Hey debt fighters! Ready to ditch debt in 2018?! Let’s do it! Today’s dear debt letter comes to us from Aparna. She has been bravely facing up to her debt for some years now. This struggle made her realize the importance of and her passion for personal finance. Now, a Certified Financial Planner herself, she pens down all her thoughts in her blog Elementum Money.
She also did a cool profile on Dear Debt! Enjoy.
I have had the most twisted relationship with you, ever. I was fortunate to not need you while completing my education thanks to my parents saving enough.
My first run-in with you was with my first banking job. I had heard of all types of loans, but with a job in a loan department of one of the largest private sector bank in the country opened my eyes.
There is an old saying that banks check that you don’t need a loan to give you a loan. That might have been true earlier but I saw how in order to get the next new thing or fulfill their dream, everyone is eager to get that loan. Banks are as eager to make it happen for them.
You, dear debt, were my bread and butter. If people stopped falling for the bigger versions of you, that time I would have stopped earning my living.
In India, one way of thinking is to get a house if you are not making good use of your money. Hey, that way at least a large chunk of your salary will go towards building an asset. We bought into it. Do I regret it? I am on the fence on this one.
However, apart from the big brother Home Loan, I met your younger siblings as well – Credit Card Loan and Personal Loan. I had varying needs for all of you ending up in a home of my own. I can say, that together the debt family helped me build for us a home I look forward to coming back to. A house which is comfortable, lavish even and a place that can be called ours forever.
While I never really talked to anyone openly, till the time me and my husband, both were earning stable monthly salaries we managed. Around us, loans are seen as a common-place way of life. There is barely any shame associated with it which makes it that much harder to find the motivation to work like crazy and ditch it like a bad habit.
Then earlier last year, the husband finally decided that corporate life was not his cup of tea. I was ecstatic because for years it had only been me trying to tell him that corporate shackles might not help him to give the wings that his creativity deserved. The one thing that weighed us down and made us stop in our tracks was, you guessed it, you Dear Debt!
We had multiple sessions of checking out all the numbers of my salary and how would we survive on that one salary with the massive monthly installments. With any new venture, we wanted to give it enough time to find its feet and account for at least a 2 year period of running the household on a single salary.
Finally, we had to withdraw the entire retirement savings that my husband was able to accumulate while working in his corporate job. In India, any corporate job docks off 12% of your basic salary every month and it gets accumulated in something called the Employee Provident Fund.
Thank god for those forced savings! Otherwise you, dear debt, had very nearly taken our dreams and aspiration off the rails.
It is only after I started blogging and became aware of the Personal Finance blogosphere that I became aware of just how important it is for me to break up with you. I dream of becoming self- employed too, some day. Can I let you come in the way of such a dream? Most definitely not.
I will end this letter with an answer to 2 simple questions that I ask myself:
Am I grateful for what you got into my life and did I need you at that time? Most definitely YES.
Do I like having you in my life right now? No. And I look forward to working harder, earning more and breaking up with you.
Till then, adios, dear debt.
To say we have a functional relationship would be an understatement. Heck!, to say that I like you would be an outright lie. I may not like you very much, but I do appreciate you. And I suspect that is something that you do not hear very often. But it is true. In fact, I want to thank you for the support you have given me over the years.
Thank you for allowing me to purchase our home. As I sit on the deck looking at the ocean, weed my gardens, watch our chickens peck away at the earth and do the everyday mundane things a homeowner does, I feel gratitude in my heart for the opportunity to live here.
Thank you for supporting me when I made that huge leap from being an employee to an entrepreneur. Without you I likely never would have jumped. You helped me bridge the gap between employment and self-employment. Thank you!
Thank you for being there as I brought two little beings into the world. I had no maternity benefits and had to return to my business two months later leaving my husband to step-in and take Paternity leave. The reduction in income was tough, but you helped us keep food on the table and afford the necessities for us and our new little ones. For that I thank you!
When we got back on our feet again, it was a wonderful feeling to be able to repay you for your kindness and watch your balance decrease month after month. Sadly, that period of time was short-lived.
