Volume 1, Number 1                                                                                                                                                           June 1998




Cover Story:  Personality Type and Money
Guest Columnist:  Ray Linder

IV.  "The Money Swamp"
"If you are drowning in debt, here's a plan to get back on firm financial ground.

Raymond T. Linder, MBA
CEO, Family Financial Concepts, Inc.
Registered Investment Advisor
Certified MBTI Consultant

I'm no Bob Barker, and this isn't The Price Is Right.  But if you fit into even one of these four categories, find the nearest aisle and "come on down".  (Audience, hold your applause!):

1.  You can't pay your bills on time.

2.  You make only the minimum payments on your credit card each month, and that's difficult.

3.  You're always "at the store" when the creditors call.

4.  You continually apply for new credit cards [without getting rid of or paying off the old card(s)].

No, I'm not one of those pesky creditors who's been calling your office or haranguing you at 9 pm at home.  I'm a friend  - and a financial expert - who knows what it's like to be drowning in debt and I want to give you a hand out of the morass.  And for those of you smugly thinking, "I'm glad this isn't for me", stick around - I have something for you, too.


For most of you, the downward spiral began with three words:  "Just charge it."  Your paycheck didn't cover all your expenses -- new clothes for growing children, unexpected medical costs, car repairs.  It was easy to whip out the Visa and comfort yourself with the thought of 25 days of "cushion".

But when you added these consumer debts to prior bills, such as school loans, you were overwhelmed.  You realized that the $5,000 you borrowed at 18 percent interest will turn into more than $9,000 if you make only the minimum payments for eight years.

So here you are, sunk beneath a pile of bills.  If you're doubting whether your resources will ever be enough to relieve your financial burden, you've come to the right place -- a little planning, some discipline and a few lifestyle changes will make that possible.  And for all you doubters, repeat after me:  no situation is impossible.


What should you do if you're sinking in an ocean of debt -- or already at the bottom of the sea?  (See "Are You in Over Your Head?" in the box below to find out if you're a candidate.)  Bail yourself out with these tips:

*  Gear up for a difficult task.  I would be lying if I tell you that getting out of debt will be as easy as getting in was.  The Process can take months or years.  As you plan your debt repayment, remind yourself that you will need discipline to stick to your plan.  Remind yourself that paying back your debt is the most honorable way out.

*  Stop charging.  Right now, gather all your credit cards, a pair of scissors and let your children cut them up.  (This may be a good time to call the kids in for a quick "bad money-management" illustration.)  Tomorrow, call your card issuers and cancel your accounts.  Agree to take no more loans -- not even from your friends or parents.  Remember, this is serious stuff:  You can't keep charging if you ever hope to see light.

*  Face the facts.  List the amount of all your debts, your regular monthly expenses (e.g., groceries) and take your take-home pay.  Subtract your monthly expenses and your debt payment from your take-home pay.

If your expenses and debts exceed your take-home pay, go directly to the next point:  "Call your creditors."  If you're in the black, put the extra cash toward repayment of your loan with the highest interest rate.

*  Call your creditors.  Dodging creditors will only further mess up your credit report.  Besides, most creditors are willing to work out a payment plan with you if you call them as soon as you're in trouble.  They can't do that, however, if you never contact them.   (See "Pay the Minimum? You Must Be Kidding!" in the box below.) 

*  Cut back on your lifestyle.  Make your present income go farther by cutting back on any option -- stop buying your lunch instead of brown-bagging it, stop making high phone bills, etc.  Apply every cent you save toward debt repayment.

*  Get to work.  To bring in more money to pay your debts, consider getting a second job or asking your spouse to work.  Yes, this may create some physical and time stress for a while, but think of all the stress you're under dodging creditors.

*  Use ladder payments.  Paying off your high-interest cards first is the smartest financial move.  But if you find that $6,000 Visa bill overwhelming, begin small.  Add any surplus funds to the minimum payment on your smallest loan balance and continue doing this until the smallest balance is paid off.

Then take the amount that you were using to eliminate the first debt and add that to the minimum payment you were making on what is now the smallest outstanding balance.  Repeat this process until your debts are cleared.


