In 1990, we left Portugal where we had lived and raised our children for 11 years. My husband was the business manager of a missionary organization in Portugal, and it was a sad day when we boarded the jet that took us from our beloved Portugal flew us back to the United States. We had sold most of our belongings. (I kept a sharp eye on the kids at one point because I was afraid my husband might sell them, too.)
My husband got a job for a non-profit religious organization, and we moved to Lancaster, PA. The salary would have been a great plenty in Portugal, but for a growing family that needed to set up housekeeping all over again, well, the money didn’t stretch. We floundered and blundered financially, and were barely keeping our heads over water. I worked at various part time jobs, and had we known Dave Ramsey, things might not have gone from bad to worse.
Then, we made another poor decision. My parents helped us buy a house with an in-law suite, and moved in with us. It lasted nearly four years. I won’t go into the details except to say that it was complicated, and after they left, our marriage was shaky, and our children were in severe distress.
In an attempt to salvage our family, we moved to north central Florida in 1999. Neither my husband nor myself had a job when we arrived, and it was about seven months before my hubby got a job. In the meanwhile, we used our credit cards for the necessities.
When my husband got the job, the salary was low, but it was all he could get at the time. By 2001, the credit card debt had snowballed, and we were getting ugly phone calls. Although we offered to pay the original creditors what we could afford on a monthly basis, they did not want to be bothered, and sent our accounts to collections. We finally hired a lawyer to file bankruptcy, and for awhile we referred debt collectors to him. We never got enough money together to pay the rest of the lawyer’s fees to actually file. Meanwhile, the credit card companies charged off the debt, took a tax deduction on the loss, and sold the debt to third party collection agencies.
In 2006, it all caught up with us, and I was served a court summons. I was employed at that time, and we hired a lawyer to go to court. She got there, and the collection agency never showed. Nevertheless, we signed a stipulation that we would send a down payment and then pay a monthly amount until we had paid off the stipulation. No one told us what a precarious position in which this left us, and we had never had to deal with such a situation before. Someone should have warned us to watch the collection agency like a cat watching a mouse hole.
This is not the end, but the beginning. I can’t tell you the end yet because the story is still going on. I can (and will) however tell you some of the things I’ve learned along the way in the hope that others may profit.
Until the next post…