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Archive for February, 2008

What is next? I know I can!

February 29th, 2008 at 05:06 pm

I'm still saving for my Debt Settlement and the creditors are still calling. I borrowed $28,000 from my 401k plan and I'm getting back a tax refund of $6,500 plus $900 from the stimulus package. I still have a car to sell and hope to get at least $6,000. My car is going into the garage to be repaired and the owner of the garage is also a car dealer and he said he would sell the car for me and charge a $500 commission. The car is a 99 BMW Convertible and I had a new roof put on it last year, they didn't put a new rubber on the roof and it leaked and rotted my passenger leather seat. So I need a new seat cover and need a new rubber in the new roof before I can sell it. Otherwise, the car is fully restored with new paint and etc., should be a good buy for someone and hopefully it will sell.

So if the car sells the total savings would be $41,400. If I do not sell the car I will only have $35,400. I had hoped I could save additional funds, but so far I have not had any luck putting extra money away because my income is still too low.

The total credit card debts I have left are about $75,000 with the interest and late charges. Even if I could settle at 50% ($37,500), I'm short without selling the car. I'm still hopeful I can do this. The creditors are telling me that I am not eligible yet, which leads me to believe I have to wait possibly to 120 to 180 days before they will settle. Most of the creditors have been very nice and understanding; everyone but Discover who calls six times a day and they are so rude when I talk to them. They are now acting differently though, the other day the guy was very short with me and I just told him my only option would be to settle and I'm waiting until I'm eligible. He said, "okay, good bye". Made me think that they do have a time frame and I'm not there yet.

Regarding the housing market, the month of February was the worst month I have had in the last 8 months. The interest rates went up and housing sales are down. I sure hope this turns around soon; as it is, it looks like I may have to pay my mortgage payments out of my debt settlement money because I didn't earn enough money this month to make the mortgages.

Overall, I have some positive days and then I have the bad days. I think that once I settle with another creditor, maybe I will feel that their is a light at the end of this tunnel. Until then I'm reading every positive book I can find and I'm not saying "I think I can", I'm saying, "I know I can".

Think Positive - your way out of debt.

February 24th, 2008 at 01:13 pm

I have been reading a few books lately, with all this time on my hands, "The Secret", "The Total Money Makeover" and "The Success Principles" and they all elude to how your thinking can bring about your financial position.

If I reflect on my life, it is apparent that my positive thoughts did bring me to places I never dreamed possible. Although, I am in a serious financial down right now, I know in my mind that this is a temporary state for me, I know that I will work my way out of this and from what I have learned here, this will not happen in my life again. The giant sucking sound has finally quieted and I'm learning a lot of important things, like the word "no".

One of the biggest things I have learned is that "it's not the hard times that will get you, it is the good times". Just living and doing everything I wanted to do for myself and others and not thinking about the "what if". That is why I am here.

This experience has also given me time to write and I've been doing a lot of that. Working in the finance industry for over 22 years, I know about credit and how banks work, know about credit reports and how to fix them, know about many people who have settled their debts, know many people working with debt management companies and many who have filed bankruptcy. I have assisted thousands of people through the years with their credit issues by giving them information and form letters to fix their problems. All free just to help people so that someday they could buy a home and be bank worthy. I have clients I have spent years with helping them finally get into a position to buy a home.

In the last four months I have spent a lot of time thinking about starting a side business for credit repair, settlement education and other alterntives to give people the tools to handle their own problems. I've consulted with the banking and insurance commission a few times, talked to an attorney about the business and I have wrote a manual that is already over forty pages long. I hope to use my experience and the experience of my clients (all anonymous), as examples with solutions.

While going through this process I noticed a lot of predatory companies who thrive on naive people who don't understand that they don't need third parties to handle their debts and etc. In my research I did find a few companies that seemed legitimate for people who just don't have the confidence to handle their finances on their own, but it took a lot of research. I'm afraid that many people panic and don't take the time necessary to find the right company. If a person has a true hardship they can deal with their creditors and the creditors actually prefer it that way. A person just has to have enough confidence and education to know how to handle their situation.

In the state I live, debt settlement companies are not allowed, however, educating people is. I could have seminars and sell my manual with standard form letters and etc. to help clients handle their own credit issues. They could then consult with me for an additional fee which I would put on a sliding scale based on income and need.

With the new bankruptcy laws, people don't know all their options. I think this could be a very helpful service and I would interested it others thought it would be as well?

