I See “Debt” People: 4 Things Broke People Say and Do


Brothers and Sisters From Another Mother?

The highly indebted by way of poor financial choices, consumer charging, and unrealistic standards of living come in an array of sizes, hues, shapes, languages, and ethnicities. Despite these superficial distinctions, there remains a unifying mentality and set of behaviors that unite this demographic. Their movements, habits of being, priorities, and ways of navigating have striking and eerie congruence.

Here are four:

1. The highly indebted see an increase in income as an invitation to increase expenditure.Whether it be a windfall through an inheritance or bonus or a steady increase in income from a raise or an investment dividend, more money is usually considered a positive and good thing. In responsible hands, it could be used for college-funds, bolstering emergency funds or paying off debt. For those with trouble staying in the black, however, more money may lead to more money problems, not less.

This is because the highly indebted create a direct relationship with money and expenditure. That is, the more money there is, the more stuff there is to buy. In theory, this principle should not create any economic burdens if the increase in expenditure is offset by the increase in income. What gets the highly indebted in trouble is this is not their financial model. The increase in income inspires an increase in expenditure that is disproportionate to the amount of the rise of income. For example, a 10% increase in income may spur a 25% increase in spending, leading to more debt.

2. The highly indebted invite big business into their lives.

There is one reason that corporations spend millions of dollars on advertisements annually–whether it be 30-second radio plugs, billboards, mass emails, glossy magazine and newspaper pullouts, regular prime-time commercial slots, or once-a-year events such as the SuperBowl. The reason is because it works. Psychologists, marketing teams, researchers, and focus groups are handsomely paid to gain insight into human want and insecurity for the sole purposes of manipulating this information to meet their financial bottomline.

The highly indebted,nonetheless, can be found flipping through magazines, purchasing tickets to car shows, strolling through malls, browsing sales items at online sites, and watching infomercials. In other words, they nurture a relationship with big business and its peddling machine. The only way to diminish the influence that big business has on the lives of the highly indebted is for them to break off all ties. In particular, the highly indebted has to spend time doing things that don’t include spending or overexpose them to mass media tools of financial persuasion–reading a book, exploring a hobby, volunteering time, or strengthening familial relations.

3. The highly indebted suffer from selective amnesia.

Listen carefully to the story of a highly indebted person. It may sound like: ” I just charged a couple of things to the credit cards… just to treat myself because I work hard and deserve something nice… got a little behind on payments… Then, all of a sudden… I was $5,000 in debt… I don’t know how it all happened… It was just a couple of purchases. I don’t remember charging all that much.” One of the best cures for this condition is the creation of and adherence to a budget. A budget does not rely on the failed memory of the highly indebted because it is written and unconcerned and unmoved by the moods, impulses, and vacillation of the highly indebted. Employing direct deposit to and/or automatic withdrawals from checking and savings accounts also buffers the highly indebted from the negative effects of their condition. These tools ensure that the highly indebted avoid late fees, benefit from incremental debt reduction, engender savings, and ultimately establish a solid credit history and standing.

4. The highly indebted think with their “Id” and not their “Ego” and “Superego”.

Austrian born psychotherapist Sigmund Freud introduced the concepts of “Id”, “Ego”, and “Superego” to explain the driving forces behind the human personality. Simply, the “Id” represents the part of our personality that is driven by the need to feel good at any given time without consideration to the reality of the situation. In other words, the “Id” is fueled by the pleasure principle and cares only about its singular and immediate gratification.

On the other hand, the “Ego” is the part of the personality that is governed by the reality principle, which means that it understands that impulsive behavior and solely self-serving agendas have negative consequences for the individual and others. Finally, the “Superego” extends the reality principle to the point of morality. In particular, the “Superego” houses an individual’s moral and ethical boundaries.

Ideally, these three components work together to establish a healthy Self–one that mediates the urges of the “Id” with the rigidity of the “Superego.” When it comes to the highly-indebted, the “Id” is the dominant segment of the personality as it relates to establishing (or ignoring) financial limits. Evidence of this can be as benign as stopping for a beef patty before you reach home even though your partner has prepared something to dinner or as problematic as quitting an undesirable job on a whim with a mortgage and family to support.

Frugalistas: What are other things that broke folk in your life say and do?

If this post really resonated with you and you want to transform how you feel and think about money so you can live your best life, consider money therapy.   

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