In which I make a stunning discovery about my life

Or, “in which I recount my adult life up to this point for the world to see.”

Okay, truth be told, it’s not so stunning at all. I’ve seen this coming for a while, and have tried to do my best to fix problems as they come up. It really hasn’t worked, and a phone call earlier pretty much smacked me in the face with the reality.

Warning: this will indeed be mundane and pointless for anyone who reads on. I will apologize in advance for subjecting you, the reader, to the trials and tribulations of my woes. Putting it down on paper (or rather, on the interwebs) makes it that much more “real” to me, and so here I am. I’ll try not to ramble. :slight_smile:

A few years back, as a typical college kid, I fell prey to my own lack of real-world knowledge and overexertion of my confidence to handle all things worldly. At the tender age of 18, I took some steps to make sure I would be able to enter the “real world” with as much of an advantage as I could. I enrolled in a prestigious college and was accepted to my life-long dream major. Life was good, and though I wasn’t working, I lived comfortably as subsidized by my parents. I thought I would step up my “becoming an adult” by taking on a few credit card offers – because we’re all taught that credit is everything, right?

Anyway, to make a long story short, the next 2 years passed without much trouble. Though I was doing well in my classes, I came to realize that the educational track I was on was no longer my life’s ambition. I was applauded by many for realizing this early on in life, though in retrospect, I probably should have sucked it up and just continued to ensure I had something. I applied for a change of majors to be effective at the next term.

Meanwhile, I had racked up quite the credit card bill. By late 19, I had about $2000 in credit card debt (not to mention the ever-growing woe of student loans that wouldn’t matter for the time being). I made the huge mistake of paying for life with plastic, and using the cash my parents gave me each month to pay the bills. I don’t think I realized how horrible this was at the time because I was too caught up in “being an adult.” I had credit cards! I had bills! I was truly a grown up.

To make a long story short, this worked out for a while. At the end of my term, I got some shocking news from home – the man my mother had been seeing had been abusing her. My mother, strong-armed in some respects as she is, chose not to pursue legal action for a variety of reasons. This chapter of her life culminated in a heated dispute one evening, which involved me racing downstairs with a staple gun as a weapon. Suffice it to say, I can be rather imposing, and we have yet to hear from this man again. Several things came to me over the course of those few months at home – I realized how unhappy I actually was at the university I attended, I realized how unlikely I was to succeed in a new major there, and I felt quite strongly that it was my duty as the only man in my mother’s life to protect her. With that, I made the decision to move back home.

Meanwhile, still, I had been accruing debt at an almost exponential rate. As much of an adult as I thought myself to be, I pushed some bills aside in the interest of treating my latest boyfriend, buying nice clothes, and a new car. I enrolled at a university where I live now, which turned out to be a blessing. I was able to start my newly chosen major with no fuss. I reunited with several people I had lost contact with since high school, and formed an entirely new circle of friends. In a biography about my life, almost anyone will attest that this was the period in my life that I did a social 180. Instead of being introverted and wary, I became outgoing and friendly. I was happier than I had ever been.

Of course, for me, that meant spending money. I had a job while I went to school, but it wasn’t enough to cover my expenses. Two years at home and in school, and I realized yet again that I was unhappy with my chosen educational track. At that point, I started to finally realize the importance of financial responsibility. At 21, including student loans, my car, and everything under the sun, I had a net worth of -$65,000.00.

I made the “oh so great” decision to postpone finishing my college education until I could figure out what I really wanted out of life, and decided I’d get a full time job to pay down some debt in the mean time. My social life was flourishing; during high school, I was diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. By now, though, I felt on top of the world and as though I had finally overcome it. No longer did I become ill by leaving my house. No more panic attacks, no more general feeling of depression.

As it turns out, this decision to postpone college turned out to be a horrible one. Leaving school meant that student loans would now become due. I had increased my spending already to exceed my income, and I was in trouble. With the help and advice from my parents, I got much of it under control and paid down a bit of debt. A year later, my total debt had dropped to about $30,000. Life was good.

