Late in 2010, I was sitting in the green room preparing to go on NBC's Today show for my weekly "Money 911" segment, which had been airing for more than two years. Oddly, this week, most of the questions seemed to be about debt. Then it hit me -- in just two years, we had gone from being asked mainly about investments to being asked almost entirely about personal debt.
As I thought about this, a friend in the green room asked, "David, what's your take on 'good debt' vs. 'bad debt'?" I launched into the stock answer: good debt helps you buy things that appreciate, like a house. Bad debt like credit card debt buys things that depreciate. But I stopped myself in mid-sentence.
While that conventional wisdom might be okay for good times, we aren't in good times. The average American household carries about $15,000 in credit card debt. Millions continue to lose their homes to foreclosure. Suddenly, I had a startling realization: If you can't pay it off, all debt is bad debt.
We've been brainwashed into spending trillions that we don't have, making credit card companies rich while creating an economy that's unsustainable. But now, as we struggle through this recession, the values of the Great Depression are coming back into vogue.
After World War II, our grandparents saw all debt as bad debt. You paid it off as quickly as possible. The entire purpose of writing Debt-Free for Life is to inspire Americans to think about debt like our grandparents did. It's already happening: millions of Americans are paying off debt and living a debt-free lifestyle. According to the Federal Reserve, by the end of 2009 Americans' collective credit card debt had fallen for a record 15 consecutive months. We will end 2010 with the highest savings rate in two decades, between 5%-6%. About one-third of people who refinance their homes are putting money in and reducing their mortgages. We are creating a Debt Reduction Economy.
Remember how people used to ask me mostly about investments? Well, here's an investment tip: pay off your debts. No one knows where the stock market, bond market, or commodities are headed in 2011 (we can estimate -- but we never really know). And getting high rates guaranteed right now is extremely difficult. What I know for a fact is this -- "if you have debt, and you pay it off your return is guaranteed." When I was a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley, the one thing I noticed about my clients who could all retire early, in their late 40s or 50s, without financial worries was not the size of their income or how much they had saved. It was being debt-free.
If the idea of having less debt in 2011 appeals to you, you are in the right place. Over the next 10 weeks I'll take you by the hand as I educate and inspire you to become debt-free for life. I'll reveal my strategies for prioritizing your debt repayment through "debt stacking," and teach you how to take control of your financial life and commit yourself to financial freedom.
You can start today by making a public statement and joining my Debt Free Challenge Sweepstakes. When you join the challenge you will automatically be entered for a chance to win a debt-busting $10,000 cash giveaway. During this challenge you will be able to hear real-life success stories from Americans who have used my principles to pay off hundreds of thousands in credit card, mortgage and student loan debt. Furthermore, you will be able to utilize different tools and tips to help you stay on track while paying down your debt. This challenge was designed to empower you, give you a place to communicate with like-minded people, and allow you to share your story as you embark on your journey towards your Debt Freedom Day-that amazing day when you do not owe anyone anything. We can do this together if you make a commitment to yourself and your family and work towards the common goal of becoming debt free for life.
It's going to be a great ride. Welcome to living debt-free!
You can catch all of my sessions as they are released by visiting www.dailyfinance.com/david-bach.
10 Weeks to a Debt-Free Life