Have you ever felt alone in your debt and wondered if you were the only one struggling mentally, emotionally, and financially under the weight of debt? Debt is discouraging, but keeping it discreet seems to be hurting everyone. Are you ready to disclose your debt?
We are pretty open about the fact that we have student loan debt. After all, we are living in my in-laws’ basement. Not every attorney’s wife can make that claim. When our housing situation comes up, I explain that we plan to live in the basement in the boonies for a few years so that we can pay off all of our law school debt as soon as possible. Generally the response is positive. People seem to understand and even admire the the sacrifices we are making to be debt-free. I let them know that we actually really like our current set-up and it has quite a few perks.
While having debt isn’t a secret to those who know us, the actual figure (or should I say six figures) isn’t something we publish. Well, actually it is, but not to people who know us personally. As of this writing, I have not invited anyone we know in real life to read this blog. I plan to change that soon.
We have made it a point to be transparent at SixFiguresUnder.com, thus the “Personal Finance Made Public” in the header above. While those we know in person don’t know exactly how much we owe [update: they do now], I feel like we are no longer debting in secret since we are giving the world access to our financial details.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of disclosing debt:
Cons of Disclosing Debt
- Depending on how you acquired your debt, you might feel ashamed or embarrassed.
- Some people are harsh judges and share unwanted criticism and advice. You might want to steer clear of sharing with folks like this.
- If you are the type of person that worries about what others think (even though they don’t say anything), you might feel that others are judging your every financial move.
Pros of Disclosing Debt
- You are being honest with yourself.
- You have a new cheerleader (assuming you are telling the right people). Hopefully you have someone who will encourage and support you. It’s great to share your successes and struggles with someone.
- You have a valid excuse for not spending money. When friends raz you about being cheap or not going out with them, you have a solid reason for turning them down. Let them know that if they would like to make your loan payments, you would be happy to join them.
- You have accountability. Hopefully in encouraging you, your friends and family will occasionally ask how your fight with debt is going. Knowing that you will have someone to report to can help you rein in that spending monster.
- You will find out that you are not alone. Debt is more common than we like to let on in our keeping-up-with-the-Joneses society. Disclosing your debt may make others brave enough to ‘fess up and face their own debt.
It’s your turn!
- Have you dared to disclose your debt? Why or why not?
- What sort of reaction have you received?
I’m definitely ashamed of our debt. $40k in consumer debt. My husband lived off cards for a while. And 90k in student loans without a great job to pay it back.
My Dad knows but for a long time refused to believe it. All my friends know. I would never tell my in laws.
I hate having debt. My problem is how to I tell my husband about it?? The debt that I have personally I acquired while our oldest son was terminally ill, and after he passed, I was without a job, going to college and a husband who has to be reminded several times to put money in our checking account so that I can pay the bills. He is self-employed and his mother does the books for us. He is a farmer. He has never really had to pay the bills himself, he just takes what he has and goes into his mother’s. He does not sit down with me to pay our family bills, and when I ask him, he just doesn’t have the time. I have had to use credit cards to pay for bills, or food, clothes etc. I am working full-time and going to college part time to get my BSN, we have 2 other children at home. His way of thinking is if you don’t have money in the bank you would not write the check… Any ideas on how to break the news to him. I probably have around 27,000 in debt. I started this year out signing up with Lutheran Social Services for debt counseling. I have cut up all my credit cards except one, for my part time business Mary Kay. I need to be honest with him, we have been together for 20 years. Any suggestions??
I’m grateful not to have credit card debt at this point. Despite some decisions that were not the wisest, we made big sacrifices at other points so I guess it has balanced out. Nevertheless, I wish I could take a redo on some of those decisions (ie vacations, or unneeded miscellaneous stuff that was “a deal” at the time) and be further ahead on our mortgage.
Cuz we live in Canada, in a metro area with super high housing prices. It feels awful to have a mortgage that has over $285,000 remaining when I am a stay at home mom and feel like I can’t contribute financially, other than by NOT spending. We committed to putting an extra 20% toward our mortgage each and every month so that our 30 year mortgage will be paid off 14 YEARS sooner! That said, sometimes cash flow is VERY tight and there have been months that we had to carry a credit card balance. As I was raised to despise debt, and my family never even had a mortgage, this feels scary and stressful to me.
I find that pooling experiences and strategies is very encouraging, but most people are very tight lipped about finances.
That’s great that you’re making such good progress on your mortgage! You will save so much by paying it off 14 years early! And good job avoiding other types of debt.
In our culture it’s normal to be tight-lipped about finances, but I agree that we can benefit greatly by being more open. A lot of times we feel like we are alone, when in reality many people are having the same struggles, just no one talks about it. My vision of Wednesday Debt Discussions on this blog, was a place where people could feel safe to encourage each other and share their struggles and successes.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing Laura!
I am proud of my debt. Seems weird but anyone asks I am happy to share my strategies. This all started when I looked at our individual minimum payments and wondered what would happen if I rounded up to the next 20$. So going from 74.67 to 80 cut hundreds off of the total interest paid and over a year paid off sooner. My husband and I both got through college with only $22,000 owing In total for both of us. And have $5,277.64 left. No other consumer debt.