Too good, it turned out, because I let my overzealous spending habit kick in once again. Before I knew it, I had blown quite a bit of money – a new laptop here, some more clothes there, eating out every night of the week… it was okay, though. By that point, I had a terrific job making more money than I literally knew what to do with. Bills were being paid before they were due, I had a savings account, friends, health – you name it. I developed the attitude of letting life just happen. I grew quite comfortable with my lifestyle, and I received constant praise for getting my shit together. Both of my parents remarried, and I had nothing but a smile on my face.

As it happened, that great job didn’t go very far. I ended up quitting about six months later because I was truly unhappy with work. I dreaded each day I went in, and I counted minutes until I left. Making the choice to put my happiness over my financial situation, I put in my two weeks notice and left. I aged out of dependant military insurance, and for the first time in my life, prayed like hell that I didn’t get sick.

Leaving that job was depressing, to be honest, but I justified it to myself. That became even easier when less than a month later, the company reorganized, and all but dissolved the department I worked in. I don’t know why I basically sat on my ass for six months after that, but I did. Once again, I reverted to the lavish life and bought everything on credit. I spent about six months living on credit, and doing the idle job search here and there.

In the first week of last year, I found the company I work for now, through sheer luck. I got hired on, and now, I love my job. I don’t mind odd schedules or the commute; I wake up happy to go into work. I get along great with my co-workers, and I love what I do. Just one problem with it. I don’t make enough money. This was hard to see at first. When I accepted the job, I sat down and thought I was being quite reasonable by charting out income vs. expenses. Over the course of 14 months, this slow gap in income added up.

Flash forward to today. I get a message on my voicemail that my car is up for repossession tomorrow. How did this happen? I ask. Oh, right-- those other bills. The ones that are even further behind. That dental surgery I had to have two weeks go (no, really, I did. Before my military insurance ran out, I managed to get half a root canal done. The last remaining bit of that nerve in my tooth just now caught up to me.) Oh yeah – that OTHER dental surgery I needed last month to get my wisdom teeth out. Oh, and a plethora of other medical bills I had accumulated before I had insurance. Not to mention that until recently, I (for whatever screwed up reason) felt confident with my income enough to justify the occasional luxury purchase. Well, hello there, Quicken–looks like those luxury purchases came a little too often.

So, here I sit, in the same boat I was years ago. I have no college degree. I have more debt than I ever thought imaginable. I have little recourse in paying it down significantly, because my interest rates are higher than my IQ, and my credit is so screwed up now that no one will consider a consolidation loan. My expenses are more than my earnings. I’ve sought the advice from consumer debt management companies before, to little help. I have tried to work out ways to get myself out of this hole directly with lenders. Contrary to what they say, a lot of them really aren’t interested in anything other than getting their money – now. I don’t blame them, though, not at all. It’s a business who invested a risk in me, and I screwed it up. And to be honest, I really do get a feeling of disgust in my financial responsibility when I have to tell them “I’m sorry if that amount isn’t sufficient – it’s all I’ve got.” It is.

The moral of the story? I don’t know; life is ongoing. One thing I’ve learned is that money can’t buy happiness–but it can sure come damn close. If we ignore the financial aspect of my life, I could not be happier. I am in a terrific long-term relationship. I have friends who may not have much, but who are morally sound and would step in front of a bullet for me. I have the most amazing family anyone could ask for; I have always been blessed in that respect. My mother, worry-wart that she is, is one of the sweetest people in the world who would do anything for me. I used to take advantage of that when I was younger; now, I just thank whatever higher power there is that I have another day with her in my life.

My dad? I’m afraid of. Not because of anything he’s ever done – quite the contrary. My dad has always been the one to show up and bail me out of tight spots. When it was 2:30 in the morning and I was piss drunk an hour away, dad was the one who came to get me. When I had to drive home from work mid-hurricane and had a blowout, dad was the one who brought me a tire. When I had no money to make that last car payment, dad was the one who slipped me a few hundreds at Christmas. When I started down the path of past due student loans, my father did as much as he could to help. Make no mistake, my father’s only weakness is his compassion. No, the reason I’m afraid of my father is because I don’t think I can look him in the eye without feeling like a failure as a son. I have nothing to show for all the money, blessings, favors, advice, and help. Although not to the extent I have screwed my own, I have brought down my dad’s credit tremendously. Since I’ve moved home, I haven’t made the time to see my father beyond family holidays and those times when I needed money. In truth, I owe my father more than I could ever repay him, and deep down, I’m afraid that he thinks of me as a disappointment.

