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I Need Debt Help. Can I Trust You Steve? – Dianne

“Dear Steve,

I am now 60 years old, have worked most of my life, but was primarily self-employed. I was married for 30 years to an abusive man, both physically and mentally and after 5 years am still going through a divorce. I left my husband when my home and all possessions were washed away (literally) by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

I have worked in several capacities since then, had not until this year actually made enough to pay taxes, but since after the storm have rebuilt a home (on the same property I have lived on with my animals for 27 years) with half the proceeds from the insurance settlement and my mother’s inheritance to me.

The house is still unfinished but I am living in it and trying to finish it with income I received as a Vessels of Opportunity captain (I am USCG licensed) which was a gift from God to me, but unfortunately was a result of the BP oil spill. At this point I have not income other than odd jobs.

I am $49,048 in credit card debt plus another $7,964 owed on my truck. On credit cards I am making minimum payments and a truck note of $555.07 per mo. The cards are Bank of Am:$17,[email protected]%,Discover$4,[email protected]%,Discover$9,[email protected]%,ATTUniversal$9,[email protected]%,Optima$4,[email protected]%,AmEx [email protected]%,AmEx [email protected]%. I am in debt primarily because my husband borrowed over $45K from me after we split the insurance proceeds and then did not pay me back and I had to put a roof over my head.

I have farm animals I cannot sell, need to buy feed and finish my house, and am trying to retain a “kitty” of about $27K that was part of my pay from the BP VOO program to continue paying my monthly bills and live on.

Should I file bankruptcy? or should I try to negotiate directly with the credit card companies (What’s the best way to do this?) I do not know when or where I might see future income and am hesitant to spend it all. I am also considering debt settlement. Could you please advise me? If debt settlement, who can I trust?


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Dear Dianne,

First off, you’ve come to the right place. You can trust me and Damon Day, a fellow debt coach, to give you good honest advice.

I’m so sorry to hear of the trials and tribulations you’ve been through. There are no words I can think of to express how sorry I am you had to deal with those times. Now the good news is the abuse is behind you and you are not on fire. There is always something to be thankful for. Now we just need to deal with the debt.

My concern is you are living in a partially finished house and have an uncertain income phase to live through. Given the circumstances you’ve shared it seems that embarking on using your remaining cash to attempt to settle your debt would not be my first suggestion.

At this point the cash you have on hand is your financial safety blanket but unless you do something address the debt, the cash will be gone and the problem still exist. If you used the cash to settle your debts you’d still be living in an unfinished house and struggling to get by on a day-to-day basis. That’s not an acceptable outcome from my point of view.

I think we are a little bit off from deciding what is the best course of action for you but the first thing I want to do is assign you homework. And Dianne your homework is for you to click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney and go talk to them about your situation.

You need to see if they can come up with a game plan that allows you to invest the cash you have on hand in the house to make it livable and able to shelter you safely. I would also suggest you talk to the bankruptcy attorney about pre-paying property taxes and homeowners insurance for the next year as well. My goal is to get you setup in a position where you can eliminate the worries of your residence and know that is a safe place for you to live for the next year.

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If you and the bankruptcy attorney can come up with a reasonable strategy that accomplishes those goals then bankruptcy seems like the reasonable path, again, from my point of view. You see, in your situation the last thing you need to worry about is having creditors chasing you and hounding you while you attempt to settle your debt. You don’t need to be threatened with lawsuits or have them actually sue you. You certainly don’t need to heap on a big dose of collections activity which will only emotionally bring you down and right now, you need to be lifted up.

I think this is the juncture where you say that it is more responsible to properly care for yourself moving forward, than continuing to look over your shoulder and trying to repair the past.

I hate the be the bearer of the unfortunate obvious but you are 60 years old. From this day forward the goal needs to be about living within your income and actually saving money. Time is not on your side. I need for you to stop worrying about the past and start worrying about your financial future. If we used bankruptcy to close the door on the old debt then we can begin to accomplish that goal.

If you think I’m wrong or this isn’t the advice that seems reasonable to you then please feel free to get a second opinion about your situation or a personal consultation by another debt coach, please feel free to contact Damon Day.

Please update me on your progress by posting updates here in the comments section of your question. I’m very interested in how this works out for you.


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.


  • Dianne

    You certainly have asked the right person for advise!

    I don’t know Steve personally, but I have used his advise to get myself out of a very bad creditcard debt.

    Steve has been in our situation & unlike alot of others ….HE REALLY CARES.

  • Dianne

    You certainly have asked the right person for advise!

    I don’t know Steve personally, but I have used his advise to get myself out of a very bad creditcard debt.

    Steve has been in our situation & unlike alot of others ….HE REALLY CARES.

  • Hello Dianne,

    Steve is a great guy with honest and practical advice. If you can trust anyone with advice about your debt, it’s him.

    — Thom Fox

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