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Author: DebtDodger Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 308722  
Subject: Not for the faint of heart Date: 7/17/2006 11:47 PM
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Hello Fools!

This is my first post, but I have been lurking for a while. A few years ago I played the ultimate BT game (although I didn't know it at the time -- I was just desperate), and I would like to share my story. Before I begin I must state that this strategy is not for everyone, and perhaps it is not a strategy at all. It requires your full commitment from the start (talking blood, sweat, tears, etc.).

First a little background. Today I am closing in on 32, but this story starts much earlier. Looking back now, I can say that I definitely came from a lower middle class family. Needless to say there was no college fund, and the day I got a job at 15 1/2 was probably a very happy day indeed in my parents lives.

When I graduated high school I was probably around $1000 in CC debt with about 3 credit cards. They start 'em young these days you know, and I turned 18 in October my senior year. I had been working nearly full-time for about 3 years at this point and had a pretty nice income for my age. I elected to go to the local college, the business office of which allowed for payments through the semester. The problem here was that while not lacking in intelligence I was definitely lacking in the desire for higher education. All I really wanted to do was raise hell. So I dropped out halfway through the semester.

The next year I decided to give it another shot (mainly due to feeling pressure from my family and GF at the time). Well by this point I was probably $3000 in CC debt and starting to feel the pinch so I elected for a student loan from a local bank. Well, same story different year. Party party party, sleep sleep sleep. Not much time for class so whatever... quit going.

Of course six months later the student loan requires payments, I'm paying on a $3000 ring for the aforementioned GF, and that same GF has left me because all I want to do is party. So I'm probably $7000 in debt at this point, depressed, realizing my job is probably not that great, and continually spending money I don't have.

Fast forward to 25. At this point I am roughly $15,000 in CC debt, $3000 in other unsecured high interest debt, making $#!+ for money, afraid/ashamed to answer the phone because it will be a creditor, yet afraid to not answer the phone for fear my roommates will answer or that same creditor will leave a message on the machine to be heard by someone besides me. Luckily I had seen the error of my ways -- kind of hard not to when all your cards default, they charge a late fee, which leads to an OTL fee, leading to a lower credit limit so you will never have any hope. One saving grace was that I was a manager at an Applebees at this point so at least I got a square meal everyday. Another saving grace was the franchise had transferred me to a college town (the same town I absolutely hated while growing up 2 hours away, so of course I didn't realize it was a blessing at the time).

So one day it dawned on me. "In five years I am going to 30 years old. Period. No getting around it. There are only 4 options: a) be 30 and worse off, b) be 30 and in the same boat, or c) be 30 and better off, or d) be dead."

I chose c. I decided to take the opportunity I was given and go back to college. I was already hanging on by a thread, credit was pretty much ruined, and really had nothing to lose. The difference this time was that I wanted to be a better person, wanted an education, wanted a future. The hardest promise to break is the sincere promise you make to yourself, and I promised myself that I was going to finish this time, no matter what it took (I did pay off the previous student loan).

Here is the rub. I went back to school on student loans, while maintaining a full time job -- I was allowed to step down from my managerial position and wait tables. Funny thing is, your credit score does not really come into play when getting student loans from the federal gov't, chalk it up to the prospect of an educated person being a positive benefit to society I guess. In fact they are more than willing to give you more money than you need. I took all of the money from the student loans they offered me (I also received grants and 2 small scholarships after my freshman year), which translated to roughly $3000 a year in interest free (for a while) cash after the school bills. As I stated before I wasn't really thinking about the BT game, in fact had never heard of it; I was just desperate with nothing to lose. I took the extra money and payed the CC's. Of course I paid every cent -- well not quite ;) -- I could towards my debt from my wages and tips, but it was really just enough to keep me afloat. By my senior year (5 very long years later) I was working 2 jobs, one at the university for experience in my field and another at a different restaurant. I graduated with $50,000 in student loan debt, $15,000 of which was transferred CC debt locked in at 2.7% _for life_, and a BS in Computer Science with Minors in Math and Physics. I still have about $5000 in consumer debt which I am frantically snowballing, but these days I LBMM, have a 'real' job, and dammit, in the end I'm going to win.

Granted, I still have debt. At least I am aware of it now and working on it. However, I have a good job, a bright future, and I feel good about myself and my accomplishments. My parents may have not taught me much about economics, but I am proud to say that they also never introduced bankruptcy into my vocabulary, in fact it is anathema to me. I ran up the bills, and I gave my word that I would pay back those bills. And I will. Only now they are not owed to the CC companies, they are owed to me. I bought an education, the absolute best thing money can buy.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that I am not suggesting this as a strategy, but rather sharing my story. I know that it is hard. I know that it hurts. I know that it takes a LONNNGGG time. I also know that generally -- there are definitely exceptions -- the only person to blame can be found in the mirror.

I have shared with you 15 years of my debt, and I am still not out of it, but at least the majority is 'good' debt. I will neither claim nor pretend to have the answers. But I do know that in five years YOU will be x years old. Period. And you have four choices. So get creative, listen to your true friends (Fools), and count your blessings.
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