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Home > Ask The Get Out of Debt Experts > I Could Not Live My Old Life Anymore. I’m Seeking Happiness But With Debt. – Patrick

I Could Not Live My Old Life Anymore. I’m Seeking Happiness But With Debt. – Patrick

“Dear Steve,

Thanks for your time. I’ve read through your site, your publications, spoke last month with a financial consultant (Damon Day – I think you might know him or know of him?) and wanted to drop you a line to get your thoughts. I see the site requests a substantial amount of information, so I hope what I share is not too much. Here’s the situation…

Combined credit card debt for my wife & I is now $68,000. Half the debt was accumulated slowly, over time, as hard-working executives, without children, living in an expensive city. When our combined incomes were $250K+ the debt seemed manageable {wrong!} and, though unwise, not necessarily disproportionate to our income {wrong again!}.

Last year I was a victim of job cuts, but the loss of the job was well-timed with a new, simplified plan for our life and one that was more attuned to personal happiness as a married couple (new careers) and as newish parents (more time with our son). Though the life change required a significant reduction in salary (my wife by half and myself by 100% temporarily) and a gamble (on my future career as a publishable, if not published, author), we wanted to change our life (and our spending) for the better.

A year ago, we moved from New York City to upstate New York (farm and horse country). My wife accepted a good job for $78K with long-term growth potential and I am spending time as Mr. Grocery Shopper, Mr. Housekeeper, Mr. Chef, Mr. Fix It, Mr. Mom and am working on my first book (fiction). Our rent is cheaper, food and necessities are cheaper, child care is cheaper, quality of life is significantly improved and our now three-year-old son is flourishing in the county. But, our debt (The Ghost of Christmas Past) is going to strangle this dream if we don’t take immediate action.

In retrospect, I can now see that we should have at least considered staying in the executive, big city grind, if not actually stayed in it, in order to secure greater leverage over our debt before launching into greener pastures. But, opportunity knocked and we pulled the trigger on the move and life change. And, once in greener pastures, we probably should not have purchased a second car. I did transport our son to/from preschool and my wife to/from work daily for a few months before we both agreed that it was not the best use of my time to be my wife’s chauffeur.

To alleviate some of the financial burden on my wife, I’ve recently taken on a couple of part-time, freelance assignments to supplement our income and will continue to seek out more assignments. But, I need to focus on writing my book too and am working toward a deadline of Sept 1, a self-imposed deadline, but serendipitously timed with an industry event I plan to attend. That said, the book has to be secondary to the well-being of my family and the rehabilitation of our finances.

Though the financial crisis itself can’t be isolated from my attempt to write and publish a novel and life plan, it must be addressed before I can re-focus my creative efforts and complete the manuscript. The debt is undeniable and we are ready to take the first step on that long road to ‘zero debt.’ While its pressure on my new career ambitions is uncomfortable, as you say “it is what it is.” If we don’t defeat it, the debt will crush us. So, we’re taking action. I hope it’s not too late.

As mentioned, I’ve spoken with Damon. I’ve reviewed a number of debt relief options: credit counseling, a DMP from Money Management International, debt settlement with Donaldson Williams, and Chapter 7. As for BK and Chapter 7, I haven’t spoken with an attorney, but fear we can’t pass the means test due to our income. I don’t believe that a DMP is right for us, nor debt settlement. But, I do think a debt consolidation loan from the Lending Club, can be part of the solution. My question is, knowing what I’ve shared, what do you make of the following plan I’ll place in the questions field? And, can you even evaluate the bones of the plan without knowing our ‘numbers’ and all of our budgetary info?

In “Eliminate Your Debt LIke A Pro” you suggest that we should contact you to find the right M.A.N.

Can you please share this information with me? I am looking for the right M.A.N at:

Bank of America
American Express
GE Capital Retail Bank
Citibank

My wife and I are $68,000 in debt (credit cards). We are going to get out of debt and we’ve overhauled our life to do it… relocated and reduced expenses, changed spending habits and are working together on financial planning, etc. Of all the options available to us (credit counseling, DMPs, debt settlement, Chapter 7, etc.), I think the following is our best course of action. Any advice you can provide, Steve, is welcome.

1) Apply for a Lending Club loan ($18K at 14.98% APR or $24K @ 15.99% APR)
2) Borrow $13,000 from family
3) Call our credit cards and begin negotiating for lower APRs
4) Seek out balance transfer deals that help us further lower our interest
5) Make a budget and stick to it at all costs, refraining from use of credit
6) Submit a repayment proposal to creditors
7) Use $31K (or $37K) to pay down highest interest cards
8) Pay minimums on low rate cards until able to pay more
9) Continue finding ways to trim expenses, increase income and pay down debt

Thanks in advance for your time and insight.

Patrick”

Dear Patrick,

Thank you for sharing so much information. It’s helpful.

I’m not sure how upstate you are living in New York but I once lived up near Mahopac, Carmel, Brewster and loved the laid back charm of New York country.

Your situation presents an interesting set of variables.

