Mom moves family into an RV to help pay debt, travel full time: ‘Life is too short’

After two years of “barely scraping by,” and living in debt, Karen Akpan and her husband Sylvester decided it was time to move their family into an RV to travel full time

Akpan, 32, told Fox News that they sold their California home in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit the U.S. Akpan, Sylvester, 43, and their 8-year-old son Aiden moved into their renovated RV by May of that year. 

“We were just sick and tired of being sick and tired of all the bills and living in California and barely scraping by,” Akpan told Fox. “We decided we just wanted to do something different for our son.”

Karen Akpan and her husband Sylvester decided it was time to move into an RV to travel full-time in February 2020.

Karen Akpan and her husband Sylvester decided it was time to move into an RV to travel full-time in February 2020.
(Courtesy of Karen Akpan)

She said she and her husband had several goals in mind when they made the move. 

“First of all, to pay off all our debt and then to create generational wealth,” Akpan said. “And then just spend more time together, which is so important to us because I feel like life is too short. And what matters the most is just you being around people that you love.”


Now that it’s been about a year and a half, Akpan said her family has been able to pay off $200,000 in debt, about half of which was student loan debt. 

“It sounds scary when you say that because, to be honest, we shouldn’t have been in that much debt in the first place,” Akpan said. “It was absolutely nuts.”

The Akpans travel full-time, both around the U.S. and internationally with their 8-year-old son Aiden. 

The Akpans travel full-time, both around the U.S. and internationally with their 8-year-old son Aiden. 
(Courtesy of Karen Akpan )

Though they still have a little more credit card debt they’re working to pay off, Akpan said they’re almost done. 

“Right now we’re at the tail end of it,” Akpan said. “We have very, very little left.”


Through their journey of paying off their debts, Akpan said she’s become something of an advocate for financial literacy, encouraging her friends and family to start their own Roth IRAs and learn more about ways to save for their future and avoid going into debt. 

“People don’t know these basic things that they could have that could help them, help their families, help them save,” Akpan said, adding: “So it makes it hard for you not to get into debt and make these silly mistakes when you literally don’t know.”

“To be honest, we shouldn’t have been in that much debt in the first place. It was absolutely nuts.”

— Karen Akpan

She added: “It is a mission of mine, especially this year, to talk about it and make people aware … especially with my friends. Just starting with my friends and my family who don’t know these things.”


Akpan added that she and her husband have been educating Aiden along the way, while also starting to invest in his future through his own accounts, including a Roth IRA and a 529 plan.

“We have set up our lives in a way that we are not just pouring into ourselves and our future, but we’re already pouring into him right now,” Akpan said. 

The Akpans have been able to pay off about $200,000 in debt since they moved into their RV. 

The Akpans have been able to pay off about $200,000 in debt since they moved into their RV. 
(Courtesy of Karen Akpan)

Akpan talks about financial literacy and financial planning for kids on her blog, The Mom Trotter. She also runs a nonprofit called Black Kids Do Travel, where she encourages families of color to explore the world. 


Aside from being taught financial literacy, Aiden is also homeschooled, which makes it possible for the family to travel full time, both around the country and internationally. 

“His learning has always been on the road,” Akpan said. “Everything is a learning experience for him. And the difference is that he gets to not only watch videos and read about it, he gets to see it. He gets to be there.”

"We were just sick and tired of being sick and tired of all the bills and living in California and barely scraping by," Karen Akpan told Fox. "We decided we just wanted to do something different for our son."

“We were just sick and tired of being sick and tired of all the bills and living in California and barely scraping by,” Karen Akpan told Fox. “We decided we just wanted to do something different for our son.”
(Courtesy of Karen Akpan)

Aside from getting to experience places first-hand, international travel also allows Aiden to learn about other cultures. 

“It’s really been very important to me to expose my son to different cultures and different people and everything and being able to travel internationally gives us that opportunity for him to appreciate and be respectful,” Akpan said. “I want to explain to my son: ‘Everybody will not do things the way you do it. And the fact that they don’t doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with them.’”

“Being able to travel internationally puts us in a place where he’s right front and center of all of it, so he’s really learning to be a global citizen, which has really been a goal of mine.”

— Karen Akpan

“So I want him to actually see other people’s cultures, see how they live, appreciate it, ask questions and be respectful of it,” she added. “And being able to travel internationally puts us in a place where he’s right front and center of all of it, so he’s really learning to be a global citizen, which has really been a goal of mine.”


Akpan told Fox that after the last year-and-a-half of full-time traveling, she’s still not ready to go back to living in a house.

“I’m not going back to that monthly mortgage,” Akpan said.”If we ever do live in a house, I always say this, we would have to buy in cash, to be honest. I cannot go back to monthly payments… I just can’t. Not with the lifestyle I’m living now.”

