What If You Could See *DEBT* Like You Could Snow?

by J. Money - Last updated November 24, 2016

debtman

Well, it’s the day of the Snowpocalypse here on the East Coast, and if estimates are correct it’ll be one of the biggest storms to hit us since the 1920’s. And unfortunately you can’t have a conversation with anyone without them bringing it up!

But do you know what people AREN’T freaking out about left and right? Their debt problems. And it boggles my mind because unlike the snow that’s about to slam us all in the face, it shall melt in the near future while our piles of debt will not.

And do you know why? Because you can’t see debt like you can weather! Can you imagine if you could? And everywhere you go you were surrounded by gobs of it until you were fully paid up? Piles in your car, piles in your house, piles all over the streets. We wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without stepping into peoples’ messes! Now that’s a national disaster!

(And you’d never be able to step inside D.C. again either, what with its $19 TRILLION in debts – Ugh)

But if you COULD see it, I’ll tell you this much – it would start getting wiped away a lot sooner! And you can bet your sweet ass you’d double think all those future purchases going forward too – both big and small… No one wants to air their dirty laundry to the world, and every waking second you’d be constantly reminded of the mess you got yourself into until you can nix it all forever. There’s no avoiding physical masses engulfing you! (I’d also hope that the types of debt would be color coded too in this scenario – you know, to sort the “bad” debt from the “less-bad-but-still-bad debt” so people don’t get totally shamed – hah. Like for student loans, medical bills you can’t avoid, etc)

floating net worth
(Net worths of financial bloggers you may or may not read…)

None of this will ever occur, of course, but still something to consider whether you’d act differently if it were to. It’s actually not that dissimilar from Carl Richards’ idea last year of floating net worths over our heads – remember that? When I wanted to dress up like that for Halloween and see what types of conversations would arise? :)

I never did it because I was too lazy, but every now and then I pretend I could see people’s money over their heads and take a guess to what I’d see:

  • Old man in top hat and cane coming my way? $5.5 Million flashing green net worth
  • Army dude in bright red (messy) corvette? -$80,500. And climbing every month…
  • Enthusiastic school teacher never caught without a smile? $892,995 and almost early retired (*waves to Ed*)

Point is – if we were all forced to wear our financial situations in the open we’d treat our money with more respect. Either that, or we’d chase The Joneses in the opposite way and keep trying to one-up each other in wealth over stuff – hah! (Wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world ;))

Perhaps one day technology – and/or society – will change all this, but in the meantime think about how this would change your daily activities and what it would mean to your family and goals. Would you hustle more knowing your secret’s out? Would you double think that new house or car you’re considering picking up? Are you perfectly happy with your current situation and GLAD no one knows how stealthy wealthy you are?

Again, the snow shall melt in a matter of days, but your debts unfortunately will not. Revive your dream and step up the hustle! It doesn’t have to last forever! And don’t be afraid to open up and talk to your close friends about it too. We all have our financial problems we’re dealing with and can use as much motivation (and accountability) as possible.

Better yet, start your own Money Club!

**********
PS: Keep us in your thoughts this weekend so we stay warm and fuzzy!

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mrs. Mad Money Monster | @madmoneymonster January 22, 2016 at 6:40 am

What a timely post! I’m here in the northeast too and couldn’t figure out why on earth the grocery store was slammed on my way home yesterday. Duh. Wearing our debt above our heads sure would make us accountable and, hopefully, more motivated too!

Mrs. Mad Money Monster

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2 J. Money January 22, 2016 at 6:53 am

I hope you guys are safe and sound this weekend!! Trying to hustle my a$$ off today in case everything get shut down and we’re stuck huddling together inside, haha…

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3 Thias @It Pays Dividends January 22, 2016 at 7:02 am

Luckily I am away from the snow storm here in Wisconsin. Good luck to everyone out there!

If we had to publicly show our debt to everyone, I feel like those numbers wouldn’t be anywhere near the levels they are. I’m guessing that the only reason some of people’s numbers get as high as they do is because they are able to keep them private. Get rid of the secrecy, potentially get rid of, or at least lessen, the debt mindset.

