As a child, many of us are rewarded with some cash after losing a tooth. I can still remember the excitement, and to a lesser extent, the pain in my mouth as I excitedly placed my pearly white under my pillow. Although I do not know the origin of this tradition, it signifies the beginning of a transition into young adulthood. A classic American rite of passage.
As we become adults, we quickly learn the wicked ways of the real world. At some point, nearly all of us will lose a job. It will seem like a cruel and untimely occurrence, but this, like losing a tooth, is just another “rite of passage”, albeit one we could have done without. Unfortunately, this experience does not come with any kind of reward. Nobody is going to come up to you and hand you some cash after you lose your job (unless you are begging). Ahh, to be young again.
There is one glaring difference between these two experiences. The tooth was going to leave you at some point anyway, the job…not necessarily. You had to do nothing but a bit of tugging in preparation for the tooth loss. And technically, you did not have to do anything to prepare for the job loss, either…but hopefully you did. You can not get by on the pittance you will receive from unemployment benefits, so hopefully, you are debt free going into your unemployment stint. If you do have debt, you cannot count on the “debt fairy” to come and make your payments for you while you are lacking income.
A Harsh Reality-
Even without a job loss, debt can be paralyzing. If you are having trouble making payments or can’t make them at all, the debt fairy is not going to come while you sleep and make your debt-free dreams come true. Too many people sit on their asses waiting for something to happen that will help them with their finances. The sad truth is that these people who continue to make minimum payments on high-interest debt, or can no longer make payments at all often dig a hole that ends in bankruptcy or with “help” from a shady credit-counseling service.
- You are not going to win the lottery.
- Your inheritance will be far less than you are hoping.
- Withdrawing or Borrowing from retirement accounts is stupid (almost every time).
- Something is not going to just “come along”…unless you force the issue.
Allow Yourself Time-
My point is, your debt is not going to go away in one foul swoop. What you need is a plan to get rid of the debt. Map out a time line for each debt that you want to get rid of. Forget about the Monthly bill you receive. If you have a card or loan with a high balance, forget about the debt fairy and prepare a plan that does not tempt you with a “minimum payment”. Pile on the principal whenever possible, and set a realistic goal for yourself based on income and payments you can actually make.
As they say, patience is a virtue…and while it is unrealistic to ask a child who just extracted his own tooth to exercise this virtue, it is not too much to ask of an adult. So stop waiting for something to come along and relieve your burden, and take it upon yourself to alleviate your situation. Take responsibility. Because nobody is going to step in and do it for you.