College debt is now at an all-time high, and it’s pretty safe to say almost all people in our generation have had to deal with the pitfalls of debt in one way or another.
The funny thing about debt is it’s an excellent teacher, and it’s also one of the best motivators when it comes to getting your head in the game.
From personal experience, I can say debt and tough luck have seriously changed my outlook on life.
Here are the things I've learned:
1. You’ll learn who your real friends are.
A real friend will stick with you, even when you’re flat broke and at rock bottom. Unfortunately, real friends aren’t as common as they should be.
When you stop paying for other people’s goods, you can expect a lot of them to bail on you.
2. You’ll learn the value of a dollar.
When you’ve never had to face homelessness, or when you’ve never had to deal with making a decision over whether you want to eat a meal or pay rent on time, you don’t realize how far $20 can get you.
You don’t realize how big a difference every little penny can make.
In other words, you’ll become very grateful for every cent you have, after you see what a difference it can make.
3. Debt will also teach you how to be street-smart.
You don’t get out of debt by going deeper into debt, that much is fact.
Unfortunately, for our generation, there are huge groups of people who will try anything to get us to believe we should take out another loan for one reason or another.
We also live in a world where scams are a dime a dozen.
If you've ever ended up in debt because you were pressured into taking out a loan, or if you dug yourself deeper in debt due to a scam, you probably have already learned this lesson the hard way.
Even seeing others do this can help you to avoid the same mistake, and you will gain a little bit of street smarts in the long run.
4. Debt can teach you what’s really important.
We love to have a lot of stuff. Our culture has trained us to want to shop at fancy stores, to want multiple cars, to want the latest iTurd that Apple pushes out and to want everything to be glitzy and glamorous.
Truth be told, people can exist with very few possessions and still feel like a million bucks. But you wouldn’t guess that from what society tells us.
In reality, experiences, close friends and good health is what really makes people happy.
You can’t fill up the void in your heart with commercial crap, regardless of what Hallmark may suggest.
5. Debt can teach you how to save yourself.
Most people don’t actually realize that for the most part, only you can save yourself from debt.
At the end of the day, you are going to be the one paying the bills, you are going to be the one on the phone with collections and you are going to be the one who has to deal with all the bad stuff that happens if you don't pay off debt.
Even if you work with a debt relief company, you’re going to be the one who does the bulk of the legwork when it comes to getting yourself out of debt.
(I ought to know, I asked my friend who works at Premier about how debt relief companies actually work. For the most part, all they do is negotiate on your behalf. You're still the one paying the bill at the end of the day.)
6. You'll learn about what you don’t want in life.
Well, I now know I can’t stand being in debt. That’s a start.
7. You'll learn the cost of bad habits.
Looking back, I realized a large portion of my debt was all my fault.
It’s hard to admit it, but when you actually look at your bills, it’s impossible to deny it.
Bad spending combined with crappy income always equals debt.
Sadly, it was my bad habit of trying to please people and eating out when I can’t afford to that made my finances a wreck.
Once I realized that, I quickly learned how to say no, and I also began to “brown bag” my lunch and dinners more regularly.
8. You'll learn why we need welfare programs.
Here’s the sad thing about the current state of the world: Honest people can’t stay out of debt all the time.
Even if you do everything right, you can end up in debt or even facing homelessness.
Sadly, you may also have already learned you can’t always bail out friends or family when this happens.
In other words, we need welfare because we, as individuals, can’t help people the way the government can.
Even if we wanted to, we can’t do it all by ourselves.
No man is an island, you know.
9. Debt can be a scary reality check.
Sometimes, we get into debt because of the stupidest, most reality-detached reasons.
Whether it’s staying with someone who’s stealing from us, starting a business that has no way of functioning or even just bailing on a job without having a back-up plan, we'll all do a foolish mistake at least once in our lifetimes.
Seeing how much you’re in the red can sober you up, and it can make you realize life doesn’t always work the way we hope it will.