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4 Roy Largo @ Band of Savers January 22, 2016 at 7:23 am

Yeah, not looking forward to this storms potential. But that would be awesome motivation for people to know that everyone could see their debts out there. I’m a firm believer that society would be greatly benefited by developing financial transparency, as long as we could trust others to not charge us different prices based on what they knew about our circumstances. But the lack of transparency is one of the reasons that we have such a problem with debt in our society. Debts like porn, people can get sucked into it without anyone else knowing and it leads to a death spiral that’s incredibly hard to pull out of – and in most cases nobody knows that someone is stuck in it.

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5 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Oh man, yeah – who knows what other types of consequences would happen if this were to go down… People would not only charge you different, but treat you differently too! I’d imagine it would be much easier picking up a chick with a hefty net worth above your head than down in the debts – hah.

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6 Lisa O January 22, 2016 at 8:50 am

As Suze Orman says…stand in your truth! I am not sure why people take on so much debt to have big, bright, new and more! People need to learn how it feels to be able to pay for things and own them…..freedom :)

I also think that people need to be accountable for their debt…..especially student loan debt! I am not in support of these kids being able to write off loans because they cannot find high paying jobs. When our current administration told us that all children have a right to a higher education…they were wrong. Parents be real with your children and teach them the value of money.

Let it snow, stay safe and enjoy the melt!

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7 Mike @ TipYourself.com January 22, 2016 at 9:23 am

“Stand in your truth” – That’s great. Freedom and peace of mind is so much better than the big, bright, and new. We all just need to get a taste of that freedom. It ain’t always easy!

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8 Curtis January 22, 2016 at 10:59 am

People get into it for at least three reasons:
1) The commercial world has nearly perfected the subtle and not-so-subtle: “You DESERVE it”
2) Debt is a perfectly acceptable means to get what you so deserve.
3) Life is short. I should have what I deserve now.

The result of so many buying in to that well crafted and designed advertiser’s message? A mountain of debt and garages filled with consumer junk and that ugly green snow. Blak!
Now, the smart ones take that snow and make an ever-increasing snowball to pay it off.

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9 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:42 pm

Just read this article about people trying to skip town to avoid their debts, ugh…

http://www.vice.com/read/talking-to-american-debt-dodgers-who-moved-to-europe-to-avoid-paying-off-their-student-loans-111

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10 LIsa O January 23, 2016 at 5:26 pm

I read the article but I do not feel sorry for any of them. I stand strong in saying they took on the debt…they owe the debt for their education and living expenses. We need to be responsible for our actions…. Karma …. I hope it is good to them.

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11 J. Money January 25, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Agreed!

Which is why I just ponied up $14,000 to get rid of my house once and for all, even though I didn’t want it anymore and regretted buying it almost 9 years ago!

http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2016/01/we-sold-our-house-no-more-mortgages/

My fault for getting in the mess, my responsibility to get out of it. We all know what we’re getting into, esp with homes and student loans. It’s not like anyone’s tricking or scamming us.

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12 Hannah January 22, 2016 at 9:16 am

Okay, so far this snowpacalypse has been largely disappointing. Daycare cancelled, but I work from home, so…

Anyhow, I’ve always thought the idea of flashing net worth would be great for ugly people who are great with money. I mean how else did the Donald get Melania? On the other hand, if you’re not conventionally attractive, bad with money, but you have a charming personality, you simply won’t have a chance.

Is it only me who is this shallow?

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13 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Hah – yes, i’m pretty sure it would change the game for relationships too whether we want it to or not :)

Still snowing pretty heavily here – we got like 15 inches so far!

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14 Mike @ TipYourself.com January 22, 2016 at 9:20 am

Haha, here in Chicago the weather is always the top small talk item of conversation. It would definitely be a different world if we all spoke about money and debt as often.

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15 Chris @ Flipping A Dollar January 22, 2016 at 10:22 am

LOL. This is why I always check my net worth every Saturday morning. Even if I can’t see everyone else’s, at least I know what ours is which is what’s in our control.

