Most new businesses fail within the first five years of starting to do business. You have to ask yourself why. My father was born in 1908 and my mom in 1913. My father turned 21 the year the stock market crashed, and he entered the infamous Depression as a full-fledged adult. Mom was 16 in 1929 and was deeply imprinted by the long and trying times of the 1930s. Because of their vivid memories of bread lines and no work, my parents shunned debt at every turn. They regularly saved money, were frugal, and only bought what they could pay for in cash. This included all automobiles and every house they would ever purchase.

This is particularly impressive when you consider that my father was a simple man who was forced to leave school in the fourth grade to tend to the family farm. He was virtually illiterate and did not learn to read or write until his late 30s when he entered the police force after World War II. The pay he received as a beat cop was minimal, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom like many in her day. By the time my father died in the mid 1990s at the age of 87, he had six figures in the bank as well as various other investments. There were life insurance policies to collect and no debt other than funeral expenses to pay. He never held a position higher than a Hammond policeman or plant guard at Youngstown Sheet & Tube steel mill. He was blue collar through and through. But he knew the secret.

My father was an honest man who worked hard, paid his bills on time, and never entered into debt his entire 87 years on earth. He was brilliant. Businesses fail because of debt. The big secret is a very simple one. If you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it. After all, if you can’t afford it, then you certainly can’t afford it and the interest. That’s just basic logic.

Congress, I hope you’re listening. —Kathy Shertzer is office manager at DuKate Remodeling, in Franklin, Ind.