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Circling the drain


Bones26
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My husband and I are in a predicament and not sure where to go. We are not yet in collections as we are between 1-4 months late on many of our cards (some are still current) but we can't afford to continue the minimums, muchless the new payments which are last months minimums plus late fees and interest. We do not have a card that is below 28% interest and our debt is around $64,000. I'm in college full time and have a part time job. My husband works full time. I graduate in May and can start working full time after that and at a job with better pay. We could get a handle on payments then except that 6 months after I graduate, I'm looking at $120K of student loans to start paying on. Calculators estimate that my payments will be $800-$1000 a month with the extended repayment plan. We already pay $1700 in credit cards. No way can we afford both, but student loans would be worse to default on than credit cards, as there is basically no protection from them.

This has just been a BAD year for us. Two lost jobs for my husband (one contract ended and one lay off from a consulting firm) and I had to have major surgery and I'm uninsured. I borrowed to pay the amount ($14K for hospital, $8K for surgeon and somewhere around $6000 for other costs associated with the surgery that I got billed for later which are in collections now) and when my husband lost his jobs, we had to live on credit cards. Then when he did find a job that would be stable (no contracts, and an employer who has a good reputation and record) it was a $15,000/year pay cut from what he previously made. But it is a stable, permanent position.

We have:

Capital One - 3500

BofA CC - 8300

BofA installment loan - 25,000

Chase - 6900

Citibank - 8900

GE - 400

Zales - 800

Medical installment loan - 8000

Walmart - 500

Wells Fargo - 1700

We have 2 cars, one that is being paid on and another that is is paid off. The one we are paying on is upside down on its loan anyway so we have no equity there. However, we need both of them for work and school. I travel alot and I love my car, so it ranks #2 in importance after our apartment (and it was perfectly affordable before this mess happened). We just rent obviously. We have no assets whatsoever. We are current on all the important things, like rent, car payment, utilities, phone. All the basics we have a perfect payment history with.

I don't know if at this point we should do a debt settlement with the OC or settle with a CA or just file a bankruptcy. I'm trying to do what anyone would... take the least hit on their credit and pay the least amount of money to the creditors. Because we are continually far into the negative every month in our bank account just to make ends meet with our normal expenses and cards. We could make it work if we had half the payments on our debts. But this is too much to handle.

So, first we talked to CCCS. I didn't like it and didn't sign on. The woman made it seem like she was doing us a big favor and all she did was drop the interest rates a few points. When you have 30% interest, dropping it to 27% is like p!ssing in the ocean. We walked out.

Then after that, made the mistake of trying to use a debt settlement company to help us. We got out of that because we both didn't feel right about it once the dust settled (we made the choice while in a panic) and I kept asking myself everyday how in the world they could keep creditors at bay for 3 years... after reading some reviews, I see that they can't and people end up sued. I am certain we'd get sued on the 25K loan rather quickly.

I don't feel very good about BK (who does?) and my first thought is that this coming summer we can increase our monthly income by $1000 once I go full time to work... but then next November, that will be taken by student loans and we'll be right back where we are (and it only took a year of our lives to double back on our progress.... :roll:).

Any ideas?

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Welcome...and, take a breath...you're among friends. We've all had one or two rounds of bad luck that took our finanacial plans away.

First, plan a. I'd suggest you sit down and make out a budget of what you can afford to pay on the CCs. Figure what you need for food, rent, clothes, transportation...whatever is left, divide up among the CC. (When I did this, I did it by balance owed, but you might want to look at interest instead).

When you've got a number in your head for each creditor...call them...ask for the hardship department. Tell them how much you can afford to pay them each month. Ask if they'll worth with you. Don't commit to anything until you've talked to them all. If one of them doesn't play along, you may have to move on to plan b.

Plan b is bankruptcy. Find some BK lawyers in your area...go talk to them. Most will give you a free consultation. See what your options are. Chances are with just the two of you, you'd be forced into a BK 13. That's okay...thats' really plan a with the court to make your creditors play along.

Good luck...

(And...avoid the debt fixers...none of them (includind CCCS) can do anything you can't do yourself.)

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Plan C, take a break from school and work full time to get cought up.

Creditors are likely going to say drop out of school and get to work should they find out.

If you go back to work, or find a way to make things work. Start with your smallest loans/cc's and apply all your extra money to them while making the minimum payments, then once the account is paid off move on to the next one and do likewise. This is refered to as the debt snow ball.. As you pay off the smaller accounts the amount you have to pay the next one off it more. Of course will will want to adjust your plan of attack a bit depending on interest rates and other factors.

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I think the suggestion of starting with a budget is an excellent idea. I'd recommend that you hack and slash it to the absolute bare minimum though.

You mentioned that you "love your car". That's irrelevant; you can't afford a car payment at the moment--sell it. Is public transportation do-able? If absolutely not, then buy a beater. It might suck to make that decision, but just keep in mind that you won't always have to live that way.

