[Today’s post is by staff writer Melanie.]
Ignorance is such a seductive state of mind, because it allows us to think that everything is ok with the status quo.
It convinces us that we are doing just fine and gives us permission to turn a blind eye to some of the harder truths in life.
Sometimes you are ignorant of things because of someone else – they withheld details or information from you.
But most of them time, ignorance comes from our own doing. We stop asking questions, we stop caring about outcomes, we stop doing the research, or asking for more information.
And that is what keeps us ignorant – a lack of knowing on our part, driven by inaction.
I recently found out that a friend of mine, who is also a freelancer, has never tracked their income.
My jaw dropped as I tried to be as nonjudgmental as possible, but in my mind the thoughts went off like firecrackers:
“How could you NOT know your income?”
“How do you manage a budget? Oh, right they probably don’t have a budget.”
Then, I remembered that there are some things that you’d rather not know. Like how your business is failing or that you happen to be broke when you thought you were doing fine.
These moments of awakening are a shock to the system.
When I got out of my judgmental stupor, I realized that this is how most people operate. I am the exception as a personal finance nerd, who is definitely drinking the kool aid.
And I wasn’t always like this either. I had to learn my own lessons and for so long was ignorant about how much debt I was actually in.
When I graduated with my Bachelor’s, I thought I owed about $18,000. To my surprise, it was actually $23,000. I was ignorant and didn’t account for interest at all whatsoever.
Then when I decided to get into more debt with my master’s, I graduated with an additional $58,000 in debt. But the problem was I never bothered to do the math.
You see I never actually added my debt totals for both of my degrees. I never accounted for the interest. When I finally did the math a few years ago, I was shocked. I had gotten myself into a total of $81,000 in student loan debt, plus interest, which would account for at least another $10k.
How could I be so silly? Why didn’t I do the math?
Well I was in for a painful surprise. It was the first time I actually had a realistic picture of my debt and there was nowhere to hide. I couldn’t deny that I took out those loans. I couldn’t magically make them go away. Somehow I agreed to get myself into several years’ salary worth of debt.
It can be truly nauseating coming to terms with something you’ve been ignorant to before. Life changing, even. The blinders come off and you are faced with decisions and realities you weren’t used to before.
After about a month of freaking out, beating myself up, crying, and yelling, I realized that nothing was going to make it better, except me. My loans weren’t going to pay off themselves. I got myself into this situation and I had to get out.
I had to walk away from the comfort of ignorance. From there, I made a plan – a resolution – to get out of debt. No matter how long it took, I’d keep trying.
For the past three years, I’ve paid off $30,000 on a minimal salary. I’m tracking every payment and watching the interest go down. I track all my income and all my expenses, too.
I’m not perfect, either. I still mess up, or forget a day and try to catch up, or have those days when I just don’t care about money anymore.
But I know as exhausting as the work is, in the end it’s better than ignorance.
Have you ever been ignorant to a crucial fact in your life?
About The Author: Melanie blogs about breaking up with debt at DearDebt.com and invites others to write breakup letters to their debt as well. She’s accumulated a total of $81k in student loan debt between two degrees. Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. Melanie enjoys travel, art, music, adventure, and of course, personal finance.
Image Credit: © Depositphotos.com / cteconsulting