The Nine Levels of Debt Suffering

One of the frustrating things about debt is that everyone who faces it does so in a unique (and uniquely challenging) way.  To paraphrase from Dante’s Inferno, there are at least Nine Levels of Debt Suffering in the 21st Century — and probably more.  Since it’s Friday, let’s have some fun and define these Nine Levels.  After all, they say you can’t conquer your problem until you have understood it.

First Level:  One Easy Payment
The First Level of Debt Suffering is the most benign and easiest to deal with.  It is experienced by those lucky enough to have just one debt payment per month.  Perhaps it’s a single credit card that is used sparingly and usually paid on time, or perhaps it’s a student loan with monthly payments that are always paid faithfully.  Whatever the case, we could call these gentle souls the “Lucky Few.”

Second Level:  Making Ends Meet
Here, we find the people who have many forms of debt, but who have not (yet) been overwhelmed by it.  They have a student loan (or two) and possibly a mortgage, but they’ve been keeping their spending in line with their income and are making it work (barely).  The problem is, they might be one medical bill or car repair bill away from having this delicate house of cards come crashing down on them.  Still, they are better off than anyone who finds herself in the…

Third Level:  The Slippery Slope of Spending
This level applies to all those among us whose monthly expenses are always higher than what we earn.  The total amount of debt is not monumental, but without any changes, it is likely to get a lot bigger in a hurry.  The challenge is to not be lulled into complacency by a seemingly manageable debt that continues to grow methodically.

Fourth Level:  Stranglehold of Student Loans
In the Fourth Level reside those brave individuals who made a personal investment in themselves – and I mean, a BIG personal investment – by taking out student loans to pay for medical school, law school, a Master’s program, or even a B.A. at an expensive private college.  These guys and gals are not necessarily in panic mode, because after all, they do have a highly marketable degree.  But oftentimes, their backs are against the wall because those monthly loan payments are gnarly, and without a secure job these well-intentioned grads might end up in serious financial peril.

Fifth Level:  Too Much Credit
Here, we have the folks who were lured by the credit card companies to carry too many credit cards.  Those sleek offers in the mail saying “Sign Up Now!” proved to be irresistible.  Inevitably, the temptation was too great.  Before they knew it, they where whipping out a different credit card at each store and swiped it without hesitation.  Now they’ve cut up the credit cards (or used our handy credit card lockdown stickers), but they still have a scary amount of credit card debt.

Sixth Level:  Medical Misery
This just gets worse… Here, we have the people whose debt is the result of unexpected and/or chronic medical conditions whose treatments are not covered by insurance.  Sadly, this is becoming more and more common in America.  Figuring out how to pay off these debts is sometimes secondary to focusing on simply getting healthy again.

Seventh Level:  Mortgage Mess
Everyone in the Seventh Level is dealing with credit trouble on many fronts, but especially on their mortgage.  Like many Americans, these credit-weary individuals got caught by the sudden decline in the housing market that started in 2007.  They are “underwater” and at risk of losing their home.  If we take a moment to console our friends in this group, they’ll likely use words like “nightmare” to describe their situation.

Eighth Level:  Whammed and Scammed
This is not a pleasant place to be.  The Eighth Level is reserved for those who have all the misfortunes of the previous circles but with one difference – they were victimized by unscrupulous and/or fake debt relief companies that promised a magic bullet and instead left the person in a deeper hole than before.  Such scams have become all too common and can wreak havoc on victims’ financial lives.  Some people in this circle may be facing the reality of bankruptcy.

Ninth Level:  Unimaginable
Shhh… this one is too terrible to even speak about!

…And that’s it:  The Nine Levels of Debt Suffering.  This list is obviously written in fun.  But it may be helpful, if for no other reason than to give you a vision of where you are in your individual fight against debt – and where you want to be!

We at ReadyForZero, sincerely hope you find yourself closer to the top of this list than the bottom.

But remember, no matter which level you are currently in, you don’t have to worry – we’re here to help you tackle this problem, however big it is, and we’re confident that with the help of our customized plan you’ll soon be able to conquer whatever unique debt challenge you’re facing.

If you want, tell us on Twitter @ReadyForZero or on Facebook which level you find yourself in.  We always like hearing from our users!

Image attributions for this post are as follows:

–Image 1:  Dottie Mae

–Image 2:  jameskm03

–Image 3:  Images_of_Money  

–Image 4:  woodleywonderworks

–Image 5:  stuartpilbrow

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