* Move to a cheaper apartment. Some studio apartments even include all utilities in the rent. All your stuff won't fit a studio apartment? Bonus. Sell what won't fit on Craigslist.

* Cancel cable/satellite TV. Borrow books/DVDs from the library instead.

* Stop going out to eat.

* Temporarily give up any hobbies.

* Do laundry at the parents' house.

* Buy cheap food (I lived on ramen and peanut butter for months)

* Buy your clothes at Goodwill. (Our household income is north of $120k and we still shop at Goodwill. The only thing bad about the place is the stigma; the clothes are the same no matter where you buy them).

I know firsthand how much it sucks to have to downgrade your lifestyle. But I had to. I was broke. You are too. I also rebounded; and you will too.

Has your husband considered a part-time evening/weekend job?

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We've downgraded as far as we can downgrade. We weren't UPgraded to begin with!

*We haven't had cable for months. We have pre-paid cellular too for emergencies and necessary calls only.

*I don't eat out because of a medical diet I'm on permanently and for the same reason, I can't eat those foods you mentioned. I can eat peanut butter, but I have pretty strict dietary requirements I have to meet for the sake of my health. If I don't, I get sick and malnourished.

* My hobbies are not expensive. They are generally hiking, reading and painting. The former are free and the latter is not expensive when you buy your supplies for next to nothing off Ebay/Craigslist.

* Clothes are not a big dollar item for us. We have our wardrobes and both of us have clothes from years ago we still wear.

*We don't have parents within 1500 miles of us. And if we can't afford the cost of living in Colorado in combination with our debts, we sure can't afford it in L.A.!

* We have our own washer and dryer and virtually none of our clothes are dry clean only.

An extra job for him is in consideration. He already works long enough hours... we have to sleep eventually. If he took a second, lesser job then he'd have to cut back on the hours at his current job and it probably wouldn't balance out. Not to mention, I don't think his employer would even allow him to cut back on hours. He's salaried and works when they tell him to work. And we need him to keep this job which means not pissing off his boss.

It is relevant that I love my car. It's useful out here in the several feet of snow we get for 8 months out of the year and sometimes its the only way either of us gets around because it's 4WD and high clearance. Sometimes the other car is buried so deep in snow it's not getting out muchless driving. If I traded it in for a beater (even a 4WD beater) the cost of repairs and maintenance on something like that would equal the car payment most of the time anyway. Aside from our apartment, this is the one non-negotiable possession we have.

I think the suggestion of starting with a budget is an excellent idea. I'd recommend that you hack and slash it to the absolute bare minimum though.

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I'm one semester away from graduating. Why I would do that?? I've worked long and hard for my degree and I'm getting it. I'd be lucky to get paid 15K without my degree. I'd get paid 30K entry level in my field. Maybe 35K with the right employer. The math does not add up. Sorry.

Plan C, take a break from school and work full time to get cought up.

Creditors are likely going to say drop out of school and get to work should they find out.

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Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it.

Welcome...and, take a breath...you're among friends. We've all had one or two rounds of bad luck that took our finanacial plans away.

First, plan a. I'd suggest you sit down and make out a budget of what you can afford to pay on the CCs. Figure what you need for food, rent, clothes, transportation...whatever is left, divide up among the CC. (When I did this, I did it by balance owed, but you might want to look at interest instead).

When you've got a number in your head for each creditor...call them...ask for the hardship department. Tell them how much you can afford to pay them each month. Ask if they'll worth with you. Don't commit to anything until you've talked to them all. If one of them doesn't play along, you may have to move on to plan b.

Plan b is bankruptcy. Find some BK lawyers in your area...go talk to them. Most will give you a free consultation. See what your options are. Chances are with just the two of you, you'd be forced into a BK 13. That's okay...thats' really plan a with the court to make your creditors play along.

Good luck...

(And...avoid the debt fixers...none of them (includind CCCS) can do anything you can't do yourself.)

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I didn't say QUIT school. I said take a break. You have a imediate problem with your debts and 1 more semester might put you in to bankruptcy.

I said it was a option. If your falling behind on bills, and everything is cut to the bone your going to have to do something.

Your options are 'work hubby to death' (oddly, this is the one my wife selected)

Blow off your creditors and trash your credit, get sued and deal with JDB's

File BK (do you have the money to do that? it's very spendy and a slow process)

Sell off something, I drove a 300 dollar S-10 blazer for 3 years with out troubles. You have to be VERY picky on what you buy though. The more rust and fewer mechanical problems the better ;)

Go part time at school and pick up a job/more hours

take a break from school and get a full time job

Those are the options you have. I've been here with my wife already. I got a second job, she went part time. it sucked, we NEVER saw each other, but one of us was always here to watch the kids. I learned how to sleep like Einstine did. a few hours at a time.

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Merk she Can't drop out of school or the loans come out of deferment and would have to start paying that payment she mentioned.

