A Personal Look at Debt Help
A Personal Look at Debt Help
I'm so proud of my best friend Maryann for being a cancer survivor. I met Maryann when we were both working in Accounts Receivable for a pre-packaged gift box and basket company that was headquartered in our hometown of Chicago. We started going to lunch together and teaming up to hit our favorite night spot on Thursdays and Fridays. A lot of our friends back then wouldn't think anything of putting a $50 bar tab on their credit cards, but Maryann was always thrifty, having just one or two drinks and paying in cash.
It was a terrible shock to all of us when Maryann found out she had breast cancer. She was only 29! Our company offered health insurance, but Maryann hadn't chosen to sign up for it, and her bills mounted quickly. We all did everything we could for her, taking care of her apartment and her cats while she was in the hospital. It was a great relief after surgery and chemotherapy to find out that Maryann was cancer-free, though in a lot of ways, Maryann's battle was far from over.
It seemed so unfair that Maryann, the thriftiest one of us, was now saddled with the most debt. She'd carried very reasonable balances on her credit cards and was making payments on her new furniture before she'd gotten sick, but now everything was past due, and combined with her other debt, especially the hospital bills, it added up to being unmanageable - over $30,000 in medical bills and credit cards.
Maryann knew she needed help with her debt. She looked into a few options, one being a debt consolidation service, but Maryann had heard those services didn't always get payments made on time, and it seemed like taking a step in the wrong direction. Since she didn't own a home, she knew a debt consolidation loan wouldn't be available to her. She really wanted to avoid having to file bankruptcy, but couldn't find a way to meet her monthly payments.
What Maryann finally decided on was a financial counseling firm that provided negotiated debt settlements on her debts. They helped Maryann analyze her income and her bills. They also spoke to her creditors, sending cease and desist forms to stop the collection calls from harassing her - she had enough on her mind as it is. In the end, they were able to put her on a monthly payment that met her limited budget and then were able to explain her unique situation and negotiate reduced pay-off balances with each of her creditors.
For almost two years, Maryann had no extra money. Everything went toward her bills on the plan the financial counseling firm had come up with. I tried to take her out and treat her as much as I could. I admired her so much for all she was going through. Just as Maryann was recovering from cancer, she was also recovering from debt.
Maryann was able to pay off her credit cards and medical bills long before what I would have expected. It was a major accomplishment and a big step in the right direction, and we went out to celebrate. To Maryann, it meant she was that much closer to building wealth and buying the home she'd always dreamed of. At that moment, I was so proud to be her friend. She wasn't just a cancer survivor. After all she'd been through, I thought it was probably fair to call her a debt survivor as well.