Consumer Debt: Victim or Victor?

When I was in Mrs. Brewer’s third grade, we participated in the school field day. My best friend, Debbie, was set to run the 50 yard dash and her mom made her braids extra tight that day so they wouldn’t get in the way. She was placed in line next to Dee Dee, a competitive blond who had super long legs and a wicked smile. About 25 yards into the race, Dee Dee ran into Debbie’s lane, tripping her and causing her to fall. Stunned, Debbie shook herself off, got back up, and ran to the finish line where she came in second–right behind Dee Dee (who was later disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct.) Debbie was declared the winner.

My friend could have stayed on the ground and milked the “victim” routine for all it was worth but she wasn’t interested in that kind of attention. She just wanted to finish the race and taste victory.

When I look at the consumer debt bubble that is bursting at this time, I see a lot of different scenarios: some people have lost jobs, others have had excruciating medical bills or suffered a failed small business. While the vast majority have the ever present scenario of a consumptive lifestyle that led to their debt. Some of these are built in “victim” cases–after all, how can you control job loss, medical bills or a failed business?

I, too, qualified to be an alleged victim when it came to the $40,000 of inherited consumer debt we had when we got married. Instead of staying down on the ground, when tripped up by circumstances, we chose to follow Debbie’s example and we got back in the race, determined to finish well by getting rid of that debt. On a military man’s salary, with lots of kids to financially support and only one income, we were able to pay down all of that consumer debt in two years and we’ve remained debt free ever since! If we had played the victim card, we would probably still be waiting for some event or some person to bail us out.

So how do you get out of consumer debt? Stay tuned for specific, targeted tips next week on how we did it and how you, too, can be a victor rather than a victim!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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