Yours Truly, Not Debt Free Anymore?

We’ve been living a life of complete bliss being debt free for several years now. However, 2017 hit us hard. On July 2017 our house was targeted for a shooting, it was 11pm and I was doing my night devotional in my living room. The vandals shot several rounds of bullets to my house, luckily none of them penetrated and were stuck in our impact resistant door. Even with security cameras, the police informed us that they couldn’t do anything as the shooters removed the plates and covered their faces with hoodies. Needless to say, my husband and I did not feel safe at all. Not only we experienced shooting at our front door, we also started seeing some weird Santeria going on in the neighborhood and drug dealings happening right in front of our property; hence we decided it was time to move. It was not our intention to raise our two children in this kind of environment. Our house was completely paid off, upgraded and beautifully maintained so we knew it was going to be an easy sell. And so it was, we received 5 offers within 3 days in the market.

We had clear goals of what we wanted in a property: 4 bed/3 baths, family room (which we never had before), 2 car garage, nice front and backyards, updated kitchen, established neighborhood. However, in Miami, such a property can run up the $400K and we wanted to pay cash for it if all possible.

We were very confused as to what to do since we’ve been debt free including the house but kept praying to God to guide us and find the perfect house in a secure neighborhood for us. We put offers through our realtor in 2 houses, but the deals became a bidding war and we ended up not getting those houses. I started looking on my own and found a neighborhood that I like with a house that required me to carry a small mortgage and a need for a second car for my husband (we currently have only 1 car).

I paid for inspections on this house, secured a lender for the mortgage and while on inspection we got a heavy downpour in which part of the ceiling of this house collapsed. Needless to say, we abandoned that contract.

We kept praying for an answer and guidance. As were driving by a neighborhood near my husband’s job we saw a realtor sign at a house that had all the things we wanted, two car garage, 4 rooms 3 baths, nice curb appeal and a small yard. We call the realtor and she said she was going on vacation and if we wanted to see the house it had to be that evening. When we went inside, I knew that it was the house for us. The price was right so that we didn’t need a loan, we used our savings and the sale of our house proceeds to buy and close in cash for our new house! We made an offer on the spot, and it was accepted within hours.

As blissful as the move was to our perfect house we got hit with another surprise. Prior to the closing we got visited by Hurricane Irma. The house we owned for 17 years stood perfectly with minor damage to the side hedge so the selling was not disrupted. Our perfect new house didn’t carry the same faith. We lost the back fence, had extensive tree trimming work to do, a small leak in the garage, a broken window, a faulty garage door and an air conditioner unit that had seem better days.  Regardless of those things we move to our new house, depleting completely our savings and emergency fund.

Heavy downpours were happening around the area, and the new neighborhood was full of debris from the hurricane. But we loved the new house. Little by little we fixed the window, the garage door, the leak in the garage, the air conditioner but we still have no fence. At this time we were netting $0, but still not in debt. Around the second week of living here, the toilets started bubbling up. We call a plumbing company and found that when the cable company installed the fiber optic, they impaled the sewer line right smack in the middle. This in turn caused a sink hole in our driveway. This new emergency put us in the red and now we are in debt again.  The advantage that I have is that with no mortgage payment, we feel we have a bigger shovel to cover this hole.

As a write this I’m implementing my strategy of budget. I’m following my own advise and developing the plan to be debt free again. My target day is May 21, 2019, just in time for our 20th year wedding anniversary. What a great gift to have that day, the day that I once again become debt free!


What's Your Money Language

Your Money Language

Many people don’t realize that when it comes to money matters we might be speaking a different language. Heck, sometimes we are speaking a dialect for that matter! Just as in life, there are verbal and non-verbal components to the money language we speak.  We often feel alienated and misunderstood, and these differences aggravate when we have a partner who speak a different money language than us. I have noticed that having a common language might not mean success all the time either when the language spoken is part of the “money slang”. However, understanding our money language and that one of our partner opens doors to devise a successful plan to win with money.

