If getting out of debt was an easy thing to do, it’s unlikely Americans would be grappling with more than $14 trillion in collective household debt — $1.6 trillion more than we had during even the peak of the Great Recession. Most people, if not all, would rather live debt free than saddled with balances they owe. This just goes to show that escaping debt can be a time-consuming, messy and challenging process, even for the most determined of borrowers.
Have you struggled to get rid of your debt despite your best efforts? Rest assured you’re not alone. Here are four reasons why it’s downright difficult to defeat debt on your own.
Reason #1: Many Debts Carry High Interest Rates
A common experience with trying to pay off debt is feeling like you’re running on a treadmill, consistently making payments while barely seeing your balances budge. This is often a result of high interest charges — the fees you pay to borrow money.
Here’s a breakdown of how much the average American pays in interest per year according to The Simple Dollar:
- Mortgage: $5,646 (4.44 percent on a 30-year loan)
- Vehicle loan: $769 – $895 (4.74 percent to 8.5 percent on a 68-month loan)
- Credit card: $855 (16.3 percent)
- Student debt: $641 (3.76 percent on a 10-year plan)
Of course, interest charges depend on a variety of factors like the borrower’s credit score and federal rates. For instance, debt consolidation with bad credit costs more than taking out a consolidation loan with a high credit score because lenders offset the riskiness with higher interest charges.
In other words, you could very well be paying more or less than the figures above. The takeaway here is it costs money — oftentimes a lot of money — to borrow money, so you can typically expect to be paying significant interest alongside your original balance.
Reason #2: Interest on Debts Grows Exponentially
In addition to high interest charges, the compounding nature of it causes exponential growth. Borrowers accumulate interest on the original amount they borrowed, and the interest that principal balance accumulates. Left unchecked, compounding interest can grow very quickly — making it tougher to get a handle on debts.
Reason #3: Emergency Costs Can Always Crop Up
Even the best laid plans can be waylaid by a random financial crisis, whether it’s your car’s “check engine” light illuminating during your morning commute, a health scare necessitating an ER visit or a death in the family.
It often feels like just when we seem to have a workable plan to pay down debt, an unexpected expense crops up — forcing us to choose between paying down our debts or addressing the crisis at hand. This underscores the importance of accumulating a healthy emergency fund ahead of time.
Reason #4: Beating Debt Often Takes Years of Effort
Last, but certainly not least of all, paying off debt can be a long and grueling process. It often requires sacrifice in the form of restricted spending, or sticking to a debt relief plan for years. It may even require massive lifestyle changes, like downsizing your living situation or picking up a side hustle. While the end result tends to be worth it — like a beautiful view from the top of a mountain after a long day of hiking — it’s completely fair to acknowledge the road to debt freedom can be rocky.
Debt is difficult, but not necessarily impossible to defeat on your own due to these reasons and more. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask for help with debt consolidation along the way.