June 23, 2009

I'd Like You To Meet A Stupid Person

Mary Uhazi is a stupid person.

Mary Uhazi has more than $60,000 in credit card debt and, by her own account, “nothing to show for it.”

Not true. She has $60,000 in credit card debt to show for her $60,000 in credit card debt. That's SOMETHING.

“You have some clothes, you have some dinner, you have a handbag, you have whatever, but it’s not $11,000 worth or it’s not $60,000 worth,” Uhazi said.

I have no idea what she was trying to say there.

Uhazi is drowning in a sea of debt. And, like millions of other Americans, it is a debt load that she built up slowly over more than two decades of easy credit that made it all too simple to spend.

It's articles like this that piss me off. In effect, they paint 20 years of bad spending habits as being the fault of easy credit. For the past 15 years, I've had access to easy credit, too. LOT'S of easy credit. But, like a fool, I had the common sense to spend within my means and save money with the understanding that tomorrow I may make less money or lose my job. Oh, sure, I could have a wallet full of maxed out credit cards, but I've always had this thing about debt; namely, I consider debt to be something I should generally try to avoid, rather than bathing in it like a shit-brained moron. But, hey, that's just me. This article is about the millions of Americans who were just suckered in by easy credit.

Now she worries she won’t be able to pay it off because of the recession, which has led to a reduction in her salary and an increase in her credit card bills.

In other news, life isn't fair, so you might want to plan accordingly.

“It may come to a point where I do end up filing for bankruptcy,” she said.

Yeah, $60,000 in unpayable debt can do that to you.

That’s a situation Uhazi, 43, never imagined she would be in when she signed up for her one of her first credit cards — a Chevron gas card — around 1988.

Oh, it's all so innocent. It's just a gas card.

At the time, she figured the card would be a convenience, so she wouldn’t have to stop at the bank to get cash before buying gas. In the beginning she paid it off every month.

In the beginning, Uhazi was sensible. Then Uhazi started down the path of stupid.

But it didn’t take long before Uhazi’s wallet started to fill up with other cards, including a bank card and some department store cards. Once she had the credit cards, she said, it was easy to go from paying them off at the end of the month to maintaining a balance and figuring she would get to it eventually.

Ah, yes. "Getting to it eventually." Like starting a diet next week, or committing to an exercise regimen. You'll "get to it eventually." It's just skyrocketing debt, after all. What's the big deal?

“It was just a gradual thing,” said Uhazi, who lives in Sacramento, Calif., and works for the state.

Oh, well, if it's GRADUAL skyrocketing debt, that's not like ACTUAL debt. Oh, wait, yes it fucking is. This article so far is ridiculous in its excuse of bad financial behavior. Oh, but it gets better.

As the years went by, there seemed to be more and more reasons to use the card.

Reasons such as?

If it was Christmas, there were presents to buy.

So buy presents within your means!

If it was her birthday, she figured she could splurge on a short trip to to San Francisco for a baseball game.

Oh, the occasional "splurge" with money you don't have. OF COURSE. TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE. Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

If she went out to dinner with friends, she reasoned that she should treat everyone because she made the higher salary, so she whipped out her card again.

That's some great "reasoning" there, dumbass.

“It was just easy to put something on the card,” she said.

Here's a free life lesson: if something is "easy," that doesn't mean you should automatically do it. In fact, when confronted with something that's easy, it's often a wise practice to consider whether something that's easy is also a good idea.

Her debt built up slowly, and without any truly major purchases.

Yeah, that's generally how debt works. Who IS THIS WRITER?

There were a few vacations here and there, and new clothes she had to buy after taking a job that required nicer attire. Everything from movie tickets to gift cards for friends to an $800 car repair went on the card. She went to Home Depot one day to buy flowers and potting soil, and ended up with a store-branded card that still carries a small balance.

Oh, a few vacations you couldn't afford? Just think: you could have bought those new job clothes using money you maybe could have saved by not going on a few of those "here and there" vacations. This article is amazing how it is apparently trying to make me feel sorry for Uhazi, when it's having the opposite effect of making me hate the woman.

