The Reality Of How People Get Into Debt – It Just Creeps Up!

Clown From Movie IT I am an opponent of consumer debt because the interest rates that credit cards charge are usurious when compared to the government bond yield of ~2.8%. If you are going to use a credit card, please pay it off in full every month or you’re just lighting your money on fire. This ain’t Vegas where everybody is making it rain in the clubs you know!

We probably shouldn’t be living it up while still deep in consumer debt if we want to achieve financial freedom. But it’s just so hard when we’ve got our parents, government bailouts, rich friends, and wealthy spouses who will take care of us if we go overboard. Paying $4 an hour for parking with my credit card doesn’t feel so bad. But when I’ve got to load up the meter with 16 quarters, damn, what a ripoff! It’s only natural to want what other people with means have, so we spend since it’s so easy.

One of my readers called me out on my assumption that indebted consumers consciously spend beyond their means. Is it so bad for me to assume a mugger isn’t threatening to chop off your pinky if you don’t buy yourself $1,000 Christian Loubotin pumps or a $8,000 Panerai Submersible watch? I think so, but here’s a fantastic perspective by “GetAGrip” which I thoroughly appreciate.

DEBT CREEPS UP ON YOU LIKE A CLOWN IN THE GUTTER 

The assumption here is that most people wallow in the debt and happily and knowingly take it on. That’s not what I’ve seen happen. What I did and what I’ve seen is that is creeps up on you, in part because of naive ideals or just lack of experience. Things happen slowly to many young adults, often over many years, until they hit a crisis.

For example you may figure, as a naive twenty plus year old, that a bank wouldn’t give you a loan you couldn’t afford because that would be a bad risk for them and they’re not in the business of taking bad risks. Or when the finance guy at the car dealership looks at your monthly salary and says you can easily afford that car you’d like, you buy into it because they are all nice, decent people and wouldn’t just be stroking your ego to make a sale. Then when you add up your salary at the end of the month and compare that to your bills, guess what? You CAN pay them all.

So what’s the problem! You are being a responsible adult, paying your bills and debts. Sure, maybe you couldn’t pay off all credit card bill this time, but you paid more than the minimum, and you’ll get it knocked out next month. Sure, sometimes you do the credit card juggle using one card to pay the other, but your tax return is coming soon and that’ll help and generally you’re living fine.

You have no real worries. You are enjoying your life and retirement is like, forty years or more away. You could be dead way before then so why sweat it.

But then you need a root canal, and you find your insurance doesn’t cover that, and it’s $2000 when it’s all said and done. Soon after, the newer car is doing fine, but your spouse’s older car needs $1500 in repair work to pass state inspection. And since I mentioned spouse, did I mention you might still be paying off the wedding and honeymoon? After a few years of this you find that…

Yes, you can STILL pay all your bills, you may even be able to save a little because you got some promotions.

But the debt has risen from a few thousand to maybe a few tens of thousands and while you aren’t really worried, you are having trouble understanding how it got so big. Then you get the first real wake-up call. It could be that you lose your job or someone is pregnant or you simply were doing the bills and realized how much money you’re spending and it’s more than your parents ever earned in a year.

That is how I’ve seen it work for most people. Many are living just a bit beyond their means and seemingly living fairly well, but not really saving, not really investing and it isn’t until a crisis of some kind hits that they start to come around. Otherwise they continue to live, paying their bills, saving a little, sliding deeper and deeper into debt, but never really seeking financial independence because they’re managing and in their view, doing just fine.

LIFE JUST HAPPENS WHEN WE’RE BUSY LIVING

Although I’ve never really had any revolving consumer debt, I’ve made loads of financial mistakes that have caused me hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses that is like getting into huge debt. For two years from the beginning of 2009 to the end of 2010 I shut down my spending out of grief and guilt. Life just happened where I decided to live it up and buy a vacation property. Life just happened where I just had to roll in a Mercedes G-Wagen as an immature 25 year old until my financial world took one massive uppercut to the chin once Lehman Brothers collapsed!

As GetAGrip says, we get suckered into spending more than we should thanks to our naivete. What 20-something year old male doesn’t want to drive around in a sweet ride? After meeting a lovely woman with said sweet ride, what young man doesn’t want to shower her with gifts and experiences? After courtship, there’s the “average” $25,000 wedding, and then the honeymoon, and the bigger car, and the nicer house, and the kids, and the anniversary gifts and the retaliatory spending….. holy seafood cioppino! Life just happens. Getting our personal finances under control is a lifelong process that gets easier with more practice.

