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Debt Stories | Occupied Stories - Part 2

Archive | Debt Stories

Debt for an M.S.

I’m 62 and borrowed $12,700 at age 40 to go to a state school and get a B.S. I worked while in school, got job at UMass after graduation, started paying off loans. While working got an M.S. and took in school deferments, got a better job at UMass, made payments, figured I paid between $5-7K on the loan when job funding began to tank. Sporadic work since then; no work or low pay since. Got financial hardship forbearance from Sallie Mae and all the while interest was being capitalized even though I blacked out that part of forbearance form. So now I owe about $28,000–from interest on top of 9% interest on top of interest ad infinitum; maybe $7,000 goes to $28,000 which I will never be able to pay back. Sallie Mae will not send a breakdown of my account or deviate from scripted demand for payment. For 2 years I’ve earned $8 per hour, 20 hours a week, now up to $9.50 an hour. It is pointless to even make small payments because I’ll still be in default and I can’t afford it anyway. NO way out. Boy, do I regret going back to school. I just started collecting Social Security–will Sallie Mae go after that or try to garnish my $237.50 a week pay?

I believe lenders love it when people begin to fall behind or can’t pay because they can just continue to pile on interest knowing the borrower can’t pay it, and they will basically have the borrower in debt for years and years. What a system! No, it’s not financial aid; it’s a dangerous loan/gamble that can be very very costly and destructive.

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From a Mother

My story is about my daughter. She is a young adult who graduated with a Master’s Degree in Education. She was unable to find a teaching job and has been working at temporary positions for several years. She did receive loans and grants for her education but also worked throughout her college career. Because of her student loans, her credit has been destroyed. She has lost hope and is beginning to feel that she is “less than” other people her own age. All she ever wanted was to be a teacher and have a positive effect on the lives of young people. I would do anything to help her, but I am a widow on a fixed income. She is such a bright, compassionate person with so much to offer, but because of her debt, she feels she doesn’t have a future. Debt influences every aspect of her life in such a negative way. What a sad commentary on our socio-economic system. Her story is so depressing and I know there are many others who face the same circumstances. What can be done to help these young people?

-Susan Taylor-

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Massive Debt and No Job to Justify It

I received a B.A. in English and communication in 1999.  I couldn’t find any work except for sporadic temping, and by 2001, I was no longer able to find any of that, no matter how many staffing agencies with which I enrolled.  I had to file for bankruptcy in 2001, which left me only the student loan debt.

In 2003, I moved from Indianapolis to New York to begin a master’s program in cinema and media, graduating in 2005.  A week after I graduated, I had to call an ambulance, because I couldn’t get out of bed other than to roll out and crawl to where my phone was charging.  I was diagnosed with scoliosis, multiple herniated discs, and sciatica in both legs.  I had been suffering form chronic foot pain (finally diagnosed as plantar fasciitis in 2011), already affecting the sort of work I could do, since the mid-1990s. In 2009, I was 29 years old, and my regular doctor said that the only way I could have gotten through high school without the scoliosis diagnosis was through the incompetence of others.

At that point, I had to go on welfare, which is a slave labor scam, in which they force you to work or attend programs for 40 hours per week, paying you $36.50 for each of those weeks, paid in biweekly installments of $73.

By January 2007, I was working again.  My total student debt burden was $58,000 after consolidation, but my job paid $8.50 an hour, and lasted only 13 months.  During that time, my father passed away, and left me $37,000, but given the nature of my training and my lack of a vehicle, I chose to remain in New York City.  I eventually found a $30/hour teaching job in 2009, but it was 2.5 hours per week.  I was not retained after completing the terms of the contract because they were dissatisfied with the results after throwing me into a classroom with a textbook and a confusing syllabus that I kept questioning them about for weeks and weeks, then when the class was nearly over, they told me what I should have been doing, which they had never previously bothered to tell me no matter how much I asked, insisting that my education meant that I knew the material, even though I never knew what the material they wanted taught was, and teaching from the textbook chapter by chapter was g
oing faster than they intended, and I was too inexperienced to determine wht my students’ difficulties were.