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16 Jessica [Havok] January 22, 2016 at 10:48 am

This is a brilliant idea! Okay, maybe not for everyone to see, but for at least each individual person to see for themselves. It’s easy to look away from your debt or bills or anything – pay what you have to, and then move on until the next month. I’ve read plenty of stories about people getting into debt, and that’s exactly what they did. It’s no fun to think about! But that’s the point – if you’re reminded of it, maybe you’ll actually do something about it! Like dishes in the sink, or a pile of laundry to fold or wash – if it stares you in the face, you’re more likely to conquer it!

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17 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Ooooh, I didn’t even think about only being able to see your OWN debt! You’re right – most people don’t even have an idea of how much they have! And even if they did, the constant reminder would hopefully force them to push into higher gear. This would also avoid all the unintended side effects if *everyone* could see your debt too, I like it. How do we make it happen? :)

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18 Maggie @ Northern Expenditure January 22, 2016 at 11:06 am

That would be a crazy world… but isn’t it already that way sort of? You drive up in your fancy car, I see dollar signs. :) But public shaming would definitely shape some people up!

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19 Matt @ The Resume Gap January 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

Haha, I like this idea. If you want to see debt piled up like snow, head out to the big housing subdivisions on the edge of any major metro area. They’re usually brand new construction just off the freeway, with big flags flying and some goofy name like “Eagle’s Landing.” I know some people who lived out in one of these places (before declaring bankruptcy), and every house looked about the same: insanely leveraged mortgage on a 4,000 sqft. mansion, two brand new leased SUVs in the driveway, new and expensive kids’ toys piled up around the house, and credit card-financed adults’ toys (like motorcycles and boats and Sea-Doos) piled up all over the place like snow. It’s weird to walk around and think “no one here actually owns any of this.”

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20 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Freaky!!!

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21 jennydecki January 22, 2016 at 11:58 am

If my debt were snow there would be a pile on my front porch that I know will be cleared out by the end of the year but then I would tell you, “Please don’t look in the backyard where I’m keeping my student loan debt. You might get caught in an avalanche and we don’t have dogs to come save you with little casks of whiskey around their necks to come save you!” But I have to tell you, having a plan for that debt and knowing when it is going to be tackled and how we are going to tackle it makes it look a lot more like a sledding hill than the mountain I previously thought I would be found frozen in like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining.

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22 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Hahahaha….

Comment of the day, right there.

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23 Mr Zombie January 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm

It’s an awesome idea.

“Nice car mate, shame about that abhorrent pile of debt following you about”. Suddenly status symbols would become debt symbols, maybe the world would go a bit Philip K Dick for a little while, and then everyone would be happier.

Question is… what would the piles of debt look like? Perhaps a smell would be better, something that gets progressively more rank the further into debt you go? Ummm, I suppose then the US and the UK would just out right stink, given the levels of national debt…

Mr Z

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24 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:52 pm

yeah – that would ruin it for the rest of us! :)

I like the creativity though.

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25 Steven January 22, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Similar to the floating net worth, I wish there was a facebook that used costs for each picture/trip and how they paid for it……..Picture new Mercedes and lease of $738 month, paid with over 30% of my monthly take home salary! Versus look at this new car I got it’s awesome and I’m doing really well, plus they gave me a free key chain…….I wish

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26 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:54 pm

I’d sign up to that $hit in a heart beat!

Or even one that posted up all your failures too every time you brag about doing something great as if your life is always awesome and nothing ever goes wrong. So many people only sharing the goods everywhere and then others feel bad as if their life sucks when we know life doesn’t work like that.

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27 Elise@ Uphill To Easy Street January 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm

My heart is racing and my palms are sweaty just thinking about all the mess that would occur if we could see everyone’s debt! Ahhh (runs to grab a xanax!) I would start paying everyone else’s just so I didn’t have to look at it!

If we had to wear our financial status on our shirt I don’t think there would be an Jones’. Or maybe getting that number bigger would mean more than driving a fancy car or having a fancy house.

