Second paragraph of article elaborates: ...The couple didn't mean to rely on plastic to maintain their lifestyle, yet by mid-2oo4 they'd racked up $90,000 in credit-card debt. That's when the Redlers got serious about getting their financial act together. They reined in their lifestyle (no more cleaning service and fewer dinners out). They refinanced their mortgage to free up equity, which they used to pay off their highest-rate, nondeductible credit-card debt. Today they have about $20,000 outstanding on their cards and one crucial question: Having come so far, how do they stay on the straight and narrow?
But they haven't come that far. They haven't paid off that $70,000 of card debt; they simply moved it. To their house. Refinancing the home and paying debt with equity does not change the Redlers' net worth one smidge. (Although now it's their home that's at risk.) I'm not saying the refi wasn't the wise thing for the Redlers to do. I'm saying the article suggests these folks have done the heavy lifting required to pay off $70k of credit-card debt, when in fact they've done nothing of the sort. Unless, of course, Ms. Chatzky left something out. If not, and all these guys can do to cut back is nix their cleaning service and have "fewer dinners out," then their future is as good as buried.