So you’ve got debt. Sorry, but you’ll be fine.

Personal finance

It seems that many new personal finance blogs have cropped up over the last few weeks, and the bulk of them seem to be debt-related, as in, follow-me-on-my-journey-to-get-out-of-debt. The appearance of so many new sites is normal and to be expected in a “growth industry” like blogging, and I’m certainly not criticizing anyone for creating a blog, nor putting their financial situation out there for everyone to see. Because if it works for them, that’s great, in all sincerity.

I’ve written a bit before about how it appears (anecdotally) that blogs about being in debt seem to get more interest than ones doling out boring, heard-it-all-before advice. This is just human nature at work. But does it really pay to spend hours a day reading about other people who are in worse situations than you?

If you read about people with negative net worths just to feel better about yourself, then I think you’re missing the point. That’s voyeurism masked as commiseration. Your time would probably be better spent focusing on and doing something about your own financial situation rather than reading about those of other bloggers’.

Are you really seeking insight? Then look beyond this country’s borders. With an annual salary of $30K, you’re doing better than 92% of the rest of the world. At $50K, you’re in the 99th percentile.

Next, take a look at the stories that are being covered by journalist Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. Really. Instead of spending two hours cruising around the blogosphere today, read a few of the reports he’s done on life in any of the hot spots he’s covering. My point isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself for having it good. Read on.

After spending an hour myself reading Sites’ coverage in Haiti a week ago, it dawned on me that people who are living not only in abject poverty but also in situations far more dangerous and traumatic than most of us will ever know still go forth with their faith in humanity intact, able to smile, able to hope, able to think good of the world. I’m not sure I could do the same, nor even survive, in their place.

If you’re reading this article, then your ability to truly adapt, adjust, and endure are probably not being tested like theirs is. Yes, we should count ourselves fortunate for being able to live this way, but we shouldn’t diminish their significance with our lack of trials and tribulations, either.

I was reminded of how different experiences lead to different reactions one day while in grad school. As part of our first week at Michigan, each section of our year spent a day volunteering in Detroit in various ways: packing food, tutoring kids, building houses, etc. Our section delivered food from a foodbank to elderly people who weren’t mobile enough to pick up the food themselves. I like volunteering and enjoy helping people, so I was surprised to hear some people were angry and complained about how we’d spent our time. A few even sat aside after delivering a few bags of food. Typical, capitalistic MBA behavior at work, right?

As it turns out, these people weren’t angry because we were volunteering. They were foreign students from Latin America, China, India, and they were frustrated because they saw perfectly healthy older people, most of whom could walk, who lived in decent apartment buildings with electricity, TV, and running water, getting handed perfectly good, free food. Why hadn’t our class pick a more needy group of people to help? In Latin America and Asia, there were plenty of people in worse situations. In a couple of cases, my classmates’ own families.

Having grown up in the US, I had no problem with what we did (helping locally, so to speak), but I couldn’t deny their point of view, either. Sometimes, there’s just as much perspective and insight to be gained from looking outwards as inwards.

The problem with being successful at personal finance is that the solution’s not sexy, nor is it new. It doesn’t, as the tagline of this site says clearly, require an advanced degree. It simply requires discipline. It’s boring, it attracts no readership, and so we spice it up with some personal woes. This is all fine, so long as we don’t forget where we stand in the world.


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5 Feedbacks on "So you’ve got debt. Sorry, but you’ll be fine."


Well, just historically people like to hear about people who are worse off than them because it makes them feel good about themselves. Look at all the Jerry Springer-like shows – phenomenally successful and most of those people are definitely worse off than any PF blogger.

I don’t really see a lot of difference between the get-out-of-debt bloggers and other people, because everybody should be trying to save as much money as they can. Whether you put it towards debt or something else is your business. The debt bloggers do seem to talk about their own lives a lot more, although the more seasoned ones realize that it isn’t fun to read post after post about how stressful debt is, and they do write more interesting content.

The Divine Miss M

I agree with Kira to an extent. I don’t see my own interest in these blogs as something to make me “feel good”… although I’ll admit that it makes me even more grateful for what I have after reading some debt horror stories, but I don’t think that’s the same thing as feeling superior. But there is something very voyeuristic in reading these blogs.

I like reading “get out of debt” blogs because I’m curious to see what other people are doing to remedy their financial situation. Maybe I’ll find something that will be useful to me. Maybe I’ll learn something new that I can refer back to later. Maybe someone else’s determination will spark my motivation to follow through.

Personally, I see “get out of debt” blogging as another forum to exchange ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and to support each other and be held accontable. Kind of like a support group. There is some complaining, but you find that in any subject… overall I don’t think they’re just vehicles for complaint.

I don’t think that by worrying about my own family or future, I’m in any way disrepecting or forgetting about the hardships families face around the world. Trust me, I know how lucky I am – I have health, loved ones and live in a place of opportunities. My debt is nothing, truly nothing, compared to what’s going on in some peoples’ lives… but it’s not nothing to me.


Thanks for your comments. I know you’re both relatively new, so I just want to emphasize again that I’m not in any way saying that it’s bad to have new people join in the fun. (Geez, this site’s only 6 months old, so who am I to talk.) If anything, the more ideas and participation, the better.

I guess I just saw a couple of posts out there today that hit a nerve, and I felt compelled to put some perspective out there. It’s always helped me to distance myself a bit when evaluating my own situations, so there it is.


Hah, I hear exactly what you’re saying. Even I think my blog is horribly self-indulgent. (Certainly my “problems” are nothing compared to others’ issues.) But in general, aren’t blogs (writing and reading) the luxury of the reasonably well-off?

Interesting story about your volunteering experience – I agree that you’ve never seen poverty until you’ve left the US and gone somewhere like India. Really opens your eyes to how lucky you really are…


I love the part of your article about volunteering. There used to a time when I eat a $5 burger and I will sink into deep thoughts about how this $5 can do wonders to the children in Africa , Latin America, or the poor areas in Asia. I pondered whether I should be guilty of using up this $5 for myself.
Most of the time we consume without thinking. But the fact is the living standards in the US is so much higher compared to the many places of the world that we shouldn’t really be griping about anything.