Runaway Debt, Can You Ever Pay It Back?

Do you ever hear a song that reminds you of someone from your past? I used to know a student named Andy who was always up to his eyeballs in debt. Every time I hear the tune "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum, I think about Andy’s massive debt and how this song probably captured the way he felt about it.

Runaway Debt

I don’t know what the song’s lyrics are actually about, but I imagine many people struggling to pay off their debts sometimes feel like they’re on a runaway train. Let's take a look at some of the lyrics and what we can learn from them.

"It seems no one can help me now"

When you’re drowning in debt, it’s easy to feel alone and beyond help. The crazy thing is, when you feel the farthest from help is probably when you need it the most.

Family and friends might not be able to help you financially, but they can lend moral support and help you find professional guidance. Look out for companies trying to take advantage of your situation; the FTC has some tips for dealing with debt-relief services.

There are legitimate debt-counseling organizations that can help you; a good place to start looking is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). The NFCC is the country’s largest and oldest nonprofit credit-counseling network.

"I'm in too deep; there's no way out"

One of the discouraging things about high-interest debt is that it’s really easy to get “buried” by the interest payments.

You feel like all your payments are going to just pay off the interest, and you’re not even putting a dent in the amount you borrowed.

Like any really discouraging situation, you may be tempted to give up and walk away from the debt, but that’s probably the worst thing you can do. Filing for bankruptcy is an option, but not the one you should consider first.

Your debtors want their money back and may be willing to work with you to renegotiate the terms of the loan to make it more likely you’ll be able to pay it back.

"This time I have really led myself astray"

We're human, and we all make mistakes — some worse than others. When you’re stumbling under a crushing load of debt, the reality of your situation can really get you down.

Not everyone’s battle with debt has self-inflicted wounds, but often one or more decisions you’ve made have contributed to the problem. While it’s good to take responsibility for those mistakes and make changes so they won’t happen again, dwelling on the past can slow your climb out of debt.

You don’t have to be destined for a debt-ridden life because of your past choices. Getting hung up on bad decisions, misfortune, being a victim, or being treated unfairly can take your focus off of digging out of debt.

"Bought a ticket for a runaway train"

This line says to me, “I did this to myself.” However, it’s a lyric that comes with the benefit of hindsight.

Would you get on a train you knew was going to jump the track? I’d hope not. Chances are you probably had a much different destination in mind when you set out. Looking back, you wouldn’t do it again.

Sure, things might have crashed and burned somewhere along the way, but don’t beat yourself up about it. What would you do if you were literally on a runaway train? Probably find a way to get off as quickly as possible…sounds like the way to go to me.

"Like a madman laughin' at the rain: little out of touch, little insane"

Tens of thousands of dollars in debt is enough to make anyone a little crazy. It weighs on your mind and probably every financial decision that you make.

If your debt truly has put you into a stupor of denial or avoidance, maybe you need a wake-up call to snap you out of it. Of course, when you're consumed by something, it can be tough to realize you need some intervention. This is where the people you surround yourself with become really important.

You want to be around people who care about you and are willing to put themselves on the line to help you out. A good support system is important to helping you beat your debt.

Getting Out of Debt

Just like the song "Runaway Train," the experience of being in debt is full of emotion. Sometimes our emotions can drag us down to a real low point, but don't let them derail your efforts for getting out of debt. Just remember, there are many people who were once in a similar situation and made it out of debt. You can too.

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Guest's picture

So true about it being emotional. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, you just have to make sure you are going in the right direction.

Guest's picture

And if it truly is "runaway debt" it means it took a while to get there, and will take some time to get back. Saying that was easy, but actually doing it is a lot harder for most people.

Guest's picture

Your article has been helpful. I have a home and 10 mortgages on rental properties. I'm having to take part of my income to keep the rentals afloat. Is there any advice you can give me to start digging out of this hole?



Guest's picture

Very creative analogy and unique way of reaching out to people who need help with their debts.