Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Credit Cards

Someone asked me the other day why I did not use credit cards.  It was regarding someone who asked me to buy something and I told them I did not have any money on me.  She said that she would take a credit card and I told her that I did not have a credit card and she looked at me like I was an alien and said "that is really unusual".  She then asked, "may I ask why?'.  I thought for a moment about telling her why but instead I just said that I do not believe in them.

The truth of the matter is that I really do not believe in them.  That is not to say that I do not believe that other people should not use them but it is to say that I do not believe I should use them!  My financial life is so up and down.  I have very little margin for error with our finances.  Credit is a promise to pay at a later date of when you purchase and I just can not promise that I will be able to pay anything at a later date because I can not guarantee that I will have the money to do so!

Yes, we do have a steady income but we do not have anything extra.  I found that when I did have credit cards, I spent more money on things that I did not really need.  There is something about handing over a credit card to pay for something that it seems like you aren't really spending money.  When you have $100 in your wallet and you go to the store where something costs $80 and you actually see that you will only have $20 left if you purchase this item, I find myself NOT purchasing it.  I know that not everyone feels this way, and that is OK!  It is just not OK for me!  I have not used a credit card for over 10 years and I am not saying that to brag, I am saying that because you really don't need it!

There is plenty of credit available for you after you file bankruptcy.  You get a million offers in the mail daily for about a year from every place possible that wants to give you credit.  You are considered to be a lower risk because you can not file bankruptcy again.  I feel like this is just sick, but it is the way of the world!

Monday, February 24, 2014

What bankruptcy does to your marriage - part 4

Things were not great between us once the move happened.  All of the sudden I had to answer for everything I spent and I was not given any money to use for myself personally by him.  This was very, very hard for me and my dislike for my husband was mounting!  I felt like a prisoner in my own life.  I had to show him receipts for everything I bought.  This was all so humiliating for me.  I could not stand the way he was treating me.

About six months after we moved, I was able to get a job caring for an elderly woman part time.  It was not much money, but it was mine and I no longer had to depend on my husband for my personal needs.  This was a huge step forward for me.  It felt like my husband was trying to punish me, like a parent punishes a child when the child does something wrong.  The bad part about that is that this situation was not all my fault but I was the one being punished for it.  I am sure a marriage counselor would have a field day analyzing this one!

When you experience financial ruin and you are a married person, it is never one person's fault and until your relationship can get to a point where both take responsibility for that, nothing is going to be fixed...both in the relationship and with the finances!

A close friend of mine is also experiencing bankruptcy.  She had an issue with gambling and basically went through all their money.  Oh, her husband was very upset when she had to tell them that their only option was to file bankruptcy!  But here is the thing...the only thing the husband would ever do with her was go to the casino.  He loved going to the casino even though he knew she had a "problem" with gambling.  He kept persuading her to go even though he knew she could not stop.  She had a run of really good luck and won big several times.  When she won big, she was the hero of the family!  She lent those that needed money, money.  She treated the family to things, paid for vacations and was just held in such high esteem by her family, especially her husband.  Her gambling problem became an issues when her run on good luck ran out and she just could not win.  She wanted to win because it was the only thing she did where she received love and appreciation from her family!  Had her husband showered her with love for other things, she would not have had to fill that hole with gambling.  So the financial ruin was due to both of them!

Our relationship has gone through so much but we are still married and are still committed to our marriage.  Sometimes it felt like it would have been easier to walk away.  What we have been through made us both stronger people and I really believe it made our marriage stronger because we had to fight so hard to keep it!  We had to go over hurdles that are unimaginable but I really think most couples do.  We lost so many things but by the love and grace of GOD we did not lose each other!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What bankruptcy does to your marriage - Part 3

Imagine preparing yourself for a move to a new house that is bigger and better than your current house?  Imagine the excitement that pours into the work of packing and cleaning while waiting for the move?  Then think of what it would be like to have to pack and clean because your house is being taken away from you and having to come up with the energy to do all of this while your heart is breaking!  Moving is not much fun when you really want to move so think of how awful it is when you are forced to move.