She added: “I can afford more vacations that are not strictly budget, where I’m counting pennies everywhere we go. So, living in a house would take that away from us again.”

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CWT to restructure $1.5 billion debt pile

CWT has announced a recapitalisation of its business against the backdrop of a slow rebound in corporate travel due to the Covid pandemic that will see the Carlson family become a minority shareholder in the TMC.

The company is $1.5 billion in debt and aims to remove almost $900 million in debt through issuing $625 million of new first lien debt at market rates and the use of a new undrawn revolving credit facility. The company will also issue $350 million of new equity capital. 

The company said it had entered into an agreement with financial stakeholders representing over 90 per cent of the outstanding debt, including global investment manager Barings LLC, on the recapitalisation plan. The plan will see the debtholders become the company’s new majority owners. The Carlson group took full ownership of the TMC in 2014, buying out JP Morgan Chase’s 45 per cent stake.

CWT said the plan would provide it with “substantial long-term liquidity through the resulting balance sheet cash and new revolving credit facility” and would allow for “all business partners and other providers of goods and services to CWT to be paid in full”.
The company expects to begin soliciting formal approval of the plan from its existing financial stakeholders in the next few weeks and to finalise implementation of the plan later this year.

In June, the company skipped interest payments on its bonds causing ratings agency Fitch to downgrade the company from C to CCC.

At the time, Fitch predicted a difficult deleveraging for the company, forecasting EBITDA to remain negative through the 2021 financial year, despite “meaningful cost-cutting efforts by the company”. 

The intentional skipping of the payments allowed the company to open up discussion with its creditors.
“This is great news for CWT and our stakeholders, highlighting the progress we have made to position CWT for long-term success and providing significant financial resources to further grow and develop our business,” said Michelle McKinney Frymire, CWT’s CEO, who stepped up from the CFO role in April. 

She added, “The industry is seeing meaningful increases in demand for the first time since the start of the pandemic. As we ramp up operational capacity to continue serving our customers through the recovery, we are continuing to advance our strategic objectives, including driving innovation and delivering industry-leading solutions. We are pleased to be moving ahead with overwhelming support from our financial partners, who will become CWT’s new majority owners, underscoring their confidence in the market, CWT and our strategy and services.”
McKinney Frymire added, “Implementation of this agreement will enable us to move beyond the pandemic, accelerate investments that create industry-leading experiences for our clients and travellers, and position CWT to benefit from the recovery already underway.”

The company said it had used the period of Covid-related travel restrictions and related demand reductions to accelerate many of its strategic development plans and investments across its products, programme delivery and travel services.

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Tips for digging out of credit card debt during COVID-19 pandemic

Did you rack up big credit card balances or debt during the COVID-19 pandemic? Or were you just spending too much? Getting out of debt takes time and a plan.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With so many people losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment benefits running out, many have turned to their credit cards to make ends meet.

While this might’ve helped pay bills in the short term, it means a lot of people racked up a lot of debt

“I’ll probably never be able to pay it off,” said Woody Garrett, who got himself in debt pre-COVID-19 to the tune of more than $100,000. “Rob a bank or something, [maybe] win the lottery.” 

The Federal Reserve estimates that Americans carry on average, $5,700 in just credit card debt. So if you have $5,000 in debt, at 18% interest and you’re making a $200 payment each month, it’ll take you 133 months — or 11 years — to pay it off. And you’ll pay more than $2,800 in interest. 

That’s overwhelming to many people, and that’ just for $5,000 of debt. Imagine triple that?

“The pandemic has sent a lot of people into credit card debt” said Sara Rathner, a credit card expert with NerdWallet. 

Rathner knows debt and how to dig out of the whole. Her first tip? Take a real, in-depth inventory of what you spend. Be honest. 

“Write down where every penny goes, don’t judge yourself,” Rathner said. “Write it all down and at the end of the month, see what you can cut back on.”

It takes discipline and a budget.

RELATED: Budget deficit totals record $735.7 billion through January

“One that we offer at NerdWallet, is the 50-30-20 budget, 50% goes to your needs, things like housing, food, medical, child care, things you need month to month,” Rathner said. “Then, 30% of your pay can go to wants. Things like going out, hobbies, travel and the things that make life fun. 

“Then the other 20% can go to savings or your debt repayment plan and that way you know you can spend confidently because you have made a plan for every dollar.”

Another option is to try using only cash. If you don’t have cash, then you don’t spend. Freeze your credit cards so you can’t spend more. 

“Cash seems to be more tangible for some people, and others work a budget better when they use a credit card, so it’s a very personal decision,” Rathner said.

Shifting balances from one credit card to another is not a great idea if the balances are big. Even those “0% interest for a year” cards will kick a high rate your way when that no-interest offer expires, usually in 12-18 months. As a result, you’ll end up paying more. 

