Money Talks, So Should You

50-Plus Finance: Why you can't stay out of debt

David Leto
by David Leto , Dimespring 30 (@50PlusFinance)

There is nothing more exhausting than putting in a hard day’s work, then coming home to a mailbox full of bills. No matter how hard you work, you still are not making any progress financially. Even if you do pay down some debt, unexpected bills pop up and you’re back where you started.

This just doesn't happen once  it's a cycle. You make some progress, maybe even paying off a substantial part of what you owe, only to fall back into debt again.

READ: Three keys to finding your financial footing 

What are you doing wrong? The first step is determining what sends you back into debt.

According to the financial gurus, many people continue in the debt cycle because they see it as a financial problem when it really is a behavioral problem. You’ll never get out of debt if you’re only trying to fix the money side of the equation. Debt is a symptom, not the cause.

It's the same as when you have a persistent headache. You take an aspirin to relieve the pain. The pain is gone, but what was the reason for the pain? You are just treating the symptom and not finding the underlying cause.

This is just like your debt problem. You have made progress to spend less and earn more. You have made extra payments on your debt. You’ve done everything right  or so you think. But if this is all you’re doing then you’re just treating the symptoms and may eventually fail. You haven't found the underlying causes.

Look at the person trying to lose weight. It's obvious that they have to eat less and exercise more. But is it really as easy as that? Gyms are full of people, but very few make real and permanent progress. There has to be other reasons they are not succeeding: lifestyle, outlook, self esteem, etc.

INFOGRAPHIC: The cost of a date across the U.S. 

The only way to cure both a weight and debt problem is to change the failed habits and attitudes that have gotten you to this point. We all have these triggers that keep sending us in the wrong direction. Identifying and eliminating them will be the key to your success.

I can promise you that even if you do find new attitudes and habits, it will still take time to turn it around. It's going to take self discipline and restraint. The old attitudes will try to creep back in and mess things up again, so be prepared for them. You will see that it's not the amount of money you make, but what you do with it and how well you manage it.


David Leto writes about family, finances, and retirement planning for the 50-plus person. David is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and attitudes on personal finance.