When we help people with their debts we always ask them what they think caused their debt problem. People provide us with many different reasons, but the most common reasons include things like excessive use of credit, living on credit, not having a budget, reduced income, not enough work, separation or divorce expenses, an injury, or an illness. Whatever people’s reasons are for needing help with their debts, we work with them and help them. Some people clearly understand where they went wrong or what caused their debt problem while others need some time to reflect on their situation or their actions.
Recently one of our former clients who successfully completed our debt management program over six years ago contacted us to let us know that she finally figured out why she needed help with her debts. We’ll call this client Jenny (it’s not her real name). On the surface Jenny’s realization may sound a little late, but when you dig a little, Jenny’s insight becomes very intriguing.
Back in 2001 when we first helped Jenny, she told us that her debt problems stemmed from underemployment—she wasn’t able to earn enough income. Now nine years later, Jenny has written to us to set the record straight.
Dear Credit Counselling Society,
I have been wanting to say thank you for some time. I think about it every time I notice your ad in buses.
I was a client of yours early in the 2000s, and completed my debt payments around 2003-2004.
You once asked me to write you a testimonial, but at the time felt unable to do it. I can now.
First you asked me the one thing that I think got me and gets many into trouble.
It is "entitlement." It doesn't matter how small your sense of entitlement is, it is the attitude that got me bogged down and made it hard to stop digging myself in deeper.
"I am entitled to a chocolate bar"; "I am entitled to a treat"; "I am entitled to relief from this grind of living within my miserable budget".
Only when I chopped up my credit card, after signing the contract with you, did I start to wrestle this attitude down into submission.
It was hard. But it worked. I got myself off the New Age delusion of "I am special; I deserve a treat", usually at the mall.
Once I got my debts paid off, I was able to really start saving for my retirement.
Now, the biggest reward I enjoy is stashing an extra chunk of money in my savings account, or buying myself a GIC.
My little treats remain modest: a movie, or a new pashmina scarf for $10.00. They fold flatter than shoes.
So please accept my gratitude,
Jenny S. Burnaby, B.C.
So in hindsight, Jenny seems to be saying that it wasn’t a lack of income that caused her debt problem as she first thought. It was actually the “delusion” of her beliefs and her “attitude” about things. Since this is a free country, Jenny is free to believe anything that she chooses or have whatever attitude she likes. However, every choice has a consequence, and our attitudes drive us in certain directions.
Many people like Jenny seem to take a while to realize that believing the entitlement message promoted in the media is not affordable for everyone—or anyone for that matter. Believing that you deserve certain luxuries can be disastrous to your finances if you try to live the lifestyle that “you deserve.” The truth is that we only deserve the stuff that we pay for with the money that we earn. If you have to borrow money to buy something, then you don’t deserve it. Borrowing money is a privilege not a right or an “entitlement,” and if you have to borrow money to keep up with your entitlements, then you have gone too far. Create a budget and find a way to turn your situation around (speak with an accredited Credit Counsellor if you need some ideas on how to do this).
What do you think about our society’s message of being “entitled” to all sorts of luxuries? Has this kind of thinking caused you some problems, or negatively impacted the life of someone you know? Leave us a comment below. We would love to hear your thoughts.