We had a sale a week before we were to make the big move and sold so many things that I had collected over the years.  It was so hard for me to see it all go but I knew I had to do it.  Moving was going to cost some money and we did not have any so I needed sell my things to make it.  We also had no place to store most of our stuff.  We rented a garage down the street from where we were going to be living but it was not big enough to fill the contents of a six room house plus a basement filled with things.  For me, these were just things and I had to let them go.  For my husband, he just could not let anything he had go!  It was so hard for him!

All week long I kept telling my husband that he needed to make arrangements for moving.  He needed help and he needed a moving van.  He kept telling me not to worry about it but I was.  I worked so hard all week packing, cleaning and throwing away, morning, noon and night.  Finally the day came where we had to move and there was no moving van arranged, no help arranged and no real plan!  It was like my husband was moving in slow motion and there was nothing I could do to change that!  I was so utterly frustrated with him that I could not see straight! Instead of us working together, we were not even speaking to each other.  I kept telling him to go through his things and start packing them up, but he did not pack up any of his belongings.  He is so very picky about his "stuff" that no one dare touch it so this was something he needed to do on his own.  So, the day we were supposed to be moving, he was going through his stuff!  There was no margin for error here.  The bank would be there at 9:00 the next morning to collect the keys!

That day was such a blur to me because I was crying the entire day!  I moved as many boxes as I was able and did as much as I could to help.  At one point, my husband told me to leave because all we were doing was arguing with each other.  I found something else to do and went back about 6:00 that night, thinking that everything was almost done.  To my total and utter amazement, it looked like nothing had been touched since I left over 6 hours before.  I was in a total state of panic!  He just was not getting the job done!  This was a total nightmare!

By the next morning, I went back over to the house and once again started packing more things into the car to move.  I knew the bank would be there at 9:00 and they were.  Emotionally, I could not handle the turning of the keys over so I had to leave.  My husband must have negotiated something with them to give him more time to move things out of the basement (because the basement was still full).  My sister came over and asked how she could help and I had no idea what to tell her.  She saw that all my Christmas decorations were still in the basement and I told her I had to just leave them because I did not have the energy to move them.  She told me that she was not about to let me lose my Christmas decorations and proceeded to move everything out.

Finally, we were moved out!  But how was this marriage going to be saved?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How bankruptcy affects your marriage - feeling all alone!

This just about sums up how I felt while going through this financial hell!

So, continuing from my last post, I received the letter from the bank that our house was in foreclosure.  I had to tell my husband and I waited several days because I was scared to death to tell him.  What was I afraid of?  I was afraid that this would push him over the edge.  He was already in pain and humiliated that he could not produce enough of an income to support our family.  He already felt like he lost so much when we had to close the restaurant and subsequently lose the building.  He had blamed me for that loss and I still had not totally forgiven him on the way that he treated me then.

You see, when we got married, my husband always thought that I was a "smart" woman and that he would be able to count on me if we ever got into any difficult situations.  So he thought he would never have to worry about struggle because I was smart enough to get us out of anything.  I could not go to work and get a job because the IRS would have taken every dime of what I made because of business taxes that we still owed.  I felt powerless to help us get out from under this mess.  But the worse thing was...I could not talk to him about it because every time I tried, he said something to stop the conversation.  He just could not communicate with me because deep down inside, he just thought I would come up with a solution.  So he just kept going to work everyday and really never checked in on my pain or the pain that was going on at home!

When I sat down to tell him that our house was in foreclosure I did not beat around the bush.  I just told him straight out where we stood and how and why we got here.  He immediately got so mad that I thought his blood pressure was going to pour out of his eyes!  He yelled and yelled and then yelled some more!  He told me how this was all my fault and how could I have let this happen.  He did not physically lay a hand on me but he beat me up!  I was already in pain as well and was trying desperately to deal with that and now I have my husband just hanging me out to dry!  This was very painful!  I had no one to comfort me!  I was trying to comfort him and respecting his anger but I was pushed away.  Again, I had no one to comfort me and boy, did I need it!  He told me it was my problem to resolve and walked out of the room.