Wearing a Skirt ... Car Repair Ripoff

February 19th, 2008 at 01:27 pm

My DH's Ford truck would not start in the yard last week, he tried to boost it and it still did not start so he called the tow truck to tow it to the garage. The tow guy tells DH, "I can fix it and I will give you a good deal and get it done quick, I will replace spark plugs, change oil and filters too, probably all it needs". Well, we all want it done quickly don't we? So DH authorizes him to repair it - so he calls the next day at noon and they say, "Yep, have her ready". So DH goes to pick it up after work and guess what? They were so busy towing that they didn't have time to finish fixing it, but they changed oil, filters and plugs; complete tuneup and that didn't work so they think it is a very serious problem; "new fuel pump". DH is not happy, says a few things about their service and leaves shop.

Next day Tow guy calls me, "Ms. XXXX I realize your DH was upset, I know vehicles and I don't do repairs that aren't required, I'm not like that so you want me to fix the fuel pump, I can't find one today, but I can have it by tomorrow morning, nobody has got one?" I tell him my DH has a cell phone; call him. DH has in the meantime been making several calls to the Ford dealership to find out about the fuel system of the truck - he was advised there is a relay switch and a fuel module going into the tank that could be malfunctioning. Fuel pump cost $370, plus hours of labor at $45 an hour, because they have to take the tank off. So DH calls back the tow guy and ask him if he checked the relay switch, tow guy advises, "this truck ain't got one" (hmmmmm), then he ask him if he checked the fuel module - tow guy says, "I was just about to do that". DH tells him to tow it to Ford Garage!!!

So twenty minutes after the truck arrives at Ford Garage they call to say it's the fuel module ($65.00) and it will take a couple hours of labor. So DH authorizes the repair. He then calls tow guy to get the bill on plugs, filters and oil change (towing was paid by AAA), tow guy says SIX HOURS labor and parts; $440.00 - DH is through the roof now ... he takes the weekend to think about it and calls tow guy back and says, "I'm a fair man and I want to pay you, but I will not be screwed by you because you didn't get to replace a fuel pump that didn't need replacing, so what is it going to be? I have checked with Ford and they say you couldn't have more than THREE hours labor and that is pressing it ... tow guy stutters and agrees to the three hours of labor and reduced the bill.

I'm so glad I had a husband to deal with this ... I would have gotten screwed if it were me I would have said, "Okay, do the work and my bill would have been over $1,000 and I would have paid it". I know because this has happened to me, once to the tune of $5,000 because the mechanic said I didn't have a problem when a read light came on; says its just a bad sensor, then my transmission goes because my oil pump was gone, no oil circulating (I had a big problem) - he gets a used transmission and puts it in and doesn't check a piece of plastic in the pistons and starts the engine and bends the pistons so then it has to go to a machine shop to fix the pistons and they made me pay for it ... I was three months without a car ... it was awful!! I didn't have a husband and I was wearing a skirt.

Can anyone else relate?

The Kitchen is Done!

February 17th, 2008 at 07:15 am

It has been approximately three weeks, but for less than $200 - we painted our kitchen cabinets and added new brass hardware. I love the new look and it has brightened the kitchen up.

We had a dinner with 12 people today for DH's birthday - everyone was very complimentary about the cabinets and they could not get over how much it changed the look of our kitchen. I was going to add a new counter top for another $900 later on, but everyone said just leave it the way it is, they thought the kitchen as is would sell.

I have lived in this house for 25 years, it is going to be hard to leave when I sell, I raised all my children here and my nieces and nephews and are sad I'm selling too, a lot of memories here, but it will be nice to be able to do something different. Maybe when I get through this debt mess I could move south and get out of all this snow!

It is Snowing Again ....

February 15th, 2008 at 01:56 pm

This has been a long winter and I don't think I have ever seen so much snow, it has gotten to the point that when you are in the supermarket, every corner I turn there are two guys talking about all the snow and where they are going to put it next. I hear we are expecting two more feet of snow next week; I'm so tired of the white stuff, but the ski industry is counting the cash ... we needed a good year for them.

I wish I could go to FL right now, my mother was down there last week and it was 80 degrees every day and perfect weather. Such extremes and it's all just a flight away. We won't see really glorious weather here until July and then I will drive to the coast of ME ... saving myself about $2,000 ... it generally cost me $3,000 to go to FL in the winter, ME only cost me about $1,000.
A much needed low budget vacation would be very nice.

The Dog and I .... please help me to make the right choice.

February 14th, 2008 at 04:52 pm

In November my DH decided we needed a dog, he felt that I was spending too much time home alone and I needed a companion. I told my DH that I have never had a puppy and knew I was intimidated by large dogs. So my DH makes an appointment to look at german shepard puppies! There were nine of them and we go to look, I was very reluctant and knew that this would entail a lot of work for me, but really I didn't have a clue. He immediately spotted a female that he said was "the one". So he asked me what I thought, I could see he was totally smitten with her since he had had a german shepard in the past, I told him it was up to him and he decides to bring her home.