From there, I was out of work until I work from home job that I landed in September of 2010, but was let go after three months because I had a slow computer, and with an $8 an hour salary, could not possibly afford to replace.  From there, I got tutoring work for $15 an hour, but never got more than 12 hours per week (and usually less, due to frequent cancellations), no matter how much I asked for more work.

By this point, my savings were gone, and I was about to get evicted.  A friend hired me at $12 an hour, 30 hours per week, or $18,400 per year, but when she realized that I needed marketing training to do what she wanted from me, she let me go.  The job allowed me to get a one-shot deal to keep me in my apartment, but now again without a job, I was headed straight back to housing court.

Almost immediately, I was hired by a graduate school colleague, who had me working from home, but refused to pay me unless he got usable results.  He then claimed that he had work for me in Jacksonville, Florida.  He told me he would give me $18,000 for the first three months, after which he would give me a raise, a relocation bonus, and health insurance, so I moved all belongings into storage and went, completely unable to stand without a cane by the time I finished loading it.  The job was nowhere close to what he described, and after 3.5 months, he fired me for taking four hours to return a phone call on a Saturday, stiffing me for the entire previous week.  I then contracted strep throat and had to go to the emergency room.

Soon after, I was on my way back to New York, but none of my friends could accommodate me for very long, and I was forced into the shelter system, even though I was granted $126 per week in unemployment benefits, since it’s not enough to live on, and I had penalty weeks, as well.

I learned recently that I have nearly $300 in tax debts due to a miscalculation in 2009, proving Mitt Romney’s 47% claim false, since I have never earned a total yearly income above the poverty line and owe income taxes.  I also owe nearly $300 because Shands Hospital rejected my New York state Medicaid; therefore, they are still trying to pursue me.  My student loan debt is expected to be $87,000 by the time I pay it off, but it seems like it will never happen when I have to keep getting it deferred.  I also owe another $3,000 for my old apartment, since I had a lease, and Verizon and ConEdison are continuing to hound me, even though I contest the latter, charging me for time after I had moved away.  The debts really aren’t high enough to justify another bankruptcy, but thy are also impossible to pay until or unless I am able to get a job commensurate with my education.  I have applied for approximately 740 jobs between May 5, when I was let got from the job in Jacksonville,
and yesterday, September 24.  To date, I have interviewed with six companies, two staffing agencies, and a “business opportunity” to which the tutoring service supposedly recommended me, even though I had no money to pay the startup fees and have never last more than a few weeks in a sales job.  The vast majority of the time, I get no response, or a form letter that they have gone with someone who has more experience.  Even earning certifications in Adobe products has done nothing but get my foot in the door long enough for an interview with a company that finds my experience lacking.  I am being faulted for taking the only work made available to me.

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Vets and Collection Agencies

I gave this idea to Senator Sherrod Browns staff and I was told the idea has merit, and since then follow-up inquiries are met with silence.

I proposed that it’s immoral and unethical to refer a medical bill to a collection agency incurred by any veteran when that debt is being submitted to, in process of or in appeal with V.A. Fee Basis. I have such debt. Fee Basis, like most of the V.A., is an overloaded agency. Bills submitted there can take 6 months to a year or more, same with the appeal process. In the meantime the collection agency is harassing the vet weekly and reporting this to the Big Three credit bureaus.

It’s immoral and unethical to destroy the credit of a veteran incapable of defending themselves due to limited income: social security disability and V.A. compensation.

And another story:

Vets on V.A. Pension have it even worse. V.A. Pension is means-tested. I.E. the vet’s wife, husband or family cannot have any form of income or their pension is reduced by the equivalent amount. That enforces poverty and encourages cheating. I’ve seen vets commit suicide, get divorced, not be able to married, and be threatened by V.A. Pension and Compensation Department in Minneapolis.

I spoke out about this about 5 years ago. I was interviewed by a reporter. My photo was published in the Toledo Blade. I contacted congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. At first she showed great interest but the story didn’t serve to further her political career, so she refused to speak any further to me. I tried and tried to contact Mr. Kucinich and failed.