You are getting so close Kristan! That’s awesome that you are so open and willing to share your strategies 🙂
As of right now you have shared it with people who know you :). And I went ahead and spread the love (I know, I’ve only known for a week and I already told someone). It was Shelly. I mentioned my “friend” who had this blog and she asked who and I kept avoiding the question but finally just told her because I couldn’t remember the name of the blog anyway and I knew it wasn’t six figures under because I tried that and it didn’t work so I said I thought it was that and she googled it and found you :). Sorry! But she is sworn to secrecy. Our lips are sealed :). for real this time…
I love you! And I love this blog! And we have more debt than you so it’s ok that I know how awesome you are at paying it down. You are inspiring, seriously.
Congrats on making it into the elite Six Figures Under club Monica! I’m sorry that you get to join.
Don’t worry about telling Shelly! I was planning to tell her anyway. I’m about ready to start telling people I know, so it’s no big deal. You can tell anyone and everyone (except my judgmental, anti-education uncle). The cat is out of the bag 🙂
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says
Thankfully I’m not in debt, but my income is next to nothing. I’m very open about it which is great. No one asks me for money, they rarely question why I won’t do something expensive, and they give me all their hand me downs!
Great job not being in debt and for being open about finances. Hand-me-downs are wonderful!
Roc Away Debt says
We are fairly open with our friends about our student loan debt – only because DH and I have been peppered with a million questions about why we have not (yet!) bought a house. A lot of our friends have student loan debt but no one really talks about whether or not they have credit card debt…
Everyone does think DH and I are somewhat “radical” for wanting to pay off our student loan debt before buying a house. We are far and away the exception to the rule… People may respect our decision but few understand it. Sometimes I think our friends get worried that we are judging them for their decision not to pay off their debt. But it’s all personal!
Since we both recently started working second jobs to get the debt repayment moving along at a faster pace everyone thinks we have 1. gone off our rocker OR 2. they think we are super super broke. The reactions and assumptions are priceless!
That’s awesome that you are paying off your student loans before buying a house. We can start a club 🙂 We often get asked how long we are going to live in the basement. When we say “until we pay off our student loans and save for a down payment,” people are respectful, but assume that means we’re never leaving.
Way to go with the second jobs! It’s nice that you and your husband can enjoy the reactions and assumptions together.
Sara @ Not Your Mainstream Mama says
You know I disclose all of our debt right on my blog. 😉
I think it’s a great thing to disclose it, if you’re comfortable with it. It does make you more accountable for sure though. For instance, this month has been TERRIBLE on our budget but I keep trying to do better and it keeps getting worse and I’m almost dreading telling my readers about it. But that’s life. lol
People are mostly supportive of us disclosing our debt, I have had several people I barely speak to call me or tell me in person how much my debt series means to them.
On the other hand, one of my husband’s friends asked him, “How in the world did you get all that debt?”
To which my husband replied, “Well Sara’s a big spender, ya know”.
I hear you Sara! This month has been hard on our budget too 🙁 My husband had a root canal and some other dental work that cost us a pretty penny!
I assume your husband was teasing. I think handling possible criticism with humor is wonderful!
Brian @ Luke1428 says
I applaud you Stephanie! It’s tough to face up to debt levels as high as yours. Looks like you’ve taken some good first steps. Most importantly you are being honest with yourself and laying out a plan for taking care of it. There is great support in the personal finance blog world as many others are dealing with what you are facing.
Thanks Brian. We definitely feel encouraged and positive about our situation, though the numbers may look bleak. My husband and I are very unified, which makes dealing with any hardship so much easier. I hope that others, especially those who are facing these sort of struggles alone, will open to someone about their debt burden. I can’t imagine doing it alone.
Michelle @fitisthenewpoor says
I’ve learned that it’s easier to share my issues than to hide behind it. I’m more accountable when I do!
I agree. I think it’s so much healthier to have thing out in the open. Hiding behind issues causing so much anxiety and stress.
Admitting to having debt is nothing to be ashamed of. Some debts are unavoidable like a mortgage or a student loan. Now credit card debt is something I believe one should stay away from and any steps to address this is a good first step.
Definitely making this public will make you more accountable. I wish you the best in reducing your debts.
Thanks for the kind words. We definitely feel accountable. I hope to encourage others to also share their debt burden with others (at least someone, no necessarily the entire web, like us) to help them be more accountable and feel encouraged.
I am definitely all for full disclosure. Some people don’t care and don’t want to know, but it’s freeing to have it on the table.
I totally agree. I probably wouldn’t write it on my forehead, but I think we should be open about it.
In our society, money issues (what your salary is, how much your car costs, how big your debt is, etc) seem to be so taboo. I think we would benefit a lot from being more open and straight-forward.
Prudence Debtfree says
All the best in your efforts to get out of debt in three years! Like you, we are dealing with a six-figure debt, but at a much later point in our lives. You are wise to attack your debt while you’re young. Telling people about it will do all sorts of things for you: 1. You will stop caring if others judge you (a huge liberation). 2. You will make others more inclined to open up to you about all sorts of issues. 3. You will feel more accountable with regards to attaining your goals. Good luck!
Thanks for the encouragement Prudence. You make some great points about telling people about debt. I totally agree. Thanks for taking time to comment and best of luck to you in your debt journey!
I am ashamed of my debt. It isn’t as big as yours but I spend way more then I make. But I think your right. Telling might be a good idea. Makes your more accountable.
I’m glad you don’t have the same notorious distinction of six figures of debt, Veronica! I think being ashamed keeps lots of us in our same situation (and even digging ourselves deeper), whether it be debt or another vice. Even just telling one person or finding an accountability partner might help.