One topic I don’t cover in All The Money In The World is debt and, specifically, getting out of it. This is a pretty well-covered topic in the flotilla of personal finance books I read last fall, and I really didn’t think I could add much to it. I have paid interest on a credit card bill exactly once in my life, and that was due to a snafu in our bill-paying system. I’ve basically only used one credit card since I got it in 1997, and have never understood the idea of charging an amount you don’t currently have in your checking account to cover.
But I also know that I find spending money almost physically painful, something I am still working out, because it can also translate into stupid money decisions, like keeping massive amounts of money in cash (rather than more useful investments because you’re afraid of losing it) or doing time-consuming things to save pennies. I’ve found it psychologically difficult to invest in my career when that involves spending money because it seems like an easy place to “save.” Except then you don’t get income growth in the future.
Anyway, despite my opposite problem, I love narratives of people climbing out of debt. There’s a certain satisfying narrative arc, going from rock bottom to redemption. It’s the same reason I love stories of people losing weight. One great debt story I read yesterday, which I thought I’d pass along, is from Beverly Blair Harzog called “Confessions of a Former Credit Card-A-Holic.” She describes getting her first store card from Rich’s Department Store, and then getting so excited about offers in the mail from card companies that talked about how she “deserved” a particular line of credit that she kept applying. She never did figure out how much debt she was in, though she started avoiding her mail box and her phone due to letters from collections agencies, and finally her beloved Rich’s card was canceled. She ultimately paid it all off, first by hitting the minimum payments, then doubling them and tripling them. And she ultimately became a finance writer to help others avoid the same problem.