A friend asked me if I was depressed. No, I’m not depressed. I consider myself a huge financial failure up until this point in my life, but hey, money isn’t everything. I do the best that I can, and I try to make up for my shortcomings by paying it forward. I help out anyone that may need it, and some might classify that under “bad move.” Maybe, but that’s life. To be honest, I’m actually quite happy, overall. The only upsetting part of my days are when the bill collectors call. To them, I’m a deadbeat. I suppose I am, in a way. But, I dug myself into this financial hole, and I’ll crawl out somehow, for however long it takes.

So, that call earlier. I have 24 hours to come up with the past due amount on my car before the repo man comes. Which will make it very difficult to get to work. Does it bother me? Oh yeah. Can I come up with the money? Not a chance. My credit is so pathetic that Prosper has turned me away for a consolidation loan. My friends and family, amazing as they are, don’t have the means to help out – nor would I even ask them to.

This “stunning discovery,” I suppose, is that life goes on. No matter what, I have the most important things – friends, family, health, pretty good intelligence. I may be broke and (soon to be) car-less (and, therefore, perhaps even jobless), but I know that I’m doing what I can to fix the mess I made. I have no more credit cards; the ones that the bank didn’t close were cut up a while ago. I’ve learned to love anything that comes free. Am I as well off as I want to be? Not by a long shot, but I make do.

So, by now, you’ll realize that there’s not much for you, the reader, to gain from this. I’m not even sure if I should post this. I know I’ll probably get at least a few flames, but typing is therapeutic. It’s my way of venting, without so much venting-- I’ll give myself a truly proper Pitting later.

I hope things turn around for you soon. I have some idea what it’s like to be in your place, and there’s no use beating yourself up over it. Plenty of other people are willing to do that, including a lot of people who would be in similar positions if their lives had played out a little differently.

The only advice I’m tempted to offer you is to not let your embarrassment become a wedge between you and your father that will end up hurting you both.

I don’t think you mentioned this - have you learned your lesson? Is this a road you won’t be going down again? I’m all for people lying in the beds they make and taking responsibility for themselves, but the god’s honest truth is that credit is WAAAAAAAY too easy for everyone to get - it takes self-discipline and the ability to put off instant gratification to not go down the debt overload path, and those are two characteristics our society is not big on. In other words, you fell into a trap that is about 50 feet deep and wide and put in front of everyone and it looks like candy.

I’d like to think so. At least, I know that I have enough self control to never let things become as bad as they may be now. I won’t flatter myself to say that I’ve learned enough to never make a poor financial decision again, but I know that I’ve beaten myself up internally enough over the past few years to at least put a lot of thought into stopping a trend before it becomes a problem.

TWDuke, thanks for the kind words. Some days I feel like I’ve betrayed my father’s trust in me to the point where he’d be better off if I just never talked to him again. I know that not to be true, though, and I’m hoping to step forward and bridge our gap soon.

BTDT got the t-shirt, keychain, snow globe, etc. I feel for you.
For a lot of years around Casa de Rick there was way more month than there was money.
Some suggestions:
Stop using your credit cards.
Talk to your creditors. Work out a payment plan you can both live with. Seriously call them now.
Consider a second job (I worked three jobs for a while)
Pay the highest interest rate cards off first. if they are all about the same rate, pay the smallest balance off first. Trust me when I tell you you will feel better with each check you don’t have to write each month.
Pay cash for everything. If you can’t pay cash, don’t buy it. Once you get back on your feet, you will be amazed how cool it is not to be making payments every month.
Finally, this too shall pass. Keep you head down, and your nose to the grindstone. In a few years all of this will be behind you. A couple of years seems like a long time to some one who is young, but it will pass quicker than you think.

Good luck, I am pulling for you.

I don’t know why anyone would flame you. It’s not like your trying to blame others or deny responsibility. Sure you made some bad choices, but you know that. I’ve made bad choices too, but luckily for me never to the point where I couldn’t dig my own way back out.

Have you considered filing bankruptcy? If your credit is already trashed, it might be the way to go. If you can’t pay what you owe, it will just keep getting worse. If you could get rid of some of your debt, then you could start paying on the rest and get on top of it. Then start on the loooong road to repairing your credit.

Good luck with it.

