This was a simple question posed in a podcast episode that aired with a fascinating person, Tim Otis, who’d just paid off $103,000 in student loan debt. I came across him after watching a fabulous happy dance on YouTube.
Sometimes you just have to express yourself.
However, during our conversation and Tim posed this simple question.
“Why are we okay with debt?”
I have a few thoughts on the matter.
Debt is normal. Normal in that most of the people we know operate in a similar manner. Your parents probably had a credit card or two and used them regularly. Anyone you know with a house likely bought it with the expressed intention of paying on the mortgage over 30 years. Automobiles come with car notes attached. Over time, as prices rise and expectations of what one “deserves” at a certain stage of life, our willingness to use debt grows.
To dump debt and achieve freedom, our approach to seeing debt as normal will need to change.
Debt seems right. Thank marketers for this nugget. We accept the notion that success is defined by possession the of shiny things. Buying the next version, the newest things, and the bigger option is what will make us happy. For most of us, we find that after decades of chasing those things, not only are we not happier, but we have the monthly payments to keep us warm at night.
There is a way that seems right, but in the end leads to death (in this case death of fiscal sanity).
Debt isn’t a problem. Until it is a problem. By then, we’re stressed, overwhelmed, and susceptible to bad information and scam artists who prey on financial desperation to make a buck. Sometimes having your back against the wall is the motivation required to update your financial approach. You can always side step the drama and avoid a fiscal meltdown by removing the problem seed (in this case debt) before it takes root.
Look for ways to improve your financial IQ before the walls start closing in. Create a plan to eliminate consumer debt and build your cash savings. Need help? Here’s one approach: Snowball Your Debt
Debt is taught. Often our lessons from childhood are not taught, they’re caught. Since many of us didn’t receive much in the way of formal personal finance training – we cobbled together an approach from the lessons of our youth. That’s a scary thought for some. By reading this, you’re hopefully beginning to dismantle the unproductive habits that have been modeled. We do better when we know better. Sometimes.
Consider the end result when mimicking financial behaviors of our predecessors. If it didn’t work out well for them, find another way.
Debt satisfies immediate desires. We get what we want when we want it – now. The problem is the strings attached. While we have use of a product or service immediately, the risk associated with financing the purchase remains. This would be no problem if life worked out in real life the way is does in our heads…peachy. Life rarely does. While the bottom may not fall out drastically, over time the accumulation of debt and your ability to manage it may no longer balance.
Plan and save for purchases to minimize your reliance on debt.
Developing a savings habit and level of contentment can help ward off the “must-have-it-now” syndrome. Saving to pay cash, saving for emergencies, and correctly identifying a need vs a want will help you move out of the debt is normal camp. Debt is normal, but it doesn’t have to be.
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