Escaping Debt, Really
For many of us, managing a budget is like going on a diet; it takes discipline. But when you're standing in the sweet shop, it's hard to resist temptation. It's stressful and frustrating when your self-control fails.
Ready to get off the roller coaster? Here's some advice:
1. Get serious. The first step in altering your behavior is "taking responsibility for the actions and choices you took which caused you to get into debt," says therapist Susan Anderson, C.S.W. Anderson practices in Huntington, N.Y., and is the author of "The Journey From Abandonment to Healing" (Berkley, $13.95). She says, "You've got to own up to your behavior and to its debt-making consequences."
2. Get the facts. Keep a log for a month of every dollar that passes into and out of your wallet. Then sit down and review that log and any information you have about your financial commitments, debts and investments. ThirdAge has information on many questions that may arise.
-- Credit cards causing calamity?
-- Should you use your retirement savings to pay off debt?
-- Fighting with your spouse about money?
3. Get professional help. You've probably not had much success handling money in the past. Now might be the time to make a date with a professional. "Many of my clients go to financial planners to structure a recovery plan," says Marlou Russell, Ph.D., M.F.C.C., a clinical psychologist who practices in Santa Monica, Calif. ThirdAge's Money Insider Darwin Abramson offers Tips for Finding a Financial Planner you can trust.
4. Ask for emotional support. Carrying debt can take an emotional toll. "Being in debt creates feelings of inadequacy," says Anderson. "You feel that you've failed, you feel like a child and you feel ashamed, because you've exposed a nondeveloped part of yourself that is out of control and has run riot."
For some, spending can be similar to substance abuse. Russel says it helps some "escape from negative, scary or sad feelings."
Dealing with the emotions around debt can be too much to handle on your own. The American Psychological Association HelpCenter offers information on how to find a licensed psychologist in your area. Russell suggests seeking help from friends and Debtors' Anonymous.
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Leave Debt in the Dust: The ThirdAge Debt Management Toolkit.