Surviving Hard Times Part II: Dealing With Wage Garnishments
The Price of Procrastination
You know the saying: Hindsight is 20/20. You usually have more appreciation for someone or something once it's taken away from you. In my case it was money, more specifically my paycheck. My nightmare started in 2005 when I acquired a new credit card. Actually, I had three credit cards. The crazy thing was that I had just gotten out of debt less than two years ago from a couple of other credit cards that I got in college back in 1999. Damn those freshman brats with their applications! Those marketing practices have supposedly been severely restricted since 2009. Anyway, I was in the clear! I didn't need a credit card, despite what you hear about needing a credit card for credit building. There wasn't anything I really needed a credit card for that I couldn't pay for in cash. But, here I was swiping away...again! I should've shredded those offers I received in the mail, but I convinced myself I was "smarter" for my past mistakes and I could handle it. Between my online shopping habits for music (iTunes and Amazon), and buying and splurging on friends and family, as well as my personal impulse buying (hair product junkie), I maxed out all my cards in a year. Believe me, making the minimum payment doesn't do jack if your spending like the world is about to end. The only thing I remember buying is a digital camera. The sad thing is that I ended up giving it away to my partner several months later because I didn't like the resolution. I'M SERIOUS! To top it all off, I wasn't even working a full-time job. I was part-time at a supermarket! So, you know my outgoing expenses easily superseded my income. Some young adults in their mid-twenties are smart and self-disciplined. Most just think they know everything. It's easy to think that way when you live at home with Mama and have no real financial responsibilities!!
FAST FORWARD SIX YEARS....
It's 2011. By this time, all those sweet settlement offers had stopped and the phone calls had dwindled down to maybe one a week. I tried to take advantage of some of them, but couldn't keep up. It got to the point that I didn't even know which debt belonged to which creditor! Then, came the information subpoenas. At that point, I was out of my mother's house and living in a hotel so I had multiple addresses and no access to any of them. I believe at one point a particular creditor filed in two counties, they were so determined. In August my jig was up. One morning at work the HR director send me an email to come see her when I had the chance. OK. Whatever. But, when she handed me an envelope with not one, but TWO court papers for wage executions, I wanted to drop dead right there. I'd had heard about garnishments, but never understood them. My father had IRS garnishments taken for over ten years! I actually thought it was a tax thing. She gave me a choice of which one to start and asked if I wanted 10% of my gross or 25% of my net. I wanted it over ASAP so I chose the latter. The first one finished in two months no problem. The second garnishment continued on for two extra payments! I had been "bled" over $400! A week after receiving the two courts papers, a third one came through and that one also bled me for over $300. Eventually, I got the extra money back, but that totally jacked me up. I should've been finished all my garnishments by end of December and it was extended into March of this year. But, I take responsibility because in the end it was my own inability to handle my finances that led to my personal disaster.
CASH IS KING!!!
Wage garnishment is a very serious and disruptive action that can put those already in financial ruins in an even worse position. You don't have a choice anymore whether or not you pay off that car note, credit card or defaulted loan. The decision is made for you and the courts don't care if you have medical expenses, child care expenses, or other important expenses. THEY WILL TAKE YOUR MONEY!!! If that means you go without some of your medications or have to scale down to one meal a day or bum a ride to work, then so be it. They don't care. Your opportunity for negotiation was when those settlement offers were coming and the agencies were harassing you. Once they stop, it's all downhill from there. My best advise to you is to not incur debt in the first place. If have a credit card, pay it down, maintain below 30% of the limit and don't max the damn thing out! The one good thing that came out of this was that I had learned to work with a very limited amount of money and managed to still pay my bills. So, I learned to really differentiate between needs and wants. Yes, the line is very thin and quite blurred at times, but it's there and time and experience help us to see it better. I am glad to say that all my garnishments are finished and I'm cleaning up my credit. I'm on the road to recovery, slowly but surely. I'm avoiding credit cards like the plague. I have been instructed by some who were in similar situations to get a secured credit card. Maybe sometime in the future, but that's not happening anytime soon. I leave you with this quote about hindsight:
"May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far."
More online quotes at thinkexist.com.