He did not speak to me or even look at me for two weeks.  Two weeks when I am trying to figure out what the hell to do and how to move forward from this and I had no one.  At this point, no one else knew what was going on.  Somehow, I had three weeks to figure out a way out of this or pack up and move this entire household to who knows where.  What a huge, gigantic load this was for me...and again, I was all alone!

Next post:  Moving!!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What bankruptcy does to your marriage.

I have much to say about how financial problems can affect a marriage relationship.  My next several blogs will be about this because it is a huge subject and affects so many people.

If you think that nothing like this could or would affect your marriage...think again!  Unlike other tragedies in life like a health diagnosis or a death of someone close, a financial crisis usually will tear a relationship apart.  Why?  One word...BLAME!  There is so much blame that is thrown around when financial things happen that it tears people away from each other instead of bringing them together.  It is like it takes all the bad things in your relationship and magnifies by 180%.

In my case there are many reasons why our relationship was shredded but here are some of the basics.  My husband lost his job and his job was our main income source.  He was unable to find a job that paid even 1/3 of what he was making.  I kept telling him how hard it was for me to make ends meet.  He would get paid and after paying SOME of the bills we would only have $25 to last until the next pay day in 15 days.  He just told me that I would figure it out.  I don't know if he thought I was just being dramatic or not telling him the truth but he really did not help me.  I felt like our financial problem was somehow my problem to fix and that was very frustrating.  I kept telling him that we did not have enough to get by but he just shrugged it off.  Deep down inside, I know that he was mad at me about our financial problems.  He would never come out and say that, of course, because that was an argument he would never win!

So things just kept getting worse.  As each month went by, there were more and more bills that did not get paid because I needed the money to live off of and buy food.  I had two kids to feed and take care of as well.  This went on for about 8 months and our relationship became more and more burdened.  We were barely communicating with each other at this point and I felt more and more alone.  Here we were, a married couple, dealing with a financial ruin and I felt like I was all alone.  I was also desperately trying to keep this our dirty little secret so no one would know.

When the letter arrived from the bank about foreclosing on our house, there was a little part of me that was relieved.  After going what I had gone through the last 8 months, I knew something had to give.  I knew we could not afford to live in this house anymore.  I even knew that we could not afford to sell it because selling it meant that we would have to make some repairs that we did not have money for.  I knew that we could probably find someone to borrow the money from to get us out of foreclosure but we would not be able to pay them back and would soon find ourselves back in the same situation.  Even though I absolutely did not want to lose my house, there was a feeling of some sort of relief.

But now I had to tell him!  As I recall, I knew about the letter several days before I told him because I knew it was going to be bad, I just did not know HOW bad!

More on this in my next post!

Monday, February 17, 2014

This info should be shared!

Just thought I would share this tidbit of information.  Although every state does things differently, I am just covering something that is true in the state of Missouri in which I reside.

An acquaintance of mine had filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy around the same time that I filed my chapter 7.  The chapter 13 is a payback plan which you pay an amount every month over a period of time and after that time your bankruptcy becomes final.  Many people choose this route if the own real estate and have equity.  Chapter 13 protects your real estate, however, sometimes there are exceptions.  She was told at the time of filing that she needed to make sure that this payment was paid ON TIME every month because if it was late, the investors could take their house.

She was paying her house payment on the 15th of each month with a 5 day grace period.  All of the sudden, a year and a half later, her mortgage company decided that there would no longer be a grace period and that she could no longer pay online.  When she asked the bank why they had made these changes, she was told that it was due from her bankruptcy.  She had no idea why but she also knows that bankrupt people have a whole different set of rules than most others.  She is unable to pay the house payment right on the 15th because her social security check was changed from being issued on the 1st of the month to now the 19th of the month.  This is something she has no control over.