 Language is a matter of cultivating a means of communication. It is often like a filter that let us know what is relevant or not to the other person that we are speaking to. The difficulty with this is that more often than not we are not clear on what our money language is. When it relates to money matters most of us don’t have a clue how to “speak well”. This is no fault of our own as our society treats money like taboo and we are more likely to learn about our friend’s sex life than about how much money they made last year. There’s also a non-verbal component of our money language. This one is greatly influenced by peers and our desire to keep up with the Joneses. This part of non-verbal communication is determined by our actions on where we decide to spend the money that we have and sometimes the money that we don’t have.

We learn by association, even when others are not trying to teach us. We get tidbits of our money language from the relationship our parents had with money. We also learn from our teachers in schools, from our peers, TV, the press, the internet and unfortunately from hearsay. Unless one seeks for more information, the general knowledge of our money language will extend to currency and basic math if we are lucky.

I have compiled a list of 6 of the main money languages to help you identify your own. Please note that you might identify yourself, or your significant other, in one or more of these. Your money language can be one or a combination of the following:

1.      Elementary – Those who speak elementary are a big majority of the population. This language often has an understanding of currency and basic math (addition and subtraction), however they have not been instructed to understand how accounts works, how to spend or save. When you speak elementary, you are wary of financial words; usually feeling inadequate or left out if other people are talking about finances. Pros: Opportunity for Growth

2.      Nerd – When you speak nerd you are analytic. You probably are well structured in your accounts. The balance of your portfolio in your language is a gauge equivalent to your winnings and success. You have a good handle of your money and keep tabs of where you spend, save and invest. The person that speak this language often uses software or ledgers to keep their accounts organized. Nerds are usually anal retentive and like to push their language to non-nerd speakers. Pros: Organized and analytic

3.      Free Spirit – When you speak free spirit, you are friendly, loving and most likely driven by a sense of contribution. Speaking free spirits are usually poor money managers. The free spirit language often is guided by “intuition” and feeling and is impulsive. Most likely you are disconnected from money matters, as an example not knowing your debt or savings balances.  Pros: Charitable, loving

4.      Spender – Although a speaking spender might or might not know how much money is available to spend, they still find a way to acquire what they want now. For this language, there’s no waiting. This language is fluent on instant gratification no matter the consequences. Spenders are shopaholics. Spenders are big in non-verbal actions as their high comes from acquiring material goods and flaunting. For spenders money means the ability to relate to “certain” groups or strata of people. Their highs are brief and soon enough they find themselves shopping for their next hit. Pros: Seekers of value and satisfaction

5.      Accumulator – Speaking Accumulators are Nerds on steroids. Not only they possess the qualities of the nerds but they also lack the ability to spend their money for themselves and for others. People who are fluent accumulators lack trust of financial institutions and usually hoard large amounts of money where they can get their hands to them quickly. Not spending, even in necessities, becomes the goal and it gives them a sense of security and satisfaction. Pros: Innate Savers

6.      Denier – Speaking deniers are those who don’t want to talk or think about money as well as those who believe that money is bad. Usually those fluent in denier have the mentality that the little man can get ahead, that those damn 1% people are exploiting the world and we can’t do anything about it. Pros: Challenge the Status Quo

The fact that we can speak a different money language is usually what makes our financial interpersonal relationships difficult. As I said before, even when speaking the same language, if for example, your partner and you are both deniers, there’s little hope “to get ahead”. Or if you’re both nerds, then the overwhelming task to be planners and have everything organized before proceeding can cause “financial paralysis”. The goal is at least to become bilingual in our money language. All languages have their pros and that’s where we should concentrate on.  

Now let’s talk about “money slang”. Often, couples believe that because they are committed, their partner is agreement with them in their money language, however communication between the partners has never been established. As an example we can have the 20 year marriage in which the man has a career and the lady works at home. He believes that since he “earns” the money, he can make all the household financial decisions, while the wife feels that her needs are not met since she doesn’t feel like an equal partner. What is missing here is a translator that can get them on the same page by making them both understand their money language. This couple has to sort out their “money slang” and become bilingual in each other’s language in order to have a successful money language. Another “money slang” some people run into is the ignoring of their actual financial situation. They believe that somehow by not looking into their reality things will “work out”. This attitude creates a tension and stressful situation when it comes to money and often triggers insecurities and health issues. To these individuals money becomes a mystery, complicated. They often don’t feel adequate enough to handle their own finances and are drowned in debt and obligations. These people are in need of guidance, a teacher that will help them sort out what money is and help demystify their situation.

