I’ve been thinking a lot about debt this week. Avid readers will know that I recently found myself in a bit of a situation.
Yesterday, I sat down in the dental chair and my very lovely dental assistant arranged the tools they would use to torture me. A shiny mirror couldn’t distract me from the picks, drills, and other various bits that were prepared to remove the root from yet another of my teeth. I, being the giant dental baby that I am, was filled with something that felt a lot like panic, and I was left wondering for the 80th time this week: How did I let it get this bad?
Avoidance is expensive.
It’s so easy to parrot those words to undergrads. Avoid debt!!! It will weigh you down. Hold you back.
But it’s not just about the ‘easy to define’ debt. On one level or another we all know that debt is bad even though as a society we pack on more and more of it every year. It is clearly defined in a million personal finance blogs. Watch out for debt!
But being focused on that kind of debt: student loans, lines of credit, credit cards… gave me license to ignore the ‘dental debt’ that I was accruing.
And why shouldn’t I call it a debt? It costs me money, it costs me time. It builds interest over time, and the more I leave it the more it costs. It was always something I felt I could ignore. It wasn’t effecting my current reality… so…. Why should I deal with it? But since I’ve got all this personal finance stuff in my head now I have to call a spade a spade. Or in this case: a debt a debt.
People don’t often talk about health this way. It’s a debt. Plain and simple. Even though we put it in its own category, chalking it up to bad genes or a busy lifestyle, on its basic level it’s costing you something: money, time, the ability to do what you want to do.
And that’s not the only kind of debt that I ignore.
What about friendships? Family? Relationships in general?
A few years ago a good friend of mine moved to Toronto. It was a busy time for me and I found that it was actually harder to keep in touch with him living so close, than it had been when he was half way across the country.
Every time another week went by in which I had gotten swept up in my busy life and forgotten/avoided giving him a call, I felt like the next time it needed to be a longer call… And then I felt like I owed him a evening drink session, and then a full day hang out. And as what I ‘felt’ I owed the relationship got bigger, the more I avoided it. I wouldn’t even send a text, because I clearly owed him more than that.
He needed support in a new city. And I was digging myself in to a debt. Perceived or real.
In the end, I lost my friend.
You may call it debt. You may not. But to me the feelings were very similar, and there was a definite cost.
Among my friends I am notoriously bad at responding to calls, texts, and emails. I don’t know why it is that I find it so difficult to invest in something I value so highly: the people in my life.
Look. I get it. Maybe none of that sounds like debt to you. When we start to talk about health and relationships, or even more conventional debt, there are a thousand voices starting to shout: It’s not that simple! Life is complicated! You only have so much time and energy to go around. You can’t do everything, and trying to do everything often just leaves you unable to do anything.
But perhaps some of you can relate… Can sense the similarities between their health, or perhaps a relationship in their life, and their more standard ‘money’ debt.
The point I’m trying to stress is that whether or not you call it a debt… Avoidance is expensive.
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Not dealing with the needs that were in front of me has cost me a friendship or two, and well as thousands of dollars in dental bills.
And its been helpful for me to start thinking of these things as debt.
Somehow it drives the issues out of the murky depths of the undefined and in to the light of day.
If you have a debt, you have to deal with it.
Avoidance is expensive.
In my mind, it makes it all less complicated.
It will not get better until you act. So act now.
I have no credit card debt, or student loans, but this week I started owning up to my dental debt. A debt I had been avoiding for far too long.
It’s also time I make a big effort to avoid more ‘debts’ in my personal life. Pay attention in order to keep my relationship investments strong.
Last week I wore my ‘debt-free’ badge with pride. Now I’m not wearing it anymore… but I’m more proud than ever.
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Financial Planner/Opera Singer
Money never came naturally to me. In fact… I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be ‘financially out of control’.
And honestly, I still get stressed about money… that doesn’t stop… the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.
And those tools are what’s made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.