No More Whining

Newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama didn’t mince words when he took office today. Among the challenges he pointed out was our “badly weakened” economy, what he called the “consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”

In other words, we can point fingers at certain individuals, but it’s up to all of us to fix our country’s mistakes. If we want to move forward—out of this bleak economy, out of wartime, out of our nation’s history of inequality—it’s up to all of us to make better choices.

It’s taken me a long time to admit this, though.

See, I spent most of my life as a pro whiner. As a kid, I’d blame my parents when I got a bad grade (they were too busy to help me with my homework—it wasn’t fair!). When I was older, I’d blame them for my carefree spending habits (they lived paycheck to paycheck—why would I do otherwise?). In college, I whined that my professors were too hard. At my first job, I complained I was underpaid. When I caught a cold, I resented the person who I suspected gave it to me.

I used to think whining actually made me feel better (“It’s venting!” I told my boyfriend). Until one day he asked me a simple question that changed my life: “Does it make you happy?” I had never thought about it that way. And the truth was, it didn’t.

Sure, it made things easier because I didn’t have to take responsibility. But it also made me sad, because I felt powerless. By not acknowledging that I was the one responsible for my crazy-high credit card bills, I felt that I couldn’t do anything about them.

Once I started making changes—like doing some minor budgeting and switching to a job that I enjoyed—it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Of course, it didn’t solve all my problems. I still have to fight my tendency to overspend (and whine about it). But I know it’s something I can overcome. If I end up in a hole, I trust I can dig my way out.

In today’s economy especially, whining won’t get you anywhere. What it will do is distract you from the opportunities coming your way. Along with the upcoming stimulus package, we’re about to have far more favorable bankruptcy laws. Homeowners who file for Chapter 13 will have the chance to change their mortgage terms, meaning permanently lower bills and a way to keep their house. And if you’re behind on your mortgage, don’t wait for the law to come to you. You’ve got to come to it.

But just because you need to own up to your responsibilities doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If you want to stop foreclosure, DebtStoppers can guide you through the process. Maybe you think you can avoid bankruptcy, but need a hand at building the budget that will help you start saving. You’ll find the strategies you need in our Financial Toolkit. Unsure of where you stand financially? We offer a free one-on-one debt analysis that will clear things up—and get you started on the path to a debt-free future.

Like most of the country, I have high hopes for our future with President Obama. But just like we can’t blame one man for all our problems, we can’t expect one man to fix them. If we want to see change, it’s time we stop whining and start taking responsibility.

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