in: Career & Wealth, Podcast, Wealth

• Last updated: July 10, 2023

The Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #16: Conquering Debt with J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly

Welcome back to another episode of the Art of Manliness Podcast! In this week’s edition we talk to J.D. Roth, founder of the personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly. Money Magazine named Get Rich Slowly the most inspiring money website as well as one of the top 25 personal finance blogs on the net. J.D. has a new book coming out this spring called Your Money: The Missing Manual.

We talk to J.D. about how he paid off $35,000 worth of consumer debt, the best personal finance books, and what money problems are unique to men.

Please give a big Art of Manliness welcome to J.D.!

Read the Transcript

Brett: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The art of manliness podcast. Now with this tough economy we are facing right now, many of us feel like we are sinking in financial problems. Bills pile up and personal debt weighs us down and sometimes it feels like we are never going to get ahead financially. Well our guest here has been in that situation, but he has shown that it is possible to get ahead, he is recently paid off $38,000 with a credit card debt and has catalogued it on his website, his name is J.D. Roth and he is the author of the personal finance blog in Get rich slowly. Money magazine has named J.D.’s site the most inspiring personal finance blog on the net and one of the 25 best money website. J.D. is also, has a book coming out later this year called Your Money the missing manual, and you can preorder it on right now, and J.D. lives in Oregon with his wife J.D welcome to the show.

J.D. Roth: Thanks Brett its good to be here.

Brett: Yeah I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today, now J.D. a big part of the story on your blog is how you accumulated, you know $38,000 with a credit card debt and then paid it off, how did you get to that situation where you had that much debt, did it happen really fast or did it happen little by little, I mean what’s the story behind that?

J.D. Roth: No it kind of happens slowly over time, and first of all just to clarify the total, what was the way I always say this it was a, over $35,000 in consumer debt, is how I rate him.

Brett: Oh okay.

J.D. Roth: And so most of that was credit card debt, like many people in debt tried to juggle things around, and so sometimes a credit card debt took on other forms, no it happened slowly and it actually started when I was in college, back in 88, 1988-1989 somewhere around that, I got the first credit card, and it was actually a store credit card, and I wanted to use it to buy super-fancy shaver and a bottle of cologne, and it was there, it’s all downhill, I didn’t have the money to pay for it and so I took up the charge card, and I tried that debt for a while and then I took out also some other credit cards, while I was in college and I graduated, I didn’t have much of a debt problem coming out of college, I didn’t have a job coming out of college either, and so I lived on credit cards, I used those to survive while looking for work, and then 18 when I found a job it didn’t pay very well, so I was using the credit card to accumulate debt over the next few years up until the mid-1990’s it developed from using the credit card as a necessity, or what I felt like was necessity to using them to pay for toys and gadgets, and computer games and books and all that stuff, so by the middle of the 1990’s I had over $20,000 in credit card debt.

Brett: Wow you sort of sounds pretty common, lot of people get credit cards when they are in college, there is people at the tables with giving out free T-shirts and..

J.D Roth: Absolutely.

Brett: You sign up and then you get the credit card, and then you just go from there, do you think your, you know your problem or you know doing that, was it a lack of education about personal finances or just being young and?

J.D. Roth: It was being young and stupid, and just kind of being overconfident thinking that oh well being able to pay this off, because you don’t know I was also a kind of a smart guy, I was never the athletic guy at high school, I was one of those geeks, one of those nerds and I took accounting classes, I took future business leaders of America, I took these classes, I need the stuff and it did help me knowing the stuff in theory, I just felt like I was cheating the system I guess, and I was like oh you know I can take out this debt to buy the State of Genesis, because I will be able to make more money in the future and I did end up making more money in the future, but I also spent more money, so I was never catching up, and so eventually I kind of wiped up, but you know hey I am being stupid with the credit cards, and I couldn’t exactly figure out how to get rid of the credit card debt, I mean I started looking for silver bullets, I wanted to you know pay it off instantly, I wanted to win the lottery or something, and the one thing I ended up doing was in 1998 I took out a home equity loan, where you borrow against the value of your house, and I used that money from the home equity loan to pay off the credit card debt, and so I emailed the credit card debt, and it kind of magically went away it was still there, it was just now it was in the form of, I was born to get my health debate off, and then that didn’t stop my debt, I had mentioned that I had over $35,000 worth of consumer debt and so from 1998 until 2004 during those 6 years I found a way to come up with another $15,000 in consumer debt and I didn’t have to use credit cards to do it, I found ways to borrow money otherwise.

