We have always been told there is “good debt” such as getting an education and a house, and “bad debt” which is credit cards and buying things that don’t appreciate, like boats, campers and cars.
What if every debt was considered a bad debt? To be avoided only when there was no other way, and then to paid off quickly as was possible? I wish I had had this mindset when we were racking up student loans. It felt like Monopoly money to me, something to spend easily, because there was plenty of it, with no reckoning down the road. The payback was off in the future–the far, distant future. Because of this, while Craig was still a student, a friend said they lived in their controlling in-laws’ basement for three hard years to save money, before coming to graduate school. I thought to myself, “I would NEVER do that!”
I didn’t know how smart these friends were, and how much money they had saved. It took me years to develop the mental models to understand how sacrificing early and often would make such a difference in our lives. When you are in school, you already feel like you are sacrificing, usually with a crummy car and basic housing, but you are just getting started if you have big student loans.
Because I have gone through paying off a lot of debt, I like to read or hear other people’s stories. One couple went into their marriage with no debt, and bought a fixer-upper for $80,000.00 during the last recession in 2008. The wife kept saying how they did not fix up the house, other than painting it and ripping up carpets, because the debt hung over their heads so much. (She says that at 4:30 on the video. Go to 7:40 and she tells the freedom they have now. ) They did no home renovation until the house was paid for. In these days of home equity lines and easy credit, this was another act of supreme self-discipline. This couple learned early the real truth about interest. J. Reuben Clark Jr. said this wise and true statement:
“It is a rule . . . in all the world that interest is to be paid on borrowed money. May I say something about interest? Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels . . . it has no love, no sympathy; it is as hard and soulless as a granite cliff. Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands nor orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.”
Understanding interest would help us avoid it. If people really understood that their $3299 big screen TV will cost an additional $2004.51, because they put it on a credit card at 18.9% interest and are paying the minimum money that is required, they would never do that. Wait for a family member to buy a new one and get their old one, or look on Facebook Marketplace for a deal. Educating ourselves on avoiding any debt makes all the difference.
Jordan Peterson said:
“The future is actually the place where there is threat. It’s always gonna be there, so what do you do? You make sacrifices in the present so that the future is better… It’s amazing. You can bargain with reality. You can forestall gratification now, and it will pay off in a place in time that doesn’t even exist yet.”
Forestalling gratification now so our futures will be better is a superpower we can develop. It really, really works. In the beginning it is very hard. It feels like no one else is doing it. But no one else is living our life. We are the only ones who can make our own futures better.