In a very popular post here entitled, “Explaining Why The Median 401(k) Balance Is So Low” I break down why there’s such a discrepancy with what is needed and what currently exists. The post also provides real case studies for able people who are behind. A study by Transamerica Center For Retirement Studies found that the average retirement balance was only around $93,000 at the end of 2012. This compares poorly to my recommended retirement savings amount for a median aged person of $215,000-$331,000. By the time the person reaches 65, the shortfall grows to $500,000 – $2.3 million!

One of two things is either going on: 1) Citizens of America will be working until death and/or 2) My assumptions are unrealistically high. There’s probably a little truth to both, but I’m telling you from 100% experience that my forecasts are realistic for those who want to live a comfortable lifestyle in an ever inflationary environment. My figures have a huge spread to allow for those with lower lifestyle demands and those who want to live it up more.

WHAT DID YOU LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?

Accumulating debt is just like accumulating wealth, but in reverse. Little habits compound over time to the point where we suddenly realize we are in way over our heads. Conversely, we realize we’re suddenly 10 years older and have a large financial nut thanks to consistently maxing out our 401(k)s or IRAs. It’s very hard to see the results of our progress while we’re busy living. But just one look at a picture from 10 years ago will remind us all of where we used to be.

Readers, why do you think people get into debt? Does debt sneak up on us over time without us consciously knowing what we’re doing? What’s the best way to get out of debt? Note, I’m currently away until Sept 8 with only my iPhone. Responses will be delayed.

Photo: The freaking scary clown from the movie, IT.

Regards,

Sam

 

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Financial Independence says

    Debt can definitely creep up on you – no one plans for their car to get broken into or for their child to get sick and need expensive medication. Knowing that we can’t predict these unexpected expenses gives me all the more incentive to save when times are good, so that I can get by when things get tough.

  2. Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says

    I agree that it creeps up, Sam (love the clown from IT..man did the first pages of that book scare the crap out of me). I was one of those “big purchase” guys…so it crept fast. A car here, a large purchase there…added up. It has taken me 2 years to reverse 18 years of being an idiot.

  3. Matt Becker says

    Like you, I’ve never gotten into the trap of consumer debt but I can absolutely identify with the sentiment of the post from GetAGrip. I also think that explains why it can be so difficult for people to get out of debt. While building debt was a slow, almost mindless process, getting out requires almost constant attention and vigilance. It will likely be just as slow, or close to it, but because you’re paying attention to it it will feel much longer and more difficult.

  4. Michelle says

    That picture just terrified me! I used to watch that movie as a kid and would have nightmares.

    Debt definitely creeps up. Most people don’t know their total debt numbers, and most are afraid to add everything up because they don’t want to face reality.

  5. Beat The 9 to 5 says

    I agree Sam, debt just creeps on us, but for some people it is a habit they find difficult to break. There are ways for us not to be in debt, like creating a fund for emergency situations instead on depending on loans to bail us out.

  6. Cindy @ GrowingHerWorth says

    I’ve definitely been in the position of having debt creep up. You get suckered in with the debts that you “should have”: the car loan, student loans, mortgages. Then you start stacking on the credit card debt. You’ll pay it off next month! The tax refund will cover it! All it takes is one unexpected disaster, and everything comes tumbling down.

  7. Holly@ClubThrifty says

    I think that debt takes over people’s lives for different reasons. I know some people who just got in over their heads without realizing it. I also know others who live their lives in massive consumer debt because they are immature and want everything NOW NOW NOW.

    I think it just depends on the person.

  8. Brian says

    Debt is a creeper! Over 20 plus years my family and I racked up over $100k in debt and I’m still not sure on what. We have paid down over $75k in the last 3 years once we we took control, got organized and stopped living beyond our means.

  9. nbsdmp says

    For some strange reason I’ve always been deathly afraid of debt. I borrowed for my student loan and when I graduated (in 1994) with a balance of $18k, I worked every hour of overtime, lived on ramen noodles and rolled pennies for gas to fuel my 12 year old truck for the first six months grace period with no interest accrual…on the day interest started at 22 I wrote the check for $18k to be debt free. Since that day, unless I can pay cash for something I don’t buy it (other than first starter home), as a society we need to educate kids before they get out into the world about personal finance. Is it really necessary to have Home Economics in High School but not Real Life Economics? I can understand how debt creeps up on people & it is sad that some people (like a lot of people who I know) really had no clue how to manage their finances for long term success.

