5 common debt shaming myths to debunk in 2023

By Kimberly Rotter

Reviewed by Natasha Pearce

Jun 13, 2023

Read time: 3 min

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There’s always more than meets the eye. Debt creeps up on people for about a million different reasons. And contrary to what some judgy people think, the number one reason is NOT “because I deserve it.” Sometimes, life happens and the debt piles up even beyond what you can control. Just know that you’re not alone. It can happen to anyone, but being shamed for debt is not ok.

Let’s bust these common debt-shaming myths for once and for all.

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1. “You’re in debt because you don’t know how to live within your means.”

If you or your child gets sick, will you seek medical treatment even if it means going into debt? Of course you will. A single hospital stay can result in thousands of dollars in medical bills that many people can’t afford to pay up front. When it comes to certain expenses, sometimes we have to do what we have to do, even if it means spending more than we have.

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2. “You’re in debt because you don’t know how to manage your money.”

Debt often happens due to circumstances outside our control, not because of how we’re managing our money. For example, your car breaks down, and you need to pay for repairs so you can get to work and continue putting food on the table. Or you got laid off and had to use credit cards to pay your basic living expenses.

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3. “You wouldn’t even be in debt if you just cut out the extra.”

Or, maybe you’re underpaid and don’t have enough left over after paying bills and other necessary expenses like groceries and medications. This is especially true nowadays, where everything from a carton of eggs to the electric bill has gotten more expensive due to inflation.

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4. “You make a lot of money, so you shouldn’t be in debt.”

Debt can happen to anyone regardless of how much money they make. For example, someone could be making good money but then go through a divorce. Suddenly, you’re spending a huge chunk of cash on lawyer and court fees, buying your ex out of their share of your property, and separating one household into two. 

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5. “You need to be out of debt to be a valuable human.”

Your debt has nothing to do with your value as a human, period. Debt in no way, shape or form means you’re somehow “less than.” Your debt doesn’t define you, and your financial situation, no matter how challenging, can always get better.


Let’s be honest, there are millions of people who have been in or are currently in debt just like you. Breathe, relax, and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your debt doesn’t define you. By learning how to prioritize your debt, you can take control of your finances. The Achieve MoLO app is a great tool to help you manage your spending in real time so you can start to see more money left over every month. 


Theresa Stevens contributed to this article.

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Kimberly is Achieve’s senior editor. She is a financial counselor accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®, and a mortgage expert for The Motley Fool. She owns and manages a 350-writer content agency.

Natasha Pearce - Author

Natasha is Achieve’s Director of Social and Community. For over 10 years, she has built communities across social media and blogs through enriching storytelling that helps brands deepen connections with consumers.

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