Being in debt without a plan to repay it is stressful. Once you have a plan, most of that stress should fade away, if you let it. Today, rather than dwell on what could go wrong, let’s talk about what you don’t have to stress about. It’s a much more pleasant exercise.
First off, find a loan payoff calculator and put a number to your biggest problem. How much do you owe in total debt? That amount is about to go down once you start making payments. There’s no stress in that—it’s a reason to rejoice. Take a moment and smile.
This initial revelation that you’re now going in a positive direction should initiate some other positive thoughts that can reduce stress even further. To help with that, we’ve compiled a shortlist of the potential problems you no longer have to worry about.
Stress point #1: Your credit score
Being heavily in debt lowers your credit score. One of the variables credit reporting agencies incorporate into their calculations is the percentage of available credit used. The higher the debt, the higher the percentage. Once your payment plan is in place, both will go down.
Amounts owed represent 30% of an overall FICO score. Other scoring systems weigh it as much as 35-40%, so this is a big deal. Bringing down the total amount owed in debt will cause your credit score to go up. It may take a little time, but it will happen.
Stress point #2: Liens and legal actions
If you’ve fallen behind by several payments on loans or credit cards, your creditors will start rumbling about legal action or seeking a lien on property or paychecks. That no longer happens when you set up a payment plan and start giving them their money back.
Creditors don’t want to take you to court, and they prefer not to settle for less than what’s owed. If you’re making regular monthly payments, they’re earning interest on the money you owe. Sleep well at night knowing that the courts won’t take what you worked hard for.
Stress point #3: Planning for the future
It’s difficult to make plans for the future when you’re crippled by overwhelming debt. Even small debt can be a hindrance, especially if it’s the credit card debt variety. Put a payment plan in place and you can start budgeting and planning for the future.
Get used to paying in cash or use your debit card. Adding new charges to your credit card will send you in the opposite direction and start the stress wheel all over again. Believe it or not, there’s comfort in knowing you have a finite amount of money to spend.
Stress point #4: Savings and retirement
This is really a continuation of Stress Point #3, but we felt it was important enough to mention on its own. There’s an overlying theme to each of these points. Knowing how much you have leftover after making monthly payments frees you up to plan and save money.
It’s pretty simple when you think about it. Most stress comes from not knowing what comes next. Face your debt head-on and start paying it off. The stress will start to melt away and your life will change for the better. Give it a try—you’ll be happy that you did.
Kevin is a former fintech coach and financial services professional. When not on the golf course, he can be found traveling with his wife or spending time with their eight wonderful grandchildren and two cats.