Foreclosure, a personal story

We've all heard about the astronomical numbers of foreclosures currently clogging our courts. All over the US, people are in dire straights and losing their homes. Folks, count us in those numbers. Today, I'm going to tell you our story to put a face on what is happening everywhere.

When we moved to Florida, we had high hopes. We'd live close to my Mom, I'd continue to work for Disney (albeit at WDW instead of the stores) and we'd have nice jobs. We'd be able to pay all but the tiniest portion of our bills with one salary.

Plans changed a little. My regional director was reluctant to lose me to WDW and asked if I would consider staying with the stores. I expected the district manager to be like the three I'd had in the four years I'd been with the company, so I agreed. This changed where we'd look for a home, but not the plans to move.

We sold our townhouse in Maryland with a nice profit. We found a builder we liked in Lakeland, then found that they had a community under construction closer to Tampa, where I'd be working. After paying for moving, we put half of the remainder down on a new construction home with this builder, nearly 1/3 of the cost.

For the next nine months, we rented a house and Ed looked for a job. And looked. And looked some more. This was the big sticking point for us, however, we were able to manage on just my salary. I was NOT happy about this aspect, but I'm not a nagger.

Eventually, the fact that Disney sold the stores and I worked for a district manager who was not an inspiring leader (to put it succinctly, there's a lot more to that story) led me to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

It looked like I'd found the perfect opportunity. A job that combined management and cooking. The compensation package the owners came up with was compelling. The base salary was slightly less than what I was making, but there were many bonuses that had the potential to triple my salary.

At this time, Ed was working for the post office, like he'd done in Maryland. Unlike Maryland, though, his work week was at best, two days, whereas he was working six day weeks before. Basically, what he made covered the day care that was a needed. We paid for a full week because we never knew what days we'd need it.

The new job didn't provide health insurance. I'd thought that wouldn't be a big deal. I was wrong. Gameboy's medications had always been covered by my employer's health insurance plan. Now they were coming out of my pocket, to the tune of $1300 a month. Our mortgage was $1200 a month. I was grossing 3000 a month. Negative financing may exist for the federal government, but for everyday people, deficits are not permissible. Pay bills or medicate my child? I'm a horrible citizen-I'll medicate my child first.

After eight months in a job I loved, I realized that we couldn't exist in this manner. The compensation was based on the sales results of the original location of the business, and it took four years to get it to that level. It'd take me some time to grow the business to the level they required for me to be pull in the three bonuses that totaled about 50 grand. (a side note:I must have made a lot of inroads on that front, because the business runs at a reduced schedule now)

One phone call was all it took for me to return to retail and to health benefits. Okay, this hiccup can be fixed. We refinanced, but we went from a low interest rate to a higher one to roll all the bills into the mortgage.

The new employer did something I've never encountered in all my years of retail management. I was now a manager paid hourly-and I got about 35-40 hours a week. Ed was working for the meal prep kitchen because at least there, he could be out of work in time for the kids to arrive home from school. It was tight.

Then, because Ed took a day off here and there to tend to the family issues in Lakeland (and the fall off of the business after I left, apparently), the hours he was getting dropped off. First he went from five to four days, then two, then one. We were late on the mortgage.

Funny thing about mortgages. When you're late, you aren't allowed to pay a little to at least get something in. No, you have to pay ALL the money you owe. I contemplated cashing in the 20 or so shares I'd had of stock from a previous employer. Ed talked me out of it, saying we'd need it down the road. (now, it's worth 1/4 of what it was back then-I'd take a huge loss if I sold it.)

My health was poor, but I had to focus on trying to work with the pain and keep us insured and some money coming into the house. Ed had found a job as a toll collector. It was supposed to be 40 hours. It was overnights. However, the shift started at 9pm. I work retail, there are nights that he couldn't be there at 9pm. The interviewer told Ed 'No problem, we can work with that', the station managers said "we can't work with this." It was a very tumultuous few months, all for the lovely salary of 7.50 an hour.

All while employed in that job, Ed was looking for something more lucrative. He interviewed with Verizon. He got to the coveted fourth interview and then got the "thanks, but no thanks" letter. He found a temp job in the tech sector he'd left behind in 2001. He'd be replacing an employee who was reentering the military. That lasted three weeks, until the employee decided he didn't want to play in the sand box, after all.

We were still in arrears on the mortgage, because the lender wanted ALL or nothing. I didn't know where it was going to come from. The rumbling in the media was that George W was going to rescue those in danger of foreclosure. The announcement came: if you aren't currently in arrears, we'll protect you. If you're not in arrears, then you're not at risk of foreclosure. Help would not be coming for us.

So, for months, we've been waiting for the ax to fall. We knew it would because the lender wouldn't talk unless a lot of money (that we didn't have) came their way. Short of an unknown rich relative leaving us money or the Prize patrol showing up on our door, there was no money. There would be no happy ending.

The ax fell yesterday.

We have to be out by March 6th. Ed's full time job right now is to pack this place up. We started looking for rentals today. We're a practical lot, considering how much we have to go over to Lakeland, we're looking over there. Rents may be cheaper and there are a lot of older communities.

In fact, we found a house right around the corner from Ed's mom's house. This house is a little more than I'd said we could afford on my 40 hours alone (but I've been getting 25 hours). That is a problem, but probably short term. The homeowner is a realtor and we were upfront about why we're moving. He had answers and names of employers in Lakeland that Ed could try.

It makes a lot of sense to rent the place-it'd ease the stress that led to Ed's mom's stroke. If they're not up to marketing or cooking, or need stuff done, we'd be right there. I think it'd reduce my stress, because I wouldn't be wondering when I'd be called on at 2am to drive 30 miles. If Ed found a job that had hours that overlapped mine, the kids could possibly head over to Mema's.

I'm looking for a new job myself. Something recession proof. They exist in retail, as I've had them before. Something that will give me the 40 hours I am accustomed to getting.

Right now, I'm sad. All the reasons for moving to Florida: WDW, Mom and a house? I don't have a single one of them.

I'm sad, I'm depressed and I'm heartbroken. I'm a former homeowner.

(Suzanne blogs daily at www.suzannesez.blogspot.com)

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