The “buy now, pay later” lifestyle that so many of us have been sucked into has been bothering me as I see more and more people that are slaves to their possessions. They are stuck on a crazy treadmill trying to afford a lifestyle that their parents have (or more than their parents have), seemingly not realizing that their parents acquired that lifestyle over years of saving, not right out of high school or college. DaveRamsey.com has a very good article on the subject:
Myth: Debt is a tool and should be used to help create prosperity.
Truth: Debt is not a tool; it is a method to make banks wealthy, not you.
Debt is dumb. Most normal people are just plain broke because they are in debt up to their eyeballs with no hope of help. If you’re in debt then you’re a slave, in the sense that you do not have the freedom to use your money to help change your family tree. According to a recent USA Today article about debt, 78 percent of baby boomers have mortgage debt, 59 percent have credit card debt, 56 percent have car payments.
It takes a lot of will, discipline, courage and help to slay the debt monster. But it can be done. Imagine how much you could put toward retirement if you just didn’t have a stinking car payment? This is how the wealthy build their wealth. Debt is really dumb. Welcome to the real world! Start your Total Money Makeover Now.
If you are in the “debt over your eyeballs” category, you may not be able to afford the Total Money Makeover advertised on his show, so here’s a freebie version.
Concentrating on paying off the smallest credit card bill first, then adding that payment to the next smallest and paying it off, then going to the next one, etc. really does work. I’ve done it, so I know. I didn’t get the idea from the Dave Ramsey show. Instead, back in the mid 90s, I was sitting at my desk glaring morosely at a pile of credit card bills that had been created when we had to relocate suddenly due to a relative’s illness (and had a period of unemployment consequently and lived off of the credit cards for everything from first and last month’s on the rent in the new location, food, utilities, etc. as well as keeping up with the home house payments) and asking “how can I get this taken care of?” and that was the solution I came up with. You have to practice strict abstinence on creating new credit card debt, though.
If you’ve reached the point where you can’t pay all the credit cards plus the house payment and perhaps car payment but you’re still putting the gas and groceries on credit cards because you don’t have the cash, you’re in deep trouble. There are a multitude of credit counseling services (check them out carefully; there are a lot of fraudulent organizations) that may be able to negotiate new rates for you or, barring that, you may need to consider bankruptcy. This really should be the option of last resort because you’ll have a problem with higher insurance premiums, loans for big ticket items, as well as not being able to pass a background investigation for employment if you are in an industry where you are responsible for cash or confidential materials.
If you have no debt and an old vehicle, now would be a great time to purchase a new one of your choice. If you can’t afford the vehicle payments and have to finance for more than 3 years, get a less expensive vehicle. I would not get a house mortgage, either, that couldn’t be paid off in 15 years or less.
In the meantime, my vehicle is 15 years old and running strong, though in dire need of a paint job. I think I’ll sit tight awhile longer and watch this financial thing play out. Our house mortgage will be paid off in eight months.
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