You can help yourself, it doesn’t have to be this way. But before you can turn things around, it’s important to understand how you arrived where you are.
How Did I Get Here?
Technology has changed the world dramatically in the last 20 years. In many ways for the better, but the internet has also put shopping at our fingertips and smartphones keep us constantly connected to our work, and the work and lifestyles of everyone around us.
This new world has given rise to three of the primary reasons so many people are in debt despite earning a good salary: increased expectations of what we “deserve.”
Social Media offers up an upbeat version of everyone’s lives. We see what everyone else is doing or owns and we want it too. You work hard, make good money so why shouldn’t I have that new purse or that trip or new car. Why shouldn’t my children have the best of everything. Debt creeps up slowly and our justifications keep pace. As long as the money keeps flowing, who has time to plan long term or manage a budget?
No longer any stigma
In our grandparents’ time, debt was something to be avoided. Being in debt carried shame and embarrassment. While I’m not an advocate for shame, the normalization of being in debt hasn’t made life better; it has allowed debt to flourish. Today, many people would be less embarrassed to admit they have debt than to admit they can’t afford something.
What Can I Do Differently?
You can get out of debt, you just need to challenge your perceptions and do things differently. Here are some ideas to get you started today.
- Create an authentic vision for your life: Have you ever realized you wanted something only when you saw someone else had it? Maybe you were completely happy with your family camping trips until you saw your friend’s photos from Europe. Before you jump on a travel site, think about what you really want. Define two or three financial goals for yourself that align with your values.
- Be honest about your current situation: Have you accepted debt as part of life? Be honest about where you are overspending. The moment you tell yourself living with debt is not O.K. you will realize new ways of doing things.
- Create a plan and systems: Living in the moment is great for meditation and calming your mind, but money needs a plan. Learn to track your daily expenses. Understand what you need to save and invest. Be realistic. Challenge your assumptions about what’s a necessary expenditure.
- Have positive money conversations: You’ve probably commiserated with friends about how expensive everything is, and how just when you’re getting ahead, the car breaks down or the roof leaks. These are just excuses. These are the conversations that normalize debt and keep everyone stuck. Instead, talk about positive money goals and how you plan to achieve them.
- Start today: Changing your habits, reaching goals and eliminating debt, takes time. A small change today will start the ball rolling. Once you get some momentum, the financial and emotional rewards will keep you going. You will never regret making these changes.
What if I Don’t Do Anything Different?
No matter how many Canadians are in debt, debt is not normal or O.K. It steals your piece of mind and puts the security of your future at high risk. Interest rates will go up and a debt that seems manageable now could suddenly impact your life in a significant way. Over time, debt will wear you down. It can affect your relationships, your self-esteem, and your health. Living well is not enough; you also need to sleep well, knowing that you are in charge of your financial future.
What You Really Deserve
You work hard; you deserve to put that hard earned money to work for you. You deserve to reach goals that matter to you. You don’t deserve to have your money evaporate on interest payments for things you barely remember buying. The first steps to change are acknowledging that change is possible and being honest with yourself about your current situation.
Colleen Saunders is a 20 year veteran in the mortgage industry, serving Mississauga, Burlington, Oakville and Toronto and offering all mortgage related services such as 2nd mortgages, private mortgages and more.