Let me say, first of all, you should be proud of the fact that you’re not giving in to despair and that you’re taking the long view. Life goes on indeed, and many people in such situations have been able to recover and get their finances back on track.

First of all, regarding the car and transportation to work, have you considered all the options? Is there public transit where you live? Are you close enough to walk? How about bike riding? Could you carpool with someone? (If you’re afraid of asking your co-workers about carpooling, don’t be. Many folks would be happy to have someone they could share a ride with.) If you can’t walk, would it be an option to move closer so that you can?

On finances, again, look at every possibility. I believe there are provisions in the law that let you delay student loan payments if you’re in financial trouble. In certainly can’t hurt to check for information.

Addressing the bigger picture, society has many options and opportunities for people in crisis, which many folks aren’t aware of. Are you a member of a religious community? If not, my strongest recommendation is to consider joining one. Of course it may take some searching before you find a place where you’re comfortable. Besides providing support, it might get you in touch with someone who can help your particular situation. Be aware that ministers/priests/rabbis are experts at helping people in crisis.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. What lies ahead may be tough, but consider the long view. You may have to spend a time making do with less: fewer luxuries and bare-bones living. But in the process, you may discover that for from being demeaning, it actually makes you a better person. Years from now you might view this moment as the beginning of something good in your life.

[caring aunt mode] Have you read the threads about whether parents would die for their kid? Have you noticed the overwhelming affirmative answers? Or that the main regret would be that the parent would no longer be around for their kid? Your father would give his life for you, as would most parents, and the only thing you owe him is to be happy. When you rescued your mom from the bad guy how did you feel? If a friend were in huge trouble and you helped them out, albeit at some cost (not necessarily financial )to yourself, how would you feel? I imagine that you would feel glad that you were the one able to help out, with any inconvenience to yourself secondary. Well, your parents feel that way about you except a thousand times more. Your father helps you because he loves you and wants you to be happy. It sounds trite, but I’d like you to really consider that for a minute. The debt is so overwhelming to you now, but your dad is older and more experienced and knows what you’re just starting to learn - money can’t buy happiness. What he wants is not to be repaid by you, but to know that you are happy and breaking the chains of the debt monster. Go visit your father as soon as you possibly can, and tell him how you feel. Explain how you are so grateful for his help and that it’s taken you a while but you’ve now got your debt controlled, but that you feel bad because of what you’ve put him through. If necessary, show him your OP. Your dad deserves to see you and how you’ve changed - it will help him worry less about you. While giving him a token sum of money may make you feel better, what would make him happiest is a sincere talk about how grateful you are to him. [/caring aunt mode]

I totally agree with **featherlou ** about how easy it is to fall into debt. It’s not unlike the increase of obesity - with high-caloried junk in such abundance it’s very hard to say no. Likewise, with so many credit offers, it’s hard to say no. You should be proud that you’ve put a stop to the vicious cycle and are now reversing it. Just as going from morbidly obese to a healthy weight takes time, so will getting rid of the debt. See if you can disassociate it with yourself. Instead of this horrible thing that belongs to you, try to picture it as a sandpile in your backyard that your mom’s told you to clear. You can’t clear more than a shovelful away at a time, but there WILL be a day that there’s only a shovelful left. And if anybody harrasses you about the sandpile there’s no need to beat yourself up about it - you know that you can’t do more than a shovelful, and if they can’t accept it that’s not your problem.

I am sorry I don’t have much time to give your post the attention it deserves, but have you considered credit counseling?

This link to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling will refer you to a reputable nonprofit organization in your area.

Wherever you go, make sure it’s in good standing with the Better Business Bureau.

I think you have a fabulous attitude that is going to help you through the worst of times. All the best.

I agree with talking to your creditors. Companies simply want their money; they have no interest in harassing you or making your life miserable - they just do that to get their money. If you keep the lines of communication open with them and make good faith payments as often as you can, you can go a long way to keeping them from making nasty phone calls to you.

Or look into bankruptcy. It sounds like you don’t have much to lose.

Nicely put!

You’re not a failure of a son! You sound like a most excellent son. I heartily recommend meeting with your dad and saying how happy you are now, despite the money woes.

