Ask Alan

Maggie feels cursed by creditors and doomed by debt.

March 2008

Question

Hey Alan,

I'm not in a good place right now. Financial mess doesn't begin to describe the ordeal I'm going through. My house payments have gone up. I can barely make the minimum payments on my credit cards. It seems like every penny is gone before I earn it. To be honest, I always thought things would turn out differently. Is this is it? I read your article on fate but I keep thinking that I must have done something horrendous in a previous life to deserve this. Please tell me that things are going to get better!

Maggie

Answer

Dear Maggie,

The first thing you have simply got to do is to understand that you are not alone. The credit crunch has turned into an all-out crisis. It's wreaking havoc with so many people's lives. So, please don't think that you are the only one feeling the pinch. Every day I'm getting more and more people contacting me about where this economic chaos is going.

Having said that, I sense that you've been struggling for quite some time. I feel that every time you think you've got a little put away there's another bill that comes along and swallows the nest egg.

And unlike those people who cry about not having any money yet drive around in their flashy cars, going on expensive holidays and getting their nails done weekly, I sense that you really have made cutbacks.

But in your house I get the impression that not everyone else is as thrifty as you. You've certainly sacrificed. And I feel that if there's an opportunity to make a bit of extra cash, then you're there. But again, I don't get the same feeling from the people around you.

You need to get tougher with the other people in your household. It's time to make them pull more of their own weight. I sense that you've been – I'm sorry to say – something of a light touch. You have an enormous heart. You ooze compassion. And your desire to make things right is bordering on saintly. But you're at a point when something's got to give.

I don't feel that you can allow those around you to continue to take advantage of you. And yes, they are taking advantage of you. If you don't see it straightaway, do a little digging. Let's just say that while you are going without, they aren't.

Sort out those at home first. Make sure that they are scrimping and saving as much if not more than you are. Next, I want you to consider downsizing. I feel the weight of this mortgage. And there's so much pride associated with it.

Selling the house won't be a sign that you've failed. It will be, from what I sense, a very smart move. I feel that your house is more than you need. There's more status surrounding it. Be honest with yourself and ask yourself whether you can live somewhere smaller. I feel you could. If not, then it's time to consider renting out those rooms. What you lose in privacy will be outweighed by the reduction in debt.

In fact, that might not be such a bad idea - remember what I said about those around you. Perhaps you should consider charging them rent!

I wish I could say something else. But the work situation is going to be challenging if not downright stressful. I'm seeing the symbol that I generally associate with cutbacks. That's the bad news. The good news is that I don't see you out of work. Better still I feel that you are going to have more chances to get overtime pay.

About those credit cards, I sense you're being bullied somewhat. Don't simply take the abuse that's being directed your way. And it does feel abusive the way that they are treating you. I sense that you shouldn't let them dictate the terms. Get some advice from your local citizen's financial bureau but I feel that you should start telling them how much you are going to pay. In the end, it's in their interests to work with you to avoid paying fees associated with collection and recovery.

You might not see it. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Take 2008 to get your house in order – namely those who've not cut back nearly enough. Hold on to your job and get tougher with your creditors. I also sense that you should really consider downsizing – although I can sense that truly will be your last resort.

You're not doomed. You're not cursed. What you are, however, is too generous. It's time to announce the Maggie ATM has closed. The buck really must stop with you. Be firm. Take control and you'll not only feel better you'll find yourself getting above the rising water!

With that, I wish you all the best.

Alan

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