We set up a kennel in the living room by the back door so she could learn to go potty. She adapted well and within a week she was trained. My living room now looks like a zoo with a gated fence, so she can't get to the furniture, and doggie toys. I purchased a book on how to train your german shepard. Keep in mind I have never personally had a puppy or a large dog.

To make a long story short, the puppy is now about four and a half months old, training has been difficult and she weighs 40 lbs. My once quiet and clean, home has now become very active with the dog chasing my cats and treeing them on the shelves and table (I don't allow my pets on the shelves and table). I spend a great deal of my day going in and out with the dog, cleaning up messes the dog makes (tearing up paper or anything she can find), vacuuming up pet hair and I'm finding this to be a very stressful process. If I ever get back to work here, how will I deal with this high energy dog?

Last week she ate a hole in my recliner I purchased about two years ago; this is while I was talking on the phone in my office. This week she ate the molding off my french doors that cost me $2,400 when I put my addition on in 2004; again I had gone to my office to talk on the phone. My red oak floors are taking a beating from her claws which I trim every two weeks. Outside the house, when it was warmer out, she dug up the septic tank - big hole!! Came to the door covered in mud and looked very pleased with herself. She will love my flower beds in the spring!

Don't get me wrong, she is a beautiful dog and many days sits by me watchfully guarding, she is loyal and faithful and wants me with her all day long. With that being said, I have been in tears and am torn about raising this dog. She is like a small child and I have my children all but raised now, this is an enormous responsibility, very stressful and if I don't spend enough time with her she gets angry and chews something. I can't keep a mat in front of the door because she chews that up, the last one she chewed cost me $40.

I think my DH is very disappointed that I have become disenchanted with his act of kindness; wanting me to have a day companion. DH is gone 13 hours a day and I am it. DH says he can take her to work with him, but that doesn't train her to be a house dog and I think having free rein all day will cause her to be more disruptive in the house.

I have shared my feelings with my DH and he has said he has a single friend that would love the dog. He says he realizes I'm having a hard time here with all the other stresses in my life. Do you give your kids away if you can't deal with them? I have an emotional attachment to this dog, but I realize this is a long term relationship not just a walk in the park.

Any suggestions on what I should do?
I weigh 120 lbs, what will happen when she weighs as much as I do and I have to try to control her? What happens when mud season arrives? Should I just wait it out, will it get better? Will I have any furniture left? Will I be able to sell my house if I keep her and she keeps destroying things?

I really feel sad about all this and was reluctant to post ... but maybe others have experienced this and will know what is the RIGHT thing to do.

The 10 Things I Have Learned From Raising My Children

February 10th, 2008 at 03:35 pm

I have been a single parent most of my children's lifes. I have a son who is out west and is a Civil Engineer, I have a daughter who lives nearby who is a Human Service major but runs a Restaurant and I have a Senior in High School who is still struggling with school, girls and peer pressure. It has not been easy raising these kids, but there are a few things I have learned:

1. Pick your wars and make sure they are worth it. Your words and actions become memories that can last a life time. Is it really worth it to get upset because they left their clothes somewhere they shouldn't have? It was much easier for me to just take care of it and maybe later gently remind them to pick up after themselves.

2. Be willing to say you are sorry when you know you are wrong. I remember my son mowing the lawn and getting upset because he went to fast and tore up some grass, I confronted him and he began to cry, he was doing his best, he was still learning (I apologized, gave him a hug and told him to drive a little slower).

3. Make sure you tell them that you love them every day. I didn't let my kids leave for school or leave the house without telling them I loved them. You never know what is going to happen in todays world and I never let my kids leave angry at me or me at them, you never know it could be your last words together. (I know this from experience, my best friend had a very bad verbal war with her 15 year old son the day she died in an automobile accident, they said some bad things that have haunted him into adulthood).

4. Praise them often and be careful with criticism; make it constructive and do it kind and methodical; you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. After all, we are building their self esteem.

5. Ask them about their day, about their friends, about their relationships, let them know you are interested in their life and listen to what they have to say; sometimes you will hear things you would not have known if you had not have asked and listened.

6. Teach them to be kind to themselves and kind to others. Make giving to the needy and less fortunate an example in your home and they will never look down on others; it teaches them human compassion.

7. At least 75% of the time, put their needs before your own. They only have one childhood and they are only children once; make it special.

