If you are neck-deep in debt, you may ask yourself a lot of questions each day: “How did I find myself in this situation? Are my peers struggling as much as I am? What is the average household debt in 2018? Why am I in debt when my friends and co-workers seem to be doing so much better?”
When we check out data on American debt in 2018, the reality is that most Americans are people in debt. In August 2018, CNBC posted an article titled “Here’s how much debt Americans have at every age.”
Here are some data points from the article:
First of all, your personal habits do have a major impact on how much debt you owe, but they are far from the sole factor. It is worth acknowledging right off the bat that you may simply have fallen on hard times.
This is illustrated through the references to older Millennials in the data above. Older Millennials graduated around the time of the recession. As a result, many got a “slow start out of the gate.”
For this reason, they have higher amounts of debt and are further behind in achieving life goals.
Obviously, if you have experienced similar misfortune, there is nothing you can do about what happened. But you can avoid bad habits which people in debt frequently have in common, and which can make the situation worse.
A surprising number of people with debt struggle to answer even basic questions like, “What is debt? How much debt do I owe?”
If that describes you, you need to answer these questions if you are ever to get your finances under control.
Many people with debt lack an emergency fund—around $1,000 set aside at all times to cover unexpected expenses (clinic bills, auto repair bills, etc.).
Without an emergency fund, the only option is to take out an emergency loan when things go wrong, often with a high-interest rate.
If you have been struggling with debts, there’s a good chance that your credit rating has also declined, or was low, to begin with. The result is high-interest rates which can make it even harder to climb out of the hole.
When debt is the result of poor budgeting decisions, those decisions are often accompanied by seemingly reasonable or even ridiculous excuses. For example:
Getting rid of these excuses is the first step in reframing your attitude towards spending and saving.
Something else which can keep consumers in debt is lacking a monthly budget, some basic accounting skills, and a plan for paying off debt. Having no support is also a common problem.
Consider credit counseling to get some support and assistance in coming up with a plan for budgeting and repaying your debts. Do your research before choosing a counselor. Some services are excellent and are genuinely focused on helping out consumers, but others are not.
Finally, being in debt for a long time is exhausting, as is living in poverty or anywhere near it. This consumes willpower, which can lead to burnout. To cope, consumers often purchase things to make them feel better, going into deeper debt to do so.
As you can see, people in debt typically face a combination of factors which conspire to keep them there. Some of these factors are within their control, and others are not.
Your first step is to figure out what choices, mindsets, and behaviors may be contributing to your debt which you can control.
No matter what circumstances are beyond your control, learning how to budget and adjusting toward a thriftier mindset can go a long ways towards helping you climb out of debt.
Raven’s genuine interest in behavioural economics and her expertise in psychology, acquired during her Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Applied Behavioral Economics at Dyson Cornell College of Business make her the perfect candidate to approach all the personal finance topics through the perspective of an individual’s psychology.