Debt Stories in the Media

I just read this story from NPR: Surviving a Personal Debt Crisis.

Of course, the comments are often as interesting as the story, if you’re prepared to read hostile statements from argumentative people. 

In this particular comment section, a woman comments that she would like to hear stories about people who survive debt by filing for bankruptcy as she did; another poster tells her that she should pay back the debt she owed, even though it is no longer on her credit report. Leaving aside how difficult that might be in terms of paperwork and how convoluted that process would probably be, that’s quite a thing to say to someone, especially if that person is living paycheck to paycheck and has already mentioned that she is still paying down other debts. 

However, the thing that jumps out to me most about this article (and others like it), is that this is a really shallow representation of someone’s debt story. I knew what it was going to say before I even read it: “Family has emergencies and takes on credit card debt. Someone loses a job/has a serious illness. Debts mount up. Family decides to get out of debt. Family starts being frugal and then has less debt.” (This is not to trivialize losing a job or dealing with a serious illness. It’s just a fact that most of these articles seem to involve an emergency or serious problem of some kind, since that’s probably what gets most families so deep into unmanageable debt in the first place.)

I’d be a lot more interested in hearing about their family money discussions, more in-depth information about their decisions, and how their lifestyles changed. Maybe it’s a symptom of the personal finance world, because I have read a number of PF posts that say, “Really, there’s no trick. You just need to spend less than you earn.” And isn’t that true? We’re all just looking for the easiest, most pain-free way to achieve that. Maybe all of these articles about people getting out of debt are basically the same, because there’s just one basic strategy that will be successful.

And now I’m off to look at our finances again!

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