Greed is…

Years after the movie “Wall Street” came out, the line everyone still remembers from it is “Greed is good!” That may have fit into the context of the movie and its storyline, but it does not fit into the context of real life for individuals or families (or corporations for that matter).

What is greed? Greed can be defined as “excessive desire for more of something than is needed, especially for wealth or possessions.” So having things or wealth is not bad in and of itself. What is bad is when the desire for things or wealth is excessive or out of control, when it overwhelms common sense and good judgment. What is one of the outcomes of greed in our personal lives? Debt.

“Debt is bad!” I doubt there will be a blockbuster movie that causes that phrase to be on everyone’s lips. Maybe I should say too much debt is bad. One of Socrates’ famous phrases is sometimes rendered “the unconsidered life is not worth living.” Let’s rework his phrase to say “the unconsidered debt is not worth taking on.”
For most of us there is some point in our lives where we have to take on debt – debt such as a mortgage to buy a house, an auto loan to buy a car or student loans to pursue higher education. These are debts with a clear purpose or need in mind (usually).

Trouble comes when we do not properly consider how we will go about managing debt or paying off debt. The trouble is often worse when we take on debt to survive or debt that is not connected to a clear need or purpose. There are plenty of nightmare stories in the news about people with thousands of dollars in credit card debt or home equity lines of credit for which there is no overriding or long-term benefit and no plan or ability to pay the debt.

How can we avoid getting into debt trouble? By making hard choices when necessary. Save up for things instead of buying impulsively then wondering how to pay for what you just bought. Force yourself to take time to reconsider before completing purchases. Be committed to long-term financial stability and stay away from the short-term thinking that leads to avoidable debt. Have a financial plan and financial goals. Be committed to the plan and to achieving the goals. Include a savings program in the plan so that there is money available to meet unexpected or unplanned expenses instead of having to go into debt.

If you have debt issues, get started on dealing with them. Figure out which debt is smallest or can most quickly, easily or beneficially be eliminated. Work on eliminating that debt. Go for the small victory and show yourself you can do it! Then get to work on the next debt. If you need help with debt, get help!

In the best of all financial worlds we would not need to take on debt. The next best thing is being able to handle the debt we do have and being able to pay it down and, in time, eliminate it altogether. If you want a minor thrill on a Friday afternoon, tune in to the Dave Ramsey radio program and listen to folks tell Dave how they have eliminated ALL their debt. Then listen to them yell over the radio “WE’RE DEBT FREE!!!”
That is an achievable goal in many cases. Achieving the goal, however, requires commitment, focus and discipline.

I heartily encourage you to strive to one day be able to say to family and friends “I’m Debt Free!”

Today’s Ancient Wisdom: Solomon said “the borrower is slave to the lender.”

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