Why Strike Debt

Debt. Housing. Education. Healthcare. Consumer. Municipal. Debt

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Playing it Safe

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I played it safe by going to a community college my first two years of college. After attending an out-of-state college for 3 semesters, I racked up nearly $30,000 in student loans, and transferring to a more ‘affordable’ university I graduated with $40,000. While this doesn’t seem like much, interest has been accruing and I have not been able to find a full time job in my field or any field for that matter.

I have tried to make payment arrangements for my loans, and have been wholly successful, but I was not informed that one of my loans would not fall under this repayment plan and I now have a loan in default. Almost all are more than 18 days past due. I live at home with my parents and I work a part time job with less than 20 hours a week 
I want to be able to work and pay my debt, but the current system is making me feel like I’m in a deep hole that I will never get out of. 

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Credit Card Debt is the work of the Devil

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It didn’t take very long for me to realize that credit cards are a bad thing and that the only way to end the payments is to stop using the card and keep paying them off. But in college they give out credit card applications out like candy. Seriously. Here’s a free Tshirt if you fill this out.  And sure I made mistakes and in 2009 I finally payed off my credit cards by working hard, living frugally and sending double payments every month.  And here is what I mean by frugal: no cable, just internet and netflix instant play. No new clothes, just Goodwill. Dinner out? Only once a week or less, cooking from scratch the rest of the time. Decreasing how much I spend on disposables, using cloth diapers. Buying in bulk, using powdered milk, bartering with organic farmers for fresh produce. Paying for a weekly subscription to an organic farm for a year’s worth of food with my tax return, breastfeeding my two children for their first year. Up-cycling old things, like making a purse from an old worn out pair of jeans, crocheting rag rugs. I drive a 12 year old Saturn that has been payed off for a very long time. Christmas gifts have been about 75% home made for the past 4 years. Don’t be afraid of inconveniences, do the extra work to avoid the expense, conveniences are seldom worth it. Here’s my motto: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” 

But I realize I’m the exception to the rule, and that many of those options I had would not have been possible without a supportive family. I don’t actually believe in “the devil” but when ever anyone in a store tries to offer me a credit card I say, “NO, credit cards are the work of the devil.” And every time I get a smile.  And here is one last quote for you to ponder “The best things in life aren’t things.” 

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Sympathy for the Debtor.

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When I graduated High School and first attempted to go to college I had no debt, no credit cards and I would not have any student loans for quite a few years.  The reason being that I was inedible for student loans.  My mother filed zero on her tax return and though she was my legal guardian she had no role in financially supporting me.  This meant that the U.S. Government rejected my request for student loans until I was 25.  I paid for my first semester in cash, my second with credit card and then I dropped out.

For a few years, I managed fast food restaurants and began to accrue a revolving debt, occasionally charging off one credit card with another.  I still wanted to return to college and I made plans to move to New Orleans for college in 2005, then again in 2006.  

One of my first jobs in New Orleans was at a major record store, the now defunct Tower Records, I sold music and movies and 4-6 hours a week I was the rental collections agent.  I called people and listened and bargained and charged people for rental fees up to the price of purchasing the videos outright.  I found that I judged the people as lazy, or shifty, and thought nothing of charging a person if they avoided contact.  In fact, if they tried to avoid me and I could charge their credit card I thought of it as a coup.  Though I only briefly held the position (only five months) I identified myself as the collector, it temporarily became a part of how I saw myself.  

It would be 6 years before I went back to college, with no savings, a car note and a 401(k) that I cannibalized to keep creditors at bay.  I was doing fairly well, considering.  As I went to school, I ignored the student loan debt I was amassing. I saw it as an expense I should be more than capable of handling when I was a professional.  I graduated with approximately $40,000 in student loan debt, perhaps below the national average, and approximately $10,000 in credit card debt.

This is when I discovered that I would not become a professional in my field but would continue to work in retail and live in a system of revolving debt.  I began to worry what all the debt I had taken on could do to me and to my future.  Worse than all the worry, I identified myself as a debtor, it became a part of how I saw myself.

Through the realization that came with knowing that the debt was not going away came the eventual acceptance of the situation.  I began to be able to see it as a situation which was out of my control and through that acceptance I was able to consider it separate from myself.  I am a human being, I am not a debtor as I saw myself.  I am not the situation that I am in or a byproduct of that situation but a human being.  All the people who I hounded as a collections agent were people too, just like all the collections agents who I talk to on the phone regularly are people before they are anything else.  I enjoy the discussions I have now with the people who call me, I tell them my story and I thank them for their call.  I assume that they themselves are likely in debt as well.

