One of the most interesting parts of presidential election season is looking at candidates’ finances.
We so rarely feel comfortable talking about money among family and friends, and this required financial disclosure is like getting all the bigwig money gossip. Who would have guessed that Donald Trump is still making money off a book he wrote almost 30 years ago?
The latest candidate to be thrown into this fire: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. And here’s what we found interesting about his disclosure: this GOP presidential candidate happens to have a bunch of debt.
Walker’s report was released early this week, and National Journal reporter Shane Goldmacher pointed out the juicy parts.
“His newly published financial disclosure shows that, like many Americans, Walker has few assets, some major debts … and a punishing interest rate on his credit-card obligations,” Goldmacher reports.
That credit card interest rate? Almost 30%.
Say what? 30%?! Sounds like Walker needs to start reading The Penny Hoarder!
Let’s help him out and explain how to fix that financial mistake.
What the Heck is a Financial Disclosure?
When presidential candidates announce their campaigns, they have 30 days to release a financial disclosure statement to the Federal Election Commission. But the rules are more than a little accommodating.
While candidates have to disclose all financial details for themselves, their spouses and dependants, they’re only required to offer amounts in ranges — not exact numbers.
Candidates are required to file financial disclosure within 30 days of announcing their campaign, or by May 15, whichever is later. But they can get two extensions of 45 days each, which just stretches this whole process out for months.
What does it mean for the nosy public?
FEC disclosures are the gift that keeps on giving. It takes up to a month for the FEC to release the reports once they’re finally submitted, which means we will have several more presidential candidate reports to explore (and let’s be honest: gawk over) over the summer and early fall.
Walker’s Credit Card Debt: Surprisingly Relatable
Goldmacher’s study of Walker’s report reveals the governor suffers from the same problem as many Americans: serious credit-card debt.
One of his credit cards has a balance between $10,000 and $15,000. That one has an interest rate of 11.99%, which isn’t too bad.
But another credit card also has a balance between $10,000 and $15,000… with an interest rate of 27.24%.
Walker also has student loan debt of more than $100,000 for his two sons, Goldmacher reports. We can relate to that!
His investments are modest; six were reported with a value of less than $15,000 each.
We can’t help but wonder: How’s Walker going to convince a nation he can manage its finances when his own seem to be less than excellent?
Or maybe these debts make him, well, more like us?
How Scott Walker Should Deal With His Debt
Scott Walker could fix that 27% interest rate before the general election — heck, maybe even before the primaries.
Here are a few Penny Hoarder-approved methods:
1. Renegotiate the Interest Rate
If you’re paying at least your minimum each month and haven’t missed payments, your credit card might be willing to give you a break. You just have to ask.
We recommend Walker (or a designated peon) use a negotiation script to stay cool during the interaction.
He probably won’t be able to cut that interest rate by half, but take the percentage points where you can get them, Scott.
2. Cut Spending
We get it. Campaigning to be leader of the free world is expensive. But there are a ton of ways to cut back. A Harley Davidson devotion can get pricy quickly!
Walker should stick to his beloved Kohl’s for everyday needs and hold off on major purchases until that debt is destroyed. (Hey, does Walker know if shops through Ebates, he’ll get an extra 6% cash back?)
3. Prioritize the Debt
If we’re looking at interest rates alone, Walker’s credit card with 12% interest rate is no big deal. Set it aside, keep paying minimums and focus on that ridiculously high interest rate on the other credit card.
By reducing the balance on the card with the highest interest rate, you can slow the growth of the debt on that card. If Walker can squash that high-APR credit card once and for all, campaigning for votes and donations might feel a bit easier.
4. Transfer the Balance
Balance-transfer offers abound with interest rates hovering near 0%. Reap the benefits of a limited-time interest rate break by doubling up payments on the offending balance. For example, the Chase Slate card offers 0% for the first 15 months.
One couple used this method to pay off a $2,000 debt in 14 months. The key to success with this method is to focus on paying the rolled-over debt before the introductory offer expires — otherwise you might get stuck with another high interest rate.
5. Snowball the Payments
It’s difficult to determine whether this method would help Walker, since we don’t know the exact amounts of his credit card debts… but it’s worth a try.
Instead of focusing on interest rates, the snowball method works with overall debt balances. You pay minimums on all your debts except for the smallest ones; you knock out each debt one by one, putting as much money as possible onto your next target debt.
For Walker, this may mean tackling his high-interest card first, but that card may come later on the list if it has a lower balance overall.
Whichever method Walker uses, getting his personal debt under control is bound to make life on the campaign trail a little less stressful. If you were riding around on a big bus for weeks at a time, wouldn’t you want to know your finances are in order back home?
Your Turn: If you could give Scott Walker any financial advice, what would it be? (Be nice, folks!)
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Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor, and podcaster living in Washington, D.C.