8. Make family meal time important and have sit down dinners together. With sports, work, sleep overs and etc. sometimes it is hard to have family dinners. We made Sunday a must, at least Sunday we had to have dinner together. It keeps the family close and is a good time to share our lifes; there is always a lot of picking and laughing at our table.

9. When they make a mistake and do something they shouldn't (they will because they are human and learning), help them to see what their actions have done to themselves and others, help them to forgive themselves because this is a learning experience and now they can move on. We have all made mistakes and we just need to do better so it doesn't happen again.

10. Give love, give hugs and don't be afraid to touch and show emotions. This teaches your child how to love others, bond with others and express their feelings. I've met people in this life who don't know how to express feelings, are uncomfortable with a hug and never say, "I love you", because as children, they were not shown this important emotion in a touching and affectionate way. I know parents who love their grown children, but I never see them touch, many write a check and think that does it.

I'm definately not or do I profess to be a "great mother", but I have been the best mother I know how to be. I've made mistakes, probably been too easy on them, felt sorry for them because they were raised without a father in our home and have given too much, but my children respect me, love me and come home often to see me, this is home, so I am doing something right.

Give them the tools and they will become everything you think they can be and more.

I've had enough Snow, Snow Blowing and Shoveling

February 8th, 2008 at 07:19 pm

We've had over 16 inches of snow in the last two days, I had to shovel and snow blow my yard and my neighbors, took me two hours yesterday. The plow truck plowed a whole snow bank into my neighbors yard it was four feet high and two feet thick ... it's a good thing I couldn't find him yesterday, I would have probably given him a shovel and made him help, how rude can he be? He knows the yard is maintained and he doesn't do that to anyone elses yard.

When my neighbor was alive she told me she had a problem with them plowing snow in her yard, but I never knew it was that bad. My neighbor died the day before Xmas of cancer, she has been my neighbor for 25 years and she was only 62. I keep her yard maintained so people will think someone lives there, the estate will sell it in the spring. The executor of the estate lives out west and there is no one here to take care of the property. I miss my neighbor and it gives me some peace to know that I can still do something to help her family. She had a son that was mentally challenged and lived with her and he was in his 30's, the estate will go to him to help with his care; it is very sad and I want to do all I can to make sure no one takes advantage of him financially,I'll do what I can to assist the estate so that no one can bleeds the estate financially. I made sure my neighbor had a trust set up to protect her son because he is a ward of the state because he is not mentally competent and he can't have assets in his name.

My concern was that I had a friend that died 11 years ago in an unexpected car accident. I was the appointed executor of her estate by the probabe court, she had three children from the ages of 10 to 15, by the time the estate was completed, three different law firms had gotten involved and over $20,000 of the childrens money was gone. She didn't have a proper will ... something to think about if you have children and you want to make sure they don't lose their money. Have a proper will or family trust set up and have it filed with the probate court.

I've attached a picture of my back yard ... stop the snow!

Settlement & Afraid to Talk About It

February 7th, 2008 at 10:49 am

My largest debt is with Bank of America, it is at $59,900 right now with the interest and late fees. I had a dream on Tuesday night that they were suing me for the balance. I woke up at 2:00 am and couldn't go back to sleep.

For those who been following me, you know I have that "Privacy Corp" ID machine that let's my calls go to the machine and I don't hear it ring. I thought I had all the collectors so far, programmed in. So my mother is traveling and I was concerned about her and the phone rang and I assumed it was her, well it was BOA. I had not planned to talk to them again until March because I'm not yet 90 days.

So I told them my situation, which has not changed and told them I'm looking to settle my debt. The nice gentleman I spoke with offered me a settlement of $21,000, I asked for $18,000, so he told me he would go see his manager and call me back. He called me back with bad news, they wanted $27,000, which I don't have available to me right now and it would throw off my settlement plan making me short to settle all my debts. So he hooked me up with the Manager, she thought I was threatenig her with a bankruptcy which I told her I was not, but .... that didn't go well. She then told me that if I did not settle, she was sending me to arbitration, that means legal and they make the decision to sue me or not to sue and she told me they would sue me and garnish my wages and put a lien against my house. So then she and I compromised and we finally settled at $23,000. A little more than I have right now, but she let me spread it over 4 months so my tax refund will be here and I'll have enough. That is a 38% settlement and I'll take it with the threat of being sued over me. My account was large and it is usually the large ones that get sued.

I didn't realize how much this has been bothering me, I knew it was upsetting and I thought I was dealing with it okay, but after I hung up I literally cried for an hour and then I broke down a few more times during the day. I was mentally wiped out and couldn't do much the rest of the day. I am still in shock that they settled with me and I'm so relieved that it has finally started and I was able to take care of my biggest account.

