With the right solution, Matilde was able to pay off $80,000 in credit card debt in less than five years.
Hiding debt is a form of financial infidelity. You withhold information about debt from your spouse. And it’s not always done for bad reasons. In Matilde’s case, she wanted to protect her husband from the truth about how bad their finances got after he couldn’t work anymore. But even though she was hiding debt for all the right reasons, it still created an $80,000 problem that Matilde needed to solve.
Matilde started hiding debt after her husband got hurt…
In 2008, Matilde admits she and her husband were overspending on credit cards. They were buying “crap” they didn’t really need, but it was fine because they had two steady incomes. Unfortunately, they weren’t saving either.
Then towards the end of the year Matilde’s husband hurt his back and couldn’t work anymore. That’s when the real financial trouble started. With no savings to help cover the loss of income, Matilde started to run up credit card debt to cover their bills. She intentionally hid the credit card debt from her husband, because she was already worried about him.
“He was so depressed about what happened. Things were getting crazy, but I didn’t want to tell him about our money problems, because I figured it would just hurt him and affect him more. So, for three years, I paid the utilities and our bills with credit cards. Then I paid the credit cards with my paycheck.”
The balancing act didn’t work and Matilde fell behind…
Despite her best efforts, Matilde wasn’t able to get ahead of the debt. Her juggling act just created more financial stress for her. So, even though she saved her husband from the burden, her own stress levels were sky-high.
“We were so financially strapped. You think, “What if something happens or my kids need something and I can’t pay for it?” That was pretty intense and it stressed the heck out of me. I was on edge there for a little while.”
Matilde works as a manager in the psychology department of the University of Miami. So, she knew the toll this kind of stress can take on you physically, mentally and emotionally. She also knew there was a name for what she was doing. It was called denial.
Matilde realized she needed help…
Matilde finally knew it was time to stop avoiding the mess she’d created. She sat down and totaled up the debt on her six credit cards. She had over $80,000 to repay.
“I was at the end of my rope, thinking “I can’t keep doing this. I can no longer meet my financial obligations and I need help. So, I called the Employee Assistance Program at the University of Miami. They recommended Consolidated Credit.”
Matilde called Consolidated Credit to speak confidentially with a certified credit counselor. She was skeptical that they could help, considering how much debt she had to pay off. However, debt management programs can work, regardless of how much debt you have.
Although only 4% of Consolidated Credit clients have more than $50,000 in debt, Matilde’s debt wasn’t the highest. In fact, in some cases, Consolidated Credit has helped clients who have over $100,000 to repay.
Gerald from Valrico, FL
“Consolidated Credit has been amazing. They made getting out of debt not so painful! Thank you. ”
Where he started:
- Total unsecured debt: $108,688.00
- Estimated interest charges: $64,104.03
- Time to payoff: 18 years
- Total monthly payments: $4,347.52
After DMP enrollment:
- Average negotiated interest rate: 5.25%
- Total interest charges: $11,267.00
- Time to payoff: 4 years, 8 months
- Total monthly payment: $2,165.00
13 years, 4 months
Matilde enrolled in a debt management program…
“You guys were awesome! Consolidated Credit reduced the interest rates on my debt so I could pay it off fast.”
With a solution in place, Matilde’s stress went away and she was able to focus on herself and her family.
“I felt ecstatic. That sense of relief is the best feeling. It was no longer grim for me and my family. I even started exercising. I now have a future to look forward to that I’m excited about, so I want to be healthy for it.”
Of course, since the credit cards were all in her name, Matilde could enroll in the program herself. Spouses are only required to enroll together if they hold debts jointly. If both of your names are on the accounts you want to include, then you must enroll together.
Ask the Expert: Spouses in Credit Counseling
President Gary Herman explains when a husband and wife would be required to enroll in a debt management program together and when they can enroll individually if one person wants to enroll without the other.
Okay you’re asking a very good question about
do a husband and wife need to be on a credit counseling account together,
and the answer is really depends on your situations.
There are reasons why you would want both people in the program and reasons
why you may not want but people on the program, and would really involve me
getting to know more about what your individual situation is
outside of the debt management program.
The only people who are obligated to
participate in a debt management program are the people who are the actual
signers on the accounts. These are the people who have signed the loan application, promising the credit card companies that they’re
responsible for making the payments.
This is different from an authorized user. You have a credit card
and you could ask the credit card company to give you another card in your
husband’s name, and then he’s just an authorized user. He never signed piece of paper saying,
“If neither of us pay, I’m still responsible for paying.”
If that card is with a bank that your also including another card from that bank on the program that’s just in your name, you would have an issue that would affect that card. The simple answer is if you want to just put your cards on the program you can,
we can do the budgeting work just on you, we could do it on you and your household, or we can do both. But in the end if your name’s on the card you’re the only one who has to join the program.
She finally told her husband what was going on…
“My husband was hysterical. He wasn’t happy that I’d hid the situation from him, but he was so happy that I’d found a solution. Soon after that, he gave me a diamond ring for our anniversary. He made me close my eyes, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him again. He said, “Honey, I am so proud of you. You did it and now we’re better than ever.”
Matilde is grateful for the assistance she received…
“I called the Employee Assistance Program at UM and thanked them. I wanted them to know how much they helped me by referring me to Consolidated Credit. I’m in a much better place and will continue to refer people, too.
When Matilde received her final letter from Consolidated Credit, congratulating her for their hard work, Matilde’s husband framed it.
She also offers some valuable advice for anyone in the same situation.
“Once you take those first few steps into that unknown, the sense of dread that you think will never end, ends. Even though it’s a long road, every month is one step closer. And before you know it, you’re there. I remember thinking that this is never going to end. But then I saw the statements and my balances going down. It was really happening and it can happen for you!”
If you’re hiding debt and need help to make a plan to pay it off, call Consolidated Credit to speak with a certified credit counselor
Matilde’s family is looking towards the future now…
Once she graduated from the program, Matilde was completely debt free.
“My daughter needs braces and I’m going to help her pay for them. But I told her, “Let me be debt free for a month first!”
And, at 51, Matilde is finally in a position to think about her golden years.
“I’ve been so focused on getting out of trouble that I wasn’t even thinking about retirement. Now that I’m debt free, I’m focusing on delaying my pleasure so I can enjoy things later on. I’m still learning how to use money wisely to set myself up, so when I retire I don’t have to depend on my children. Now that I’m in a place where I can actually pay myself instead of the create cards, I’m starting to focus on opening a Roth IRA account. I’m looking forward to the future”