This blog post is part 4 of a series on Managing Your Finances and Becoming Your Own CFO, featuring insights from my financial planner, Angela Moore. These blogs will show you exactly why I love her. You can find her at ModernMoneyAdvisor.com, @modernmoney305 on Twitter and @modernmoneyadvisor on Instagram)
America is set up to keep us in debt. First, you have to study and get your degree, which often causes you to go into debt. Then you have to work really, really hard to pay off your student loans– and then you’re an adult, looking to have a family, and you have to get a mortgage on a house.
This all keeps you in debt.
Just look at the amount of credit card debt in the US and you’ll see that this is a real issue. I don’t have credit card debt but I did buy very expensive cars– so they’re my debts. It’s easy to get caught up in the American way of thinking, and it’s easy to get loans.
In Mexico, they’ll say they don’t own the house if they have a mortgage on it. But in the US, they’ll say, “Oh yeah, we own it.” It doesn’t matter that they’re still paying for it.
Our whole system is set up to keep us in debt, so you have to step off that wheel. All these companies and institutions want to keep you in debt. They’re making money off you. Meanwhile, you’re like a prisoner to your debt.
Having a real plan to get out of debt and to increase your income can give you real freedom. Even though I’m not 100% out of student loan debt and I’m not 100% out of my car loans, I still feel extreme levels of financial security because I have an aggressive debt plan and I’m not putting myself into more debt for anything else.
Angela says, “My philosophy is trying to eliminate debt and not deal with it unless it’s for an investment opportunity that makes sense. If you’re going in debt buying furniture, clothes, or cars, those things depreciate. That’s not a smart financial decision. That’s not prudent.
“But if you’re using debt to buy an apartment building that hopefully will appreciate and value and hopefully will generate rental income for the rest of your life, that kind of debt makes sense. Getting out of debt is all about our habits and way of thinking.
“81% of baby boomers, our parents, are in massive debt. 80% of Gen Xers and 82% of millennials are in debt. Debt is slavery. It limits your options. Maybe debt even had a huge role in your decision to start your own firm.”
The Hamster Wheel Doesn’t Make Sense
We’re conditioned since childhood to think that debt is completely normal. These companies are spending billions with a capital B on marketing to us and trying to encourage us to take on debt.
Everywhere you go you see ads for credit cards. Stores ask you if you’d like to apply for their credit card today. When you go to buy a car, they’re not negotiating on the price of the car. Guess what they negotiate? The payment.
We don’t even realize we’re getting into debt, we sign up for all these different payments and the next thing you know you’re in debt.
Ideally, you want to be the lender and not the debtor. The debtor, the borrower, is the prisoner. The person lending the money is out here winning because, let me tell you something: on average when I see clients with credit cards, they’re paying between 14% to 20%. I want to be able to lend you money right now and tell you to pay me 27%. How about that?
I would be winning at life if I had people paying me 20% to borrow money!
It just doesn’t make sense that we so freely sign up for those things and pay those kinds of interest rates!
Aggressively Get Rid of Debt
It’s important that we try to aggressively get rid of debt by doing the following:
- If you have debts with high interest rates, maybe you need to consolidate or refinance those debts
- If you have student loan debt, speak to an expert. Student loans are way more complicated than we realize. Your student loan specialist would help you with:
- Student loans forgiveness programs
- Tax consequences
- If you have credit card debt, write down all your debts:
- Start with the largest balance all the way down to the smallest balance
- Pay off the smallest balance first
- Next, take what you would have paid for that small balance and pay off the next smallest debt and so on until all your cards are paid off
- This method is way better and faster than if you try to pay off the largest debt first, or the one with the highest interest
Improve Your Credit
Check your credit. You can monitor your credit through creditkarma.com or get a free credit report (you are entitled to one annually). Be aware of where you stand. Obviously, the worst credit score is 350 and the best is 850. To me, credit is really there for you to go into debt and borrow money. If your credit is not so good, I wouldn’t stress yourself out about it. But there are ways to improve your credit.
If you have something on your credit that is negative, try to dispute it and get it off your credit. You can easily do this, again, through an app like Credit Karma and others.
Use your credit to buy an office or if you want to buy a home or a rental property.
If you ever decide to apply for a job or a consulting gig as a contractor, a lot of times they’ll check your credit. If you apply for any loans, they’ll check your credit. So it’s a good idea to know where you stand. Try to remove anything negative or prevent them from happening in the first place!
Busy professionals, like doctors, have terrible credit because they never pay their bills on time. Automate your payments. Make sure you set up minimum payment (or better) on your credit cards. That way, even if you do forget, you won’t be late.
- Negotiate for higher limits and try not to use them up
- If you have cards with high rates, negotiate for a lower
- Just keep on negotiating the rate, you can call every six months and get it down by just making a phone call
Your Budget & Your New Money Plans Can Help You Pay it All Off
It comes full circle. Debt should be part of your money strategy. Paying it off is a goal.
Taking a little bit of time and effort to sit down with your finances and taking those steps, realigning your mindset to a CFO way of thinking, budgeting, setting a spending and saving plan, all of these actions together can drastically reduce what you’re spending every month and free up cash for you to pay off debt and to be able to save more!
What are your plans now? Have you fired up Excel yet?
You can sign up for the Six-Figure Solo and the Law Firm Business School to take your place as the CEO of your law firm and rock your financial growth.