Here's why we all need to get over our debt shame

By Jackie Lam

Reviewed by Natasha Pearce

Sep 26, 2023

Read time: 2 min

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A not-so-shocking fact: It turns out that it's that much easier to talk about politics or even religion…than shoot the bull about debt. 

Why's that? While it can be fun and eye-opening to discuss matters of opinion and share deets about our personal lives, many of us feel like we’re walking around with a big, fat scarlet "D" on our foreheads for having debt. 

If you relate, you're suffering in good company. Two out of three adults in the U.S. have been embarrassed enough about their financial situation that they avoided social situations. 

Here's why acknowledging and talking about debt should be the norm.

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Debt is common 

Funny thing? Debt is super common. The numbers don't lie. More than 340 million people in the U.S. have debt, including 64 million who have credit card debt. It’s everywhere.

How much debt are we talking about here? The average car loan is $22,612, and the average personal loan balance is $19,000. 

When it comes to credit card debt, some people peg it at about $6,000 per household. But that figure is deceptively low because it’s averaged across all U.S. households, including the ones with no credit card debt. As a nation, we now have $1 trillion in credit card debt. If the 64 million people with credit card debt live in 32 million households, the average debt is more than $31,000. 

More families have debt than pets, so why do we feel like having any debt is shameful? Our furbabies are darn cute. Our credit card balances? Not so much. Regardless, the numbers show clearly that if you’ve got debt, you’re normal.

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Chat about debt with your friends and family

This  may feel uncomfortable, but just like that great deal you scored on a pair of shoes online, or your promotion at work, why not toss your debt realities into the convo?

The problem isn’t that we all have debt in the first place. It's the fact that in our society, having debt can make us feel behind, irresponsible with money, or maybe even "less than." The reality? Most of us are doing our very best. 

Start simple. Share your story and situation with someone you trust. If you feel comfortable doing so, say you have credit card debt, student loans, or some other kind of debt. Talk about what you're concerned about. Jumpstart chats and commiseration, which can lead to suggestions and solutions. Or at the very least, moral support—and the reassurance that you are not alone. Because as the numbers show, you’re not. 

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Share your wins—and woes—on social media

While you definitely don't want to share any sensitive information on your accounts, consider sharing your debt wins and woes to your friends online. Talk about what you're experiencing and how you feel about your debt load. Are you stressed? Down? 

Or maybe you’ve recently enjoyed a personal victory. For instance, maybe you put some of the sweet bonus you got from work or that tax refund toward crushing your debt. Blast that out with celebration hat emojis. Show off your debt payoff chart. If you’re using a tool (like the Achieve MoLO app) that helps you track your money or pay off debt, share your experience with others in case it can help them, too.

Sharing your story and your experience might inspire others. It can also help them feel better about their situation. Who knows? They might feel brave enough to step out and get real about their financial circumstances.

Having debt is okay. By having conversations about debt—both in-person and online—we can normalize the fact that having debt doesn't make you a deadbeat. It's perfectly normal. We can help each other feel better, plus offer each other ideas on how to manage and knock out the debt we're shouldering. 

If you have overwhelming debt and you’re not sure how to handle it, get a free debt evaluation. An expert can help you understand your options for getting rid of your debt.

Jackie Lam - Author

Jackie is an Achieve contributor. She is an accredited financial coach (AFC®) who has written for Business Insider, BuzzFeed, CNET, USA Today's Blueprint, and others. She coaches artists and freelancers.

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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