Thanks for listening.


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David and Goliath

My story has many subtitles: “State seizes 100% of liquid assets over a paperwork snafoo,” “Ex-husband’s debt causes state to seize $25,000 from mother of disabled son.” “Medical bills from child’s fall at school ruin single mother’s credit.”

Another subtitle: “Student falls from climbing wall at school during gym class, school refuses to pay for surgeries.”

That’s pretty much the gist of my situation. I was trying to move to a new location from Minneapolis, MN area to northern Wisconsin. The county I was moving to had told me that I could build on some property I was buying. Then once I bought it and started clearing land, told me that “no, it’s wetlands” – with no water on it and wouldn’t let me build.

This started my own personal Katrina. I had to move 5 times in 1 1/2 years – much of the time spent living in a camper.

I found a rental house to live in, which we lost to higher-paying renters. At this point, I still had my credit cards.

My daughter was in Superior Middle School, Superior, WI for her 7th grade year. The following spring she was put on the climbing wall in gym class with no safety gear. No parental permission was obtained for her to be on this climbing wall. She fell, breaking a bone in her leg and requiring two surgeries. The school and the insurance company fought responsibility for these costs for three years. During that period of time, my credit took a nose dive as the hospitals and the doctors reported the unpaid bills to the credit agencies. I was not of a mind to pay them, because I could see that if I did, I wouldn’t ever win a case against them.

In the fall of 2005, I handled what I thought was the last of the parental fee payments that I owed the state of Minnesota for my having dared give birth to a son with disabilities.

This was a fee that was increased exponentially by Jesse Ventura when he was pretending to govern the state of Minnesota. Life with him as governor increased costs to the general public in hundreds of ways. It became impossible for a family like mine to afford myriad excursions such as state parks, etc., because he eliminated huge chunks of state funding and greatly increased the entrance and parking fees. Something that cost $2 per person increased to $8.

Since Ventura’s regime had increased my parental fee from $150 to $1,050 per year,I had been behind on my payment and paperwork. In the fall of 2005, I had some extra money and paid up. I talked to someone on the phone who said since my son was turning 18 the following February, I wouldn’t owe much more, so she gave me an estimate of what that would be ~ $400. I paid everything.

A year and a half later, I got a bill for $179,000 from that same state department. This happened right about the time my father died. Needless to say, I was so flabbergasted by the bill that I just set it aside. I needed to deal with the loss of my father.

Before I left to go cross-county to my father’s funeral, I paid down both of my credit cards so that I would have plenty of room to use them on the trip to Tennessee. On that trip, I was trying to pay a bill over the phone,  I discovered that my credit available on both those cards had been reduced to 0, leaving the balance owed right up to the max. This was as a result of the unpaid medical bills having been reported to credit agencies.

The state kept sending me those bills. I sent letters to them recounting the story of how I had paid the bills. In January of 2010, the state of Minnesota seized 100% of the available cash I had in two separate bank accounts. One of those accounts was an account I had set up for my disabled son’s trust fund so that I could keep those funds separate from my own cash and not co-mingle funds. I had put $25,000 of his money in there to pay for work on my property as I was planning on building a guest cottage at my house for him to come visit. I have had no bank account since then, as I am too afraid of having my money seized by the state of Minnesota.

It is probable that the seizure of this money was due to the fact that my ex-husband refused to pay his parental fee for our son’s care in the state of Minnesota.

I tried finding a lawyer that would help me get this issue settled, and not one of the numerous attorneys I called would touch it.

I’d like to have these issues settled, but can’t find an attorney to help. When I was accused by the county where my son lived of mismanagement of David’s funds because the state had seized them, I couldn’t find an attorney who would represent me. I was forced to drive four hours and stay in a motel so I could appear in court without an attorney present. They kept saying “This is not a criminal matter,” but everyone knows that only the attorneys that work in a particular county really know how things go, and how to handle the judges and their prejudices. I was treated like a criminal. I’m afraid that this will be used against me in the future.

