Debt Stories

Debt is the tie that binds the 99%

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A medical crisis leaves us drowning

We started a small farm in 2006. That’s where the debt started, but little by little, we were steadily paying it down. Then, in 2008, our toddler son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was underinsured and the cost of his insulin therapy, doctor’s visits, and supplies was $1200/month. It went, as one might expect, onto the credit cards. For 10 months, we paid his fees out of pocket, climbing deeper and deeper into debt, until I was able to put him on my comprehensive insurance policy through my job. I took on second job, worked my fanny off, and came within $1000.00 of paying off the credit cards… and then another disaster struck. I was laid off. I looked for work, but couldn’t find a steady job with benefits; my Mom chipped in to pay the mortgage so we wouldn’t lose the farm, and I cashed in what was left of my IRA (which was a 10th of its pre-crash value) before turning to the credit cards once more. When it became clear that there were no jobs to be had, I went freelance. My family is $30,000.00 in debt, not including the mortgage, and the worst part is, without health insurance, any time any of us get sick (and both I and my husband, as well as our son, have pre-existing conditions), it means more debt. I would love to cut up my credit cards — I already got rid of one, and there are 3 more to go. But it is a very slow process, and every time I make progress, something else happens to set us back. It’s always two steps forward, one step back… or sometimes, one step forward, TWO steps back. 

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A Better Life

My family hasn’t ever been much out of lower middle class status. When my brother and sister devoted their lives to partying, the weight was put on my shoulders that I needed to get a college degree. I didn’t want to be in debt but the mantra was ‘Get a degree and you’ll be sure to have a great job!’ I wanted to be the one to make my parents proud so I took out whatever loans I needed to go to school. When everything was said and done, I achieved a BA but was clouded by over $100k in debt. After trying to find a job for several months, I was left to move back in with my parents so that I could afford my loan payments. Two years and countless resumes later, I feel trapped. I work at a job that provides me enough to make loan payments but nothing else. I’m nearly 26 and I’m unsure and fearful of my future.

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When Will It End?

This This is a long story, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief. Eleven years ago my wife and I divorced after 19 years of marriage. I had little or no ready cash to buy her out of the house we had purchased one year earlier, so over a period of four or five years I had to re-finance and then take out a second mortgage so that I could buy her share. (about $72K) I had been restoring the house and wanted to stay and live there. Also, in exchange for my keeping the very small future retirement I had earned, (She was entitled to half by MD law) I also took over all of our joint debts including two maxed-out credit cards. (about $20K) I also agreed to help our daughter with her college expenses, hoping not to have her plunge into an early life-long debt. I signed over my GI Bill for college to help her get started, but then picked up the entire tab once that ran out.

I had a mid-level federal job, but found that I could not keep up the extra payments on the fixed salary, so I left to take a private construction management job. By leaving the government job, I was forced to claim as income the total loan I had made a few years earlier against my TSP retirement. On top of giving up more than half of my small TSP retirement, I now had an extremely high IRS debt for the year (an additional 10K) and no way to pay it. The job market on the private side was up and down, and so I moved from job to job, often working side jobs to keep on top.

Being in the reserve military, I had a chance to go to Iraq in 2008 so I took it. It was steady pay and by law I had some protections against debt collectors while I was deployed in a war zone. On top of this I was exempt from federal taxes there, so did not accrue any more tax debt outside of the interest and penalties on the existing debt. I ended up staying overseas for three years, and really thought I’d get on top of things, but even by paying more toward the principles on my loans, I barely put a dent in them.

Last year I took a private overseas job in the Middle East thinking that this would surely help me to get out of debt. I made 25% more money there and planned to double up on as many payments as I could. I’ve been here a year and a half now and I still see no end to it in the near future. I’m 58 years old with only 12 years in the federal service for retirement, and eligible for only a small reserve military retirement of $800-$900 per month. I can start drawing Social Security in four years, but if I don’t have these debts paid off, I won’t be able to live on it. The debts have to be paid before I can retire.

 

I’ve been away from my friends and family for almost five years, but feel that I need to work overseas to earn enough money to get out of debt. I know there are people out there in worse situations than I am, but what has been preventing me from getting on top is high interest rates and a bad credit rating. Once a person has bad credit they are charged more, and often can’t even refinance their loans. I will get through this eventually, but something needs to be done to prevent the banks from keeping us down. Thank you for starting this program! I will contribute when I can, as much as I can.