But you were there again to support us as my husband changed careers and went from job to job, looking for his place. You were there when the company he worked for shut down, when the seasonal job he had laid him off, sometimes expectedly and sometimes unexpectedly, and you were there when he injured himself and couldn’t return to work for months on end. Really, I don’t know how we would have survived without you. I am certain we would have lost our home in those times.
It’s easy to blame you for the choices we have made, for the need to depend on you during trying times. It’s easy to point our finger at you and say, “It’s because of you that we can’t travel, or buy that ATV, or fix up our home”. Which leads me to my final expression of appreciation.
Thank you for teaching me how relying on you can upset our future plans. Thank you for showing me that allowing you in our lives takes away our financial power and increases the cost of every expected and unexpected emergency, creating a deeper and deeper hole for us to climb out of. Thank you for reminding me that there is a better way.
As I watch our emergency fund grow, and our obligations to you slowly decrease, I resist the urge to blame you, or demean you, or attack your character. Instead, I remind myself that you were there through all of the tough times to help out and it was I who chose to rely upon you, who allowed you to continue to be our support system. And in that process I have learned a lot about myself and about you.
I am comfortable with our new relationship, one that doesn’t have the air of dependency. Having said that, I look forward, so forward, to the day when we part ways, the day when I see you reduce to zero, when I say goodbye to an old way of being and let my new way of being flourish.
Thank you Debt. I release you. With love and gratitude.
Mary Ann Marriott (aka Dr. Debt)
Hey debt fighters! Ready for another dear debt letter? This one comes from Nair.
Wow, we have been doing this dance for so long. You have become such a key feature of my life and my story. I’ve wrapped myself in you and used you as an excuse for putting off so many things in my life and keeping people at arm’s length.
It’s time now to say goodbye and let you go. Let go of the behaviors that make me feel unworthy, shameful and stuck in a loop.
Sometimes you were there to help me out in emergencies but most of the time I used you as a crutch to help me through hard or uncomfortable times when I didn’t want to confront the real (emotional) issues I was dealing with.
I’m letting you go now so that I can move on and enjoy the next season of my life. The season of freedom, real independence and wealth. I’m ready to stop paying for and reliving the past on a regular basis. I’m looking forward now and excited to live a life full of choices and opportunities.
Thanks again ‘old friend’ but I’m off!
When I talk about you, debt, I turn into a different person. Everyone who knows me would characterize me as a happy person, ever the optimist. There are few things in life that I can’t see a silver-lining to – that’s probably why Pollyanna was my favorite book as a kid.
But when it comes to you, I get bitter. Some might call it “Millennial whining” but I prefer to think of it as “wanting what’s fair.”
I followed your playbook up until this year. I was raised to be a nice middle class girl by nice middle class parents, and I stuck closely to the middle class playbook:
In the past, this worked! It was a great middle class playbook. I’ve done everything “right” according to the middle class playbook, but what do I have to show for it? Yes, a great house and a great marriage. But also $500 down the drain, every month, to pay back loans (for the next 15 or so years, according to calculations!)
And for what? Debt, you know this already, but other countries are proud when their smart kids go to college and get good grades. I know this because I’ve been to those countries and have friends, my age, who graduated from college in those countries. They tell me stories about graduating with no debt – and one friend even got a stipend for her good grades in her country.
Debt, you have a stranglehold on people in the US. When I bring the subject of middle class debt up, I’m laughed at and ridiculed. Everyone wants nice, highly educated people like me until we ask “why?” Why does the richest country in the world not want to pay for middle class and lower class kids to go to college?
Then we fall back to the playbook:
Debt, I have to hand it to you – you did a great job of selling the American dream (and burden) to the middle class. And don’t worry, debt, you already know I’m going to pay every penny of you back, because the middle class playbook is tough to break. I won’t shirk my responsibility, although I won’t enjoy it.
But the joke is on you, and everyone who tells me I should have stuck to the playbook. That $500? When I’m done paying you off, you won’t see that $500 doing any of this:
I guess I did find a silver-lining in all of this, debt. When I’m done with you, I have no interest in falling back into your middle class playbook. I will not live in a big city and buy a new car every 2 years. I will find a way to pay for myself, always, no matter what that looks like. I will never look down on people who have debt and are struggling.
I’ll be done with you one day, debt. But I won’t be done fighting against you – I’ll just move on to helping the next nice middle class person struggling with the middle class playbook they were sold.
