Expert Interview with Eric Williams about Staying Away from Debt for Mint

Eric Williams is author of It's Your Money, What Will You Do With It and founder of Words of Williams, a website dedicated to helping individuals and families make purposeful financial decisions. He took some time to chat with us about career advice, saving money and family. Sharing his own experience and offering some easy tips and daily life changes, he offers simple but effective advice for gaining and maintaining a debt-free life. He also lets us know it's never too early to start watching your finances.

It seems as if you've taken a great proactive direction to achieve your career goals; what advice can you offer those wanting to take a new direction?

Start today. Now...that doesn't mean quit your job today. What I mean is that you need to start pursuing your interests today. For me, it was a solid three years of blogging that helped me discover that what I really wanted to do was be a financial coach. That might seem like a long time, but it took a lot of hustle work during early mornings, late evenings and weekends to get where I am today.

Even if you're not planning on starting your own business, but simply looking for the right "fit," you still need to get out there and look for it. Most dream jobs won't just fall into your lap.

Your debt story sounds familiar, but with a happy ending. What would you like to share with young people just getting started to stay debt-free?

Staying debt-free is a commitment to being different than most people. Most people use credit cards for everything and always have a car payment. These behaviors will cause you to be like everyone else and keep you living paycheck to paycheck. Behavior change, discipline and commitment to making interest instead of paying it will ensure your long-term success.

As a dad, what are some good financial parenting strategies - in other words, how can parents teach their kids financial responsibility?

Currently, my daughter is only two and a half, so she really doesn't understand the value of money, but I've given her some loose change for picking up her toys a few times and she gets the simplicity of working for money. As she gets older, we'll apply some age-appropriate chores with money attached to them.

There won't be an allowance and our kids will have to work for their fun money. Most parents do this already but fail to associate chores with money, rather than keeping them separate. So, instead of giving them an allowance "just because," and then making them do chores, combine them into a job at home and pay them accordingly. They'll start to understand the relationship between work and money.

If my kids know that Dad will pay them to mow their own yard, perhaps it will inspire them to start their own lawn-mowing business while in high school.

Please share a bit about your book, It's Your Money, What Will You Do With It. It's had great reviews!

The book really came out of my desire to share our story with the world. My deepest conviction after paying off $40,000 of debt in 23 months is the fact that there was no complex strategy involved. It's simple to do, but the problem is that nodiv taught us how to handle money.

Instead, we're taught to handle money by TV commercials and every other form of mass marketing that we see every day. The book was written to show others how they, too, can get out of debt and learn to handle money.

When do think it's time to seek a financial coach?

It's really situational, but I do believe that everyone can benefit from financial coaching, as nodiv is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. That being said, I'd love to help people be proactive with their money before things spiral out of control. The reality is that most people won't realize the need for help until they are going through a major transition or crisis (marriage, divorce, job change, having a baby, facing bankruptcy). While coaching is great in those situations, it's really fulfilling to help those who are doing fine take their finances to the next level.

What are three easy and unexpected things/habits to cut out and save money?

1. Fancy coffee. If the normal is to drive through and get a fancy drink every morning, let's do some quick math (I'll be conservative). Three trips per week at $4 per trip = $12 per week or $624 per year.

2. Cut cable. It can be done. I wrote a post last November, and in 28 months we saved $1,800 by going without cable. To update that number, we're about a month away from saving over $2,500 in 2.5 years.

3. Cash. By using cash, you can help force yourself not to spend as much. Cash is powerful in that when you have it, you might not want to spend it. We pull out cash every month for a few categories that we tend to overspend in: groceries, eating out, toiletries and haircare. We put the amounts we want to spend for each category into different envelopes and spend out of them. When the money is gone, we don't spend anymore.

Many couples fight about money. How do you and your wife work so well on the same page?

I think it really has to do with finding unity between couples. We don't agree on everything, but we spent a lot of time in the beginning (before getting on a plan to pay off debt) dreaming about what we both wanted out of life. Once we found common ground and a common purpose for wanting to get out of debt, we could then work together to make it happen as a team.

Before that, we would attack each other's spending habits, which were just a symptom of the problem and not the root. You can't kill a weed by chopping it off; you have to pull it out by the root.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

When it comes down to it, money affects us deeply. It's woven through nearly every decision we make and everything we do. Helping people create a plan and see them start to win that battle in their mind where they get to see their money being spent where they really want it to be spent, instead of just wondering where it went, is deeply fulfilling for me.

To sum that up, seeing people break through with their finances and achieving their goals and being able to celebrate with them.

You can find Eric on social media at TwitterFacebook and Google+.