All Debt Isn't Created Equal.

Full disclosure: I am in debt. I have been in/out of debt since my father unexpectedly passed in 2015. I got my first credit card when I was 18 and always managed to pay it off. The advice I received was from my Mom which was to “always pay a little bit more than the minimum.”

My partner at the time told me to NOT take her advice and to “always pay the statement balance in full” because there is a thing called interest, hello! So, I made sure to do just that.

Fast forward to 2015. When my father died, it was VERY unexpected. The way I handled my grief was essentially YOLOing off my Chase Sapphire travel credit card. I launched a business and I traveled my way into debt. I racked up $24,000 completely mortified with myself and felt paralyzed by the shame and guilt that came with a double digit balance like that.

I was 24 and didn't know anything about managing money. The only thing I knew was to save save save (thanks Mom) and that debt is bad. What I didn't know was that debt is NOT bad and that there are smart ways to go into debt, as long as you have a plan.

Yes, I said it. There are smart ways to go into debt.

Looking back now, I would have likely booked all my trips on a 0% APR card and paid off the monthly balance before interest kicked in. This is something I could have totally done as I had a stable income. I could have done the same with starting my business. Eventually I paid off the credit card with my Kickstarter money- but I could have pocketed so much more for myself if I had avoided interest.

But I didn't know, and I have a rule in my life that you can't beat yourself up for not knowing because, well, we don't know everything! There is so much pressure to be an encyclopedia PLUS an expert about all the things. I'm here to tell you that it's okay to not have it all figured out. I certainly didn't.

Now I am having a different relationship with debt. When I started my business I really needed to upgrade my working station. The total cost of this I knew would be around $3,000 and that was money I did not have.

But hello?! Stella! Remember the power of a 0% APR card?!

I did, but I was afraid I couldn't trust myself. I called my accountant asking if this was the best move for me and she said I had 30 days to purchase all of the stuff I needed in order to take advantage of the start up tax deduction that is ONLY available within the same year you start your business. Another thing I did not know!

This affirmed me because I knew my business was worth investing in. I didn't have $3,000 to use but I knew I could make the monthly payment work before the 0% APR period was up. So, I took the leap and went into debt again.

But this time? I feel at peace with it. I'm not immune to shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety- those feelings still come up from time to time. But i'm not drowning in it like I was before.

Funnily enough, my sweet wonderful accountant did my tax return and I got more than enough back to cover the $3,000 I invested in (yes, I am calling this debt an investment).

I have worked with so many clients that are drowning in shame and guilt from having debt. Unfortunately, our culture behind debt literally feeds that shame and guilt. I see articles putting debt on a moral pedestal or, debt has now been categorized in such binary terms such as good vs bad.

Context matters. There are thousands of reasons why people are in debt. Maybe you are coping with a heavy loss like I was. Maybe you are leveraging debt as an investment in your business or career. Maybe you were not taught the ins and outs of managing a credit card. Maybe you literally did not have any other choice than to go into debt to survive and put food on the table. Maybe it's a little bit of everything. This is why I say context matters.

I'm not saying that debt can't be an issue. It certainly can. What I am more interested in is the root of that issue, honoring and holding space for where you are now, and then transforming that shame and guilt into an actionable plan where you feel empowered by your finances.

Because I believe it is possible, for anyone on this planet. Believe it's possible for you, too.