How Credit Card Debt effected... transition to a new career.

Well by now if you have read the previous posts you are aware that I got a decent job at a University in North Carolina. Now it is time to move from Maine to North Carolina. We are about to make a trip with no idea of where we will live, but we have faith things will go smooth.

moving van ImageOne advantage I had was that I was actually taking 3 months of leave from the Navy from July 1 to September 30th. This means that from 13 July to September 30th I will be pulling in full pay from two jobs. While this will help us in August the transition/startup costs of moving to a new area will be a challenge.

Our first stop was in Connecticut to visit relatives. Here we decided that it would be best to take out a $2,000 loan to help us in our transition. We got online with our credit union and applied for a loan. Fortunately we belong to the largest credit union in the world, the Navy Federal Credit Union. Since this credit union serves sailors around the globe they were out front in online services. The only real question was Would our entering into a credit card debt program effect our ability to get the loan? Would the fact that I was retiring from the Navy or the fact that I had yet to actually get start the new job effect our ability to get the loan?

Our next stop was New Jersey to visit family. While there we called the credit union and they answered our questions by approving the loan, we arranged to pick up the check at a local branch of the credit union serving a near-by Navy Base.

With our $2,000 buffer in place we headed to Greensboro. We checked into a local motel. Our plan is to rent for at least a year, learn the terrain, then possibly move to a new location. We hope to be able to purchase a home within 5 years.

Small House ImageSo far being on a debt management plan didn't effect us. We got the loan from the credit union, but I had been a member for 17 years. Now we were about to rent a house in a new area with no history of a job or residence in this area. Would being on a debt management plan make this a difficult process? We were full of anxiety and worry but moved on, the week was ticking bye.

We found a small house (remember sacrifices are needed to get out of debt) to rent and had no trouble with the lease or any of the utilities. I was both relieved and surprised that we didn't run into any difficulties.

The next post I get turned down for my first loan.


Credit Card Debt and Sacrifices

Asheville Image

The Move to North Carolina

I didn't get into debt overnight, but getting into debt was easy. Surprise! Getting out of debt won't happen overnight either and it will also require sacrifices along the way.

In Summer of 1997 prior to our deciding to eliminate our credit card debt we took the kids to Asheville, NC to do some camping and show the kids where we would be moving to.

I was preparing for a new career and retiring from the Navy the first week of July 98. I had been sending out resumes left and right to the Asheville, NC area (Remember that I was in Maine and had no friends or family in the Asheville area).

I had been scouring the internet for leads and came across one lead that fit me to a tee. The only problem is it was in the central North Carolina area and my wife and I were looking forward to the beautiful mountains. I had a couple of jobs in the western end of the state that I thought would pan out but the pay was the minimum that we thought we needed to make up for my current pay as a senior enlisted member of the Navy. The job in central NC could have been my job description for my Navy job. I had been doing this type of Information Technology management for a over a decade so I sent off an application.

I let my wife know that I applied for a position with a University that was well outside of where we were intending to live. She said she would be willing to sacrifice if the pay was X dollars (which would help us eliminate our debt). Well as luck would have it I was one of the 100+ applicants that got interviewed. They did a phone interview with me in Maine. After the first round I was their choice so they flew me down to North Carolina for a second round of interviews. When I flew back I was reasonably sure they would make me an offer, but what they were talking was $2,000 lower than the X dollars my wife desired to make the sacrifice.

It is now mid June I am about to have my retirement ceremony and would be leaving in less than 3 weeks. Currently all of my moving paperwork with the Navy still says that my stuff will be moved to Asheville. The Navy also said my final chance to change that destination had passed. It was at this point that the HR department of the University called and offered me the position. I accepted the offer and set a start date. I then let my wife know that we weren't going to be living in a box, I did get a job.

Greensboro ImageThe catch however was that we were going to be living in Greensboro, North Carolina. The good news was that I was offered the exact amount my wife stipulated to when I initially applied for the position. My new boss later said she fought to get the amount increased by 2k because she didn't think I would accept the position where it was. She never knew my wife's bottomline, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

We sacrificed the dream of living in the mountains, a place which we had visited and fell in love with to move to a place we didn't know.

How did our sacrifice payoff?

The extra dollars did help us get out from debt easier, we were able to stick to our repayment plan. When one credit card was paid off that amount was rolled over to start paying more on another credit card. If we had not made the sacrifice we would have needed to pull back the money into the family budget when a card was paid off and we would still be paying off our debt.

Greensboro ImageHow did Greensboro turn out?

