The famous saying goes that there are only two things in life that can be counted on. Death and Taxes. This is attributed to Benjamin Franklin who wrote it in a 1789 letter about the new constitution. I love his autobiography and l would urge everybody to read it. He was a fascinating and extremely brilliant man. I thought about this recently while l was reading a story about a couple who committed suicide because of the spiraling debt. One can only imagine what was going through their minds as they meticulously planned this out. Here are some tips on how to take hold of your finances and avoid a tragic and avoidable fate.
This story might not have gotten much publicity if the victims had not been middle to upper class citizens. The couple, in their fifties, jumped to their debt from the high-rise that housed the husband’s recently closed chiropractic office. Each of them carried a suicide note in their pocket proclaiming that they had enjoyed a wonderful life and begging for their kids to be taken care of. Among their debt was a $60,000 student loan, a tax lien of over $23,000 and an additional Federal loan for $200,000 that the government was trying to collect on. Their two kids,19 and 20 year old, were in colleges with tuition that cost $38,000 a year each. Their story is not unique either, this is happening more frequently. Suicide as a form of debt repayment.
Is high debt worth a gruesome death?
While death is always tragic, theirs is especially even more so because it could have been prevented. You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out that they were headed for financial trouble. I don’t know how much chiropractors make, but l am willing to bet it doesn’t cover those high school fees, repaying the student and federal loans and still afford to live in a Manhattan area neighborhood. Keeping up appearances and trying to keep up with the Joneses is extremely important to a lot of people. They get caught up in a vicious cycle that is unrelenting. This can ultimately lead to depression and suicidal thoughts as a solution to the problem. What they leave out of the equation is the people they leave behind, like their kids in this case. They asked for them to be taken care of. I wonder who they think would do this? Their friends? The government? Rich strangers? We all know what will happen. Their friends will say they never suspected they had financial problems, speak nicely of them, empathize with the kids and then slowly remove themselves from the picture. More than likely, they are also drowning in their own debt and can’t afford to part with money they don’t have.
What lessons can we learn from their needless deaths and debt?
- Take control of your finances as early as possible. If you can see where you stand financially, it’s easier to make better financial decisions. Using Personal Capital that I’ve talked about previously, you can get your whole financial picture for free and make adjustments. It drives home your debt to asset ratio. It’s simple math. If you owe more than you have, you need to stop spending and double down on loan repayment so you can flip things around.
- Stop trying to impress your friends or perceived friends (Facebook, Instagram). Think about this. Is the desire to get likes from virtual strangers so high that you being debt ridden is worth it? It cost them nothing to give the likes. You are the one who has to live with the consequences.
- Appearances are often deceiving. Your friend driving that new Benz and living in the fancy high-rise might be mortgaged to the hilt and drowning in debt.
- Confidence is a good thing. You need to stop giving a f**k what others think and do the right thing for YOU!
- Live within your means. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Educate yourself. Read up on finances, how to tackle debt repayment and get help if you need it.
In today’s world, where it’s so easy to get credit cards and personal loans, I know it’s tempting to have a collection and spend copious amounts on taking trips (got to collect those mileage points), and buying frivolous things. You have to however separate your wants from your needs. A used Fiesta will get you to the same place a shiny new Beemer would, and more than likely with a better piece of mind. There is no one to rescue you from your debt. You can only count on yourself.
So, to answer my question about high debt and gruesome death being worth it. My answer is no. Suicide is a cowardly and selfish cop out. Life is worth living, and one can do it frugally. It leaves unanswered questions behind for loved ones and the amount of hurt is endless. There are so many people who lose their lives to unavoidable things like severe illness and accidents, it’s a total waste to end it all as if it’s worth nothing. Strength comes from making mistakes, owning up to it and looking for ways to fix it. There is no shame to getting help.
Getting help with debt burden:
If you’re filling overwhelmed by debt, there are organizations like debtors anonymous with its twelve step program to debt freedom.
You can contact the Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are available 24 hours, seven days a week. Help is also available on their website.
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Do you or anyone you know spiraling out of control with debt? Please share this post if you think it can help others.