Spike the Kool-Aid/Financial Flippers/Don't Ever Borrow Time

Don't Ever Borrow Time

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Don't Ever Borrow Time

If time is money, then is borrowing money actually borrowing time?

What made me think of this question was actually me first coming up with an acronym for the word, debt.

D.E.B.T. = Don’t Ever Borrow Time

In the book, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, the concept of currency, at its core, is presented as time. If you think back to the earlier days of civilization, bartering was a common practice. One would trade something like food (which took time to harvest) in exchange for something like a quilt (which took time to create). Essentially, they were trading their time, referred to in the book as life energy.

When my wife and I were getting ready to pay off our consumer debt, we had quite a mountain to climb. Before adding the extra we paid in interest as well as a few other miscellaneous items we had unintentionally left off our list, our initial target was to pay off $107,328.49. Once it was all said and done, we were about $4 shy of paying off a grand total of $114,000. And we did this in 26 very intentional months.

Because my wife and I chose to use the snowball method for paying down our debt, that meant that the biggest, baddest debt was last: my student loans. When I graduated from college back in … cough cough … 2007, I left with somewhere around $65,000 in student loans. By the time my wife and I started paying on my student loans in 2019, there was still about $42,000 left to pay off. The previous debt on our snowball was a personal loan for $17,404.94, and we paid it off in the middle of January, 2019. So, from January 2019 until February of 2020, we were focused solely on my student loans.

Needless to say, this final debt took the longest…it took more time.

While just getting to the student loans was definitely tough, we still had a lot of momentum. At that point, we had already paid off over $65,000 - over half of our debt. Our spirits were high, and we knew we were going to see this thing through. We thought we had it dialed in. And we also assumed we were going to pay it off faster than we actually did.

But something happened during the middle of us paying off the student loans. We were still working as much as we could, but the extra work wasn’t bringing in as much money as it did the previous year. So our progress slowed. We could feel things taking longer. And while it didn’t feel like a defeat, it was definitely frustrating.

And then, something happened.

I can’t remember at what point I had this feeling, but in the middle of paying off my student loans, I looked at my wife and said, “I don’t know. I just feel like my life isn’t mine anymore.”

And in that moment, I connected the dots: taking out debt is like borrowing time.

I recalled the book and message around currency being life energy, and it all started to click for me. When I was in college, I would have to go to the registrar’s office at the beginning of each semester to “unlock” my classes. Basically, the school needed money in order for me to continue my education. So, I walked myself to the financial aid office, sat down at one of their desks, and let them hand me a piece of paper to sign.

And yes, this piece of paper was another student loan.

The financial aid rep would take my information, punch it into their computer, and tell me what loans I could take out. Most of the time, they would say something like, “Well, we already did that one, so you can’t take out that loan.” But, conveniently, there was always an option. So I just agreed to whatever and signed right there.

But I was too young, and knew too little about money, to really understand what I was doing.

You see, when I signed my name on the dotted line for those student loans, I was signing away my future life energy.

The 20-year-old version of myself, of course, didn’t feel this way. But that’s what I was doing. I had no idea what kind of time, or life energy, this loan was going to eventually require. Sure, the financial aid rep gave me an estimated number, but that doesn’t mean much to a kid in their 20s going to college and not working. There was no concept of what my time was really worth. In college, we just assume that we are going to make enough money (because we’re going to college and getting a degree, and also because that’s what we’re told) to not worry about the eventual payments.

That is, until those payments actually come due.

When the student loans first came due, six months after graduation, it started as a $650/mo payment for, what was supposed to be, 17 years. Initially, I was able to make the payments. I was working on a cruise ship, making good money, and didn’t have any bills to pay except a cell phone and a couple of credit cards.

But, and I love this quote, “Debt only works if everything works.”

And for performers, jobs typically have a start date and an end date. So, my job ended. And it was time to find the next thing. But when I started having to pay for things like rent, groceries, utilities, etc., I was no longer making enough to pay the minimum payments on my loans. It all backfired.

My time was not being compensated well enough for me to even pay back the time I initially borrowed, which meant that this debt was going to require even more of my time, more of my life energy.

Which brings us back to my wife and I paying off the student loans over a decade later.

When money came into the house, we shoveled it right back out and onto the debt. This is something we chose to do. We knew we were aggressively paying down the student loans. But with each dollar that we made and shoveled towards the debt, more of our life energy had been required in order to make that happen.

Remember when I said I felt like my life wasn’t mine?

This is why.

I had signed it away over a decade before.

And this is why it’s so important for us to have the conversation around debt and fully understand how it actually serves us, because I know I’m not the only one who has felt this way about their debt. Even if you’re not actively paying down your debt, the debt sits there - like a constant reminder - of the time it will require from you to eventually pay it off. And to pour even more salt on the wound, they add interest, which means even more time will be required.

So is the debt actually worth it?

Only you can decide that.

But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t share my perspective with you.

In the journey to pay off my student loans and regain control over my life, I realized that debt is, in essence, borrowing time and life energy. When we sign those loan papers, we might not fully grasp the impact it will have on our future. But as my wife and I diligently paid off our debt, we understood the real cost of borrowing time.

Because time is something none of us can get back.

The lesson learned is that we should approach debt with caution, considering the life energy it requires and whether the exchange is truly worth it. It's a reminder to make informed financial decisions and strive for a future where our life energy is spent on what truly matters to us.

Stay Curious,



Kyle Fowler

Founder of Financial Flippers

The personal finance world is packed with TONS of information. And while it's not all bad, it's not all good. I work hard to make sure I am sharing helpful content that keeps you on track while still providing different perspectives. If you ever have questions, want to share ideas for other topics, or want to know more, shoot me an email: kyle@financialflippers.com

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