When I was a mortgage broker in 2005, it was a common practice to bundle homeowners’ debts into their refinance or their purchase. The rationalization was that a person could start fresh, with zero unsecured debt, and stay that way. Some of the lenders even made that criteria in providing the loan to the homeowner. It sounded great to me ten years ago when I purchased my first home.
I loved the sensation of feeling debt-free (except for my mortgage payment). I felt unburdened and proud of myself. I had worked hard building my construction business so I could afford the down payment and monthly obligation. But it never dawned on me that my credit card debt was a sign of living beyond my means.
It never occurred to me that my small savings account, with irregular contributions, was a clue to a bigger problem. It never entered my mind that I was in denial about how I mismanaged my finances. Oddly enough, my construction company was in better financial shape than myself.
I had voluntary blindness.
Like “yo-yo dieting,” this was yo-yo debt. I was under the delusion that paying off all of my debt was smart, even as I was accumulating new debt.
What I could not see was the debts were a metaphor for my feelings of shame, my profound sense of unworthiness. They were intrinsic to my negative identity. That realization explains why I had to have some debt to feel I even existed…so paying off all of my debt left too big a vacuum; I needed debt because I could recognize myself without it.
This hidden dynamic is the root of perennial dieters, perfectionists, people holding onto toxic family members and the list goes on.
It is a form of addiction.
Fast-forward to 2005. I had created a niche market in the mortgage industry by focusing on helping women get refinancing when they were coming out of bankruptcy. I always asked them how they ended up in bankruptcy, and they all had similar answers. It always came down to not managing their money as well as they believed they were.
As I listened to their stories, my denial about my own situation was so powerful that I could practically hear myself reframing their words in my mind. I refused to see the truth.
In those days, there were no financial therapists — no one even talked about the emotional connection between self-esteem and money. It was not until my life unraveled in 2007 that I understood the connection between how I felt about myself and the need to stay in a negative debt posture — and how that, in part, defined who I was.
Completely taking my debt away just made me hungry to bring the debt back so that I could feel “myself.” Understanding that piece gave me clarity on finding the solution: Keep some debt. Don’t pay it all it off quite yet.
I trusted that someday I would get a grip on feeling so undeserving, and the need for the negative definition would diminish along with the remaining debt.
Here it is 2017!
My coaching practice has been re-named: “Eliminate Your Financial Stress ®”. My book “It’s NEVER About the Money…even when it is” is in it’s third revision and available on AMAZON. I’m doing a PBS special in April, and our popular workshop series starts up again in February. I’m back doing public speaking engagements, and most importantly…
I finally feel at ease and financially secure!