This is a post from Oli Lewington. Oli is a storyteller: a writer, filmmaker and social media specialist who helps people, brands and businesses tell their stories in a way that entertains and enchants their customers, clients and fans. You can connect with him on Twitter or Google+.
I’m in debt.
There, I said it.
It’s not nice, it’s not pretty, but it’s not (or shouldn’t be) taboo, either.
There was a time when I was ashamed of my debt. I’m still not proud of it. But what I do recognize is that it’s a major part of my life and there’s nothing I can do about it other than sit down, focus and attack it head-on.
The first step to tackling any problem is acknowledging it.
We have to admit that we’re eating badly before we can improve our diet. We have to confess that we’re unfit and unhealthy before we can sign up to the gym to start fighting the flab. We have to confess that our finances aren’t as robust as they could be or should be before we can start fighting our debt.
For years, I ignored my debt. I was barely making enough money to cover all of my bills, let alone generating enough spare cash to do anything more than cover my minimums and keep the wolves from the door.
I would procrastinate about paying things. If it wasn’t automated, I would often forget, or “forget,” to pay them. I would do everything I could to avoid seeing my bank account reading £0.00 when I logged in.
Until the wolves literally came to the door in the form of bailiffs who politely (in fairness to them, very politely – nothing like what you see in the movies) suggested I get a better hold of my repayments.
I had to stop and admit that I was in pretty bad shape and I needed to sort things out.
Removing the taboo
No one likes to talk about debt, but almost everyone is in it.
Call it by whatever name you like, but car loans, cash loans, payday loans, mortgages, credit cards, overdrafts: They are all debt.
So why do we openly talking about some (“Yay! I got my first mortgage!”), while others are unmentionable (“Yay! Some doofus was stupid enough to give me a credit card!”)? Why is some debt ‘worse’ than others?
Truth is, it’s not. All debt is equal. What makes it better or worse is our ability to deal with it.
Consider Donald Trump, who was almost wiped out by his debt: Leveraged to the hilt, all was fine while the business was running smoothly and he could cover his payments. When the downturn came, all of a sudden that ‘leverage’ became ‘debt’ and he was screwed.
Understand the why
Everyone has reasons for their debt. For some it’s college tuition, for others it’s through being laid off or, as in my case, through over-spending on credit cards to try to (and fail at) keep myself happy when I was ill.
Some reasons for getting into debt are silly, like mine. Some are more understandable, like wanting to become a doctor and needing to pay your way. The united thread, however, is that they are all valid reasons.
Why valid? Because they have all already happened. I got into debt because I spent too much on credit cards: Nothing I can do now will ever change that fact, so it’s a valid reason, it’s just a silly one that makes me feel like a bit of a twit.
We need to take ourselves away from the idea that we’re the only ones who have done something silly in our lives, who have made decisions that have put us in a bad place. Because everyone has made decisions that impact their finances and everyone has a valid reason for debt.
Admitting it and moving on to the next stage – dealing with it – is crucial. And I’m guessing the very fact that you’re reading this blog means you’re already standing on step 1.
Let’s keep climbing.
Note from Joan: You might remember that Oli previously shared 5 Lessons from Life After a Double Lung Transplant with Man Vs. Debt readers, and we’ve asked him to share some more with our community over the coming weeks!
We LOVE his story – and his enthusiasm – because he is so passionate about life, and about some of the things we’ve been talking about here on MvD recently. You know, like talking dirty about money and getting your head out of the sand and facing what you owe?
You’ll be hearing more from Oli soon!