Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Limits and Liens and Loans

with 22 comments

Total Black: $906.89
Total Red: $241,059.05

Oh my!  Oh my!  Oh my!  I went looking for a jeep today.  Not sure how this will work out.

I’ve been checking Craigslist down here for a few weeks.  One person has had an ad up for a Jeep over on St. Thomas.  I emailed last week when my mother was still here.  No response yet.  He wanted $6,000 for a 2000 Jeep Wrangler.  Then just this morning another ad went up for a 1997 Jeep for $5,500.  I’m no car aficionado.  But five hundred-dollar difference between a car that’s three years older tells me something doesn’t add up.  I’ve also been checking the newspapers as well.  One ad had a 2003 Jeep Wrangler going for $10,000.

A few people mentioned that rental agencies here are having fleet sales currently.  I spotted one just outside of downtown Christiansted so I stopped there this morning.  A used Jeep shouldn’t be too bad, right?  Wrong.  They had one Jeep, a white one, and they wanted $12,500 for it—as is, no warranty.  Next I went to a car dealership here in St. Croix.  I figured they might have some used cars to sell me.  They sure did.  Well, not exactly.  I got shown all new cars.

Once the representative walked me back inside, I figured I’d let them run my credit and find out where things stand.  Turns out, I might be eligible for a 2009 Jeep Wrangler—brand new, but they’d give me a used rate as they want to get it off the lot—for about $3,000 down and a $500 a month payment for sixty months.  Well, maybe.  If we go with a local bank on St. Croix, they will want me to pay off, or pay the arrears, on the Raymour & Flanagan charge account that was charged off and sent to a collections agency.  Another instance of daily calls from some recorded computerized voice named Chelsea, calling from Enhanced Recovery Corporation.  So part of me wouldn’t be too upset about seeing that debt go.  But to do that, I’d have to come up with $3,000 down-payment, then the roughly $6,000 for that charge account.  That’s $9,000 down, effectively.  If we went with a bank in the States, I was told, I wouldn’t have to worry about that charged-off account, but instead I’d probably have to an auto loan at 18%.

I told them I didn’t know if it was a good idea, so the dealer walked me outside to see the only used Jeep they had: some banged up 2004 item that would run me $8,000.  The fender over the driver-side tire was cracked.  The cushions over the backseat seemed to be torn out.  And for $8,000 I’d only get an oil change and a check of the engine to make sure its in good-working condition.  No other repairs.  I left feeling trapped, overwhelmed, and sick to my stomach.  I stopped in McDonald’s to grab lunch before going to the court to put in a few hours of work, but had to leave after about five minutes in line because the smell of the food and my anxiety eliminated my appetite.  I had called my mother to talk this all through.  Much of it wasn’t making sense.

Assume I went with the Jeep in the newspaper: I’d have to come up with $10,000 up front and I’d be purchasing it from an individual.  No warranties there.  Not in the bring-it-back-and-we’ll-fix-it sense.  Even the 1997 Jeep for $5,500—that’s a lot to come up with.  Coupled with the $7,100 I need for the IRS, and we’re talking $17,100 in one scenario.  It seems to make more sense to buy a brand new Jeep, for $3,000 down, then make monthly payments.  In the end, $500 a month times twelve months comes out to $6,000.  Plus the $3,000 down equates to nearly the same as the 2003 Jeep for $10,000.  And instead it’s brand new and presumably easier to sell a 2009 Jeep in 2011 than it would be to sell a twice-used (or more) 2003 Jeep in 2011.

Of course, much of the stress here is because of my credit score.  The lien filed last year by New York State showed up.  Even though it’s been paid, it still shows, of course.  And the charge-off I mentioned above.  I can’t wait to start getting some money rolling in again so I can start cleaning all this up.

And, as if the day, wasn’t bad enough.  Almost in a somewhat medicinal sense, I logged on to my bank account to check my balances—and to look at the $1,000 I had cleared on my Upromise master card with Bank of America.  And what did I find?  Bank of America dropped my credit limit.  Instead of $1,000 available credit I now had $150!  INSANE!  This is exactly the sort of crazy behaviors the CARD Act was intended to curtail.  Banks can’t use your failing and misgivings on one negative account to wallop you on theirs.  But they can use it to drop the amount of available credit they extend you.

