Lugging around, on average, $38,000 of personal debt is exhausting.¹
It can deplete the power of your personal income until you barely have enough left to cover the monthly bills. You know it’s not a matter of IF you should eliminate debt. It’s a matter of HOW.
You have two basic debt destroying strategies at your disposal, each with different strengths and weaknesses. They’re called the Debt Avalanche and the Debt Snowball.
The Debt Avalanche. The Debt Avalanche starts with a bang. Identify the debt with the highest interest rate and immediately begin to pay it down. Make the minimum payments on all your other loans, but direct everything you can at eliminating the largest financial threat you’re facing. Once it’s paid off, take that extra money you’ve freed up and move on to the next highest interest rate debt. You’ll kickstart an unstoppable force of tumbling debt that will carry you all the way down to your smallest payment—and then zero debt.
Technically speaking, the debt avalanche is the most effective way to become debt-free. The math speaks for itself; paying off that high interest loan should free up a significant chunk of cash that can then be used to even more rapidly wipe out the next debt. The smaller rates won’t stand a chance against your newly freed up cash flow and will be swept away in your debt-removal path.
The Debt Snowball. But following the math isn’t always the best strategy. High interest debts can appear overwhelming and it’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t quickly see a dent. All the number-crunching in the world won’t help if you abandon your debt management strategy before you make any significant progress! That’s why the debt snowball leverages the power of psychology. Find your smallest debt on the list (regardless of the interest rate) and pay it down as quickly as possible. You’ll feel good about your accomplishment, as you get the ball rolling. Use whatever cash you freed up from eliminating the smallest debt to go towards the next smallest. Start working your way up until you’re ready to confront your largest loan. By that time you can use the free cash at your disposal to dispatch the final debt boss as quickly as possible!
The debt snowball uses your brain’s wiring to respond to rapid rewards. Crushing a goal feels good! Knocking out that first loan, as little as it may be, motivates you to move on. Is the Debt Snowball a slower process than the Debt Avalanche? Maybe. But it might be a more successful, manageable strategy if you’re intimidated by the largest debt that towers over your personal finances.
It’s always wise to seek guidance from a licensed and qualified financial professional when drawing out your debt reduction battle plans. They’ll help you prepare an emergency fund, identify the best strategy for you, and refine your budget to free up as much cash as possible!
Then suit up with your mittens, coat, and beanie—it’s time to trigger an avalanche or get the snowball rolling!
¹ “Planning And Progress Study 2018,” Northwestern Mutual, https://news.northwesternmutual.com/planning-and-progress-2018