Today I’m featuring Ethan & Rebecca from Pomplas Pennies. Rebecca is the author behind the blog. I met Rebecca through our local ChooseFI Group. She posted in our private Facebook group looking to connect with others in the community. I replied and we had our first meet up.
Rebecca & Ethan are millennials with promising careers but a lot of student loan debt. What is so impressive about this pair is their intentional lifestyle in an effort to get to zero. Furthermore, they are doing it as a team to build the future they want. As I learn more about their story, one word comes to mind – persevering.
So without further ado, here they are…
People Are Basically Persevering
My name is Rebecca Arko, soon to be Rebecca Pomplas this August 2019! My fiancé is Ethan Pomplas. I am 25 years old (Ethan is 27).
We live in Northeast Ohio, about 40 minutes outside of downtown. We both were born and raised here. I grew up in the city and Ethan grew up in the country. He has since converted me to a rural lifestyle and I love it!
Both Ethan and I are taking advantage of house-hacking by renting a basement apartment from a wonderful couple who wanted to make the most out of their empty nest. This living situation has allowed us to save so much money and help us contribute to our goals of debt freedom!
We are getting married this August! Although, we view our finances as if we are already married. We are 100% a team.
Do you have any children?
Currently, we do not have children, but we do plan on having them in the future! One of the main reasons for our goal of debt freedom is that we want to be parents first to our children, and our careers will come second.
We know if we are debt-free, we can have the opportunity to perhaps live off one income while the other stays home with our kids. We both were blessed to have our moms stay home with us while we were young and we saw the sacrifices our parents made to make that possible. Moreover, we are incredibly thankful for this.
Additionally, we also want to start saving for our children’s higher education (whether it be a trade school or college) from the day they are born, so that they do not have the same battle we have with student debt.
What are your careers?
I am a registered nurse and Ethan works as a certified personal trainer while he is in school to become a physical therapy assistant. When I am not working as a nurse, I am active in my side hustles of nannying and dog-sitting. These side hustles have allowed us to really make progress towards our financial goals. Ethan’s priority is school right now, so I try to do my best to use my free time wisely while he is studying!
Our total household income is about $65,000 combined before tax from our jobs. In addition to that, our side hustles earn us about an additional $4,000/year. Our monthly expenses are approximately $2,800/month, including our debts. Everything extra goes to debt and savings/investments, and I contribute to an employer retirement plan pre-tax.
When Ethan starts working as a physical therapy assistant once he is done with school, our income will nearly double. However, we plan to keep our cost of living the same for as long as we can!
Did you go to college?
Yes, we both did! I went to Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing here in Cleveland. Additionally, I received my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in January 2017. I began working as a registered nurse right away after passing my state board exam.
Ethan went to the University of Toledo and studied Exercise Science. He graduated in May of 2014 with his Bachelors of Science degree and has been working as a personal trainer since.
He currently is enrolled in Kent State for their Physical Therapy Assistant degree program, where he will achieve an additional Associate of Applied Science degree. I hope to go back to school in the future to obtain my Masters of Science in Nursing as a nurse practitioner!
Do you have any debt?
We have debt and lots of it. We currently have $90,859 total in debt. About $84,559 is student loan debt, and then we have an additional $6,300 in an auto loan.
In the Financial Independence community, you often hear about people who are our age with a net worth of $300,000, which is absolutely incredible. For us, however, our goal is to simply have a net worth of $0.
We want to start fresh, with a clean slate. Would we like to hit complete financial independence one day? Yes, of course, but for right now hitting zero sounds like the most incredible thing in the world. Lucky for us, there is this awesome community to motivate us and help us formulate a plan.
We like to say that we take “a little of this and a little of that” when it comes to creating our debt pay-off plan. For instance, we take Dave Ramsey’s gazelle intensity and snowball method, we take ChooseFI’s smart, every day smart actionable tips, we take the Frugalwoods family values of living with less in the style of “luxurious frugality”, and we take Mr. Money Mustache’s creative everyday lifestyle hacks.
We are so grateful for those who have created this framework for us. One day we will hit zero and it will be the best day of our life.
We certainly plan on avoiding debt in the future by living within our means and paying cash for as much as possible, such as cars and vacations! We are even paying for our entire wedding in cash!
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in life?
The biggest obstacle we have faced in life we would say is this experience right here. Although it is a blessing to have found the path that we are on, it’s not an easy one. It is as exhausting as it is rewarding.
