The Big Debt Downplay
I occasionally listen to the Dave Ramsey show when I am in the car on a weekday. I mostly do it to remind myself that I may know more about personal finance than other people. Those “other people” generally include all callers into the Dave Ramsey show. I don’t listen to the show for the advice.
So I turn on the Ramsey show yesterday. The first caller I hear is a young woman who is complaining that her husband has been asked by friends to be an usher at three upcoming weddings. This, she says, will be too expensive because of tux rentals and the like. Also, her husband will go to drunken stag parties (which are immoral) and be forced to spend even more money.
She may have been right on all of that. But what caught my ear and brain was her bottom line explanation of her concern. She said they didn’t have any debt – and didn’t want to start now by wastefully spending on wedding expenses.
Except that between the “we don’t have any debt” part and the “wedding expenses” part she quietly and quickly slipped in “except a mortgage and student loans.”
She said it so fast and rapidly that I’m not even sure Dave heard it. (He may have been thinking about his own bachelor’s party from his younger, big spender years.)
She said it as if mortgage debt and student loans don’t really count.
There is a lot of that “debt downplay” going around these days. I’ve even heard people talk about car payments as if they were in the same category as buying bread and milk for the kids.
Most folks have downplayed mortgage debt over the years. All that should have changed by now. We are experiencing extended epidemics of foreclosures, short sales, and “strategic defaults”, all arising from mortgage debt. So don’t tell me that having a mortgage is any less serious than making payments on a big screen TV. Best Buy can’t throw you into the street if you stop payments on the TV.
And don’t get me started on colleges and the student loans. Not only are they among the worst borrowing ideas ever, the push to attend college (by the college industry and their government co-conspirators of course) has produced other collateral damage in the form of state lotteries. What these crazy lotteries have done is exploited the poorest of our citizens while sending more unprepared 18 year olds off to college for a couple of drunken years.