I saw an ad for a debt relief company yesterday. It wasn't debt counseling, or debt consolidation, it was just plain old "Sign up with us, and we'll help you lower your monthly payments and get up to 50% of your debt excused." So basically, lucky you. That $30,000 you owe to credit cards, largely because you were irresponsible with money in the first place? Guess what, you no longer have to pay it all off!
Those ads, and all the others like them, evoke a myriad of emotions every time I see them. Mostly what they make me feel is straight-up anger. There, I said it.
I know that what others do and don't do with their own lives is not my business. The thing is, when others' choices are affecting me and my family it becomes my business. The economy is partly the way it is because of people's choices. The housing market is partly the way it is because of people's choices. I say "partly" because I understand and recognize that things do happen that are beyond our control. I've seen first-hand what layoffs and furloughs can do. I've seen how catastrophic medical emergencies can devastate a family in all areas, including its finances. It's a harsh reality, but people get sick, accidents happen, and jobs are lost. This isn't about those specific circumstances.
The fact remains that there are A LOT of people who face financial hardships because of their own poor decisions! And because of programs like the one I mentioned above, they have no incentive to make things right or change their habits or prevent it from happening again. Sure, buy that plasma TV. Take that cruise. Get those manicures.
What's that? Having trouble keeping up with the bills? No problem, let's just forgive your debt and send you back on your way. Enjoy that TV.
I've watched people live their rich, lavish lives on borrowed money, oblivious to their growing debt. I've watched others spend all their money on extras and entertainment, then turn around and bemoan the fact that they can't afford to pay their electric bill or their car payment or their mortgage.
I hate that we have debt. I hate that we do without so many things so that we can make big payments on God-knows-what that we bought 2 years ago. I hate that we're paying on a mortgage that is a good hundred thousand more than the house is currently worth. I hate that we're in most ways stuck here until the market improves or we somehow fall into a great deal of cash.
But, we'll keep living the way we're living, and paying back what we borrowed, because WE BORROWED IT! We owe it! It's not the state's problem, or the government's, or the neighbors' down the street. It's OUR responsibility. If that means my getting a job - and it's very nearly come to that more than once - then it means my getting a job. If it means clipping coupons, shopping second hand, and staying home more often than we go out, then we'll do that too. Are there months that I'm tempted to just pay the credit card minimums and "blow" the rest? Are there times when we fantasize about what we could do with the money if we skipped paying some essential bill just once? Do we ever think about saying "Screw it," chucking our debt-paying efforts and living like everyone around us? Yes, yes, and YES!
Then I see those stupid commercials, and my resolve is strengthened yet again.
I'm angry that people can be irresponsible and just get rewarded for it. What's our reward for doing it the right way, the hard way? Besides the fact that we will someday be financially free, I guess there isn't one.
We do it because it's the right thing to do.