Brett: And so what was the catalyst that caused you to turn it around, you know stop, you know juggling that around and you start paying it down?

J.D. Roth: Well everything just kind of I started to feel like I was instead of feeling like I was somehow cheating the system and managing to stay afloat I started to feel like I was drowning. My wife and I we bought a new house we sold our old house and bought the house we are in now, and it’s a 100-year-old farm house just outside Portland, and it’s a beautiful house, but more important we needed a lot of work done, just tons and tons of work, and we knew that going into it, and I did all the math on paper and I thought oh you I can afford this and then we actually moved in and we had to start it they have to pay for the repairs, and I was like oh my goodness gracious, how am I ever going to be able to make this work and still have money to enjoy life, and so I just felt overwhelmed I thought I was drowning, so a couple of friends gave me books or recommended some personal finance books I read those personal finance books and now its really the catalyst is reading those books and starting to act on the advice they gave I guess.

Brett: Was there a personal finance book in particular that really you know motivated you, got your butt in gear?

J.D Roth: Yes although there were two of them, and that’s a great way to phrase it too, the first one the one that kind of laid the ground work for everything, was Your Money or Your Life and basically talk about how you know when you buy all these little things, because that accumulates most of my debts, it was just buying little things here and there, buying magazine, especially on new video games, buying new clothes that I did necessarily need, just doing these little things all the time, you are basically trading hours of your time, or in the books of light energy which sounds all new agey, you know you are trading your time for these things and that was kind of an eye opening thing but that didn’t kick my butt it’s what really kicked my Butt, I was reading Dave Ramsey’s book called the Total money makeover which is all about living on a debt, and between those two books yeah it just, it spurred me that the look of what I was doing it just changed my life.

Brett: And then how long ago was this when you started really getting serious about paying off your debt?

J.D. Roth: Oh was it 2004, I think it was October of 2004 I sat down and I drew up a plan, I had done and I said okay this is what I am going to do this is how to pay the debt off, and I tried to work on it a little bit of the next 6 months, and I kept reading new personal finance books, and then it was in the spring of 2005 April of 2005 I sat down and it was just for my own edification I kind of wrote out all the lessons I had learnt from the various personal finance books, and I could not have, I had a personal blog, and so on this personal blog I put up an article that I called Get rich Slowly, because I felt like the lessons that I was pulling to these books where they, you now you can’t, you just pay off your debt all at once, you can’t get rich quickly, you can’t do this stuff, but if you are patient and you follow certain principles you can do it slowly until I call my article Get rich Slowly, and it was really popular, that article is really popular it got picked up all over the place, and I started trying to live those principles that you know its hard at first, because you make mistakes, you read what these books said they do and you try to implement them but there is so much going on in during debt and you are trying to do things right but you still spend too much money eating out or whatever, and you make mistakes along the way, so it took me a long time to get everything figured out I guess.

Brett: Yeah so I mean you started off Get Rich Slowly so I guess this article would inspired you to actually start a blog, dedicated to that, and really I mean it’s pretty gutsy to open yourself up, you know financially and let people know your financial status and I mean what inspired you to do that?

J.D Roth: I can’t remember if there was any one single inspiration part of it was, I started to pay off my debt, I have been clearing my expenses and so on, and I decided I need to boost my income, because I decided there were two sides and the by cutting your expenses, you kind of free up some money to pay off your debt, but I thought if I can boost my income I can have it some more, and so I read about people making paying for website and I decided I wanted to start a comic book website actually, I want to start comic book blog because that’s one of my passions, one of my hobbies as comic book, and I started that and I was making a couple of bucks a month, it was no big deal, and then I thought well you know people really like that, Get rich Slowly article I wrote, and well maybe I can start a website based around personal finance, so I did that and gave that a try, and that should cost a lot more than the comic with blog, because they got many, many, more readers where they had nearly 20 comic book blog readers after a couple of months, I had 2000 it became slowly after a couple of months.

