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November 19, 2019

How Our Kids Helped Us Pay Off $250,000 of Debt (Including our Mortgage) – with J’Neal McCoy


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For this month's Mortgage Freedom series, we're talking with the McCoy Family! They partnered together to pay off their mortgage early.

In the 3 years that I've been doing my podcast, I've never interviewed both parents and kids together! That's what we're going to do today.

J'Neal, Jeremy, Jensen and Miller McCoy are from Nixa, Missouri. J'Neal works at the local technical community college and Jeremy is an Assistant Principal at the local high school. And Jensen and Miller are currently working their way through 6th and 4th grade.

The interview below has been edited for easier reading.

Andy Hill: Why did you decide to pay off your mortgage?

J'Neal McCoy: We started our debt payoff about 8 years ago when we read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and we decided that we were going to start paying off debt. And we got crazy; we sold both of our vehicles, and we were all on board.

And then we started having vehicle trouble, ended up getting a new car, and then it just kind of spiraled. We failed miserably.

We just skated through for a couple of years, and then decided about three and a half years ago that we were going to get really serious and start paying off everything.

Both of us had car payments, student loan payments and a little bit of credit card debt. It wasn't a ton, but we just started snowballing it, like the baby steps say.

And once we got through that … I won't say it was easy, but it was like we had that momentum. And so we didn't want to stop, so we were like, “We have gone this far. We might as well just keep hammering down, and we might as well just get this mortgage paid off and then never have to worry about having a house payment again.”

Who's idea was it to pay off the mortgage?

Jeremy McCoy: J'Neal came up with the idea. She came to me and said, “Hey, I want to be debt-free and I don't want to have to worry about money.”

J'Neal did a lot of homework and she did have to convince me, but I was on board.

We were just like any other young couple. We were trying to keep up with the Joneses and everybody's got new cars and everybody's getting good jobs, and we talked about how we both grew up. And money wasn't a huge issue, but it was an issue, and we didn't want to have our kids deal with that. And we didn't want to have to deal with that for the rest of our lives.

So once she said, “Hey, we could have no payments and we could have money for retirement and we could have a good life together once our kids leave the house,” I jumped on board.

McCoy Family - happy young family with kids

What happened to make you get serious about paying off your debt again?

J'Neal McCoy: I just got to the point where I was like, “I want us to be able to do whatever we want, whether that be in our careers, whether that be vacations or what have you.” And we got to that point where I was like, “We're going to do this.”

And Jeremy is very onboard with anything. I could probably come home and say, “Let's travel the world for a year,” and he'd be like, “Okay, if you want to do that.” So we have a great relationship when it comes to that.

And so that support from him and wanting to make sure that we set our lives up for our kids to have good lives and be able to help them with college and do everything that we want to do, we knew that that was something that we really needed to do.

How did you get the kids involved in paying off your mortgage?

J'Neal McCoy: When we started paying the mortgage off, we made a chart and we put it up on the refrigerator. And so every time we would make a payment, the kids would get to color the squares in on the house.

So the kids were very involved with the process. Each one of our squares is worth $193, and it was like a total change in their mentality as far as like, “Oh well, if we don't buy that, then we could color in a square!”

Etsy Mortgage Payoff Progress Chart
A Mortgage Payoff Progress Chart on Etsy

So it was funny to see how their minds worked with it.

If we sell anything that they had gotten for their birthdays, we let them keep the money and do whatever they want with it. They either put it in their savings account or if there's something else that they're wanting to buy.

At one point, Jensen had sold some gymnastics bars, and she got $200! And Miller was like, “You could give that to Mom, and you could color in a square.” And so it was just funny how their minds changed, and how they started thinking about money as well.

A word from the kids …

Jensen McCoy: Yeah, it was like you were just coloring something, but it's like you achieved something. It really felt good that you got to be a part of something good that your parents were doing.

Miller McCoy: I liked paying off our mortgage because I've never seen anybody do it before.

How did you increase your income as you were paying off your mortgage?

J'Neal McCoy: About 5 years ago, I got my real estate license and we decided that we were going to start flipping houses. And we really kind of eased into it. We've only done about one flip per year, but it's provided enough income to help take a big chunk and throw it at the mortgage at one time.

And then also with me getting my real estate license, I have done some side real estate as well. And I had a couple of pretty successful years. One year, I actually ended up making more than my annual income at the college. So that was very, very helpful.

As busy young parents, how did you manage all of this extra work with full-time jobs and two kids?

J'Neal McCoy: We had parent-teacher conferences the other day, and Miller's teacher was telling us that he had told her he didn't have time to do an assignment because he spends every single night at Lowe's. So while we were flipping houses, the majority of our nights were spent either at Lowe's or at the house, and the kids always came with us and we made it a family thing.

The kids would play in the yard. When we bought our last house, it had a trampoline there. And so the kids were like, “Okay.” So we would work on the house, and they would play out on the trampoline at night.

And so they have been through all of it. They've been at every house and they've helped, they've painted, they've done everything.

That's one thing that I would suggest, that if you can make your whole entire family and your kids part of that side hustle and earning that extra income, it releases that guilt of not being able to spend that time with them.

Jensen McCoy: Yeah, I think it was cool because we got to feel like we were a part of what our parents have accomplished. And it wasn't just like, “Look what my parents did.” It was like, “Look what me and my parents did!” … instead of sitting back and watching them do all the work.

How much debt did you pay off in total? And how long did it take you?

J'Neal McCoy: A little bit over $255,000 and it took us 38 months.

For the first year and a half, we were just paying down the debt. And then by the time we got to the mortgage, we owed $107,000 on the house.

And then in that last year (I think we started in December of 2017), we started really working towards paying off the house, and so it took us about a year and a half to get that finished.

How did you celebrate when you paid off your mortgage?

Every year, we have a big 4th of July family party. And so to help pay off our mortgage that last little bit, we had had a rental property that we decided that we wanted to sell.

We didn't have a ton of equity in it, but we had just enough that when we sold it, we were able to pay off the remaining mortgage balance.

And so we were like, “Oh my gosh, how awesome would this be to be able to do this right on Independence Day and say, ‘We have earned our freedom'!”

McCoy Family on 4th of July

And so as soon as the bank opened on July 5th, that's whenever we wanted to pay it. But we had our big family 4th of July party on the 4th, and so it was really cool because we knew the very next day we were going in, we were closing on that rental property, and we were going to be able to go in and pay off that mortgage.

It was kind of funny because we have been just working so hard on this, that we had this idea in our mind that this is going to be so awesome. And we would walk into the bank and confetti would drop down as we handed the check for the payment.

We went in and we're like, “Okay!” And then we're all just kind of like, “Okay.” She was like, “Oh congratulations, you've paid off your mortgage.” We were like, “Yay!” So it was kind of funny because we had it so hyped up in our head.

What does life look like after your mortgage freedom?

Jeremy McCoy: We're looking at investing a little bit more, like J'Neal said, putting it into Roth IRAs and getting them fully funded.

Right now, we're kind of in limbo because we've never been here before. This is a new territory for us, but we want to be smart about it, and make sure we're making the right decision before we just start throwing things in different places.

First things first, we're going on a cruise to the Bahamas.

What advice would you have for someone looking to pay off their mortgage early?

J'Neal McCoy: I would say to make it a whole family event. It's easier when the kids understand what the goal is. And having everybody focused on that and knowing that is the goal for the family, it really changes things.

Are you working on paying off your mortgage early?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Happy debt free family


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Andy Hill

Andy Hill, AFC® is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and relaxing on his hammock.

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