Have you ever taken the time to analyze some of the underlying reasons you’re in debt? We like to assume, in our denial, that it’s because we don’t make enough money, but as many PF gurus have shown us, it’s not what you make, it’s how you spend it. So if that’s the case, why are you in debt? I’m the type of person that needs to know why:
Why people behave like they do.
Why things work (or don’t work).
Why things happen (or don’t happen).
This insatiable curiosity can be annoying sometimes, I’m sure, but it also is a huge benefit in the area of problem-solving. When you know “why” you have more power to do something about it. I figured out this year as I analyzed our prior spending habits to the death that, for many years, we were afraid of being debt free, and now I’d like to share some of what I found out about fear and money.
1. Being in Debt is Comfortable. Like with any bad habits, often times they have been practiced for so many years that people are afraid of not being able to handle a different life. This is often why (and I speak from personal experience here) women (and men) who are in abusive relationships stay there. The relationship might be horribly bad for them, but at least they know what to expect. There’s a level of trust that comes with long-term experiences, whether those experiences be good or bad, that’s hard to let go of. Staying with the old is often much easier, from a psychological standpoint, than working toward something new. Regarding debt and paying it off, often times money struggles are subconsciously viewed as an old friend. You’ve had your ups and downs with money for 10,20, 30 or more years, and those struggles have kind of become like an old, broken in pair of shoes that you just can’t part with.
How to Fix it: This is a tough one, because it’s going to insist you step out of your comfort zone. Remember the old, comfy, broken in pair of shoes? Umm, reality is, they look like something you dug out of a garbage can, and it’s time to let them go. No matter how “used” to them you are, they’re not attractive, and they’re really not good for you at this point. It’s time for you to start looking around for a pair of shoes that is better for you, and that looks better too. This is how you must view your debt. Your debt, and your money problems, are not your friends – in reality, no matter how much they’ve tried to convince you otherwise, they are your enemy. It’s time to face the fact that you deserve better.
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2. You’ve Got a Negative View of “Rich” People. Media and real life both show us that there’s a lot of rich people out there who are total J-E-R-K-S. You’ve seen what money has done to them, and the last thing you want is to be anything like them. Truth be told? Rich a__holes were most likely a__holes long before they were rich. There was probably a level of selfishness there long before money came on the scene.
How to Fix it: The truth is that big money doesn’t change people, it reveals their true colors. If you’ve got some bad characteristic traits that you’re concerned will rise to a new level after you have money, work on changing them while you’re getting out of debt. It’s not money’s responsibility to refine your character (or ruin it), it’s your own responsibility.
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3. You’re Afraid of the Change Having Money Will Bring. This fear plagued us for years. No one in either of our families really has much money. We’ve all heard the stories of families who’ve rejected or talked smack about those they know who are now “rolling in dough” and we don’t want to be those people. Or maybe it’s not that, maybe you’re afraid you’ll lose your friends or whatever. In the instances I’ve viewed where money has brought about bad change, it’s usually not the money that has caused the change, but the change in attitude of the receiver (or earner) of the money. They become arrogant or prideful (or, their arrogance comes out. See #2).
How to fix it: Money is like religion or politics; unless you’re with someone you’re quite sure is on the same page as you, it’s best not talked about. Having money doesn’t have to change you. Just put it in the bank, sit there, and shut up about it, spending it on things you value the most and not bragging about it.
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Money, and I’ve said this before, is nothing but a tool. It’s like the dirt we walk on or the air we breathe. Don’t idolize it, and don’t fall into the trap of believing that you’re better than the others because you’ve got more of it. Just be thankful that you’re no longer a slave to it because you’re drowning in debt.
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Do you or did you ever worry about the changes associated with being out of debt or having money?