I Was In the Navy and Air Force and Now I Need to Get Debt Free? – Marilyn


“Hi Steve,

I’m really deep in debt and don’t know how to start getting out of it. Every time I research an article thinking that it could be helpful, I get discouraged because I don’t think I can adjust it to my situation. Let me begin.

When I got out of the Navy, I started receiving credit card offers, and mind you, I never had any financial management skills so, of course, I accepted the offers. Then, I didn’t know how to handle my finances. I admit, I was young, careless and wanted to spend my own money. I thought, in my head, I’ll be able to pay it all off or at least make the minimum payments. I never really sat down with anyone to discuss about how much credit and high interest rates could impact your life if you go under. Basically, I never had anyone mentor me about managing money. People were always telling me what to do – I should have to have a savings or I should have only one credit card for emergencies, blah, blah, blah. I shoved it aside, thinking that I’m a big girl and I can do whatever I want. I admit it – I was irresponsible.

After 9/11, I decided to cross over into the Air Force. I ended up moving from one end of the country to the other, happy, hopeful and looking forward to a fresh new start after a very harsh life in the Navy. As you may know, enlisted ranking personnel who are at the bottom of the totem pole don’t get paid much. I didn’t have to worry about my living and eating expenses but now I had credit and an auto loan to manage. I ended up getting into credit consolidation but I never completed it and always diverted my payment to another date just to use that money for gas or food or other necessities.

Once I got out of the Air Force, I was unemployed for 5 months. That left me deeper in debt. Then, I landed a two-year contract working for a program on the base as a civilian and thought I could manage. However, the demands of daily living with rent, a car note, gas and groceries ate up my income even though I got paid more than I could have ever imagined! I was happy I was making really good money. The problem was that I never could catch up with the debt I already owed. All my credit card debts and other unsecured loans have long been in collections. Debt consolidation was out of the question. So, I tried debt settlement. I couldn’t complete or commit to the plan so I ended up only investing a total amount of $500 before I ended up getting laid off because our program ended and so did my contract.

I was unemployed for 7 months until I start working last May. Now that I have a steady job, I’m happy to be stable again. However, I get paid just a bit less than what I used to make and with living out here in Southern California, my priorities right now is first to pay my rent and my car note.

I’m struggling right now because I owe so much back pay with my rent and my car note but I need a place to live so I’ve worked out arrangements with my landlord for payments, which doesn’t leave me any room to make my car notes because the rest of my money is going to my living expenses.

I need help but I don’t know where to start. I’m so behind in my auto loan that I’ve been avoiding the phone calls. I’ve tried to work with them before and they’ve been so gracious to me every time but, again, I have taken what I was going to pay my car note with and adjusted it to other expenses. Don’t get me wrong, I have paid my car note as much as I can, when I can, but because I’m behind in both, I’m not able to pay for both at the same time.

Those 7 months of unemployment set me back even further and I’m drowning in debt that I cannot see the light. I don’t want to do that. I want to pay my debts, I do. I’m so tired of being in debt. I just want to be free. Please help.

Thanks for taking your precious and valuable time to read my letter and offer your advice. I really appreciate it. I look forward to hearing from you.

How do I start and where do I start to put me on the right track to being debt free? Is bankruptcy the only option I have? How did you do it?


Dear Marilyn,

First, thank you so much for giving up a part of your life to serve both in the Navy and Air Force. Military service can be a drudge but every cog moves the greater machine so every person is a valuable resource.

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

I always say there is no sense wasting a perfectly good mistake, and you’ve made a few. There really isn’t much I can teach you now that you have not learned from the school of hard knocks.

I even very proud of you for realizing what your repayment priorities should be, rent and car first. Good job!

Realistically it is unreasonable to expect that you are going to suddenly earn enough now to be able to live your current life and have extra to go back and repair your financial past. The military might say “no man left behind” but here in the civilian world we don’t have anything like “no debt left behind”. Like it or not, I think the pragmatic approach is to leave your debts behind through bankruptcy.

Going bankrupt is really a simple exercise for most people. The process starts with a visit to a bankruptcy lawyer who will represent you with the court. You’ll have some nonsense hoops to jump through, like the pre-bankruptcy counseling session, but bankruptcy is a lot like serving in the military, it’s just a bureaucratic process.

I would suggest that you talk to several local bankruptcy lawyers in your area and find one that you like and can easily communicate with. If you want, you can click here for bankruptcy information.

The most important issue at this point is that we need to get you to point where, without other debts, you can at least afford rent and your car payment. The bankruptcy attorney might suggest a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to allow you to keep the car but make up missed payments.

If bankruptcy does not give you enough breathing room then you’ll have to either increase your current income with a new job or get a second job to bring in extra money.

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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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