I don't have too much debt. My debt load is relatively low.
I struggle with the psychological burden of debt. A constant voice tells me that debt is a deep pit and I cannot rest until I have climbed out and found my freedom.
This contradicts what I know to be true about myself and about finances objectively. I know that debt is a tool to be managed wisely and that there are better and worse uses of debt. I know that peace can be had independent of my financial state and that I assume debt judiciously.
Yet the voice remains.
In one of my favorite Art of Manliness podcast episodes of 2019, guest Brad Klontz discusses how our beliefs about money are a greater indicator of our financial decisions than financial literacy. Psychologically, I equate debt with imprisonment. My brain, to keep me alive, reminds me constantly that I am in prison and need to be free.
Debt can be a prison. But when used wisely, debt can unlock opportunities that offer greater freedom. Student loans allowed me to enter a career field that required a professional degree at least ten years sooner than I would have been able to save for it without that degree. But for every story like that there are many stories of those who wasted years wandering aimlessly through university halls, taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt with no job to show for it.
Even my story isn't that clean. I ended up taking a sharp left turn only a few years later and pursuing a career that didn't require any formal education. That decision was risky and I had to carefully consider my debt when making that choice.
Debt remains a regular tool in my belt. I still have student loans and now a mortgage too. I have taken fixed term loans to pay down credit card balances. I use credit lines to finance investments in my businesses and home (a new water heater!). I still dialogue with the voice that tells me I must sacrifice everything else to get out of debt or face certain doom.
I must silence that voice. Will I silence it by acquiescing to its demands and forsaking debt forever? Or will I silence it by choosing to listen to a different voice that holds a different belief about debt?