You’ve shed a life that paid well but didn’t sing to you or feed your soul. On one hand you seem to be both very analytical and yet very creative. But what I hear you saying is that your creative side is the most important part of you and the true you.

I would argue that as long as the debt is hanging over you, it suffocates some of the creative energy you need to call on to accomplish your creative goal. It essentially ties one hand behind your back.

And on top of that you’ve set an arbitrary deadline for the completion of your writing. The pressure of the debt and the acceleration towards that deadline will most likely only hurt the clarity of thought you need to produce the masterpiece you want to create.

So from where I see it, it’s not about just the numbers for you. And while you are reading my books, I would suggest you read The Path to Happiness and Wealth. That’s probably the better read for this particular moment.

You’ve done some great homework here but I still think you need to finish it. Most everyone that meets with a good bankruptcy attorney can file a chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney.

Until you actually investigate that option you haven’t done all of your homework.

The plans you laid out fall into two camps:

  1. Borrow
  2. Negotiate

But the lack of thoroughly investigating bankruptcy omits option three, intervention.

Debt problems are resolved by increasing income, reducing expenses, or a combination of the both.

A question I’d like you to ponder is how much can you modify your life to increase income and/or reduce expenses where it won’t sacrifice your ultimate goal of writing the masterpiece?

I can see one scenario where you are doing so much freelancing or shivering around a candle that you never get to writing.

Conservatives would tell you suck it up, get back to that job you hated, and make your payments. But at what cost to your life? Life is a one way trip with limited time.

Doesn’t there come a point for many of us where we just can’t do that old grind and it is so soul destroying that staying in that nightmare feels like we are dying slowly?

You obviously have a wife that loves you and believes in your vision. You have a child that gets your incredible attention. You’ve nearly turned your life towards living the life you need to live.

I’m not sure I can answer your questions just yet because I need to hear from you. What is the most important goal here, to accomplish the dream and move forward with a new life, or to spend the next five years trying to fix the past financial situation?

Before we can plan the route, we need to know the destination.

And y the way, I know Damon Day very well and he is an exceptional debt coach. You were lucky to connect with him.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

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About Steve Rhode

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.
  • Patrick

    Hi Steve:

    Thanks for your quick, thoughtful reply and apologies for my slow response. And, thanks for making yourself accessible to people, like me, who are looking for help. I was grateful to find your website and resources. To see that you further extend yourself with personal dialogue and analysis surprised me a little, but I guess I’m getting too jaded for my own good. Anyway… thank you.

    We live about an hour north of those communities that you mentioned (Mahopac, Carmel, Brewster). We are loving the life change. And, once we identify an action plan, put it into place and get back on the road to repairing our finances, I can’t imagine how much better it will feel then.

    You hit the nail on the head about everything. The debt and the pressures it will put on my writing, especially as the deadline nears. The need to get out of the grind and define our life (and finances) in more independent and personally rewarding ways. And, the ultimate question: embrace the life change now or spend five years repenting for our (financial) sins? My goal is to write the book. Of course, there’s a mountain to climb once it’s written (agent, publisher, etc.), but that’s a climb for another day. I need to know if I can help to support my family by writing (and publishing) books. That’s the question. So, first, I must complete the manuscript.

    Provided we have an actionable financial plan (even if it’s one that only gets us out of debt in five years), I won’t be too distracted by that. We just want to get control of our debt before it buries us for good. But, you pose a good question and I hope we can find a happy medium that gets us on the path to financial recovery, but doesn’t interfere with writing the book or leave me warming my fingers by candlelight. It’s too much debt (a majority of it mine, though my wife doesn’t often point that out) for my wife’s current income to address. If I can identify a steady, part-time income and devote the balance of hours to the book, that’s going to have to be the plan.

    On the BK issue and repairing our financial situation, I’ll sit down with my wife tonight and discuss. After my talk with Damon, he too stressed BK and Chapter 7 as a potentially viable option – one fraught with much baggage, but he helped me to view it objectively. I scheduled a call with Jay Fleischman, but didn’t get past a woman screening for him as they don’t cover our area. They couldn’t offer a referral and, to be honest, I didn’t do as good a job helping my wife overcome preconceptions about Chapter 7 as Damon did with me. So, it fell to the bottom of the options list to investigate, then fell off. But, I do want to speak an attorney to better understand it. Damon found someone for me in Albany, so I will follow up on this with him. If you think I should complete the form on your website too, I will.

    Will also read The Path to Happiness & Wealth too, so thanks for recommending it.

    Be well.

    • http://GetOutOfDebt.org Steve Rhode

      Great to hear back. Before you or your wife fall into bankruptcy baggage or assumptions. Let’s explore them. For the most part they are about as real as that monster under your bed.

      Can you have great credit again: Absolutely
      Can you be ready to buy a house in a few years: Absolutely
      Can you get credit again: You bet
      Will you be able to buy a car: Heck yes.

      So make a list of the objections and let me help you get the facts so you can make an informed decision.

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