An attempt to understand the world of current events, finance and the economy on a level that allows me to teach it. I'm a journalist. Oh and the occasional post about family, life and kids!
Full disclosure: This post is based on a blog I read at losingmycents.com. The following is my work built from that.
We all know the show The Walking Dead, right?
Well my Halloween week hasn’t been like the show of course, although how cool would that be?! The week is one of school, work and family activities. Yaaay for the Halloween time of the year. The kids have tried on their costumes, Ashton will be Ghostface from Scream and Jaxson will be Wolverine.
So I put them to bed last night and decided to watch The Walking Dead. Great show, btw. Graphics are great and the storyline is surprisingly good. Then I came across the blog I’m paraphrasing here. It made so much sense.
The “zombie” idea is so fascinating. People love it. Mindless beings walking around moaning and groaning. Sounds a little like most people at work on a Monday! Or my kids when I tell them it’s time for showers before bed. You can even buy a book called The Zombie Survival Guide!
Whatever the reason, the idea of zombies is engrossing because they represent a HUGE challenge. You can’t just shoot them, you have to shoot them correctly. Zombies represent an “enemy” that can’t be stopped by death, hell once someone dies and turns into a zombie they get much scarier! Plus, you’re not just running from a physical enemy, but a disease that can infect and take you over. Sound like crushing debt anyone?
Fortunately the Centers for Disease Control put out a study a year or so back that effectively made it clear the chances of a real zombie apocalypse are pretty much zero. What a freaking cool study though. You know what is just like a zombie apocalypse though?
Debt. I don’t mean all debt. You’ll get the jest. I call debt “golden handcuffs.”
Think about this.
|Able to drastically alter your lifestyle||√||√|
|Able to seize your possessions||√||√|
|Makes you willing to sacrifice your neighbor to escape||√||√|
|Makes you disconnect the phone and seal the windows||√||√|
|Makes it hard to eat||√||√|
|Results in shambling shells of former people||√||√|
|Separates the adults from the children (figuratively, but literally in extreme cases)||√||√|
|Can follow you even after death||√||√(not legally, but I’m pretty sure debt collectors are simply high-functioning zombies)|
*Table borrowed from losingmycents.com*
So, by slashing debt, be it student loan debt, credit card debt or a high car payment, one is essentially training for a true zombie apocalypse! You are making yourself lean and agile, fit and financially healthy. Wow that sounds cheesy.
My advice, avoid the zombie apocalypse by avoiding debt. This can be applied on a macro-level as well. Politics aside, if our government continues to spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year more than it takes in, private investment gets crowded out, economic growth slows and the road to recovery will be harsh. Research the Lost Decade in Japan, and what some call the Lost Decade in the United States between 2000 and 2010 to see my point. When the percentage of debt to GDP gets astronomically high, very serious consequences follow.
Debt is volunteer slavery and often kills the American Dream. It’s critical to understand debt and use debt as a tool, not as a means to buy things you can’t afford. It amazes me how simplistic that is, yet so many people don’t follow it, myself included sometimes. Did I NEED to finance the new MacBook Pro when it came out a couple of years ago? No! It’s okay though, it’s been long paid off.
It’s important to note that not all debt is bad. A mortgage isn’t bad as it traditionally appreciates over the long-term. The exception was the sub-prime situation where mortgages were toxic. Student loan debt isn’t necessarily bad if it is used to earn a marketable degree that will increase the student’s working capital ability over their lifetime (which means English and Sociology degrees are largely unnecessary). Business debt is often used as a tool to expand and grow which is necessary too.
Dave Ramsey teaches some great principles about how to effectively remove debt and he happens to be a master at the game. For example, the “envelope system.” That’s what my family uses. Instead of using the debit card, we pull cash out of the bank every month and have a bunch of envelopes in a safe. One is “gas money” and one is “rent” while another is “blow it” and so forth. When the cash is out of the envelope, we’re out of money. Period. No credit cards to live off borrowed money. It sounds silly but I assure you it’s an effective method regardless of how much you make.
On the macro level, here is a phenomenal explanation of the U.S. Debt Ceiling by CNN’s Ali Velshi.