I’ve been looking forward to writing this since approx. 2015-16 when I got stuck up to my neck in credit card debt and knew it was going to be a hell of a fight to climb out of it.
Alas here we are on August 10th 2022 and I’ve made it… so here it is.
Some serious amount of backstory:
I’ve always had a bit of a spending problem that started when I was 21 and got my first credit cards with a higher than 1k spending limit (I got a couple with a 10-20k limit and a few more with a 3-5k limit). I was able to do this because at age 16 I got a starter credit card my parents co-signed for so I could build credit.
Obviously, a great idea for the responsible type… not so much me after I got out on my own, mid-late way through university.
I was studying for a degree in the computer science field, so my rationale was “if I get 10k into debt or whatever – I’ll be making 100k (or close) hopefully right out of university so I’ll just pay it off with my starting bonus. And sure, I’ll pay a *little* bit of interest holding onto a balance, but it’ll be fine I’ll be making enough to pay for this lifestyle and more in no time”.
Well, what do you know I end up with about $14,000 of debt. mostly from electronics, nice dinners with my girlfriend, and maybe even a vacation or two. My ~1k a month paycheck as a barista at a coffee shop wasn’t going to cut it and I started to freak out as over 1/2 of my monthly minimum payment on these cards was just interest.
That wasn’t even counting another card with a $200 annual fee.
I truly don’t know what I was thinking about buying anything with literally almost ZERO income. It baffles me to this day… I guess I was just always used to ‘figuring it out as I went along’…
My dad was always deeply suspicious of me, rightly so for a kid with a massive credit line and newfound freedom. He would frequently ask “You’re not getting into debt right? How can you afford x,y,z?”. In the beginning, I would brag about the introductory offers I would get – “My credit card gave me $600 in points after I spent 3k in the first few months!”. I always had some BS answer as to how I wasn’t getting underwater.
I would do everything in my power to obfuscate the truth. I believed that eventually, I would be making the money to pay it down. Obviously, this was wildly foolish. What was I gonna do? Carry 20k of debt the 3 more years of college before I got a job? Lmfao.
Well, eventually Dad found out by going to the Bank branch to put $100 on the account for an expense he agreed to cover. He got the teller to reveal the balance on the card, which I’m pretty sure is illegal since he’s not the account holder.. but he’s a charmer and I’m sure the `father` card was played. The balance was around $9,000.
Next thing I know I’m sitting down with my parents reviewing all my debts. Like I said, about 14k in total at the time. They offered to bail me out to save me thousands on interest, and I would pay them back as I worked through school. It was very generous of them. They saved me and I truly did not deserve it. I eventually paid them back in full (more on that later).
** 2 years later **
I’m 23 and absolutely crushing life (by my standards). My app startup won a competition and received a 25k gift from the business school at my University. We raised an additional 70k in funding from various angel investors. I was certain this company I co-founded with my friend was going to be the next big thing… or at least something that was certain to pay me *some* amount of money in the *near* future.
As anyone knowledgable in the tech industry knows… ~100k doesn’t really buy you much at all… even when you’re not taking any salary and paying other university students to write code for you. Honestly, it was mostly our partner’s software that put a bullet in us. It was critical to running the business and delayed us over a year… our “runway” vanished. We shut almost everything down. My co-founder blew out and I pivoted the app into something that brought in a profit. It’s making a few hundred a month now almost 7 years later. Woot.
I DIGRESS – during this time – I thought the money was about to RAIN down on me big time. It was just a matter of months before our MVP app was working and we would raise more money to pay me a hefty salary – or someone would just buy my app and boom, I’d be retired. Very foolish.
So I started spending – because of my previous bailout, my credit was unimpacted and I was able to get several more massive credit lines (for my age and income). Bank A: 22k, Bank B: 18k, and several others and Amex that totalled another 20k.
Now we’re into 2016 – debt is up to the mid-20s – I graduated and get my first job. Since I’m a software engineer – it’s about 90k a year at a small startup.
At this point. I wish I could tell you I realized I had to dig my way out, cut expenses, and get things back on track. But – in my mind – this was the start of my money-making career. My income would only go up and all I had to do was make myself comfortable.
One year later
By some insane stroke of luck I get a job making 145k as a Senior Software Engineer (lmfao, not even 1 year out of uni, it’s not because I’m a genius, clearly. The place was a joke.) managing a team of 4 engineers… so here’s where things take a final turn for the worse.
I take the job. Obviously, But I also literally had to in order to cover my bills. I tell my mother I am in a *little* bit of debt buand all my shit to New York…. so… she agrees to loan me 15k.
The total bill is now around 60k…
At this point… I’m paying a crazy amount of interest… Yes, I have enough cash to get by but… I still have not learned my lesson… I just got bailed out again.. 15k was like heroin to my very depleted body. I could pay my minimums and go out with plenty of cash in the bank. Combine with my new job, I could continue onward finding ways to get out of this hole.
The final chapter of this comes just a month later….
I’m desperate for another new job… less than 2 months in… I tell this job I’m taking the day to work from home to move things, in reality, I finally get really sick… and just completely lose it. I break down and tell my parents everything. Quit the meds cold turkey and decide I’m gonna keep this job until I get fired (which didn’t happen!).
I work with a debt consolidation team to negotiate with the dozen credit card companies to lower their interest rates from upwards of 23% down to 3% (in some cases, others down to 10%). And I get on a 5-year payment plan to pay everything off. The amount I paid back to my parents, it’s around $70,000. Probably close to $10,000 interest at least. I paid everyone back fully including my parents.
I finished today.