In a Nutshell: Millions of U.S. residents struggle with debt. Choncé Maddox was once one of those people until she reached an epiphany — she didn’t want to struggle with finances any longer. Maddox launched My Debt Epiphany as a blog to document her own journey to financial health. Along the way, she became a financial expert herself. Today, the website features a trove of valuable information on how to approach debt and manage finances. Maddox said there is no magic solution — it simply involves educating yourself, setting goals, and working hard to achieve them. But My Debt Epiphany provides plenty of resources to help during the journey.
Living paycheck to paycheck while facing a significant amount of debt is a reality all too common for millions of U.S. residents. In fact, about 40% of Americans surveyed said they would not be able to pay for an unanticipated expense of $400 without going into debt — or further into debt.
The reasons people fall into these dangerous debt scenarios are numerous and vary from person to person. Some folks go into debt because they have to care for an ill family member. Others may be the sole household earner working at a minimum wage job.
The lack of financial literacy in the U.S. is undeniably a factor in many people’s financial struggles. Unfortunately, discussing finances in the household is still a taboo topic for many families. And similarly, many schools do not cover financial education — although that trend seems to be changing in recent years.
Thankfully, websites such as My Debt Epiphany offer tons of information and resources to help guide people along on their financial journeys.
The site not only features a wealth of articles covering the spectrum of personal finance topics but it also points readers to other resources that can help them get out of debt and lead a healthy financial life.
We spoke with Founder Choncé Maddox about her own experiences in dealing with and overcoming debt, helping others get a handle on debt, and financial tips.
Documenting the Journey to Financial Stability
Maddox said she started My Debt Epiphany as a blog in 2013 when she was going through her own financial challenges.
“I started it because I like to write, and I was reading other blogs and wanted to create a platform and a place to share my story and what I was going through,” Maddox said.
Maddox was a single mother in her early 20s who was struggling financially, and she finally just reached a point where she didn’t want to continue down the same path she was on.
“I was a single mom living in a low-income apartment on government assistance. My lowest point financially was when I had to search on the ground in the parking lot of my apartment complex for quarters because I couldn’t afford to wash my clothes,” Maddox writes on the website.
She said she’d had enough at that point. Maddox didn’t want her son to grow up with certain disadvantages because she was struggling with debt or not earning enough money.
“I had given myself every reason not to budget and not to try to fix things, then I figured ‘What do I have to lose? There has to be something better than this — not even being able to do my laundry,’” Maddox said.
So she started the blog to document her journey and dove head first into the world of financial literacy. It wasn’t long before her financial situation began to turn around.
She began an aggressive debt payoff plan in 2015.
“I cut my expenses, moved to more affordable housing, and ended up paying off $11,000 in debt including my high-interest car note after earning less than $35,000 for the entire year,” she wrote on the website. “I also started freelancing as a side hustle to bring in more money.”
In late 2016, Maddox quit her day job and turned My Debt Epiphany into a full-time gig. By 2017, she and her husband had paid off nearly all their debts and were able to live more comfortably.
Becoming a Personal Finance Expert to Help Others
Maddox said that she became interested in helping other people improve their financial situations as she learned more about the topic.
“I wanted to coach people,” she said. “I wanted to give as much value back as I could. So I started sharing a lot of information on my social media channels. I had people who would message me on Facebook and Instagram saying they needed help with their finances.”
A lot of the messages and requests for assistance were vague, and it was often unclear what the core problem was. So she would reach back out to them to ask them for more specific details.
“I started coaching a few people and trying to really work with them and address their specific situation and their issues with money,” Maddox said.
People also began inviting her to speak at finance-related events or give presentations on getting out of debt.
“I wanted to get some type of certification to help me be able to be more effective in teaching people and explaining the details to them,” Maddox said. “I wanted to talk about money to certain people, who, like myself, hadn’t heard about it before and hadn’t learned it in school.”
Maddox continued her journey by making her role as a financial coach more official and became a Certified Financial Education Instructor.
“As a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) personal finance coach who’s overcome many of the challenges you might be facing today, I use my experience to help people like you break through your doubts and setbacks to restore financial confidence,” Maddox writes on her website.
Today, My Debt Epiphany serves as a financial literacy hub featuring a trove of information on a wide variety of finance-related topics. It also includes contact information for people or organizations to hire Maddox for speaking engagements or form partnerships.
Maddox also offers a number of virtual finance courses on her website that address a wide variety of topics.
Insider Tips on Managing Your Money
While My Debt Epiphany contains a wealth of information to guide people through challenging financial times or to simply offer some helpful advice to get ahead, we couldn’t help but ask Maddox for some expert advice to share with our readers.
“If someone were to ask me, one thing that I would focus on first would be working on mindset — mindset surrounding money, mindset surrounding budgeting, and focusing on what’s going in and what’s going out,” she said.
A lot of people become easily discouraged about their finances and don’t know what to do, Maddox said.
“They don’t understand how it works and they feel like they’re doing something wrong,” she explained. “Or they keep reliving mistakes they made in the past or they have other thoughts and ideas in their head that are holding them back.”
Some people are looking for a magic solution, Maddox said. But the truth is there is no big secret. It’s about educating yourself on the issue and working hard to accomplish your financial goals, and My Debt Epiphany makes a great companion for the journey.
Maddox said she also often recommends that people spend below their means when possible.
“It automatically gives you built-in savings or built-in extra debt payments,” she said. “The average person doesn’t want to sit around paying off certain types of debt for five or 10 years. But people automatically think they can’t afford extra payments. I ask, ‘Have you checked your actual income? Have you checked your spending? Do you really know what’s going on with your finances?’”
People should also define their financial goals, Maddox said. Having an actual goal in mind makes it easier to reach a healthy financial position.
“From there you can get into different strategies like the avalanche and the snowball and all that stuff,” she said. “But I think that’s where you start.”