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Being at Peace With Debt

paying off debt without stressWith of Americans carrying almost 12 trillion dollars of debt, it seems inevitable that we’ll all owe someone money at some point. I was reading an article about student loans recently and it listed a concept that many in the personal finance community don’t understand or support; coming to peace with debt.

At first glance, I was ready to write the whole article off as one of those advice pieces that are about as helpful as payday loans or 18 months with no interest until I read further and decided that maybe being at peace with debt isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Debt Can Control Your Life

It’s very easy to let debt control your life. One example is after overextending yourself to the point where minimum payments are forcing you to live paycheck to paycheck. In this situation, the end of the money happens before the end of the month. You’re forced to dig further into debt keep the household running.

The other example is when you have a sizable debt, something like a mortgage or student loan, and you can’t get over the fact that you’ll owe money for years. Even though these are considered “good debts,” the thought of paying thousands of dollars in interest and being chained to a payment for decades is too much to handle.

Both situations can lead to stress, insomnia, and the feeling of being trapped, especially if your lifestyle has gotten out of control and monthly expenses are more than you can afford.

You Should Never be at Peace With Credit Card Debt

I’m not one to encourage stressful situations, but I think people need to get anxious about credit card debt. It’s not OK to buy things, knowing you have no way of paying them off any time soon. From experience, I can say that this type of mentality doesn’t lead anywhere positive. The more payments you take on, the fewer choices you get, and choice is really what life is all about. With credit card debt, I feel that your quality of life is limited.

Since no one wants a so-so life, credit card debt needs to be annihilated in whatever way possible. Even if it means working overtime until it’s gone. Get rid of it and move on to bigger and better things.

Being at Peace

I’ve mentioned before how we could devote all of our non-necessity money to paying off mortgage debt on our house and rental properties. It would still take a few years, but then we’d be completely debt free. However, during the process, I would not feel peaceful. It would be stressful to keep making huge payments, with the added worry that we were missing out on retirement savings and other investments we’d have to pass up to stay on track.

Another big problem with extreme debt payoff is that you can’t wait until it’s over. I’m 41 years old. Life is going way faster than I’d like. I never want to wish one minute away by being so focused on debt that I miss out on life. I think in these instances, if debt is at a low interest rate and isn’t adding to lifestyle inflation, it’s OK not to put all focus on paying it off.

To be at peace with your debt,

  • Remind yourself that having low interest debt is much better than not saving for retirement at all.
  • You are actually smart to leverage debt to your advantage while interest rates are low.
  • Try to view your debt as an investment that will pay itself back in the form of higher income or a valuable asset.

I understand 100% how people can be laser focused for a period of time, but I’m not sure everyone has it in them to do it for several years. I also don’t think it’s the right path for us. I don’t like owing Wells Fargo, but I’ll make my peace with it and enjoy the next decade to it’s fullest. Maybe mortgage debt is like the strange uncle that nobody really enjoys, but he still has to put up with from time to time.

Have you made peace with debt? Is that a good idea or not?






About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I am at peace when I am debt free. I have been for three months now after I paid off my long overdue credit card bill. I haven’t used my cc yet but I probably will because I have to maintain my credit score. I promise I’d watch over every purchase I make because I hate the feeling of being in great debt.

  2. Jon @ Money Smart Guides

    There are some debts that I am OK with, like having a mortgage. There is no way I am paying that off over saving for my retirement. While it would be awesome to have the house paid off, I don’t want all of my money tied up in my house where it is hard to access. Sure I could take out a home equity loan, but that is essentially the same thing as having a mortgage and defeats the whole point of paying it off quickly.

  3. I can totally say that I’m at peace when I’m totally living a debt free life. I’m trying to be debt free before this year ends “hopefully”.

  4. Relatively speaking, I’m ok with having the mortgage debt though still hate seeing the number we’re at with it even though it has a pretty low interest rate. That being said, I could not agree more with the point that your quality of life is hindered when dealing with something like credit card debt. Regardless of if you’re killing the payments or not you’ll still enslaved to a careless creditor until they’re paid off. Having been there in the past, that’s nowhere I plan to be again.

