There's a lot of shame around money, right? It's a little bit taboo to talk about. You kind of sweep it under the rug in our society. To be able to break that taboo and put it all out there was really freeing and allowed us to process what worked and what didn't a little better. —Adam Baker, real estate agent
When Adam Baker, a real estate agent from Indianapolis, and his wife Courtney, a schoolteacher, had their first baby, they decided their lives had to change.
The $78,000 in consumer and student debt had to go.
After making plans to eliminate the debt, Baker found an unorthodox way of finding support on his road to recovery. The new father began disclosing his finances online through blogging.
"There's a lot of shame around money, right?" said Baker in a telephone interview with the Deseret News. "It's a little bit taboo to talk about. You kind of sweep it under the rug in our society. To be able to break that taboo and put it all out there was really freeing and allowed us to process what worked and what didn't a little better."
The accountability, education and support that came from publicly sharing details about their debt recovery helped the new parents pay off about $30,000 in consumer and student debt in two-and-a-half years. Others who have turned to blogging about debt have erased about $35,000 by using the internet to share experiences, hold themselves accountable and learn from others.
Since starting ManVsDebt.com, Baker and his wife have managed to pay off $18,000 in consumer debt and $15,000 in student loans. The couple still has about $39,000 left in student loans. All this information, including monthly expense reports, are shared on the Baker's website.
U.S. revolving debt, which includes credit cards, was $798.64 billion in February, down 18 percent from its high in September 2008, according to a report from the Federal Reserve.
"Credit card borrowing has slowed down a bit," Aneta Markowska, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, told Bloomberg earlier this month. "Clearly there was a run up in the past few months related to the holidays, and we've seen a pretty meaningful slowdown. The process of repairing consumers' balance sheets still has farther to go."
The amount of credit card debt in the U.S. may be what is causing people to flock to websites like Baker's to find support and advice.
The blog is relatable, and that's what has brought in viewers, Baker said.
"People really could connect with me quickly because I was transparent," Baker said.
Being open about debt online helps people acknowledge that they might have a problem and provides a channel for advice from people who have overcome similar situations, said Arul Mishra, an associate professor of marketing for the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah in an email to the Deseret News.
Baker, whose wife recently had their second baby, Charlotte, began by simply blogging about their battle with debt, but he has now become a voice for financial freedom.
"Now that I've learned and grown enough from my community, I can actually help people through the process," said Baker, who now relies on blogging as a primary source of income while his wife is a stay-at-home mom.
Others have been in a situation similar to the Bakers and have used blogging to overcome their financial struggles.
With $35,000 in consumer debt, J.D. Roth, owner of the financial blog Get Rich Slowly, had hit his limit and committed to getting himself out of debt.
Roth read up on methods of how to eliminate debt and began sharing them online through a personal blog.
The blogger started a 5-year plan to eliminate his liabilities, but the added motivation and accountability from blogging pushed him to pay it off in only 39 months.
"It was a way for me to make sense of what I was reading and learning," Roth said in a phone interview. "It's a way for me to process all the things I've been reading and assimilating."
Staying true to the readership of his blog kept Roth on the road away from debt.
"Whereas, I don't necessarily share all of my financial details, I'm very public about who I am and what I'm doing, and because of that, there is accountability" said Roth, who regularly meets with readers and colleagues to give financial advice. "I know I have to walk the walk. So there is some accountability there."
Friends and family read the blog as well, which brings pressure to stick to set goals, Roth said.
Over the past six years, Get Rich Slowly has now become more about conscious spending where readers come to learn more about overcoming debt.
The blog received nearly 3 million unique visitors in the past 12 months, according to Compete.com.
Some blogs choose to remain anonymous when disclosing their debt problems.
DebtFreeMormon.com is maintained and written by a "certified financial counselor" who anonymously discloses his financial liabilities and successes.
"I felt inspired to create a blog where I could share my journey with others, as well as share the guidance and counsel offered by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, past and present, and the counsel of God as it is written in the scriptures," the author said in a description of the website.
The anonymous writer of DebtFreeMormon.com has managed to pay off more than $25,000 out of $50,318 in debt, according to the site.
Though these bloggers aren't finance professionals, consumers may be more likely to turn to them for help.
"Getting information from experts is always helpful because they can give specific solutions to solving one's problems," Mishra said. "However, people sometimes feel overwhelmed or reluctant to share their problems with an expert. In many situations, talking with others who were or are in the same circumstances gives them a feeling that they might not be alone. In those terms, blogging does act like a support system."
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