Tonight I finally got a chance to watch an episode of The Millionaire Inside: Debt Free that had been sitting on my TIVO for weeks. For the most part the show was a total waste of time and thankfully I was able to fast forward through most of it. In my opinion, the producers wasted a great opportunity to provide helpful debt elimination tips to the viewers. Instead of hearing quality advice, the subject matter experts, (David Bach, Robert Kiyosaki and Jennifer Openshaw), babbled on providing bland and often conflicting financial advice. Personally, I think the show was really more about helping the experts sell books then helping the end consumer get out of debt.

Despite three unmemorable panelists, I did appreciate the frank discussions of the fourth panelist: Larry Winget. Winget was by far the most sincere in his comments. He seemed like the one honest salesman in a see of shady car dealers.

At one point in the show, in response to an audience member’s question, Robert Kiyosaki mentioned the need for financial education in our school systems. Larry Winget retorted with a very interesting statement. He said, “It’s more than just being taught about money. When you teach people how to take responsibility for their lives you ground them in integrity. People that don’t pay their bills, don’t have money because it’s an integrity problem, not a money problem . If you’re responsible to the people you signed that contract with then you will pay them because you are a person who honors your contracts. So what you’re talking about teaching kids is not just reading and writing, you’re teaching people to be responsible human beings, and responsible human beings always do the right thing, whether it’s money or not money.”

I know so many people with high incomes who are always behind on their bills. Now I’m not talking about all people that are in debt. Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, like a medical injury or illness that unexpectedly causes financial debts, or being in debt due to student loans. But for the few that are in debt due to these circumstances there seem to be quite a few people in debt for fruitless reasons. How many people do you know that have reneged on personal loans from friends or family? How many people do you know that allow their clothes, cars, and homes define them? How many people do you know that present a ‘false’ image of themselves to friends and family? How many people do you know that are currently in debt and continue to use credit credits to accumulate more? How many people do you know that live way beyond their means?

The more I think about it the more I find myself agreeing with Larry. Do you agree? Do you think debt is a problem with money or integrity?

Addendum: After reading the comments on this post I wanted to clarify my own thoughts on this subject. Clearly this post is discussing extraneous debt. For example, credit card debt accumulated for clothes, jewelry, gadgets, etc. It could also include debt for an expensive car. Essentially any debt that is accumulated for items that one could not afford and therefore should not have purchased. In my opinion, purchasing items you want, but cannot afford, is an indication of irresponsibility. And the lack of responsibility for one’s behavior can be an indication of poor integrity. Although Larry discusses integrity in context to those who do not pay their bills I believe the stroke is much broader. It should begin at the point of consumption. The responsibility comes not just in paying the bill on time, but in not purchasing the item in the first place.