Here is the thing, since the bank that holds the mortgage to her house knows about the bankruptcy, they could, quite literally, file for foreclosure the very next day after the payment was due.  If that happens (and please never be naive enough to think it can't) she would have to pay the attorney fees and filing fees to get the house out of foreclosure which could add up to about $5000.  And let me tell you from experience...a bankrupt person does not have that kind of money!  My friend needs to do whatever she can to get that payment made on time!  I know, I know, easier said than done but this is the problem she must solve because there is much equity in their house.  It does seem that the banks move quicker to foreclose houses that have some equity.

Just as soon as you think that "they would never do that", you are sunk!  Take care, my friend!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Needs vs. Wants

There is not much I can teach anyone about money!  I would not even try because obviously, I have failed at it!  But when I say "failed" at it, what am I saying exactly?  After all, I did figure out a way to buy a business and a building worth quite much.  I was able to run a business with very little capital.  I was able to run a household (for awhile) on very little money.  I was able to really do much with very little!  If I failed at anything is was the ability to keep it.

But with all that said, the most important thing I was able to do is sort and separate that which I WANT compared to that which I NEED!  I know that it sounds so simple because most people do not really have to discipline themselves between the two.  However, when you are in a financial crisis/ruin, in order to survive you must be excellent at this!  When there is barely enough money to get by, you have to put yourself in the mode of concentrating only on what you NEED and taking care of that.

This is very painful at first.  You stomp your foot, roll your eyes and just really resist the fact that this is the way it is!  It is like taking a toddler to the store with you and all he does is whine and beg for everything he sees and thinks he wants!  You do not want to give up anything especially the ability to buy what you WANT!  This is especially true if you lived a portion of your life with the ability to buy based on what you WANT.  But it is so necessary to get past this.

As I have stated before, we all have the same basic needs.  They are shelter, clothing, insurance, transportation, utilities and food.  These are the areas that you need to focus on when money is very tight.  Each of these areas should also be examined to see if anything is spent that is an excess amount of money.  As an example, this is not the time in your life where you spend a ton of money on designer clothes.  Instead, you go through your clothes and accept what you already have.  Clothing is a need, expensive or designer clothes are not!

It is very important to constantly ask yourself if this is something you NEED or WANT and then not feel bad that right now you are just taking care of your needs only.  Believe it or not, you will feel good about this once you recognize and accept that every situation in your life is just temporary.  Just because it is this way now does not mean it will be like this forever.  In life though, it is good to peel back the layers at times and discover how simple life really can be when it is not cluttered with a house full of WANTS!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What would you do?

Having a conversation with my Mom earlier, she asked me a very profound question that I just had to write about.

She asked me what I thought about people who had become bankrupt prior to me having any financial problems.  Good question!  My first reaction was to say that I felt bad for people that I heard were going through a financial ruin.  But, I paused, and really thought about my answer so that I could answer truthfully.  I then told my Mom the truth!

I would have been very judgmental of someone who I heard was bankrupt and I would have pointed out all the mistakes that I thought they made to get to this point.  I would have had a feeling of "being better than" them a sort of superiority over them.  I would have been afraid to ask them if there were anything I could do to help because I would have feared them asking me for money.  If they would have asked me to help them with money, I would have, although I would have felt like I did not really want to.  I probably would have avoided them just because I did not want to be asked for money.  WOW!

Not only was I surprised that I was so truthful, but I was completely surprised at how I would have approached the subject!  Then it dawned on me that this was how so many people who were very close to me must have felt about me.  They probably wanted to avoid me because they did not want me to ask them for monetary help.  They were probably afraid that if the just talked to me about the situation...that is where the conversation would lead.

