The First Step to Getting Out of Debt After 60 is to Understand the Problem
When it comes to money, us Baby Boomers are in an interesting position. On the one hand, we hear over and over again that we are the “wealthiest generation in U.S. history.” On the other hand, the great majority of us are simply not prepared for retirement.
To make matters worse, according to a recent report by TransUnion, nearly one in three Americans over 60 has debt and the average amount that we owe is $60,000. Ouch!
Getting Out of Debt Starts with a Commitment to Change
As someone who has dealt with her share of debt over the years, I can personally relate to the many women in our community who may be struggling with this issue. Debt is not only harmful because of the direct impact that it has on our finances. It is also a major driver of anxiety, just at a time when we should be getting the most from life.
In this article, I’ll discuss the many reasons that debt is so destructive after 60. Then, in another article, I will provide some practical advice, based on my own experience for how to get out of debt as fast as possible.
You might wonder why I would even take the time to discuss the negative aspects of debt. After all, isn’t it obvious that paying back what we owe as fast as we can is a good idea? On a purely rational level, of course it is!
In my conversations with 1000s of women in the Sixty and Me community, I have seen first-hand just how many of us bury our heads in the sand when it comes to money. Often it is the emotional aspect of debt that is the most paralyzing. Sitting down with pen and paper to figure out how much we really owe requires us to face our decisions and deal with our regrets.
So, to motivate you to take the first step, let’s take a look at the many negative impacts of debt after 60. Here are a few of the many reasons to take control of your debt before it takes control of you.
Debt Reduces Your Monthly Cash Flow
Perhaps the most obvious negative impact of debt is that it takes money out of our pocket every month. While you have a regular job, you may not be forced to pay attention to the minimum payments that you are making on your credit cards. While you are working, debt is a manageable nuisance.
When you retire, everything changes. As many women have discovered the hard way, living on a pension is extremely challenging. What was once an annoying buzz becomes a hurricane of panic, negative emotions and stress. Instead of worrying about making your monthly payments, you may find yourself worrying about how to put food on the table, which is a frightening position to be in.
Whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand. Your debts are not going to go away by themselves. The only way to improve your situation is to take control.
Debt Creates Anxiety and Prevents You from Being Productive
One of the less obvious, but no less destructive, side-effects of debt is that it prevents us from being productive. There is a certain irony here. One of the best ways to pay down your debt and get on the road to financial security is to increase your income, even if only temporarily.
Unfortunately, when we are stressed, our bodies and minds are often too distracted to think rationally about what we can do to earn extra money. The more we worry about our debt, the more worried we become. The more worried we become, the less likely we are to focus on income generating activities.
The only way out of this loop is to take control of your debt and create a plan for paying it off over time.
Debt Steals Your Freedom, Practically and Psychologically
One of the main advantages of retirement is that it gives us the freedom to follow our dreams. Freed from family and career commitments, we can travel, learn new skills and pursue new experiences. If we want to reduce our monthly costs, we can downsize our house or move to a cheaper location. The only thing that isn’t flexible is our debt.
Debt is like a psychological anchor that prevents us from making the most of life after 60. It is a stowaway in our luggage when we travel. It is an uninvited guest in our downsized apartment. It is a dark cloud over our otherwise positive mind.
Getting rid of your debt does more than simply improve your financial position. It frees up the mental energy to live a happy and positive life after 60.
Debt is Often Symptomatic of a Negative Relationship with Money
There are times when taking on debt is unavoidable. Perhaps we are dealing with an illness in the family. Or, maybe we need the money for an emergency. But, as hard as it is to admit it, most of the time, debt is simply a manifestation of our own relationship with money.
Entering retirement forces us to rethink every aspect of our financial situation. If we want to make money, we need to learn how to work for ourselves. In order to balance our budget, we are often forced to abandon luxuries that we once considered essentials.
Dealing with our debt offers us an opportunity to examine our relationship with money and to develop healthier habits.
As Baby Boomers, we have a history of reinventing ourselves. Now, as we enter retirement, we must reinvent ourselves once again. I hope that this article encourages you to take control of your debt and build a financial plan that will support you in the decades to come. If you are ready to start addressing your debt, please read this article.
Are you dealing with debt in retirement? How many of the negative side-effects of debt can you relate to? Are there any that I missed? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.
One of the best ways to deal with debt in retirement is to make extra money. Watch my interview with Nancy Collamer for tips on how to find a job that you actually enjoy after 60.