If you’ve been dogged by debt for years, or maybe even decades, don’t think you must resign yourself to a lifetime of credit card, student loan and other debt. People dig themselves out from under big piles of debt every day, and it’s not because they’re financial geniuses.
Instead, debt-ridden consumers set a goal for paying off debt, come up with a payoff strategy and focus on hitting certain debt balances hard while chipping away at others until they achieve the blissful state of “zero balance.” Many, however, delay setting goals or coming up with a plan because they’re held back by fears they may not even know rule their financial lives.
Below are five fears that could be keeping you from getting out of debt.
1. You’re afraid to assess debt honestly
If the thought of writing down balances from all your credit card statements or taking a close look at how much interest you’re paying on student loans each month terrifies you, you’re not alone. Many people with a scary amount of debt are afraid to take in the hard truth of what their financial choices – or, often, just bad luck or difficult life circumstances – created.
Slinking around in debt shame won’t help you tackle those balances, though. Instead, create a spreadsheet of all your balances, interest rates and interest amounts if you make only the monthly minimum payments (or the amount you usually pay). Looking at what you owe may send a chill down your spine initially, but once you know the true nature of your debt payoff challenge, you can confidently create a debt payoff plan.
Need help coming up with a payoff strategy? Consider meeting with a credit counselor at a free or nominal-fee nonprofit credit counseling agency for advice on creating a monthly budget and deciding on a strategy for eliminating debt faster.
Find out: How to pay off debt fast for less money
2. You worry you’ll fail
Maybe you’ve tried to pay off debt before but couldn’t get the job done. Or perhaps you’ve never made a serious effort, so you’ve already decided your debt is insurmountable. But fear of failing is self-defeating since never attempting to pay off debt guarantees that you’ll spend more years haunted by debt going bump in the night of your mind while you lie awake at night.
On the other hand, you have nothing to lose by coming up with a strategy to pay off debt. Even if you must take a second job, cut back on takeout or postpone vacations so you can pay more towards debt, you’ll probably be happier because you have a goal, you’re productive and you’re making progress every month.
3. You’re scared to succeed
Have you gotten so used to being kicked around by predatory lenders and paying hundreds of dollars in credit card or student loan interest that you’ve come to believe those situations are what you deserve? Maybe you have subconscious self-worth issues that cause you to acquire debt because you don’t believe you deserve to be happy and financially secure.
Our ideas about what we deserve in life are complex and may even be entrenched in our family of origin. If you’re constantly in debt, consider exploring your ideas on money and debt with a counselor or therapist who can offer insight and another perspective.
4. You worry you’ll lose friends
If you’ve always been available to go out to dinner, party at clubs, take vacations and shop extravagantly – with every expense charged to credit cards – your more shallow friends may drop you because you’re just not as much fun. But who needs those fair-weather friends, anyway?
Your true friends will respect you for trying to improve your life and find ways to have fun with you that are free while your money goes towards paying off debt. On the other hand, those superficial friends on credit card spending sprees have a good chance of landing in bankruptcy court.
Find out: 6 ways money can ruin a friendship
5. You think you’ll be judged
Do you keep your debt secret from friends, family or maybe even a spouse because you shudder at the thought of being judged? Maybe it’s time to come clean with people close to you so you can get their moral support and encouragement while you work to pay off debt.
Will some people judge you? Of course. But they’re not the ones paying your bills or unable to buy a house, start a family or achieve other big financial milestones because of too much debt. More likely, you’ll find the faultfinding types are in the minority, and many people you know also struggle with debt.
So emerge from the debt shadows, face your fears and get started on tackling debt so you can enjoy life with more money and financial options to get where you want to be.
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