The valley of the shadow of debt

The causes of bankruptcy tell a deep dark tale. Every year, government agencies which administers bankruptcies publish a list of the top reasons people give for going bust.  It usually universal throughout the world.

Here are the usual suspects, but the number one reason given by bankrupts was unemployment or loss of income. Then there are adverse legal action as a result of having guaranteed a debt, relationship breakdown, excessive use of credit facilities and ill health plus a lack of medical insurance.

If there is one attitude that should be changed, it’s this: never underestimate the power of debt. It’s a slippery slope that’s hard to climb. Some even call it a curse. People fail under it, so make sure you know what you’re up against.

Secondly, bad things happen to indebted people. There seems to be an attraction (or opening) for more bad stuff.  Some say it’s a law of attraction. Maybe that’s why it’s called a curse. But if you borrow money you owe it to yourself to ensure you can pay it whatever happens.  This means factoring in the cost of taking out credit insurance into your borrowing. (sound ironic). But be aware it can prove expensive.  This is possibly the most profitable form of insurance ever invented.

It is especially important to take debt seriously if you have kids, although loading up with debt for luxuries can have a big impact on your ability to own a roof that’s over your kids’ head.

Thirdly, don’t be fooled into the blurred lines of good debt versus bad debt. The case for good debt would be appreciating assets like houses and student loans, bad debt would be for cars, boat and LCD TV screens. No doubt there is some true in the case for good debt, but it is a pretty fuzzy line to cross. House prices can fall, student loans can be a self-justified reason to get a car. Ultimately, can you control the debt, or will debt eventually control you. But without doubt, debt is such a serious burden it should not be taken on “miscellaneous” expenses like mag wheels, cosmetic surgery or fashionable clothes.

What is often overlooked is the interest incurred especially when you purchase an item by instalments. Debt is what you use today to buy what you can’t afford tomorrow while you’re still paying for yesterday. Eventually, you’ll get so tied up paying, it will result in an uncontrollable spin downwards.

And the sad truth is that there are two groups of debtors – those who get indebted by choice and those who do so as a result of a family crisis but because they are on low incomes and have no savings it is impossible to cope without borrowing. It’s tough to plan for the future when you are too busy fixing the things you did yesterday.

Money borrowed today must be repaid tomorrow. Borrowing money has its price – and it is a cost far greater than you realise. Anytime you use credit to borrow money, you pre-commit your future income. The effects of such a decision can range from simple inconvenience to financial disaster. Indebtedness is not something that seems to really bother Americans – until a financial crisis strikes.

If the financial situation is dire, and the financial forecast calls for difficult times ahead, you should work to get rid of all your debt. To do otherwise is to presume upon the future. If you want to ride out your own financial crisis and prepare for the next economic crisis, it stands to reason that we will want to operate from a position of financial freedom.

Getting out of debt may be hard, but it is not impossible. And it has a high price to pay. The best way to get out of debt is to cut spending. Cancel that magazine subscription, or high speed broadband access, or cable television service, forego restaurants and movies. Frugality will eventually pay off. In uncertain times, gone are the days where you “shop till you drop”, but instead, be frugal till you pay off your debts.

Establish a realistic repayment plan and discipline yourself to follow it. Establishing and following this plan is critical to the success of your debt-retirement strategy. There is no quick or painless way to get rid of debt. Once your plan is in place, you will need to take the long walk of self-discipline to make it work.

Never use your credit cards to pay for debt. The debt amount will just keep mounting. Many people justify indebtedness with the thought that they are making an investment when they purchase items. That’s an unwise assumption. And don’t apply for new credit cards you don’t need.

Many of these principles are laid out in our successful course, the Scriptural Financial Freedom series. To learn more, you can download the Small Groups kit from our Store.

Today’s Bottom Line

It pays to be debt free and financially free. Be a debtor to no man.