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Fight Back!

Last week I suggested that we use a new and different yardstick to measure our personal progress this year.  Instead of focusing on our net worth in dollars and cents, I made my case for a new mindset, free from unrealistic expectations and “if/then” thinking.  I closed my entry with the following:

“I want to add one other thought from my recent experiences with patients and friends.  People who are in debt now and getting behind on payments are frequently being treated by lenders and creditors not as if they have made mistakes, but as if they are bad people.  They attack people’s self-worth in an effort to recover the money owed.  I think this is a despicable way of operating.”

Are you behind on payments for your home, your credit cards, or personal loans?  Are you facing bankruptcy or foreclosure?  If you find yourself in any of these situations, you’re part of a large number of ordinary, decent people who have unfortunately been misled or made some regrettable mistakes.  But you wouldn’t know that by the tactics of many bill collectors.

I’m willing to consider that a number of the people going into bankruptcy and foreclosure ten or twenty years ago may have been unscrupulous in some ways.  Some may have been consciously out to take advantage of the financial system and deserved strong-arm tactics for debt recovery.

Today, I believe, is an entirely different situation.  For years now, lenders have encouraged highly speculative types of mortgages and investments.  The message was that these boom years would never really end, that the monetary system was more shock-proof than in the past.  Smart people should take equity out of their homes as fast as it appeared, real estate was never going to go down in any significant way, debt and consumption was the way to live in our culture.

Now, everything has been turned upside down, really.  And mortgage companies, banks, credit card companies, and other lenders are unwilling to take any responsibility for our financial meltdown.  They were quick to lend; now they’re quick to blame.  They want their money back and many of these companies are using lots of pressure and scare tactics.

I’m familiar with their methods.  Most collectors call intending to fuel discouragement, make people feel defeated, tell lies, and undermine us – because all the collectors want is the money that’s owed them.  Most don’t care how they hurt or exploit people. They’re really doing damage to the morale of this country.  So many people tell me, “I’ll never get ahead, the credit card company told me so.”

I’m disgusted with their methods.  It’s time for good people, who’ve made some mistakes lately, to fight back.  If you are in this boat (with a multitude of other decent people), I want you to hear what I have to say and take it to heart.

  1. Americans are a hard-working and creative people.  We do what we need to do to survive.  This has been true for generations and it’s still true today.
  2. People are working harder and better now than they ever have been, it’s just going to take longer this time to see the fruits of our labor.
  3. Learn how to deal with finances and economics in new ways.  Maybe you’ll need to be more frugal, certainly more thoughtful and careful about your resources.
  4. Get savvy and more sophisticated about finance.  Build your arsenal of information and facts so you won’t be manipulated or intimidated by bill collectors.  Learn your rights and stand firm on them.
  5. Don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable or apologetic with lenders.  They look for opportunities to exploit what they see as weaknesses.
  6. Remember, it’s “just business”.  Don’t panic.  Don’t get emotional.  Don’t get rattled or allow yourself to feel threatened.  Get good, practical help to develop a financial strategy based on facts, and stick to it.
  7. Learn to live without credit cards.  Start approaching credit and debt in entirely new ways.
  8. Have compassion for yourself and others.  Seek and give support as often as needed.
  9. Get creative and embrace the blessing of urgency.  When your back is to the wall, it’s a great time to try some new things that you’ve always dreamed of doing.  Start your own business; find a new niche for your present business where there is a need; develop new sources of income.
  10. Embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of America.  Once the shock of your loss is over, get to work doing what you’ve always, deep down, really wanted to do.

Out of this time, I believe people can begin to thrive in ways they never envisioned before.  We will grow stronger and stop feeling and acting like victims.  We will awaken to find new ways to take care of ourselves and each other, and our future.

I believe this is going to be a great year, a fabulous year, for change.  I’m going to predict that this will be “The Year of the Entrepreneur”.  The entrepreneurial spirit is full of health and hope.  It’s the only way to live.  Next time, I’ll let you in on why I believe this from the core of my being.