Here's the formula for determining whether too much of your paycheck is going toward debt repayment: 

Step 1. Add up all your monthly debt payments -- credit cards, mortgages, school loans, car loans, for example, but not utilities, groceries or insurance. 

Step 2. Divide that number by your monthly gross income. 

Step 3. If the figure comes to: 

             Less than 33 percent -- you're in great shape. 
              34 to 37 percent -- you're fine, but you're compromising your ability to accumulate long-term savings. 
              38 to 50 percent -- you're starting down the slippery slope of financial hardship. 
              51 percent or higher -- you're in trouble. 

  Pay the Minimum? You Must Be Kidding!

Eight years ago, Mary Hunt found herself $100,000 in debt. Since then, she and her husband have repaid every
penny. Here's what the editor of Cheapskate Monthly says about facing your creditors when you're broke: 

"I know that some of you out there aren't even close to being able to pay the minimum on your credit card        statement. Your income barely buys groceries. But no case is hopeless -- you have to believe me on this. 

"Let's say you have $75,000 in total consumer debt (unsecured debt, such as credit-card loans) and you         haven't made payments for months. Now is the time to face the music. You must communicate with these         people. 

"If you can't speak coherently with them on the phone, write a letter. Even if your letter says you are going to
pay each creditor $5 a month, that is where you should start! You have my permission to use the following letter verbatim -- but plug in your own numbers!" 

                                      April 4, 2000 
                                      The XYZ Company
                                      1111 W. Royal Ct.
                                      Anytown, U.S.A. 99999 

                                      RE: Account 123-45-6789 

                                      Dear sirs:
                                      I am writing to you about my account referenced above. I
                                      regret that I have failed to abide by the original terms of
                                      our agreement. I want you to know that I am committed
                                      to full repayment in the amount of $________. 

                                      I have undertaken a financial recovery program and have
                                      received assistance in assessing my financial situation. I
                                      am doing all I can to avoid filing bankruptcy. 

                                      Your account is one of the many that I owe on; my total
                                      debt is $________, and my monthly payments total
                                      $________. You can understand that my present net
                                      monthly income of $________ less my living expenses
                                      does not leave me enough money to pay even the
                                      minimum monthly payments. 

                                      Enclosed please find my check for $________, which is
                                      the amount I will be able to pay each month on my
                                      account for the next six months. At that time, I will review
                                      my situation and may be able to increase my payments.
                                      Also, I respectfully request that the interest rate you are
                                      charging be reduced so that a greater portion of my
                                      payment will go toward principal reduction. 

                                      I look forward to learning that you have processed this
                                      payment. If, however, you are unwilling to work with me
                                      as outlined above, please return the enclosed payment
                                      so that I can send an additional payment to another of
                                      my creditors who has agreed. 

                                      Thank you in advance for your cooperation. 


                                      Mr. Debt 


Should the temptation to pull out your Discover card overtake you the next time you're on vacation, remind yourself of these tips:

*  Don't carry credit cards.  When an alcoholic overcomes his drinking habit, no one advises him to carry a flask of whiskey in his back pocket.  A credit junkie might as well be carrying live hand grenades if he's willing to put charge cards in his wallet.

*  Remember that sinking feeling.  When confronted with an opportunity to charge, recall how awful it felt to owe someone money.

*  Don't confuse wants with needs.  Needs are defined by food, clothing and shelter.  Wants, however, are those things that meet our needs at a high-quality level, such as FINE food, EXPENSIVE clothing and BIG houses.  Don't fall into the trap of wanting the "wants" and using credit to get them.

*  Don't throw out your spending plan.  Here are the rules:  Use no more than 70 percent of your take-home pay for daily expenses; give away 10 percent of your income if you are a tither; use no more than 10 percent of your income for debt reduction; and save 10 percent of your income.  Saving for emergencies before they happen -- and they will happen -- is crucial to avoiding debt.

****The National Foundation for Consumer Credit has Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) offices around the Unites States that give free help to those struggling to pay back debts.  Find a CCCS office near you by calling (800) 388-CCCS

Ray Linder's latest book, released in January, 1999 is entitled "FINANCIAL FREEDOM:  SEVEN SECRETS TO REDUCE FINANCIAL WORRY".

Ray's book may be purchased at his website:  www.Goodstewardship.com
CEO, Family Financial Concepts, Inc.