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Finances & Money

Don’t Be Afraid of the Big Bad Debt

I’ve never really been one to hold a secret about myself. I’m half-decent about holding others’ secrets, but I don’t really see the need to clam up when someone asks a personal question. I don’t get offended, unless their delivery is just really wrong. Obviously, if a stranger walked up to me and asked if we had kids, and I said no, then they responded “Why? Are you impotent? Don’t you have a sex life? Don’t you like kids?”, I think I would be a bit put off.

So from impotency, we jump right over to debt. As you know, I’m very open about our debt situation here at Clever Dude, but how am I in my daily life? Do I use this site as my secret outlet and not tell any friends or relatives about it?

Heck no! I tell everyone about my site! My parents, friends, pastor, grandmother, boss and coworkers all know about this site, and some even read it daily (Hi Grandma!). So why should I be so open about my debt? Or should I say “Why aren’t I too ashamed of my mistakes to talk about them?”

Seemingly, most Americans are very fearful to talk about finances with anyone, often even their most trusted friends (including their spouse). Perhaps we fear that people will use our money problems against us, which is possible. Or maybe we worry that people will think less of us because we weren’t as smart with our money as we should have been, which is possible.

But what seems to be the case most often is we are so ashamed ourselves of our mistakes that we feel that burying the truth will free us from the problems we created. We’ll just keep paying that 20% credit card, or struggle with a $600 car payment when we can only afford $300. No one has to know we can’t afford what they see on the outside because we’re hiding it all on the inside. But let me tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Ways to Make Your Debt Public

You have many ways to slowly expose your problems to people you should trust, while keeping it secure from those you don’t. You can also use various media to work through your internal struggle anonymously until you feel prepared and confident of yourself to let your friends in on your life. For example:

  • Talk to your spouse/partner – Before you speak to anyone else, if you have a partner in your life, you need to be open with them about your worries. They may or may not already know about your debt (hopefully they do), but if not, you need to be open with them as soon as you can. Your partner is your best bet at devising a working plan of attack to get out of this mess, unless they’re the cause of it. However, this isn’t a post about trust and honesty in your marriage. That’s for a different time.
  • Create an anonymous blog – Although I’m mostly anonymous to you, the people close in my life know about this site, and thus know about our debt. If you want to know more about starting your own site, check out my 50 Tips for New Personal Finance Bloggers article. The beauty of a blog is the ease to create one and the ease to update it. You might think that you need an audience to begin to feel better about what you’re writing (such as your outstanding debts), but you don’t need a single reader. Just writing it down and publishing the text is a relief in itself. Go ahead, try it!
  • Attend a Debtors Anonymous meeting – I’ve never attended one, but there’s nothing more liberating and comforting than knowing you’re not alone in your mistakes. You’ll see people with such little debt compared to you that you’ll wonder why they’re even complaining. And then you’ll see people in such a financial mess that you wonder how they dragged themselves out of bed to the meeting, since you would have been too depressed to do so yourself.
  • Talk to your friends, pastor, mother – Now we’re branching out from anonymity to the wide open world. Hopefully you have someone you can trust to keep your problems secret (for now), but keep in mind, you want to move towards full acceptance of your mistakes and your debts.

Through the methods above, the hope is that you’ll begin to feel comfortable with talking about your debt to anyone who has the balls to ask. Look at me. I tell all of you about our debt (and my mistakes at the same time). I also tell my parents, coworkers, boss, all relatives, random strangers, and those two yippie dogs down the street. Why? Because I’m proud that I recognize my problem and have a plan to get out of debt.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • After I started the blog, I just started telling people. Writing about it anonymously (though my family also reads–my mom even tells other relatives) made me feel better about it because I was in control, at least. It probably helped to read lots of other bloggers who were in similar situations.

  • I couldn’t hold me back any longer from saying how much I appreciate you being so open about your financial ups and downs.
    I’m a young student with lots of question regarding day to day budgeting or savings for the future,so without posts like these; people like me would be just destined to make the same mistakes with no knowledge about other possible paths or solutions at hand.
    There is this line from Robert Kiyosaki’s book series “Rich Dad,Poor Dad” that I always try to remind myself it roughly states:”…one of the key to financial success is knowing the difference between proper asset and debt.”
    The difference is obviously so simple but one will take a look at our contemporaries only to realize that the majority have chosen the easy way of living free from taking crucial risks and dying “poor”.
    Thanks for educating.

  • Being open with your debts is kind of like getting over the denial. You can’t fix what you don’t own. I don’t blog about my debt, but I do tell my spouse, friends and family.

    An added benefit of telling people is that you gain allies. By and large, people have many stories to tell about their own debt and how they emerged from it or how they’re coping with it. It is inspiring, plus, you don’t feel so bad about yourself. It’s easier to fight the battle with someone else.

  • There is nothing more liberating than getting things in the open and talking about them. It makes us accountable. Whether it is a debt issue or a Cash flow issue, the results are the same – more visability and accountability.

