WAIT! DON”T GO! I promise, this will be better than 99% of the other debt posts on the interwebz. Yeah, that’s right, I intentionally misspell words since I’m so bad-ass. The incorrect use of the letters ‘x’ and ‘z’ is a prerequisite for being bad-ass.
Back when I wrote that post on whether personal finance bloggers have ran out of crap to say, I made an offhand comment about the “laughingly bad debt advice of Dave Ramsey.” A few people in the comment section wondered what the hell I was talking about, which probably happens all the time now that I think about it. Whatever. I’m lazy.
Dave Ramsey has this thing called the debt snowball. In case you’re a former Amish and have never heard of it, let me sum it up in a few sentences. If you’re already familiar, skip to the next paragraph. The debt snowball says that you should pay off your smallest debt first, focusing all your efforts on it. Once that’s paid off, you move onto the next smallest one, and so forth. Interest rates are not important in the discussion of the debt snowball.
HA! FOOLED YOU! This paragraph is also about debt snowballness. Let’s assume Moron #1 has the following debts:
Credit Card: $15,000 (18%)
Student Loan: $4,000 (3.5%)
Best Buy Loan: $1000 (0%)
SHAME ON YOU Moron #1… For shopping at Best Buy. Who even does that anymore?
If you followed the Ramsey doctrine, you’d be plunking all your cash on that Best Buy loan, even though those guys are literally giving Moron #1 FREE MONEY. If it took you 4 months to pay off that Best Buy loan, it’d be at the expense of the credit card. Assume simple interest on the credit card (18%*15,000*4 months) and you’re losing $675 by paying down this 0% loan instead of the one charging much higher interest rates.
You don’t have to be a Mensa member to figure out how bad this debt repayment method is. Interest keeps on accumulating on the other debts, it doesn’t just magically take a holiday because you decided to get your crap together. Every month a person follows Ramsey’s advice can cost them hundreds of dollars, and increase the time it’ll take them to accomplish their debt repayment plan. But hey, at least he’s church approved.
I’ve said this before somewhere, but it bears repeating, unlike most of my Taylor Swift jokes. Debt is not a psychology problem. It is a math problem. Unless you’re Richie Rich, (aside: why doesn’t Richie Rich ever WEAR PANTS?) you only have a finite amount of cash you can throw at your debt. You can either use it effectively to make progress on the highest interest debt or you can squander it on debt that costs you very little to service.
I can already hear your complaints. Nelson doesn’t know anything about paying off debt. Nelson is a robot without human emotion. Nelson, your penis is much bigger than mine. Sorry, I can’t help you much on that last one, but let me offer a rebuttal to the first two.
Unless you’re digging out of some colossal student loan debt, I guarantee I’ve been in more debt than you. I’ve bought (and paid off) several rental houses. I borrow money to buy assets regularly, and I’ve repaid that money. I’ve even juggled more than one loan at once. Guess what? Every single time I paid off the loan with the highest interest rate first. I did it because I did the math and the math told me to.
If I had to pick my single most hated phrase in the whole PF-o-sphere, it would be “works for me.” I hate that phrase more than Taco Bell hates actual food. It’s been used to justify bad financial decisions since 1837, and I’m tired of it. Whenever you find yourself uttering those words, know that you’ve made the wrong decision and that’s the way you’re justifying it.
You’re paying off two loans at equal pace even though one carries a 5.8% interest rate and the other one carries a 3.2% rate? No, that doesn’t work for you. It doesn’t work for anyone. It’s a poor decision. If it does work for you, it works crapily, kind of like that time I decided to use crapily in a sentence. I recently read about a guy who’s decided to save up the $15k he needs to pay off his student loan and then pay the thing off. But… But… But… That’s just so dumb.
Sorry, I blacked out there and passed out on my keyboard. I may have had a small stroke. Where were we?
You’re all smart people. I bet some of you even have a 100 IQ. FINALLY, AN IQ JOKE ON FINANCIAL UPROAR. Can you stop letting psychology get in the way of these decisions? Debt should be looked at logically, and tackled logically. Yeah, I know it sucks to look at huge negative numbers. I’ve been there, and it’s not pleasant. But if you let feelings get in the way, that’s only going to increase the amount of time you stay in debt and the amount of interest you’re going to pay. Feelings have never been good for anyone, which is why I try to ignore mine.
And please, stop saying something works for you when anyone with a brain and 6th grade math skills can figure out that you’re paying too much interest. It’s the financial equivalent of turning on your oven to make toast.