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Financial stupidity (my personal story)

I suppose my story of financial stupidity would start back in 1999 when I got out of high school and started at the community college.  I took out a $2500 school loan  (this loan will stick around way longer than I planned for more about it later).  I never had to make any payments on that loan until I was finished with school or until I quit.  Which I never finished my degree.  So about 2001 I was starting to make payments of $50 a month.

2001 was also the year I was married to my wife Dawn.  I came into the marriage with no other debt besides my student loan.  My wife on the other hand had a few credit cards and a couple small personal loans and a car payment.

Just like many marriages we barely had any money to pay the bills let alone get debt paid off.  Around 2002 or so my mom introduced me to Dave Ramsey.  I had never heard of him before and I listened to a few of his tapes(yep cassette tapes).  I thought this guy was an idiot.  I mean he lost millions of dollars why on earth would I listen to someone like that?

Now being at the ripe old age of 22 of course I knew everything so I wasn't about to listen to anyones advice.  I mean my knowledge was solid and I didn't need help from anyone.

We purchased a car in 2002.  It was a 2001 Chevy Lumina.  Unfortunately in late 2003 the car was wrecked.  We did not even get enough money from the insurance company to pay it off.  So we kept paying on it for another 6 months.    I also bought another car from my mother.  I paid to put a transmission into the car.  So that put me another $1500 into debt.  Im proud to say though that I am still driving that car today.  Its a 1994 Chrysler Lebaron.

Sometime around 2003 I thought it might be a good idea to apply for my own credit cards.  We couldn't pay for the credit cards we already had, why not add a few more onto the pile right?  I ended up being approved for 3 different cards.  Two of them had limits of $500 and the other one had a limit of $2000 I believe.

The two smaller cards I used primarily for buying gas, food, and crap.  The larger $2000 limit card I used about $1000 of it to buy some stupid course I saw on TV.  I honestly do not remember exactly what it was.  But obviously it turned out to make me $0.  Lesson learned with that dumb idea.

In April of 2004 we ended up purchasing another car for $14,000 to replace the car that was totaled.  It was a 2003 Mitsubishi Galant.  We didnt have enough money to pay the taxes and plating of the car.  So we went and got a personal loan of about $1500 to cover those costs.

At the end of 2004 I thought it would be a good idea to go through a debt consolidation company.  We had a total of 6 credit cards at the time that we put into the program.  We paid them around $250 a month and that payment was split up between the 6 payments.  It did absolutely no good using that company.  As with lots of those companies they dont pay your debt to your creditor on time and it just creates more of mess.

In March of 2005 my mom had caught wind of my credit card debt and thought it would be a good idea if we borrowed $16,000 from her and my step dad to pay off our creditors.  They meant well and it seemed like a good idea but looking back on it, it was the worst thing we could have ever done.  During the time we were paying them they never mentioned anything about the money.  But you felt like they were hanging that debt over our heads and it was very stressful.

Also in 2005 I decided that I NEEDED a new computer.  So I opted for the Dell credit card and spent about $1000 on a new computer.  Luckily today I am still using that computer and typing this very story on it now.

Towards the end of 2005 I was getting really stressed out with the debt and decided to take it one step further.   Like I didn't have enough debt already.  I thought it would be a good idea to go and apply for a bunch of credit cards.  (I know it just keeps getting worse right?)

After all was said and done I had gotten myself a total of 11 more credit cards.  I had a Dell, 2 HSBC, 2 Chase, 2 Capital one, 1 Juniper Bank card, 1 Paypal, 1 Citi, and a Music 123 credit card.  These cards totaled a combined credit limit of over $11,000.

By the end of 2006 I had probably maxed out all of those credit cards.  Put those cards on top of the debt we already had with a car loan, personal family loan and another personal  loan.

We had personal loan through Beneficial. (They are not very beneficial if you were wondering).  This loan was around $3000.  About a year after we got that loan they sent us a check in the mail for $5000.  And of course by cashing this check it would create a new loan for us.  Good idea right?  Well you probably guessed it.  Yeah we cashed it.  So now we have a loan with Beneficial for $8000.

So by now we have around $40,000+ in debt.  I know there is other loans we got throughout the years that I honestly can't remember.

We were able to keep up with minimum payments for a while.  But we knew it wouldn't last that long.  The payments were slowly sucking the life out of us.  As a desperate plea I started looking for someone to help us.  Like an idiot I thought that a debt settlement company would help us.  Yeah Right!!  So I signed up with them anyway.  The company I signed up with was called Credit Solutions.  They are a total scam.  We ended up paying them around $1000 and they only settled 2 cards.

At this time we were not paying anything on any of these credit cards and they were getting higher and higher balances each day.  Some of these companies were offering me settlements as much as 70% off the balance, but I just did not have the money to settle with them at the time.

Then something happened that really scared the crap out of me.  I came home one day and had a orange note stuck on my door from the sheriff.  2 of my credit cards had started the proceedings to sue me.  I immediately called the lawyers handling the case and set up a payment plan with them.  Why I ever let it get that far is beyond me.  And let me tell you one thing.  The lawyers that handle the credit card cases are way easier to work with than the credit card companies.

This is now beginning of 2007 and I am finally starting to see that all of my stupid ideas are not working.  So I start listening to Dave Ramsey a lot more.  I was already listening but I guess I wasn't hearing what he was saying before.  In May of 2007 Dave was going to be doing a live event in Kansas City which was about 5 hours from where I live in Nebraska.  About a week before the event my wife and I ordered 2 tickets and we were off to see Dave.  Let me tell you seeing Dave Ramsey live was very life changing for us.

A month or so after we saw Dave we had a yard sale to raise some money for our emergency fund and I got a new job in the summer of 2007 which was paying me quite a bit more than I was making before.  We were really able to start pounding away on the debt.

We really started getting all those smaller debts out of the way and start making some real progress.

Now we are towards the end of 2008.  My wife received a sum of money and we were able to pay off our car and loan to my mom.  Remember that school loan I talked about in the beginning that started it all?  Well it was at this time still sitting in deferment.  June of 2009 I was able to pay that off completely.  Just 2 months shy of 10 years to pay off a stupid $2500 debt.

At the end of 2009 I quit my job because it was driving me insane.  My wife and I agreed that I would stay home for the time being.  We are almost debt free.  We still have about $4,000 left.  But have made a ton of progress.  I am currently working on some different ideas for starting my own business.

My goal is to try and help people avoid my situation at all costs.  It is not fun to go though and I will try my hardest to keep people out of where I have been.

Hopefully my story doesn't sound too familiar to anyone.  If it does remember you can work your way of most problems you get yourself into.

 

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Tags: budget, debt, finance, story

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Comment by Toni V. Martin on December 19, 2010 at 8:52pm

Great post, thank you for sharing. If anything, it's a story most of us can relate to--not shake our heads at!

Comment by Ryan Brewer on December 19, 2010 at 8:33pm

Thank you so much for the kind words Archie

Comment by Archie Winningham on December 19, 2010 at 8:30pm

Great story Ryan. The way you present some of your scenarios, hilarious, but at the same time so real. I believe a LOT of folks will relate with you on many things you personally experienced. I see great coaching successes coming your way Ryan. Keep at it bro.

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