  • I appreciate your openness concerning the issue of debt. There is nothing sacred about it, but it can sure put a strain on any relationship. More and more people are getting into debt. Did you know that debt in America has increased to 3.9 Trillion in the past year? Thats (9%)…scary! Maybe this will help motivate people to put together a plan to get out of this vicious cycle.Peace

  • I am with the anonymous blog crowd. There are very few people (my wife, two close friends and my dad) that I talk about my finances with. The luxury of an anonymous blog is that you can talk freely – so long as nobody recognizes you… 🙂

  • Anonymous (and others), thanks for the praise. I’m generally not a prideful person (as you can see by my willingness to accept blame and defeat), but I do take pride in my openness. It may end up getting me in trouble sometime in life because someone knowing my history could use it against me, but I don’t want to live in a mental cave.

    Thanks to all of you for being one of my outlets for stress, anxiety and fear.

  • It’s hard to stay completely anonymous as a personal finance blogger for too long. Eventually your friends and family know about it and word spreads… sort of makes me wonder if I’m revealing too much personal information sometimes

  • Just wait until you are on the other side of the hump. When you pay your debt off and you start building a sizable net worth. With it out in public, your family, friends, pastor, etc. will start showing up “with hat in hand” and/or start resenting you, especially if you turn them down for a “loan”.

    You’d be surprised at the family who will “take notice” of your success. I’ve got family who I thought could care less where I was financially, who are putting out “feelers” and wondering, out loud to other family, why they aren’t beneficiaries (in even a small way) of my success.

    Money makes people crazy. They start acting stupid, especially when you have it and they don’t. It’s one thing to shed your shame and admit your mistakes. It’s quite another to openly share your success and expect your relationships to stay the same. You won’t know until you get there which relationships will be consumed by the financial gap your future financial success will create.

    Needless to say, my wife and I are very tight-lipped about financial matters outside our household. I’ve already got enough problems from people because of my perceived success, I wouldn’t dream of arming them with hard numbers.

  • My wife is the only one who knows all the details. I’ve shared financial problems with lots of folks, typically in terms of percentages and occasionally talking about big ticket items and debt. The few friends I do share knowledge of actual dollar amounts with are actually earning more than I am, so there’s no jealosy or resentment issues, but rather a honest discussion and advice.

    But I’ve hidden how much we make from most of our immediate and close family because much as Toby mentioned in his comment, there is a perception that if you make above a certain amount you must be loaded. Also, I’m worried about the time when I do have three to six months of savings in an emergency fund, because to many folks in my family, it’ll be more than they make in a year, and I can see them either feeling resentful or not guilty about trying to tap me for “loans”.

    My feeling is, once we’re out of debt, to state (if it comes up in conversation) that I made a mistake acquiring the debt, that I’ve worked hard to get out from under it, and that I feel great that I’m no longer burdened by it. I won’t talk specifics though I’ll be happy to talk strategies.

  • […] a lapsed Catholic, I’m all about true confessions. CleverDude encourages you to stop hiding your secret! Two weeks ago I went to the PostSecret book signing in Bethesda and I had an opportunity to meet […]

  • I tend to be very open, hence why blog isn’t anonynmous. I generally have nothing to hide. Pretty much the only thing I don’t like discussing is salary with coworkers. But everything else is on the table with all my friends and family. Given that my blog is not anonymous, I’m actually much more open in real life than on my blog…

  • I have just started a blog, but have not gone into disclosing my liabilities yet. (I have a busload of them).

    The theme of my blog is passing on the lessons I have learnt (mostly the very hard way, Ouch!) to my children, and any others who may want to read it.

    Of course, this includes getting into debt foolishly.

    I suppose soon, I’ll have to test the waters.

    Many thanks for your open words of encouragement.

  • I really hate the fact that so many people are so secretive and don’t like talking about money, debt, finances or investing! This is a modern day society that relies heavily on money to survive, buy things and live comfortably… the culture is beginning to talk about taboo topics like sex more than it does money and finances! I think money and finances should be taught in schools so our youth have some basic money management skills!

  • […] recently read a post over at CleverDude about being open about your debt and how liberating it can be to get it out in the open and off your chest. I decided to try it, and […]

  • My blog started out as an anonymous blog. Now my family is aware of it and my friends come up with some topics. It’s helped me tremendously and helped them as well. finance is a part of our conversations now.

  • Debt in an of itself has a huge stigma, but I think it’s the idea that debt is essntially failure that keeps people from seeking the help they need. It’s difficult enough for people to admit when they need help, but when there’s the question of failure it only makes it worse.

    Great post, talking about finances needs to become less taboo.

  • Thanks for your openess. I haven’t been super open yet and my parents think of me as a success. They know we are having trouble, but not the amount. They just had trouble themselves so maybe my being open will stop the hereditary thing.

  • Debt often goes hand in hand with other addictions. Being open is important if you want to get on with a happy life. I found that my debt really went down when I started talking about the addictions that had brought me to the point of serious debt along with the debt itself.

    I was amazed at how many others were in the same situation I was. And even more amazed at how many people reached out to me to help me with support in cleaning everything up! I couldn’t have done it without them, and they couldn’t have given me support if I hadn’t told them. “Going Public” is some of the best advice you could ever give about getting out of debt.

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