However, he and his wife were determined to get out of debt. Laura went back to work, first baby-sitting in the daytime and working in the call center for the census at night, then again working for Qqest.
When Rusty Jensen was able to walk again, he and a former colleague launched a lawn care fertilizer business, and began knocking doors to sell their product. They used knowledge they gained from consulting an agricultural firm to develop their product. A couple of months later, he began working with inContact, his current employer. He began working 100 hours per week. Last year he sold his business and has since been promoted twice at inContact.
He and his wife were disciplined in their plan but adjusted the way to reach their goals. On April 27, 2011, the Jensens made their last debt payment, exactly three years after they began their financial journey.
Once cleared of debt, goals shift to building wealth.
Michael Bapis, managing director and partner with HighTower's The Bapis Group, said the best way for a young family to begin building wealth is to make one payment toward growing an asset, no matter how small. He said they should put this away, like a bill.
The Bapis group, a New York- and Utah-based financial consulting group, advises clients to measure investments as a minimum of five-year growth strategy because finances fluctuate.
As Rusty Jensen began his quest to get out of debt, he realized many people are daunted by the sacrifices it will take to make real progress and ultimately build wealth.
"When people really see what it takes to become financially independent, they shy away because it's too difficult, it's scary, and it's a long-term and challenging commitment," he said. "During the process you often feel like you are putting yourself in poverty and the only thing that gets you through the day is that vision of a future of true financial safety for your family tree."
He encourages those looking to get out of debt to set a clear financial path.
"If you don't have a well-defined path, all you're going to do is wander aimlessly. You will look up after 10 years and find yourself exactly where you started."
Advice from an expert
House, the coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah, noted the following common traps people fall into:
Not saving early enough, especially for college.
Living without a budget or spending plan. Many simply check the balance in their checking account and spend until it's gone.
Failing to plan for emergencies. Planning for non-monthly expenses, such as car repairs, pet care, home repairs, etc., should be a part of planning and saving.
Best ways to save include:
Consider a financial adviser. It is harder to develop disciplined financial habits without an adviser to mentor the process.
Take full advantage of any matching fund programs in company 401(k) or retirement fund plans.
Direct deposit funds into a 401(k), Roth or traditional IRA. Directly depositing money is helpful, because generally people do not spend money they don't have coming into their checking account.
Obtain a certification or get training that will allow someone to work later in life, stretching income beyond their profession.