My dad’s girlfriend is in her 40’s and still hasn’t learned the lessons that you’re learning now. She has more than 10 credit cards that she flips through whenever she has to pay for something. One of her cards alone has more than a $40,000 balance. For years, she didn’t make enough to pay her minimum payments. (I don’t know if she does now or not.)

I’ve had a lot of problems with student loan debt. (Luckily, I watched other people, like the lady above, enough so that I never did the credit card thing.) I believe that all student loans are eligible to be put into “forbearance” for a year. (I have both federal loans and private loans; both were able to do this.) The interest will still apply, but you won’t be responsible for making payments for a year. Another thing you can do is apply for an “income contingent” payment plan for stafford/ford loans. They’ll calculate how much you pay based on how much you make. This has been very helpful for me. If you don’t make much, then you don’t pay much. I had a year where my payment was $0.

Credit can come back.

You shouldn’t try to deal with all of this by yourself. It’s not even so much the amount of the debt, but the fact that it is now interfering with your work life and your family relationships that shows that it is creeping beyond your control. When your friends start asking if you’re depressed, it shows that you’re sending off signals.

There are 12-step programs called Debtors Anonymous that you might want to explore. It may or may not be a good option for you, and you don’t have to think of it as an addiction, but these are people who have decided that their debt problem has dominated their lives to the point where it’s too much for them to manage alone. They may be able to help you with debt management strategies, but also they can just serve as a sympathetic ear. Just being able to unload your problems onto a non-judgmental audience (like you’ve done here) can often lighten your outlook.

Dear God, folks, I can’t believe all the sympathy I’m hearing. If my son (not that I have one; I have two daughters) acted like this, I’d be one step away from disowning her. I’d be horribly embarrassed, disappointed, and angry with myself for thinking I’d done such good job raising her when obviously that’s not the case. Yes, I’d still love her, but at this point I wouldn’t lift a finger to help.

How many times have you had the chance to do the right thing? Many, from what I just read. You butter up your language, but reading between the lines I see “lazy,” “self-righteous,” “unmotivated,” “self-destructive,” “can’t-learn-a-lesson-even-if-it-ran-me-down-like-semi-truck.” I could go on, but I won’t. I truly hope your car gets repo’d. You certainly don’t deserve something you can’t pay for.

You provide your history and it seems like every fork in the road you hit, you made the wrong choice. I think you even created forks when they didn’t need to be there and took the wrong choice with those, too. Cutting your debt in half is maybe the only decent thing you did, but then you sort of nulled that out.

The worst thing about all of this is your attitude. “If we ignore the financial aspect of my life, I could not be happier.” Dude, your financial aspect, as you put it, affects almost every other aspect of your life, as you’re finding out. And, the way I see it, it’s a reflection of your character, too. You should be completely embarrassed, humble, miserable (I don’t mean depressed) and extremely motivated to do whatever you can to dig yourself out of this mess you’ve made. Instead you’re happy, and I get the impression you’ve resigned yourself to your fate. :rolleyes: Sorry to be a stick in the mud (this isn’t my first time in that role), but it’s hard to sit by and see every post before this as a hug and pat on the back. The last thing in the world you need is sympathy. What you really need is for someone to light a fire under your rear. I save my sympathy for people that don’t deserve their situation–abused kids, people with horrible diseases that weren’t born out of their own vices. People that aren’t a drain on society, but contribue something positive to it.

First of all, thanks to everyone for the positive and encouraging replies. They mean a lot. And to everyone who sent me private messages with advice, it has been more than helpful, and I appreciate every word.

I called my father today to try to figure out what I’m going to do, since I’m pretty lost at this point. My dad has always been my go-to for help and advice, and he was more than glad I called him. Turns out that my mother had spoken with him and filled him in on my car woes; he offered to help me catch up so that it wouldn’t be repo’ed, and I’d be able to get to and from work. I felt absolutely horrible when he offered to help, but I’m glad he knows how I feel now.

Bankruptcy is a solution I’ve been contemplating with some fear of impacting my dad’s credit in addition to mine. Some of the stuff we have (student loans) are in both of our names.

Thought about a lot of them. We have no public transit around here, and walking is definitely out of the picture. Bike riding, too – for distance and weather. Carpooling might be an option, but for the most part, we all work varying shifts, so it could be difficult to arrange. Working on some arrangements, though.

