It comes without saying that many people in their mid 20's and 30's are in debt. We are in debt more than any other generation before us has been, and we are too stupid to wrap our heads around it and get out of debt.
I'm not going to go into detail, but I am a recovering shopper. I say I am recovering because I had a reality check and it changed the way that I look at money. Plastic isn't money. Money is paper. Money is in the bank. Money is in your wallet.
A few years ago, my dad gave me a birthday or a Christmas gift that I though was a complete load of crap. (Sorry if you're reading this dad.) My father is always trying to get me interested in financial topics, and let's face it, finance is more boring to me than biostatistics. That's really saying something. So for some holiday, he hands me a present and I unwrap it hoping that it's some new book or dvd that will thrill me and keep my attention.
It was Jim Cramer's book Stay Mad For Life and I was polite about it and just put it aside.
A few months later I was sitting in my room, bored and stressed out that once again I had probably charged up a couple hundred dollars on my credit card. I picked up the book and started reading it.
Holy crap! I swear it was like Jim Cramer was writing me a letter. Get out of debt was all I kept hearing him say. Pay down those bills and build up those reserves. The only two reasons a person should be in debt are this: You bought a house or you're going to school. Homes and educations. That's it. No exceptions. Most important of all, you should never for any reason be without health insurance.
That seemed simple enough to me. So I did it, I made the leap and started taking responsibility for my actions. I hadn't been a complete dolt, but I wasn't very money-wise. I had just started working at MWH and I had a retirement account with Fidelity. I started increasing the percentage I put into that account and I called up my bank. I took out a loan and paid off all of my credit cards with that loan. One monthly payment, and no looking back. Good bye credit card debt. Hello new outlook on money!
Am I perfect? Nope. Not even close. Am I out of debt? That' just a stupid question. Did I maintain an excellent credit score? Yes. Did I buy a house? You betcha. (With the help of a financially wise young man.) Am I grateful that my dad handed me a stupid book a few years ago? Without a doubt. 100%. Dee-Light-Eddd.
So now what? What about these people that never have money but always seem to be working? How about people like me that charged expensive dinners and fancy drinks or coach purses and Vegas trips? What about this new generation of people that keep buying new iPhones as they are released, but they cannot afford their car payments and are charging up their credit card bills?
Well here's my point: Our generation is ignorant. Even some of the so-called financial students or money managers are in debt up to their eye balls in debt because they needed a new "status car" or some high priced gadget that they can read books and newspapers on. (Side note: Go to the library you stupid-heads. Knowledge comes at the cost of late fees. Thank Good Will Hunting for showing us that.)
So if you're reading this and trying to figure out what made me so "high and mighty", I hope you'll realize that I'm still learning. But I'm starting to see my financial balance sheet look a lot more black and a lot less red. So maybe it's time you went to the library and borrowed one of Jim Cramer's books. Or Suze Orman. Or go to Financial Peace University. Or anyone! Just start getting your crap together! Stop spending money on credit cards that you don't have in the bank. Stop buying junk that you don't need. Start selling of useless gadgets and gizmos. Get back to reality like previous generations before us did and get out of debt.
Okay, I'm off of my soap box now. Carry on.