How Attacking Debt Could Be Hurting Your Financial Growth
THE BIG THING I WANT YOU TO KNOW:
Listen, too many of us are trapped in a cycle of debt and we put every extra penny we have towards paying it off. I want to convince you that you can break the cycle of debt a better way and it starts with having cash set aside prepared for life’s emergency expenses.
This post is inspired by an email sent in from a listener — which now can open up this larger conversation about life and finances, and hopefully move so many more people to find a better way to manage their debt and finances. Thanks for your comment!
Okay, so I got a question recently from a listener named John who DISAGREED with something I talk about a lot.
Here’s what he said:
“I heard something you said that I think is spreading bad advice. It’s not correct to say that building a 3-month safety net or emergency fund will reduce debt faster than paying off a high-interest credit card. I’d be interested in seeing your math.”
Well you’re right, John. The math doesn’t add up, but life isn’t math.
One of the beautiful things about math is that 2 + 2 = 4 every. single. time. But life is not like that. Let me explain why I deeply believe that the best thing you can do to escape debt is to build your savings instead of attacking your debt monster straight on.
Entertain me and think about the last time you had an unexpected emergency that cost at least a thousand dollars…
Surprise emergencies happen all the time. It’s life! Life is unpredictable.
Actually, I was pulling out of my house yesterday (yes - in a hurry.) I turned too quickly and plowed my tire into a little rock wall that borders the house, at which point the tire popped like a balloon. Totally unexpected, but these surprise costs are unending, and that’s just life! If you’ve lived long enough you know all too well how normal this is.
I say that to encourage you in this: If life didn’t happen that way, John would be absolutely right, and the best thing you could do with any money you make would be to pay off high-interest debt.
But the truth about life changes the answer about how to handle debt:
It’s not about math, it’s about breaking a cycle.
real growth comes when you build your financial Foundation first
The first step, the roots of the financial world, is your emergency fund.
If you’re sitting there right now with $15,000 of debt and no emergency fund, my advice to you is pay the absolute minimum. Stop paying the extra couple hundred dollars or using your bonus or tax refund. Has that ever worked before?
Start saving those dollars. Put the minimum towards those debts and put the extra dollars towards an emergency fund until you have three months of expenses. And I don’t mean three months of living on spam and ramen noodles, I mean your normal life. Three months sitting in a savings account.
Until you have that, in my humble opinion, you should not be putting money into a 401k. You should not be putting extra money towards debt. Every extra dollar should go into a savings account until you have three months, because that will break the cycle.
THEN the next time life happens, you’ll have cash to pay for it. —- WIN!
YES I really am telling people to pay the minimum on 18% interest debt that’s eating that person’s lunch and put their money into savings.
You won’t be swiping the Amex again and keeping the 18% world turning and turning — you’re going to break it. YOU’RE GOING TO BREAK IT! Once you have that three months of liquid savings, the world will look different to you, I promise.
Then you take all the extra money and turn around and focus on that high-interest debt and knock it out, knowing that when life happens again, you don’t have to raise the debt again but you can pay for it in cash. It will break the cycle forever.
So, yes, the math doesn’t work in a hypothetical world, but it works really well in the real world!
what does your emergency fund look like today? does it even exist?
Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have an emergency fund set up, this is a real, tangible step you can take towards growth.
It may seem like climbing Mount Everest to go from where you are right now, but you can get there. I’ve seen people do it.
If you want to start climbing the mountain and don’t know how to start, I really would encourage you to sign up for a free consultation with our team to lay out your financial world and make a plan together. Everything that feels impossible to fix now can be done.
Let’s bring all your scary finances into the light and see where change can happen, because I can tell you from meeting with all kinds of people that change can happen. You can walk out of this year having made tangible steps towards a whole new reality.
Take that step. Before you pay your next credit card bill… It needs to happen.
Finance is powerful and it plays a huge part in every aspect of our lives
People talk about finance like it’s so boring, but finance is what wages wars. Finance is what causes people to divorce. Finance is what causes people to die young because of stress. Finance is powerful and it plays a part in every aspect of our lives, and we are diluting ourselves when we relegate it to this world of numbers and math.
It’s a cycle, and some of you are living in it. But believe me… SAVINGS is the trick to breaking your debt cycle.
If you want to break the cycle, THAT is what we are here for. I’m not here to argue if it would be better for you, in a theoretical world, to pay every extra dollar towards debt. Of course that would be better for you! The problem is, I don’t live in that world.
I live in a world where I have no doubt that this year you will face an unexpected expense, and if you don’t have an emergency fund set up, how are you going to pay for it? I’ll tell you how, you’re going to swipe your credit card, or take out a personal loan, or a line of credit on your house, or some of you will literally take your possessions to a pawn shop to have a couple hundred dollars to make it through the week.
friends, Even i know what it’s like to feel stuck!
I was a youth pastor making just barely enough to support the family and living in my in-law’s basement when my wife was unbelievably ill.
We didn’t have the funds to take her to get the care she needed. We had mountains of debt piling up and my two young kids slept in the same bed in a room with no door because it was an unfinished basement.
I know what it feels like to think there’s no way out! But, believe me, while the “math” like John suggests may not feel right, it is the secret of your financial growth starting TODAY.
Our Dynamic Money team is happy to show you a better way if you’re ready to change your approach and build a financial plan built for life.
How do you typically handle overwhelming obstacles in life? What helps you succeed?