I feel that since I live in a different state, I really need an attorney in Minnesota to help me get all these loose ends tied up. I’ve been unemployed for 2 yeas, a teacher replaced by a computer and substitute teacher. I really don’t know which issue to handle first. I have a potential door opening for me in that my husband just passed away and I have found an attorney that seems like she will be open to helping with other issues besides his estate.

I’d like to be able to have a bank account without the fear that the state of Minnesota will seize my last cent and leave me unable to pay any bills, eat, clothe and house myself.

I know that other levies – for unpaid taxes, for example – can only take up to 25%, but this seizure was 100%. They’ve seized about $25,000, and I don’t agree thtt I owe ANYthing. What I have actually agreed to pay (since I took the settlement money from the insurance company) is not much. Maybe $1000, although I’ll never agree that it should not be the school’s responsibility for that debt.


This is my story. My son, David, deserves his money back.

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Student Loan, Ballooning Debt

My original loan balance for my Bachelors of Science program in Computer Information Systems was approximately $42,000.00.

As a result of outsourcing I was laid off as a Software Development Project Manager making a six-figure income.  I spent the next three years or so seeking employment in the field I passionately pursued to no avail.  Ironically the CEO of the corporation I worked for received a nice 7 digit bonus while Americans were displaced from the work force.

As I fell further and further behind in repayment of the student loans to Sallie Mae, Sallie Mae called incessantly in the morning, afternoon, and evening and then proceeded to call my references to further embarrass me.  They then offered forbearance after forbearance after forbearance.  Never explaining that interest would continue to accrue on the account.

For some reason I am not eligible to take advantage of current extremely low Federal interest rates of approximately 4.0% but I am forced to adhere to 8.0% rate.

As I stated earlier, the original loan in it’s entirety was approximately $42,000.00.  The capitalized interest amount is approximately $78,000.00 for a totally repayment of approximately $120,000.00.  By the time the loan is totally paid off I will have paid in excess of $250,000.00 to borrow $42,000.00.

I would also like to address the fact that while Sallie Mae Corporation continues to pillage the American people with their deceptive practices, each and every time I call Customer Service for the organization I am forced to deal with a representative from the “Asian Pacific” who will never clearly identify where they are in the world nor can they be understood.  Seems like and interesting formula to me.  Fix  the interest rate of the Student Loans to a hard 8% and outsource the Customer Service department to a place in the world that is not identified, therefore taking jobs away from Americans and increasing the bottom line for CEO’s to enjoy seven digit income and bonus packages.

I am fearful that this debt will go into default.


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Could be Worse!

New York, NY – The title of my story comes from a popular children’s series, which chronicled the fabulous tales that a grandpa recounted to his grandkids at bedtime. Though terrible things would befall him, he’d wryly state, “Could have been worse!”

I was one of the lucky ones whose parents footed most of my undergrad bill. But, between the remainder and what I took out for my (first) master’s program, I accumulated about $55,000 in debt. Federal debt, so hey, not so bad, right? It could be worse.

Both my undergrad and master’s degrees were in an “impractical” subject.  However, I was not impractical in my assumptions; I never expected to be heavily remunerated for my work. I  figured I could get by well enough and eventually secure a middle-class position (and a master’s degree is a de facto requirement in my field for that sort of position).

Even if I failed to find suitable, stable work in my field, I could always get a job and be comfortable. Afterall, I had done so during my three-year higher-education hiatus. I always had something to fall back on. Not so bad, not at all.

I completed my master’s nearly two years ago. It was not the time to be looking for jobs in my field (hell, when will it be?) Besides, I had an OK job, making just enough, with full benefits, including health insurance paid for by my employer – was I going to get that at some entry-level position? Health insurance is crucial for me now, as I am on several medications and one costs over $200 per month without coverage.

Boo hoo, right? It could be worse. I have a job, insurance, and make enough to qualify me as lower-middle class, at least in New York. I may have taken on too much debt ($30K would have been more reasonable), but I only took out “responsible” federal loans. I have an Income-Based Repayment Plan. I can afford my bills. I have a great credit score.

