The Debt Game
Think Twice Before Volunteering to take on Debt
From a very young age, I remember hearing the word debt quite often on T.V. “Get out of debt in as little as six months!” or “Do you owe more than $10,000 in back taxes to the IRS?” As a child, I often wondered about the meaning behind the word debt but never took the time to ask any downtrodden “adults” what the word actually meant. That four-letter word has its own meaning for each of us in debt. Some envision it as a powerful tool that they carefully manage to grow their wealth, others simply shudder at the thought of it and quietly close the door on the closet monster. “The borrower is slave to the lender” is as true today as when it was first written.
By the age of 18, I, like most teenagers, felt I was one of the smartest people ever born. I had worked hard through my youth and saved a sizable amount of money for college. It did not take long for me to realize my naivete. Over five long years of engineering school, I managed to waste away most of my savings. I even went so far as to rack up a large amount of credit card debt because of my inability to pay cash on portions of my school, small car emergencies, and of course some beer here and there. At the time I was living in fantasy land, truly believing that my salary after college would easily cover any debt accumulated in college. Because what’s $5,000 when you're an engineer?
Debt Chains You to a Job
After I graduated I wanted to go chase my dream of being a sailor on the high seas but had become a willing indentured servant to those crafty lenders. Since then, with my persistence in removing all debt from my life, I’ve gained a lot of ground on my pile of debt but I have yet to completely remove all of the freedom load. Over the last two years, I’ve managed to pay off about $33,000 worth of it, give or take a few dollars, AND purchased a 36-foot sailboat to restore and live on. My co-workers often laughed at me for eating rice, living in used clothing, and generally existing well below my “means” whatever that is. If you have debt, you are living outside of your means.
When was the last time you looked at your financial situation to see how long you would elude bankruptcy if you lost your job? Until I started my debt murdering spree, I had no clue how long I would be able to go without a job. The reality is, for most of us, it’s not long. With the current state of the economy and massive swings in the stock market, it can be nerve-racking. I’m sure there are quite a few people who are wishing they wouldn’t have taken out a loan for that new boat now that they’ve lost their jobs.
Without Debt, You Can be Whatever You Want to be
It didn’t take long to realize that working a traditional job is not for me. Perhaps the perfect job might satisfy me, but not for long. I’m just too caught up in having a good time and exploring the world. The problem is that I am forced into going to work every day in order to pay off the debt I accumulated in college. I can scream at the walls till I’m blue in the face about my desire to sail, hike, or whatever I’m thinking about at the time. It doesn’t matter though. I can’t do it. I’m financially bound to go to my job and work because that’s currently the only way that I can afford to pay my bills.
What about you? Are you a painter? A carpenter? A writer? There is a way to do soul fulfilling things for enough money to make a living when your debt is eliminated. If your only expenses are food, housing, and your passion, it doesn’t cost much. Even if it does cost something (sailing isn’t cheap) you can probably think of a way to make it happen if you just focus on your goals and spend every day trying to achieve them. Get rid of the T.V. already and learn something new.
If I could tell my 18-year-old self anything, it would be to save money and not spend it on frivolous things. It would’ve saved me two years of time in achieving a debt-free existence and a lot of heartache. I guess the goal of this article is to hopefully save a few people from the burden of debt. The world will be a much brighter place for you when you aren’t constantly worried about money. I recommend doing whatever it takes to get rid of your debt, especially high-interest debt like car loans and credit cards. See what the Dave Ramsey plan is all about, I promise it works if you stick with it. Once you’re free, you can do almost anything you want, if you have shelter and food.