Home > 2015 > Managing Debt

The 5 Biggest Reasons My Clients Fall Into Debt

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

In the more than 15 years of experience working in the debt industry, I’ve heard every story under the sun about how someone fell into debt. While there are times when people fall into debt for unavoidable reasons, I do notice a lot of people fall into debt for the same reasons. So in order to help keep you from making the same mistakes, here are the five biggest reasons I’ve seen people fall into debt.

1. Treating Credit Like Cash

Many of my clients have a tendency to treat their credit cards like an extension of their bank account. They max out their credit cards without taking into consideration the impact it’s having on their credit scores and how much more they’re paying over time in interest. This sort of behavior could really put you in a jam!

My solution? Stick to a debit card or keep yourself honest with only one or two low-limit credit cards. I also advise them to assign specific “jobs” to their cards, to keep them from overspending. Budgeting for “fun” purchases that you pay for with cash or a debit card could help keep you from overspending, while reserving your credit cards to handle recurring bills and online subscriptions — in amounts you can pay in full each month — is a better way to manage them. Keep in mind, carrying a balance that is more than 30% of your credit limit can have a negative impact on your credit scores. If you want to see how your debt levels are influencing your credit, you can get two free credit scores on Credit.com, plus an overview of what factors are affecting them.

2. Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses

True wealth is having a high net worth, not having a lot of stuff. A lot of my clients fall into debt because they believe in order to seem financially successful they need to SPEND their money on elaborate, luxurious and unnecessary things to simply keep up with neighbors. Trying to keep up with appearances and maintain a lifestyle you can’t afford is one of the quickest ways to fall into debt.

So what do I tell my clients? I explain to them that the neighbors they’re so concerned with, the ones with the fancy cars, are most likely in debt themselves! You can never know who owes money and how much, so it’s important to not judge by appearances. Spend only on things you can afford, put money away and you’ll be the one people want to keep up with.

3. Not Separating Needs From Wants

You want to have your priorities straight, especially when it comes to money. Not having a clear understanding of the things you need as opposed to the things you want could result in a lot of unnecessary spending and, in turn, debt.

Whenever my clients seem to be having difficulty understanding the difference between needs and wants, I tell them to write everything down. Making a simple list of needs, wants and even a category for both can help you identify and prioritize your spending goals. Keeping a tight list can help you attend to the things you need while also setting aside enough money to get the things you want.

4. Financial Illiteracy

Some people just don’t know how money works, how to budget or how to manage personal finances. Whether it’s because they were never properly educated or simply hated economics in school, financial illiteracy can lead anyone into debt.

That said, it’s never too late to learn! I always suggest that my clients take some time and educate themselves on basic personal finance. With the vast number of great books, blogs, podcasts and websites out there dedicated to personal finance and financial literacy, you’re sure to find a way to learn about money and, subsequently, keep yourself out of debt.

5. Hoping for the Best, But Not Preparing for the Worst

Without an emergency fund, you’re leaving yourself exposed to all sorts of financial woes. I understand that you cannot prepare for every situation, but having a safety net of funds in the bank can help you sleep better and keep you from getting into debt when the unexpected happens.

A lot of my clients find themselves falling into debt when disaster strikes because they simply didn’t save enough. I suggest they build a budget so they can see how to save to their maximum potential. Once they’ve set aside enough money, they start to understand the benefits of keeping money in the bank. I constantly have clients telling me that budgeting has given them financial peace of mind.

When it comes to staying out of debt, it really boils down to paying attention. More often than not, people find themselves up to their ears in debt because they ignore their statements, are overspending because they don’t budget, and getting caught with unmanageable expenses because they didn’t save. Take the time to sit down and review your finances. Learn how much you need to save for emergencies and long-term goals and make it a habit of continually setting money aside. The more frequently you do a checkup on your finances, and the more frequently you hold yourself accountable, the less chance you’ll have of falling into debt.

More on Managing Debt:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team