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More than two decades ago, when I first started counseling people about how to get out of debt; I thought all I’d need to do is draw upon my experience as a CPA. Instead, I had to learn some psychology and even some medicine.

Why? Because I quickly realized that debt isn’t just about owing money. Many people get into debt for psychological reasons, and they often pay a physical price.

I’ve seen otherwise intelligent Americans run up their credit cards because they wanted to impress a date or a friend, dote on their children or grandchildren, and even buy an expensive new car because they thought it would be a symbol of success — and therefore lead to success.

When that happens, I’ve seen very obvious physical costs of debt. Everything from dropping a gym membership to not seeking medical attention for chronic or even serious conditions; because they couldn’t afford it. But I’ve also seen the general stress of debt cause depression, over-eating, alcoholism, drug abuse, and even thoughts of suicide.

Of course, this was just anecdotal evidence. I had to no hard numbers to verify my observations. Until now.

The investment firm Northwestern Mutual recently asked more than 2,600 adults about their “financial anxiety.” The results were stunning and depressing…

  • 67 percent say it’s “negatively impacting their health.”
  • 70 percent say it’s “negatively impacting their happiness.”
  • 70 percent say it’s “”negatively impacting their moods.”

Overall, 85 percent told researchers they’re suffering from financial anxiety. Sadly, it’s getting worse: “36 percent say their anxiety has gone up in the last three years, versus only 14 percent who say it’s gone down.”

Here’s what I find fascinating: In the 20-plus years since I’ve been counseling Americans on their debts, I’ve seen our society increasingly emphasize healthy eating, working out, and stress management. I applaud that, but I wish fitness experts and financial experts would team up — because together, we could make a huge difference in people’s lives.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched I’m glad you’re here.

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