As a financial coach, there is nothing more frustrating than hearing friends, clients, and even complete strangers admit that working hard and paying off debt is a really smart thing to do, but not necessary in their case. This is a simple misunderstanding on their part, but a misunderstanding that places constraints on their finances and their lives - a misunderstanding that locks them in a cage. But, I can empathize with their misunderstanding. I know the cage they are in because I too was once in this cage.
In order to pay off debt, you must have motivation. If there is no motivation, this plan will not work. Fear is one of the most common sources of motivation. Clients often come in who are scared about their finances and need help. Although being scared is a common motivator, it is not the only thing that drives people to seek financial stability. Others are motivated by the desire to pay off debt or wanting to retire early.
That motivation leads to action. In order to achieve their financial goals, some people work long, hard hours, while others sell everything they own. For those on the outside who do not understand the motivator inspiring these individuals, their exhaustive labor seems like a waste of time. I believe that is why many people are so averse to the idea of working hard to pay everything off; unless there is financial pressure such as pending bankruptcy or another financial struggle. Put another way, most people see the idea of ditching debt as unnecessary unless fear is the motivator.
One of the most common things we hear from people is: “I have credit cards and some debt, but it’s not out of control.”
This comment is always followed up with a compliment about how Annika and I are so smart for paying off our debt. But, these people are missing the point! You don't have to be scared to be smart.
When Annika and I had debt, we never felt that our debt was out of control. Our monthly bills were always paid on time. I never felt stuck and I was never worried about not being able to make a payment. Instead, what I experienced was a feeling that I was not moving forward. I wanted to be saving more money. I wanted to travel. I wanted to give to people and causes I believed in. I wanted to live a prosperous life and I knew I was not going to be able to do that unless I could truly harness my income.
The seed that grew into the idea of being debt-free had nothing to do with fear. For me, it was being upset that I was financially mediocre.
That was why I started looking into how to do things differently. It wasn't because I couldn't pay bills or that I was scared. I simply hated to be mediocre.
Financial freedom means being free from the cage that keeps your eyes low and turns goals into pipedreams. For some, part of that cage is fear. For some, part of that cage is debt. For most, part of that cage is acceptance of mediocrity. That is the point. 2020 could be your year to reject traditional ideas of personal finance. I do not want a mediocre life, mediocre kids, a mediocre marriage, or a mediocre future. Use this year to break free of your cage and find financial freedom.