Treating the symptoms of debt is not enough


It’s hard enough just getting to the point where you know you’re ready for a change. You’re standing at the intersection and you’ve finally decided that it’s time to go forward with your life. You’re ready to be on the other side.

But how do you get there? That probably sounds like an unnecessarily big question. “You just cross the street already!” you may be tempted to yell at your computer or mobile device. (If you can avoid it, I suggest not yelling at either, for the sake of not seeming crazy and/or very mean when you give directions.)

For some people, it might be that easy, because for some people the street they’re crossing is quiet and has plenty of crosswalks. But for a lot of people it can be significantly more complicated. Sometimes there are no crosswalks and the traffic is rushing by and the second they step off from that sidewalk they’ll be swept up in the crush and never make it to the other side. (That was the end of the “crossing the street” metaphor, I promise.)

The process of breaking up with debt is not an easy one. Whatever your ultimate financial goals may be, if your debt has become too much for you to handle, it takes hard work and dedication to turn things around. It’s something you can absolutely do on your own, but the beautiful thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, in many ways working with a certified credit counselor can make all the difference when it comes to your long-term success.


Because your issues with debt have causes and they have symptoms. You may not know the causes, but you can see the symptoms. And, quite frankly, treating the symptoms just isn’t going to get the job done.

What are your symptoms?

When your relationship with debt first starts to turn sour, it’s usually pretty easy to see the symptoms of your problem. Some of the most common include the following:

Why not just treat the symptom?

Most solutions to your financial problems focus on treating the symptoms, which makes sense on the face of it. The symptom is the part of the problem you can see, so it’s reasonable to think that if you take care of that then you’ll be fine. But you wouldn’t think much of a doctor who only ever treated your symptoms without ever asking, “What’s causing this?” So why is that good enough when it comes to your finances?

For an example, if you’re struggling to pay all of your monthly bills, a debt consolidation loan might seem to make a lot of sense. All of your unsecured debt wrapped up in a new (presumably lower) payment – that would certainly help a lot of people.

But how did you get to the point where paying your bills was such a struggle? If your problems stem from bad spending habits or a poor understanding of how to budget for your household, then that debt consolidation loan might not fix anything at all. In fact, that temporary relief in your monthly bills may even cause you to go further into debt if you haven’t changed any of the bad habits that got you in trouble in the first place!

Fix the cause and the symptoms will follow

Very often, when people realize that it’s time to make a change and break up with debt, they want to know the fastest way to solve their problem. That usually means going straight for the symptoms. But what they often fail to see is that if the causes go unaddressed, no matter how great a job you do treating those symptoms, you’re almost guaranteed to end up back where you started from eventually.

So if you’ve reach the point where you know something needs to change, consider speaking with a certified credit counselor. A trained counselor can identify the cause of your financial distress and help you develop a plan of action that addresses the real problems – the ones that got you into trouble in the first place.

Breaking up with debt isn’t going to be easy, no matter how you approach it, but working with a credit counselor to understand and combat the root of your problem is your best bet to making sure your issues with debt never come back again.

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Financial Counseling Association of America Financial Counseling Association of America
    MMI is a proud member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), a national association representing financial counseling companies that provide consumer credit counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, bankruptcy counseling, debt management, and various financial education services.
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.9/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Equal Housing Opportunity Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.