Here’s where it goes south: I pay nearly $300 a month in loans, and that doesn’t even cover interest, which continues to accrue. I also had periods of forbearance when I was unemployed (helloooo, 2008!) With IBR, my debt is discharged after 25 years of payment, but I will be in my 50s by then. Even assuming I make more eventually (that’s where the second master’s program comes in – and I’m paying out of pocket), I’ll just barely be able to make a little headway on the principal. So yeah, a lifetime of debt for me. Can’t discharge it! I could run up $20K in credit card debt and declare  bankruptcy, but it wouldn’t do a damned thing for my student loans.

Every month I think about where that money could be going. Savings. A vacation. Even simple things like some new clothes, healthier groceries, books, charity. But still, not so bad.

I have other debt, too – about $1700 on one credit card, mostly accumulated during my many months of unemployment. At its peak it was close to $3K.

But it’s my fault, right? That’s our society for you. Protestant, guilt-mongering, individualistic. The ones reaping the profits have no culpability, didn’t you know? Those are our “job-creators” (aka a new spin on an old classic, the rentier).

But what’s the heart of all of this, of my discontent? Not my depleted earnings. No, not really, though that money would be nice. Afterall, we’re implements of capitalism and we are in fact capital itself, in the form of living labor – all our earnings are depleted! It’s not bankruptcy law, either, though that’s beyond fucked up (feel free to edit profanity – I don’t care, I just write how I would speak).

It’s the fear. The fear that global capital – which by definition has seeped into every corner of the world and is devouring itself as it can no longer move outwardly – is killing our will to fight, and to understand it.

Many people feel powerless, and they don’t know why. I do, but feel powerless to reach them. It’s very hard; people are used to the world-view that has been imposed on them. Unless they see things like student debt, credit card debt, unemployment and poverty not as failed policy decisions needing reform but rather as heads of the same hydra that creates war, racism, environmental devastation, and wreaks havoc on bodies, minds, and our very human essence, then we are lost. We face the potential rise of fascism, of environmental apocalypse, of never-ending war and neo-serfdom. All due to our misunderstanding, our misplacement, our despair and inaction.

Though I feel the fear, I do not feel despair. It isn’t too late. It just isn’t. Look at the world for what it is and the truths will be apparent.

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Bankruptcy–out of spite, more than anything

Virginia Beach, VA – My story starts in 1987 when I won a car.  I was 19 years old.  I was a restaurant worker and community college student at the time.  Not much in the way of income; I was paying for school as I went along.  My car was declared as income on my taxes, so I was suddenly in a higher tax bracket and credit card companies were knocking each other over trying to give me cards.  I got two:  one with a $3500 limit, and one with a $5,000 limit.  I was rich!  I was 19, had a brand new car, and loads of credit.   I carried those balances well into my 30’s.  Along the way, I applied to a “real” college and financial aid, and along came more credit cards and balance transfers and personal loans. I blame no one; I should have educated myself on money management, but I just didn’t care when I was in my twenties.

I got a “real” job and was making good money.  I started paying down my debt.  I went to a consumer credit company to help me.  (I had a Sears card; they were the only ones who would not work with the consumer credit company and kept the   percentage rate at 21%.   Eventually, I had everything paid off and I was only paying my student loan.   I have a federal loan, and I don’t mind paying it off.  I don’t need it to be waived. I knew when I applied that I would pay for my education.  I’m sorry others find themselves so stuck with their student loans, but I want to pay my student loan debt.

Anyway, after I was “debt free”, the offers for new credit came pouring in.  I decided to get a couple new cards “just in case.”  And a personal loan.  Then 9/11 happened.  I worked in an advertising industry.  Times were strained just before 9/11; the economy was starting to show some wear (yep, George W was just in office…thanks for that $300 dollar check, Mr. President!)  Then actors went on strike and the advertising industry got hit pretty good.  Then 9/11 happened and it really shook the country as a whole.  The economy really suffered.  Advertising came almost to a halt.  It was a domino effect:  I saw small businesses close their doors because bigger business had to cut costs.  Local restaurants that relied on lavish business lunches folded because no one was ordering.  I heard horror stories about people showing up to work and finding the door locked and closed for business.

