vacation of the future

Dvorkin On Debt: Do You Have “Deficit Attention Disorder”?

Attention Deficit Disorder is a common enough affliction that most of us know the initials ADD. However, just this past week, I’ve discovered a new, financially based version of the same thing: “Deficit Attention Disorder.”

DAD results in otherwise responsible adults running up big deficits because they can only think about money in the here and now. They have no ability to make financial decisions that will help them immensely later on. Here’s one recent example.

Our No.1  “daily thought”

If I were to ask you what most Americans think about every day, what would you guess? Sex? Food? Politics?

No, it’s money.

GoBankingRates cleverly asked about our top “daily thought,” and money came in at 18 percent. Work was second at 17 percent. “Love life” was only third, at 11 percent.

As a follow-up question, GoBankingRates asked about our “biggest financial fears.” Topping the list at 20 percent was “not being able to afford a home.” Sadly, “never being able to retire” was second at 16 percent, followed closely by “losing my job” at 15 percent.

If you notice, retirement is the most far-from-now category, so it’s not too surprising it didn’t rank higher. Still, it’s also the most serious fear with the most catastrophic ramifications — because you can always rent if you can’t buy a house, and you can always get a job (even if it’s lower paying), but if you retire broke, there’s no option that late in the game.

Tired of retirement talk

Sometimes, when a problem seems intractable, we simply give up trying to solve it. I’m fearful that retirement has become just such a problem for most Americans.

Earlier this month, insurance firm Aon Hewitt released a thoroughly depressing study. The company analyzed 77 large U.S. employers with a combined 2.1 million employees — and found “only one-in-five are on track to meet or exceed their needs in retirement at age 65.”

Worse still, three in five workers will need to keep working past 65 just to survive. Even with this bleak news, “many workers are not planning enough for their long-term financial goals,” researchers conclude.

Of course, it’s hard to plan when you’re swamped with credit card debt,  which many Americans are. The average U.S. household owes more than $15,000 on their credit cards. If those households had that $15,000 to invest for retirement over the next 20-30 years, they could easily turn that into a solid nest egg.

If you want to learn more about retirement, here’s a video I made for a curious reader. If you’re drowning in debt and can’t even begin to think about retirement, call a certified credit counselor for a free debt analysis at 1-800-810-0989. Do it now. Don’t let Deficit Attention Disorder become an even worse condition: Debt Death.

Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.

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