It’s time for us to talk about that DB in your life

We all have a DB in our life. Whether it’s the half-sister who calls you up for rent money or the guy who won’t stop sending you photos of his nethers, DB’s know no gender, race, or class – or even relationship to you, for that matter.

But I’m talking about a different kind of DB today. Debt Baggage. And much like the guy who texts you at 2 a.m. for “cuddles”, this DB is also ruining your life.

It’s dragging you down, my friend. It’s keeping you up at night (and not in the sexy way), it’s distracting you at work (also, not in the sexy way) and it’s stopping you from really pursuing your (sexy) dreams.

Last week, financial rock star guy Mark Carney proclaimed to all Canadians that it’s time to rein in our household debt. In fact, he called it the “main domestic threat” to the Canadian economy. Did you hear that, people? It’s not a bomb-weilding maniac or a militant redneck from backwoods Alberta that we need fear. Our greatest threat lurks in our own homes. (Quite literally, since Carney says the main problem is people using home equity to pay other debts, and to spend more.*)

Photo: Heather Setka

Part of the problem, if you ask me, is that we can’t talk about it. It’s terrifying to admit we can’t afford our own lifestyles, or that we even have debt. Until very recently, I actually believed I was the only person in my friend/peer group with any debt.

Taking responsibility of our financial lives is the only way to thwart the debt threat, and the first step is talking about it. So here I go. Here’s my own DB TMI Moment:

  • $253,800 mortgage
  • $2,800 student loan
  • $2,800 credit card
  • $5,510 car loan
Grand total: $264, 110
OK, now you go. Please list your debts in the comment box below. You can do it. I know you can. Because – as with any DB that’s big and hairy and ruining your life – once you talk about it, the fear and shame will disappear. It vanishes like it’s Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and he has an important business meeting to attend.

It’s fine if you’re not ready. I understand. I took that risk when I opened up to you. But trust me: once you tell someone what about the DB you’ve been hiding, it loses at least a fraction of its power.

Last spring, my debt was much worse:

  • $258,ooo mortgage
  • $14,000 student loan
  • $5,500 credit card
  • $6,960 car loan

I sat down with my friend Aleksandra, who is doubly skilled in financial matters because she 1) is an accountant 2) grew up in Communist Poland, and knows how to stretch a buck. We talked for a solid hour about how to decrease my debt. Some of her suggestions I used, some of them I didn’t. No matter. What benefitted me most was speaking it out loud. Until my conversation with her, no one truly knew the trouble I faced. Once I over-shared, the big bad scary DB monster got a tiny bit smaller. And it’s been shrinking (slowly, slowly, ever so slowly…) since.

So that’s fine if you don’t want to unload your debt load here, for me and the whole Internet to see. Instead, share it with someone you trust – a friend, a financial advisor, a Money Mentor, a counsellor, or a spouse (please, please, please, tell your spouse).

It’s a bold first step in ridding your life of that awful DB.

~HS

*Sources: Globe and Mail and Maclean’s

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