    • B says

      I’m in this camp. I’ve always been deathly afraid of debt and never had any (other than a very conservative mortgage). I went to schools where I got money so I didn’t have to take out loans. I was on the debate team in college and we had this case about solving the African debt crisis and would argue that “debt is slavery” (and win) and maybe I further convinced myself of this fact and am lucky for it. That said, I automate my finances so that I live pay check to check and sometimes I just spend money on my credit card without being mindful then I’m broke the last 5 days of the month. Not really the same, but sort of. Also, I like the converse, it’s amazing how saving a little each month creeps up on you too, and pretty soon you’ve got serious money.

      • nbsdmp says

        I would say it is predisposition…my parents were responsible middle classers growing up. My brother and sister have a low financial IQ and it makes my parents question how they raised kids that could be so polar opposite.

  10. Kristy says

    I have never had debt creep up so I don’t understand it. Of course, my husband and I have never bought a brand new car, don’t care if we have al the latest gadgets and currently have a large income. That being said, we have always put money into our 401K’s and the years we didn’t have one, we maxed out our Roth IRA’s. We don’t spend money we don’t have and we don’t spend money if we can’t max out our 401K’s. We know plenty of people who spend more than they have and have no savings to show for it. Both my husband and I have a hard time understanding that concept. How can one not save for retirement, emergencies, kids college education?

      • Kristy says

        It does…to a point. Maybe my point of view is warped because of what some of our friends and relatives do regarding income, expenses and savings. Unfortunately, we know many people who spend above their means and have no savings.

    • getagrip says

      I was stunned once in conversation while in Texas with a woman who grew up in Denver and earnestly told me that no matter where she went in the U.S. the only people she’d ever met who didn’t have an accent were from Denver and she couldn’t understand why.

      Sometimes we are so focused on our worldview feeling so “right” for us that we forget that not everyone shares it or even should share it.

  11. Insourcelife says

    For me it started with college loans… Here is $20K, you can pay it off later when you have that great job. Then a brand new Jeep Wrangler because I was making good money and “deserved” it. Then a condo. Then a house. Then a bigger house. Then – STOP! WTF is happening here? Lifestyle inflation will get you in debt quickly. Even though we never got in trouble with credit card/consumer debt our life got on an escalator and I am glad that we jumped off a couple of years ago! We are now on the opposite side de-leveraging to soon have 0 debt of ANY kind.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Man, I always wanted a Jeep Wrangler! Impressed on your plan to have zero debt at all.

      I’m keeping my primary home mortgage for as long as it’s tax advantageous based in my income.

      • Insourcelife says

        The Wrangler was FUN but what a money pit because I got hooked on making it what a “real” Jeep should look like – 33″ tires, 4″ suspension lift, etc. Those things will make you broke if you get into customizing. I was glad when I got over it and sold it for a good price. I’ve rented a Wrangler to go driving on the beach a couple of times and that’s a lot cheaper way to get the experience (including the piss poor mpg).

  12. SavvyFinancialLatina says

    I get how people let their debt creep up. It’s easy to buy things on credit. We just bought a mattress, and there was an incentive to finance the mattress for 72 months for 0%. We didn’t because we only buy things we have cash in the bank for, but I can see how many people would say, hey I can afford a mattress for a low monthly payment. We don’t like debt. Other than a mortgage, we would like to remain debt free.

  13. Josh from CNA Finance says

    I recently did a bunch of research. What I found is that psychologically when you have less to spend, you feel like you need more than you actually do. Then, people start using credit cards to get those things thinking, well, the minimum payment is small. That starts the cycle and eventually debt comes out of it. As far as getting out of debt, budgeting usually works for most people. Balance transfers can help reduce the interest too. In times of financial hardships, financial hardship programs may help! Thanks for the great read!

