Life Outside My Cube

My life, a work in progress.

Drowning

Perhaps I’m one of those people who need to learn things the hard way. Perhaps I just need a concrete example in order to burn in a principle. Regardless, I had to take the difficult road in order to learn that debt is to be avoided like the plague.

My wife and I began life together with debt – me with a car loan and her with a school loan. Over several years of apartment living we erased that debt, and enjoyed spending the surplus income. We took a couple car loans in later years, once even buying a living room set on delayed credit . Those were paid off as expected, and we rejoiced at the increase in spendable income when the loan papers were burned.

We borrowed some money from my dad to get set up in our first small house on a city lot. Spending habits changed a bit, less money going toward pleasure and more toward home expenses. I was adept at home repairs and improvements, so we built equity in our little house and sold it at profit some 4-5 years later. The gains were put into the next larger home, which again was mortgaged for 30 years. This time the improvements needed were quite a bit more substantial, and we had no saved money to put towards them, and our mortgage was high (large farmhouse in 5 acres). About this time, our income was significantly reduced, and we chose to downsize.

We again sold the house at profit, and bought a smaller one. We retained some $15K to cover temporary living expenses until my income would increase. It never did, and we plowed through that, $50K of credit debt and a $20K loan from a friend, before I was able to find a job. Soon after, we were able to move once more, into a condo of a friend. A year later we found ourselves owing $10K in back taxes. We rented the condo for $200/mo plus I did all the maintenance on his 4 condos, so we were able to put a lot more into paying down our debts.

The payments on the credit debt was killing us, though, and at one point we were late or missed a payment on one of the cards and went into default. We made arrangements with a collection agency – stressful times – and after a couple years, they offered to settle for half of the $40K remaining if we would pay $20K now. I sought a loan from my dad for the $20K and finally paid off that debt, though we now owed him.

Both personal loans have been paid off. We increased our rent to $500/mo so as not to take advantage of our friend’s generosity. We still owe most of the IRS money, and the remaining credit card is down to about $2K. Then just when I thought I could see the end of the tunnel, two of our cars died. Despite the literal ache in my heart, there’s now another car loan for about $14K.

It’s a heavy burden to bear. We’ve been prevented from more fully assisting our children in the life directions they’re pursuing. Paying for college isn’t even an option. Moving into a home suitable for us and my wife’s ailing parents has been and is unlikely. We’ve set a poor financial example for our children, and haven’t given them a strong financial footing. We’ve had our hands tied in so many ways, and felt the burden of living paycheck-to-paycheck for so long. My wife has been a supreme blessing by managing our checkbook for all these years. I don’t know how she does it – I tried for a little while, and the frustration was too much.

It’s been about 11 years since we started getting into this mess, and it’ll be another 3 years before we’re debt free, unless God has a greater lesson for us to learn. I can hardly wait for that day!

* Question 5

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