ICFE eNEWS #14-03 - January 28th 2014
Getting Out Of Debt The Wrong Way
As a veteran financial counselor, I have seen numerous people
who have sincerely tried to pay off their debt but with little
success. Their desire was right but their method was wrong.
Since experience is a good teacher (especially the experience of
others), we can learn from their example and not follow them
down the road to failure. That's what I call "learning from the
school of hard knocks without having to be enrolled."
There are indeed ways to pay off debt, and there are ways to
avoid because they simply do not work. That's the topic of our
discussion today - methods of paying off debt that do not work.
Here are some of the most popular.
- Paying down debt while continuing to use credit.
Many couples make a concerted effort to pay off their debts
but they continue to create debt while doing so. They pay on
their credit cards each month, but continue to use them.
They soon notice that the more they pay off the credit card
debt, the more they have to use their cards. They are like a
man trying to fill up a bucket that has a big hole in the
bottom; whatever goes in at the top, comes out at the
After years of doing this, with little change in
their debt balance, they conclude in despair that they will
never pay off their debt and stop trying.
If we are
to make any headway in paying off our debt, we have to "stop
the leak," that is, stop using credit and start living
within our means. We will discuss how to do this later.
- Paying down debt by only making minimum
payments. Credit cards, for example, require a very
small % of the balance for the monthly payment - normally
around 1-2%. When credit cards were originally issued back
in the early 60's, the monthly minimum payment requirement
was 5% of the balance.
Consider the progress we would
make if we paid off the average family's credit card
debt ($15,270) at the average rate of interest
(15.06) with a 2% minimum payment (Source: CreditCard.com,
December 24, 2013). The MSN.com credit card repayment
calculator tabulates the results: With a starting monthly
payment of $305.40 (which becomes less each month as we pay
down the principle), it would take us 44.8 years
to pay off the debt. At the end of that time we would have
paid $25,173 in interest charges making our
total debt payoff amount $40,443!
So, if we started our plan to pay off debt at age 30, we
would reach our goal just before celebrating our 75th
birthday! Does that sound like a good plan to anyone?
- Paying down debt with a second mortgage.
This is one of the most popular strategies, yet one of the
most destructive. It not only does not work, it makes things
- It does not pay off debt - it only "moves"
it to a new location. To achieve less credit
card debt by having more home mortgage debt is not a
good trade. Yes, I am aware that the interest is less on
a home mortgage loan and that that interest is tax
deductible - but it still is not a good trade! Our home
is not an ATM machine to make withdrawals to cover
things we do have money for.
That means that when
it comes time to move, we will have little or no equity
in our home, thus little down payment for our next home.
And when it comes time to retire, we are forced to make
house payments with our retirement income as we take on
a part time job to make ends meet. A 2010 survey by the
Federal Reserve showed 41% of the people surveyed ages
65-74 had mortgage debt. (Source: MarketWatch.com, June
- It turns an unsecured debt into a secured
debt. I know the interest is less on a home
mortgage, and is also tax deductible. Nonetheless, it is
rarely wise to exchange secured debt for unsecured,
especially when it puts our home at even greater risk
for loss. You can bankrupt unsecured debt, but if you
bankrupt secured debt, you will lose it!
- It requires no change in our spending
habits, and within three years our credit card
debt returns with an even higher balance.
- Paying Down Debt With Retirement Funds.
Borrowing against our 401(k) to pay down debt is also not a
method to use. There often is a 10% penalty to tap into our
retirement funds early, plus the proceeds are regarded as
"income" and are susceptible to taxes. That means that if we
borrowed $20,000 from our 401 (K), we could forfeit $2000 up
front, plus potentially pay income tax on $18,000 of
additional "income." The cost of tapping our retirement
funds under these restrictions is not worth the cost.
Here are two lessons to learn by studying these four
- Any plan to pay off debt that continues to create
the very problem (debt) we are trying to solve will fail.
In other words, borrowing to pay off debt is like digging a
hole in our front yard to fill in a hole in our back yard.
- Any plan to pay off debt that does not require a
change in our spending habits will fail. If the process
that created the problem continues, we cannot expect the
problem to vanish.
Our next discussion will talk about methods that do work.
© Jim Garnett, The Debt Doctor
AskMrG Consulting, LLC
2216 SW 35th Street
Ankeny, IA 50023
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Paul S. Richard
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer
Financial Education (ICFE)
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation). The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org). CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed. In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.
The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org. Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G, a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.