  14. whoanelly says

    I think most of the time it’s a combination of not having learned good spending/saving habits, and a having a hard time distinguishing needs from wants. The most obvious way to get out of debt is to curb your spending, develop a budget for yourself including a rainy day fund, and pay it off. To stay out of debt, never spend more than you can pay off by the end of your billing cycle. That’s worked for me but I’m also a really patient person when it comes to waiting for what I want. Growing up I never was the cool kid with designer clothes and now that I’m pushing 40, with the exception of my health and fitness, I care even less about the bells and whistles of my outward appearance.
    I have a few friends that had problems it their 20’s charging up their CC, and each time they made a big, unaffordable purchase they’d say, “I’ll buckle down and pay it off within X months”. But every time they just didn’t have the self-discipline to stay well-behaved for those X months, they didn’t budget and they struggled to get out of the hole. I don’t know if I would call that debt sneaking up on them; they just had more faith in paying it off than they were willing to put into action.

  15. Untemplater says

    I’m a strong advocate for low budget weddings. I can’t imagine spending anywhere near the “average” of 25k. I really wish more couples didn’t start their marriages off in deep debt bc of their wedding.

    I think some people get into debt because they don’t think about the long term effects of overspending. They just figure “I’ll pay it off later” without thinking where that money “later” is going to come from.

    • nbsdmp says

      Weddings are the one thing that kills me too. An ex(thank the lord)-girlfriend of mine explained to me how she would need a certain size of ring and no less than $100k wedding. I said that is ridiculous to have your parents foot the bill for something like that, to which her response was no that would be me paying for it since I’ve got the cash! To which I promptly laughed and launched her…just because you have the money, doesn’t mean you should throw it away…let alone borrow it for just 1 day that should be fun & not stressful. I get it that it is important, but if a person is more focused on what other people think than wanting to be with you, she has done you a favor by showing her true colors & you’ve just avoided a life of misery!

        • nbsdmp says

          Oh that is not the half of it…because I collect cars (starting long before I met her), she told me if her ring does not cost more the my most expensive car (6 figures +), that it would prove that I didn’t love her and what a selfish person I am. Have you heard of Borderline Personality Disorder…this woman was a textbook case for it. Worst part is I was totally head over heals in love with her and wanted so badly for it to work I actually wouldn’t tell my family or friends about her wild demands and complete self absorbed elevated self worth…so they would still like her. There were 3 separate interventions my friends had to get me to dump her. Where she is today, hopefully karma has come around and she is with her old boyfriend who went to jail for embezzling a couple million to feed her lifestyle she “deserved”. True story…I could tell you some more whoppers, but I’m saving it for the book…ha!

        • nbsdmp says

          So I actually agree with your post on rings…to a point. Here is the difference, I live my lifestyle at 30% of my income, because there are no guarantees it will always be where it is and I’m 100% debt free. It would be absolutely insane to wear around a $300k ring and then have my friends family and employees see it. I drive a 12 year old Tahoe to work, but yes have a couple cars as investments that are worth some $. $60-$80k on a ring no problem, & honestly it would be nicer than anything any of her friends or family could possibly imagine, but the audacity to even have the words come out of a woman’s mouth with such conviction was repulsive. Of course she and her family lived at the extent of their means plus some with all kinds of debt, while I’m conservative, self made, and a debt free. It’s a great feeling to give to your significant other when they don’t expect or demand it. You want the girl who would be happy as a clam with a simple gold band and never asks for a thing but to be with you …that’s the one I’d give anything to.

  16. The Warrior says

    First, that damn clown picture has got to go. I’m going to have nightmares now.

    Regarding the creeping up of debt:

    In college, I didn’t accumulate much credit card debt and paid school off with cash each semester (graduating in 4 years). However, I did leave with $3k in credit card debt. Not the end of the world, but I swore I couldn’t explain where that added up from. The same goes today with a 6 month old baby.

    I am combatting this by analyzing our finances and spending on the daily. I know that is tedious and frustrating, but it’s to prevent the debt from creeping up. Eventually, I will just address weekly as I feel more comfortable with my financial standing and actions.

    The Warrior
    NetWorthWarrior.com

  17. James Molet (SavvyJames) says

    ‘Debt Creep’ is absolutely true and what creditors want from you! The more debt they can pile on you, for longer periods of time, the happier they are. I feel into the trap when I was younger as I did not pay off the cards monthly. Before you know it, you are at or near the max, with years ahead of you to pay it off if you stick to the minimum monthly payments.

