Are you sticking your head in the sand?

By Michelle Roberts, Deputy Editor, Creating Wealth

Did you know that this year marks the 21st birthday of the introduction of the “No Win, No Fee” system in UK courts?

Before 1995 it and all those ham-acted, annoying adverts you see just about everywhere for it, didn’t exist.

One thing you probably do know is that it didn’t take very long after it’s introduction for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to begin suing each other over the smallest of things “just because they could”.

Pretty soon, the UK had become engulfed by what has become known as “compensation culture”. Slogans such as “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” went hand in hand with a rise of petty, often absurd, litigation cases…

Like the £13,500 given to a science teacher in London who injured their shoulder moving some books…

Or the hospital visitor was given £16,000 in compensation after slipping on a sachet of mayonnaise at a Liverpool hospital.

The list of crazy compensation cases goes on and on…

But wait. What has the “compensation culture” got to do with you creating wealth?

Surely those people who sue people and win have lots of money, so that’s what I should do? I hear you ask.

But before you think I’m about to say that suing people is one of the income-generating ideas in our 57 Wealth Hacks guide — think again…

Who’s fault is it anyway?

It’s got to do with responsibility. And the fact that a lot of us nowadays refuse to take responsibility for our own shortcomings or for the poor financial situations we are in. Every problem we face is not our fault — it’s someone else’s.

You can see it in all forms of modern society…

- If someone is morbidly obese they blame McDonalds, Coco Cola or other fast-food companies.

They don’t for a second admit that it could be their own gluttony and laziness that has got them in to that position.

- If someone doesn’t have a job they blame the Eastern Europeans for stealing them all and blame the government for not controlling immigration.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they bunked of school all the time and left with no qualifications or the skills required to get a good job.

It’s the same with many people who are in crippling debt…

Instead of taking responsibility and admitting that their own spending habits have gotten out of control and that they are too lazy to sit down and create a budget each month, they blame others for their problems…

They blame their bosses for not paying them enough. Or they blame the banks and credit companies for making it too “easy” to borrow money they cannot afford.

There is a growing number of people out there who, encouraged by this compensation culture, are too quick to blame anyone but themselves for their situation.

Rather than take responsibility for their own actions and for their own failures, they choose to defer the blame on to other parties.

“With great power comes great responsibility”

Now, the above quote may come from a Hollywood blockbuster but I think it’s quite apt for what I’m talking about today.

You see, you’ve earned the money you make. And you and only you have the power over what you spend it on. And only you are also responsible for any debt you take on and how you repay that debt.

Now, you may be thinking “I have to pay rent; I have to pay for electricity and gas etc.; I have to pay for my car and for food.”

And that’s true — you do HAVE to pay for all of those things.

But, and here’s the thing.

You have the power to live within or without your means — you have the power over what type of property you live in, what kind of car you drive and what kind of foods/clothes you buy.

Living within your means and without bad debts can be done. In fact many Creating Wealth members have written in to say that they live within their means and have no large debts to worry them.

Many people don’t live within their means when, if they really tried, they could. But they choose not to.

I want to go back to something Glenn said here about the notion of money, or credit, being “easy” to obtain nowadays.

It’s true, almost every week I receive a letter from my bank offering me a loan or another credit card (they all go straight in the shredder by the way).

But, as Glenn said — just because it is “easy”, doesn’t mean you should do it. Because, once you start building debt, it’s often a slippery slope that’s too hard to get off of.

As the journalist Gilbert Harding said:

“…the difficulties of people who, upon the recommendation of people they did not know, signed documents which they did not read, to buy goods they did not need, with money they had not got.”

Only you have the power to sign your signature on the dotted line for a loan or whip your credit card out to pay for those £200 trainers you can’t actually afford.

No one else makes those decisions for you — you make them. Therefore the consequences of those decisions are of your making and your responsibility.

Sticking you head in the sand

Are you in debt? (I’m talking about bad debts — credit cards, loans, overdrafts here). Would you admit that you have been guilty in the past of blaming others — the government, the banks or your employer?

If you are then, believe me, you are not alone. Blaming other people is much easier than accepting responsibility for the situation — that’s why so many people do it.

But you have to realise that it’s just another form of denial. You’re just sticking your head in the sand hoping that if you blame others long enough the problem will miraculously go away.

It won’t though, not until you admit to yourself that the reason you are in crippling debt is, for the most part, your fault.

Only when you accept this responsibility and commit yourself to change can you truly start digging your way out of the debt you are in.

Now, I understand that sometimes things happen that are out of your control, that can cause you to go in to debt. But for the majority debt is simply down to bad money management and poor decision making.

By admitting that your debt you’ve been blaming others for is really, for the most part, your fault — you take ownership of your actions.

Think of your life like a car and you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

Only when you acknowledge that your debt is your responsibility and that only you have the power to steer yourself out of it, can you tackle debt head on and win.

Do you agree with what I’ve said today? Do you think you’ve been guilty of burying your head in the sand and blaming others? Please email me your feedback on wbc@agora.co.uk.

Are you ready to take responsibility for your debt and make the changes necessary to get out of it?

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