“Sometimes all you can do is take the loan & worry about consequences later”

the dudeThis lovely Buzzfeed essay will help your heart, if your heart needs helping. It’s basically an “It Gets Better” video for the young and broke.

I applaud you for not throwing homemade lentil soup over a work colleague who says, “I just don’t know how you can eat that for lunch every day.”

I know that when you feel powerless to chip away at your debt because the payments you can afford to make from your low-paid job will barely dent the interest, making yourself even more miserable by putting your life on hold can feel pretty counterintuitive.

I get what it’s like to feel trapped in a cycle of paying a bit off and racking even more up.

I assure you that you’ll start to recognise the bank’s phone number pretty quickly, and when you ignore the calls, it’ll start using an anonymous number, but you’ll know that’s the bank too.

I know that that ignoring the calls from your bank when your monthly repayments bounce doesn’t get you anywhere in the end.

In this elliptical fashion, the author, Laura Silver, tells the story of how she got knocked flat — romantically, professionally, and financially — and then how she got back on her feet. 

I discovered that debt collection agencies are not actually to be feared – around the time the bank washed their hands of my dodging the payments I couldn’t afford and passed my outstanding loan and credit card their way.

I was surprised to learn that once the debt was in their hands, I could stop paying interest and my monthly payments started to have a meaningful effect.

I found out that I could surrender my debt to them voluntarily. I didn’t have to wait for the bank to do it.

I became aware that although being involved with a debt collection agency would lead to my credit rating being utterly screwed, it was only temporary and more credit was the last thing I needed at the time, wasn’t it?

I found that life often takes weird and unanticipated turns that can change everything.

Debt collection agencies: less scary than they seem. It is so important to be reminded of this. Here is the pamphlet Logan wrote, “So You Are Dealing With A Collection Agency.”

3. To get them to stop calling you, write a cease and desist letter.  (Google “cease and desist letter” and copy one of templates.) Actually go to the post office to send this so you can get a notification of receipt (annoying, but crucial). They have to listen! The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is on your side.
4. When you do finally talk to them, don’t listen to anything they tell you. They can’t garnish your wages or kidnap your baby or send you to jail (yet). Though if it’s a car loan that you’re defaulting on, they can totally take your car. That’s called repossession, and that’s legit.
5. Try to negotiate!

Also be sure to use the magic words, which can make a collection agency go away:

Jake Halpern: [The lawyer] said, oh, well, when a consumer actually shows up in court and says the magic words, then these cases basically evaporate. And I say, the magic words? He says, yeah. ‘Show me the evidence.’

Ira Glass: ‘Show me the evidence.’ In other words, show me where you got this number, $3,762.20. The Georgia Legal Services lawyer told Jake that if you’re standing before a judge and you say, OK, I don’t recognize this amount that you say I owe, and I want to see some documentation, I want to see account statements or whatever, because I have no way to know with certainty that this debt is really mine, the judge will usually turn to the other side and ask for the evidence. And in all likelihood, they’ll have no documentation and they’ll drop the case. [emphasis added because !!!]

And this is true not just in Georgia, but elsewhere. Because the way this business works, Jake says, when credit card companies sell these IOUs to debt collection companies, they usually don’t give them any documentation. Usually they just give them a spreadsheet with a long list of people who owe money on their credit cards and their addresses and the last payment and how much they owe, and not a whole lot more than that.

If you’re employed, you can also go to your HR department and ask for help managing your money. Yes, this is a thing, especially if you work for a large-ish company.

Companies are increasingly focused on employees’ financial wellness. And it’s not all about retirement. Some 64 percent of large employers now offer help planning for health-care costs, up from 46 percent who said they did so in 2013, according to the 2015 Workplace Benefits Report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, released today. The report found that budgeting help is on offer at 40 percent of companies, up from 21 percent. And 43 percent of employers offer information on managing debt, up from 22 percent.

Additional programs are on the way. … 90 percent of companies said they expect financial wellness to be a “standard element” of benefits packages within the next decade.

You could get some facetime with an outside expert: “46 percent of large companies provide one-on-one access to a financial advisor.” You could also get a gift card maybe! “Of those who offer an incentive, 29 percent give cash or gift cards and 14 percent, provide points toward rewards. Another 11 percent award discounts on health insurance premiums or other products.”

Just goes to show, once again, that you don’t know what people will give you unless or until you ask.

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