Debt-free! Showing off or showing the way?

Everyone who does the 9-step program Your Money or Your Life and reaches their “debt crossover point” – retiring their last penny of debt including mortgage – experiences a freedom beyond description. A lightness of being. A release as the shackles come off and they realize their future is theirs, not the bank’s.

The question is: does celebrating this life passage with your friends (as you would a wedding or graduation) seem like gloating when everyone else is entangled in webs of debt while having lost money in the market and maybe their jobs? Are you lording over others – or sharing a joy that can also be theirs, as impossible as it sounds?

This discussion is alive among members of Financial Integrity Associates, current and former Your Money or Your Life speakers and study group leaders (email us at if you are interested in learning more).  Here are some quotes from the listserve:

“[My husband] and I have been mortgage-free for the last 15 or more years and it’s wonderfully freeing.  We present it in every workshop or lecture that we give … Although I had expected that there’d be envy, that really has never been an issue.  Many people had simply never before seen this as a possibility.”

“A friend spoke her concern about my not having had work since August.  That opened up into a larger conversation about financial goals, how debt slows down progress, and why being debt-free makes this an annoying time instead of a panicky time for me.”

“[We] did a “Mortgage Burning Ceremony”… At first I thought paying it off was no big deal, but somehow the ceremony made it real (like celebrating a birthday).  The mortgage burning event was fun and turned mailing the last payment from something we had done faithfully for 15 years into a milestones in our lives.  … about letting folks know …some don’t care, others envious, and a few get a new realization of ‘I didn’t know you could pay off a mortgage.'”

“Why might we talk with others about our being mortgage-free?  To act as a model?  To feel better about ourselves?  To break our sense of isolation?  So they’ll be impressed by us/like us more?  What will I risk for that goal?…risking openness (with gentleness but also with joy) seems the right approach to me about money – and about freedom from mortgages.”

Have you gotten out of debt? How did it feel? Apparently Dave Ramsey invites people who do so to call in and scream “I’m debt free.” Is there a way to celebrate that passage that would inspire your friends to do the same? Is it showing off to share this graduation from debt?

One Comment

  1. I’m 10 months from paying off my mortgage, which is my last debt on the planet. I’m doing this without the benefit of the principles of the book, I just got a good paying job in a war zone and am putting a large portion of my pay towards my mortgage. Many of my friends and family are curious how I’ve done this at my relatively young age (42) but so far all responses are enthusiastic. Most say they are not willing to spend 3 years away from family as I have to make this happen. My path is not for everyone, but no body seeing me as gloating, and Im not trying to lord it over anyone. I’m just tickled pink that this is possible. I plan on retiring at 43 and ‘homesteading’ for the rest of my life.


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