Brett: Wow so J.D. your site is called Get rich Slowly which I think pretty much sums up your philosophy towards personal finance, but can you go into a little more detail about you know how your prefer personal finance?

J.D Roth: Sure for me I am all about making small manageable, taking small manageable steps not trying to get everything, not trying to be perfect, not trying to do everything at once, and so that means maybe taking one or two areas in your life where you can make improvement, and focusing on those, one example might be if you are the sort of person to eat out all the time, and maybe you don’t get a lot of value out of it, maybe you don’t really enjoy eating out, but if it is something you do out of habit, that might be one area where you can try to cut back and meanwhile still endorse yourself in other areas. That’s not necessarily giving yourself permission to overspend which is saying I am going to try to focus on one thing at a time, try to cut back one thing at a time, so what else we have here. I think that its important to take a long term view, I think many people and I am one of them but we get wrapped up in this idea, that oh I need to change everything this month or this year, and that’s really not how it works, you didn’t get into debt overnight, I mean people don’t get into deep debt, it gets over in a matter of one year usually it takes several years if you got a credit card problem, or sometimes spending problem it’s going to take 3,5,6,7 years to get really, really deep in debt well it’s going to take that long to get out of that too, and you just got to be patient and willing to make those risks for a long period of time I guess.

Brett: Yeah I guess it’s kind of like personal fitness as well, lot of people….

J.D Roth: Yeah, yeah absolutely there is a huge parallel there.

Brett: Yeah lot of people take you know 10 years to put on your 100 pounds and they want to lose it in a year, but it never happens, so J.D. you’ve become kind of an expert in the areas of Personal Finance, you got the successful blog, you are writing a book, and so I would like to get a take on this, you know what are the biggest personal finance mistakes that you’ve seen that are unique to men, or that you see more often in men as opposed to women?

J.D. Roth: Well I think maybe the biggest one and this is surely in a lot of different aspects or areas of life, not just with finances, but men tend to be more overconfident about their abilities, we are very, we want to believe we are right you know that we know what we are doing, and it’s very difficult to admit mistakes sometimes, and I know when during a research for Enjoy my missing manual I came across this study and I think it was published in 2001, and the study found that men believe they are better investors than women but they are actually not. There are men when we compare men investors and women investors men actually earn about 1½% less per year than for annual returns than women do, and single men are like, they are even worst, its like 2½ % less in single women, and the reason for this is that men tend to be overconfident that they think that they know more than other people, and so they can make these decisions and they are out to mark everybody else.

Brett: And so propensity towards risk I guess?

J.D. Roth: Yeah oh absolutely.

Brett: Bites us in the butt, interesting and speaking of men and women what are the biggest problems you’ve seen that couples experience with money, and what advice would you give to avoid those type of problems?

J.D. Roth: Well I think that there’s one fundamental problem that occurs with couples, and that’s a lack of communication, and it can manifest itself in all sorts of different ways, and it all comes under lack of communication, and I think that you know a marriage is a partnership, so I often think of this, its actually like a partnership between 3 different entities, you got the husband, you got the wife and you’ve also got the partnership itself. I think it’s important to keep all three of those in balance, if for some reason one aspect comes too dominant whether it’s the husband dominating over the partnership and the wife or even if the partnership dominated by the husband and wife I think that it can create problems, and I think by having open communication its possible for the both partners to work together to make sure that first of all that each pursuing individual goals, but also pursuing the goals for the marriage that makes sense.

Brett: Yeah definitely usually I will need to take on this, you know with this recession that we are having right now frugality you know manly thrift and manly frugality or whatever is back in vogue, but do you think this is a temporary thing or I mean do you think this recession is actually going to fundamentally change the way that Americans particularly give money or we are just going to go back to our spendthrift ways as soon as things are picking up again?

