Friday, August 6, 2010

Aside from Bill Gates and a few others, who isn’t having money trouble right now?

Dear Secret Blogiary,

I know that this is a cry echoed around the country right now, but it is hard to hear the cries of others when my ears are ringing with my own cries.

I have a job. Mister W. has a job. We own a home that is worth 60k less than when we bought it. We had to take two mortgages and high interest to afford it. We shouldn’t have bought it but we were young, trusted our real estate agent and the mortgage company she recommended. At the time our toes were on the edge of a giant chasm and we held hands and leaped.

Big Mistake.

But isn’t that part of life? Making mistakes makes us stronger, wiser, more determined, right? Well, with the high interest we almost walked, but were assured that within three years we could refinance at a lower rate and all would be ok. Made sense. Mister W and I both thought and agreed that three years was doable. Throw in a HOA fee and our monthly payments topped out at $1850 per month. Twice that of what we paid in rent. But we said, we had some credit bumps and we knew we were going to take a hit.

Three years of tight living went by. It took my entire paycheck to cover the mortgages, the HOA and my student loans. Mister W’s check paid for everything else. We had no savings, no backup, nothing. We went without. But we did it.

Three years later we were ready to refinance and then the bottom of that chasm we leaped into flew up to meet us – the market collapsed, banks failed, Mister W’s commission based job went into a sharp decline. He didn’t lose he job, but the paycheck took a sizable hit. We contacted the mortgage company and asked for a refi. They laughed. Your house they said is worthless than what you owe and therefore you are ineligible for a refinance. I tried the bank. I tried third party mortgage companies.

We were like lepers. No one would touch us. Months went by and we kept paying, hoping that the market would recover. And when it became obvious that recovery was a long time coming, we talked to friends and neighbors about what we should do. On the advice of one such neighbor, we stopped paying the mortgage. They claimed that if for three months you didn’t pay the company would then work with you.

It sort-of worked. We were able to complete a temporary modification of our primary mortgage; this after a frustrating and humiliating battle with a “finance manager” who expressed disbelief at our “outrageous” grocery bill (she claimed that for a family of four we should spend no more than $400 per month on groceries. Right, because I don’t like to eat fresh food or make lunches for my kids for school). Our second mortgage would not help us and demanded that we get caught up immediately.

We ended up lowering our mortgage payment by about $150. Then the HOA fee went up from $312 to $450, an increase of $138. Great.

So what happens now? Well, for the past two years we have wanted desperately to get out of the house. Can’t sell it since it is still upside down. Can’t make improvements since we are still living paycheck to paycheck. Can’t rent it because we couldn’t get what we need to cover the expense. Can’t walk away because we don’t want the black mark of foreclosure on our record (besides, it goes against how I was raised to renege on debt).

That leaves us stuck. We fight because we are stressed out about money and the house. We are miserable because we have no money in which to do anything and we are fighting. And we are scared, because we don’t know what might happen next.

It makes a nice mix, right? Just like a good chef salad. Fights, stress, misery, scared…what is this dish missing? Oh, I know, let’s toss in with a nice vinaigrette of both cars need to be replaced. Oh, some crunchy slivers of Mister W’s dad is sick and needs us to be closer to him (he can’t move in with us as we literally don’t have the room and we cannot afford to make the place handicap accessible).

Oooo! This salad is tasty!!

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