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Can Debt Lead to an Integrity Problem?

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 integrityPeople that don’t pay their bills don’t have money because it’s an integrity problem, not a money problem.”

“If you’re responsible for 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.

Do you agree with Larry Winget? Do you think debt can lead to a problem with 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 wants that one could not afford, but then fail to pay back. 

plonkee

Friday 17th of August 2007

I agree that misuse of debt and credit is not really a money problem. I disagree that it is an integrity problem.

I honestly think that people who overspend have issues that they need to overcome. These might just be entitlement issues, but until the underlying cause is addressed they won't really stop spending.

CC

Saturday 11th of August 2007

Great blog. Very thought-provoking.

I'm gearing up to go back to school after a long absence, and really excited. I'm not excited about the necessary student loans, but I consider them "good debt" (as opposed to credit cards being "bad debt).

SAHMmy Says

Wednesday 8th of August 2007

I don't think you need to excuse your opinion with the addendum--of course there are circumstances beyond one's control that cause debt and reasonable people should understand that the exception proves the rule. I agree that not making good on debts in a timely manner is an integrity issue. For instance, my brother owes upward of $80,000 in student loans which are in forbearance. He complains to me on his cell phone while going through the drivethru at Starbucks in his new car to buy a $4 latte.

The Happy Rock

Tuesday 7th of August 2007

I meant to say that I am a big fan of starting the discussion though! Great job.

The Happy Rock

Tuesday 7th of August 2007

It seems like not paying back debt would be definitely be an integrity problem, but I am undecided if just having debt is.

I do like Aamar's comment "And it takes character to deny yourself something and discipline yourself. Thus being in consumer debt, in my mind, does have to do with discipline and character."

He does make a distinction and say that consumer debt has to do with one's character.

I am not sure that we can use any blanket statement though to say all debt is an integrity issue. I do think that taking responsibility for your actions means you will pay the debt back though.