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28 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:55 pm

I wonder if it *would* inspire more generosity too? Like when someone down in the debts asks for helps w/ something – anything – would you be more inclined to help knowing their situation? So many twists and turns with this idea – I wish we could have it for like 24 hours so we can see what would happen!

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29 Jack January 22, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Love it.

You could take it a step further, in a Harrison Bergeron kind of way, by giving debt a physical weight. The more you owe, the heavier your load. If you can’t carry more, you couldn’t borrow more.

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30 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:56 pm

I would say that helps you not be able to go to the store anymore since you couldn’t move, but you’d also have to activate some automatic Amazon shut-off too so they can’t spend anything online anymore too :)

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31 Cash Flow Addict January 22, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Not going to lie that would be pretty awesome. Could you imagine if we all had to shovel our debt out of the way like we shovel snow, that would get people to pay down that debt a lot faster than they are! ha ha

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32 The Professor January 22, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Growing up in New England I looked forward to those snowstorms. In my early teen years this was the first big side hustle I had. Shoveling driveways, sidewalks for a couple of neighbors and then it expanded to a few more neighbors down the street, etc.
Grabbed my brother sometimes. We came home exhausted but made some good money.
Tax free too. ;-)

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33 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Yeah doggy! Excellent idea!

Hustlers like that come around here the day after snowstorms too – I love seeing them (even though I always shovel it myself).

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34 Slackerjo January 22, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Boy would it be awkward at work! Me the office cleaner walking around without any debt, dumping the trash and scrubbing poopie toilets and the professionals with their car loans and credit card debt.

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35 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:58 pm

YES!! Brilliant!!

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36 Kristi @ Femme Frugality January 22, 2016 at 6:55 pm

Out of sight out of mind is exactly why we decided to put up a debt visual in our house. We have paper chains hanging off the window in our den. Each link is worth $100. As we pay off our debt, we get rid of our chains. Having a visual really helps us stay on track with our financial goals.

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37 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 2:59 pm

One of my favorite debt ideas :)

Do visitors ever ask you what they’re about? And do you tell them?

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38 Prudence Debtfree January 23, 2016 at 8:53 am

I have been “airing our dirty laundry” about our debts for a while now. Last night at a social gathering, my former boss sat me down and said to me, “You know what you told me about trying to become debt-free? I’m trying to do that now too.” She actually sought my opinion on her financial situation, and we’re going to keep in touch. There really is a positive ripple effect when we bring our debts and our goals out of hiding. Good luck with the snow! We deal with it a lot up here : )

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39 J. Money January 23, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Woahhh!!!! Your story is helping people out – that is awesome!!! Keep talking about it loud and proud, baby!

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40 Laura Beth January 23, 2016 at 10:44 am

Also in the northeast enjoying the blanket of white. Indeed the snow will melt, but not without bringing in an army of salt trucks and city workers working overtime to make it go away. Kind of like debt…you have to face it head on. Lots of insight in this post, thanks for sharing your wisdom! Stay warm.

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41 Brian Robben January 23, 2016 at 10:48 am

I love this idea, where do I sign your petition to get it started? But seriously, bringing things to the light is hard and makes you vulnerable, but soon enough that position turns to one of action and motivation for better financial results and a better life.

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42 Mortimer January 23, 2016 at 5:19 pm

This would be a huge reality check for so many people. Especially like the idea of the support staff in professional offices showing off their almost certainly higher net worths than the high paid professionals they work alongside. I think what’s so appealing here is how it shows what people are doing with their life energy, which is sure as heck a more honest assessment than what kind of car they drive or house they live in!

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43 J. Money January 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm

“life energy” – I like that!

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44 Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank January 23, 2016 at 6:55 pm

What I always do is to get rid of debt the moment it piles up. Just like snow. I think one important thing to do is to find the right time to do it.

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45 Laurie @thefrugalfarmer January 23, 2016 at 9:15 pm

“And you’d never be able to set foot inside DC again….” haha!! So true! Apparently they’re adding another 2 trillion to the pile soon as well. Whoopee!!