I was LIVID!  This is tantamount to stealing money from me.  And they did the exact same thing to me last year when I attempted to front-load my card and charge the tax debt and also get miles for it, noted back in The Phone Call.  I can’t believe they did it again.  Last time I called and complained and kept complaining until they raised my limit up again by like $300.  Today I tried the same, got some silly little lackey who told me—when I referenced the CARD Act—that the bank had a duty to its shareholders, and the government, to be responsible lenders.  I almost spat at the telephone.  Oh, now they jump on that bandwagon and use their prior mistakes and financial irresponsibilities and throw it back in our faces?!  When I heard that I immediately requested to speak with a manger but only to be told he was in a meeting and would call me back.  A meeting?  On a Saturday afternoon?

Still no return call.  This is my own damn fault for not following through on my pledge, way back in Fifth Day of Accounting, to follow Suze Orman in her Back-to-Cash Movement.  Had I not sent mounds of money to the credit card, it wouldn’t have been flagged in their system, and they may not have reevaluated my account.  But instead, since I sent a lot of money their way—it showed up in the system as an aberration, causing them to review the entire account.  And then they walloped me.

What kind of incentive is that?  I send you money, you bring down my credit limit.  Yeah, I’m not going to do that again.  It’s like being punished.  Almost like a prepayment penalty.  Had I steadily plodded along with my 29% APR, making my payments, I probably would have gone unnoticed.  And would have had about $1,000 more in cash.

I can’t wait for today to end.

22 Responses

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  1. Maybe you could write current posts while also filling in the older things until you get caught up. The title of this post makes me think the credit cards cut you off, the tax folks filed a lien, and you’re trying to get a loan from someone to keep thing afloat, I’m interested in what’s going on and how you’re dealing with it.

    I really like your writing style (great titles!!), and hope you find time to catch up and keep this going. And, I’m hoping you’ve got opportunities for a better personal life in the new place.


    June 13, 2010 at 09:35

  2. Alternatively…write a little recap on everything you wrapped up before leaving NYC, then write a recap of the first week on island, then go daily if you want or simply stick to weekly.

    I don’t know about everyone else, but I have very little interest at this point about 2 or 3 week old news! It seems kind of like getting an old newspaper when I can get a current one (well, with this site I can’t get the current one either!)…

    That’s not to say that I’m not curious about what has happened in the past, but that it becomes less and less interesting each passing day.



    June 13, 2010 at 11:09

  3. The blog stands on its own, guys. I’m not writing it for the readers. It’s a chronicle of my experiences on this journey. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have encouragement along for the ride but I’m not redesigning the scope now. Besides I’ve reiterated repeatedly that one sub-goal is to accomplish completing a task daily—one that is not obligatory like waking or eating. Two to three weeks late—given the craziness of the past two months—is not really all that long of a delay.

    Besides, have y’all read every single post? All the way back to August 2009? There’s plenty to keep you busy there.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 13, 2010 at 11:15

  4. I’ve thought about that, but to do so would really throw off the structure. And it’s too easy to let the prior posts slip into oblivion. As I noted in my reply below, I’m doing this for me. It’s a chronicle of this crazy year trying to deal with ballooning debts in a tough economy. I don’t want anything left out if I can help it.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 13, 2010 at 11:18

  5. I thinks it great that you’ve undertaken the blog and all. but I have to say there’s some DENIAL and “magical” thinking going on here.

    This is not “a year” and “a journey” unless you’re talking about the year it will take you or your journey to facing REALITY and realizing that you are not going to get out of this crushing debt any time soon and even then without more proactive steps.

    Please make peace with the IRS and the Student Loan People (income-based repayment) and maybe declare bankruptcy. Then you’ll know what you’re facing– which isn’t going to be that bad — you don’t owe the IRS that much and the income-based student loan payments will be tolerable until the Feds forgive this stuff which they inevitably must or until inflation makes your debt insignificant (After all during the 1970s some students borrowed as much as ten thousand dollars during their college careers (sarcasm)).

    And even if you don’t use the bankruptcy ticket — those credit card interest rates and payments negotiable. Talk to the people. Does Vonage work on St. Croix?

    You owe it to yourself to face facts. Your debt is not going to turn into a pumpkin in August.

    Show yourself some love; especially now that you have a real job again. Deal realistically with what’s going on. You’ll look better in future employment background checks.

