debt, including their mortgage, by the end of 2007.

Over those five years living in Cincinnati, their annual household income averaged about $149,000. Lesia is an engineer who works in IT, and Al worked at a pharmaceutical company. The couple doesn’t have kids.

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