Monday, April 28, 2008

[consumer debt] people falling apart

The Telegraph is running an article on debt causing people to stress out and quotes a psychologist, Linda Blair, who:

... sees an increasing number of people emotionally incapacitated by financial worries. "When you have a problem with debt, you feel out of control of your life - what we call 'learned helplessness'," she says ...

Well yes, Linda, you call it 'learned helplessness' eh? To put it in layman's terms - you were OK before, you let yourself fall into debt, you now learn to be helpless and want the fairy godmother to bail you out.

This debt crisis is a wicked cocktail of people's aspirations, the dislocation of the income-cost nexus in the last four decades and the deliberate policies of the banks, from glamourizing credit and concealing its woes through to the unjustifiable sub-prime lending.

Are people acting like children to suddenly cry 'helpless' when they see their debts? Yes they are. But one sympathizes with the plight of any child. Are we angry that the lending institutions have been playing this game on unsuspecting punters? We should be because universal suffering in any nation is an indicator that there is something fundamentally wrong with the paradigm.

What's the solution?

* Firstly, to get the head together and understand that descent into stress-related illness is only going to hinder your chances of getting out of trouble. It's the hardest thing many will face - that the fairy godmother ain't coming and no one's interested in your descent into illness.

Do I sound like a callous bstd here?

I'm only saying to you what I am currently having to say to myself. I'm in this position too, just as you are and no one's coming to the rescue. Friends and contacts can do so much but only that much and no more. The rest is up to us. We must, must, face up to reality.

* Second thing is to put together a strategic plan - not by rushing here and there, handwringing but realizing we've been less than wise, mapping out a strategy and then putting in the legwork - looking up directories of agencies, seeking advice, going there, making agreements. After all, they can't get blood from a stone but any sign of your fiscal maturity will be welcome to them.

There's guilt and shame and general unpleasantness in all of this - it's time to put them to one side and concentrate only on the plan and stick to it without despairing.

I am not in the least interested in someone saying: "Well you should have done this ... you should have done that ..." Don't you think we already know that? How does it help to dwell on what has happened except as a mental note for the future?

Don't let anyone lay a guilt-trip on you or expect you to wallow in it. Just acknowledge your fault then move on. If someone won't let you do that, then cut that connection. You have bigger issues than guilt trips right now.

* Thirdly - change your whole mental set about what you buy. We're not going to alter spiralling prices so we'd best get used to the fact that we simply cannot afford this lifestyle anymore. It's pretend-life, it's a dream we thought the bit of plastic could realize for us. It can't realize it. Change your life and for a start - stop spending on all but regular bills for some time.

Today is just such a day for me and the pressure is intense. It's not connected with debt, thank the Lord but it is still difficult and there's guilt in it. I'm not going to dwell on it, I'll take it one step at a time and see what can be done, expecting one step backwards for every two forwards.

Prayer is no joke - that's why I ran that "thought of the day" yesterday. If we can allow this of ourselves, I believe it does help, if only to face what is coming up during the day.

But inertia, putting off, depression - the pull is very strong to descend into this. We might be chronically depressive anyway - I think I might be - but it's not going to get me out of trouble and fewer and fewer people are going to come to my rescue as I go along.

In the end, I have to do it by myself and the time to start is today - now.

7 comments:

oestrebunny said...

Never a borrower nor lender be.

Best bit of advice my dad ever gave me and as it stands I am the only one out of my group of friends not to be shackled by debt. I have no credit cards and and overdraft of £50 that i rarely have to dip into.

If I can't afford it, I don't buy it. Simple as.


As for your problems; one step at a time James. I'm sure you will get everything sorted out.

Colin Campbell said...

Good Luck

It is very easy to slowly slip into unmanageable debt and very hard to get out of it.

Been there a few times.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Me, too, CC.
It's a very painful situation because you get very little understanding. You're right, James - it's hard to face the fact that Santa ain't comoing!

jmb said...

I guess I was well trained by my upbringing for a house mortgage was the only debt we ever had and cleared away as quickly as possible.

Luckily my children seem to have acquired a sensible attitude to debt and money but being among the cross generation, from working class poverty to relative wealth, I see many friends' children get into trouble. Their parents gave them a good life and they expect the same instantly when they go out on their own and use debt to furnish it.

Student debt is another story. It seems most doctors in the USA graduate with a huge student loan debt ($250,000 and up) and spend years paying it off. Even graduate school in the Humanities in the States for my daughter ran to six years at $30,000 (incl living costs) per annum. Luckily all paid for by scholarships so she graduated debt free but others are not so lucky.

How could she ever have paid off $180,000 with a poorly paid academic job? At least doctors get a decent salary.

I hope your problems are more easily solved James. Just ordinary living is stressful enough these days without problems.

Harry Hook said...

Not long ago, my bank manager, obviously not satisfied with the healthy state of my finances - called me in for a chat. Basically, he wanted me to live beyond my means to procure any material fantasies my family might have... even after my death. "Fuck'em" was my reply."What about your children's future?"... "If they haven't paid enough attention to what I've told them, to be able to stand on their own feet... fuck'em."

This went on for about half hour, before he admitted to agreeing with me.

So... be poor and be happy... as Ernest Hemingway said... “Fear of death increases in exact proportion to increase in wealth.”

Best Wishes,
Hookie.

Semaj Mahgih said...

Bunny, Colin, Welshcakes and JMB - much appreciated.

Harry - it's all in the mental paradigm shift.

CherryPie said...

The debt thing, today's society leads and encourages you to do this which is not good.

As to your problems I think having a plan is good. It is so important not to get caught and dragged down by stress or depression. I hope you manage to sort out your problems.