After this conversation, I realized what had been bugging me for so long.  I was aware of distance that people put between them and me and I was also very frustrated that people would not talk to me about it.  I really only had two people close to me really talk to me about it and had any interest in listening.  This is still a thorn in my side because it made me feel so alone!  This new realization opened up a door of compassion both for myself and others.

As long as I live, from here on out, I will always open myself to anyone who I know that is dealing with a tragic financial burden.  I will never be able to turn my back on someone else who is going through what I went through!  Wow, I am blessed!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

After the last post...I am a jerk!

OK, OK after my last post, I am a complete jerk!  This thing really has bothered me...but it isn't what you think!  The way I have reacted to it is what has bothered me the most.  But I have had an awareness that might, just might, help me to get past it.

You see, the person I wrote about was one of my siblings.  Since I wrote the last post (and I think that really helped me) I have realized that I become very jealous of anyone in my family that has something positive happen in their life.  I am incapable of feeling happy for them.  I realized that anyone else in my life, friends and other aquiantances I am always happy for when they have improved or achieved something in their life.  But not my siblings, I can not even fake it!  I had to look closer!  Even though this is probably more complex, the truth of the matter is that somewhere along the way I have become jealous of my siblings.

Jealous people are insecure.  They don't feel good about themselves so they don't want other people to feel good about themselves.  OMG that is me!  But the thing of it is that I am very secure with myself when it comes to other people so why this insecurity when it comes to my family members?  Did I attach my financial life to my worth inside my family?  And once my financial life was ruined was my worth inside my family ruined as well?

I really do not know the answers right now, however, I believe that since the awareness of this came to light...that is half the battle.  I do not want to be at odds with the people in my family.  I want to have loving relationships with all of them.  This jealousy thing has kept me from that. Even more than that is the fact that it also kept me from loving myself.

I have to stop feeling like my life isn't any good just because I do not have much in the way of things and have no money for extravagent things.  I have to see the value of my life and understand that if the rest of the world (or just my family) doesn't see it, no matter!  So what! I have to end the battle in my mind that I am nothing because I financially lost everything.  It is a belief that simply is not true and is not serving me!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Just when I thought I was getting better...

Today I am having some problems.  I have been going back and forth all day trying to decide if I was going to write about this.  Since I am here, I decided to write because I am hoping it will straighten me out.

I try very hard every day to not focus on what I don't have or what I can't have or do.  This is not easy to do because our natural tendency as human beings is to want, want, want.  However, this way of thinking will bring so much suffering because you are resisting reality when you want, want, want!  So, like most human beings, I am not perfect at this, getting better, but not perfect.

Someone close to me just told me that she was taking her family to Disneyland.  I was so surprised by internal reaction!  I wanted to scream!  I wanted to tell her not to tell me anything about it because I did not want to hear about something that reminded me of what I could NOT do.  I wanted to shake her and ask her if it felt good to "brag" to me about something she could afford but I couldn't.  I wanted to ask her if being able to afford to go to Disneyland made her feel superior to people who could not?  All these thoughts racing through my head yet I said nothing.

Funny thing was that I knew, deep down inside, that she never thought anything about how it must feel to me and I know she had no bad intent whatsoever!  I don't really want anyone to walk on glass around me but I do want people to understand that I am sensitive about what can be bought when you have money.  After what I have been through, can you blame me!  When I can barely pay for my son's medications and have no room for any kind of emergency that may come up, it is hard for me to imagine having anything for a vacation!

I know, I know, I sound like a whiny person who complains about something so stupid but today I just can not seem to shake this.  It is on my mind and something is just unsettling to me.  I do not want this kind of stuff to bother me.  I want to be past this.  I want to be free of this!  How does someone heal from this?  I thought I had more faith.  I thought I was beyond this.  I thought I was above this way of thinking.  What happened?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The bankruptcy effect on our kids Part 2

During a time where our kids were experiencing much anxiety and fear, we, the parents were experiencing the same feelings of our own.  Because of this, we were not able to help them as much as we would have with any thing else in their life which would have made them feel the same way.  When I look back on this, I wish there would have been someone in our lives that would have recognized this and stepped in and helped.  We did not know at the time that we would need that kind of help and did not know what to ask for.  We were so busy trying to figure this all out that they were put secondary to all of that.

