Relieve your debt stress—the Ancient Greek way

Posted by Cindy Wilson on October 25, 2017 9:00:00 AM
It’s healthy to worry a little about the debts you owe, because left unchecked, they may run rampant.
However, stressing about debt can get to a point where it is overwhelming and even paralyzing. Tackling it head on can feel like you’re fighting the mythical Hydra, who when you chop off one head, grows another two.
Speaking of Greek mythology, here are four ways the Ancient Greeks can teach us how to better handle debt stress—by minimizing those feelings of hopelessness that might otherwise sink you into a quagmire of inaction.
  • Be philosophical. Socrates emphasized the importance of knowledge over everything. Debt stress can stem from a feeling of disempowerment. And if knowledge is power, as the truism states, the logical next step is to sit down and educate yourself about debt. This means overcoming that initial urge to avoid all mention of how to manage debt, a topic that for many people acts as a stressor. The Greek philosophers understood that avoiding information creates more trouble in the long run, not least Socrates, who said: “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”
  • Chip away to reveal your inner, debt-free goddess. Debt is like a big ugly rock; chipping away at it takes time—and determination. The Greeks knew this when carving out their stone goddesses. Discipline is also required—and that’s not something you can expect to develop overnight. It helps to think of self-discipline as a muscle that strengthens each time it is used. As when joining a gym, be easy on yourself at first. Start by looking at how much you owe and what you are paying. Then begin to chisel away at it by changing your spending habits, finding ways to supplement your income, or even considering a move to somewhere more affordable. Shopping around for better credit card rates and consolidating your debt portfolio into one balance on a lower-rate card could potentially whittle your debt down further, with the right plan in place. Slowly but surely, the end result may be so ravishing, you could fall in love, as Pygmalion did with his sculpted creation.
  • Don’t be a Sisyphus. Carrying a big old rock around can be character building—but if you’re groaning under a debt burden without making any progress, it can have the opposite effect. The mythological Sisyphus had to push a boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down again, repetitively. Replacing one debt with another, or paying off the minimum each month and not saving for your retirement in the meantime, can feel like a Sisyphean move. Whether or not your load weighs a ton, it will be a psychological win under your belt to see your savings build up.
  • Beware of bearing gifts. If debt is a big problem for you, take a hiatus from gift giving. Yes, you heard that right. Whether donations to charity or presents for loved ones, consider giving your free time instead of your dollars. Then divert those dollars towards your debt repayment. If you are passionate about helping an organization close to your heart, or buying things for loved ones, find ways to give your time; you may even find it more rewarding. The moral of the story not being so much “beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” as “beware of gifting” generally!
Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America has sponsored Ask the Expert posts for informational purposes only. Many of the experts are unaffiliated with Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, College Retirement Equities Fund, and their affiliates and subsidiaries (collectively TIAA), and TIAA makes no representations regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information on the posts or otherwise made available by the experts. Statements of external featured experts are solely their own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA.
Responses from experts to questions posed by Woman2Woman community members are intentionally general in nature and are not intended to give personal, financial, or specific advice. Some strategies are complex, and more information is often needed to determine the personal needs of a community member. We strongly recommend that you consult with a financial advisor before taking any action based on an expertʼs opinion or other information you obtain from the Woman2Woman:Financial Living site so that all of your personal circumstances can be taken into consideration. Participation in the site does not render the member a client of the expert or of TIAA.
This site is not designed to accept or respond to requests or complaints regarding specific TIAA accounts, products or services. If you wish to discuss an issue of that nature, please contact TIAA at 800-842-2252. TIAA is not responsible for any opinions provided by members of this site. TIAA is not responsible for the content or privacy policies of third-party sites to which you may link.
The TIAA group of companies does not offer tax or legal advice. You should consult an independent tax or legal advisor for advice based on your own particular circumstances.
The material and responses are for informational or educational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation or investment advice in connection with a distribution, transfer or rollover, a purchase or sale of securities or other investment property, or the management of securities or other investments, including the development of an investment strategy or retention of an investment manager or advisor. The material and responses do not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular individual, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made in consultation with an investorʼs personal advisor based on the investorʼs own objectives and circumstances.
Experts may not have medical or scientific training. Any information related to physical or emotional health is not intended to be used in place of a consultation with a physician.
TIAA is not responsible for the statements of community members. We may link to posts made by community members only to direct you to topics that may be of interest to you. This does not mean that we agree with the opinions of these community members. Their statements are solely their own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA.
276013