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46 Syed January 23, 2016 at 9:25 pm

Snow is destroying us here in MD. I’m sure those people here with negative net worth from buying big houses with long driveways are regretting that decision! But yeah that would definitely change our behavior if we could see each others net worth. Maybe people would think twice about buying that new gadget which they don’t need if they see their net worth plummet by thousands of dollars before their very eyes!

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47 J. Money January 25, 2016 at 4:31 pm

They just whip out the credit card and pay someone else to dig out their drive ways ;) What’s an extra few hundred on top of it all?

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48 Rob @ MoneyNomad January 24, 2016 at 2:49 am

You could say the same thing about health or relationships. If something jumps in our face, we take notice right away. But it’s the “small” things that can cause the biggest problems because they sneak up on us.

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49 J. Money January 25, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Yes! True!

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50 Tracy @ Financial Nirvana Mama January 24, 2016 at 9:47 am

Excellent and having a visual indicator of your net worth (with a little music in the background) would be a useful tool. I imagine people more disciplined with their money if they could see it all the time and music to go along with it like an alarm effect. Ex: bought a car, net worth goes down by thousands and music that emphasizes the downfall. Hmm, I wonder if there’s an app for that?

Not sure about sharing that with everyone, maybe just to select people like facebook? I think if everyone saw it: a big issue, ex: renting would be difficult, hiring people would be difficult, buying would be difficult (hard to negotiate on prices if everyone saw that you are a millionaire).

Great post!

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51 J. Money January 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Haha… good points….

But I am liking that app with all the noises :) You should build one just so we can hear it ourselves anytime our bank accounts change!

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52 NDQ January 24, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Interesting post. My guess is that most people with debt are in denial, especially with the actual amount of money they owe or will owe later. My focus, however, is on myself, not what others do or don’t want to do. I think we all come to the realization on our own time about what is important and what we could be doing today to improve our lives.

For those that aren’t ready to take that look inside themselves, when they get there we will all be here to cheer them on during their own journey.

NDQ

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53 J. Money January 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm

I like it :)

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54 Pengepungeren January 24, 2016 at 5:14 pm

But if our net worth were shown in bright lights, wouldn’t wealthy people get robbed in the streets constantly?

And if you robbed a wealthy person, would your public net worth meter increase?

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55 J. Money January 25, 2016 at 4:36 pm

There’d have to be some alarm that ties into police stations so anytime your money goes up a certain amount – and INSTANTLY – they come out to make sure everything’s legit….

The Net Worth Police :)

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56 Tiffanie @ SimpleWife January 24, 2016 at 7:19 pm

I’m in central Kentucky and we got decently slammed for snow down here (from what I hear; we moved from MI down here over the summer so it’s our first KY winter). I’ve gotta say, reading this was an eye opener. I had a similar revelation when I started using YNAB and seeing all our debts/etc laid out like that. It’s made me think 10x longer about nearly every purchase we make now!

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57 J. Money January 25, 2016 at 4:35 pm

GOOD! Sometimes we need to see it smack in the front of our face to really comprehend it all! But once that shock wears off we don’t have to worry about it again :) (Provided it wears off because you start taking action vs just getting used to it and lazy – hah)

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58 Formative Fortunes January 25, 2016 at 2:03 pm

If we treated debt like the snow in our driveways and sidewalks we’d all be debt free!

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59 Steve Miller January 31, 2016 at 8:43 am

Hi J. Money.

Good timing your post. My stepfather recently died and left my mother with $100k in credit card debt. How can that even happen? I am helping her probate his estate but is an incredible mess. She will most likely sell the house and land to clean up the mess, at least her life insurance will pass outside of the estate and is safe from creditors.

But it’s a good reminder to people to lay off the credit cards. I’m still shaking my head on this one.

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60 J. Money February 1, 2016 at 7:21 am

Oh wow, that just sucks ugh… and it was a secret the whole time from her too??? Incredible.

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