As much as I love what I do and loved my education, I often wonder “what if?” What if I didn’t go to college? Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to college. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in this mess. However, I feel a great amount of sadness when I think about that because it was an experience that made me who I am. It was an experience that has allowed me to change lives every day and help others.
The thought that I would ever regret is a tough thought to have. I didn’t make poor decisions with consumer or credit card debt. Rather, I simply tried to better myself through obtaining an education. I did exactly what everyone told me to do growing up. Work hard and get a good education… but now what?
When Ethan and I first met, he didn’t have debt. He had to take out some loans for his current program, but before that, he had a positive net worth. I brought this student debt into our relationship, which I felt an incredible amount of guilt for. His patience, understanding, and willingness to help me in this journey is something that I will never not be thankful for. We are facing this obstacle as a team.
Do you know what your purpose is?
I believe our purpose is to help others, and we want to incorporate that into our lives daily. Whether it is through my career as a nurse, Ethan’s job as a personal trainer or career as a physical therapy assistant, or by writing our blog to help others reach their financial goals of eliminating their student loan debt, we want to help others.
We know how dark and heavy student debt can make people feel, and we want others to know that we feel that too, but are finding a way out. Also, when we reach debt freedom, we want to be able to give back. We have learned how to be happy with what we have, so anything left over we want to be able to use for a good cause.
What is your investment/retirement strategy?
Currently, I contribute to a retirement plan provided by my employer. Additionally, I am an Ohio Public Employee, so I have an OPERS plan, as opposed to a traditional 401K. I contribute 10% of my salary and my employer contributes 14%, which is INCREDIBLE. My employer also offers a deferred compensation program (457B), which I plan to start contributing to.
Ethan will start contributing to a retirement plan once he starts his career as a physical therapy assistant, and we plan to max that out. We also have a Roth IRA.
For investments, we love Betterment. We love index funds and we love the minimal effort involved when using Betterment. We plan to dive deeper into investing once our debt is gone!
Also, we are building up our emergency fund, which we feel is incredibly important to have. We have about one month’s expenses in it right now, but we also have a good deal of cash saved up in other places, like our wedding fund. We have a little extra cushion here and there so we know if we needed to pay for an emergency, we would be covered. Once the wedding is over we will stock it with 3 months’ expenses, slowly working our way up to 6.
What else would you like to share?
One way we have fun and enjoy life while maintaining frugality is through being outdoors. It saves us money and we adore it. We love to camp, run, hike, and kayak! You may think that camping equipment and kayak is expensive, but we have found ways to save!
The initial investment for camping equipment can be a little pricey, but it’s a one time cost that you can continue to enjoy for years to come. As for our kayak, we bought an inflatable two-person kayak from SeaEagle. It’s so convenient because we can take it anywhere! We just inflate and deflate it anytime we want to use it! It collapses down into a duffle bag, so no worries about getting a kayak mount for the car. SeaEagle has sales all the time too, so we got ours at half the cost!
How do you give back?
As stated above, we want to make giving back a priority when we are debt free. However, even though we are tight on a budget now, we still find ways to give back. We like to donate to our friends and family for good causes, or local charities, such as A Special Wish Foundation, the Cleveland Chapter, or local animal shelters.
We also like to actively give back, by participating in events like the local 5ks that donate proceeds to a cause. One big event we have done for A Special Wish Foundation is the Anytime Fitness 24 in 24 event, where we run 24 miles in 24 hours, one mile every hour, to raise money for local children and their families with life-threatening illnesses. Our gym, the gym Ethan works as a personal trainer, puts this on every year. I have done it two years in a row, and Ethan has done it 3! It’s exhausting but so rewarding. This year we raised $120,000 for the event!
Our gym, the gym Ethan works as a personal trainer, puts this on every year. I have done it two years in a row, and Ethan has done it 3! It’s exhausting but so rewarding. This year we raised $120,000 for the event!
Thank you, Ethan & Rebecca, for sharing your story with Ms. Fiology readers. I’m inspired by your tenacity to achieve your goals and have no doubt you’ll achieve them if you keep on persevering.
I’ve found that some of the keys to working towards incredibly tough goals are accountability, community, and knowing why. Rebecca & Ethan have these three things in place which is why I know they’ll succeed. They know their why. Additionally, they have reached out to people, started a blog to chronicle their journey, and are helping others in the process.
It’s in the giving that we get.
Alright, readers, what are your big audacious goals? Who is your community that is keeping you accountable? Moreover, what is your why?