I’ve spent a lot of years being in debt. Basically, I’ve been in debt since I left home for college at 17 years old. The thing is, while I was a hard worker but I didn’t have the type of financial education that is shared through generations of wealth building. I didn’t have lessons on saving, investing, and generational wealth building through purchasing property.
I come from a family of people who worked in towel factories, at ADM (corn syrup producer), and Firestone tires. The thing is the people in my family did save money, buy homes, and send some of their kids to college. They were frugal, lived in an inexpensive town in the mid-west, and were able to live the life that they dreamed about. I don’t think that the older people in my family would understand my current indebted life. They would think that it’s just common sense that you spend less than you earn. Of course you should save at least 10% of your salary! And delay gratification a no brainer! They were able to do it…the question is why couldn’t I? During my indebted life I dressed nicely, I ate great food, and I traveled the world. Once someone I worked with joked about how young people now a days retire first and then work hard later. How prophetic those words were.
As I begin the 2-3 year debt repayment process I reflect on all of my financial choices and for a brief second think-what if? What if I hadn’t gone to the expensive private university? What if I hadn’t shopped like a rock star? What if I’d stayed in most nights instead of partying every week and dancing on the table tops? Fewer dinners out? Not as many trips? Even though I’m feeling the pain of those decisions and I do have a number of regrets those mistakes and experiences have shaped and created the person that I am today. I would not wish the anxiety, stress, doubts, or pain that I’ve experienced because of this situation on anyone else.
The sad thing is my story is not that uncommon and I find that really sad. I hear people talking about their debt woes, their fears, and feelings of helplessness on the bus, in the mall, and in passing. We are experiencing a crisis of confidence in ourselves. When did we stop trusting our instincts, listening to the voice in our head that says purchasing a $350, 000 home with an adjustable mortgage is a bad idea on a teacher’s salary? When did we stop pausing to reflect on the fact that a $35,000 car on a small business manager’s salary is probably a little expensive for their wage? When did we become so greedy for a future that we needed to earn.
As I slowly say goodbye to my indebted years I wonder what the hell was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t. The indebted life has been such a big part of my life that I am amazed that there is another way to live.
I’m afraid. To give up such a bad habit is scary. I don’t want to fail. We’ll see how it goes.