    I know you won’t take my unsolicited advice so I’ll check in occasionally. Best regards to you T-Bag, and BTW, is anyone else on here a fan of Blue Mountain State, the sitcom?


    June 13, 2010 at 14:25

  6. Where this blog goes after 8/9/10 has yet to be determined. And whether I achieve my goal or not is irrelevant right now. I’m still in the middle of it. Maybe I’ll hit the jackpot at the casino. Maybe my mother passes (God forbid) and I’ll have that inheritance. Or maybe nothing happens and I’ll just keep plugging along for another year or two and have to keep moving the end goal, so to speak. But why do I have to give up the goal?

    I don’t understand why soooo many people get so upset when other people have a goal that they can’t imagine achieving? Why does it matter to anyone whether I meet it or not? That’s my business. And whether its fantastical or not, it’s not bothering anyone.

    I appreciate the concern, Concerned, but honestly I’m lost. You must not have read prior posts—I understand I’m late updating them—but it’s been a crazy few weeks. I have made “peace,” in a sense with the IRS. I’ll be on a payment plan soon. I’ve also brought my debt down a bit as well with credit cards companies. I’ve spoken with them occasionally, most recently yesterday. They won’t budge. In fact, I brought my balance down by $1,000 on one card—thinking I may need it here, just in case. What was Bank of America’s response? They dropped my limit. Now the $1,000 available balance I had is $100. How’s that for one’s credit-to-balance ratio on a credit report. Then the bank uses circular logic to tell me that my credit score is low. Of course it is, especially when they’re pushing it down!

    Everyone thinks that this is so simple. When I complained that it was almost like being robbed of that money I frontloaded on the credit card, the answer the BofA agent gave to me was that the Bank has a duty to its shareholders and the taxpayers and the government to lend credit responsibly! Really? Really? And the $900 they ripped from me makes that much of a difference to their shareholders? This mistake is my fault for not following Suze Orman’s advice, when I said I would, to go back to cash.

    As for bankruptcy, I don’t know why everyone thinks of bankruptcy as this panacea? You’re not the only one to recommend it. Have you declared bankruptcy, Concerned? Isn’t there ANYONE out there who has declared bankruptcy and can rebut some of these magical thinking commenters about the wonder of bankruptcy? Besides the moral and financial stain it would leave on my background (yes, people make judgments about the trustworthiness of persons who declare bankruptcy), I now live on St. Croix. I’d have to declare bankruptcy here in federal court. Small island. You don’t think the judge I’m now clerking for might get wind that an employee of the courts just moved there and filed for bankruptcy? And how would bankruptcy look for future employment background checks, not to mention my current employment?

    Apologies for any excessive venting being directed at you, but I’m really frustrated right now at this situation and such comments leave me at a loss. Just because I don’t post about every conversation I’ve had with debtors doesn’t mean I haven’t had them.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 13, 2010 at 14:40

  7. Sorry, Laid off lawyer, but it really is this simple.

    1) Stop using your credit cards. Use cash or get a debit card and pay as you go or get a secured credit card instead for those expenses that “require” a credit card.

    2) Make peace with the IRS. You have no assets, but youdo have wages to garnish. I believe they can and will do it to you, even if you’re on St. Croix.
    Talk about embarrassing.

    3) Arrange something with the student loan people (income-based repayment is available) and for long term see my original post.

    4) If you’ve done 1, and you play along with the CC people ( I know people who’ve stop paying for a bit to get their attention), I believe they’ll work with you.

    What I’m trying to tell you is that imho your goal is preposterous. You might as well say that you’ve set yourself the goal of becoming a Major League Pitcher by the time you’re 51.

    None are so blind…

    Your parents didn’t talk finances in the home did they?

    How long can you go on trading on your good looks? ( A joke really)

    No offense taken, good luck, and please please fix things before you get blindsided and screwed REALLY BAD


    June 13, 2010 at 16:22

  8. P.S. 1% + of the U.S. population has declared bankruptcy, so the stigma ain’t what you imagine, but since I don’t know how much unsecured debt you actually have I can’t possibly begin to advise, and if I were you I wouldn’t focus on that bit for now.

    Sorry for my bluntness.


    June 13, 2010 at 16:27

  9. Fair enough…I forgot and thought it was for us readers!



    June 13, 2010 at 17:08

  10. It is, but it isn’t. That’s the odd hybrid aspect of blogging. I certainly could pen my thoughts in a journal. But that’s not my aim here. But as noted in prior posts and comments, I can’t modify my approach according to every commenter’s request. I set down parameters at the outset and they guide this project until its completion.

