The burden of debt on your self esteem
Today I want to talk Behind the White Picket Fence about the destructive effects of debt. For years now, Americans have had increasingly heavy debt and American governmental entities have allowed the debt to accumulate without stepping in. It’s impossible to think that the government didn’t see some of the questionable behaviors occurring within business circles that we, the average citizen, saw. Credit card companies were sweeping college campuses with all sorts of campaigns aimed at getting the youth of America hooked on credit before they had the maturity or the financial independence to say ‘no’. The government, IMO, should have taken steps to stop that sort of abuse of our college students and protect their futures although they do have to bear some responsibility too. Sooner or later debt catches up and it hits the debtor head on like a run away freight train.
Years ago, I took the plunge into the credit card world. I remember how proudly and responsibly I carried my first card. I felt this special pride that I was ‘worthy’ of credit and the trust that company had in me. Soon a second ‘approved’ card came, then the first one raised my limit because I was ‘so responsible’ and a third vulture saw reasons to ‘pre-approve’ me too.
Now every one in debt today could find a ‘reason’ not to fully accept the blame for their predicament and I was no exception. I first rationalized that I would pay it off at the end of the month. Then I rationalized that I could split it between two months and ‘make it comfortable’ for me to pay and still pay very little interest. Then, I thought how much I deserved something (I can’t remember what it was though nor why I deserved it.) and I reasoned that I had extra obligations due to a divorce, etc. I had a good job and I could pay it off in no time, but I still didn’t acknowledge that if I couldn’t afford it I couldn’t afford it. Period. Also, I didn’t figure on the doctor bill that I really had the money to pay, but I ‘kinda’ wanted something else and decided to ‘just do it’. Soon, my charge cards were going up. Now, let me not mislead you, I have never had the kind of credit card debt or any other kind of debt that some people have had. My heart wouldn’t take it. But, I had, for me, a big debt. Looking back on it, it was really quite tiny.
What I found was that when my cards were getting a lot of debt… again for me, my self esteem took a beating. I don’t know if everyone in debt has this problem or not, but I felt like the snakes belly. I worried and fretted and figured and sweated. I was never late one single time on my payments, so those credit card companies would swear that I could ‘afford’ that much debt, but my inner self told me that I couldn’t. I got a second and third job because I was also helping pay for my son’s college and extra funds were non-existent. Fortunately, at that time, jobs were available if you wanted one… or two …. or three. Now, I reasoned that when I got the check from the extra jobs, I’d just take the money and immediately pay it on the charge cards and pretty soon I could show them who was ‘in charge’ of those cards. Well, as we all know, human beings are good at rationalizing. So, when it got nearer Christmas, I rationalized that I didn’t want my son away from home at Christmas and he was in a distant state in school, so I bought him an airline ticket home. Oh, yes, you can’t have your child, even a college age one, not having what he wanted or thought he needed, for Christmas. So, I spent money from the second and third jobs and still had the debt. Then, of course, with my son home for Christmas I bought extra holiday treats, groceries and ‘stuff’ to make him (or was it me) happy. Higher! Yep, that was the charge card. I was practically certain that’s where Diana Ross got the idea for her pop song… ‘Higher’.
Well, eventually, I bit the bullet and got the cards paid off. Then, I learned that there was an additional problem that was even more deflating to my self esteem. Once they were paid off, they somehow became ‘high’ again. I know! I don’t know how that happened either. I was in a debt or charge card cycle and it was darn near impossible to shake it. But, after the third time I said I’d break my own arm before I’d do that again. I cancelled most of the cards as soon as they were paid off. I now know that Susie Orman says don’t do that, but it is my feeling that ‘to heck with what it does to the credit score unless it is imperative that you buy a house or car… I needed to break that cycle and I cancelled all of my cards except one that was kept for an honest to God, cross my heart, someone’s going to die unless they get this medicine, type emergency. Once I broke that cycle and I learned that stores do actually take cash, I felt a lot better about myself. Debt does awful things to the soul. It’s difficult to explain, but it is like a dark cloud hanging over your head …. and mine wasn’t much debt. I can’t imagine what some people’s cloud feels like unless they don’t care. In that case, there is an even larger problem that needs an even larger solution.
So, the point that I am making is that I think America and Americans are suffering now not only from the financial and economic condition of the country, but also from the Psychological weight of debt. I also think it’s important for us to all realize that it really does take months and years to pay off given the fact that most of us can rationalize why we should only make the minimum payment each month. To become Psychologically healthy and have good self-esteems, America is going to have to rethink debt and relearn the job of saving. I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t have fun, but there is plenty of time for that when we have ‘really’ earned it. We can put the sharks at the credit card companies out of business and they won’t even know what hit them. Now, that would be fun!
The same thing goes for homes. Why does everyone have to live in the ‘big house’ anyway when most of us would agree that the happiest times of our lives were times when we actually had the least, (i.e, when we were first married or had our first child) …. financially speaking. Well, at least we were happy IF we didn’t have a lot of charge card and other debt. Kids don’t really need all the DVDs, videos, and whatever the toy manufacturers told us they need. This all brings to mind the TV commercial where the guy was in love and forgot to ask if she had any debt. He had a good job and enjoyed life until her debt came down the pike. Then, he was riding in an old worn out car and barely getting by.
Likewise, our government is going to have to learn a huge financial lesson too. Bill Clinton seemed to be quite capable of financially managing the country, assuming, of course, that we got the ‘straight’ answer that taxpayers are entitled to get. Unfortunately, George W. Bush ‘took’ office and who knows if he mismanaged the country or if that was Dick Cheney, but they sure knew how to run up a big debt and then claim the debt belongs to someone elses. My philosophy is if you can’t afford a war, you shouldn’t have one. Obviously, we must afford to protect our own country, but we need to stay out of foreign wars that we can’t afford. So, we had far too much debt when Bush finally left a devastated country. I think the jury is still out on Obama. I like most of what I see him doing, and have reserved a question mark about other things. I am concerned that the national debt is being run up too high and not for the reason you usually hear thrown around. I prefer not to leave debt to the children or grandchildren, but that isn’t my primary concern. My primary concern is run away inflation that is down the road if we don’t get it under control. We saw the inflation of the late 70s and early 80s and we don’t need that again, especially with so many people out of work. So, let’s keep the wish list to things we need and can pay for.
Things in our country are so complicated and the solutions are so complex. That doesn’t even bring into the equation that there are at least two sides that are at opposite poles. Everyone feels they have the solution and I’m no exception …. except I only think that about a few things. With respect to many of the other things, I have no idea how to solve them.
(copied from Progressive Blue. http://www.progressiveblue.com/diary/4186/the-burden-of-debt-on-your-self-esteem-with-a-poll)