Are You on the Road to Debt and Destruction?

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

b0a804ef35d32d037668b2edd449fe38Every year since 1996, over one million personal bankruptcies have been filed in the United States. The majority of these are the direct result of poorly managed consumer debt.

I was informed recently that outstanding U.S. consumer debt (non-mortgage related) totals much more than a trillion dollars. The most disturbing fact behind that staggering number is that thirteen percent of that one trillion dollar figure, or thirteen billion dollars, was delinquent. 

Thirteen billion dollars of delinquent consumer debt. Over one million personal bankruptcies each year. Are YOU on the road to debt and destruction, or ready to apply now for the financial help? Take this simple quiz and find out. 


  1. Do you regularly pay for groceries with a credit card?
  2. Do you spend money now, expecting your income to increase in the future?
  3. Do you hide purchases from your spouse or other family members?
  4. Do you have difficulty imagining your life without credit?
  5. Are you becoming an expert at juggling each month, deciding which bills to pay and which ones to let go until the next paycheck?
  6. Do you pay off your monthly credit-card bills, but let other bills slide, such as medical expenses and utilities?
  7. Have you taken cash advances on one credit card to pay monthly payments on other cards?
  8. Do you feel anxiety when you think about or discuss your financial situation?
  9. Do you have little or no money in savings?
  10. Do you make frequent impulse purchases?
  11. Does your installment debt (not including mortgages) amount to more than 20 percent of your income?
  12. Has the stress of your financial situation caused severe turmoil in your relationship with your spouse, or other family members?
  13. Are you at your credit limits?
  14. Do you fail to keep an accurate record of your purchases?
  15. Have you started to receive collection letters, notices or phone calls?
  16. Are you afraid to answer the phone in case it’s a collection agency?


How many times did you answer “Yes,” to the preceding questions? 

0 –  You’re doing great! Full speed ahead! 

1 – 2  You still have a green light. You can probably proceed in relative safety. Your splurging is not out of control . . . yet. 

3 – 4  Slow down! You have a flashing yellow light and have entered the severe caution zone. You need to start exercising more self-discipline in the area of finances. It’s time to draw up a budget, pay off your debts, and reevaluate your spending habits before you find yourself in over your head. 

5 – 6  Red light! Stop! You seriously need to gain control of your spending before you proceed any further. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You’d be wise to seek out a credit counselor or financial planner for immediate help in changing your spending habits. You are well on the road to financial catastrophe, but there’s still hope. Turn around now! 

7 – 16  DANGER! DANGER! You’re careening out of control and emergency measures are needed. You are about to experience a financial crash of monumental proportions. You need to slam on your brakes and come to an immediate stop. The wisest course of action when you find yourself on the wrong road is to turn around and go back. If you keep heading the way you are, you’ll only go further away from financial stability. If you’re this far down the wrong road, you should cut up all of your credit cards and close the accounts, now! Don’t spend one more penny on anything but the most basic necessities until you’ve called a credit counselor for assistance. (And please don’t run out and purchase something today, thinking that you’re about to cut up your credit cards! That’s the type of thinking that brought you down this road to begin with.) 

Remember, you’re not a bad person for being in this situation, but you’ve made some big mistakes. Now is the time to start making proper decisions about your finances. You can get off this wild ride, but if you don’t take immediate steps to fix the problem, you could soon become another personal bankruptcy statistic.  

This quiz was excerpted and adapted from A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity by Deborah Taylor-Hough (SourceBooks, 1999). Used with permission.

Deborah Taylor-Hough (free-lance writer and mother of three now-grown-up kiddos) is the author of Frugal Living For Dummies® (Wiley), A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity and the bestselling Frozen Assets cookbook series (SourceBooks).

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