When I was 10 and had a paper route, I used to hoard my money in a big cookie tin, periodically arranging the pile of change into stacks that I dutifully transported to the bank. Once I even dumped my money on the floor and rolled around in my treasure like Scrooge McDuck.
Then one day I figured out that I could spend that money on almost anything I wanted and a 10 year old wants a lot.
Once I made that first withdrawal it was all over for me. I went from a hoarder to the last of the big-time spenders.
I went from delivering papers to a grocery store to a couple of gas stations over the next few years, blowing all of my hard-earned cash on the thing I thought I needed at the time toys, comic books, junk food, video games, the usual crap.
By the time I was in high school I was eating out a lot, buying tickets to every concert that buzzed through Toronto, picking up tabs, and generally living like a high roller.
It was in university that I took things a little further, taking out a massive student loan, getting my very first credit card, and generally learning to live comfortably in debt.
Since graduating Ive continued to earn and burn, often spending more than I was taking in.
About a year ago, about the same time I got on the Whistler Housing Authority list with my girlfriend, I realized my debts were nearing the point of no return. I was spending more on repayments and interest every month than I was on myself after necessary expenses like rent and groceries. Somehow I had even maxed out the overdraft limit on my bank account.
Living that close to the brink it became impossible to save any money, even for the things I actually needed. I put off dental visits and filling prescriptions, despite having a health plan, because I didnt have the money to pay the costs up front. Everything else I couldnt afford I put on plastic.
Like millions of other Canadians I had officially fallen into the debt trap. And what a trap it is total consumer debt is about $450 billion in this country, which means the average Canuck adult is in the hole about $2,000.
That figure doesnt include student loans, mortgages, and various other forms of debt.
If half of all Canadians were on top of their finances, that would leave the other half with an average of $4,000 in personal consumer debt. I fall well within the "other half" category.