The Weight Of Debt

The Weight Of Debt

Sometimes when I think about the past I feel like I am remembering a different person doing the actions I did. I say that because we are all constantly changing who we are and what we believe.

A Father’s Journey

Two years ago a father held his 7-month-old son tightly in his arms and swayed back and forth trying to get the small child to sleep. As he swayed the father couldn’t help but let his mind drift off to the sound of machine shushing in the background. He was trying to remember how much they had left on the HELOC loan, the latest debt they were trying to pay off. It seemed like a mountain was weighing on the new dad’s shoulders. When will this loan be done? Is the end of this crap in sight?

Stressed, he listened to the boy’s breathing trying to tell if the kid was sleeping or still awake.


“Good night. Sleep tight” read the vinyl decals stuck to the wall above the crib. Ha. Can’t remember the last time we had a good night’s sleep (the baby was teething). His mind slipped back to the debt. IF we ever get this loan paid off how long will it take us to pay off the car? Is that $1000 emergency fund going to be enough? What if something bad happens?

Back and forth he sways.

Who am I trying to sooth right now? Finally, he’s asleep.

Every day, every nap.

Debt weighs on us. Each person deals with it differently but the stress is there, constant, in the background. I didn’t think our loans were ever going to be $0 balances even with my amortization schedules with our overpayments factored in. I wish I had a time machine. Not because I want to go back and change the past (I’ve watched Back To The Future and Doctor Who enough to know not to mess with time). I just want to go back and explain to that version of myself that everything will be ok (although I would have to go back to 2003 to tell my high school self that first).

A much different story is unfolding now.

A Second Journey

Back and forth a father sways again with a 7-month-old boy. This is their second child. Funny how life has a habit of repeating itself.

The sound machine is shushing in the background but this time the seasoned dad is staring at vinyl stars and a moon. He remembers how easy it is to let the mind drift off.

Is it pay week? I can’t remember…I think the recycling came last week so it must be pay week this week. Sweet, that means another $300 is going into the HSA. Do we have enough to start investing it?

You know what we haven’t had in a while…chili… crap I don’t know if I’ll remember to write that down after I get out of here. I wonder if the Roth and 529 deposits have been done yet.

Sway back and forth.

I wonder how long we’ll need to track our net worth before we’ll be able to notice trends. Should we be putting more into a brokerage account at our age and tax bracket? I can’t wait until this house is paid off.

Finally, he’s asleep.

…was there something I was supposed to write down?

Two years can make a big difference. I’ve gone from stress and fear to excitement all because of debt.

Have you noticed changes in your behavior and stress after becoming debt free? Are you still working on paying off debt (hang in there!)?

30 thoughts on “The Weight Of Debt

  1. Four years ago a father held his 6-month-old daughter tightly in his arms and swayed back and forth trying to get the small child to sleep. As he swayed the father couldn’t help but let his mind drift off to the sound of machine shushing in the background. He was thinking about how will he provide everything to her from his below the average salary (despite they did not have any debt).

    Back and forth he sways.


    Last night a father a father sways again in their new home with an 8-month-old girl. This is their second child. Funny how life has a habit of repeating itself. The sound machine is shushing in the background but this time the seasoned dad is thinking about options for creating a bright future for the whole family. They have debt now but thank the increased salary after changing jobs it will vanish in two more years.

    Sway back and forth.

    It is funny how financial literacy can change the worries of a father…

    PS: awesome post BoaS, as you can see I can totally relate to it 😉
    [HCF] recently posted…Hyperinflation baby…

    1. Glad to hear that debt will be gone soon. Perhaps it’s just not knowing what the hell your doing with the first brings the added stress. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Some good thoughts there, we definitely all approach it differently.

    I’m firmly in the good debt vs bad debt camp, and actively carry good debt for leverage. Why on earth would I worry about or pay off a 1.5% mortgage?

    1. 1.5%?!?! I hope you mean when adjusted for inflation?

      I don’t look at it as good v bad. I see it as annoying v super stressful. Either way I want the debt to be gone.

  3. The metaphor I always use is that when I was in debt, I felt like I was drowning. I was struggling to keep my head above water. In his excellent book “Debt Is Slavery”, Michael Mihalik likens debt to actual physical chains of bondage. I think all of these comparisons work: drowning, slavery, weight.

