Why Getting Out of Debt Requires More Than Your Bootstraps


Most of us think about self-reliance when we hear the word “bootstraps.” The implications of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is to succeed or accomplish a goal without external help; it paints the picture of someone reaching self-sufficiency from within.
The problem with applying this idea to something like getting out of debt to reach financial stability is that it’s very difficult for people to simply will themselves to get out of debt. Some people may be able to tweak their lifestyles to pay off that one-off credit card balance or medical bill, but many Americans are trapped deep in a debt cycle that’ll take more than effort alone to break.

Here's why getting out of debt usually requires more than your bootstraps—it requires resources, strategy and a support system.

People Get into Debt for Different Reasons
Expecting people to get out of debt all on their own often implies that they got into debt due to voluntarily choices that are easily reversible. But the truth tends to be more complicated than that. People get into debt for a wide variety of reasons, many of them systemic.

Exorbitant medical bills send otherwise financially secure families into tailspins every day. As convenient as it is to envision debt as simply a matter of people overspending on non-essential luxuries, the truth is that medical expenses are the leading reason most Americans file for bankruptcy. As CNBC reports, two-thirds of people who file for bankruptcy name medical issues as “a key contributor to their financial downfall.”

Others resort to using credit to stay afloat after losing their jobs unexpectedly. Some debt stems from tough economic times over which individuals have little to no control. And most people eventually deal with the financial challenges associated with some combination of life events: marriage, divorce, child rearing, illness, death in the family, natural disaster, and the like. Just look at Freedom Debt Relief reviews from people who ended up pursuing debt settlement—enrollees have cited a range of reasons from house flooding to injuries, layoffs, divorces and more.

There are a myriad of ways U.S. consumers can slide into debt—and there’s no one universal way to get out of it. But instead of internalizing guilt for having debt and trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps without any support, it’s much healthier to acknowledge that there are resources available.
Budgeting Is a Start…But You Need a Strategy
Everyone, regardless of debt level, can benefit from some savvy budgeting. Luckily, it’s easier than ever thanks to the proliferation of budgeting apps and programs, plus the ability to automate bank transfers. But what can consumers do when budgeting alone isn’t enough?

Look into strategies like credit counseling, debt consolidation and debt settlement to see if any sound like a good fit for your situation. Here’s a brief rundown of strategies to research:

Credit counseling: Work with a certified counselor to understand your debts and come up with a plan to repay them, often at a lower interest rate.

Debt consolidation: Get a loan to repay all high-interest debts, then repay that loan over time at a lower interest rate.

Debt settlement: Make monthly deposits into a special account until you’ve saved enough for negotiators to contact creditors and attempt to settle your debts for a percentage of the original amount.

Balance transfer: Open a new credit card with no or low APR, then transfer high-interest credit card debt onto it.

The best strategy for you will depend on your exact circumstances, but it’s helpful to know your options so you can move forward rather than automatically trying to repay substantial debt through elbow grease alone.

Build Your Support System
Perhaps the most alienating aspect to the “bootstraps” mentality is that it makes debt a completely individual problem. It can feel daunting to let others in on your debt journey, but creating a support system will help you stay motivated and accountable.

Getting out of debt requires more than your bootstraps. It requires a plan, and the willingness to look outside yourself for help as needed.