You Can’t Borrow Your Way to Prosperity…Honest!

This week, Finance Minister Flaherty announced that his department is done with the tweaking and tightening of lending regulations. Well, there’s only so much a government can do for our own good.

Mortgage refinancing is now capped at 85% and you can no longer get mortgage insurance on interest-only lines of credit secured by your home. Now, I guess, it’s up to us – as it has been all along.

While Statistics Canada just released figures that show our net worth is increasing to an average of $184,700 – our debts are climbing way faster. We now owe $1.55 trillion dollars, of which $45,000 is consumer debt, excluding mortgages.

News flash: You cannot borrow your way to prosperity. The majority of people have been trying that and we’re broke. How about trying to get to be debt-free, instead?

We freak out when gas is up 20 cents a litre. Really? 40 litres x 20 cents is eight bucks. THAT is a panic? We get a $500 repair bill and we don’t have the money and it’s an emergency and big stress? Is that how we want live our financial life? When will you get to the ENOUGH scream in your head and choose not to want to live like this anymore?

How sad that we aren’t learning the lesson from the U.S. Their debt levels are dropping like a stone. Last year, they paid down massive averages on their credit cards. In Canada, the average credit card balance dropped $25 from last year, according to TransUnion. Americans are also refinancing in large numbers to get OUT of variable rate mortgages and into fixed ones. And tons are bringing cash to the refinancing, in to pay down their balances. In Canada, we keep taking larger and larger mortgages.

More than half of us now have lines of credit, almost all of which are on a variable interest rate. Rates are heading up – they have nowhere to go but up. So the banks have us exactly where they want us. Owing BIG balances on our lines of credit that we can’t just pay off in a month or two, and rates go up. That’s how banks maximize their profits and how we go broke in a hurry.

Denial IS a financial strategy. It’s just one that won’t work very long. I heard a new radio ad yesterday: Debt problems aren’t about overspending – they’re about emergencies. WHAT? No! Are you nuts? Debt problems are exactly about overspending. If you live on less than you earn, you have money left over.

There is another ad that has a lady saying that so and so credit helped her pay off all her debts. What? They handed you free money? Like $10 or $20,000? NO! You consolidated – you didn’t pay off a dime! And you took a bunch of short-term debt and stretched it to two decades or more. Plus, the majority of people who do that have their credit cards and lines of credit run up again in less than 24 months. It’s not a solution. It’s making the problem worse!

Almost two-thirds of families live paycheque to paycheque. You have to know where you money is going and get in control. You think you know, but you don’t – honest. Spend 15 minutes doing a written budget. Off that, I guarantee most people can find $200 or so in savings right there.

Get yourself a separate savings account and work on saving one week of your net income. That will put you ahead of 65% of people. Thirdly, list your debts smallest balance to largest and start attacking the smallest balance with every dollar you can find and just make minimum payments on all the rest. When that’s paid off, focus only on the next smallest, and so on. There’s a whole section in the It’s Your Money book that’ll walk you through it.

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