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To Be Honest, I’m Completely Lost – Joe

“Dear Steve,

I am 26 years old and from the Philly Area.
Unemployed/ laid-off 2/09
-I have 108 college credits (need 12 more credits or 4 more classes to complete bachelors)
Student Debt Approximately : 30k
Credit Card Debt : 11k
Medical : 5k

To be honest I am just completely lost. In my past I’ve always had decent credit. I had credit cards by 18 or 19 but never had a ongoing balance. I was able to get a car loan at 19(with co-signer) and paid on time without fail and even paid it off early. I worked all through college alternating part time and full time school schedule depending on how much money I had or was able to borrow.

Two years ago I started working in commercial real estate. I worked specifically in acquisitions. My job was to travel to various cities across the country in order to identify and bid on large apartment complexes. It was a dream job for me being able to travel and have that kind of responsibility at my age.

Last year everything fell apart for me. The company I was working for was struggling heavily and my entire department was laid off. To make matters worse the company was 3 months behind on expense reimbursement. We were expected to be on the road 2 to 3 weeks out of the month. By the time I was laid off I had $9800 in un-reimbursed travel expenses. We still haven’t received any of that money yet a year later. The really bad part is that $9800 is entirely on my personal AMEX and the balance is growing despite my $400 to $500 monthly payments for mostly interest. The balance is now around $11,000. I am and have been on unemployment of $1200/month. After rent, utilities and food and gas I have about $300 left. With those numbers its pretty obvious that I wouldn’t be able to sustain this unless I found a job.

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Then in May and again in October I had a Pulmonary Embolism(like a heart attack of the lungs). Turn out I have a genetic disposition. My sister passed away 6 years ago of the same thing when she was 27. Ive been in and out of the hospital and not in great health. I was very lucky though. Thank god I qualified for emergency medicaid and $100,000+. I now only owe $5000 and have gov;t insurance until I start working. I know most people aren’t that lucky so I am very grateful.

After I got sick again in October I stopped paying off the credit cards all together. I am at least 90 days late and some of the accounts have been referred to collection agencies. I just lost control of everything after October and now I put myself in a very bad position. I’m almost frozen in inaction because I don’t know what to do and I guess I kinda have the feeling I broke everything beyond repair. To be honest I am pretty angry about the position I am in but I think I am mostly angry with myself for allowing everything to get so out of control.

Your Question:
I have no idea what to do at this point. I don’t see any good options. I assuming it doesn’t matter if I was sick regarding being late. Ideally I would go back to school work hard and slowly repair my credit but financially I don’t see how I can ever do that until I have this Credit Card debt out of the way. It like a catch 22 because I can’t get a job that would pay enough where I could pay it off opposed to just being juiced.

I’ve seen ads for credit counseling but a lot of times its hard to tell if they are reputable or if they do anything besides consolidate the debt. Is there anyone that would actually cousel me 1 on 1 on the options and help work out a sensible plan. Someone I could work with for a period of time to pay off the debt, figure our how to go to school and start repairing my credit.

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Sorry for the long-winded backgroud and question. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Joe,

If you think you will not incur any additional debt from the recent medical troubles then the emotionally difficult, but logical, path to follow is to go bankrupt, discharge your credit card and medical debt and go back to school and finish that degree.

You are so close to finishing and the investment you made in the 108 credits is worth less because it did not culminate in a degree.

It really does sound like a very cool job that you had. If it’s any small consolation, friends in the apartment world that are trying to build new complexes are struggling and can’t get financing to put up new apartments in demand. The entire apartment world is kind of hosed right now.

If you want, click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney. Go and meet with them for free. After your bankruptcy is discharged it will be easy to rebuild your credit using secured credit cards.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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