People always categorize debt as simply a picture of one’s financial status. And I would be lying if I didn’t hear the sound of an inauspicious spin of Wheel of Fortune every time I hear the word bankrupt. We get it – when you owe your creditors thousands of dollars, you are in financial debt, of this there is no denying. But are there other areas of life where you can go into debt beyond your bank account?
According to Radio France International, the answer is mais oui.
Last week, I listened to a program where they were talking about other types of debt, such as being morally and ethically bankrupt, like Bernie Madoff; the guy who singlehandedly put the word ponzi scheme into every American household’s lexicon. This is someone who has no scruples. They may be financially well off, or in his case, used to be, but they do not have many values. You can usually find examples of these individuals in the New York Post or the UK’s Daily Mail every morning.
They then began to discuss other somewhat abstract notions of cultural and social capital, where one’s education, travels, social connections, for example, makes them wealthier individuals. I was on their side until they addressed individuals who dress and eat poorly and therefore exuded low social capital and low self-worth…just as I was unwrapping a Sourdough Jack with Cheese from Jack in the Box. Believe me, when the words are said in French, the sting of gastronomical snobbery is worse than a spritz of Grey Poupon in the eyes.
When I awoke the next morning, that last part of the radio program was still on my mind. When you are under the anvil of financial debt, it’s easy to fall victim to the pessimism it brings to your life, and it consequently depletes your social capital. For instance, if your house is underwater and you are struggling to make ends meet, you don’t necessarily have the means or desire to better yourself by taking a class, going to the gym, and traveling. In fact, you feel negative, despondent, and despaired; and your social capital falls in correlation with your actual capital.
There was a brief period in my life where I was desperately trying to find a job after college, and I must admit, I was a full-time grump with nary a penny to my name. During this era, I sought temporary solace in mid-morning television, clove cigarettes, and my mom’s pullout sofa: I was a human couch potato with a smug face, bad hair, and an inexplicable fascination with “The View”. In hindsight, this must have been my rock bottom.
Debt begets more debt and starts chipping away at your social and cultural capital and your entire well-being. It’s easy to feel the domino effect that debt can create but as soon as you take control of your finances, all other areas of your life, including your social capital, can begin to flourish once again. With FDR’s Freedom Fresh Start program, it will likely take you 24 to 48 months to get out of debt, but once you enroll and start doing something about it, you’ll see how quickly things will literally perk up again.
Once you get in control of your finances and social capital, then you can give some serious thought into whether or not you’re morally bankrupt.