I Screwed Up My Finances and Now I Feel Like it is Hurting My Mental Health


Dear Steve,

I am a 22-year-old college graduate. I grew up in a very stable household, both personally and financially.

My parents do exceedingly well, and I have never once struggled.. until now. I always saw how my parents spent money and thought I could do the same. I didn’t have a complete understanding of credit cards and got myself in a scam situation where my parents helped pay back my mistake.

However, only a few know that I have three other credit cars with about $5000 to pay back on them. I work full time, but I am miserable.

I read your book on getting out of debt and knew that you were the next best person to reach out to.

I know I need to watch my spending, and I have already taken away extra monthly subscriptions and fees I was paying for.

However, I am now playing catch up with this debt, and my mental health has been on the decline despite being on medication and talking to a therapist weekly.

I feel ashamed that I was not smart enough with my money, and at such a young age, I am dealing with this.

I know it will get better, and there is always worse. I start grad school in the fall and would like to go into the semester debt-free from my credit cards.

What advice can you give me? My self-doubt is at an all-time high now, and I think guidance will assist me tremendously.



Dear Emma,

Thank you for writing to me and asking for assistance.

I completely understand how this situation has bruised your self-worth and self-esteem. That is a completely natural reaction. I would not expect anything different from anyone who is introspective and thinking about the consequences of the financial situation.

But this phase of beating yourself up because of the debt is missing the mark in being the most helpful. I think it is great you are working with a therapist—big applause.

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What I’d love for you to explore with your therapist is the underlying issues that led you to find yourself in so much debt were? Something drove that unconsciously. That is the most important item to deal with here. The stress of the debt is a distraction.

For example, it would not be unusual for unhappiness with life to drive unconscious spending to make you feel better. Before you know it, the bills are big and growing.

Being “good” at dealing with money is unfair pressure. A better way to look at this is about what are you better at dealing with? Not everyone is spreadsheet budget-focused. I’m not. Some people like artists and salespeople tend to think more fluidly. Others have a different money personality, which leads them to focus on the details and track the movement of every penny.

The key here is building self-awareness and asking yourself about what a discretionary item means to you before you spend the money.

As far as dealing with the debt at this point, it is really just a math problem. You will have to increase your income, reduce your expenses, or a combination of both. With some lucky extra effort, you can eliminate this balance.

Alternatively, by working with your therapist and developing some financial self-awareness, it might be a good time to return to your parents and ask them for help putting this all behind you and making a promise they should never bail you out again. Go to them with a plan and an understanding of how the financial boat was taking on water.

I would recommend my book The Path to Happiness and Wealth. It’s free, and I think it will resonate with you and your journey.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

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Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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