Well we have been in the Greensboro area now for 7 years and we couldn't have picked a nicer place to live. The people are great and it is a fantastic place to raise a family. Neither of us were from North Carolina but it fit my wife's 5 hour rule. The rule states that we needed to live at least 5 driving hours from either of our parents (how can you not love a woman with this kind of rule). We are now over 10 hours from either parents.

Wait a minute, what happened to my stuff slated to go to Asheville?

I went to the department that said I had missed my last chance to change my destination of my stuff and told them that my stuff needed to be sent to Greensboro not Asheville. The young lad tried to hold the party line and reiterated that it was too late to change. I told him calmly that I have been in for 22 years and that not only could my destination be changed but that it will be changed and to go ask his boss how this was going to take place. He scurried off then came back and said that they could do it and to write on my package the new destination. A week later when the movers came you better believe that I checked their paperwork to make sure they had Greensboro down for the destination. Even then the motto "trust but verify" was applicable.


Did Enrolling in a Credit Card Debt Repayment Program Hurt Our Credit Rating?

Our first attempt to get a loan after enrolling in the program.

The month is April 98 we have been on the credit card debt management plan now since November. I am scheduled to retire from the Navy at the end of June 98 and we still don't know where we're going.

I have sent off many resumes to the Western North Carolina area hoping to get a job in the area. Neither of us are from the area but the area is beautiful and very similar in atmosphere to Maine.

motorhome ImageIn preparation for the move from Maine to North Carolina we had to tie up some loose ends that were going to cause us grief. First on the list was a mini motorhome built on a 1 ton Toyota pick-up truck chassis. In 94 when we moved from Florida to Maine parts of the motorhome had rotted and needed to be rebuilt. The motorhome has had its day we had a good five years before our first child and used this vehicle quite a bit. Now we had three kids and could use a vehicle that was more family friendly.

We looked around and found a Ford dealership that sold used program cars. These vehicles were used by a company for a year for their sales force and were ready for sale at a set no haggle price. They had 30,000 to 40,000 miles on each vehicle and were priced below Bluebook.

Taurus Wagon ImageThe dealership had many 98 Taurus wagons that all had Cruise control, power everything and car phones. But the best feature was a third seat in the back. This allowed the kids to spread out a little on long rides.

We went to the dealership when it was closed and looked over the lot. We then checked on the internet to see what kind of track record these models have had. It turned out the first model in the late eighties and early nineties had problems with engine mounts that ruined many transmissions. But that was corrected long ago and the current models benefited from the earlier mistakes.

We did our home work, we knew which car we wanted and we decided to trade in the motorhome. Our hope was that we were not upside down on the loan for the motorhome. We also were worried because we were on the credit card debt repayment plan. Would that prevent us from getting the loan needed to purchase this car?

They test drove the motorhome and came back with $1500.00 over the payoff amount of the loan. That was good news, now we had to wait.....

We got past our first worry.

Would we get past our second worry? Would we be able to get the loan or would we suffer from voluntarily consulting and enrolling in a credit card debt counseling and repayment program?

...the dealership came back with a decent interest rate through Ford's finance group and our loan was approved.

We got past our second worry, the loan was approved.

So what is the answer to the big question above?

No! We had a good credit rating prior to enrolling in the credit card debt counseling and repayment program and we still had a good credit rating after enrolling.


Living Without Credit Cards

If you read this post (Eliminate Credit Card Debt, The Beginning) you'll recall that my wife and I decided to get our credit card debt under control in November of 1997. This necessitated that our family would have to stop the use of our credit cards.

Christmas ImageWhen you are used to having credit available the sudden withdrawal can be traumatic. Not having a credit card isn't too hard but it does require a little more planning. We picked a tough time to stop with the Christmas Holidays coming up.

It's amazing the time of year that we used the credit cards the most wasn't as hard to get through as I would have anticipated. We just had to set priorities, our kids were 1, 4 & 8 years old at the time so they were still easy to take care of at this time of year. We deferred any major gifts for ourselves and concentrated on the important things "Tradition and our children".

The real test happened in early January 1998. We sent our third grader off to school (did I mention we lived along the central Maine coast at the time) on a nice morning. Ten minutes later he was back and said there was no crossing guard. Well the street he has to cross is not busy at all so we sent him back. You see he was running late an we figured the guard left early. This time he was back again and he said he met another mom and her kid walking back from school. He stated that school was closed due to the coming ice storm.

electric towers collapsed ImageThis was the beginning of 12 days of stress. It started with freezing rain at around noon. We lost power around 4pm. When I heard pine trees starting to snap I moved the car out of the garage and onto the street. This turned out to be a good thing because branches off of the pine tree overhanging our driveway and electrical hookup snapped and not only blocked the garage but ensured we wouldn't be getting electricity any time soon.

