When young people are first starting out in life, either as college students or young workers, debt looks like an easy solution to the shortage of money that seems to go with this period of life. It’s only a temporary fix, however, and will set a person back in the long run. Suze Orman, in The Courage to Be Rich, points out the outrageous amount of money that is paid on interest over the years with credit cards and other debts. She and other financial experts offer some tips for getting out from under.
1. Know about your credit cards. When you get the bill, look it over until you find the APR (annual percentage rate), which is the interest rate. Credit cards sometimes list other percentages and fees, but the APR is what will get you in the end. List your cards from highest to lowest APR. For instance, put that 27% interest card first, and the 0% cards last.
2. Work from the top down. Pay as much extra as possible on that top card each month. Make minimum payments on the others. When that highest card is paid off, start the process with the next card on the list. Carry out this procedure until all the cards are paid off.
3. Round up. For speeding up the time it takes to pay off your mortgage, simply add a few dollars each month. Those dollars are applying to the principal, and even a few dollars a month can trim years off your debt. One idea is to round the amount up to the nearest ten.
4. Emergencies? Experts disagree about the wisdom of keeping one low interest card on hand for emergencies. Frankly I think it makes some sense, but Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, says No. He says you should perform “plastic surgery” on those cards and cut them up. The bottom line is how you define an “emergency.” If it’s seeing a great deal on something you’ve been wanting, like a new guitar, maybe, but you don’t have enough money to cover it right now . . . well, that’s not really an emergency!
5. Keep it empty. If you do keep one card on hand for convenience or whatever, the best policy is to always pay it completely every month. Otherwise you are actually living beyond your means. Orman describes that lifestyle as living a lie. It’s been said that many people “spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” Think about that statement and see if it applies in your own situation.
An old classic success book is Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone. These authors listed seventeen principles of success, of which one was what they called “O.P.M.” This acronym refers to “other people’s money.” They advised borrowing money to invest in one’s own business efforts, and then thinking positively so that money would grow. It’s an interesting idea. What do you think?
Hill, Napoleon and Stone, W. Clement. Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude
Barbara Wood is a writer and educator living with her family in the Missouri Ozarks.