Hack the Banks – Introduction

Everything in this series of posts is true but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily helpful.

I’ll say at the outset that I’m not a financial guru, spiritual adviser or sage of any kind. What follows is just the story of some choices that I made and what happened as a result.

Your results can (and probably will) vary.

It was only thirty short years ago that people still worked for themselves. That generation of people went to jobs every day, made money, and then spent that money on things they owned themselves. Financing was reserved for really big stuff like homes, cars, and businesses. Even when I was in elementary school, credit cards were a rare commodity and nobody defined their value as a human being by a single number.

The one-two punch of consumer debt and the modern FICO score came along to change all that, transforming a broad swathe of society into a class of serfs by addicting the masses to the drug of easy credit and then threatening them with shame and disgrace if they failed to maintain usurious payments at ever-climbing interest rates.

This change has spawned a brand new set of anxieties:

Who’s going to respect a guy with a 500 credit score?

Am I going to lose out on that dream job if the employer sees my financial history?

Will I never own a house if I start missing credit card payments?

These used to be my real life worries. After using easy credit to pay for a toxic combination of medical bills and salary cuts, I spent the next decade running on this high-interest treadmill, working myself to exhaustion with nothing to show for it but a steadily growing mountain of debt.

By the end, just paying the minimums took every penny I could find. I was forced to take money from family members and gracious gifts from near-strangers. I even stole money from my kids’ birthday cards to pay for gas and milk all while working 2 and 3 jobs at a time.

During this personal recession I read dozens of books and articles on getting out of debt written by some of the leading experts you’ll hear on the radio or see on bookstore shelves. Their advice was completely useless to me for two reasons:

1. I could not make cash fast enough. Not even when my kids were uninsured and I’d been wearing the same thrift store shoes for two years.

2. All of their advice plays by the rules the banks and corporations have crafted to keep consumers in perpetual debt.

That second point was a great source of motivation in what follows in this story. When the banks themselves made bad choices (and some might say committed outright fraud), the government was there with $700 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout money to make sure that the bank CEOs were in no danger of losing their yearly bonuses. It does make me wonder where the bailout for me and the other deeply indebted citizens might be.

After all, the average household in the United States is in about $15,000 of credit card debt — an amount that guarantees that every week there are thousands and thousands of hours being worked by people across the nation just to pay outrageous interest rates to those same bailed-out bankers. If that’s not the definition of serfdom then I don’t know what is.

Knowing all this, I decided to go a different route. I took my shame and fear of being a deadbeat and I put it in the garbage next to my credit card statements and collections notices. I’m not a financial professional and I can’t make official recommendations about how you should treat your debt. What this book contains are the strategies that are working for me — and ones that may not necessarily work for you.

If you go the route that I took it’s going to take some courage and a thick skin. You’ll be harassed and looked down on. You may have to change your phone number. You may have friends and family question your morals and your sanity. But at the end you may just have something that hasn’t been seen in almost thirty years. You might at last be free.

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I've written a few blogs here and there full of the things I thought people might want to read. This blog is the one I'm writing for me.

3 thoughts on “Hack the Banks – Introduction”

  1. Ok, you’ve got my curiosity piqued.

    As for money-saving tips, I’d say the best one is “not buying Starbucks every day,” because that is the sole reason people don’t have money.


  2. I’ve been thinking four years about what you’re writing about. I grew up watching my parents work and never ever get out of debt. We almost ended up homeless but luckily our church helped pay a few bills when we couldn’t and we got food multiple times from the church food closet, donated by members. I’ve decided never to own a house so that I won’t be burdened by that debt. But I’m still paying school deft and a car loan. And when I here about the richest ppl being bailed out but watch hardworking ppl continue to just get by it makes me want to just stop paying bills! But student follows you the most, even if you declare bankruptcy you don’t get out of that… I’ll be interested to read more as you post ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Just curious – what kind of medical bills did you have and did family members question your morals for not paying? And on a different subject – was it your other site that spoke of Jonathan Crosby the preacher from South Carolina. He is a strange bird, good takes on prophecy but that weird attitude on women. ajc

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