One decent option to consider is a personal loan with a lower rate to consolidate everything. Because it’s a fixed rate, you can stretch it out a bit longer, too.

RELATED: Democrats call on President Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 in student loan debt

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How To Pay Off Debt In Retirement – Forbes Advisor

In a mythical American past, families took out one 30-year mortgage, worked at one company for 30 years while paying off the mortgage and sailed off into retirement free of debt.

Today, the reality is that the dream of retiring debt free is fading, and debt among older Americans is soaring. The percentage of households headed by someone aged 65 and older who held any debt increased to 61% in 2016 from 38% in 1989, according to the Federal Reserve—while real average debt increased to $86,797 from $29,918 (in 2016 dollars).

While it’s always been fashionable to advise old people to pay off their debts before retirement, for many people it’s just not realistic. And at the same time, paying down debt while in retirement can be extremely challenging, thanks to the vagaries of a fixed income.

Read More On Debt & Retirement:

Cost-of-living increases for Social Security have hovered around 2% for many years, so it’s not hard to see how cruel the math of a 19% credit card APR or even 8% student loan interest rate can be for retirees.

Here’s the truth: There are no easy answers when it comes to paying down debt in retirement. Let’s look at the upsides and some of the downsides of nine strategies that might help, depending on your particular circumstances.

1. Stop Digging the Debt Hole

It’s essential to stop racking up debt when you stop working. That might sound obvious, but it’s not always so clear for some retirees, says Paul Miller, a New York-based CPA.

“Many people think that when they retire, their expenses go down, but they tend to increase,” says Miller, owner of Miller & Company, LLP. Retirees want to do things that cost money, like travel. Some people buy a dream retirement home, when they should be downsizing, Miller says.

When you’re on a fixed income in retirement, take extra care not to add more debt. That’s especially true of high-interest debt, like credit card debt. If you hope to get free of what you owe, that means living well within your means so you have resources to pay down existing debt while eschewing more.

2. Don’t Try to Fix Mistakes with Bigger Mistakes

Some people end up in retirement and realize they haven’t saved nearly enough, then make rash decisions in an effort to make up for lost time. That can be catastrophic, Miller warns.

“People become day traders. They do things outside their normal personality… and they jeopardize their retirement,” Miller warns. He’s seen plenty of cases where one spouse doesn’t tell the other about these risky steps until things really go south. “And most often, it’s irreparable at that point,” he says.

If you haven’t saved enough for retirement, look for ways to maximize your available retirement funds. That could mean working longer to delay taking Social Security, which offers you larger monthly payments the longer you defer it, or…

3. Find an Extra Income Stream

Though it might seem obvious, establishing a new income stream is really the best answer for many who do not have enough retirement savings. Part-time work—as a consultant, as a gig worker, at a coffee shop—might not be your dream retirement scenario, but it’s really the least-bad choice of all the other options to deal with debt in retirement.

So let’s change that old axiom about paying off debt before retirement: Keep working, at least a little, when you have high-interest debt to pay.

An added benefit of stretching out your working life is you may be able to obtain health insurance to bridge the gap to Medicare age. You also give your existing retirement savings more time to compound and grow, which can help build your nest egg.

4. Consider Paying Off Debt with Retirement Funds

Leveraging your retirement savings to pay off debt can be tempting, but it’s also risky and must be done with great care, even if you’ve hit 59 ½ and can do so penalty free.

First, consider that you lose not only the cash you withdraw from investments, but also potential future market gains. Say you live to 85 and pull out $20,000 at age 65 to pay off a car loan. You’ve just lost 20 years of investment growth. If someone had made that move 20 years ago, in 2001, they would have given up an extra $58,000 in their retirement account today (assuming the money would have been left in an S&P 500 index fund).

But that’s not even the only reason to avoid using retirement funds for debt pay off. Consider interest rates. With fixed-rate debt—like some mortgages, for example—the face value of your payment remains consistent, even as inflation rises. This means the longer your mortgage term, the less real value you’re paying for it.

“There’s an incentive to keep the mortgage instead of committing other assets,” says Chris Chen, a certified financial planner (CFP) with Insight Financial Strategists.

In addition, you may cause unintended tax consequences for yourself. For starters, you could miss out on years of being able to deduct mortgage payments from your taxes. But you’ll also potentially incur a large tax bill if you’re taking money out of a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) or 401(k) account.

“Depending on the case, you could end up with 60 to 70 cents for every $1 withdrawn,” says Chen. “In this case, the retiree gives up an appreciating asset, pays taxes, in order to pay off a depreciating debt.”