At this point, my children are very aware of what has all happened to us.  They do not yet have fully developed adult minds and I do not know how they will think about it all when that happens.  They were both very upset with the bank because in their minds the bank "took" their house.  They really felt like the bank took something that did not belong to them.  That was not the way that it was explained to them, but that is how they think about it.

When our kids found out that we filed for bankruptcy, they thought that we were going to be arrested.  I don't know where they got that idea from.  They were concerned that we didn't have any more money and that we were broke.  Little did they know that we had been broke for a very long time!  Someday, when they are a little older, I will sit down and talk to them in more detail about all of this.

There are things that I can say are very good that happened to my kids as a result of all of this as well as some bad.  Both of my boys are very hard workers and have no problem helping anyone with anything that they are able to.  They have been asked to do chores by people and have earned a couple bucks here and there for the help they give.  They have never felt like this was beneath them and they offer help whether they get paid or not.  They know that if they want something, they can not count on Mom and Dad to fork over the money.  They have to find a way on their own to purchase things that they want.  My oldest son paid for his own Junior ring.  They have learned to live more simply than most other boys their age and they appreciate all things that are given to them.  This, of course, is very good!  Hopefully these lessons will be beneficial to them as adults.

Some "bad" things that have happened as a result of living this way is overindulging in things that they feel will go away fast, like food.  When there is a full refrigerator of food, they eat it all up as quickly as possible because there have been so many times where they opened it up to find nothing.  They also, both, can not wait to leave this house and be on their own.  I know that is somewhat normal for teenagers, but this is a little different.  They have no faith in me or their father with money.  They just think we don't know what we are doing.  It's okay, we don't take it personally.

Their overall attitude about money is one of mystery and anxiety!  They can't wait for the opportunity to have money but they are scared to death they will screw it up.  I wish this wasn't so, but it is what it is!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The bankruptcy effect on our kids

Many people have written to me and asked me about how bankruptcy has affected my children.  My children are now 17 and 15 years old.  To say the least, they have been through the mud with our financial situation.  They were 12 and 10 years old when we lost our house to foreclosure.  It was the only home that they knew since they were both born into that house.  We lived in a neighborhood with close neighbors and family who lived within walking distance.  The kids that they went to school with all lived in our neighborhood as well.

My kids loved where we lived and enjoyed friendships with so many other kids that lived nearby.  They were especially close to our next door neighbor's children.  Our house was like a revolving door with kids constantly coming and going.  Our house was also pretty large in size.  Looking back, we did not really utilize the space that we had in a good way but we did have plenty of space.  We never really used money to decorate the house, decorate the kid's bedrooms and such.  We just really never had extra to do that.  At the time, any extra money all went into the family business, the restaurant.

When we realized that we were going to lose the house, we never really sat down and explained to the kids what was going on.  It was so painful for us that it was difficult for us to explain.  They knew something was going on.  Their father and I were at odds with each other during this time and there was so much tension in the household.  Then, time ran out and we had to tell them.  They were so confused about moving.  We did not yet know where we were going to move to but they went with us when we were looking at apartments and flats.  You can imagine how disappointed they were with everything we looked at.  They were going from a house they loved to something that was so foreign and strange to them.

Since our applications for every place we applied were rejected, we were invited to live with my their basement.  My kids were excited about living with grandma and grandpa but not int the basement!  They both complained loudly about that.  The basement was just one large room with stone walls around the outside.  There were no walls to separate us in any way!  We could only bring a few pieces of furniture with us and minimal amount of clothing.  Space for our "stuff" was extremely limited and when we packed up the kids room and put most of it in storage, they were visibly upset.

More on the next post...