Debt Shouldn’t be Embarrassing.

On my drive home from work tonight I was listening to SiriusXM Insight and they were talking about student loan debt.  I caught the last 30 minutes of the program, but the stories all shared a similar tone.  Debt is embarrassing and really hard to get out of. Which holds true for the majority of us who have debt.

I never took out student loans.  But I also never *really* attended post secondary school.  I had started, but was in a car accident a couple of months in and fell behind.  That’s my excuse that I tell people. The real reason is that I couldn’t afford to go to school.  My parents hadn’t set aside savings for me, and I didn’t see the need to go into debt.  Quickly in the first semester I realized that the instructors wanted us to buy their $200 books and then regurgitate their thoughts back at them in order to get a diploma or degree. I wasn’t ready to conform to society at that point.

So I left post secondary school to work and have fun.  But being a gas station jockey didn’t bring in enough money to live and have fun. I wanted to see friends and party whenever possible.  So I did the next logical step.  No- I didn’t become a drug dealer. I got a VISA card.  I even wrote about debt a while back in Monday Money. Accumulating debt isn’t fun.  Maybe for a brief moment as you enjoy a new toy or experience.  But paying it off years later sucks.

My wife and I have debt. Some of it I consider “good debt” like the mortgage on our home. Some is “necessary debt” like needing to replace the roof on the house. Most debt isn’t good.  We could have done without a new piano ten years ago.  Even though we took out a loan for it, it was paid in full only two years later.  We tend to buy a new vehicle every few years. We would take out a loan for 5-8 years but pay it off in 3. But we carry credit card debt from time to time.  And that sucks. Compound interest sucks.

But why can’t we talk about debt with our friends?  Why can’t I tell people about the times that I’ve felt overwhelmed?  Is it pride?  Is it a fear that I’ll be found out?  Is it that I fear that I’d appear to be a disappointment to my children and family? I don’t know.  Debt sucks.  I don’t care if I die in debt.  It’s not a goal mind you, but if it happens, oh well- I’d be dead.

As I write this up in my bedroom, my daughter is playing on the piano downstairs.  She is playing near perfection a song I’ve never known her to play.  And I love it. A song I recognize as “Take That Look Off Your Face” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It resonates through our home.  It pulls from my memory all of the wonderful things I have done and bought over the years. If the cosmos had aligned properly, she’d be playing “Memories” instead.

So I stand corrected, sometimes going into debt is good for you.  I bought an Andrew Lloyd Webber CD as a young adult. We bought the piano years ago. And now, I am typing this post on a cellphone (that I wanted because I love technology) I’m completely in love with everything about this moment.  All of this accumulation of my feelings isn’t embarrassing debt.  

So why should we be embarrassed?

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