If someone asked her if she wanted to open a store credit card, she said she’d sometimes do it in part because, as a former retail worker, she knew the salesperson would get a commission. Sometimes, it was because of the free gift or one-time discount.

That's it. This woman fell from the stupid tree and hit every moron branch on the way down. Thankfully, her fall was cushioned slightly when she landed on the pile of misplaced sympathy who ended up writing this article.

As the years went by and she kept on charging, the limits on her cards kept going up, and the offers for new cards kept coming in.

Because the credit card companies were eeeeevillllllll. And Uhazi is stooooopid. A lethal combination, really.

“The more money I earned, it seemed like the more money I spent, and the higher my credit was extended,” she said.

Gosh, it's almost as if she knew exactly what was going on.

Soon, (wait, I thought this all happened "gradually" - ed) her wallet was stuffed with 13 credit cards, from stores such as Costco, Target, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Sam’s Club plus financial institutions.

Uhazi is one of those suckers you hear about who are born every minute. The article author apparently can't figure that out.

Still, Uhazi said she didn’t often worry about her credit card debt, reasoning that she paid at least the minimum balance on all her cards.

THE MINIMUM BALANCE!! Well, that's not a recipe for skyrocketing debt, or anything. I'd LOVE to know the interest rates on those cards that were so EASY to obtain.

She said she only made a single late payment, and that was an oversight.

She's just a financial fucking guru, this one.

“I was able to make the payments, and as long as I was able to make the payments I was OK,” she said.

As long as you were OK, sweetheart. I don't suppose she put much thought into a time when things weren't going to be OK any more.

Uhazi rarely talked about her credit card debt with her friends or family until recently.

Until recently. You know, when 20 years of climbing debt finally blew up in her face. TOTALLY UNEXPECTED.

Her own mother, who has since passed away, went through a bankruptcy when Uhazi was in high school. But, Uhazi said, “I didn’t learn from her."

No, sweetheart, you most certainly did. You apparently took meticulous notes and followed your Mom's path to the letter.

There were times, though, when she buckled down and paid off more than was required. In 2003 she received a $20,000 inheritance and used $15,000 of it to pay off credit card debt.

That's not "buckling" down; that's called "catching a break." And she only "buckled" 3/4 of the way. Lord only knows what she decided to do with the remaining $5,000, but I'm sure it was simply FABULOUS.

But soon (I thought it was gradual - ed) the balances started to creep up again.

It's like some sort of magical creeping phenomenon. Scientists should look into this.

Then this year Uhazi learned she was going to have to start taking unpaid furlough days, resulting in a nearly 10 percent drop in her salary, because of California’s budget crunch.

Same thing happened to me back in 2002. I responded by reducing my spending, and dipping into my SAVINGS when I absolutely had to. Uhazi should look into this concept of SAVING. It can be a great fallback when life rains lemons down upon you.

Around the same time, she started noticing that her minimum card payments were increasing as lenders raised her interest rates and reduced her credit limits.

That'll happen when they start to wonder if you're quite the ideal credit risk they originally thought.

One morning this spring, she sat down and tallied her debt.

Oh, finally got around to it, eh? Sat down and calculated all those years of "gradual" stupidity?

The total: $62,597

That's a pretty good price for the quality of stupid she's dealing out.

“It’s awful, just looking at it,” she said.

Sweetheart, "looking at it" is the least of your concerns.

If the debt was startling, so was the amount she was paying to service it. That month, Uhazi realized, she would have to pay $1,932 just in minimum credit card payments, about two-thirds of her reduced take-home pay of $3,018. After rent and other fixed expenses, she figured she’d have just $127 left for gas, food and other incidentals.

Oh, don't worry. She can always CHARGE it. What's the worst that could happen? As long as she's making her MINIMUM BALANCE payments, right?

Perhaps the worst part was trying to figure out how her debt had reached that point.

That was the worst part? As we've seen, it's hardly a secret. Now, prepare yourself for the "Uhazi Award" for dumbest quotes.

“It was like, what do I have to show for this, really?” she said. “If I have anything, it’s just material stuff, or it’s a waistline from, you know, going out to lunch or something.”

