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Galina Thinks I’m a Compulsive Debtor!

Things are worse. Now my wife Galina has come to suspect that I may have a problem with compulsive borrowing!

At first she though it was a gambling issue. But then with more searching she found an organization called Debtors Anonymous. She thinks the description of the symptoms fit me better.

She printed out a 15 question quiz and cornered me with it over lunch. I first laughed at it and didn’t take her seriously…

Me, a compulsive debtor? I mean, yes, we’re in a bunch of debt but most of it was from lack of planning, bad business decisions and “newbie” mistakes. It’s not like we have been living frivolously buying nice cars and toys or taking expensive vacations.

She wasn’t laughing. She was actually very serious. So, still with light-hearted attitude I agreed to have her quiz me. However, as we started going through these, I began to understand the reality of our situation and how Galina felt about it. I came down to earth (a little bit) and this made for some heavy discussion. (To escalate an already volatile issue)

According to Debtors Anonymous quiz page most compulsive debtors will answer “yes” to at least eight of the following 15 questions.

Here is how I did:

1. Are your debts making your home life unhappy?

Yeah…

2. Does the pressure of your debts distract you from your daily work?

Yeah… I work all day but with little efficiency and no visible progress. Part of it is the heavy burden of the sheer number of the debt (170K+ unsecured) and the guilt of not paying it. I get into “lender ignore mode” to avoid thinking about it but it doesn’t solve anything, just makes it worse.

Secondly, with all the opportunities that have been coming from my blogging I’m way too scattered. That creates a ton of pressure on me. I have a hard time saying “NO” and want to do it all. But I’m shooting myself in the foot with this attitude (over and over again). I know it’s not realistic. I know I must focus.

3. Are your debts affecting your reputation?

I didn’t think so before. But lately, even my own parents think I’m acting like a child and need some good spanking (Mainly after reading the last post).

4. Do your debts cause you to think less of yourself?

No, not really. I have pretty high self esteem. It’s not dependent on how much debt I have.

5. Have you ever given false information in order to obtain credit?

Hehe… (laughing nervously)

6. Have you ever made unrealistic promises to your creditors?

Yeah.. (looking down at the floor)

7. Does the pressure of your debts make you careless of the welfare of your family?

Yeah, unfortunately. I have been kind of oblivious to it but now I can’t deny it any longer.

8. Do you ever fear that your employer, family or friends will learn the extent of your total indebtedness?

Hehe… because of this blog and this spreadsheet, they already know (though I need to update it one of these days).

9. When faced with a difficult financial situation, does the prospect of borrowing give you an inordinate feeling of relief?

Not exactly. I mean, it gives me some temporary relief. Almost like a feeling of accomplishment that I found a way to survive another day. But overall I know I’m fooling myself by not focusing and making real money, today.

10. Does the pressure of your debts cause you to have difficulty sleeping?

Nah, not really. I sleep pretty well. I like to nap too.

11. Has the pressure of your debts ever caused you to consider getting drunk?

Hehe… nah. I’m not that low.

12. Have you ever borrowed money without giving adequate consideration to the rate of interest you are required to pay?

Um… not sure. I mean sometimes I took out short-term high-interest loans but there was always a good reason for it, meaning I believed it would make me money or help me accomplish something of value. If the interest rate is factored into the deal, who cares if it’s 7% or 36%.

13. Do you usually expect a negative response when you are subject to a credit investigation?

No. I know better than try to apply for loans with my awesome FICO score. (I wonder how low it is now..)

14. Have you ever developed a strict regimen for paying off your debts, only to break it under pressure?

Hehe… strict regimen?

15. Do you justify your debts by telling yourself that you are superior to the “other” people, and when you get your “break” you’ll be out of debt overnight?

I wouldn’t call it superior… “creative” maybe?

The Debtors Anonymous Quiz goes on to say:

How did you score? If you answered yes to eight or more of these questions, the chances are that you have a problem with compulsive debt, or are well on your way to having one. If this is the case, today can be a turning point in your life.

We have all arrived at this crossroad. One road, a soft road, lures you on to further despair, illness, ruin, and in some cases, mental institutions, prison, or suicide. The other road, a more challenging road, leads to self-respect, solvency, healing, and personal fulfillment. We urge you to take the first difficult step onto the more solid road now.