Hey everyone! We have another dear debt letter from H, who lives in Salt Lake City and works at a nonprofit.
I’m not going to be mad at you. I’m over that phase. Because… I guess I hope this is all just part of growing up. Plus, I’ve beaten myself up over and over and over again, about you.
You stressed me out from the start. I’m from a smart and complicated blue collar family (but that’s an entirely different story) and it seemed like the fear of not having enough money just wafted around the house.
My dad lost his job in the 2008 crash, so when I graduated from high school in 2009, I didn’t even need to ask how I was going to pay for college.
A lot happened during college. I got mormon-married at barely 19 (another entirely different story), and promptly divorced.
I graduated college with a rather useless B.F.A in 2013, and since so much of my meager income was going to student loans, I got a credit card.
And, to be honest, I didn’t become a crazy spender. I don’t live a lavish life by any means, but I always want to be the one to buy my friend’s drinks, and by the end of the night, everyone else’s at the bar 🙂
I wanted to fly impromptu to visit my boyfriend while he was working in New York. And I wanted him to think I was beautiful (Which he always does anyway) so, I bought some $35 dollar facial primer from Sephora (I know, as if that shit actually works).
I don’t want to be a free-loader or seem cheap to my boyfriend, or my friends and family. So, I just sort of paid for more things than I truly could afford, and my debt crept up.
I would love to pay off my credit card debt by my 27th birthday (I’ve got about 10 months). So that I can be more responsible, and save enough money so if I ever do have a kid, I can help them get whatever useless degree they set their sights on.
Cheers, (And fingers crossed) that I can get my ass debt free by my 27th birthday.
Hey debt fighters! I’ve been working hard on the Lola Retreat, so have been MIA. In the meantime, we have another great dear debt letter from Mrs. Picky Pincher. She is the blogger at www.pickypinchers.com and writes about paying off debt while living the good life.
Ah, you and I go way back, don’t we?
I first met you when I was 9. Ahhh, young love.
I borrowed $20 from my dad so I could buy the latest Pokemon game. At first I didn’t think I could buy the game because I didn’t have the money, but my parents introduced me to you, Debt. They could loan me the $20 so I could get my game today and pay them back later.
This was a concept that totally blew my 9-year-old mind. I could get something now and worry about paying for it later? Whoaaaa. I should do this all the time.
Since I didn’t have an income, naturally I had a hard time getting rid of you, Debt. I realized it would take me three months of my allowance to get rid of you! Ouch!
After a few months of hoarding change in my piggy bank, I dumped you for the first time. I was young, but dang, it felt great to be free again. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson.
I didn’t see you again, Debt, until I was 21. I graduated early from college and thought the world was mine for the taking. Little did I realize that my degree came with an $80,000 price tag. I was also needy. I needed your allure and luxury: the $450 car payment, the student loan payments, and $14,000 in credit card debt. I cloaked myself in your brilliant sheen so I could look like everyone else who had you on their arm.
I was 21 and had several thousand dollars of you in my name, Debt. I was addicted to signing on the dotted line and only now realized what that meant.
Of course, my first job paid peanuts compared to the cost of my degree. Thanks to you, Debt, I struggled to meet my rent and wondered how I could afford the week’s groceries. I knew I was the one who let you into my life and that it was my fault, but I didn’t know how to get rid of you.
It wasn’t until I let another man into my life that things changed. I married Mr. Picky Pincher in 2015 and that’s when I found a way to dump you for good, Debt. Mr. Picky Pincher knew you too, and combined we owed $225,000. Ouch.
We knew you were a problem, but it didn’t become an emergency until I realized we had no savings. We couldn’t even imagine a savings account because we were in the red every month. And forget our dream of buying a house!
I was utterly ticked off. In the summer of 2015 we made a plan to evict you from our lives. Man, it was so much work. Getting rid of you was like lugging a belligerent 300-pound couch potato out of my house.
We canceled cable, stopped eating out, stopped shopping for fun, and stopped going to the movies. Instead I learned how to cook at home (a feat for a subpar cook), rent movies from the library, pickle and can produce, cut my own hair, shop at the thrift store, and sew my own clothes.