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Debt

I am a 24 yr old college graduate with 45,000$ in student debt which will turn into 85,000$ due to interest because I am in economic hardship deferment and cannot make payments. It was beaten into my head “Go to college, you’ll have a better life” as well as “follow your dreams.” So I picked a degree I cared about instead of something “practical.” I graduated a year early to get a head start on life. I didn’t have a job lined up, however, so I had to move back into my parent’s house with my boyfriend. I wasn’t able to get a job within a month’s stay, so they threatened us with violence. I left before something blew over, as a result being disowned from my family. I moved with my boyfriend’s family, in a small town with no opportunity, and judgments about the youth and women. I cannot get permanent work there because employers take one look at my degree and say “ohh, well you’re just going to leave in three months for better chances….” So I am stuck with unstable temp agencies that treat me like fodder. Or I could go back to retail, because little money is better than no money at all, and get treated like refuse by both customers and managers. Because I refuse to have children, I do not qualify for benefits. I cannot afford moving out, but the only plan we have is to accrue more debt with a second “practical” degree. I am the 99%, or rather the lazy b&*(*^ds that “just need to get a job.”

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#StrikeDebt

I graduated from culinary school 3 years ago, after 7 years of struggling to finish because of chronic and mental illness. I was lucky: My mom paid for most of my schooling and I had good health insurance until 25. But jobs in my hometown were scarce and I moved 3000 miles away for better opportunities. My medical situation got worse just as I lost insurance because I could no longer pay my premiums on unemployment. I got a job that paid the bills, but I was working 70+ hour weeks and they were demanding even more of me. The situation got so stressful I had a nervous breakdown, and my body broke down too. Now I’m 25k in debt, jobless, unable to work, and can’t pay my bills. I’d be on the streets except for the kindness of veritable strangers, and the medical & disability benefits systems have halted any progress I could be making. We all make mistakes in our 20’s, but none of mine were anything a few months of hard work wouldn’t have fixed, until I couldn’t work anymore.

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Medical school debt

I have $338,000 in undergraduate and medical school loans.  I had to default in residency because I couldn’t make the payments and the banks added 50% to the principal amount owed as penalty.  That seems like it should be illegal.  I am now chained to this debt which will take my entire career to attempt to pay off.

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I am 37 years old.  I have $87,000 in education debt and over $6,000 in taxes owed to the government, state and federal.  My story is long so I’ll just tell the story about the taxes.  My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and he did not have insurance.  I am an artist and cannot afford medical insurance either.  When my dad got sick I took out all my money from my 401K which I had saved, and spent it taking care of my dad.  For early withdrawal I was penalized by the financial institution and charged $10,000.  We compromised on the level of healthcare because we live in a country where you have to be privileged to get the best healthcare.  Today, my dad is dead.  My savings are gone.  I do not have healthcare.  I still owe $87,000 in student debt and $6,000 in taxes.  Yeah, fuck that.  # Strike Debt

I am 37 years old.  I have $87,000 in education debt and over $6,000 in taxes owed to the government, state and federal.  My story is long so I’ll just tell the story about the taxes.  My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and he did not have insurance.  I am an artist and cannot afford medical insurance either.  When my dad got sick I took out all my money from my 401K which I had saved, and spent it taking care of my dad.  For early withdrawal I was penalized by the financial institution and charged $10,000.  We compromised on the level of healthcare because we live in a country where you have to be privileged to get the best healthcare.  Today, my dad is dead.  My savings are gone.  I do not have healthcare.  I still owe $87,000 in student debt and $6,000 in taxes.  Yeah, fuck that.  # Strike Debt

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I am a 24 year old college graduate. I have a B.A. in English. After 5 years of work to better myself, I am now working 40-50 hours a week making barely more than I did when I graduated from high school 6 years ago. I work 2 jobs and can’t afford to move out of my parents house even with a roommate. I have $33,000+ to pay in student loans. (I’m barely paying the interest.) I can’t find a full time job because I have no experience…no one will hire me so I can gain some! I’m stressed out and depressed. I feel trapped. The American Dream is dead for my generation. I AM THE 99%!!!

I am a 24 year old college graduate. I have a B.A. in English. After 5 years of work to better myself, I am now working 40-50 hours a week making barely more than I did when I graduated from high school 6 years ago. I work 2 jobs and can’t afford to move out of my parents house even with a roommate. I have $33,000+ to pay in student loans. (I’m barely paying the interest.) I can’t find a full time job because I have no experience…no one will hire me so I can gain some! I’m stressed out and depressed. I feel trapped. The American Dream is dead for my generation. I AM THE 99%!!!