For more than two decades, I’ve helped Americans get out of debt. When I meet them for the first time, I ask them how they’re feeling. They almost always use the same words: “I’m stressed out.”
As we all know, enough stress can kill you. I believe debt has shortened the life span of many fine people. Now I have proof.
Health and debt
My first piece of evidence is buried in a recent healthcare study. A medical software company called Pega polled 1,000 people about “key factors impacting consumers’ health decisions.” They were looking at how friends and family can influence you to be healthier and see a doctor, but there was also this nugget…
Nearly 70 percent of consumers are more likely to focus on their health when they feel financially stable.
That makes sense. When your personal health is suffering, you feel terrible. However, when your financial health is poor, your entire family suffers. No wonder it’s hard to focus on your own health if your debts are dragging down your loved ones.
To be clear: I’m not talking about poverty. Researchers have long known that those living in poorer neighborhoods die earlier than those living in wealthier neighborhoods. Earlier this year, Vanderbilt University conducted yet another study that showed, “Those socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods died much earlier than the average American.” The causes range from untreated illness to malnutrition to violence.
No, I’m talking about personal debt, which can afflict any neighborhood. That makes it even more insidious. From the outside, you might see a nice car, a nice house, and a family clad in nice clothes. What you don’t see are the credit card statements and student loan notices that render all those beautiful things meaningless when you can’t sleep at night, worried how you’re going to make the next payment.
A dangerous new disease
The worst part is that this disease — let’s call it debtitis —is spreading. All the proof you need is on Debt.com’s Personal Finance Statistics page, where you find symptoms like these:
- Nearly half of Americans are “concerned, anxious or fearful about their current financial well-being”
- The average credit card balance is now $6,375, up 3 percent from last year
- 17 percent of Americans carry student loans
Those numbers are backed up by yet another poll, this one of college-educated Americans. A lender called Laurel Road asked 1,000 grads about their “financial lives.” The results were grim. First, more than half “don’t think they will ever make enough money to reach their financial goals.” Even worse, Millennial women “are significantly more stressed than their male peers about their finances.”
If stress can kill, then it’s starting earlier and earlier. These are the youngest contributors to our economy. So what can they do? You go to a doctor to recover your physical health. Who do you consult for your financial health?
The doctor is in
Thankfully, there are financial health experts who will see you — and there’s no co-pay. Your primary care provider is a certified credit counselor at a nonprofit credit counseling agency. You’ll get a free debt analysis, which is akin to a free health exam.
If you need treatment, you don’t have to wait months for an appointment with a specialist. Whether it’s student loans, credit card bills, or back taxes, highly rated experts are literally a phone call or email away. Even better, Debt.com gives you the option of getting a second opinion, since we can refer you to those experts who have signed our Code of Ethics — and if you don’t like one of them, we’ll find you another.
You don’t have to consult Debt.com, but if you’re in debt, I urge you to do something about it. Before it kills you.