The dark financial whirlpool that sucked millions of people under in 2008-2010 and beyond, left lasting scars for me and many others caught in that mess. The scars were both emotional and financial and while we found our relief by moving offshore and learning to live a great life as an expat, all was not entirely well.
As I’ve written, the loss of my employment and failure to adequately replace my lost income resulted in the loss of our home and one car, despite what I thought were Herculean efforts to not allow that to happen. We did the very best we could but for the first time in my life, I was sucked under!
That, of course, was when we sought our retirement solutions outside the borders of the United States. I’ve written for several years about our journeys that began in Ecuador and have now taken us to Mexico’s Caribbean Coast. We no longer have to worry about cost of living issues but the truth of the matter is that my credit history, something that was once a source of pride and permitted me to purchase homes, investment properties, cars and private airplanes was significantly damaged. I was mortified and really didn’t want to deal with that issue! The fact was that, living offshore, I didn’t need to deal with it.
Living abroad is, for the most part, a cash-in-hand experience. That includes purchasing real estate and vehicles, often the most expensive purchases a family will make. The local citizens of your adopted country may have access to normal credit resources but credit is not extended (with very few exceptions) to expats as credit history does not transfer from country to country. So, buying real estate or vehicles is almost always done with cash, even for many locals. After living abroad for over 3 years now, we have adjusted quite nicely to living in a cash-based world and I never saw the need to do anything differently…until recently.
On my last trip back to the states for a medical follow-up after my surgery, I stopped by my local Credit Union and chatted with one of the loan officers. I had wondered what the chances were of taking out a loan to purchase a small house or even a mobile home for those times when we were in Florida and so that Diane would have a place to go if, after my death, she decided to move back to Florida. Although I knew my credit history was damaged, I had neither the courage nor the need to ask about my numbers prior to that day. I needed to face the dragon! The loan officer delivered the news that I would not qualify for a loan at that time. Not any loan! My credit score was too low. Ouch!!
Although I had braced for the anticipated impact, it was still a hard kick in the gut! Later that day, I related my experience to my son who, it turns out, has a friend in the credit repair business. Before I could object, my son had dialed up his buddy, Joe, and handed me his phone. I humbly explained my circumstances and in just a few minutes, Joe had me convinced that he could significantly repair my credit scores to more than acceptable standards in about 90-120 days. He explained the various methods he intended to employ if I was to contract with him; most of them were beyond my understanding.
Essentially, it involved sending a bunch of correspondence to a variety of people and diligently following up. My job was to register with a web-based credit monitoring service and relay any subsequent written communications from any creditors back to him. Oh, and of course, pay his fee. He also explained that anyone could do this themselves but he also said there were a number of methods that he had learned in his 12 years of experience that made hiring him a good decision.
I was skeptical. His fee was $500 and it covered only me, not Diane. I could get a discount if he did both together. He provided references but beyond that, he related his experience in this industry which sounded very impressive and…his references checked out to be outstanding! And my kid vouched for him. I hired Joe.I had absolutely no interest in dealing with this myself!
It’s been a bit over 30 days since Joe began working on my case. I just received my first monthly report from the credit reporting service I joined and in just 30 days, my credit score from 2 of the 3 major credit bureaus has climbed dramatically. They are already in the range where credit would normally be extended. Honestly, I could not believe it. My scores were displayed on a graph and the lines representing my scores from the 3 reporting bureaus had made nearly vertical progress, ending in the approval range. I had to remind myself that this report came from a neutral source, not Joe’s company. My scores had improved dramatically in just 30 days! Apparently, this Joe guy really did know his stuff!
I was told to expect increased scores over the next couple of months as he continued to work on my case. This was just the initial result.
So, here’s the thing. I understand that many of you did not have the same experience that Diane and I had. Some of you were better insulated from the financial fallout of 2008 and some of you were simply smarter than I. Good for you and I’m glad you didn’t have to endure the fear and torment we endured as we fought our way through it all. But I’ve heard from enough of you to know that there are many reading this that did, in fact, suffer losses and likely carry both the emotional and financial scars associated with those losses.
Apparently, the credit repair business has grown substantially over the past few years and I have to believe that not all people in that industry are equally skilled. I can only speak for my guy and so far…Joe has done an amazing job! After he finishes with my case, I’ll hire him to take care of Diane’s.
I can’t see us accepting a large load of debt ever again. We’re too old and things are working just fine the way they are. But having a few credit cards could provide a safety net that extends beyond our current cash lifestyle. And besides, after seeing my latest credit scores on paper, my emotional healing has already begun. That’s worth something!
Joe has no idea that I’m writing this but if any of you want to connect with Joe, the credit repair guy, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org I promise to treat any communications as confidential and I also promise that I won’t make a dime from any referrals.
UPDATE: I just received a link to a financial article that suggested that some credit repairs may be only temporary. As this is a very new development, I’ll post a few follow ups to this piece over the next few months to better asssess the effectiveness of my efforts and will withhold any referrals to “Joe” in the interim. .