Monday, June 05, 2006

How I Became My Own Consumer Credit Counseling Service And Bounced Back From My Bad Credit Nightmare (part 8, continued)

I would later find out that there are a whole bunch of laws concerning what creditors can and cannot say to you on the phone.

Anyway, these phone confrontations would turn out to be the least of my problems.

I saw no way to pay off about $26,000 worth of debt. This is as basic as it gets: My single income wasn't enough to cover my expenses two people with incomes had accumulated.

It never seriously occurred to me to contact my creditors to try and negotiate some sort of payment schedule. Besides, weren't the people I would attempt to reasonably negotiate with the same people who were unreasonably hectoring me? That would have been my logic, had it occurred to me.

I figured it wasn't long before I'd end up in court - "final notice" letters (which were deposited into my mailbox relentlessly and were never final) were stacked on my coffee table in an obscene heap. On top of that I was doing the job interview thing, solemnly explaning to each prospective employer why I was firmly convinced that his or her company would be the single greatest place to work on the face of the earth, so I was pitifully demoralized.

I found out from friends that my soon-to-be ex-wife had taken off and was happily living in Holland.


I'm jobless, living on the linty edge of poverty, making the sign of the cross every time the phone rings, afraid to look at my mail, drinking too much, unable to sleep, eating Top Ramen noodles three times a day because I can't afford much else, and my soon-to-be ex-wife is wearing wooden clogs and dressed like Heidi the frigging mountaineer's wife with tulips in her hair, traipsing around Holland without a care in the world? Didn't she incur at least 50% of all the bills I was buried beneath???!!

If the time to throw my hands up in the air and say expletive deleted hadn't arrived, surely it never would. I declared bankruptcy. I declared it hard and fast. I remember the courtroom (it wasn't an actual courtroom, it was called something I can no longer remember) had so many people in it that there wasn't adequate seating - people were lining the walls and spilling out into the corridor.

When it was all over, I felt a sense of enormous relief. This would be an opportunity for me to start anew, I thought. Wipe the slate clean. Leave the past behind me, learn from my mistakes, pull myself out of the godforsaken mire of low self esteem that comes with knowing you've failed in some profoundly fundamental way.

I was free! My soon-to-be ex-wife wasn't the only one who could live a carefree, weightless life ... Hey, I would out-do her by going to Iceland! (to be continued)

How I Became My Own Consumer Credit Counseling Service And Bounced Back From My Bad Credit Nightmare (part 7, continued)

The calls continued because I didn't know that I could make collection agencies stop calling me. Did you know that the law states if you write a letter to your creditors informing them that you want them to cease and desist calling, they have to comply with your request? According to the law, the creditor, after receiving the letter, can only call you to notify you that

1.) no further contact will be forthcoming or

2.) to let you know that the creditor will be taking some specific action.

There's something called The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This act makes it possible for you to get collection agencies off your back by simply writing a letter that goes a little something like this:

"Please be advised that this letter is your notification, under provision of public laws known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (public laws 95-109 and 99-361) that your services are no longer required. I will not acknowledge or respond to any collection agency and am exercising my right to communicate only with the original creditor (name the creditor); therefore, your organization must immediately DESIST and CEASE all efforts to collect this debt."

It doesn't get much simpler than that, does it? Unfortunately, I didn't know that back then. By the way, feel free to use that letter word for word if you want.

Now back to my sorry saga ... (consumer credit counseling, to be continued)