If you’re debt free, chances are that you are one of the few in your family or circle of friends who is. In the circle of people I know well, only my parents and two close friends are debt free. I’ve met others but of the people I’m close to, I’m one of five debt free people. That’s it. Being such a black sheep (and open about it) means that I’m the one that the other people that I know come to when they want to know about finance and how they, too, can be debt free.
I don’t take it lightly when family or friends come to me, wanting advice or help, or even when they want to whine about money. I don’t always enjoy the attitude they present or the snide remarks about how “lucky” I am that are tossed in with the requests for help, but I am always willing to try to help. I view it as a responsibility. I have the knowledge to help them and I should share it. It makes for some uncomfortable discussions sometimes and it often means that I know a lot more about other people’s money and problems than I want to. It also means that I’m not always super popular once I start telling people the truth about their finances. Nothing makes someone madder than to tell them they can’t afford something.
But I think that being debt free is worth striving for and worth me being a little unpopular, particularly to help others get free from high interest consumer debt. If you want to carry a mortgage or a student loan, I can get behind it (as long as it’s not excessive relative to your circumstances), but consumer debt kills most of the other things you want to do in life. So I will go to bat for someone who shows a genuine interest in getting out from under that mountain.
It’s not only the physical help that I try to offer. I try to set my life as a model for others to follow. I’m not perfect (far from it) but I hope that others who watch what I do say, “So that’s how it’s done. That’s how you live a fiscally responsible life.” I never know if it works or not, but I hope that someone, somewhere has observed my life and come to a better understanding of how a debt free life works.
If you, too, are debt free, I encourage you to set the example for others to follow and to offer your help whenever you can. If you can teach someone money saving skills, do it. If you can teach them how to budget, do it. If you can teach them about the true costs of debt, teach away. Whenever you’re presented with a money gripe, turn it into a teaching moment.
Maybe helping others become debt free isn’t as important as curing cancer, eliminating oppression worldwide, or converting people to a given religion, but it is something I can easily help others with. I can’t cure cancer and fixing worldwide oppression is a bit bigger problem than I can handle. And I won’t even go near the religion minefield.
I simply believe that if more people were debt free and learned to live below their means that many problems would be solved. The current recession wouldn’t be as bad as it is. Banks and lenders would be better off (maybe not as rich, but better off). People wouldn’t be losing houses they couldn’t afford. Car debt wouldn’t be sucking away money needed for health care or retirement. Poverty wouldn’t be eliminated, but there would be fewer people suffering. Even our environment would improve if consumption took a dive.
There’s a lot to be said for a debt free life and I enjoy helping others reach that point. It’s not quite a calling, but it is my small contribution to the world. If you are debt free, step up and help others reach that point, too. Be the teacher and the example for others to follow.