With 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?