    Love seeing Pennywise! I used to read a lot of Stephen King back in the day and loved the book, “It”. Good stuff.

  18. retirebyforty says

    We were really lucky to never carry consumer debt. We both hate debt and that was enough for us to avoid it like a plague. I think most people don’t feel that way. They figure they’ll just carry it a few months and then pay it off. Eventually it snowballed and they just keep increasing the debt. There’s not a lot of repercussion when you have a little debt so why not.

  19. Martin says

    I’m offended that responses will be delayed! Who can I file a complaint with? Just kidding lol.

    I think people get into debt because they are not conscious of what they do. The same applies to food. People just eat like they spend. There’s no thought put into it.

    I’m already thinking about where money will be spent today and what I will eat. You have to plan at least a few hours in advance. If you show up at the mall with your credit card, well, that won’t end pretty!

    • mysticaltyger says

      I think the “not conscious of what they do” comment nails it. And so many entities in our society encourage us to not be conscious about what we do. I think that’s why the Buddhists are so big in mindfulness and meditation. These practices can combat things live overspending and overeating. Western religion has also had it’s own ways of combating mindlessness. Saying grace before meals is a type of mindfulness practice and so is tithing to a church or charity…Psychologically speaking, if you’re giving 10% of your money away off the top, it makes you think more carefully about your overspending. It also gets at the concept of abundance…that you DO have enough. As another poster said, people with little money tend to overestimate the amount of money they truly need.

      For the non religious, I think regular meditation can really help prevent both overeating and overspending if done consistently. But a lot of people quit because it does seem tedious and it takes time to work (because they’re addicted to instant results).

      • Financial Samurai says

        Got to do more meditation. Always on my list. Mindfulness is key. But mindfulness needs to be released, otherwise it gets too bottled up inside sometimes. Thankfully I can let some go through writing.

  20. JT says

    I’ve always felt it’s the amortization of debt, not interest, that really cripples people financially. It is dumb to pay 20% on a credit card, no doubt, but if constrained to a very small part of your annual income (say, CC debt = 5% of take home pay), it won’t be the interest that kills you.

    One of personal finance’s biggest failures is a complete focus on interest rates and the dismissal of “payment shopping.” Sure, interest matters, but only to an extent. The real problem is that people are all too eager to carve out their monthly income for debt service. If 80% of your monthly income is committed to specific expenditures, it doesn’t take much to put your month-by-month cash flows in the red. I’d love to see the statistics on how many people take a 20% pay cut at least once in their life. I’d bet it’s close to half – maybe more.

    I completely agree with Get A Grip’s assessment. The blogosphere provides a good test for the thought, since the average blogger is a 20- or 30-something who decided to get serious about their finances because of a major event. Maybe it was a string of late payments, a massive student loan payment, or an underwater home. Unfortunately there are millions of others who live paycheck to paycheck but haven’t had a reality check. They won’t notice a problem until it’s much too late.

      • JT says

        Point is that debt just doesn’t grow too big naturally. Deciding to borrow way too much in the first place is the reason why people go broke. Every loan amortizes to zero, even credit cards. It’s the decision to borrow over and over again to replace existing debt that kills people.

        People carve out too much of their take home, then suffer a large financial setback that would otherwise be minor if they weren’t levered to the moon and back.

  21. Nick (@ayoungpro) says

    Debt certainly can creep up on you when you aren’t being diligent with your money. I don’t think that is a legitimate excuse though. I got into a lot of consumer debt, slowly, over the course of a few years when I was younger. I never intended to do it, it just sort of happened.

    I was not being a responsible adult. I wasn’t tracking my spending. I wasn’t budgeting. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW I WAS IN DEBT! That is not an excuse. Clearly, if I was being a responsible adult, I would have been doing those things that helped me to avoid debt.

  22. Jack says

    I’m lucky, from one point of view.

    On my birthday many years ago, I was run over while riding my motorcycle. No medical insurance due to being in the after-college / pre-new-job crack, no uninsured motorist insurance because, well, I was a college student, and she was uninsured and on welfare. Made it back to work and was let go due to my employer being bought. So there I was, unemployed, no transportation, savings wiped out, and still $10,000 in medical bills.

    I managed to get a new job and pay off my debt in less than 2 years by living below my means and slowly paying a little to each bill every month until they were paid off.

    Result: out of debt, and more importantly, left with a debt-phobia and love of health and auto insurance.

