5 Secrets From Couples Who’ve Paid Off Debt, Built Empires and Semi-Retired by 35

Chris and Meghan Miller pose for a photo with their 8-month-old son Finnegan at their neighbor’s farm. Ting Shen for The Penny Hoarder
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Are you one part of a couple? Someone’s better half? Partner in crime?

That’s good news, because we’ve got plenty of money tips from real couples who’ve paid off debt, improved their credit scores and built business empires.

They share their tips and secrets to financial success. And, hey, you two can even start using some of their strategies right now.

Secret No. 1: Vow to Pay Off Your Debt, For Richer or For Poorer

If you’re like the majority of Americans, you’ve probably got debt. And unfortunately, it doesn’t just disappear when you get married. In fact, it might feel even more overwhelming if you’re trying to tackle your combined debt together.

Here’s what we suggest: Refinance and consolidate your debt.

What’s that mean? Take out a personal loan, one that has lower interest rates and more favorite terms than your current situation. Then, you’ll use that personal loan to pay off your debt. You can do this for your debt, their debt and even your combined debt.

It might sound counterintuitive at first — like you’re just moving one form of debt over to another — but the truth is, paying one bill each month will be a lot easier, and this could even lower your payments, save you tons of money in interest and/or allow you to pay off your debt faster.

If you’re not sure where to start looking, use a website called AmOne. It’ll match you with a low-interest loan — rates start at 3.84%. It won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. (We know you don’t have time for that.)

Refinancing and consolidating debt was one of the moves Deacon and Kim Hayes made to pay off $52,000 worth of debt in 18 months.

They had a few high-interest credit cards that carried more than 13% interest. This kept them from making any real progress paying them off, so they refinanced, which lowered their interest rate and, in turn, lowered their monthly payments. This helped speed up their process and within just 18 months the couple was debt free.

If you’re worried you won’t qualify for a refinancing loan, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars.

Secret No. 2: Start a $350K Business Empire

Back in 2007, Adam and Coryn Enfinger were a young, broke married couple who’d just had their first baby. Both of their cars broke down within the same month, and they couldn’t afford a new one. So Adam bought a bike to ride to work.

On one of his 17-mile commutes (one way), he had a business idea: Sell screen-printed T-shirts with animals on bikes.

Adam and Coryn worked odd jobs to make ends meet while they worked to launch what would become a $350K business, Dark Cycle Clothing.

Now, their first few attempts at selling products didn’t go so hot. At one event, they sold maybe two items. Coryn decided to list the extra products on Etsy, and that’s when things started taking off. In 2009, Dark Cycle Clothing became the couple’s full-time career.

Since then, they’ve started selling their T-shirts at markets again, which now makes up about a third of the company’s revenue. They’ve even hired someone to help out with photography and customer service.

“We were so busy,” Coryn said. “We grew really fast. I sometimes feel like we’re still catching up from the growth in the beginning because we didn’t start with a plan.”

“It took three or four years for us to really believe it was going to be our career,” Adam added.

The key to building a business together? Get creative, don’t give up, hustle hard and enjoy it!

Secret No. 3: Enjoy The Spoils of Passive Income and Semi-Retire by 35

Have you ever thought about investing in some real estate? No, you don’t need to have enough money saved for a down payment — you can start with a minimum investment of $500.

Through Fundrise, your money will be invested in portfolios of real estate around the United States.

You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina. And you don’t have to be the landlord — Fundrise does all the heavy lifting.

As tenants pay their rent, you can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation of the property.

We talked to Christopher and Meghan Miller, who at just 35 and 29, quit their full-time jobs and bought two acres in Berryville, Virginia. They live off their savings and income from side gigs — and use sources of passive income, like Fundrise, to add to their financial security.

They own rental properties, too, but Christopher said Fundrise is even better: “I view (these) investments as something even more passive than the rental properties we own. I don’t have to manage them; I don’t have to do the work to improve the properties; I don’t have to find tenants, evict tenants.”

Plus, it only takes $500 to get started with Fundrise — not $50,000.

Secret No. 4: Cancel Your Car Insurance

Here’s the thing: your current car insurance company is probably overcharging you. But don’t waste your time hopping around to different insurance companies looking for a better deal. 

Use a website called EverQuote to see all your options at once. 

EverQuote is the largest online marketplace for insurance in the US, so you’ll get the top options from more than 175 different carriers handed right to you. 

Take a couple of minutes to answer some questions about yourself and your driving record. With this information, EverQuote will be able to give you the top recommendations for car insurance. In just a few minutes, you could save up to $610 a year.

Secret No. 5: Add up to 200 Points to Both of Your Credit Scores

If you and your partner have plans to buy a car or home — or even rent a place — you’ll need a healthy credit score. But if you’re like many of us… when’s the last time you even checked your score?

Let’s start there. We suggest using a free website called Credit Sesame. We like it because, again, it’s free, and it takes less than two minutes to sign up. Once you have access to your score, you can take steps to improve it with Credit Sesame’s personalized recommendations.

Salome Buitureria and her husband, Alfredo, both struggled with bad credit. Both of them got laid off from their jobs, and the credit card bills started to stack up as they tried to support their nine kids. Their scores were in the low 500s.

They signed up for Credit Sesame and started taking its recommendations. For Salome, it helped her find an error on her report and dispute it. It also recommended a rewards credit card she could qualify for that’d help her improve her score.

Today, Salmone’s score is around 690, and Alfredo’s is at 701, and now they have big plans to buy a home soon.*

Just because you have bad credit now doesn’t mean you have to live with it forever. Credit Sesame will help you get there — it takes approximately 90 seconds to get started.

And if you have a partner in crime to keep you motivated along the way? Even better!

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

*Investing involves risk.