When Debt Turns to Shame

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When asked what they are most embarrassed to admit, 37% of consumers say credit card debt, according to a recent poll.

"If you've gotten into credit card debt, it is 100% your fault, because debt is voluntary," said John Ulzheimer, credit expert with CreditSesame.com. "Consumers don't like to admit their faults as it pertains to misusing credit cards."

Also See: Consumer Credit Card Debt Dropped in February

A National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) survey found that in second place was credit scores with 30% saying they experience embarrassment about disclosing it.

"Since consumers revealed that the two facts they'd be most embarrassed to admit are related to credit, it is obvious that they are not comfortable with how they are currently managing their money," said Gail Cunningham, a spokesperson with NFCC.

One of the highest weighted components of credit scoring is the credit utilization ratio, which factors how much a person owes versus his or her available line of credit. As a general rule, not using more than 30% of available credit is standard.

"Many people confuse finances with identity," said Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. "If their credit score is low or their debt high, they may view themselves as a failure. Shame comes from a sense of failure, defeat, vulnerability and hopelessness."

Far too many Americans spend money they do not have to buy things they do not need to impress people who do not care.

Also See: The Size of Your Credit Score Can Determine How Much Sex You Have

"There are some people who don't feel shame about anything," Ulzheimer told MainStreet. "Further, some people feel they deserve access to credit and that using it is their birthright. If they default, they think it's someone else's problem. This is dangerous thinking that can lead to a lifetime of second tier financial services products like payday loans, pawn lending, title lending and prepaid debit card."

Even the oldest book in print advises avoiding debt.

"The Bible's Old Testament states that spending money before one knows the cost of a particular pursuit is unwise and leads to poverty and the new testament says neither a borrower nor a lender be," said Obie McKenzie, a Bible economist and Wall Street executive. "The Old Testament also teaches that a borrower is a slave to the lender."

Debts that cannot be responsibly managed may lead to late payments resulting in fees added onto the balance and can sometimes take years to repay. Such activity is likely to negatively impact a person's credit report -- potentially resulting in a lower credit score.

"Using debt to purchase an appreciating asset such as a business, property or a home is certainly acceptable," Bentley told MainStreet. "But using debt for consumer purchases or depreciating assets is very unwise. It is important to borrow as little as possible and pay it back as quickly as possible to avoid the risks associated with excessive borrowing."

Although credit cards may appear to be the solution to a financial shortfall, charging beyond what can be repaid each month can quickly get out of control.

"While we are responsible for our finances and there are consequences to our choices, we are not money," Bentley said. "We are humans and there is always hope for us regardless of our financial condition."

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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