J.D Roth: You know but that’s a great question and I don’t really answer to that, I know that a lot of my older friends seem to be much more interested in thrift over the past couple of years, It’s becoming much more popular within just Friday night, they are going much my friend and we went out bowling and for pizza and its very cheap entertainment, and so it does seem to be the returned thrift, that I don’t know how long it is going to stay and I had to say that I think that one of the main reasons that there has been a departure from thrift in this culture because you know thrift was very popular for hundreds and hundreds of years here, I think it largely because the media influence is a way from that, but the media is driven by advertising dollars, and advertiser want people to spend money, and so I think it’s the predominance of the media is really that leads people to spending problems and I don’t think it is ever going to change once the recessions over I think it will be back to where we started.

Brett: Man alright that’s a honor.

J.D. Roth: Yes I know.

Brett: Yeah I know but, I guess the kind of things what you are doing and what we are trying to do on the auto mail is kind of hopefully make those things kind of cool again I guess?

J.D Roth: Yeah, yeah well you see the thing it is just because of the general society it might be going in that direction, it doesn’t mean that your readers and listeners they can’t just think upon themselves, as they you know I am going to opt out, I don’t have to be part of this consumer culture, I don’t have to be part of this culture that’s unmanly its not the right way to phrase it, but your listeners and readers can make the choice to behave like our fathers and grandfathers did, and to make the choices that we do a better life, even if the people around them are…

Brett: Exactly so J.D. last question what are the 3 things that a man struggling with his finance can do today that will I guess get him on the path to manning up his personal finances?

J.D. Roth: Well for me I think one of the big ones I am huge on setting goals I think it is very important when you are trying to overcome your finances, or overcome your debt or your poor financial decisions to set goals to decide what your priorities are, and so for each of us it is going to be something different, maybe your goals to buy a house or maybe you got a daughter who is going to be married, or getting married in a few years and you need to save up to contribute to her wedding, or maybe you got kids who is going to be heading to college in 15 years, everybody has got different financial priorities and I think without setting financial goals, it’s really easy to just lose direction and to spend on whatever, if you have a financial goal what does it matter when you just spent $2,000 on a new computer, you can use your old computer does the trick, so I think setting financial goals is the first one. Another thing to do is to take responsibility for your income I think men today and would everyone used to take responsibility for the income, and it’s still easy to just kind of just go along with the floor work I guess, and just wait for raise is to come to you, but I think that in order to improve your financial situation is vital to keep self-improvement, take classes, find ways to move up the, to move the ladder at work or find better jobs, and to actually ask for a raise, learn how to negotiate a raise, or negotiate your income when you are being hired for a job I think these are great ways for a man to improve his financial position.

Brett: Yeah I think a lot of them don’t know how to do that, especially in America where it is not traditional but negotiate?

J.D Roth: Exactly and you know, you are not always going to be successful when you are trying to negotiate, but it is better to try in sales than to not try it at all I think, and I guess the third thing I would say is rather live without consumer debt after having lived with consumer debt for almost 15 years, well more than 15 years I know how much of a psychic drag it can be on people, and writing to get the story I have all sorts of people writing emails saying Oh man this is just important I just can’t get rid of it, and if you can vow to live without consumer debt, if I would try to basically non-mortgage debt, most people are going to hesitate on mortgage and I understand that, but going so far to say you know I am not going to even take on a loan for a car, I am not going to take on a loan for a vehicle, if you can live without debt, first its impossible, you are going to be happier and better to pursue your financial goals.

Brett: Very cool well J.D. thank you very much for speaking with us today it has been a pleasure.

J.D. Roth: Yeah thank you very much.

Brett: Our guest today was J.D. Roth, J.D. is the creator of the blog Get Rich Slowly and you can find that at and also make sure to check out J.D.’s book its coming out later this spring it’s called Your money the missing manual and you can preorder it on right now. That wraps us another edition of the Art of Manliness Podcast for more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at and we want to let you know that our book is available again, after selling out of its first print run in just 3 months the art of manliness, classic skills and manners for the modern man is in its 2nd print run, and so you can find the book on and other major bookstores. For more information about our book check out book and until next week stay manly.

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