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25 Years Old, 52k in Debt

September 12th, 2011 at 09:32 am

I have a client. She's 25, three kids, no job, no child support, on public assistance, living with mom. She's trying to get her own apartment through subsidized housing. She wants to get a job but I can't imagine what she'll end up with because she doesn't have any solid employment history. At least landing a job that will be able to support herself and her three children. She's trying to finish her degree but approx $25k of her $27k in student loans is in collections and she will need to establish a payment arrangement and be on time for at least 9 months before she can get them deferred and finish school. This on top of trying to hold down a job to cover basic necessities.

I know what kind of plan she needs outlined in order to move forward and she does too but she isn't motivated to do anything. At this time she's content with being on welfare and living the life that an assistance check can provide. Despite the fact she has 36 months and then welfare will cut her off for life.

I'm at a total loss. I've never met someone so obstinate. She wants to go back to school but doesn't want to make any of the changes I've suggested to get her on that track. The steps I suggested she follow are:
1. Find Employment
2. Come back for a budget review so we can set up a payment arrangement for your student loans
3. Talk with a bankruptcy attorney if your employment doesn't leave you with enough income to sustain repayments to the remaining $25,000 in debt (which includes two buy here pay here cars that have been repossessed, various credit cards, and a $1200 utility bill.)

I feel like she's wasted my time…her time. I mean…Why did she come here? Was it that someone finally pulled the covers off and exposed the truth of her situation and now she doesn't want to face it?

I don't know. Just thought I'd share.

So…What’s “housing counseling” anyway?

July 22nd, 2011 at 10:04 am

Being a housing counselor is like nothing most have heard before. Most people don’t come to us until they’re experiencing a crisis…which is unfortunate. We started off just before the thick of the housing boom. However, during that time we were all about teaching you to save your money, budget, and improve your credit scores the old fashioned way. Calling up your creditors that you weren’t paying and haven’t paid in a long time and negotiating a payment arrangement to enter on a path to paying off your debt. As well as debt repayment strategies for creditors you were current on.

We decided to expand our financial literacy program to include housing education and boy did we put a lot of people in homes. The right way, a fixed rate mortgage that they could afford. However, a lot of people turned away from us once they learned that their finances were so out of sync that it could take up to two years of saving, paying down debt, and building your credit scores before our network of banks would finance them for a home. Now, some of those people have come back to us for counseling. No, not to purchase a home…they now need us to help them save it because they’re in foreclosure. They skipped over us because some, as we later learned, already had approvals with subprime and predatory lenders or had gotten them later on. I once had to tell a single, divorced mother why she couldn’t afford a $180,000 mortgage on a take-home pay of $2600 and therefore should start packing up and looking for another place to live. Instead of saving her home, we went over options she had to give the home back to the bank. I keep a box of tissues on my desk for moments like these and she went through about half a box. This poor woman had to uproot her children because of her painful divorce and this house had seemingly provided stability for them finally and I have to be the one to tell her “not so.” (I didn’t really say that by the way) It’s really hard on me as well. I have never cried in front of a client but sometimes you take it home with you.

Why couldn’t she afford the home you ask? Because it was an Option ARM, negative amortization loan that started off with an interest rate of 1.87% and kept adjusting upward after she made her first payment. She got out of it by paying the minimum mortgage payment which was less than the interest and by the time she got to us her mortgage balance had increased over $15k while her home value had plummeted. Her interest rate was approx 12% by this time, her payment had increased and she had only been in the home two years. She was only paying about $600 and she should have been paying close to $2700 for a full mortgage payment. More than 105% of her take-home pay. Yeah, that was a hard day at the office. THAT was in 2007! It's been non-stop ever since. There was once a time I could tell you which banks were going to go under based on the mortgages they wrote.

We started off helping people to buy homes and now we’re helping them to save them. Yes, neck deep in the trenches of the foreclosure crisis and I don’t see an end in sight yet. I’ve also chosen to chronicle my adventures at work. My Lord do I have some stories to tell. I hope you find it interesting.