Blue Mood, thanks for the advice. I did suck it up and call my dad, and he’s glad I did. I’m going to go over and talk to him tomorrow, and spend some time with him.

I just have to say that I’m glad I’m not one of your kids. It’s definitely not my dad’s responsibility to help at all, and I wouldn’t think any less of him if he wasn’t trying to be as involved as he is. My parents did a damn fine job raising me and my two sisters, despite your opinion.

I’m sorry to tell you, but my car didn’t get repo’d. I agree with you that I made some horrible decisions, and that was pretty much the point of my whole post. You can use all the words in the world to degrade me, but it doesn’t change the situation I’m in or my options of getting out of it. Nothing says “I’m better than you” than, well, what you said.

Lazy? Hardly, sir. I work two jobs right now, one full-time 40-hour job with overtime here and there, and one part-time job with as many hours as I can take. I’ve been called a great many things in my life, but “lazy” has never been one of them.

Unmotivated? Perhaps. It’s hard to find motivation when no matter how hard you try, it’s not good enough. But, I do my best with the small bit of motivation I do have.

I disagree, but of course, your opinion may differ. What I mean is, I’m living a happy and satisfying life, I just happen to be dirt poor.

I never asked for your sympathy, or for anyone else’s. I screwed up. A lot. More times than I care to recall. But, degrading myself and feeling like crap isn’t going to get me out of the hole. Such feelings only bring about depression and, as you put it, resigning myself to fate. I’m not resigned to say that this situation is out of my control; just that I clearly need to get my things in order.

I hope that you have made another stunning discovery, in which people can be quite judgmental. Don’t worry; they pop up everywhere in life. I tend to be supportive of people who are making genuine attempts at change, and only get put off when it’s obvious that they are only interested in being a drama queen.

I’m fortunate that I never had problems with money, although I’ve had my own problems in life, for which I was an active contributor, and hence I’m certainly in no position to criticize.

My only advice is to look behind the reason for your money problems. People usually don’t get into debt problems that sever unless something is going on. Are you using money as an escape or as buying things as a stress release? The method of controlling your debt be more effective if you understand why you are being reckless with money in the first place.

(I did this with my drinking, which had become an issue, and other problems in my life. I’m working on anger issues now, and using these techniques to look into why and when I get angry and how to control that.)

Good luck.

flyboy, I don’t disagree with you. One thing I’m thinking at this point is that bankruptcy is not an option if it will affect your father, and the second thing is that the first debts that get re-paid are the ones with his name on them.

A question that keeps coming to me is about whether you are addicted to spending money, atomicbadgerrace. It sounds to me like you really like the spending of the money without thinking too much about the consequences.

I think if this was the definition of “spending addiction” then about 80% of the population would probably qualify. Congress and Presidential administrations especially. :smiley:

Yeah. As much as this “rule” gets thrown about, from my short career I can tell you that I’ve noticed happiness varies pretty damn closely with how much money you tend to be pulling in. When we were pulling in $1500 a week at work I was throwing money into IRAs, HSA’s, savings accounts, Money Market accounts, taking up new hobbies, going out with friends, etc. Now that we’re barely pulling in $600, everyone’s in a horrible mood.

My only suggestion is to start small. If you look at huge amounts of debt it easily looks insurmountable. While financially, it is correct to pay your highest interest accounts first, I heard one financial guy suggest to pay your LOWEST BALANCE account first. While you may pay more in interest, the object is to set intermediate goals that you can be proud of accomplishing. And hopefully that will keep you going. Whomever said that it is a great feeling to pay off debt and not owe anybody any money is exactly right. It’s a great feeling that’s hard to describe.

As far as bankruptcy, it might be an option, but remember that your student loans will not be forgiven if you file. You have to pay those back no matter what.

Good luck.

“Going out every night” and a “new laptop” hits scarily close to home. I also go out every single night. Bought my new laptop two weeks ago. And though I’m not in as bad a shape this is equal to the highest load of credit I’ve ever carried. :eek:

Once again I stumble over how differently I think from other people - I think a lot about how I spend my money, and the consequences of each purchase. It sounds like you’re saying “normal” people don’t do this, which sounds foreign to me.

I still think atomicbadgerrace is at the disordered end of the spectrum for spending money (I’m probably at the miserly end :smiley: ).