February 10, 2014

Shhh, I want to talk to you about something, ok? I don’t want people to get the wrong impression or nothing, but I want to talk to you about…..debt.  Let’s talk about debt baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be (props if you got that reference).

Not enough people in this country do it. We don’t want to talk about debt, because it’s our own fault right? We must internalize the shame of our debts and keep it secret.

Some people can’t even utter the number. It’s as if we’ve been financially slutty, and we don’t want to reveal “the number”. And I’m not judging the people who do that, but our society that makes it easier to make racist and sexist jokes than it is to talk about our money and our debts.

Yet, we live in a nation built upon debt. Debt upon debt upon debt. That is our foundation for a nation.

I am advocating for more conversations around money and debt. When I stood outside of my school and begged for tuition money, I was making a statement. This was one year before Occupy Wall Street and still many people did not want to talk to me about student loan debt.

“Oh, well it’s your choice to go back to school, and to an expensive one at that”

Yes, this is true and for that I will take responsibility. However, we also live in a culture where millennials have been told we could do whatever we want, and that if we do something it should always be the best. So why not go to the “best” school for the “best” opportunities?

I digress…I’m glad that the Occupy movement started to open up these conversations. A silenced nation protested its secrets. When I was protesting at Occupy Wall Street, I met an older woman who at 72 years of age told me the government  was taking money from her social security check because of an outstanding student loan. My heart broke for her. I was determined not to be in that situation.

With debt, there is so much blame and shame that people don’t want to speak up. But what change could occur if we did? Sometimes you don’t know something’s a problem until someone says something. We don’t know what hurts are lying behind our cool exterior.

We can change ourselves, a community, a city, a neighborhood and a nation. We might not see it today, or tomorrow or in our generation. If I thought I couldn’t change anything, I would have given up long ago. It can get frustrating at times, like walking in circles and still feeling lost.

But let’s start the conversation about debt. Why and how did you get into debt? Imagine the money we spend on debt, and what we could do with that elsewhere?

It starts with us, and it starts now. You with me?


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

Latest posts by Melanie (see all)

33 responses to “Let’s Talk About Debt, Baby”

  1. I’m with ya Girl! Let’s talk about debt. Or better yet…write a blog and document it??? 😉
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted…The Liebster Award and Versatile Blogger AwardMy Profile

  2. I got the reference from the title before I even read the blog. 🙂 Debt is a dirty little secret. I know someone right now who told me about a MASSIVE and unnecessary debt (too long to explain) and who I constantly see on FB going out to events that cost a lot of money. I think there is so much denial going on there, and talking about it is actually admitting there is a problem. I really think it can be that bad. It’s like a two year old covering their ears and saying, “na na na na…I can’t hear you!” 🙂
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…The Hidden Cost of Big Fitness Goals/GiveawayMy Profile

  3. Alicia says:

    So, now I’m going to have Salt N Pepa in my head for the rest of the day.

    I still don’t discuss debt “in real life” too often, but I get that debt-discussion outlet with the blog and the PF community. One of these days I’ll bring it up with my real-world friends… I guess I’m not helping the issue 🙂
    Alicia recently posted…Handling Criticism.My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Haha, I played that song so many times during writing. My bf is so sick of it, lol. You are helping as you are in the pf world. You are not wearing blinders of denial. You are part of the change!

  4. Debt is such an important topic to have conversations about. If it’s hush hush like it has been in the past, it’s just going to mount and mount.
    Daisy @ Add Vodka recently posted…What I Watched, Read, and Listened To: Food EditionMy Profile

  5. financially slutty.

    i’m dying.
    Michelle @fitisthenewpoor recently posted…The New Business Chronicles: The IdeaMy Profile

  6. Morgaine says:

    Financially slutty, lol! 🙂

    I agree, money is such a taboo topic and we need to change that! Being a part of the PF community is great, because money and debt aren’t taboo, and we can help support each other 🙂
    Morgaine recently posted…Weekly Spending: Feb 3-9, 2014My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Hehe 🙂 Glad people enjoy that phrase. Sometimes I like to make language feel awkward, silly and controversial, just for fun. I love the pf community for opening up these conversations — I just wish the PF world was a realistic microcosm of how the world is, but it’s definitely not.

  7. I am still VERY new on my debt journey. I am still ashamed about my debt, unlike you mine is mostly consumer debt. I did get myself into it by trying to keep up with the Joneses. I haven’t “come out” to anyone in “real life” about my debt problems or about my new debt/simplifying blog. I do think people need to be more open about debt and it may sound terrible, but I’m not sure I want to be the one to open up about it in “real life” right now… Good for you for being brave enough to do so! I’m not there, at least not yet.
    Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…Use it Up: Final TallyMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      It’s ok — feeling ashamed is the “normal” feeling related to debt. I’m trying to open up some space for other feelings. Really changing the dynamic and perspective of debt. You don’t have to be the one that opens up the conversation — you can support others. You are already part of the conversation, just by being here.

  8. Good for you for opening up the conversation and taking debt-talk out of the closet. You are S-O-O right that people would rather talk about anything than how much they owe–and yet go to jobs they hate to make money to pay of their bills! My husband and I have seen both sides of that story–we were miserably in debt for many years and then five years ago we went debt free (including our mortgage) and it was the best thing we ever did! Stick with it and keep spreading the news that “Debt is the WORST poverty there is!”
    Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com recently posted…Ten Awesome Benefits to Growing OlderMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      I’m trying to open up the conversation! I know it can be shameful, but shame and blame isn’t going to improve the situation. Debt is the worst poverty….and it’s hard to work your way out, which is why we need to support each other and talk about it.

