10 Key Characteristics of Debt-Free People

Photo (cc) by danielmoyle

Editor’s Note: Several months ago we began seeking out the best money articles we could find. The goal? Create a personal finance “supersite” where the web’s finest writers can showcase what they consider their best work. The following post comes from our first such discovery, Len Penzo. Stay tuned for more!

This post comes from guest columnist Len Penzo at LenPenzo.com.

The other day a friend and I were discussing why some people manage to live their lives in complete control of their finances, while others are constantly trying to get out of debt fast – and usually in hock up to their eyeballs no matter how much money they make.

I’ve preached that financial freedom can be achieved by anybody, regardless of their income level, more times than I care to count.

So what is it that separates the financially free from the financially inept?

Why is it that there are families out there with household incomes under $40,000 comfortably making ends meet and saving for retirement with no debt on the books – or at worst, a single mortgage payment – while others who make millions per year – like Sinbad, Ed McMahon, Mike Tyson, and Stephen Baldwin – have trouble keeping their financial heads above water?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized there is no single trait that determines who will successfully manage their personal finances and those who won’t.

More often than not, it seems to me that people of modest means who exhibit an ability to properly manage their finances have some combination of multiple characteristics.

Here is my list of 10 key characteristics that enable people of modest means to lead a debt-free life…

1. They’re detail-oriented

People who are in a good financial position always pay close attention to their personal finances. They know how much they earn, and they keep track of how much they spend and where every penny goes. Because they’ve got a good handle on the state of their personal finances, they are less likely to buy something they can’t afford.

2. They realize debt is a mortgage on their future

I remember somebody once telling me that debt is a form of indentured servitude, where we end up sacrificing our future earnings in exchange for instant gratification. Financially savvy people understand that, in most cases, such a trade almost always ends up being a Faustian bargain.

3. They’re pragmatic

More often than not, folks who are debt-free are also practical people. Because they are practical, they understand the meaning of value. For example, a car is often looked at merely as means to get from point A to point B, so why buy a Lexus when a Corolla will do? In the same vein, why pay double for designer jeans that will last just as long as the no-name alternatives? Such a philosophy even stretches to the grocery store, where name-brand items often give way to their store-brand counterparts.

4. They’re self-reliant

Most people who work hard to maintain a life of financial freedom take pride in being self-reliant. To that aim, they make sure they always live within their means, and save as much money as they can for a rainy day or when times get lean. (They’re also quick to give when others fall on hard times.)

5. They aren’t addicted to shopping

We all know there are people out there who get a high on spending money, whether they have it or not. While not physically destructive like a drug or alcohol addiction, an uncontrolled shopping habit will make it virtually impossible to remain debt free.

6. They’re patient

People who are debt-free didn’t get there because they were impulsive shoppers, or always looking for instant gratification. If the money for something wasn’t in the budget, then they saved their money and waited.

7. They’re self-confident

Because they refuse to let their self-worth be defined by their possessions, the financially free never feel any pressure to spend money in order to try and keep up with the Joneses. Those who are debt-free understand that their status in life is more accurately conveyed by self-confidence, rather than dubiously deceptive displays of wealth.

8. They realize credit cards are a double-edged sword

People who are in control of their personal finances aren’t afraid of credit cards. In fact, they embrace them. And while the financially savvy understand the incredible benefits that credit cards provide their owners, they also know that if they fail to pay them off in full at the end of each month, they will pay a heavy price. This knowledge fosters a healthy respect that keeps their credit cards from being abused.

9. They believe in personal responsibility

Financially responsible people refuse to make excuses. If they lose their job, they know it’s their responsibility to have a rainy day fund in place – and if they don’t, they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. Short of an unforeseen catastrophic medical issue or natural disaster, they also understand that when it comes to living within one’s means, they are in complete control of their own destiny.

10. They’re not materialistic

The pursuit of expensive toys and other possessions can certainly make life more luxurious. But at what cost? I know it’s a cliche, but most people who are debt-free understand better than most that money cannot buy lasting happiness. As such, they often tend to live simpler lives that focus on the joys of family, rather than the accumulation of material possessions.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, the more aforementioned characteristics that a person possesses, the more likely they are to be debt free and living a life of financial freedom. How many of them apply to you?

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Ways to Nail Savings on Your Remodeling Project
10 Ways to Nail Savings on Your Remodeling Project

Here’s how to save on your next remodeling project with discounted materials and more tips and tricks.

Want a Healthy Retirement? Turn This Device Off
Want a Healthy Retirement? Turn This Device Off

A common behavior becomes increasingly dangerous for those who are 50 or older.

5 Reasons You Should Claim Social Security ASAP
5 Reasons You Should Claim Social Security ASAP

Experts often recommend postponing claiming your Social Security retirement benefits. But there are situations in which you should start taking the money sooner.

8 Common and Costly Homebuying Myths
8 Common and Costly Homebuying Myths

Think you’re ready to buy a house? Don’t fall victim to these rookie mistakes.

Should You Hire a Service to Negotiate Your Cable and Other Bills?
Should You Hire a Service to Negotiate Your Cable and Other Bills?

Services like BillCutterz and BillFixers will negotiate your cable, internet, phone and other monthly bills in exchange for a share of the savings. I tried it: Here’s what happened.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk
Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk

A new study finds that wearing a cloth mask can backfire if you don’t clean it properly.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.