On August 9, 1993, I started working fresh out of college with Bond & Botes as the receptionist. I was 22 years old and thought I knew a lot. Little did I know how much I would have to learn. My 22-year old self was eager to learn, unsure about a lot of life’s mysteries, but still trusting of people. Now, twenty-five years later, I want to reflect about what I have learned through the many faces that have walked through our doors at Bond & Botes.
- Most people have good hearts. I have met so many people through the years who are hurting financially who genuinely have just fell on hard times due to circumstances beyond their control. It could be loss of a job, loss of a loved one or cancer treatments. I have watched people cry with relief that there was help out there for them. Being able to help brings me joy.
- There are a lot of predatory lenders. When I started working here, I never would have thought that any one including a creditor would take advantage of a customer. I was so innocent in my beliefs that most would want to help people purchase a needed car or loan them money to make a repair. The reality that I have learned through the years is that there are a lot of predatory lenders that take advantage of people who are desperate. They can’t pay their rent and their car needs repairs and they were laid off for two weeks without pay. How can they make it?? They resort to borrowing money from a lender who may loan them $1,500 to make those needed repairs or keep a roof over their head for another month but the interest rate could be 25% or more. It’s just a matter of time before they need another one of those loans and the juggle of high monthly payments begins.
- Family can be bad for you. I know that may sound crazy but I can’t tell you how many times I have seen an elderly client in my office whose daughter or grandson has taken advantage of them. The scenario is usually a grandparent who co-signs for a child or grandchild with the promise that they would make the payment. So many don’t and leave the grandparent stuck with a deficiency debt once the vehicle gets repossessed.
- Adults do what they want to do. If they want a new car, they go and buy it. Most don’t think long term about the costs of maintenance, upkeep and insurance costs. The reality of rash decisions can bring someone to our office.
- Financial problems do not discriminate. I have seen all walks of life come through our doors. Doctors, accountants, lawyers, assembly line workers, teachers, ministers, black, white— it doesn’t matter. I have found that the more money you make can just mean that you owe more. So many people live paycheck to paycheck and it doesn’t matter what you do for a living.
- Credit cards are no longer for emergencies. Many people get credit cards for those unexpected expenses that pop up. However, through the years, I have learned that people use their credit cards for everything. It could be gas, groceries or that new pair or shoes they are dying to have. All it takes to get in trouble is one of life’s major events: unpaid maternity leave or loss of a job to upset the juggling of the minimum payments on the credit cards.
- Student loans should not be considered income. The student loans that are used to pay for tuition and costs associated with getting a higher education have become a source of income for many. I have seen so many teachers who owe three times what they will ever earn as a teacher use student loans to pay their monthly living expenses. The problem with this is that student loan debt will not go away.
- I never know what someone is going through when I talk to them. I have become very aware through the years that what a potential client may have written down on the paperwork can be far from complete. What is the root of the financial problems? Is it a drug or alcohol addiction? Is it a gambling problem? Are they being abused at home by a “loved” one? (See #3) Have they contemplated suicide? My innocent 22-year self would have never considered any of these circumstances being someone’s reality but through the years, I have learned that not everyone had a loving family who supported them like I did. It still breaks my heart that addiction still takes control of so many people that I see. Worse yet is learning that there is abuse in a home.
We’d love to discuss your finances with you if you have found yourself in one of these scenarios. Please contact one of our Bond & Botes attorneys for a free consultation.
Gail Hughes Donaldson is a Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Montgomery and Opelika, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She’s been helping families work through the bankruptcy process since she started with Bond & Botes back in 1993 as a paralegal. Read her full bio here.