There are important strengths and weaknesses when it comes to money languages. My challenge to you is to start the money conversation in your life. If you are married or in a relationship, start communicating with your partner about what things are important to you when it comes to money. Inquire and listen to their concerns and fears and be open to learn their language. If you are single, find an accountability partner that can help you identify what your pros and cons are in your life with regards to your money language and beliefs.

Need more help?

Feel free to book a 90-minute session in person or by phone to talk about your money language and strategies to speak a better financial language!

Myrelie Colon-Vilar
Financial Coach – The Wealth Element
Phone: 305-546-5429/

It’s going to rain, get ready

Have you noticed that is at the time of need, after we hit rock bottom that our most significant discoveries are made?
I recently found myself at the crossroads of a major life decision. I’ve been battling breast cancer and depression for the past two years. My employer was graceful enough to retain my position for all this time but even now I have no medical clearance to go back to work. My scheduled is consumed between waiting in doctors’ offices, phone conversations with the insurance and a great deal of physical and IV therapies. To say I am exhausted is an understatement. This June 11 was my deadline to reintegrate back to my full time work. Needless to say after lots of consideration my family and I decided for me to officially quit my full time job and concentrate on my health.
Over the last year I have been working diligently with the Dave Ramsey’s Team to be certified as a Financial Coach. I have followed his program for about 8 years prior and it’s been the biggest blessing I have received in my family’s financial life. I love helping people realize that they too can achieve financial independence.
At this time, I can truly say I’m extremely proud I prepared financially and that I followed Dave Ramsey’s common sense techniques. The reason why I was able to make this decision, is because money was not a part of the equation. All my needs have been taken care of and we learned as a family to live on a one income budget while preparing for financial independence.
My discovery is that when you remove money worries from the equation, decisions become easier to make. When you are prepared for that rainy day, things that would’ve set out to be crises become inconveniences. Arguments about material things decrease as you work out a plan with your partner to achieve common goals.
As I write this blog I ask you to prepare and get ready for the unknown. It’s going to rain for sure at one time or another in your life. Make sure that you are prepared. Let me help you and guide you on your journey.

START – ℞ for Living a Better Life

Years ago I assisted a conference given by Dr. Gabriel Cousens where he indicated that the prescription for living a better life consisted of a simple formula that could be summarized in four steps:

  1. Find your life’s purpose
  2. Be thoughtfully optimistic
  3. Exercise and eat well
  4. Sleep

At the time, I took the advice at face value, however, it seem to me a little over-simplistic. This made me think that depending on where I was in my life’s journey, I had aspects of the prescription that were neglected, overlooked or ignored.  And isn’t it the goal to live a better, fulfilling life? Then if I wanted a better fulfilling life, my task was to implement this prescription in my life.

The formula seemed to make sense, but it was missing a key ingredient: “How?” I figured that if I can find the how for step 1, the other three steps will fall into place. I started my research of figuring out a how to decipher step 1, finding your life’s purpose. I quickly found out that this step was not too simple.

I gathered that if somehow I could translate step 1 as some kind of formula, then it will be simpler to follow and therefore reproducible. Notice that I used the word simpler and in no means I believe this process is easy. It might take a lot of trial and error to find out what your life’s purpose is, but is an experiment that it’s worth the try.

I started by thinking: If I could have a “designer” life, one that will be worthy of a magazine cover, then what would I fit in that life? I also noticed that the possibilities for this this magazine cover were endless and it was up to me to decide whether or not I include material things on it.  Whether it’s about the “feeling” that I’m trying to convey or about things I want to have, or a mix of both. And I recognized that it is about my most pure happy essence.

