The cuckoo bird is infamous for practicing what is known as “brood parasitism.” The term “cuckold” derives from “cuckoo.” The cuckoos lay their egg in another bird’s nest and trick the unsuspecting bird into raising their chick. What you may not be aware of is this: there’s a good chance you’re like that unsuspecting bird. How many Ugly Chicks are YOU raising?
What is Debt? Don’t Hurt Me, Don’t Hurt Me, No More
It’s such an impersonal word.
“Soul Crusher” or “dream destroyer” are more appropriate terms for this parasitic force on your life. Debt sounds so innocuous.
Let’s make it personal. After all, there’s nothing more personal than something that affects your future.
Instead of thinking about debt as a red number with a minus in front of it, I want you to think of it as that big Ugly Chick in the photo above. Take a second to look at it…it looks like a jerk, right? Look at that big stupid mouth.
You’re that little bird toiling away to feed it. Once the cuckoo gets big enough to fly, it leaves, and you never hear from your Ugly Chick again. No surprise worms left on the edge of your nest or occasional tweets. All your time and effort is spent on someone else’s hopes and dreams! Your debt is financing someone else’s goals at the expense of your own.
Now that we’ve reframed debt as an Ugly Chick, let’s find out how many you’re raising.
Count Your Ugly Chicks Before They’ve Hatched
Please head to my Money Multiple post immediately and figure out what your Money Multiple is. Just click the link, and a new tab will open up. I’ll wait.
Ok, good. Now that you’ve got that number, I’d like to drop some knowledge on you:
According to the Department of Agriculture, it costs $233,610 to raise a child. This mind-boggling figure includes ages 0 to 17 but DOES NOT cover the cost of college, if you decide to foot that bill. Let’s forget for a second that we’re a frugal bunch and accept that figure at face value.
Take $233,610 and divide it by your Money Multiple. In my case, my Money Multiple is 7.5x, so my result is $31,148. Let’s call this your Cuckoo Figure. This figure represents the amount of money needed to earn $233,610 for retirement if you invested it right now instead of using it to pay off all your debt immediately.*
Now, take the total amount of your debt. My debt consists of student loans and one auto loan, both at meager interest rates. This debt amounts to $160,000 if I round up and exclude my credit card balances, which I pay off monthly.**
Divide the amount of your debt by your Cuckoo Figure. I get 5.1. You can’t raise a fraction of an Ugly Chick so call this 6.
What does this mean?
In addition to my one beautiful kid (Mini Moose), I’m raising six Ugly Chicks! I do think of my debt as additional kids I have to support. These kids are the worst, though.
This debt is a terrible burden and is why whenever I decide to start working again, zeroing out my debt will be my top priority after I replenish my emergency funds. Previously, I focused more on building up my emergency funds than paying off debt (thank f#ck for that, see here).
Now that I know I’ve got six ugly chicks squawking at me to feed them more, I’m even more motivated to boot them out of the nest and never let one in again!
I hope this post motivates you to eradicate your debt as soon as humanly possible. If you have no debt at the moment, congrats! In your case, I hope the image of this big-mouthed ugly cuckoo chick is permanently associated with debt, and you stay debt-free indefinitely!**
How many Ugly Chicks are you raising? How will life be different once you’re not tossing money at one of these butterballs?
* The math behind this can be as simple or complex as you want. I’ve chosen to simplify it for this post. You can use the Money Multiple to calculate a new figure based on the delta between your debt interest rates and the expected return on your investments, for example. The main point here is that the debt you’re carrying now is costing you a lot in not just interest, but opportunity cost!
**Yes, some debt is useful, like leverage used to buy a cash-flow positive rental property. Don’t count this helpful debt when you calculate your Cuckoo Figure. Do, however, count any debt that isn’t making you money right now. I include student debt to be conservative (also, it’s not making me any money while I’m not working and it’s difficult to know the impact of my degree on my earnings).