Are you ashamed of your debt? Here’s what to do

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In a world where we broadcast our lives on social media, there’s still something we don’t usually share: debt.

It’s not something we’re proud of. You’d rather share that you won the lottery or went on a Hawaiian vacation, right? Instead, you’re digging a hole to bury what feels like a mountain of debt. You may even feel like a failure.

Snap out of it! You don’t need to think that way.

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1. Most everyone carries debt

Data gathered by Statista shows just how common U.S. consumer debt is. [1] By September 2018, total consumer debt totaled $13.5 trillion. This figure includes mortgage debt of $9 trillion, student loan debt of $1.4 trillion, $1.2 trillion in auto loan debt and $420 million in credit card debt.

No matter how successful they may seem to you, anyone you know who owns a home and a car probably carries a balance on those items. Perhaps a few have paid their vehicles off or don’t carry a credit card balance, but only a very small percentage of people have paid it all off.

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2. Life happens – and so does the unexpected

Even if you have managed to create an emergency fund, cover monthly health insurance costs, and be prudent with money, unexpected events can easily lead to debt.

For example, you may take a financial hit due to a car accident or a health crisis. The cost of these unexpected events typically far exceeds what you’ve managed to save. Maybe you lost your job and with it your source of income. Or perhaps pursuing that degree cost more than you calculated.

When unexpected developments beyond your control occur, it’s a good thing that you had access to debt to help cover these expenses. That’s a much better outcome than being completely unable to pay for those needs. And it’s much better than experiencing the panic and dread of collection agencies chasing you down, causing your credit score to plummet. 

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3. Don’t blame yourself – just change your behavior

Even if you’ve made poor spending choices, playing the blame game accomplishes nothing useful. Instead, vow to take responsibility for the debt and focus on changing your financial behavior to reduce the chance that it happens again.

If the unexpected does happen and it leads to debt, acknowledge the reality, then work to resolve it. Evaluate how you might save more money to prepare for these types of things if they happen again.

If impulse purchases or emotional shopping caused your debt, own it. Then work on making important behavioral changes to prevent a relapse in the future.

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4. Being embarrassed won’t make your debt go away. Hard work will

Embarrassment is about as unproductive as anger and resentment are. You can’t erase the debt you created by feeling bad. In fact, too much embarrassment may lead you to avoid your financial obligations or addressing the problem head-on.

Instead, take action. Try a strategy like the avalanche or snowball debt management methods. Or if your debt is too out of control to handle yourself, contact a professional for a debt consolidation program. Whatever you do, take some concrete steps to start reducing that balance now.

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5. Telling others might help – if you tell the right people

Debt often makes people feel out of control and overwhelmed because there’s no clear picture of when or how the debt might be paid down. Even if you make payments consistently, the balances don’t seem to shrink as fast as you’d hoped.

Keeping this kind of financial secret means missing out on expert advice that could provide a way to finally clear that debt. Financial advisors and debt relief specialists work with thousands of people in the same situation. 

These professionals don’t pass judgment. Rather, they help you to alleviate the pressure and make the debt disappear. 

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6. Your friends and family will still love you

Financial success is one of the most common metrics people use to measure their worth and value as individuals. The last thing they want to share with people they love, and respect is that they are carrying tens of thousands of dollars or more in debt.

Yet your friends and family will understand if you made mistakes or became overwhelmed by an unexpected life event. Many of them probably are in a similar position. Let them know what’s going on so they can either provide some assistance or just listen and be there for you.

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7. Focus on a plan of action

Once you have turned that embarrassment into resolve, it’s time to go to work on a debt payoff action plan. Whether you work with a debt specialist or turn to online financial content about how to attack debt, you’ll need to start with a full accounting of your debt to see what you’re up against.

Find ways to lower your spending, then direct those extra funds toward debt repayment. If you must take on side work to get more income, then do it. The debt is temporary and so are those extra work hours, if you take a disciplined approach. Be sure to celebrate each debt you pay off, no matter how small the balance. It’s progress!

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Dealing with Debt

We’re not suggesting you make your next Instagram post a picture of your credit card bills or that you share how much you owe at the next dinner party you attend. But we are advising you to stop self-shaming.

Instead, take charge by understanding the source of your debt, including behavioral and environmental factors. Don’t be afraid to ask financial experts or credit specialists for assistance in tackling that debt and changing your money behavior.

When you put this debt and money management plan into action, then you’ll never have to entertain embarrassment about debt ever again.

This article
originally appeared on 
Debt.com and was
syndicated by
MediaFeed.org.

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