The Emotional Costs Of Being In Debt

emotional costs of debtWe often forget about the emotional toll that being in debt takes on us.

Once, about a decade ago, I was in debt. Deep, deep in debt.

My credit score was wrecked, and my credit cards were all worthless pieces of plastic.

For years, I struggled to get out of debt. It cost me a lot of money, but that was a drop in the bucket compared to the other costs associated with being in debt.

The Emotional Costs Of Being In Debt

My debt problems were caused by a rapid expansion of my practice that came to a screeching halt as the nation felt the aftereffects of 9/11.

I was young, exceptionally inexperienced in running a business of any sort, and had begun doing work that I didn’t find compelling. My staff was bloated, my systems inefficient, and my energy too low to care about the financial aspects of the practice.

When it fell apart, I felt like an idiot. I’d been duped by the promise of the American Dream, and now I was an absolute failure.

My wife was in school pursuing her career goals, and I was selling used compact discs online to pay the rent.

Each morning I looked in the mirror and hated the failure I saw reflected back at me.

Every night I tossed and turned for hours before falling asleep. Once sleep came, it was filled with nightmares.

Debt Slavery

When you’re in debt, you’re a slave to your financial problems. You work to pay your debts, cut costs so you have more money to pay debts, and all of your activities reflect that reality.

You’re not free anymore because no matter what you do, the benefits flow to someone else.

That loss of control over your financial destiny beats you down over time. You’re wearier than you would be otherwise, and your nights are bereft of rest.

Climbing Out

My financial problems came and went well over a decade ago, and I climbed out of the hole only by making some significant changes in my life and my practice.

I recognize that those changes may not be within your reach, and that my situation was a little different.

I was able to slash my business costs to the bone.

My income rose because I was more focused on a single type of work – consumer bankruptcy law – that I enjoy. That enjoyment was reflected in the quality of the work I did, and in the satisfaction my clients felt at the end of the case. That translated into more referrals.

My wife finished school and got a job.

I regained control by deciding to live without credit cards no matter how good my financial situation became.

You Get A Choice

I didn’t file for bankruptcy when I was in debt. I knew my options, worked them all as hard as I could, and made some really hard choices when it came to my financial problems.

You have choices as well.

You can choose to remain in debt slavery.

Or you can find another path.

Which way will you go?

Image credit:  Collin David Anderson

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About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.