Couple confronts debt -- and wins
A Kansas couple, ages 57 and 68, had $120k worth of credit-card bills. Despite his illness, they did the honorable thing.
"We were just living above our means," she says now. "All of a sudden I realized that we had more going out than we had coming in."
By the time she was 57 and her husband was 68 they were using credit cards to pay for everyday expenses like groceries and utilities. They had to: There was nothing left in checking after minimum payments were made on their credit cards.
Franny, a custodial services manager at Kansas State University, knew that they couldn't go on much longer. Declaring bankruptcy was not her first choice, though.
"We ran up the bills and we felt like we needed to pay it back," she says. "You're accountable for what you do."
Within five years they'd slain the debt dragon. Franny started selling Avon and for the first three years worked an extra 16 hours per week as a substitute cleaner. Jim, who'd retired from a maintenance/custodial job at KSU, took on a 30-hour-a-week job delivering auto parts. Three years into the effort he was diagnosed with early-stage dementia, but was able to work until the debt was repaid.
With help from Housing and Credit Counseling, a nonprofit agency in Topeka, Kan., they cut their budget to the bone. Each month, they threw almost $2,500 at their debt. However, they did not neglect Franny's retirement; it was taken out of her salary every pay period.
'We got our life back'
Those five years were difficult and exhausting and absolutely worth it, Franny says: "We got our life back."
She and her husband didn't have to take responsibility for that debt. Given their ages and Jim's medical issues it's unlikely a bankruptcy judge would have said, "Nope, you shiftless so-and-sos, go back and pay your bills."
But the couple chose the honorable route, an attitude that these days seems remarkable. Recently the National Foundation for Credit Counseling gave the Bosticks its PACE (Professional Achievement and Counseling Excellence) award.
People get mired in debt for lots of reasons, including serious illness or prolonged unemployment. It's not that I’m against bankruptcy per se. I just think it shouldn't be your first line of defense.
Perhaps the couple's perseverance will shame at least a few path-of-least-resistance borrowers into believing that they, too, should pay what they owe. Yes, it would be hard for several years. Bankruptcy is no picnic, either.
If you're sinking deeper into debt every day, visit the NFCC website to learn more about your options. Generally speaking, "giving up" should be dead last on the list.
Readers: Have you ever paid off what looked like insurmountable debts? Any tips to share?
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Also - I love this article "pay off your bills quick - simply send them an extra $2500 a month" - why didn't I think of that?!?! GENIUS!
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