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The Educational Hole…

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All my life, I was told, “You can’t succeed without an education” and “knowledge is power”. I aimed to be smart about it from the start, and avoid debt. I got every scholarship I could, and ended going to a Private University with only a small amount out of pocket as part of my initial plan.

4 years went by, and due to various circumstances, I needed a fifth year. It was only one year, so the debt didn’t seem that big of an issue, hypothetically, with what the computer programminf field paid, I’d be out of debt in a a year and a half at the most.

I graduated, and almost upon leaving, the financial crisis made its first hit. No one was hiring, everyone was firing. The stock market was plummeting. I managed to get a few jobs to make ends meet, but not in my field. Small rinky-dink jobs that barely beat minimum wage. To help out, I also started doing freelance in computers to help. I made regular payments on my debts (or so I thought, more on that soon!)

Realizing the financial crisis wasn’t going to end soon, I hit on what I thought was a brilliant idea… go back to school and wait it out. I wanted to eventually get my PhD anyway, and PhDs made a LOT of money, so I could pay off that debt when I got out, or so I thought…

Running mainly on school loans, I entered into KU, University of Kansas, and told them what I wanted to pursue as for a PhD. They told me that to enter that PhD program, I’d have to get some prerequisite classes before I’d be able to start the program itself… my undergrad wasn’t enough. So I took the classes they told me to, and tried to get in the next semester…
Ooops, they told me, you still need a series of classes… but you should be able to get it in a year of schooling, it’s not that much…
Well, I figured I was in too deep to back out, so I kept trudging forward.
I finished more classes, and went to my academic advisors, “Oh” they said, “We misunderstood you earlier on. The field you’re wanting is actually in a different department.” So I had to go to the different department and try again. By this point, I was in the third year at KU, and the school bills were racking up.
I was working hard, and then I went to the financial aide office, because I got some weird letters… it turned out I was no longer getting financial aide… the reason being? They limit it based on number of semesters, and taking a *single* winter-term class counted as another semester (my previous college just counted it as part of the fall semester). So, I was unceremoniously booted out of trying to get into grad school.

Not to be beaten, I worked hard to find a job, and started paying on bills, with the goal of saving up and going back to college, with way too much in college debt (at this point, sitting at the 70K range).

While working, however, I started getting weird letters from my loan companies, telling me I was deliquint on my payments…. despite the fact I had been paying eachmonth on their website, and it had been nicely saying “payment received” each time. I called them up, and found out that after their computer system confirmed my payments, it turned around and rejected them afterwards, pretending that my bank account didn’t exist. No matter what I did, they woudln’t accept my payments. My credit score plummeted, and they were threatening to send a collector after me, DESPITE ME CONSTANTLY TRYING TO PAY! (I’ve learned a couple years later that some collection companies do this tactic so they can call a collection on you, in hopes of making more profit faster by this method, by seizing more than the loan’s actually worth or by guaranteeing they get stuff instead of risking you not having stable income the entire time of repayment.)

To make matters worse, my new job (which I was quite lucky to get) didn’t even last a year. The company, originally owned by a pretty cool guy, was bought out by a corporation, who proceeded to overwork and gut the company. I was jobless only a short while later.

The sad thing is, companies check your credit record before hiring you. So nobody has been hiring me since the collection agency trashed my credit score. On the flip side, the loss of job has meant the collection agency has nothing to seize (silver lining I guess, their plan backfired. They did try to send threating seisure notices, but by then it was too late.) So, thanks to the greed of corporations, I’m despite the fact I’ve been dedicated, focused, capable of doing work, and planning ahead, I’m stuck being jobless and with a credit score that prevents me from getting a job… so as a result of the loans neccesarry for it, my education has hurt my ability to get a job more than its helped it.

At this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever recover.

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I don’t want to get into my personal debt story. I would just like to ask: if the Feds can bail out Wall Street and the European banks, why not Greece which is our spiritual homeland, and home to Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, Homer and Zeus, Prometheus, Hera? Can’t we lean on the gov to help them out and not make an “example” out of them. 

I also want to work on a petition/grassroots movement to repeal new, well kind of new, federal bankruptcy law, which is much more harsh than old generous state laws, like Texas and Florida, where you could keep your house, etc. even a mansion in Florida.  

I can be contacted at bochehaggah@gmail.com regarding working together on these debtor friendly issues. Let’s help Greece and show the New World Order where they can put it.

BRZEE

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Why strike debt?

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Monthly income: $2000

Monthly student loan payments: $310 until 2033 (I’ll be 56)
$13000 in credit debt for monthly payments of: $375
30% of monthly income to creditors.
I’m lucky and my wife has a good job to pay our mortgage, insurance, buy groceries, pay bills, etc. If I was on my own, I’d be bankrupt.

