It’s not polite to talk about money. That’s the kind of thing people drilled into your head back in the olden days. Maybe it’s still true. I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t polite to talk about money, but I’m going to do it anyway.
Like most people, I’ve had a complicated relationship with money for as long as I can remember. Some times were fat, others thin. Even in those thin times, though, debt was easy. I never had any trouble finding someone willing to let me borrow on their account. I’ve had some kind of unsecured debt following me around since Citibank gave me my first credit card as a college sophomore.
A decade ago, fleeing from an untenable career situation, I racked up a mountain of debt. It went to the costs of leasing out the house at less than I needed to cover the note (before finally selling it off at a loss), paying my own way a third of the way across the country, setting up housekeeping here along the northern reaches of the Chesapeake, and a bulldog with eye watering medical bills, among less dramatic things. It was all wildly expensive – and what I couldn’t cover out of pocket, I financed.
It’s taken every bit of those ten years, but as of this morning, with one last payment, I clawed out from under the last $279 of non-mortgage debt I was carrying on my books. With a rock bottom interest rate and no intention of staying in this house forever, it’s debt on an appreciating asset (and a deduction) I’m just fine with keeping. I’m perfectly willing to make that my modified definition of “debt free.”
Some people have said it’s a liberating feeling. Maybe it is, but mostly what I feel is relief – knowing that I can fully allocate resources to better goals than continually servicing debt. I could have cut costs to the bone, but you know, you’ve got to live a life too. I’m not saying I’ll never buy another thing with someone else’s dollars, but I’ll be a hell of a lot more judicious than I used to be when it happens.
This day would have arrived a hell of a lot sooner if I qualified for mortgage forgiveness back in 2008 or any of the COVID cash giveaways in 2021. There’s a good chance that’ll be a sore spot that festers for the rest of my life. Missing out on two big freebies aside, I’m feeling pretty good about things just now… and not only because I’m just a few hours into a 16-day weekend.