Consumer Credit Counseling: Anne & Steve
The American Dream is not supposed to end in a nightmare. But for one South Dakota couple, that is what happened.
Anne and Steve lived a comfortable life. Steve was a professional with a good salary that allowed Anne to stay home with their children. He worked hard and took an annual fishing trip with his buddies. He and Anne took their kids and the boat to the lake each summer for family vacations. Anne ran the household and managed the family's finances. While they did not live extravagantly, every month they got just a little deeper in debt.
"I was ashamed to tell Steve," Anne said. "At one point, we had 15 credit cards and they all had a balance. I started to use one card to pay another. It just snowballed." She says she wasn't aware of the full situation herself.
Then one day, their world came crashing down. Steve tried to withdraw some cash from their account and was told the balance was zero. He knew that couldn't be right because he had just deposited his paycheck.
He rushed home to talk with Anne and learned that an internet scammer had gotten a hold of their account information and drained their checking account. As they talked through their finances, he began to realize that they were in trouble. "I panicked," he admits. "We had all this debt, groceries to buy, the girls needed school clothes, and we had no money."
They made an appointment at Lutheran Social Services that same day.
"Anne and Steve were ready to take on the tough stuff," explains Sheri Ekdom, director of consumer credit counseling service at LSS, "but they had to learn to communicate about money, something that many of us are not comfortable doing."
A CCCS counselor helped Anne and Steve draw up a budget they could live with and worked with their creditors to consolidate the debt into one monthly payment. Steve sold the boat and everyone cut back on expenses. It was hard, they agree, but worth it in the end: after two years of focusing on their repayment plan, Anne and Steve are debt free.
"I'm so glad we came to LSS," Anne says. "Even our marriage is stronger because we learned to communicate."
"People are always afraid we will judge them," Ekdom says. "There is a lot of shame already in their situations; we don't need to add to it. At CCCS, we focus on the numbers, on working out a plan to help them achieve their goals. It is better for the entire family if finances are under control."