Don’t Let the Stigma of Debt Keep You From Getting Help

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Travis. Travis is a customer blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services, and also appears weekly at Enemy of Debt.  Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband, he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.
For thirteen years, I hid our mounting credit card debt from my wife.  I never denied that we had credit card debt, but I never told her just how much debt we had accumulated.  The truth is, I didn’t even know the exact number because I was afraid to add it up.  Whenever I tried, I just shook my head and stopped adding.  After the number got so big, it just didn’t seem to matter anymore what the exact number was.  It seemed so hopelessly out of control. 
Yet I didn’t do anything about my debt, besides continuing to increase it, until I absolutely had to. 
I’ve often wondered why I didn’t do something about my debt sooner.  I used to think it was simply because I was ashamed of my debt.  That’s certainly part of it, but I now think there’s more to it for me, as well as millions of other people struggling with debt:

Afraid to Admit Needing Help

Admitting that I need help is extremely difficult, and that doesn’t just apply to my debt situation.  Whether it’s being overloaded at work, unable to perform a home improvement project, or even doing tasks to keep the household running, asking for help feels like admitting I’m a failure (especially since our culture seems to prize individual success without any help!). 
Bankruptcy is considered by many as the last resort debt relief option, and nearly 1.8 million people filed for bankruptcy in 2011 (complete statistics could not be found yet for 2012).  That’s a lot of people waiting until they have absolutely no other option before getting help.

Not Aware of Options 

Speaking of bankruptcy, I had thought that was the only real option for debt relief.  Given the negative stigma attached to bankruptcy, people avoid it unless absolutely necessary.  I was surprised that there were other options such as debt management (the route we ultimately chose) and debt settlement.

Add Money To the Equation 

Try this:  Close your eyes and think about what you would consider a successful person.  If you are like many people, “Rich” is one of the first things that come to mind.
Whether we want to admit it or not, our society largely equates lots of money with being successful.  If you admit that you need help with debt, you admit that you have problems managing the most recognizable status symbol in western civilization.

Why It’s Better To Talk About It 

I could have never began my journey out of debt if I hadn’t swallowed my pride, raised my hand and said, “I need help.”  I would have never learned what my options were had I not opened my mouth and asked questions within the online community of my would-be debt relief provider.
For a very long time, I was afraid my friends and family would think less of me because I was in a debt relief program.  In all honesty, I still am not 100% comfortable with being completely open about my situation.  But, it does make it easier when I remember that everybody I know has a mortgage, a car payment, credit card payments, or even all three.
Am I really all that different from them?
Those that I have told have been nothing but completely supportive.  I’ve learned some of the most useful financial tips and techniques simply by talking with others about money.
It is true that I was forced to admit I needed help when I could no longer make my monthly payments.  Many people need something to give them that final “push” to enable them down the path of getting help.

Maybe you’re struggling with debt, and you’re looking for that push.

Talk about it with someone.  Reach out for help.  You’ll be glad you did.
How about you all? Did you have a hard time admitting you needed help with debt?  Do you talk to your friends and family about it?  How did they react?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. For me, I was always open with our debts, hubby knew how much we owed but I struggled with asking for help. I am definition of Type A personality add in the fact that I am inherently stubborn, and we have a recipe for disaster. I needed hubby's help to make our budget work for us. When I finally allowed him into my mess of paperwork and stress like was instantly better. I really need to earn to let people help sometimes….

      • My admission of debt was really a two part process. Admitting where we were truly at financially to my wife, and learning to work together to handle our finances was the first part. Talking to friends and family about what we're going through is the second part. It's so very hard, but it's completely liberating to do so. To tell others about your situation, in my opinion, is part of the healing process that allows you to put the debt behind you, and move on.

    2. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

      It was one of the most difficult things I've done. I felt so shameful and dirty for having so much credit card debt. I think some of my family knew something was amiss, but did not know the number. Some reacted worse than others, but in the end it was good that I did it.
      My recent post Frugal Friday: Posts That Ruled This Week, College Football is Over Edition

      • I can identify with feeling shameful and dirty……even though we are becoming more free with admitting our debt situation, we very rarely say the number. Quite frankly, I don't think its any of their business, and I think it's more information than needs to be shared (even though I do share it in the PF circles). I don't share my income with my friends and family, there's no reason to share my debt number either.

    3. It is not easy to admit one's financial problem because of the stigma that comes with debts, but friends and family will be more sympathetic and willing to help if think they can see that you are dealing with your debts problems proactively instead of just worrying about. I think one of the biggest fear of people when it comes to debts is to find out when it is already too late like in the case of some spouses. It is always better to be open with people who will be directly affected by any financial decision you make.
      My recent post Student Credit Cards – What to Look for When You Apply

      • Talk about a fiscal cliff, by the time I was forced to admit our full situation, we were at the edge of falling off a cliff. We were lucky to be able to still be able to pay off our debt using a Debt Management Program and not have to do something more drastic. I do agree that I think it does make it easier to tell friends and family about our situation since we have a plan to get back on the right path. With the end of the program getting closer, its getting easier and easier to talk about as well. 🙂
        My recent post This is Why Your Budget Isn’t Working

    4. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says:

      I have faced the same reactions of shame and secret with a family member that had a drinking problem. Admitting you need help and you did wrong but want to get better is a necessary step with any loss of control or addiction.
      My recent post Friday recap, early rising and a hatching hen

      • Admitting a problem, and having a plan of action is the beginning of great things. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, and sharing your experience, Pauline.
        My recent post This is Why Your Budget Isn’t Working

    5. I have been on a weight loss journey and this reminded me of all the things that happen with weight loss. We wait too long and then it is much more difficult. It is worth getting help before it's too late or too overwhelming. As far as money, my husband and I tend to look the other way, we don't want to even admit we are not where we should be. Thank you for bringing this up!

      • Hi Jules, so nice to meet you! (although I have been following your weight loss journey over at FGSW). I also was on a weight loss journey of my own two years ago. I lost about 35 pounds and have been working out 6-7 days a week for 2 years running. When things get out of control, it's so easy to just give up and think it's too late. But it's never too late, you can always take control back and make you life what you want it to be – whether it's with weight or finances!
        My recent post This is Why Your Budget Isn’t Working

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