    Nothing like a little hardship to grow character and teach lessons.

  23. krantcents says

    There are a lot of reasons for debt! Some of it occurs because you just spend too much, surprises like medical expenses or emergencies can contribute to it. Things like a ca repair can throw out your plan for a nice vacation, but you go on vacation anyway. The repair or vacation becomes a debt and you pay 2 times the original amount in interest. Can you plan better? I hate care repairs, so I make sure I do all the routine maintenance. I try to head off the big expenses by planning better. Nothing is 100%, but I managed to avoid a lot of pitfalls with planning.

  24. David M says

    Debt is the biggest 4 letter word!

    I have always done all I can to get to of debt as soon as is practically possible.

    I had student loans that were amortized over 10 but paid off in 4 years.

    I had 1 car loan that was for 36 months that I paid off after 16 months. The next 2 new cars I purchased were in cash!

    I bought a house 5 years ago with a 15 year loan – which I refinanced after 3 years to a 10 year loan. I continue to make multi thousand dollar extra payments on this loan. Currently it will be paid off 10 years from the day I moved in – however I’m going to continue to make extra payments and hopefully it will be paid off before I’m in the house 9 years.

      • David M says

        “But the pull of credit still is there?” A little. The debt listed above, college, 1 car and 1 house is the only debt I have ever had.

        Debt can be a useful tool. I have plenty of I bonds that I COULD use to totally pay off my mortgage. However, the I Bonds are paying me double the rate of my mortgage and thus I will not cash in my I Bonds to pay off the debt.

  25. Levi says

    I am much better off now than I was 10 years ago. Still have a lot of debt to work on. It does creep up on you pretty fast. My biggest debt is my student loans, which exploded while I was busy trying to pull in some A’s. I’m hoping in the next 10 years I will go from bust to nut!

  26. Shaun says

    I have sympathy for 22 year olds, I’m 29. At 22, I had just graduated college needed a car to get to work. And boom student and car loans combined worth $60+k just for the audacity to go to work everyday. Now did I need a 20k dollar car, no but at the time I really had never set a budget before, my whole life to that point was trying to have enough money left over for beer and food and with my new job I could afford both and a car payment and still have money left over. I was making more money than most of my friends who were also buying as nice of cars etc, I kind of felt if they can do it I can too. I was never taught this stuff and judged how I was doing by looking at my peers situations. Just by having a job and no high interest credit card debt I thought I was doing amazing at the time. It just turned out to be a bad yard-stick.

    Had some emergency happened to me like a sudden layoff I’d have gone into massive credit card debt relatively quickly the way I’d been living. Luckily that never happened.

  27. mysticaltyger says

    Debt happens because of the way our brains are wired. It’s just not human nature to make long term plans. Usually there are cultural forces that try to put a lid on such short term thinking, but in America, all of our institutions, public and private, encourage and exacerbate our tendency to think only short term. It’s done deliberately to enslave people, and unfortunately, it’s working.

  28. Little House says

    Lifestyle inflation definitely creeps up on you, even if you’re trying to pay attention. I also think that unless you are super diligent in making sure you’re spending LESS than you earn, it’s not that difficult to get sucked into the debt-work-pay cycle. Unfortunately for many, this becomes a way of life that’s hard to get out of.

  29. Bryce @ Save and Conquer says

    My dumbest money move didn’t put me in debt, but it did cost me hundreds of thousands on paper. I thought I could time the market back in the 1990s and invested in a number of momentum stocks. I had a few years of 100% growth and then lost it all in 2000-2002.

    I have always kept a good emergency fund to avoid going into debt due to the unforeseen clown in the sewer.

  30. Chris says

    What is the best way to get rid of debt? Like the old Nike commercial said, “Just do it!”
    And yes it easily sneaks up on you.

    There is a catch-22 regarding debt. Some debt like mortgage and student loans are not “bad”. They can still kind of creep up on you if you say add an addition onto the house are refinance that plus the original mortgage. Or like a student loan and you go back to get your Master’s degree that isn’t paid for by the company you work for but also haven’t paid off the original Bachelor’s degree.