The bad news is I have $74,500 still in credit card debt to settle with four more creditors. I owe Discover $25,000 and they are they are about 70 days deliquent now and will probably be willing to talk to me in another month.
I checked out my 401k plan and I can now borrow more money than they told me I could, because I've lost so much money lately, I decided to put in a loan request so I can start planning how to finish this up.

There is a God and I may survive this (knock on wood).

Employment and Bad Credit.

February 6th, 2008 at 07:51 am

For those of you following my story, I'm $133,000 in credit card debt and growing with interest, late charges and over limit fees and I have lost most of my income (commission based and tied to the real estate market) have $280,000 in mortgages and another $20,000 in vehicle loans. I've become unable to make payments on the credit cards which use to be $2,500 a month and have now shot over $4,000 with the new 29.99% interest rates I've inherited because of delinquent credit. My goal is to settle this debt and I'm saving and waiting since you need to be about 90 days delinquent before they will even talk about settlement and more like 120 days before they will give you a decent settlement. The waiting seems to be the worst part of this for me, I just want it over. Good thing they have Ambien CR or I wouldn't sleep at all.

So last week the refinances have started trickling in. Alot of people still need to refinance those high rates. In my area I'm considered one of the best in the business, I often get calls asking me to come work for a new company. Last week I got calls from Citi Mortgage and Wells Fargo. I declined interviews for both jobs for a couple of reasons. One is I won't make any more money than I'm making now by changing companies and it is not a good time with these economic conditions to be moving jobs. Two is if I try to change employers they will pull my credit and see the mess I am in and won't hire me anyways.

It really hit home when I realized that because of this mess, I have given up any possibility of changing employers and even if I wait a few years to do so, it will be extremely embarrassing when I have to explain my credit report. That is why I have to at least settle this debt and can't have a bankruptcy, I couldn't take 10 years of explaining and not getting the job because I had that public record. I've worked so hard to get where I am and now credit can ruin my career ...

A View on Collection Calls

February 3rd, 2008 at 02:02 pm

I am in enormous debt as you can read from my prior post. The Feds are lowering the rates and I'm starting to see some slow activity in my business. However, it is confusing, one day the 30 year rate drops to 5.75% and then the next it is back to 6.125%, customers don't want to lock in because they think the rates are going down and I fear it's going to excite the market and make the rates go up. One customer accused me of not giving them my best rate after the rate jumped ... this gets very stressful and I just wish they would lock when they see what we have at application ... it's a gamble and if I knew what was going to happen, I'd be rich!

Even though I'm seeing some activity and maybe my income will increase, I'm overextended, behind on all my credit cards and have rates up to 29.99% with about $80 a month in extra fees on each card and there are 8 of them, with five creditors involved. There is no way I can recover from this without settling my accounts, my credit card payments were $2,500 a month when this started and now they are at $4,000, the debt is climbing. I don't even bring home that amount after tax and I still have two houses to deal with and two car loans, my cars are almost paid and we need both cars for work. So I will continue my plan to settle and clean up what I can. I'm figuring by April I may be able to take care of the first creditor.

In the meantime, my phone rings about 12 times a day from three of the creditors, not all of them are calling yet, I still have two more that will be calling soon. So I decide to talk to one about 10 days ago, we go over my situation for about the fourth time since this all started, I hang up the phone and they call four more times that night. Do they think a miracle occurred and I instantly found wealth? The fact is this is legal harassment, they try to wear you down with the calls. What they don't know is I purchased a machine that makes the calls go right to the answering machine and they don't ring in my house, so I can pick up the calls when I choose. I will not talk to anyone for another month, it is too depressing and it ruins the rest of my day. I don't feel it is necessary to talk weekly, things like this don't change quickly. I also have the option of sending them a cease and desist to not call my home, however, sometimes that will accelerate the sitution right to a lawyer, so the machine is on and I stopped looking at the ID to see who has been calling, the creditors are programmed so family and friends can ring through. The caller ID machine is called "Privacy Corp" and it was the best thing I could do for my sanity through this.

In over 20 years I never missed a payment, this is all a learning experience for me. I have my fingers crossed that I will have settled all my credit card debt by August and I have been saving everything I can. I've looked at hardship ideas and debt consolidation and etc., but that would be a bandaid for this serious situation that is bleeding all over the place. I've consulted with a Bankruptcy Attorney who has encouraged me to file, but I just want this over and I'll give what I can and what the creditors feel is acceptable. They will get more money from me this way then through bankruptcy.