In general, the average person working in the corporate world spends more than one-third of their lives at the workplace. That does not include, of course, additional time commuting. According to the US Census Bureau you can tack on at least another hour per day spent in a car or public transit. That is a lot of time; and if you are not thoroughly enjoying what you do, is all that time worth it? Arguably, it is. You have bills to pay.

Whether it’s a home mortgage, student loans, credit card payments, or auto costs; around 80% of Americans are in debt. [1] Yikes! What is driving the sky-high amount of debt in our country? Beginning in the 1980’s credit card lenders (e.g. big banks) were given the go-ahead by the US Supreme Court to put the kibosh on credit card interest rate ceilings. Thus, these banks had a big incentive to push credit cards out to more people; even those with tenuous credit ratings.

Besides using credit to splurge on vacations, meals out, and designer luxury goods, credit is also being used as a “rainy day fund.” Car on the fritz? No problem, MasterCard or Visa to the rescue. The effects of all this easy credit has been increases in debt and decreases in savings. Not a good strategy for a long-term financial solvency.

The debt issue becomes even more stressful if we are unlucky enough to be given a pink slip from work or come down with a health crisis.  If you are not prepared (and the majority of households aren’t), you are in for a rocky road ahead. The ramifications of being in debt are numerous: increased stress, anxiety and depression, can lead to health issues like high blood pressure.

Relationships can falter under the heavy weight of debt. According to Jeffrey Dew of the National Marriage Project, “Couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were over 30 percent more likely to divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times per month.”

Unfortunately, for many Americans, the only solution to their debt debacle is to file for bankruptcy. There were 770,846 personal bankruptcy cases in 2016; which is a significant decline from the high in 2010. Bankruptcy isn’t a “get-out-of-jail-free” card though. There are serious consequences:  increased difficulty in securing loans, apartments, cars, insurance and almost anything involving a credit check. It may also mean paying more for these items in increased interest payments.

By and large, Americans have a love affair with money. Maybe not money per se, but what they can buy it. Our culture encourages an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. This continuous consumption may give us a warm and fuzzy feeling in the short term; but in the long run we will pay a higher price than we expect.

[1] http://www.americandebtadvisor.com/questions/howmanyamericansareindebt.shtml