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How to Get and Stay Out of Debt Despite Medical Setbacks (Deliveries from 4/1)

Hello. Welcome to the Roe Intense guide to getting and staying out of debt despite medical setbacks.

This 5 step process stinks. I’m speaking more about the challenge therein. You might say the same about the quality.

I’m serious about the challenge part. For the vast majority of Americans, medical setbacks are unwelcome surprises, not to mention three quarters of us live paycheck to paycheck and the average credit card debt per household is over 15 G’s.

These experiences are specific to myself and our family. I am sure it will be easy for you to relate. If not, just wait. Murphy loves you. Medical setbacks aren’t an ‘if.’ They are a ‘when.’

Let’s get started.

STEP 1: Wait for a medical setback to occur. (It won’t take long.)

Please note that this step is even more effective if you can pile your medical setbacks on top of tax and/or car repair setbacks.

I arrived at home on April Fool’s at around 7 PM from Nerd Job. It was my first Wednesday delivering pizzas, and yes I was late, but management was aware. (Cap’n let me switch my Tuesday shift to Wednesday. Our Church unit made a schedule change for youth activities.)  They’ve always been so accommodating.  

Several days prior, we found out that Ruth is going to need a $9,000 surgery for an epigastric hernia we were told a year ago she would grow out of.

We were already in possession of a medical setback when I set out to deliver cheesy gluten on Wednesday.

STEP 2: Pray for help with the setback. Or at least ask yourself over and over, “What am I going to do?”

I hurried about, getting ready to head out for deliveries. I took a few minutes to change clothes, kiss Amazewife, hug my kids, eat some stuff and use the restroom.  But I was tired. I felt sad. I felt determined to hit the streets, but still sad.

This sad feeling was being bolstered by my unconscious efforts at Step 2. But I didn’t find that out until Step 3 hit me.

STEP 3: Listen for impressions.

Whether you talk to God or yourself, someone is always listening. Take a minute to listen back.

With the wife kissed, clothes changed, kids hugged, stuff eaten and restroom used, I grabbed my keys. There by them on the console table sat my Bluetooth speaker from Christmas.

It was not my intention to take that speaker with me, but the impressions that I got were too intense to ignore. Something in the back of my mind said, “Dude, take the speaker and listen to Dave Ramsey’s archived shows. You have a good chance of hearing something from a family in similar circumstances. At the very least you’ll get fired up about sound financial principles.”

That’s just a blurb. It was more than that. The impression to take the speaker was carried in on a wave of remembrance that made my slight depression apparent. I wanted answers. I’d been praying for help down inside. It was a reminder of those prayers and questions. It was a reminder of the need to look around a little. It was a description of Conference talks that would work instead of Dave Ramsey, but TAKE THE SPEAKER. TAKE IT.

What could it hurt?

STEP 4: Follow the impressions and work hard to stay on track.

I took the speaker.

Dave Ramsey was fired up after my before-work prayer on the road. I arrived and started delivering pizzas. I listened to the show from that day and heard a lot of great calls. People were wisely counseled as far as I could tell.

Storm clouds were gathering on the northwestern horizon. I could see lightning strikes while out delivering. It was really cool. As I wondered about the storm, I drew myself back into the show and listened to a Debt Free Scream by John and Lori.

I’ll sum up. John and Lori paid off $85,000 in two years and two months. They were on their way to Florida to celebrate with their kids.

When asked what happened two years and two months ago, they explained that they got married. After that marriage, John went full bore and decided they were going to achieve financial peace. He drew spreadsheets. Readied budgets. Got buy-in from his family.

Then, six months in, he had a stroke.

The comment on the stroke is what grabbed my attention while I was out delivering pizzas. This was it. This was what I was looking for. Here was someone with a serious medical setback (to them) that still pulled off getting out of debt.

Here’s the amazing part of Step 4. If I had not listened to that impression and grabbed that speaker, I would have missed out. Homie had a STROKE, went through speech and physical therapy, still went out and hunted later that season and was now screaming his debt-freeness at Ramsey Solutions.

That could be me. That could be you. But we’ve got to work hard.

STEP 5: Repeat.

A couple weeks ago, Amazewife had to take the four year old Princess to the Urgent Care. She stuffed a sparkly pink bead up her nose.

Total time to remove the offending bling: 5-15 minutes. We got the bill today. $491.

It was actually $719, but insurance picked up a couple hundy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a terrible step. Why would repeating this over and over again help me get out of and stay out of debt despite medical setbacks? Why REPEAT setbacks?! That’s like punching holes in your moneybag, isn’t it?!

Chill out.

My wife and I didn’t give Ruth the hernia. My wife and I didn’t shove a bead up our daughter’s nose. (Eva told the nurse, “They usually come back out!” USUALLY?!?!) We weren’t standing in traffic when the car hit us. Step 1 is to just wait for the setbacks to occur. They happen. They always happen. You’ve just got to be prepared.

We’re paying cash or out of an HSA for Eva’s pink “foreign body removal”, the tax setbacks and the car. We’re still funding our emergency fund, and have extra to put toward the surgery, all because we were better prepared.

Setbacks are part of life. They are going to repeat whether you want them to or not.

As we’ve flexed more discipline in preparing for emergencies rather than self-medicating with spending, we’ve not only been able to handle the difficult hits. We’ve learned for ourselves that we can make it through.

To sum up (and to reword a bit):

Step 1: Accept the setback

Step 2: Pray for help and work within yourself on how to fix it

Step 3: Listen for answers

Step 4: Follow the answers and work hard to stay on track

Step 5: Repeat



  1. Most of us grew up with the idea that there is good debt and there is bad debt. Good debts are generally considered to be debts you incur to buy things that can go up in value—like a home or college education. Bad debts are things like credit card balances, where you borrowed money to buy things that depreciate or go down in value, like most consumer goods. Here you can find more about Debt Free Lisa Graham

    1. Hey Stiven, thanks for the comment!

      Voices are loud and strong when it comes to debt. Some label debt as good, some bad. I am a firm believe that all debt should be avoid, for "the borrower is slave to the lender," no matter who the lender is.

      Even with home mortgages, Dave Ramsey's philosophy is pay 100% if you can wait and save enough. If not, 20% on a 15/FR. Then pay it off super fast. We are in a mortgage now, and wish we hadn't gotten it for a number of reasons. But mortgage debt is debt.

      Continuing on the concept of home mortgages, I was a loss-draft processor when I got engaged to Amazewife. I would get phone calls from bank branches and individual mortgage customers holding checks in the hundreds of thousands of dollars because their house burned to the ground. It was the same story almost every time.

      "Why can't I cash this check?"

      "I'm sorry sir (madam), loss drafts (checks issued for fire and other losses on a mortgage) are issued in the name of the lender and the mortgage holder."

      I would then require them to deposit all that money with the lender, which would then take complete control of the money, issuing it out for repairs as dictated by policy.

      That's not good debt. That's not even ownership. That is a slave/master relationship. We talk about owning homes, but until that title has your name or my name or someone's name only, and not that of a bank... it's not ours. We're slaves to lenders.

      Big talk for a country drowning in debt. Important talk.


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