When we talk about paying down debt, most of the time we focus on the financial freedom we can have when debt no longer weighs on us.
“Debt has a major impact on your life,” points out Eric Roberge, CFP® and founder of the blog Beyond Your Hammock. “Certainly debt brings along with it financial consequences, but it also brings sprawling emotional and health issues.”
Studies indicate that there is a connection between debt and your mental and physical health. Debt isn’t just impacting your pocketbook; it might be causing other problems in your life. Once you start paying down your debt, you could see improvements that don’t, on the surface, have much to do with money.
Satisfaction from Making Progress
“We often talk about how achieving goals makes us happy and feel good about ourselves,” says Roberge. “However, the truth is that as long as we feel like we are making progress in an area of life that is important to us, we are satisfied.”
Roberge says that when you make a debt reduction plan and start getting rid of your obligations, you feel as though you are moving forward. Just seeing that progress can positively impact your emotions and give you increased energy and motivation.
“Carrying a small or large debt balance might lead you to beat yourself up,” says Roberge. It’s hard to feel good or successful when you are weighed down by debt. For many people, carrying high-interest debt feels like failure. As you pay down the debt, the burden disappears. This can help you turn your life around, giving you more confidence. You might be surprised at how much can be accomplished by confidence, from career advancement to more fulfilling relationships.
“When you feel good about yourself, you attract others to your life,” Roberge continues. “When that happens, new opportunities abound.”
Debt is stressful, since you spend a lot of time trying to make the numbers work, and worrying about what happens if things get worse. There is a large body of research focused on the physical and mental impacts of stress. From heart problems to anxiety and depression, the stress created by debt can affect your health in very real ways. Paying down your debt can eliminate at least one source of stress and result in better health, which has a number of benefits on its own.
“Finance is one of the leading causes of divorce and other relationship issues,” Roberge points out. If you and your partner have an interest in buying a home together, but your debt problems — and subsequent low credit score — result in mortgage rejection, it can place strain your relationship.
Fights over money, and the additional emotional tension that comes from the stress can be fatal to a romantic relationship. However, the stress you feel can also impact other relationships. You might be irritable and snap at your children, parents, or friends. All of your relationships can be affected when you are stressed out about money.
Paying down debt, and approaching the problem as a team (if you have a partner or a family) can help you reduce that stress and improve your relationship. Communication is key — as well as separating the debt from personal character.
Once you start getting rid of debt, your life can improve beyond money. “Debt limits what you can do from a financial perspective,” says Roberge, “yet it’s so much more than that.”