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Darning The National Fabric

DebtOur country is stumbling blindly down an unsustainable path. While much is being made about the National Debt and how it is damaging our grand children’s futures, there is a much larger problem. Personal debt is destroying our national fabric as we speak. It is easy to understand the dangers of $14 trillion dollars worth of debt—but is it not just as scary to carry $14,750 in credit card debt with an APR of 14.67%? Personal debt is the greatest threat to ever face our nation. Americans must break past our normal thoughts on debt, understand the danger debt poses and build a strategy to end it.

From a purely lifestyle standpoint, personal debt is a significant problem. It is a negative force in such aspects of our lives as marriage and career choices. An ehow Family article discusses how debt plays in troubled marriages.

According to the SmartMoney study, the No. 1 starter of fights in marriages is the debt topic. Couples who are unable to reconcile their differences about debt — with one partner fearing financial failure or legal consequences from marital partners’ excessive debt — may seek to dissolve their marriage rather than risk insolvency or compromise.

From a career perspective, take a young college graduate. Having just completed his degree (one can tell from the nearly $20,000 in debt), college loans are no longer feeding him cash – they expect him to start paying it back. He needs a job, any job and quick. That same pressure applies throughout life – as long as money is owed to someone else you are enslaved. You don’t like your job, but you have $20,000 in credit card debt – you can’t take the risk of starting that business you always wanted to run or taking that cool position at a start-up. Your debt has become your master.

A married couple without a defined benefit plan both at retirement and nearing retirement had more than a nine-in-ten likelihood of outliving their financial assets in July 2008. After the market declines, their retirement vulnerability increased even further to a 19-out-of-20 chance.

-Ernst & Young LLP June 2009

A 2009 Ernst and Young survey conducted for American for  Secure Retirement showed couples nearing retirement with only a 4% chance of not outliving their assets. That means there’s a 96% probability that Americans over age 50 will run out of money before they run out of life.  If YOU want to be successful, you CAN NOT be like the 96%. It is all about behavior; you must be different. You must swim against the stream–and that means NOT having car payments, not buying a new car or replacing your car ever 6 years because it needs maintenance. Not taking the advice of the commission-based salesman that says buy the most expensive house you can afford, not taking advice from the banker who says you can spend 2 1/2 times your salary on a home, not listening to the mortgage broker who says your loans and debts can be 42% of your gross salary (Think about that: after taxes and another 40% just how much is left for insurance, gas and groceries? 25? 23%? Is it any wonder that the smallest deviation upsets the apple cart?). Not going ahead and getting it today, because you can finance it interest free for up to one year! We, as a nation, must focus on doing what is right for our future; right now that means living on less than you earn, no matter how much–or how little-that may be.

There is not much time left–we face a choice, as individuals and as a nation, to make these hard choices and do the right thing right now or take one more step down a path that we may never be able to recover.

That buzz you hear is every reader rationalizing and justifying their debt: we had to help your mom, it’s a low rate,  got a great deal on the house. What does ANY of that have to do with the fact that you are paying a fee, monthly, for your past? That tank of gas will cost hundreds of dollars by the time you pay that credit card debt. Can you make plans with friends without checking your balance first? Do you have to turn down a job you’d prefer in order to make enough to pay your student loans? Did they turn down YOU because of your credit? Is your car depreciating faster than its loan? Can you chat with your spouse about money—right now—and walk away happier than before you started?

Are you willing to commit to starting a better life right now?

 

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  1. Ai Politics says:

    This is a conversation that we need to be having. Some of us who tried to discuss this with family and friends 5 years ago were laughed out of the room. Now no one is happy. Not the ones who wouldn’t listen and not the people we’ve had to watch stumble.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is an excellent article and needs to be shouted from the rooftops everyday! The credit score is an albatross that helps the brokers, salesmen and bankers continue to enslave us. Debt free living pay cash for everything!