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Freedom Through Bankruptcy

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All your life, you’re told that BK is the worst thing that can happen. For me, it was not.

In 2010, I walked away from more than $200K in debt in about 5 minutes. That is literally the length of time of our hearing, and we were not hassled in any way. I had let my ex-husband persuade me to take out all kinds of exotic loans for exotic reasons, using my good credit. In 2008, he left, and everything came crashing down. I got laid off from my job – which, however, allowed me to qualify for a Chapter 7 BK — and my dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I was shattered. I literally walked with a limp for awhile.

But in the end, the BK itself never held me back in any significant way. Part of this is because I am so incredibly fortunate to have good friends and family in my life who held me up. I realize it was not just *me* that saved me — and that any others are not so fortunate.

But the point I wanted to make is about today. Today, I have a great job — actually working for myself. I am completely debt-free and have been since the day of my bankruptcy judgment. I am so far behind so many of my peers in terms of shit that I own, but it’s OK. I am thrilled to be in the black. This year, I have been able to give to all kind of causes — quiet loans to friends, lefty campaigns I believe in, the classical radio station, the hipster radio station, the dog in Texas that was tortured and needed a home, the Occupy Sandy effort. This cause. And: my own wedding. I feel like kind of a jerk saying all this, like I am gloating in the face of so many terrible stories — but the request issued was to visualize debt-free. So: it is fantastic.

My message is if you have to go through bankruptcy to get here, do it. It has to be a truly insurmountable debt, mind you — I have spoken to people with $15K, 20K of debt and strongly advised them to just climb out of it. But the chasm I was looking at — well, I just jumped in. And it was OK. It was all right.

I would say if you know you are sinking, just swallow your disbelief and your pride and face the facts. I lost my entire 401(k) when I didn’t have to … paying interest on massive loans I would just walk away from in a year. Face reality and face it quick, so you can stop taking phone calls and stop throwing money at these low-life lenders. I could have saved it for when I needed it — the courts will not take it away.

That is all.

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If I didn’t have DEBT I could …

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save some of the money I earn working as n underpayeda college instructor (I could work at McDonalds and earn more money—seriously!), providing a safety cushion for my wife and I. We might be able to purchase a car. We might be able to save for a house. We could afford to buy heating oil for the house we rent, which at present we cannot. We could start our own business if we could save a little of our income to get it off it’s feet. BUt that’s the little stuff. If I didn’t have any debt my wife and I could start a family, because right now between the two of us we have +$225,000 in student loan debt and our monthly payments prohibit us from beginning or ever having a family—at all. We couldn’t hope to provide for a child let alone think we could eventually put them through school someday. We did exactly what we had always been told we needed to do to be successful, work hard, go to school, and you’ll find a good job. No. While we were in school the economy collapsed and we already had all the debt to carry. If I had no debt I would plan for the future rather than constantly trying to manage the present to stay afloat.

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Bookkeeper With No Job

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I lost my job in January of 2010 and I have been seeking work ever since. In February my brother and his wife basically forced me to move back in with my parents whom are not doing better than me. I started receiving my unemployment things were going well except for the one problem of unable to find a job. I though to my self after almost 1 year of searching and unable to find work that I should return to school. Having unemployment allowed me to pay my credit card bills up until the unemployment ran out right before I was able to complete my Bookkeeping course at college. Now I am still searching for work, my step dad works part time and my mother is in the hospital and we are worrying daily about losing our home. I have no clue what I will do in the future my credit is ruined for sure. I am just thankful my car was paid off before losing my unemployment. Now I wish for help daily to get Capital One off my back. I have been paying off tires that I put on my credit card for a car I don’t even have anymore. Well that’s It.

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I was young and had never had a credit card and never wanted one. I got a job at Walmart and I guess they ran a credit report on me and saw I had none. They pressured me into getting a card with an $800 limit. I was reluctant but I thought I had a job that we wasn’t going anywhere. And they assured me that it would be easy and painless. After a few months I lost my job and where I lived getting a job was next to impossible. When I was working I was able to make the monthly payments, but the interest was getting me. I was jobless from November 2008 until June 2009. At that point the collectors called almost every other day. I now live in Tucson Arizona and have a great Jon, but I don’t know who has my debt anymore. Even if I did they want me to pay the full amount. I know better. I’ve been waiting more of less for an offer I think is fair to pay. Until then I will have to deal with having garbage credit, hoping that when I need to get a new car I can pay cash for it. Or hope I have a roommate that has incredible credit. Most renters won’t rent to me. I’m currently living in my parents den. If I had no debt I’m sure my life would be practically stress free and I could actually move on with my life.