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Your Money, Your Life: Celebrating my debt-free anniversary
Sep 15, 2013 | 2067 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print

By Don Milne

Financial Literacy Manager, Zions Bank

It was ten years ago this summer that I changed my bad behaviors for good.

Despite having a finance degree, despite having an MBA, and despite working for a bank, over a 20-year period I managed to get into $26,000 of consumer debt. I know the average consumer debt is about double that, but I didn’t really try to get into any debt; in fact I had actively tried to avoid debt, yet life happened and I ended up each year with a little more debt than the year before.

And then in a three-month period in 2003 I paid off $5,600, and within two years I paid off all $26,000 and kept it paid off ever since. I didn’t win the lottery, I didn’t get an inheritance, and I didn’t find a gold mine. What I did was change my behavior.

It all started in an evening community class at Woods Cross High School where my family, along with seventeen other families, attended the very first Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class in Utah, sponsored by Zions Bank. We learned “baby steps” to save for emergencies, pay off debt, give more to charity and effectively plan a monthly budget.

The late Ralph Koecher, former editor of the Clipper, was an early champion of this program. In May, 2004 he wrote: “My wife and I attended these sessions and can attest to their being a life-altering experience ... I was amazed at the wide scope of human endeavor covered by the class. It did begin with solid budgeting, of course, but included sections on how to save money on purchases, understanding investment principles, how to dump debt, how to purchase insurance wisely, and even key concepts about managing one’s career.”

Since that first class in Woods Cross, there have been an additional 1,469 classes in Utah and Idaho attended by nearly 45,000 participants, including many thousands from right here in Davis County. Nine weekly lessons of 90 minutes each get people on the road to good money habits. It has been a great example of businesses working with schools, churches, nonprofits, and government to give people the tools they need to make wise choices with their money. The classes are always led, and often set up, by local volunteers. Participants invariably report adding thousands to savings while eliminating thousands in debt because the class teaches people how to permanently change behavior.

The results have a ripple effect beyond just one household at a time. Our local economy benefits greatly when more families are on sound financial footings.

Anyone interested in attending or starting up one of these classes is welcome to e-mail me at Here’s to another ten years of people becoming debt free and achieving their dreams.

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