  9. deardebt says:

    Yeah, now S-E-X is everywhere! You can’t blink without seeing it. I love the pf world and hope it rubs off on the rest of the world. More conversations, more support, less stigma!

  10. Petrish says:

    I am still kinda in the closet about my debt. My family and close friends don’t even know that I blog about it. I guess this is my way of slowly dealing with it. At the end of the day, I just won’t to divorce debt forever.

    I love you blog….by the way.

  11. There are people who do shy away from talking about debt, and I try not to be one of them. I can’t believe that it’s still taboo to talk about money even though we might be able to help others in their situation. No one’s perfect, but we can definitely learn from one another.
    Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life recently posted…One of Those Long Days…My Profile

  12. Do I get extra points if I sang the last sentence of the first paragraph as I read it? Or if I went and YouTubed the video and watched it a couple times? 🙂

    I am over $95,000 in debt because I went to a for-profit school. You could say I was scammed but ultimately it was my own ignorance that got me to where I am. However, I could go into a huge spiel here about how we live in a nation whose motto should be “In Debt We Trust.” I could blame previous generations for blindly following political scumbags who lead us into a time where debt seems to be the norm and everything is all about money and making a profit. The concept of debt is the stupidest thing ever and has driven the cost of things up and up and up. Once upon a time, higher education could be afforded by working a summer job. These days, unless you’re whoring it up in the Playboy Mansion, fat chance. Whew! I’m going to stop myself here and rant about it on my own blog!
    Kasey @ Debt Perception recently posted…Domain PollMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      You win so many cool points!!! 🙂 Girl, you don’t even need to get me started. Education used to be free in parts of CA and NY. FREE. Everything is so backwards now. It really would be a huge economic boost, if we could at least have interest relief, or lower interest rates.

      • I just realized I forgot to answer your second question…I was too busy listening to 90’s music. Salt-n-Pepa led to En Vogue and the wheel kept turning…

        Did you read the article from 2009 about forgiving student loan debt to stimulate the economy? Finding that FSLD group was the turning point for me to truly understanding the mess I had gotten myself into by going to a for-profit. If I wasn’t putting 100% of my paychecks to my debt, I’d be seeing a reproductive endocrinologist about having kids. I could never justify having children with the burden of over $95,000 hanging over my head. I also can’t justify purchasing a house with that kind of debt. I can’t even begin to save for retirement. I’d be more inclined to start a business, help out my family who needs it, volunteer more and donate to charities instead of lining the pockets of my servicers.

        I strongly feel this country needs a clean slate, which is why I was so greatly disappointed that there was no apocalypse in December, 2012. Perhaps a jubilee like Iceland did would help, but without drastically changing things, we’d just end up right back there in the future. Le sigh.
        Kasey @ Debt Perception recently posted…Domain PollMy Profile

        • deardebt says:

          I didn’t read it, but it makes so much sense. I am barely saving for retirement and thank goodness having kids and a house is not in my life goals. It’s sad. We are starting our “adult” lives so much later because of all the debt.

  13. anna says:

    Haha, I remember I used to love that song, and my mom would just pray for my soul every time I played it since it was quite racy back then… now it’s just kids’ stuff! 😉 I agree debt needs to be a more open topic, as well as getting into the mindset that it doesn’t have to be a ‘normal’ for someone! Great post, Melanie. 🙂
    anna recently posted…Transitioning the “Me” Thinking Into “We” ThinkingMy Profile

  14. Mackenzie says:

    I am going to have this song in my head all day, LOL… I guess it’s better than “Push It” or “Whatta Man”, right? 😉

    Debt should definitely be talked about, and the fact that we are all in it, holding on for dear life, speaks volumes.
    Mackenzie recently posted…We Sail Through Our YouthMy Profile

  15. I’m with it! I got into debt because of my student loans. They tell you that you can finance your education and pay it off when you start to make money. Well, if only I paid my school off and borrowed less then I would be able to put more money aside for savings and investing. It’s hard to get ahead when you owe money.

    Here’s another Salt-N-Pepa song switched up for debt: ” Hey yeah, I wanna Shop (shoop) baby! shop , shop pe duupe!!”
    Ron @RunningFromDebt recently posted…My 2nd Liebster Award! More Facts About MeMy Profile

  16. I think debt is definitely something we as a nation should discuss, but it’s also something I think each person should discuss if they find themselves in debt. Unless there is fraud involved (which is obviously highly debatable), I tend to lean towards the line of thinking that debt is an individual responsibility. The worst thing I see people do is just bury their head in the sand and make minimum payments.

    And is there anyone who didn’t get the reference???
    Ryan @ Impersonal Finance recently posted…you vs. the economyMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Yes, I believe debt is an individual responsibility as well, however, I think there are collective forces that push us towards getting into debt. It’s normalized, encouraged, “the only way”,etc. If we started talking about it more, maybe less people would end up in debt! I think most people got the reference – but you’d be surprised. I love pop culture references and not everyone gets it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge