One of Wordnet's definitions for slave is "someone entirely dominated by some influence or person; 'a slave to fashion'; 'a slave to cocaine'; 'his mother was his abject slave.'"
Amongst that definition of the word, it is no stretch to say many Americans (and indeed the United States) are debt slaves. We encourage it in virtually every aspect of our lives: consumerism, taking on debt to buy a new car or house, education which requires a decade or more of solid employment to pay for, even when it sometimes prohibits employment:
Jordan Hueseman, 25, accrued roughly $100,000 in student loans at the University of Denver earning a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's in business administration. On the job hunt, he found his graduate degree sometimes hindered more than it helped.
“At one point, I applied to Whole Foods, hoping they might see some potential for me to move to some type of management position,” Hueseman said. “The e-mail I received from them said I was far too overqualified for any of their hourly positions and as such would not be considered for a position.”
Hueseman said that after one job application, he was told he should leave his degrees off his resume.
As bad as that is, student loan debt typically can't be discharged via bankruptcy. Introducing the for-profit element to the federally guaranteed loans also gives you major price distortions:
A student interested in a massage therapy certificate costing $14,000 at a for-profit college was told that the program was a good value. However the same certificate from a local community college cost $520.
Imagine buying an iPod for $6,703.84. That is how much one would cost at the above ratio. Even the die hard Apple fans wouldn't be buyers at that price. And yet the availability of credit (which only has to be paid back later) tied with the words of a recruiter/salesman closes such a deal every single day of the year.
You have to love marketing!
Many try their hardest to pay their debts. Some can't. The debts are then bought up for pennies on the Dollar & then they harassed to pay them. Some who can't make the payments end up being put in jail:
It's not a crime to owe money, and debtors' prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts.
The debts -- often five or six years old -- are purchased from companies like cellphone providers and credit card issuers, and cost a few cents on the dollar. Using automated dialing equipment and teams of lawyers, the debt-buyer firms try to collect the debt, plus interest and fees. A firm aims to collect at least twice what it paid for the debt to cover costs. Anything beyond that is profit.
Bail is often being set at exactly how much debt you have.
The banking class put teeth into the consumer bankruptcy laws under an Orwellian bill called the "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005." Only a few months after it was passed an article titled Newly Bankrupt Raking In Piles of Credit Offers was published in the New York Times.
Of course, a few years later, when it was turn for the bankrupt banks to go out of business due to widespread intentional mortgage fraud and accounting control fraud, they pushed a bill through congress offering them a bailout - threatening marshall law and tanks in the street if they didn't get it.
The bailouts and legalizing accounting fraud (allowing banks to claim bogusly inflated asset values) were done with the alleged purpose of helping the banks restore their balance sheets. However those banks have started paying record bonuses again & a more cynical look at the sequence describes it as:
In effect, it's a Third World/colonial scam on a gigantic scale: plunder the public treasury, then buy the debt which was borrowed and transferred to your pockets. You are buying the country with money you borrowed from its taxpayers. No despot could do better.
The new president claimed to be in favor of transparency, and as part of the bill promoting it gave us this:
The law, signed last week by President Obama, exempts the SEC from disclosing records or information derived from "surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities." Given that the SEC is a regulatory body, the provision covers almost every action by the agency, lawyers say. Congress and federal agencies can request information, but the public cannot.
Here is the thing about business and personal investment. So often what we think we need is to invest money when what we really need to invest is time and effort. If you work twice as long as most people do, learn furiously, are willing to put yourself out there, and you know your market then you can overcome a lack of capital to build momentum.
Are there short cuts? Absolutely. But the most obvious ones which seem like they have the least upfront risk are typically not the best ones. There was a thread recently in our forums about forging a certain type of partnership, and John Andrews shared a great take on how that can work out. I shared a similar story as well. A $50,000+ life lesson without having to experience the pain.
About a month ago there was a thread where someone thought they *had* to have something which cost $100,000. Members of the forums dug up a great alternative which was only $1,700. Now he is in an incredible position without all that debt!
It is easy to think that debt is the key to growth, but "When the Student is Ready, the Teacher will appear" is a better way to think about growth. If you have to take on a lot of debt to do something then it might not be a great idea.
Debt works to limit you. It consumes your thought cycles, adds uncertainty, and pull attention away from what you do best. It raises your stress and is a major cause of divorce. Rand's story of building up a half million of debt is a good story of why it should be avoided. And he didn't start getting very successful until the debts were being paid off so he could focus on growing his business.
Given open source content management services like Wordpress, free themes, 99Designs, cheap web hosting, tons of market research data from keyword tools, etc. a person can get started for only a few hundred Dollars. Presuming you start by attacking your market from an informational angle, there is no need to take on huge leverage to get a project started.
Money can be a great lever. And if you have a lot of it certainly it makes sense to use it to your advantage. But the compounding interest on debt is also a lever working against you. It is what forces us to have recessions.
Can you succeed with the use of debt? Sure. But debt is a claim on future labor (with interest). The net impact on most people is probably more harmful than it is good. Particularly because if you spend more than you are making today then tomorrow you need to
- cut your expenses to within your income
- cut your expenses below your income to have money for interest on the loans
- cut your expenses further to have capital to pay off the principal of the loan
And you have to do that in an increasingly gamed market where the rug can be pulled out from under you at any time. You don't control international balance of payments issues, but you certainly feel its impact in job security & the unemployment numbers. At any time forces beyond your control can pull the plug, rewrite the terms, or impact your market in ways that put you in a sour situation. If you have no debt and a bit of savings they can only screw you a bit. If you are loaded up on debt there are some risks you can't take. They own you.
"Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it." — Albert Einstein
"There was 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003," Schmidt said, "but that much information is now created every 2 days, and the pace is increasing...People aren't ready for the technology revolution that's going to happen to them."
the last thing I want to do is load up on debt.
How about you?
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