It didn’t happen overnight, but one day we realized we had $200 extra after making these changes. It was exhilarating, but it wasn’t enough.
We moved across the city to a cruddier apartment just to get rid of you, Debt. We were able to save an additional $400 a month on our rent, although herds of ants and roaches came with the territory. We even got rid of my car and I walked to work just to get rid of you, Debt. We were finally able to save $1,000 a month, which we used to pay off our credit cards each month.
After further cutting, we eliminated $14,000 of credit card debt in 10 months. Once that debt (and its minimum payments were gone), we were ready to go for the big ones: student loans.
Debt, you might think that you had us on these student loans. I thought so for a while, too, but we did conquer these loans. My dad graciously paid for the majority of my college degree, leaving me with just $25,000 of student loans. Thanks to changing our lifestyle and eliminating other debts first, we were able to kill that $25,000 of debt in 7 months.
Oh, Debt. You were probably heartbroken once that last check went in.
But you know what? I hate you. After seeing how easy it is to bring you into my life and how hard it is to make you leave, I’m done with you. There isn’t going to be any more of this on-again off-again business. This breakup is final and lasting. I’m going to sleep well for the rest of my life knowing you’re not on my doorstep anymore. Good riddance!
We first met when I was in undergrad. Tuition at a private prestigious university for 4 years was well over $100,000! Then one day as I was strolling through campus, I came across a booth of kids who were smiling, handing out free gifts, drinks, and…gasp…credit cards.
You mean I could apply for a credit card, get instantly approved, and get a free Nerf ball all in the same? Sign me up!
I remember my friends and I having a ball for the next few weeks as we racked up thousands in credit card debt over beer, pizza, electronics…you name it. Hell, it was free money in our eyes!
Fast forward 4 years and I was debt free. See, I got a pretty good job coming out of college working for Fannie Mae (this was before the financial crisis). I also was fortunate enough to get grants and help from my parents to pay for undergrad. My debt, including the credit cards, was gone.
Now I bounced around from job to job for awhile, and became disillusioned with my work so of course I went back to school to get my MBA. I was fortunate enough to get accepted to a great school, and figured that the $110,000 price tag was worth it because I would make so much more money upon graduation.
Yeah, didn’t happen. I graduated and actually ended up making LESS than what I made prior to grad school. My old friend had returned with a vengeance!
But, I must say, I greatly expanded my network, and more importantly, I started my own business. The fundamentals I learned in business school gave me the courage to start my own personal finance website Sobredinero.com, and I now am well on my way to paying down my student loans.
To be fair, it will still be a long journey, but I suspect that you won’t be around much longer because I have increased discipline and knowledge through my blogging about saving, credit, debt, investing etc…
I am no longer afraid of you for I have learned the difference between good vs bad debt. I am not afraid of you anymore Sallie Mae, Navient…whatever you’re calling yourself these days. Bring it on!
Hey everyone, let’s kick off the week with a dear debt letter from Katie. She is a Case Worker in a Treatment Center for drug & alcohol abuse, and absolutely loves her work and patients. With a Bachelors Degree but in Communications, Katie wants to use her money for experiences, not acquiring things — a big change in her perception on money.
Katie is currently dealing with the heavy burden that debt can weigh on us. Please take a moment to reach out with some words of encouragement. We could all use them sometimes.
I lost everything to you… my house, my savings, foreclosure, bankruptcy.
I bought 9 couches in one year, furniture, clothes, meals, haircuts, shoes, cars…
The list is endless. My Dad died, and I went to town spending instead of grieving. I have discovered you cannot mask grief with spending or with anything for that matter. Because when all the stuff is gone, except the debt… the grief is waiting, waiting, waiting. The hole in my soul still needed filling with something healthy and healing.
I am 6 years from my first and, God willing, last bankruptcy. But I am now again $8500.00 in debt. Now, some might think (erroneously) that that amount isn’t irretrievable, but remember… it was only 6 years ago I was $50,000 in credit card debt and lost the $325,000 house I bought. Bankrupt, broke. 6 short years ago.
Have I not learned anything? Maybe I did, but clearly I have since forgotten.
But now I have found DearDebt and I am no longer in denial or alone, and I can join all you courageous folks working and living in the solution.