What sounds sad is it seems the major wasn't worth the investment if the graduation isn't going to be a life-changing financial career. You don't borrow that kind of money for arts and histories at a private school, I hope it was a science and something specific.

Most of this story is how we all got into our messes. For some of us it was years ago and almost over, for them it's just begun. You'll probably have to let go a couple of the high payers, see what they're willing to do and then make them come after you... you got 50/50 or better that they won't with no assets. Most of us have never been sued, we just endured bad credit for a looong time.

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It's a long and drawn out application process in which payments must be continued to be made until finalized, and there are no guarantees. Plus I think you're only eligible post-graduation as in giving you more time to find a job in your field. There are also several other lower payment options you'd have to endure before they would ever consider a full-blown deferment.

The thing with college is, once you break your stride, the statistics are aweful on ever returning.

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I understand the loan thing (kinda) however, I don't see any other options for them. they get 6 months before the first payment is due on the loans right? what if they return to school before the payment comes due? does it not go back to suspended? or do they lose that option all together?

and your right, seems like a lot of money to spend for a job that pays 30K a year.

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She's got 5 months until graduation. If it was 2 more years it would be a more worthwhile consideration to postpone.

The 6 month thing is most beneficial for not going back for a fall semester since the summer before it wouldn't count, and the spring semester would only be 5 months away. Skipping spring semester means it would be minimum 8.5 months before possibly returning and those summer months would count.

If she missed ANY payments while not in deferment, she would not be eligible for additional loans to return, so it's a risky prospect.

She might consider going part time to school and working full time which would increase income and keep loans in deferment though it would delay graduation probably one additional semester. That would be a worthwhile option.

They need more money. They're not 64k in debt, they're 184k in debt, so far.

Do you have kids? Tax returns are around the corner, and I KNOW you get at least 6k back on those school loans per semester for living expenses on top of your jobs! That's how we manage.... wife and I both are full time with 3 kids. No car payments though. Mine's a '90 (pimped out below) and hers is a '91 taurus.

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First, the thing about my loans is that I've been in school for 7 years. I changed majors a couple of years out. My financial situation was far worse back then. I REALLY had nothing at all and my car that I had was always broken down because I was paying about $300 a month (one month it was $900) in just repairs. And I lived about 40 or 50 miles from the college. So, I needed loans for my expenses. Then the change in major added a couple of years.

It's likely that in 5 years, the 30K could be 50K and in 10 years I could make 6 figures if I chose the path to that. There is alot of room for growth and advancement in my field and you have alot of choices in what direction you want to go, depending on your skill set. Starting out, you just don't make much because experience is what gets you the money. The degree just gets you a job. However, I'm not entirely motivated by money. That's what my first major was all about because I listened to my parents who pushed me into doing something I cared nothing about because they wanted me to make money above anything else, including my own happiness. When I changed majors, I had to move out. Thus, I had to drastically increase my student loan amounts.

The thing with the loans is, you have 6 months between graduating or dropping out. So if I didn't go this semester and started working, they would come due in June. If I finished in May, they'd come due in November.

And I agree that getting back into school once you've left is difficult to do. I know it would be a hard hit on us to have to take a paycut for 6 months somewhere down the road while I finish my last semester... all the while, we are paying for credit cards AND student loans at that point. Right now, it's just credit cards. Student loans, they are a pain when you default on them and you can't get rid of them in a bankruptcy like you can in credit cards. We cannot claim undue hardship as the combined income between my husband and I will be 6 figures. But, with 184K in debt as you pointed out, we'll never get it all paid off if we try to keep current on both and student loans I can't default on because I have no protection from them.

Something is going to have to go, and so I've contacted a bankruptcy attorney to talk about our options. I'm not going to spend the next 20 years of my life paying 60% of my income to debts. As far as I'm concerned, I've paid these credit card companies what I actually borrowed and then some because we've had them for years and have been paying plenty of interest while making mostly minimums. They already got their money back with interest from us. In any case, according to a calculator, we can get the student loans paid off in 5 years if we pay $500 extra every month ($900 should be the starting payment). We're paying $1700 right now in credit cards alone. Or were. They're likely over $2000 now with late fees and crap tacked on. We can't implement that plan if we're strapped with those credit cards. Period. Something has to give and I'm sure we'll be sued by some of the credit cards with larger balances as it will be worth it to them.

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Bones...In my opinion...just my opinion.

Definitely do not quit or drop out of school. You have way to much invested already.

From looking at your situation I feel bankruptcy might be the best option for you. Your husband and you seem way in over y'all heads. I bet it's hard to sleep at night trying to figure out what you are gonna do. I know...I was there before.

Next to go will probaby be your credit score. Seems like you are fixing to have a couple of lates and that is gonna kill your score.

Filing bankruptcy would help you and eventually you and your husband could reestablish y'alls credit...probably alot easier after bankrupty than a shot up late credit report.

I wish you and your husband luck with what ever you decide. remember, this is just my advice.

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