Americans: Why Are We Working to Build More Debt?


It’s a four-letter word, and one I find almost as offensive as that other kind of four-letter word: debt. And while it should strike fear into the heart of every person, we just keep racking it up.

I heard one example on my way to work that was disguised as an easy way to pay for a LASIK vision procedure. Here’s my recollection of a portion of the commercial script that I found troubling:

Wife: “Go get LASIK.”
Husband: “But we can’t afford it.”
Wife: “Of course we can afford it, they have financing available.”

Uh-oh. Being able to afford something and being able to finance something is not the same thing. As a matter of fact, if you have to finance a product (that great pair of red pumps from the shoe store, a medical procedure such as LASIK eye surgery, etc.) that actually means you can’t afford it. Financing equals debt.

Here’s another alarming trend I read about recently in TIME magazine: according to a new study from CardHub.com, America is working to increase its collective credit card debt by $54 billion in 2011. The article goes on: in 2009, Americans actually reduced their credit card debt and added $9 billion in new credit card debt in 2010.

That means people were being smarter about their spending during the economic recession – or less able to be approved for credit cards. But, either way it means more people were actually living within their means.

I’m not sure where this turn-around from two years ago has come from. Possibly it’s similar to a teenager tasting his or her first bit of freedom after being grounded for a month – Americans are trying to make up for that time locked away without the ability to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

The TIME article made conclusions that the increase in credit card debt is similar to the subprime mortgage crisis of a few years ago – what many say propelled us into the recession. I’m confident that no one wants a repeat just two or three years later with credit card debt to blame this time.

Getting out of debt is not easy and it’s not quick – but the first step is to stop accruing debt: No more credit cards, no more financing.

So, someday when I get LASIK, I’ll have worked to save the money and will be able to truly afford it – no financing for me, thank you very much. What about you? Are you relying on credit cards and financing or are you working to get out of that vicious debt cycle?

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