Goodbye Credit Cards. Good riddance. You want to derail my prosperous future. No, you cannot and you will not steal my future. You played way to big a part in my past. It is OVER.
First step…I need help, 2nd step…restore me to sanity;
“…with God all things are possible…”
Please God help me.
Hello debt fighters! We’re back with another killer dear debt letter from Monique. Enjoy!
I would introduce myself to you, but you already know me. Unfortunately, we still haven’t broken up, YET…. but, don’t get too comfortable, though because “you’s gots t’go,” my unwanted friend!
We were introduced when I was in college and we began courting each other shortly after when I got approved for my first credit card.
Back then, I was young and dumb. I took myself out of the cool kids’ “Debt Free” club and fell for your shiny, plastic authority with very little knowledge of this lasting relationship you longed for.
God blessed me with a free, all expenses paid vacation through my full ride scholarship to school, but I neglected my blessing when I opened the door to your charming, yet deceiving face. Free of all student loans, all loans for that matter, I was stuck on stupid when I activated my card with the first purchase. Understanding and learning little to nothing about you, I made decisions that bit me in the butt later and I refuse to continue this ongoing, daunting relationship. The buck stops here!
I’ve heard of your horror stories and I will not be another one of your victims you tally in your little black book. Erase my name from your list because I’m leaving you. You may have had your long-lasting relationship with my parents and their parents, but I break the generational curse and bondage of debt upon me and my generations to come in the name of Jesus.
Debt, you have no authority to rule over me, my daughter and the rest of our prosperous lineage coming forth.
In the beginning, you and I were attached at the hip, but now, I’m cutting you off. You have extended your stay and I’ve learned a whole lot more about you. I only have a couple hundred dollars tying us together, but I’m leaving you for good once that gets washed away!
Your brother from another mother, MORTGAGE, is excited to meet me this week. Little does he know, I’m not the same naive and irresponsible young lady I was when we met. The bank’s already approved me for your buddy there, but mark my words: YOU ARE PAID IN FULL in the name of Jesus! Paying you and your brother off glorifies the God I serve and I know that your brother will be sad just like you when I leave him prematurely and unexpectedly.
You see, Debt, you were finally exposed and now, I can punch you in the face and kindly demand you to get the hell out of my life. Thank God for Soul’d Out Christian Center International Las Vegas because this ministry helped me reveal your true colors. After all these years, I will be saying goodbye for good!
Debt, just like my exes from the past, you are no longer welcome in my life. Have a seat on the sidelines and watch as God blesses me to combat your evil ways. There is nothing good about you in my life, so do just like my girl Beyoncé instructed and move ‘to the left, to the left.’
Consider this your eviction notice, Debt! Get your crap and scurry on down the road, far, far, far away! Debt, you’re going down ….and you’re never inserting yourself back into this family or our prosperous generations to come!
Thanks for being a good sport in your efforts to break me, but they didn’t work. I serve a BIG GOD and my BIG GOD loves to do BIG THINGS; therefore, grab a snack, pull up a chair and watch the PROSPEROUS LIFE God has for me! Save one of those seats for your boy, Mortgage because you both are going to be enjoying the sidelines in my life for a long time.
I don’t blame you completely because I know you, SOMETIMES, have good intentions, but I am calling this quits because I will no longer be needing your services, Debt and I definitely will not miss you.
Consider yourself warned, Debt! Start packing because your über driver has been contacted and is on his way!
The 27 year-young widowed, single mommy YOU THOUGHT you had.. You know? The same one who will be putting you to shame …SOON AND REAL SOON
M O N I Q U E
Hey everyone, we have an amazing new dear debt letter from Ellie. Ellie is a grants analyst and technology consultant in Nashville, Tennessee, and is on a 4 year plan to pay off $58,000. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and is a minimalist, living in furnished apartments, airbnbs, and subleases while she figures out where her life is headed. Everything she owns fits in her car. She enjoys reading, going to the gym, and cooking with her boyfriend.
Debt and I decided to sit down for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Here is my monologue to her.
Thank you for agreeing to meet me here. I don’t appreciate that you didn’t bring your wallet and made me pay, again. Rude much? Anyway. I asked you to come because… we need to talk.
I know about you and my parents.
I knew all along. I heard about the way you taunted them, how you wove your threads into the fabric of their lives until the entire garment belonged to you. Looked like you. Was nothing but you. I watched my father go homeless because of you, his marriage crumble because of you. I heard endless, frightful tales of your spite when he filed bankruptcy.
I witnessed the way you mangled his relationship with his parents. I watched as you took my mother’s hand and sold her a life that didn’t, and never would, never could, belong to her. I saw her driving that shiny car of yours and living under the roof that you pretended she deserved. And I could not look away as you took. it. all. back. Foreclosure is your ugly sidekick.
So I swore I would never speak to you for the rest of my life. I had every reason, every single good intention not to give you the time of day.
I proudly marched through Freshman year of college without a single cent of my life given to you and your selfish, cunning ways. Everybody told me you were such a nice girl. My peers warned me I was missing out on all the fun because I was hanging out with all my jobs instead of just letting you into my life, just a little. I was mocked, I was left out, I was looked at like a crazy person because graduating debt-free just wasn’t a thing.
Then I met a man.
I fell in love with him, this man much, much too old for me. And… flinched when a few weeks into this budding, green relationship he told me he knew you. When I found out the history the two of you shared I was sick. I looked at this guy and I thought, “A life with him is a life with debt.” Two hundred thousand dollars. That was what stood between me and him. You.
I told myself I would never marry into debt. But somehow, that man convinced me to take on my first student loan. You were in his head. He couldn’t see the light of day anymore from your blinding, dark cloak over his eyes. He didn’t know what it was like never to owe anybody anything because he’d been there for decades. Still, I was in love and young and foolish.
Before I knew it, I was taking you on joyrides through drive-thrus, hating myself for every secret large fry you watched me eat. Our life together was one step forward and nine steps back.
When the doctor told me I had a lump, months later I stared at the stack of tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills I would never pay and I just gave up.
You were such a monster then. You slipped your hand around my throat and caressed my skin, making me feel something when all I wanted was to surrender and say, no, no, no.
Tires. Dress slacks. Gasoline. Ice cream. School fees.
After my marriage fell apart, three years after you first slipped your unwelcome presence into my life, we had our last hurrah.
Like a bad lover, I embraced you with one final, terrifying dance. In a blaze of maxing out every card application that was not denied, we got massages together, drove across city lines at midnight together, slept on stranger’s couches together. Just to get by. Just to be alive a little while longer while I built my life again.
By the end of it, your name was fifty-eight. Thousand.
The shame was a spiraling, oozing combination of credit cards, my silvery used car, and a pile of loans.
So my dad called.
And he’d heard we’d been fooling around.
Dad wasn’t happy.
After a long talk, he pulled out his debit card and we made some changes.
And the way that you do, you kept your sliming, disgusting fingers around my neck as you transferred the stress of revolving interest to the depression of cyclical familial wounds. My father loaned me money for the first time in my life, and he swore he never would.
And what did you do?
You convinced me to buy a goddamn plane ticket. And another that I didn’t even end up using. We spun around once more, you and I, and we had our fun. And then, I wept when I revealed to my father that I stupid stupid stupidly maxed out one of the cards he’d just. paid. off.
He was so bitter.
He was so disappointed.
I was so ashamed.
So. Debt. Well, first of all, screw you. You’re a sick, conniving monster and I utterly hate you. So, there’s that.
But we’re not going to get anywhere with that kind of negative thinking so here’s what’s going to happen.
I’m going to cut you off. Every credit card is closed and is never getting reopened. Next month? I’m getting my tax return and that last credit card is going to be paid off forever. I’m going to pay back my boyfriend so you can stop influencing anything about our love.
I’m spending my time now with YNAB. Heard of him? Yeah, he HATES you. And Consulting? She said she has some ideas that will get me far, far away from you.
I have to live with your lurid presence a little while longer. But I hope you feel terribly uncomfortable around me. I hope you feel a horrible anxiety every time you hear my key turning in the lock. I hope you start to pack your bags. I hope you know you’re on a very short leash and that your time is running out.
You are not welcome in my life.
You are not welcome in my heart.
And I will do everything in my power to ensure that your influence on my family lineage stops here.
Thank you for teaching me where I was weak. Because now I know how strong I can be.