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Sin of Debt

I’m sitting in church, listening to a class on finances, when a thought creeps into my head.  Debt is a lot like the Devil.  You see, I don’t see debt as a sin but I started to see the correlation.

I began my adulthood without debt.  I was in college during those shiny golden years when the economy was booming and promises slid off the tongue of the future in drops of honey.  We were told that just by going to college, we were going to be successful.  Our education was paid in loans that were just a right of passage, barely noticeable.  We were required to take classes about our loans that went something like this – you are receiving a loan that you will have to pay back but it’s no big deal.  You are going to leave school, get an amazing job and the loans will become unperceivable – there’s hardly any interest and the payments will be so low, that it won’t feel like debt.  Then there was talk about deferments and forbearances for those tough times that might happen (but most likely won’t because you are a college graduate).

To add to it, they would ask you about your wants.  Do you want help paying for child care?  How about a computer?  Anything else, great – here’s your check.  What they didn’t tell you was all that extra money came from loans.  So I graduated.  Just as the economy tanked, especially in my field.

Remember those low low interest rates?  They mean nothing when your balance is $100,000.  My current interest is something like $800 a month.

To add to that wonderful abyss, my being a fresh new adult meant companies just couldn’t wait to give me credit cards.  I could barely balance my checkbook and they gave me credit which grew.

Now, I had waves of being responsible.  It’s not terribly hard but those credit cards whisper to you.  It wasn’t like we were partying on our credit cards.  Remember that tanked economy – our credit was keeping us alive.  It paid for gas to get to work, food for the end of the pay period so we wouldn’t be neglectful parents.  It was necessity after necessity.  All compounded by the fact we were paying so much of our money to our creditors.

We tried to get out of debt ourselves but no matter how much we planned or tightened our belts, we would always find ourselves unable to stay on track.  So we sought professional help in the form of American Credit Consumer Counseling, a non-profit program designed to help Americans get out of debt.

It was a life saver but it wasn’t easy.  It was like going to rehab.  We had to get out of the habit of relying on the credit cards.  That part wasn’t hard because we gave them all up.  The mindset was a different thing altogether.

Like all exes- we can now see the truth behind the lies.  We laugh at the near daily envelopes of credit card offers.  We scoff at the endless commercials that make promises (Capital One, you are the Devil).  But it’s everywhere – a demon batting it’s innocent eyes, promising you that you won’t lose control.  There’s no risk. Temptation, scoff, they are just jealous that they aren’t in the cool crowd.

So I am sitting there in church and it dawns on me that there is more to this whole debt thing that I realized.  It’s a cancer that infects our whole country.  I remember when Michael Moore said that our country rewards debt.  It’s the basis of consumerism.  Interest is the parasite that is bleeding us dry.

Do I have a solution?  No, sorry.  I wish I did.  I wish I could figure out how to move beyond the poverty line and into the next stage of my life.  You know that stage, the one that they claim happens when you are older and have money.  I do think it’s interesting food for thought.

I know getting out of debt is hard.  We are struggling but our plan finally feels like it has a future.  Now if I get out from under our student loans then everything will be sunny.  I’ll let you know if it ever happens – well you’ll know, that screaming of pure joy – that will be me (in about 8 years, I think).