    But, but for my commenters, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here on a sunny, Sunday afternoon updating all these posts. Truth there must be told. 😉

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 13, 2010 at 17:12

  11. It’s a tribute to your writing that commenters want you to update more frequently. Reading this blog is like what I imagine reading a serial novel was back in the day. But it is ultimately your project and your time, and as a member of the reading audience, I understand that the author is in control (but I still look forward to reading the next installment).

    The BoA thing sounds awful.


    June 13, 2010 at 17:41

  12. Carrot will always win out over the stick! Thanks. 🙂

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 13, 2010 at 19:56

  13. My thoughts exactly: “I understand that the author is in control (but I still look forward to reading the next installment)”



    June 14, 2010 at 08:29

  14. You are in the virgin islands, good for you what a great move, i’m so jealous, you got out of the big dirty city, now i just have to escape too 🙂


    June 14, 2010 at 09:30

  15. Thanks! To you too! Best of luck on leaving that 9 to 5. Tried to post on your blog but it said I didn’t “own” my WordPress ID or something. Anyway, if you find yourself in the Virgin Islands (British or US) let me know. We’ll grab a cocktail and toast our new lives!

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 14, 2010 at 20:23

  16. Hi, what a shame you couldnt sign in, not sure why you couldnt sign in, maybe could you try signing in with a google account or alternative. Anyway, yes, funny you should mention it we have always wanted to go to the british virgin islands, it looks so lovely, now its on our list and we can make a date for the cocktail 🙂 Probably towards the end of the year or begining of next year, would that be off season, maybe cooler and cheaper to travel?


    June 15, 2010 at 05:18

  17. Why does it have to be a jeep? No long road trips, obviously. Perhaps a smaller, dependable used pickup? Many cars will work on bad roads. Jeeps have much higher insurance rates, too.


    June 21, 2010 at 00:20

  18. I drive a 10+ year old car which I bought used. I don’t pay much in excise tax, and insurance is minimal. Remember to figure these expenses in if you go for the new Jeep.

    How are you currently getting around, and is it something you can continue?


    June 21, 2010 at 06:49

  19. “Have to”—no. But there’s not a lot of options here. I thought about flying to Florida and getting one there. But then I’d have to tack on the cost of a flight, a hotel stay—at least one night since I doubt I could just land and find one immediately. And then there’s the rental car costs. And shipping costs getting it back to the Virgin Islands.

    It’ll be better to get one here. And Jeeps are somewhat more available than pick-up trucks. Guess it’s just not a used car here.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 21, 2010 at 21:52

  20. Renting. And it’s already run me $650 and my mother about $825. I’ll have to renew again tomorrow. I thought about leasing, but that seems to be a pointless expense. You’re truly left with nothing in the end. Like paying rent vs. paying a mortgage. At least I can try to sell the car next year if I need to. And if not, I have it to take with me wherever I move.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 21, 2010 at 21:54

  21. I’ve enjoyed reading the blog, but let’s be completely honest. As Concerned said, this is not a journey and you have no real plan about eliminating your debt. You didn’t start this blog to chronicle your efforts to restore fiscal sanity in your life – you started the blog solely for the purpose of getting people to contribute money. You hoped that you’d build up a following, that your readers would send what money they could, and that – in ten and twenty dollar increments – they’d bail you out, using that “Donate” button on the right side of the screen. It’s dishonest and disingenuous for you to pretend this is about anything else. All the entries, all the discussion about strategies and second jobs and blah blah blah – that’s all filler, every word of it. The ENTIRE purpose of this blog, from the very beginning, was, is, and will continue to be that “Donate” button. Listen, I don’t blame you – it’s clear that you need a miracle to get you out of this mess, and this probably seemed as good an idea as any. But I think you mentioned a while ago that you’ve gotten all of $50 or so from donations, so I guess we haven’t proven to be quite as gullible as you’d anticipated. I look forward to your sputtering denials, as well as your sporadic updates. (One last thing – Dad, thank you SO much for teaching me the importance of saving money and living within my means.)


    June 22, 2010 at 10:02

  22. Damn. Those crickets are loud.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    June 22, 2010 at 20:26

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