The house is falling apart. The car is breaking down. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and a mountain of debt growing. Unfortunately, this is a reality for too many Americans. This is also a story that my friend, Ellen*, is all too familiar with.

Ellen is an amazing person. She’s a cancer survivor, a math teacher, a mother of three, and one of the most wonderful women I know. I met her a few years back while doing some work at a local non-profit. Ellen was working there (her 2nd full-time job), and we quickly developed a close friendship.

She opened up to me about her life, her battle with cancer, and her persistent money struggles. Though her husband had a job, she was always the main breadwinner of the family. Ellen is actually quite sensible when it comes to spending, but her husband had more of a “you only live once” attitude.

One day, Ellen came home from a weekend retreat with her school, and there in the driveway was parked a shiny, new Mustang! Her heart dropped immediately, because she realized her husband had bought a new car. Admittedly, his old car was giving him trouble, but they both knew a new car wasn’t something they could afford.

With three children in school, bills to cover, home repairs to be made, and medical debt to pay off, money was already tight. Her family was living paycheck to paycheck, and now the new car would be an added load to Ellen’s burden.

Over time, Ellen’s family racked up a pretty large sum of debt. Keep in mind that these are very hard-working people. Ellen worked seven days a week with two full-time jobs and hadn’t taken a vacation in years. She really needed a break (and her family agreed), so on Ellen’s 50th birthday, they surprised her with a trip to Monterey. Of course, everyone had a great time, but I later found out that Ellen’s husband had borrowed from his retirement plan to pay for the trip.

This type of spending and debt accumulation continued for another year, until one day, Ellen just couldn’t handle it anymore. The stress was getting too overwhelming, and she was beginning to feel hopeless. She was seeing less and less of her family, because she had to work long hours to make ends meet. Ellen knew that things needed to change, and it was time to tackle her family’s debt.

Though it was hard, her loved ones all jumped on board and made a commitment to change their habits and get out of debt. I was so happy for Ellen when she shared this with me and encouraged her to start with a free evaluation from a certified debt specialist. That way, she could see all of her debt relief options and find a customized plan that would work for her situation.

It has now been a few weeks since I’ve chatted with Ellen, but last I heard, she decided that debt settlement was the right choice for her family. They are now on the right track to resolving their debt and taking the necessary steps to build a stronger financial future. Once the debt is paid off, Ellen plans to retire from her non-profit job and focus on the two things that she loves most – her family and being a teacher.

I know it is possible for her to achieve her financial goals and wish her (and her family) nothing but continued success on this all-important journey!

*Ellen’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.