    That’s the cruxt of the situation. Do I payoff the mortgage earlier or put more money into investments? Typically – especially with the extremely low mortgage rates of these last number of years – it is much easier to simply put the money into investments instead of paying down a mortgage earlier. For example, I made 4%+ in an investment within 2 months by purchasing a dividend stock before the ex-dividend date, and selling it for slightly more than I paid for it originally. That sounds great except that the amount that was invested was considerably less than the principle on my house, so the debt is still coming down slower than the investment is growing if you look at the exact dollar figures.
    As Sam noted in a previous article (http://www.financialsamurai.com/2012/02/21/how-to-retire-early-and-never-have-to-work-again/ – and plenty more than this one), saving the most you can is VITAL to your own future.

  31. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    I think debt can creep up on you, especially if you’re giving in to lifestyle inflation and don’t stop to think about how much all the crap is really costing you and really stretching you beyond your needs. I also think there are many people who’re simply addicted to spending and get themselves in debt because they don’t seek to control it and give in to the now mentality.

  32. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle says

    Debt creeps up on you like pounds in middle age. A little piece of cake here, a weekly pizza delivery, ice cream or wine when you are stressed after work and soon the pounds or the debt are stuck to you and are feel impossible to get rid of. I know because I struggle with debt and extra pounds.

    I never saw IT because regular clowns are scary but Stephen King clowns would lead to weeks of nightmares.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Definitely don’t watch IT if you are already scared of regular clowns!!

      I hear you on weight creep as well. I’m about 10 lbs permanently over my fighting weight freshman year in college.

  33. Anton Ivanov says

    I agree. Even those who grow up understanding that debt is bad and should be avoided often succumb to the consumerist pressure over the years. It’s especially hard to resist it these days when seemingly everybody is doing it. If my neighbor is driving a brand new car, why can’t I?

    The problem is that neighbor will probably be working until he is 60, 70 or 80 and his “golden year” will be spent wishing he saved more while he could.

  34. Buck Inspire says

    That IT clown is terrifying! GetAGrip’s breakdown sounds very common. As life goes on, your expenses do seem to naturally grow. To not fall in that trap, you almost have to go against human nature. For some, a crisis is the catalyst for breaking the cycle. If they are lucky, the crisis is manageable enough to not send them into the poor house. It’s now easier to see why bubbles happen.

  35. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says

    That is exactly what happened to us. I can’t even remember one individual expensive thing we bought. It just crept up. Seeing some close family members lose everything was our wake up call. I was asleep for ten years with all that debt and now am finally aware of all the possibilities.

    I read It in high school and had to throw the book across the room a few times because it was so scary. Now that’s a good book!

  36. ahp999 says

    I never ever had any consumer debt in my life. I have had plenty of credit cards but always paid them on time and in full. I was actually quite oblivious to the fact that people actually had thousands and thousands racked up by they’re mid 20s. I always figured the average person would not be dumb enough to fall into that trap. It was not until I did my own research or peers complaining about their “bills”.

    I believe I did not fall into this trap because of my parents good habits. They taught me and I saw them from a young age always paying bills on time, explaining to me if they did not pay the credit card bills on time and in full they would get charged huge interest and fees. My dad was one of those guys who would get all sorts of cards to rack up on airline points and such deals. But he always paid everything on time and in full. I sort of looked at it like pay your bills in full and you get cool rewards for free, sounds like a good deal right? I would say 95% of my transactions are on a credit card, I use it like cash except I get rewards like points and cash back. Then I just pay it off in full. It also allows me to keep better track of where I spent that money whether its on gas, food, toys, bills etc.

    I can see how people do fall into that trap. Most of my friends who went off to college and while I joined the Army. Ended up with tons of credit card in debt, and it was mostly because of bad choices it seemed. Usually racking up debt on partying, clothes, food and keeping up with the rest of crowd. In the end after several thousand in debt I saw that there was nothing to show for. I am glad I did not fall into that trap and just learned from other peoples mistake.

    FS- I also setup a personal cap and mint account like you suggested. I am still trying to understand everything but its great to see all my accounts and seeing a overview on my finances.

  37. Deacon @ Well Kept Wallet says

    That quote about the clown is priceless! It is so true, debt does creep up on us. We racked up $52k in non-mortgage debt and it was because we used credit as a way of life. We went to school, so we got student loans. We went on a honeymoon, so we put it on the credit card. I wanted a car so I financed it. We were just raised with the understanding of that is how you make purchases. Thank God that we no longer think like that and that all $52k is now paid off!

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