My health suffered.  Luckily I had health insurance at the time.  I had to have emergency surgery.  For me it was the last, life-changing straw.  I planned for a few months, but I quit my job and moved back home with my parents–from California to Virginia.  I carried debt with me.  I planned to go back to school and become a teacher.  That was 10 years ago.  I started out waiting tables.  Then my mom had a stroke.  I stayed home longer than I meant too.  I worked various odd jobs.  I finally found one that was decent pay and I loved it.  But the business was owned by a married couple who had started it on a whim and didn’t know how to keep it going.  I got laid off.

That was in 2007.   I was in debt, had paid some things off, taken out a new personal loan to help pay off other things.  I was playing the credit game.  Then I was unemployed and the credit game wasn’t so funny anymore.

I tried to reason with the credit card companies.  Bank of America and Citibank were the major ones.  I had Capital One, too.  I found a very low-paying job, but it had health insurance, so I took it.  But I could not meet my monthly credit card bills.  I went back to Consumer Credit Counseling.  I started getting things under control.  But things were horribly out of control and it was Citibank that was at the center of it.

Consumer Credit Counseling consolidates your debt.  They work with the credit card companies to lower interest rates and they make the monthly payments.  I would pay Consumer Credit on let’s say the 5th of each month.  They would pay the credit card companies on let’s say the 10th of each month.

Well, Citibank decided that they needed the first payment to be made between the 15th and 31st of each month, or the contract with Consumer Credit would not be valid.  I got a letter from Citibank after the first payment was made on the 10th, and they said they needed a payment made on the 15th.  I alerted Consumer Credit.  They resubmitted.  But apparently somewhere along the way no one noticed the fine print that the payment HAD TO BE MADE ON THE 15TH. Not the 10th…oh no, that was five days to early.  Or maybe that was 25 days too late.  Either way, it wasn’t on the 15th.  So, Citibank started charging late fees, they raised the percentage rate to over 30% and I forget what the other stupid fee was, but this went on for almost a year before I realized it.  I was getting collection calls, but was ignoring them because I thought I was making regular payments and didn’t care.  Well I was making regular payments, but they were below Citibank’s minimum payment.  Thanksgiving D
ay I got an over-nighted letter from them saying I was being taken to court if I didn’t bring my account current.

I opened my old bills, saw that, yes, they were taking the monthly payment from Consumer Credit, but it didn’t count for anything.  The monthly fees they were charging were more than my payments.

I was devastated.  I didn’t feel like I could win.  I was angry and depressed.  I was in a huge hole.  President Obama was newly elected.  AND THE BANKS WERE ASKING FOR BAILOUTS!

Tha was the last straw for me.  The banks needed to be bailed out, but they sure weren’t bailing anyone else out.  They didn’t even try to help me.  Citibank wouldn’t reduce the percentage rate, remove all the late fees…  All because THEY DID NOT GET A PAYMENT ON THE EXACT DATE THEY WANTED IT.  Paying a few days early counted for nothing!  It’s a farce.   No one believed me until I showed them the bills and letters with the dates circled.

I decided my only way out was to declare bankruptcy.  I did it more out of spite than anything.  I did it to bail myself out because no one would help me.  I wrote a letter to President Obama when the bail outs were a big subject.  I wrote to the Governor of Virginia.  I eventually got a letter from his office saying he didn’t deal with that; I need to contact some federal agency.  By then the wheels were in motion.

I completed my bankruptcy almost two years ago.  And immediately I got my final letter saying my bankruptcy was done, I got credit card offers from those same banks.

That is why I hate the banks and I am for Occupy Wallstreet.  That is my personal story.  They are crooks and should be held accountable.  And to offer someone who just declared bankruptcy new credit cards is one of the lowest things they can do.  It just proves that they want to keep the country in debt.  My blood is boiling all over again.  Thanks for the forum to share.  By the way, I am NOT ashamed.  I did my best to pay things back.  Like I said, I am in bankruptcy out of spite more than anything.  And how freeing it is!!!!   I hope others find relief.


