Saturday, March 17, 2007

Maxed out on Debt?

Maxed Out on Debt! "The Movie"
I found and interesting article titled, Maxed out on debt? The cool thing is the offer that help's on way, in a film and a book. So if you are a person that would rather wait for the movie you are in luck it is available. Here is what the article said about people struggling with debt along with my comments.

Checkout the following video from the Movie Maxed Out! Shop for the movie Maxed Out.

The twofer this month is the feature-length documentary Maxed Out, and a companion book, Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders. The movie opened in select markets last week. I think every high school at least should find a way to get the film shown to its student body. James D. Scurlock, author and director of Maxed Out, hopes to do with the overselling of credit what former Vice President Al Gore has done for global warming -- elevate people's consciousness about a terrible threat to our existence. In this case, it's our financial well-being. As you prepare for retirement financial planners will recommend and coach that one of the most important things to do it eliminate your debts prior to retirement. This doesn't mean you take on a giant debt consolidation loan right before you go into retirment. Additionally, most people don't realize how quickly you are paying for something 2 to 3 times when you finance the items with credit card debt. If you have a credit card with 18% annual interest, according to the rule of 72 you will pay interest equal to the amount of the purchase in just 4 short years. If you want to play around with this check out the rule of 72 calculator.

Both the book and film examine the proliferation of debt in America. Among others, Scurlock interviews debt collectors, a Harvard professor, pawnbrokers, people in debt and the people who have watched loved ones struggle with debt. I laughed when Scurlock shows old black-and-white clips of students being taught how hard it is to qualify for credit. You have to have good character and a proven capacity to pay it back, an unnamed man tells a young boy and girl. Credit is easy to get now a days and it is just as easy to get in trouble with credit. When someone extends you credit and you use it you get debt. Your goal is to not be in debt. Simple rule of thumb, never use credit to purchase something that doesn't last. Don't pay interest on the dinners you ate out last month, or the vacation you took in February. It doesn't make sense. Use a special savings account and establish a budget to help you pay for these items and control your expenses.

Shop for the book. I was most moved by two mothers, Janne O'Donnell and Trisha Johnson, who sit side-by-side and talk about their children -- college students -- who committed suicide largely because of credit-card debts. O'Donnell's son had amassed a debt of $12,000 on 10 credit cards. Johnson's daughter was a freshman when she spread her credit-card bills on her bed and then hanged herself. She owed $2,500. Scurlock's book takes you along on his journey to make the documentary. Credit is just too easy to come by, when I was in college I did not have a credit card. In the days of debit cards I don't think any college student needs a credit card. It is just too easy to get in trouble with. A college roomate of mine had $5000 in credit card debt when he was in college. He had no way to pay it off. He didn't have a job. I would never want that hanging over my head.

He takes a few missteps in the beginning when he criticizes radio talk-show host Dave Ramsey, who rightly encourages people to get out of debt and shun credit (except for a home mortgage). As in his film, Scurlock's snide references to tithing come off as useless pot shots rather than insightful dialogue. People are not in debt because they tithe, as he seems to suggest. But when Scurlock focuses on the larger issue of easy credit, he's right on the money. "The federal government -- and the majority of Americans -- can no longer get by a single day without taking on additional debt," he writes. "And as more borrowing goes to simply pay off old debt, or to make interest payments, the new debt does little more than increase banking profits."

Some facts Scurlock points out:
  1. The Commerce Department reported that the nation's personal savings rate for all of 2006 was negative 1 percent, the worst since the Great Depression.
  2. From July 1, 2005, to last June 30, there were almost 1.5 million personal bankruptcy filings.

  3. Credit-card issuers have increased the number of mailed credit-card offerings sixfold since 1990, from just over 1.1 billion to a record 6 billion in 2005.

  4. Revolving credit-card debt, the amount you don't pay off every month, increased 6 percent from $827 billion to $876 billion in 2006.

  5. Low- and middle-income households have, on average, $8,650 in credit-card debt.

"There is an even greater misconception at work," Scurlock writes and presents in his film. "A misconception that debt is not what it used to be. That there is `good' debt, for example, and `bad' debt. The idea that one should stay out of debt, period, is now considered unrealistic. Even more frightening is the notion that debt is our friend -- a magical tool that allows us, in the words of Napster's new ads, to `own nothing, have everything.'"That deserves an "Amen." Scurlock said his goal for the book and the movie was to "paint the story of our debt-fueled culture in broad strokes." He says he wants to challenge the assumptions about the way we live our lives and shift the debate. "Do we really want to be in perpetual debt?" he asks. Read this book or watch the movie and perhaps you'll answer with a resounding "no."

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have a question or a idea make sure you leave a comment and I will try to research it and write about it. Final thought if you enjoyed this post why not Subscribe to Strategies for Life its free.

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