Then we talked about the signs…

Signs of Compulsive Debting:

1. Being unclear about your financial situation. Not knowing account balances, monthly expenses, loan interest rates, fees, fines, or contractual obligations.

Well, I sort of know. Thanks to Tim of Monterey Bay Area, a frequent commenter from the past, who pushed me for weeks to get the spreadsheet done. (This was a while ago, Tim has since left the site, probably frustrated).

2. Frequently “borrowing” items such as books, pens, or small amounts of money from friends and others, and failing to return them.

I don’t do this.

3. Poor saving habits. Not planning for taxes, retirement or other not-recurring but predictable items, and then feeling surprised when they come due; a “live for today, don’t worry about tomorrow” attitude.”

Ouch…

4. Compulsive shopping: Being unable to pass up a “good deal”; making impulsive purchases; leaving price tags on clothes so they can be returned; not using items you’ve purchased.

Not so much when it comes to consumer products but yeah I can see that with “sweet deals” and “sweet opportunities”, or “shiny thing” as Duane called it.

5. Difficulty in meeting basic financial or personal obligations, and/or an inordinate sense of accomplishment when such obligations are met.

First part… sadly, YES. Second part… haven’t gotten that far.

6. A different feeling when buying things on credit than when paying cash, a feeling of being in the club, of being accepted, of being grown up.

First part.. sometimes… though it’s almost always followed by a faint feeling of guilt (until I rationalize it to myself, which I’m pretty good at). Second part… not really.

7. Living in chaos and drama around money: Using one credit card to pay another; bouncing checks; always having a financial crisis to contend with.

That’s more or less the story of my life since high school.

8. A tendency to live on the edge: Living paycheck to paycheck; taking risks with health and car insurance coverage; writing checks hoping money will appear to cover them.

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes… (Man, is it this bad?)

9. Unwarranted inhibition and embarrassment in what should be a normal discussion of money.

Hehe… actually I’m quite eager to discuss money. Maybe overly so. (That’s where the $33 Jamba Juice thing started by the way)

10. Overworking or underearning: Working extra hours to earn money to pay creditors; using time inefficiently; taking jobs below your skill and education level.

“… to paying creditors?” – Hehe…
“Using time inefficiently” – YES YES YES YES YES YES, did I say YES???

11. An unwillingness to care for and value yourself: Living in self-imposed deprivation; denying your basic needs in order to pay your creditors.

Not so much in order to pay creditors but definitely have been neglecting health and oversize lately.

12. A feeling or hope that someone will take care of you if necessary, so that you won’t really get into serious financial trouble, that there will always be someone you can turn to.

Unfortunately, yes. For some reason I always feel like I can land on my feet. Like a cat. And I don’t even like cats (at least not the one that live here with us… it belong to my sister-in-law… Galina seems to find a little too much comfort in petting it… which make me a little jealous, if that makes any sense.)

Then Galina had me read some signs of compulsive business debt, again from Business Debtors Anonymous, to finish her “confrontation”:

How do you know if you are a compulsively debting business owner? Some of the experiences and behaviors that led to compulsive debting were:

1. We neither knew when bills or taxes were due, nor did we remember if and what we had paid or still owed.

2. We confused our personal finances with our business finances.

3. We often did not know the exact costs of our overhead, operating expenses or profit margins.

4. We had no business plan.

5. We lived in a state of deprivation for the sake of our business.

6. We under valued and under priced our goods and services.

Ouch! That hits close to home. Really close. To think about it, in all my prior business ventures and entrepreneurial attempts, I have NEVER had a detailed written business plan! That really hit me just now in a whole new way.

I feel bad for my wife. She really doesn’t deserve any of this. Also, her newfound backbone and all this “boundary setting” is really different than anything in the past. I must have crossed some kind of an invisible line with her.

I’ve been talking with more people about my whole situation to get some advice. Since the Lake Tahoe getaway I have been planning my next move. I still have lots of great things cooking but I can’t continue ignoring my basic needs and responsibilities. Some hard decisions will have to be made very very soon here. Enough IS enough!

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