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You’re In Debt. So What?

I’ll bet you have an answer to that question. So what? I can’t sleep at night because of my debt! Like I said: so what?

I’ll bet you have an answer to that question. So what? I can’t sleep at night because of my debt! So what? I have creditors calling me all day long! So what? I can’t afford anything I want to do! Like I said: So what? Like most Americans and many Money Under 30 readers, I still have some debt—after all, it doesn’t go away overnight. But I am a different person than I was three years ago, even six months ago.

What’s Changed?

I’m a different person because I no longer allow my debt to define me. Up until recently I could trace every problem in my life back to debt.

  • Why couldn’t I afford to grab drinks with my friends? I had too much debt.
  • Why didn’t I take a vacation once a year? I had too much debt.
  • Why was I having trouble with personal relationships? I was insecure because of my debt.
  • Why didn’t I eat right and forgo exercise? I was stressed about my debt.
  • Why wasn’t I doing my best at work? My mind was on my debt.

Does this sound familiar? Do you find yourself making excuses for yourself because of your debt? Do you complain to your friends and family about your debt? Even if you don’t complain about it – do all your friends know you’re in debt?

If so, STOP. Let me make it very clear: debt is not you, and you are not debt. Your debt is a financial consequence of past life choices or circumstances. That is all.

And notice there is a key word in the previous statement: past. Your debt is a result of your past. Yes, it’s here today. Yes, you have to pay it. Yes, you will pay it in the future. However, it is the result of the past. Unfortunately it is true that people in the business world will judge you on your past. When you apply for a job or new credit, your past is important. But here’s the good news: there is nothing anywhere that says you have to judge yourself on your past. To you, all that matters is today. Not even today, right this minute.

What are you doing today? If you are going into more debt, then stop to think about why and whether that debt is a wise decision. If not – if you’re working hard to earn money to pay back your debt AND enjoying your life – your work, your relationships, and your hobbies – then what else could possibly matter? You get to define yourself. You are who you tell yourself you are; you can do what you tell yourself you can do. You are, in other people’s eyes, whomever you choose to project to them.

So try this: Don’t think about your debt. Decide how much you can pay back each month and still enjoy your life and forget about it. Make it automatic. Now, take all that time and energy you used to use thinking about debt and think about important things: your loved ones, your career, and your health.

If more money is important to you – maybe you got into debt because you wanted more material things than you could afford – think about ways to make more money. Think up ideas to improve your value at work, ways to earn money in your spare time, or a way to go into business for yourself.

And if you’re currently able to live within your means and more money isn’t important to you, think about what makes you happiest, and pursue it every day to your fullest extent. Don’t think about debt again. It’s not who you are. It really doesn’t matter. You may owe money to others, but you owe this to yourself.

Published or updated on March 25, 2007

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. Rick says:

    Just want to share with others, if your looking to stabilize your financial situation in life, a book that changed my outlook and how i live is called “The Richest Man In Babylon”.

    It is 192pg book full of the secrets used 5000 years ago from the worlds richest cities. The same thinking is used and applied today in every major form of success you desire or see around you.

    Another book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, two life changing books, search google or on Amazon for them.

  2. Shellyah says:

    Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Woohoo! I like it mr. How nice to read something uplifting when searching through the oodles of info available to us broke 20 somethings. You snapped me out of a real funk today! :)

  4. Joe says:

    i have four credit cards in collections totaling somewhere around $8000.00. sure, this doesnt seem like alot of debt at all, but i dont even know where to start. i make a very small salary and i just want to pay this debt off but i cant even pay my regular bills. i am so afraid that i will never own a car or a house. i have even been turned down for good paying jobs because of my credit score. its hard to just shrug this off and say “so what”. sometimes i think the only way out is suicide…over $8000.00. this world is a terrible place.

  5. […] Money Under 30 says You’re In Debt. So what? “Let me make it very clear: debt is not you, and you are not debt. Your debt is a financial consequence of past life choices or circumstances. That is all.” […]

  6. Minimum Wage says:

    I got my debt by doing something most people consider a good thing – going to college. Today I am a boomer with no marketable skills and no career-related experience and I have no hope and am very bitter.

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