Besides spending time with family members and other loved ones, the spirit of giving is one of the most beautiful aspects of the holiday season. For some, no gesture is too grand and no purchase not worth the smile on the recipient’s face. For others, practical considerations mean homemade gifts or other, similarly modest gestures.

I submit that there is no “right” way to give, as long as the sentiment behind the gift is meaningful and authentic. Nonetheless, some startling statistics demonstrate that many well-meaning gift-givers go wildly overboard. For security clearance holders – whose clearances and jobs depend in part on demonstrating financial responsibility – such largesse can have devastating repercussions.

Last year around this time, USA TODAY released a startling statistic: some 25% of Americans take six months or more to pay off their holiday purchases, according to a poll. To put that in perspective, by the time that holiday debt is fully discharged school is out for the summer and trips to the beach are in full swing.

A Growing Money Problem

Some commentators have noted that the trend of going into debt to pay for holiday gifts appears to be on the upswing. A different study found that 8% of baby boomers financed last year’s holiday debt, while 16% of “Generation X’ers” and 24% of millennials did the same.

Security clearance holders, although they tend to be a largely responsible demographic, aren’t immune from such spending excesses. Just take a look at the publicly available security clearance denial and revocation decisions for either the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy. As we often remind readers of this site, financial considerations are the number one reason for security clearance problems.

To avoid becoming a statistic may require some forethought and planning. One strategy I try to use to minimize holiday season shopping bills is to spread out the shopping over a few months in the fall. Buying gifts this way also has an added benefit: it removes the stress from the process when shopping for that inevitable hard-to-please person on your list.

There are a number of other good strategies out there to help keep the bills under control around this time of year while still enjoying the spirit of giving. For more on that, check out this 2017 article from Forbes: Six Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Go into Debt This Holiday Season.

Cheers to a joyous and peaceful holiday season.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials, revocations, and the security clearance application process. He is a former investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management). For more information, please visit Readers will also find a low-cost, self-help option for obtaining copies of their security clearance background investigations and DISS/Scattered Castles records at