How To Become Debt Free

Get out of debt and become debt free

Here’s the easiest quiz you’ll ever take: Would you like to sleep better, have a happy marriage, improve your health, have more confidence and be able to help your family and friends?

If you answered no, please see the nearest psychiatrist. The obvious answer is yes, though it leads directly to the biggest question of all: How do you get all that? Get out of credit card debt.

This is where a lot of people roll their eyes and go, “Sure, easy for you to say.” Nobody is saying it’s easy, but instead of rolling their eyes, millions of people have rolled up their sleeves and escaped the financial prison that is debt.

Their reward was a better, easier, more satisfying life. No, money can’t buy happiness, but lack of money often causes the opposite of all the desirable things listed in our opening quiz.

Call it Debt Depression. You turn blue worrying that your paycheck won’t be deposited in time to cover your electricity bill payment, or your car is making funny and expensive-sounding noises, but you’re afraid to take it in because you can’t handle any more bills.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that 72% of adults feel stressed about money, and 22% said they experience extreme stress.

Money problems cause 22% of divorces, according to a study by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts. In real terms, that means about 180,000 couples split up every year over money woes.

Almost half the people in America don’t have $400 to pay for an emergency, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Board. If unexpected trouble hits, they’d have to borrow money or sell something to cover it.

Majority of Americans Live In Debt

Nobody wants to live like that, yet millions do. In the most recent U.S. Census, 69% of respondents said they were in debt. Americans owe more than $800 billion in credit-card debt and $1.2 trillion in student loans. Only 32% of homes are paid off.

The personal savings rate in the U.S. is a paltry 5.1%, and 31% of Americans aren’t putting anything away for retirement.

But never mind all those depressing numbers. The main takeaway is high debt and low saving is a recipe for unhappiness, unless the thought of spending your Golden Years bagging groceries puts a smile on your face.

Hopefully you’re motivated by other things, like stability, marital bliss and giving your kids a good education. And we haven’t even mentioned having the ability to do what you want with your life.

Who hasn’t dreamed of pulling a Johnny Paycheck and telling their boss, “Take this job and shove it!”? We don’t necessarily recommend that as a vocational strategy, but how nice would it be not suffer a panic attack over the prospect of losing your job?

Want vs Need

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a want and a need brought to you by Money Minute.

The Secret To Getting Out Of Debt

The secret to getting out of debt is no big secret – make more than you spend.

It sounds simple, yet you might as well be speaking Swahili to some people. Fortunately, millions of people have learned the language of debt eradication. The traits they generally share can act as a blueprint for the rest of us.

They’re not materialistic. They won’t buy a new BMW when a good used Honda is sitting next to it on the sales lot.

They’re detail oriented. They work off a budget so it’s easy to track their income and bills and know where every dime goes.

They’re secure and self-reliant. Their self-worth isn’t based on impressing people with their possessions or the size of the mortgage.

They have common sense and foresight. You don’t need an Ivy League diploma to get out of debt, but you need to appreciate how money works. For example, compound interest is your enemy when you owe money. It’s your friend when you’re saving money.

They have patience, perseverance and a plan. It might take a few years to dig out of debt, but they are willing to stick to the program. The problem is simply getting a program.

There are plenty of debt management companies that will assess your financial situation and help devise a budget. They provide credit counseling that educates you about the root causes of debt and will show you a way to dig yourself out.

Again, nobody’s saying it will be easy, but go back to our opening quiz and think of the payoff. That should be enough to make you sing, “Take this debt and shove it.”

SOURCES:

(NA)(2015, May). Report on Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2014. Retrieved from  http://www.forbes.com/sites/reneesylvestrewilliams/2012/07/30/ten-traits-of-debt-free-people/#73ee7baa2f81

(NA)(ND). Wealth  Asset Ownership. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/people/wealth/

(Sylvestre-Williams, R.)(2012,  July 30). Ten Things Debt-Free People Do. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/reneesylvestrewilliams/2012/07/30/ten-traits-of-debt-free-people/#73ee7baa2f81

(Chalabi, M.)(2014, Dec. 11). How Many Homeowners Have Paid Off Their Mortgages? Retrieved from http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/how-many-homeowners-have-paid-off-their-mortgages/

Karen Carlson
kcarlson@incharge.org

Karen Carlson is a personal finance expert and writer. Her financial advice has been published in Time, US News & World Report and Fox Business News. Carlson is an Emmy Award-winning producer of educational television and recent nominee for NFCC Financial Educator of the Year.