Wanda's medical debt leaves her in financial distress

Client Profile: Wanda S.

What to do when illness drives you into early retirement – in debt.

Wanda S. overcome debt from early retirement

Fourteen years ago, Wanda turned 55. As the executive assistant to the mayor of a small town in Ohio, Wanda was making good money and had good benefits. So a financial planner told her it was time to save for retirement. That was a shock – because she was $50,000 in debt.

She didn’t spend all that money on herself but on friends and family. She was trying to pay down her debt on her own when she had a stroke and other medical issues. While her government medical benefits covered treatment in long recovery it meant that she could no longer keep paying down those debts. She knew she had to do something.

“I saw the commercial for Consolidated Credit on TV,” she remembers. “I hesitated for about a week because my niece had gone with a different company that didn’t work out. But after I got a couple more calls from the credit card companies I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I called Consolidated Credit.” 

Consolidated Credit put an end to the collector phone calls and …

Consolidated Credit put me on a payment plan that fit my budget,” she says. “My interest rates were reduced to as low as zero percent and 2 percent. Before calling Consolidated, the interest rates were so high that even if I paid a few dollars over the minimum, the balances were not going down.”

What got Wanda into debt?

“Not only was I trying to take care of myself, I was also helping my siblings financially,” she says. “When someone in my family asks me for something I’d usually say, ‘Well I don’t have the money for it but I guess I can put it on my credit card.’ At the time I was working so it was like no big deal. I love my family and I would do anything, anything to help them out. They would do the same to help me out.”

What else was she spending on? 

“Oh you know, just things – household thingssheets, curtains, small appliances and things like that,” she says. “Even some impulse shopping, you know we can do that sometimes too.  If we see a dress that we like but don’t really need it, we tell ourselves, ‘I want it. I have this credit card here so I’m going to buy it.’”

Although Wanda used the cards regularly, there’s one thing she refused to buy on credit…

“Food or anything that went into my mouth,” she says. “Why continue to pay interest on food that you’ve eaten 10 years ago? So I never charged food or candy, anything that was consumed. If I couldn’t show for it, I didn’t buy it. That much I told myself.”

At the time, Wanda could afford it. For 20 years she was the administrative executive assistant to the mayor of Highland Hills in Ohio and was also the clerk of court. Three years into the debt management program before Wanda was ready to retire she fell ill and was forced to leave the workforce. She struggled with her monthly payments but remained resilient. She will soon be debt free.

Wanda was blindsided, but bankruptcy was not an option. She kept her eyes on the prize…

“I was determined that I wasn’t going bankrupt,” she says. “I just said, ‘No matter what, I’m going to get these bills paid off. I was too close to being done to stop. I should be debt free in February no later than March. I didn’t think I would ever get that paid off.  When I look at one of my statements that was $14,000 and now is $860, ‘Oh my God I can’t believe I’m actually this close to getting to my goal. I am so relieved mentally, physically, emotionally I don’t have to worry about the credit cards. I can sleep at night.”

The debt management program required that she gave up the credit cards. Wanda wondered how she would survive without them…

How am I going to make it?” she questioned. “I’ve been using credit cards forever. Every time I wanted to go somewhere or get something I’d do it on my credit card. That was my little devil voice telling me this.  But then my little angel sister said, “Snap out of it, snap out of it! You say you want to get these bills paid off, don’t you?”

The debt management program taught Wanda some lessons…

“The main thing it taught me is that I can actually live without using those credit cards,” she says. “I didn’t think I could do it because I have been using credit cards since I was 21 and I’m 69. I get those mailers from just about every card company in the country but I tear them up. I have lived without it for almost 5 years. I have actually learned to live within my means. I pay cash for whatever it is that I buy.”

Wanda is awed. She’ll soon be debt free…

“That is so amazing!” she rejoices. “Sometimes when I think about it, ‘I’m like my goodness how did you manage to do that? I’ve had no help. I’ve been able to maintain my house and beat these illnesses. What can I say? God is good.”

Wanda made some observations…

“When you have good credit, every company under the sun sends you a card whether you ask for it or not. Or they’ll tell you, your credit is this and that so why not apply for this card,” she says. “I was reading one of the credit card statements and it says if you continue to pay this amount your debt will be paid off in 15 years. Who wants to be paying down debt for 15 years of their life?”

To those drowning in debt Wanda says…

“Think twice before acknowledging all these credit card offerings that come to you in the mail. Do your homework, find a reputable company and make the call. You know if you do nothing else get those bills consolidated; pay those bills off so you can sleep at night. Before I got my bills consolidated I didn’t sleep. Once I called Consolidated Credit and got started in the program, it gave me some form of relief. You won’t be relieved until you do something about.”

How will Wanda celebrate her freedom from debt? For starters…

“I’m going to go down on my knees and thank God for being debt free.” And if her sister who has multiple sclerosis is up to it she will take her to lunch. Retirement looms for her little sister. Once she retires they’ll hit the road.

Are your plans aligned with the universe? You never know! Plan to get out of debt now

Wanda had planned on retiring at 67 but a series of medical issues forced her to retire early. Whether you’re nearing retirement or in the prime of your life, it’s never too early to get out of debt. Consolidated Credit recommends that you plan for unforeseen circumstances, and offers a wealth of educational materials to help you for free. If you’re in debt, our certified credit counselors are standing by to help you get out. Dial . Or, to find out how much debt you’re in take the free Debt and Budget Analysis online.

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