We were without power for 11 days. The next day I went into town and there were wires down arcing and sparking everywhere. Just north in Canada they had high tension wire towers collapse like dominoes. This was the worst ice storm in Canadian history.

Ice Storm ImageI immediately felt a little lost without the ability use a credit card. How would we manage this event? We stayed in the house two nights then decided we had to find a warmer place for the kids.

We spent the weekend at her sisters in Connecticut. We called our house and the answering machine didn't pick up so we knew we were still without power. We then called a neighbor and their machine picked up. They weren't home but we knew they had power. When we left my wife's sister asked where are you going to stay, we replied at our neighbors. They didn't know it yet but they had power and that is why you get to know your neighbors.

We then spent a night at our neighbors place. The next day with a little help our heater blower was wired into a neighbor's electrical box, this allowed the oil heat to warm the place up. Now we ran an extension cord 200 feet to an outlet on the back of a house behind us. This allowed us to run the living room almost like normal. A couple of light a computer and the TV. If we wanted to run the electric wok we had to turn off a couple items.

After 11 days the TV nightly news declared all the power was restored. We were surprised because ours was still out. By midnight they were at our house to hook things back up. So after 11 days we finally had our power restored.

What was the point of this meandering?

Even faced with a major disaster I didn't need to use a credit card. We used a little imagination and a little assistance from our neighbors and managed to come through this with good memories and some great stories. To top it off we came through it without adding any more debt to our credit cards.


I Never Paid My Credit Card Bill Late Until....

I enrolled in a credit card debt relief program.

That's right since I had to send in the money via money order, then the counseling group had to process it and send it out. This long process resulted in delays and late payments to the credit card companies for the first time ever.

late payment ImageHow Were The Late Payments Handled?

I was very disturbed when I found that the new arrangement actually resulted in my payments being late. I contacted the counseling service and they said that this wasn't unusual in the beginning of the program and that I should contact the credit card companies and explain the situation to them and they will eliminate the late fee and remove the late flag from my account.

I did as they requested and sure enough the credit card companies responded as they indicated they would. But the next month it all was repeated again. This happened for a few months. The final solution was to push back the payment dates of some cards so there would be time for the counseling service to process the incoming payments.

It was a stressful time. I had never been late for any payment and as soon as I signed up I was being listed as late. Fortunately the group that I signed on with had processes in place to remove any late marks and fees from the clients record.

The good news is that now the credit counseling services use many more methods for accepting funds, from money orders to electronic fund transfers, so the problems I ran into should be fewer.


Eliminate Credit Card Debt, The Beginning

Let me set the scene and see if this is familiar to anyone out there.

November 1997, I was set to retire from the US Navy in Sept of 1998.

Calculator Tape ImageI had about $26,000 of unsecured debt (credit card debt). Every time I was transferred from one base to the next over the years our debt would increase by about $2-3,000.

We were making all of our payments on time, but it was like treading water we never gained on our debts and the biggest expense we had were our three lovely kids, ages 1, 4, and 8.

Did any of the previous sound familiar?

At this point we decided that we had to see what help was available to try and work our way out from under debt load. The most common group specializing in this type of assistance at the time was the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a non-profit group that had offices across the USA. This is still one of the best groups out there.

The Consumer Credit Counseling Service in 1997 required one-on-one counseling and a budget set up with a counselor. I was arrogant enough to think that I didn't need any face time with a counselor. I wanted a group that was easy to use but I didn't want them to get personal with me. I knew I was going to have to stop the use of my credit cards and start taking a bite out of the debt crunch.

I used the internet to research alternatives and came up with Debt Counselors of America now called Myvesta. This was a non-profit group that would negotiate a lower interest rate with the various credit card companies on our behalf (this group doesn't seem to do this any more but does have great info on the topic). The only catch was everything had to be paid through them.

My credit card interest rates went from 21%-0%, 18%-10%, 18%-6%, 18-4% and 16%-16%. My largest debt on a single card was the Discover card which went for 21%-0%.

The only credit card I didn't place under the program was the one from my credit union. I have a good history with them, a reasonable rate and I didn't know how using the program would effect my credit rating. I wanted one avenue that was free of any possible problems. The card was at its limit and wouldn't be going down too fast since the other cards are the priority. But this card was listed as off limits by my wife and I.

Well this was the beginning. Later I'll explain what difficulties we ran into and how this effected our life.


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