“I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.” – Stephenie Meyer
Usually the words debt and financial success are never used together, nevermind in the same blog title. Yet, I wanted to write a blog about what I learned from being in debt and the biggest lessons and habits that helped me. While being in debt is certainly something most financial professionals (and me) would never advise, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel; and there are some life changing lessons to be learned by being in debt and getting out of it. Without further adieu here is how debt can set you up for financial success:
The Background Story – Back in 2011 I was the ripe old age of 22 and fresh out of college. My total student loan debt was a mere 45k; childsplay compared to what many college graduates face today. Yet, as they say, timing is everything and after graduating just 3 years post the Financial Meltdown, the unemployment rate was 9%; which really sucked. After getting off to a rough start in the job market I found myself with two bachelor degrees working for $12.00/hr; not exactly what I was envisioning. However, it didn’t really matter how much I was making, I had 45k to start paying off.
The Habits – I’ve always been a pretty frugal person so having enough money to pay off the monthly statement on my student loans really wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t until I started understanding interest rates that I was able to step up my game and start aggressively paying down my debt. Soon every spare penny I had went towards those loans and I eventually paid off the 45k in about a year and a half, thanks to $12.00/hr and more overtime hours than anyone would need in a lifetime.
Although most would say paying down the loans was a great accomplishment; it wasn’t until the debt was satisfied that I realized the habits formed by repaying my debt were attributing to my financial journey and success. If you’ve made it this far, you might be asking “what the hell is this guy talking about!?” Stay with me..
You see, it hit me that when you are actively paying back debt you are always on a budget; afterall, you know that you have a loan payment coming up and will budget your finances appropriately to make that payment. However when you pay that loan or debt off, you still have the power to put away money as if you were still paying off your debt. For example, say after you pay off your debt you continue to allocate that loan payment in your savings account or a retirement account.
By formulating this habit, you learn the art of not only saving but paying yourself first. Paying yourself first is really one of the most important rules of personal finance. It’s important to not increase your expenses by spending your money on expensive lunches and nights out at the bar everyday; but take that extra money and invest in yourself and your future.
Credit – Another way that debt has the potential to increase your financial success is through your credit. I remember after paying back my student loans my credit score soared to over 800. What did this do for me? It was because of a good credit score that allowed me to lock in a stellar 3.3 percent interest rate on my first duplex; without question this wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t set up by the habits that were created by paying off my debt.
Conclusion – Not very often will you hear to appreciate debt. However, when the habits used to pay back debt are used towards savings and investing; financial success is almost inevitable. What do you think? Do you think the habits caused by debt can later help you on your financial journey? Let us know in the comments below!