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August 14 2014

Why HOPE Inside Should Be Your First Course of Action for Financial Recovery

This is our first installment in an ongoing series of HOPE testimonials. Stories that show the impact of what HOPE Inside is really all about and how we are giving people the tools to stop being victims of the system and learn how to make it work for them.

To put it in perspective, the following story speaks to more than 81.7 wage earners in America, as reported by the Social Security Administration that made less than $30,000 last year, according to the Social Security Administration. That's just a couple of steps above the $27,010 that marked the federal poverty line for a five-person household in 2012.

By Anonymous

Let me explain how I ended up here, needing financial advice and working with Gayle Rice, my financial counselor from Operation HOPE at the HOPE Inside Atlanta located in SunTrust Bank. The one sentence version is – I had a job, I lost a job, went back to school, created a six-digit student loan debt, jobless for over a year and now have a credit score considered POOR. Like many Americans I suffered “THE GREAT RECESSION OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.”

My job at the beginning of the recession, in 2008, went bankrupt. I found out the company was using funds from major corporate clients to pay the bills instead of paying the customers they handled. Things turned sour when the office closed for Veterans Day. I remember thinking, “when was the last time you got Veterans Day off? Never!” The following day the hammer came down during an office wide meeting; the company was bankrupt. I left 20 minutes later and never received a final paycheck.

This led to six months hiatus in working (or unemployment) and daily agony of applying to jobs online, contacting friends and walking the dogs around the neighborhood two to three times. My car died about a month after the job ended so transportation was spotty and I lived in a city where public transportation was few and far between. After six months I got a new car (Grandma’s Buick LaSabre) and a new job at a place I never wanted to work and doing a job I hated and was morally conflicted with, but that’s what you do to survive – anything and everything.  The rule is if you finally get called up from unemployment purgatory you don’t care if you are playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks or the New York Yankees. A check is a check.

Well a check is a check until you start using up sick days to sit around the house and show up late to work dreading the day activities. The solution, I went to get my masters “Those people never have job issues.” So I moved across the US to a major city and a not top tier school.  I added $150,000 in student loan debt and expected my income to start at $90,000 a year. I interviewed for jobs paying $100,000 to $120,000. Sadly, I did not get any job. I interned for six months at a top company but nothing was available for me. Let’s just say I went from cloud 9 to the dirt floor eight months after graduation. I took odd jobs here and there but I no longer could pay my bills, forced asked friends and relatives for money because “my turn was coming.” It never came and I was forced to move several states south to live with a younger sibling.

I felt like I applied to a million jobs and kept that same ambition in this new state. Nothing would sizzle and eventually those who thought I could be a VP at a company now suggested only entry-level jobs. Devastated and sad I hit a major depression. Bill collectors don’t care about any of that stuff. The calls kept coming and I had nothing new to tell them except “I don’t have a job, what do you want? Yes, I am applying I am hoping to get something soon.”  It took an additional month to get something and it paid less than ten dollars an hour. Excited to have a job I worked hard and long and got promoted only to be making right above poverty level. (One day I will explain the irony of the previous sentence.)

I now had a place to go for work, a paycheck deposited monthly into a checking account and bills, bills, bills. I was able to pay some collectors, my student loans remained in forbearance and I signed up for food stamps.

Here I was college educated, world traveler, loving family, master’s degree, Jeopardy champion in my head and a welfare recipient. Eventually I got off of welfare and got a credit score of 548 FICO Credit Score. Well, it depends on the credit bureau. So Transunion has me at 634, Experian at 633 and Equifax at 588. (We will do the math in determining a credit score in another post.)

Let me tell you about a 548 FICO credit score.  A new Nissan car is not happening, buying new clothes makes you feel guilty, vacations and dreams of going to Rome are things you see only on Basketball Wives. The pre-approved credit notices you get online or direct mail are quickly denied.  Your APR on anything always starts at 24%. I love how this works. If you are poor you have to pay more for everything.  It’s a burden to be poor with a bad credit score because everything you want comes at an extra price and I want everything.

It’s time for a change and that change came with my first meeting with Gayle Rice at SunTrust Wednesday afternoon.

If you think you’re alone living hand to mouth, check out the full report, http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/chartbooks/fast_facts/2012/fast_facts12.pdf . Then visit the nearest HOPE Inside and let a little light shine.