  5. I think you can make peace with “the situation” while still having drive and determination. One of my missions in the last year is to reduce stress under my current financial situation. That doesn’t mean I get lazy, but I just find more peaceful coping mechanisms. Whether you make peace or not, the situation remains the same until you do something about it, so it’s better to approach it with less stress and a sense of calm methinks. 🙂

  6. I have come to peace with my debt or like Tonya states becoming at peace with your situation. I have a large student loan, but I am in no hurry to pay it off. Paying off this debt wouldn’t give me peace of mind. In fact I would be extremely stressed during the couple years it would take me to pay it off and then I would be stressed afterward trying to make up for lost investment time.

  7. We definitely made a huge effort a few years back to pay off all the bad debt, namely credit cards and student debt. Now we have our home mortgage, which we plan to have paid off in 2 1/2 years, when we retire early. As for our rental property, we’re not prepaying that at all, since currently our tenant pays that mortgage for us, and the interest rate is so super low. We’ve made peace with the fact that will have that dead hanging over us for a while!

  8. I do believe people should be at peace with their debt, not in believing that debt (especially consumer) is okay and they should go further into debt, but at peace with the mistakes they have made, including debt, and be focused on moving forward. I typically find the people who constantly beat themselves up over debt are the ones who stay stuck and in the debt the longest. Those who make peace, learn and change behaviors are the ones who get out quickly and stay out of debt.

  9. I think there are certainly some debts that you should be at peace with and two of those are mortgage debt and student loan debt. The bigger issue I see with clients is getting at peace with their student loan debt. Some of them have almost 6 figures of debt but want to have it paid of ASAP. I tell them that most people wouldn’t expect to have a home paid off in 5 years or less so it’s not really realistic to have that wish for their student loan debt. I work a lot with them to help them get at peace and accept that it will be a part of their journey but shouldn’t control the journey.

  10. Since my debt is from law school, I think that helps me be at peace with it. I know that I took on the debt to get an education, so I don’t feel guilty about it. That being said, I still don’t enjoy having the debt and sometimes feel the pain when it interferes with my other financial goals. I’m just trying to work hard to pay it off and having a plan really helps ease the tension the debt causes.

  11. Applause goes to you KIM, as this is a great post. Being at peace with big debt is the way to go. Stress can do damage to health, and if you are at peace with it, you will successfully reduce stress. I hope everyone will be able to read this post. Good luck.

  12. I am at peace with my mortgage. Yes I pay interest and pmi but I still pay less than rent and at the end of the day there is equity in my home. I also am at peace with my car loan as we have a .9% interest rate and we bought the car for the long haul. And we bought new because I didn’t want much maintenance for a little while. Credit card debt I avoid like the plague and school loans would have caused my anxiety. But we haven’t dealt with them.

  13. I stress out about our mortgage. I want to go back to paying a lot more on the balance. But we have other priorities that need our focus. Specifically a large medical bill next year and the need to ramp up our retirement savings.

    I tell myself that I can focus more on the mortgage once the other two items are dealt with. Even so, we’ll probably not be able to put down as much extra as I want. And that just has to be okay. Because any other attitude leads to madness.

  14. I am certainly working hard to become debt-free but no way can I ascribe to the “debt is an emergency” mentality. It would be reason to be panicked and stressed all the time. I can’t live with a multi-year emergency! Haha! I prefer everything in moderation, including how much time and energy I use worrying about my debt. I have a good plan in place, and work hard to stick to it, and that’s that!

  15. When I was coping with debt stress I used to go on a nice run and practice martial arts. Practicing martial arts can be very relieving. It also helps your muscles as well. The same goes with running it is great for your body and health system and relieves you from the stress that you get from your debt. Another way to help relieve stress is to think positively. Negative thoughts will only make matters worse and lead to more stress. The company that I hired helped me regain peace of mind. They were really helpful and professional.

  16. Thank you for sharing the article. It’s very interesting. Hope to hear more from you.

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