So the first step of my formula was to list all the things I wanted to “have” as part of my magazine cover. I took a piece of paper and wrote a list of 5 things as if they were going to be featured headlines on the cover. When I analyzed my goals, dreams, wishes and desires (GDWD) I realized that they required certain amount of work in order to achieve them. Logic tells me that after I put out the work, I can be or have that thing I wish to have. Right? I challenged myself to analyze the following model of life: “Have + Work = Be” as a possible formula for finding my life’s purpose. I thought it to be a simple formula, easily reproducible and was determined to prove if it would work.

I found out that sometimes the formula worked and I was elated. Let’s say I wanted to have a new car, first thing I did was identify the make and model or the car I wanted and worked by gathering all the information on pricing, checked if I needed financing or I could cover it with saving, researched dealer prices and as a result I could call myself the proud owner of a new car (Be – the owner). The formula seemed simple and workable, however, more often than not, I ran into the trap of putting limits on myself in the resources category while I was doing the work required to get my ”haves”. Sounds familiar?

I often dreamt of the future as distant, mostly thinking of these GDWD as things that were only written on my little paper. I had the vision I wanted to “have” but there was something else missing. My GDWD were some kind of ethereal wishful thinking that only existed in my imagination and on my little paper. Yet, I wanted to find the way of bringing these GDWD to my physical realm. I found myself at times facing doubts and thinking I could only achieve my “haves” or things if I had more time, less stress, more money, more contacts, better technology, more knowledge, experience, more love and support, better health, etc. The list can go on forever. I noticed that when I followed the formula, more often than not, it failed in the deliverance due to excuses that I used to convince myself for the lack of resources. I also notice than when the formula worked I had no excuses that prevented me from tackling the lack of resources. Then there lies the answer. My father has always said that excuses only satisfy those who give them. So they key is to break through those excuses and start the process of achieving, acquiring and becoming those “haves” that will fulfill your life’s purpose. I should’ve looked at step 2 from the beginning, Be thoughtfully optimistic. Step 2 gives you the key to fulfill step 1. It is not the lack of resources that will determine the outcome to gather your “haves”, it is the ability for you to become resourceful enough to conquer and eliminate your excuses, i.e. “Be thoughtfully optimistic”. I realized that one cannot start with “have” as the first step, one must start in the state of being. Then the starting point for figuring out our life’s purpose is to start with “Who you are!”

Right now my formula looks like this: “Be + Work = Have”. I have figured out that in order to have whatever I want, I must first become that thing I wish to Be. My vision of the future (those things or feelings I want to “Have”), once identified should be planned on a strategic outline in order to be achieved.  If at any point I see that the strategy is not working, I have the ability to device a new one and start the process again instead of finding an excuse for a lack of resources.

The most crucial part of the formula is not even in the equation, and that is to start right where I am. Get things in line, but not arbitrarily, by identifying my GDWD and taking personal responsibility for the outcomes I am willing to become and the work I am willing to put forth. Understanding that my vision is part of the whole that is my life is the key to bring about the satisfaction to live my life’s purpose. Having the ability to also experiment many life’s purposes and giving myself the opportunity to become them, experience them, learn and discard those which don’t fulfill me anymore.

I give myself permission to reinvent myself as many times as it takes to live a better life on my terms. And to study those who have those “haves” that I want and follow their example on how they became “it”. I will strive to become “it” by studying how a person with those characteristics behave, and mimic their strategies. I promise myself that from now on I will follow Steps 3 and 4 to protect my body temple and have a solid foundation for which to build this person I am becoming. The main goal is to start getting motivated in the idea of better living. My life’s purpose is my motivation in order to unite all the scattered aspects of my life, as I have figured out that compartmentalization does not make any sense.

I want to challenge you to start the quest for a better living. Realize that life is not all about money and material things. Although it is nice to have things and prosperity, these are no guarantee to a life’s purpose. Start becoming what you want by finding your life’s purpose with the formula “Be + Work = Have” and follow the doctor’s prescription. And remember to share from the start, because those who learn to share early will have even more to share in the future. Start now!

Consolidation of Credit Card Traps

So, you are considering a Debt Consolidation Company (DCC) as part of your financial plan? Here is some eye opening advice to follow before taking this important decision. The idea of somebody else handling your money might sound appealing to some, but in this case out of sight, out of mind might not be the best strategy to modify your mindset and get you closer to financial independence.

