I talked to a bankruptcy attorney tonight.
I was raised to believe that the right thing to do is to pay off your debts. That it’s wrong to just declare bankruptcy. But after 18 years of struggle, I’ve about had enough.
For the past 18 years I have done everything I am supposed to do. I’ve done the *right* thing. I’ve worked multiple jobs, I’ve gone to school for an education that I chose specifically because it paid well and had long-term career potential. I used to carry school books around with me so that I could study any opportunity I found, on lunch breaks, while riding in a car… sitting in a doctor’s waiting room…
For about 15 of the past 18 years I have struggled. I have had to choose between putting food on the table for my three children or paying the electric bill. I have sat at home wondering when the utility company was going to show up to turn off my water, and have done everything possible to avoid the calls from creditors. I have endured the harassment of constant phone calls and threats, while taking my children to Goodwill for clothes and refusing to sign them up for dance lessons when they asked.
When I found myself pregnant at 17 years old I decided I would not go on welfare. I decided that I would make my own way. For 15 years I always felt that the cards were stacked against me. Every time I would find an opportunity that would help us out we would find that we didn’t qualify… that we were just barely above their income threshold.
My favorite example of this is when we applied for Habitat for Humanity and we were told that we didn’t make enough money. A short while later I was promoted and received a raise, and we contacted Habitat for Humanity again… they said that with my new raise we suddenly made too much to qualify. They said that with our income being that high we should qualify for a regular mortgage… as if the sudden increase in pay magically erased all of our debt and added a down payment to our savings account.
We were making progress, yes… but help, when we needed it, was always just barely out of reach.
For three years we have been doing well. We have a new car, we’re paying my student loans, I have a credit card (it’s secured, but it counts). We can buy food without worrying about paying our rent on time. We can sign our children up for violin and piano and voice and acting lessons.
Our credit scores are not improving.
I’ve finished school, I have a good job, we’re paying our bills on time.
Our past will not let us move on.
I had been paying on our old debt, hoping that it would improve our credit, but when I contacted a mortgage lender to ask what we needed to do to qualify she pulled our credit and actually told me that we shouldn’t pay that debt off. She said that a negative mark on our credit is a negative mark, it doesn’t matter if it’s a settled account, or paid in full, or still delinquent… it’s just a negative mark.
I did what she said I should do… I got a secured credit card, we have made sure our utilities, car payment, credit card payments, student loan payments are all being paid on time… our credit scores are still not budging.
So I contacted a bankruptcy attorney. I thought we just need to get rid of this old debt, we need a fresh start, we’re doing all we can and we have struggled for 18 years, so we just need to start over… isn’t this what the bankruptcy laws are for??
The attorney informed me that we make too much money to qualify for a Chapter 7, which is the only type of bankruptcy that makes sense for us.
Again… we make just barely too much to qualify for help.
Sometimes I wish I had just gone on welfare. I have struggled for too long. And with the housing market the way that it is I so badly want to buy a home, and I’m in a good position to afford a home, and I am trying so hard, I’ve been trying so very hard for so many years… but I’m being reduced to a number… a number that punishes you for living within your means and refusing to live on credit, a number that punishes you for asking a financial professional to give you advice by placing a negative mark on your record when that professional requests a copy of your credit report in order to give you said advice.
Sometimes I wish we could go back to a time when hard work and honesty actually got you somewhere. A time when a promise and a handshake meant something. When the local banker knew you and knew you were trustworthy and was willing to take a chance on you.
We’re worth taking a chance on. Why doesn’t anyone see that?