    When you’re in debt, it’s a very real burden that is with you CONSTANTLY. You think about it all of the time. It limits what you’re able to do. Sure, it may be a problem that you’ve created from your own decisions, but that doesn’t make it any less onerous.

    For me, the big change wasn’t actually getting out of debt. The relief of pressure came when I finally achieved some sort of positive cash flow, grew the gap between my earning and spending. When that happened, I could see positive things happen, and I knew that eventually — if I gave it time — I would get out of debt. That’s what I want to encourage people in debt to do: build that gap.

    1. Time has definitely shown me what a difference being in debt and being out of debt is.
      The little things like replacing the water filter on the fridge was a stress because we weren’t sure if we could justify $40 to now when it’s a meaningless thought of “crap I need to order that.”

      The biggest sign is how much faster our net worth has grown. It was a trickle during debt and now it is going faster and that has to do with growing the gap. Increasing income, keeping out spending in check and saving that difference.

  4. Wish we could tell this story to so many kids in High School and College. Debt is a killer, try your best to stay out of it, or to minimize it.

    Also, things will be OK. We’ve got a sign in the kitchen hung up which says “I don’t want to spoil the ending, but everything will work out OK” on it. Always nice to remember.

    1. I don’t know if I would have been at a point in my life to understand the weight if someone had told me this story in highschool.

      Lol I love that sign! Sounds like something everyone should have in their house.

    1. Before our first born there was minimal stress but after is when the weight started baring down. Certain situations can compound the stress of debt. Now we have a proper emergency fund and only a mortgage there isn’t any stress.

  5. Interesting article– thanks! Very few are lucky in this race who live entirely debt-free life. Modern life requires many of us to borrow money most of the time. If one can’t comfortably afford to pay back the debt then why they incur more debt I can’t understand. But few like me bound to live with a burden of student loan to make eligible how to earn more money after study. I think our surrounding started to give us the feeling of the weight of debt.

    1. I don’t think we do have to be in debt. For some, they are stuck in a vicious cycle by pay-day loans and predatory car dealerships but for those who aren’t, they can find the way out of it. They just need to surround themselves with the right kind of people.

  6. I checked the balance on my car loan this morning. And I was so mad at myself for having that debt that I STRONGLY considered taking a big chunk out of my savings to just pay it off today in one fell swoop.
    But that doesn’t fit The Plan (TM). So I’ll wait another 6 months and then it’ll be gone. But it feels like it’s mocking me in the meantime!
    BTW, I love the descriptions of you rocking your babies to sleep. <3

    1. Car loans are awful. I had a co-worker try to rationalize them to me the other day…He didn’t do a good job at it.

      Thank you! I’m been meaning to do more in this style but only seem to come when the mood strikes.

  7. I’ve been talking lots recently about how money and (perhaps more importantly!) debts can affect your general wellbeing, increase stress etc.
    It’s an area that is all to often glossed over when you read the success stories of those whose footsteps you want to follow in. I found myself in quite a bit of debt after graduating from uni (not including student loans!) and just didn’t really have anywhere to turn for help. I worked out the money side of things, if anything, that’s the easy part compared to the toll it took on my mental health. It took a while for me to really open up to my good friends about what I was going through, but when I did, the weight it lifted off my shoulders was amazing. Even just having someone there to cheer me on or give a me a “Well Done!” when I hit a milestone helped immensely. I wish I’d gotten into blogging at that stage of my life, as the support that pours from the personal finance blogging community is so heartwarming!
    I’m glad to hear things are different for you this time around, money will always be a cause of distraction from life, but that’s ok, as long as it remains a distraction and not a worry 🙂

    1. Joining the personal finance community in any way can really help relieve the stress of finances and debt. I would encourage anyone, not just pf bloggers, to get involved.

      Glad to hear your friends were helpful for you,that’s not always the case.

  8. I haven’t really dealt with debt specifically, but I think some of the principles are the as other long-term financial goals. Willpower is great, but it’s also easy to overcome. Make things happen without you even having to think about them and bypass the whole issue of willpower and desire.

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