Let’s explore how most Debt Consolidation Companies work. The DCC provides you with a representative that will interview on how many credit cards you have, current interest rates and outstanding balances. Most likely they will inquire to some or all the Credit Reporting Bureaus, starting the “hit” on your credit score. After the debts are identified, the company will request you to open an account in which you will make your consolidation payments to. First thing that gets paid out of this account is the DCC fee. As they accrue a substantial amount on this account, they tell you that they are in the negotiation process with your cards, and they advise you not to pay any cards. You fall delinquent for nonpayment, establishing another hit on your credit score. Meanwhile, you keep paying up the account that was set up by the DCC. After you have deposited a fixed amount in the account, which by the way will cover the DCC fee first, then they will start negotiating with your creditors. It is important to know that the only way a credit card account is up for settlement for less than what is owed, is because the account is late in payments. At this point, your credit is ruined for non-payment of your obligations and the credit card company will start to negotiate the debt with the DCC on your behalf. But the story doesn’t end there, here’s where Uncle Sam will catch up with you.

As an example, you have a card where your principal balance is $5,000. You do not pay income tax on the $5,000 because it is not income; when you did your purchases you understood and had every intention to pay back the credit card. Life happens and you can’t pay your balance and you approach a DCC to help you with the problem. They set up your account and tell you that you must pay equal monthly payments of $218.75 for eight months (Total of $1,750). Of that amount their fee is 15% of the debt negotiation (about $750 which they will cash immediately), the remainder $1,000 is all they are negotiating to pay to the credit card company. Now let’s say the DCC is successful and the credit card company stops attempting to collect the debt from you. The settlement on your $5,000 is $1,000 plus what you have already paid to the DCC as their fee, $750. Now, the credit card company has to balance their books, right? So they effectively forgave you $4,000 and somehow will have to report this as a loss. Any forgiven debt that the DCC negotiates for you will typically be counted as income and will be subject to taxes. At the end of the year, when you thought all was fine and dandy, you will receive a Form 1099-C from the credit card company that will show the negotiated settlement amount and you will be responsible to report the “savings” as income in your tax return.

Now let’s run the same scenario on your own. If you are late on your payments and have cash at hand, it is often possible to negotiate terms, interest rates, and payments on credit card debt on your own. You must make it a job to call these credit card companies often. Jot it down on your agenda and call constantly (minimum twice per week). It is not difficult, it only takes determination and patience to get over this hurdle. Let’s say you have the same $5,000 balance debt as above. First thing you have to get clear with the credit card is your intention to settle the balance and the need that you have for them to stop the accruing of interest on this account. Let’s say you have been able to save the same $1,750 as the example above. Now this quantity can be applied all to the principal in a settlement. Offer the credit card company this money if they are willing to provide you in writing a settlement letter on this account. Never, under any circumstance, give electronic transfer access to the credit card account or pay them the settlement amount before receiving a letter from them listing the terms agreed on your settlement. Once you get the settlement letter, pay off the account and make the note “Paid Settlement in Full” on your personal check or cashier’s check, never pay by Electronic Transfer Fund (ETF). This way when they cash the check, you have a paper trail to substantiate your payment.  Please note that this scenario won’t save you from Uncle Sam either. You will be getting a Form 1099-C for $3,250 that you will have to report as income on your tax return, that’s $750 less that you have to pay income tax on from the scenario above.

You can also try to negotiate a settlement of the amount you owe directly with the credit card company. This scenario is not likely to yield forgiveness of the debt but I encourage you to try nonetheless. The steps you take and the options available will depend on your situation and on the credit card company that you are dealing with. Be forewarned that the credit card company may not be willing to entertain or negotiate a credit card balance debt settlement if you are in good standing. In that case you might consider settling for keeping the principal debt but closing the account to stop the accruing of interest.

The best advice I can provide you with is to aggressively pay off the balances until they are paid in full. This scenario avoids the tax consequences any settlement trigger and will help keep your credit score build good standing. There are several ways to do this and I can help you devise the best plan for you and your family. Contact me by email at to set up an appointment and devise a plan to get rid of your credit card debt once and for all.