Great googily moogily.

Uhazi has stopped using most of her cards, except for the gas card and one that she uses for reimbursable work-related expenses, and that doesn’t carry a balance.

So she's stopped using credit cards, except for the ones she continues to use? Gotcha.

She also has cut back her spending habits, including eating out less and not buying anything but necessities.

Such crazy concepts. Who would have thought you could do such things?

On a recent holiday weekend, her plans including using some free baseball tickets and “splurging” on the $1 specials on hot dogs and ice cream at the local River Cats minor league ballpark. She said she doesn't miss shopping.

There's that word again: "splurging." When you're $60,000 in debt, the word "splurge" really shouldn't be in your current vocabulary.

“I’m not tempted,” she said. “I know what I’m trying to do.”

The impossible?

She also began calling her credit card companies, to see if there was a way to reduce the highest interest rates or make her payments more manageable. The results were mixed.

It just now occurred to her do that? And now we get to the really good stuff.

One major retailer agreed to drop her interest rate from 20.24 percent to 9.99 percent for up to a year, but she had to agree not to use the card anymore. Another agreed to drop her interest rate from 22.9 percent to 18.9 percent. But a third retailer said it could not go below her current rate of 23.99 percent.

AHHHHHHH! You're making a minimum payment with interest rates like that? Great gobs of gopher guts! But, wait, there's MORE.

The bank that issued a credit card with Uhazi’s highest balance, about $13,000, said it could drop the interest rate on about $10,000 in credit card debt from 27.99 percent to 24.99 percent. But if it did that, the rate she pays on her cash advance balance of about $3,500 would go up, from 28.99 percent to 30.99 percent.

These numbers. They astound. If I saw those kinds of interest rates attached to a credit card offer, I'd laugh myself into an early grave.

Meanwhile, she continues to get more credit card offers in the mail.

Well, YEAH, they've heard about this woman who will agree to practically any interest rate and terms. She's like a perfect storm of stupid.

Despite her efforts, Uhazi’s financial situation remains precarious.

You don't say?

The furlough days and reduced salary are expected to last until June 2010, and she worries that her salary could be cut another 5 percent or more as the state grapples with severe budget woes.

Again, it sure would be nice to have some SAVINGS in such times.

She’s thought about trying to get a second job in the evenings, but such jobs are hard to get these days, and she worries about taking a position away from someone else who has no other means of income.

She's THOUGHT ABOUT TRYING. "Well, I'd really like to want to help you, Flanders."

And she's worried about taking a position away from someone else? This woman doesn't quite grasp the concept of working for a living.

Recently, she held a garage sale, raising $183.65 — almost enough to make up for the drop in pay she had that month because of the furlough.

Not quite the windfall you should necessarily rely on, but I guess I can give her about a "C" for effort.

Uhazi has depleted most of her savings tryingto make up for the drop in salary.

I suppose it's not hard to deplete all those funds you scrounged out of the couch cushions.

Even as she works to pay down her debt, she worries that she’ll have to start using the cards again just to pay for necessities, like food. Financial goals she once dreamed of, like buying her own home, have been put off indefinitely.

*blink, blink* She was considering a home loan? That would be amusing if it weren't so horrifying. Home loans to high risks like her are a big reason we're in the mess we are right now.

At times, she frets that her only option will be to file for bankruptcy, especially if her salary is cut further.

It's nice that she's afraid of bankruptcy but, really, it really might do her some good, and it will probably mean a lot of those credit card offers will stop showing up.

For now, though, Uhazi said she is hoping to avoid a bankruptcy filing. The panic she felt when she first realized how deeply in debt she was has subsided, she said, as she’s talked with more people and learned how many others have grappled with similar problems.

She said it’s also been good to finally tally up the debt and talk to the credit card companies about her situation.

“It’s so stressful, but I feel a lot better about it,” she said. “I’m trying to fix it.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, wraps up one of the dumbest articles I've ever read in my life.

Posted by Ryan at June 23, 2009 03:32 PM | TrackBack
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