Finally, if you’ve been paying off your debt for a while, keep in mind that you may not actually save that much in interest by paying your debt off now. If you are only a few years from paying off a loan, most of your payment goes towards principal, so the interest savings is minimal, Chen says.

5. Downsize, Especially If Home Prices Are Rising

If you own your home—or most of your home—consider scaling back on your house size and amenities, particularly if you are lucky enough to live in an area where housing prices have risen significantly.

Take that hard-earned equity and move into a smaller home that’s cheaper to maintain, and hopefully has more predictable repair costs and property taxes into the future. You may also choose to take your money and use it to buy a house in an area with a lower cost of living, if family circumstances allow.

“The problem is that a retiree may find it difficult to qualify for a mortgage. So, if there is equity in the house, that may well be the upper limit of a downsize,” Chen says.

6. Carefully Consider Home Equity Loans or Debt Consolidation Loans

Pooling some of your debts to get a lower interest rate can work in some special circumstances. This is especially true if you have untapped equity in your home and can use it for a low-interest home equity loan.

The trouble is this strategy includes all the risks of borrowing money to fix a spending problem. Depending on your particular situation, you may end up violating tip #2: Don’t try to fix mistakes with bigger mistakes.

Home equity loans or debt consolidation loans can make a lot of sense for a one-time surprise medical bills, for example. But if the underlying spending/income mismatch isn’t fixed, you’re just causing more debt headaches down the line.

7. Use a Reverse Mortgage to Pay Mortgage Debt

Another way to tap home equity without incurring another monthly debt payment is a reverse mortgage. This tool can be used by people aged 62 and over to borrow against their home equity, and payments aren’t required until the borrower sells the house, moves or dies.

If you’re not ready to give up ownership in your home, you might consider a reverse mortgage home equity line of credit, which makes that money available if you need it in case of emergency. Reverse mortgages have a checkered past, but new regulations have cleaned up the industry, to a degree. Still, proceed with caution.

“If their retirement plan is tight already, which is the case for many, a retiree can monetize their home by replacing their mortgage with a reverse mortgage,” says Chen. “The benefit is that they would free themselves from monthly payments without depleting their retirement assets.”

8. Cash Out Life Insurance Policies

You might have value in a life insurance policy you don’t really need any longer, such as if your kids are finished with college. You can access the money in a cash value policy by taking a loan against it or even surrendering the policy.
This strategy can be expensive, however, with fees eating up as much as 30% of the settlement value. There can also be tricky tax complications, so proceed with care.

Note that you cannot pursue this strategy with term life policies, which are very popular because they are cheaper options. Getting cash value from life insurance only works with permanent life insurance such as whole life or universal life insurance.

In certain situations, you can also get money for a policy via a life settlement transaction. This strategy is mainly suitable for older policyholders who are in bad health.

8. Consider a Credit Card Balance Transfer

Transferring a credit card balance to a card with a lower rate—or a low intro rate—are two good ways to get out from under oppressive interest rates. But they come with one very large caveat: The tactic should really be a one-time tool.

Borrowing money to pay debts doesn’t solve the underlying problem. That’s why the best answer for older people with oppressive levels of debt is often…

9. Declare Bankruptcy

It’s okay to waive the white flag: Bankruptcy laws exist for a reason. Many older Americans have a strong ethos to pay all their bills, and that’s a good thing. But when you can’t pay, you can’t pay. And the sooner you come to that realization, the better.

Many people make huge mistakes while spiraling out of control, taking out home loans or spending retirement money to pay down debt that could be discharged in bankruptcy.

Social Security and many retirement accounts are protected assets in bankruptcy. That can make many older Americans “judgement proof”—they have no assets for a credit card issuer to claim. That also means it can be worth negotiating debt relief from certain kinds of loans without declaring bankruptcy, says Gerri Detweiler, author of “Debt Collection Answers.”

“If you do need to negotiate down the balance and don’t care about your credit history, you could potentially settle debt for substantially less than you owe,” she says. “Doing so will hurt your credit score, but do you really need good credit history any more?”

Bankruptcy shouldn’t be the first resort, but it shouldn’t be the last resort, either. Just beware that it doesn’t solve all debt problems. Student loan debt generally cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, though Miller suggests that clients in big trouble convert student loans to credit card debt, then discharge that later through bankruptcy.

Detweiler recommends finding a bankruptcy attorney via the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

Too Much Debt in Retirement? Make a Plan and Stick To It

When it comes to paying debt in retirement, older Americans should prioritize their own needs when choosing their strategy, says Miller.

“A lot of people have this, ‘I want to leave this for my kids’ mentality,’” says Miller, who recommends that your first priority is to take care of your own finances.

If you’re retired and feeling overwhelmed by debt, pay for the services of a financial planner or CPA who can help you make a plan to clean up your financial life. Most importantly, follow their advice and stick to the plan.

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