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The Strangehold of a Legal Education

Stockbridge, MI – I just graduated law school. I’m 31. I was not allowed to work while in school. I was forced to take out larger loans and live off the rest. We were threatened with expulsion if we violated this rule. The school did not tell me this until I had relocated from Wisconsin to Massachusetts to start school.

I graduated last month and had to move to Michigan immediately. My boyfriend has two brain tumors and his insurance only works here. It will also not cover most of his treatments and surgeries.

I am really excited about mediation. To be a mediator here, one must obtain certification. The certification costs over $900. They did offer me a student discount which brought it down to just over $600. I can not afford that. I am currently staying on a farm and performing manual labor for rent.
The bar, is only in July and February. I am not sure what it costs here yet, but in Mass, it is $800. Again, I can not utilize my degree for either of these jobs without shelling out much more money, which I don’t have because I was not allowed to work.

I am learning to grow my own food, use a wood stove, and live on very little. My boyfriend and I are also avid freegans (we dig in trash).
I just lost a crown in the front of my mouth. I am getting it temporarily fixed tomorrow, but its been two weeks and its hard to go to job interviews with a visible missing tooth. I can’t afford a ‘real’ crown.

I make soap and organic skin care that I sell on etsy and hopefully locally.

I appear to be much more employable than I was before I obtained this degree. Now, when I try to bartend, or anything else I’ve done in the past… they laugh at me.
I can’t work in my field without certifications, licenses, and/ or experience.

It amazes me that I was better off before going to graduate school.

The state of our educational system is a disgrace. A professor sent me a letter of recommendation today.

He included this:
“I just forwarded you the letter of recommendation I wrote.  Hope it helps in this crappy economy!”

He even mentioned it in his letter. He spoke of how scare jobs were for recent law graduates.

They don’t warn us before we enter school… they don’t tell us that we will have more debt than our parent’s mortgages… they don’t tell us that we are dooming ourselves.
I want to warn anyone considering a higher education…right now, its not worth it.


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Debt To Burn

Last Sunday I took the L train out to East River State Park, a beautiful riverside park in the ultra-gentrified waterfront of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There, wrapped by new luxury condos and a stunning view of Manhattan across the river, about 100 people gathered to make a statement against debt.

The action was organized by Strike Debt, a group of occupiers who are organizing a campaign that specifically targets debt and its impact on the 99%. This was their inaugural action; a symbolic first step to building a union of debtors and mounting an out-right debt refusal movement.

After a meeting about the group’s #S17 plan, we gathered in a half circle a few yards from the water and lay down banners that declared “SILENCE = DEBT” and featured images of the word DEBT alight in a blaze.

People came up and told their debt stories and then using an empty coffee can (in the style of the draft burnings during the Vietnam War), they burned their statements and collections notices. It was a symbolic act, but also strangely powerful. Students told stories of taking out loans in pursuit of a degree and a job, only to find themselves in a dead-end and underwater. A young woman told about having to choose between going to the doctor and being financially stable and taking on thousands of dollars of debt after getting sick. Some had mortgages that were underwater, some burned credit card bills.

The power of this action didn’t come from the burning itself,  but from the telling of those stories. Society tells us that debt is shameful and that defaulting on credit is a moral outrage. This unspoken cultural rule is an important part of the mechanisms that keep us all indebted. It was truly inspiring to watch people confront this stigma head-on, and release that cultural shame. It made me wish I had brought a credit bill to burn.

After the stories were told and statements were burned in the coffee can, we walked as a group out to the water’s edge, on a makeshift beach on the western side of the park. We pseudo-ceremoniously dumped the ashes of our debt into the East River, narrowly avoiding a “Big Lebowski” moment when the wind blew some of the ashes back onto the beach.  Then we did what occupy does best: we built community.

We continued sharing our stories and contacts with one another and talked about how to create a viable movement against debt. Oh, and we also ate cake.

Here a short video from the event:

-Danny Valdes-

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