As you may know, debt is a way to get things now that you actually can’t afford. Institutions will give you money to experience things that you would otherwise not be able to experience. While the allure of this sounds great, the pit that awaits those that indulge in this can be paralyzing, and can ultimatly be a hindrence to what you want to do later in life.
My wake up moment came in 2008. I work as a human resource manager for a Fortune 100 company and we were going through layoffs at the time. It was my job to sit with 80 employees individually and explain to them that they no longer had a job. The reactions that I got from each employee was the same: complete fear and horror. This experience made me start to think deeper about why they were in this state of complete fear. On the surface I got it, this is how they made money, and people need money to live. As I spoke to them and they began to share their fear, most were buried in debt and could not go one paycheck without being in serious trouble.
I went home that night and talked to Tami about this as it bothered me greatly. I began to look at myself and ask the question, “What if it was me getting laid off? Would I be ok? How long could I last without a income and living on unemployment?” The answer was not pretty. We had debt, and while we were comfortably paying it each month we would not be ok if I lost my income, not even for a short time.
I spoke to a friend of mine, and he told me about Dave Ramsey; this is a guy that is all about getting out of debt. I researched his philosophy and saw that he was speaking at a event about 8 hours away and we immediately booked a room and went to his conference. After the conference we followed his steps and paid off $80,000 in debt in 4 years. You can go to the Dave Ramsey website www.daveramsey.com and read about the philosophy of how to do that. We basically cut back in all areas, sold items we had, and did the infamous debt snowball. It works, not easy, lots of sacrifice, but it felt great to go through. Currently we owe about 20k on a used truck that I purchased, and about 5k on our boat. During this time, we paid cash for our 3 kids to have used cars when they turned 16, and we are paying cash for tuition for the two that are in college at this point (And oh yea, I am getting my masters degree and paying cash for that as well.) Our house has sold and then we will take on about $15,000 in debt for a 5th wheel camper that we will live in full-time, after putting down a large downpayment. Our goal is to be completely debt free in two more years (2016). Obviously we are fortunate to make good salaries at this time, but getting out of debt is possible no matter what your income level. Seems the more you make, the more you spend, so in most cases it is relative. Obviously if I could not afford it, I would not have bought the kids used cars and be paying for their college. I feel fortunate to be able to do this for them, but I don’t feel it is necessary if I could not do it with cash.
This feeling of less debt and on the path to being debt free is liberating. Debt is a heaviness that can sap you of your energy and leave you feeling a slave to it. With less debt, and soon to be no debt, we are feeling lighter, happier, and the blurriness that was once there of how we would ever get to do the things we want is now a clear picture.
Simply put, debt is a trap and it binds you. I’m not one of those people that believes that a person can’t carry any debt, but I do believe that it should be very, very minimal. Debt makes you a slave to your job and to your things. Lighten up the debt, aim for debt free, and you will then be free to do the things you want to do.