Maura’s story – Attorney Daigle Interview July 2016

Katherine: Hello everyone. Our friend, Peter Daigle, attorney Daigle, is joining us this month. We’re going to do something a little bit different when we’re talking about bankruptcy with him. We’re going to talk about some scenarios. He’s going to share with us some of the situations he’s run into via stories. I love stories. We’re going to see what the person’s struggle was, and how they overcame it with Peter’s help. You may find yourself in a similar situation, or you may know someone, and that will be your cue to contact Peter, as well. Welcome back, Peter. I’m all excited about this new direction.
Peter Daigle: Thank you, Katherine. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you each month.
Katherine: What do you have for us today? Whose stories, or what story, are we going to talk about for today’s bankruptcy topic?
Peter Daigle: Thanks for asking. What happens is that we see the same stories over, and over again, the same scenarios. We’re going to start with a common scenario that we see from time to time. Of course it’s obviously upsetting, because the folks who are coming to us are elderly, and they’re embarrassed or ashamed to tell their family of the financial situation that they came in. They pride themselves on being independent, and they raise their children, and they don’t want to go back to their children and say, “Listen, mom and dad needs a hand here.”
The scenario that I’m going to speak to is a woman by the name of Maura, who came to us about a year ago. Her husband had passed away, and they were living month-to-month anyway because it was both on social security checks. When he passed away, all she had was the one social security check at that point. She had aged out of her ability to really be able to work much anymore. She was used to a part time job that she had at the grocery store, and it was just hard for her to be on her feet. She wasn’t able to supplement her income as much as she was able to with the part time job anymore, and because her husband passed away. She only had the one social security check.
What happened was, she started to live off her credit cards to supplement the difference. Each month, she would tap her credit cards to supplement her income, and then she would just make the minimum payments on it. It was okay for a while because minimum payments were so low, but as the balance grew she wasn’t able to make the minimum payments anymore without having to take money from her essentials, like electricity or food, and the like. She came to us in a panic … again, afraid to tell her children of what she had gotten herself into. She didn’t want to be judged by her children or … asking them for help. Because she felt that what she had created was her own doing, and she should be the one to get herself out of it. That’s the scenario that occurred.
Katherine: You met Maura, she comes, and she doesn’t want to tell the kids what she’s done. What would be the reason that she decided to use credit cards versus getting a job? I’m asking this because I’ve seen a lot of senior citizens at Walmart, or different places where they’re having to work past social security age, anyway. Was she not working when her spouse died? What was it that kept her from being able to maintain the lifestyle before he passed?
Peter Daigle: She was in her eighties. What happens, you’ll see a lot of folks in the sixties or seventies that are able to supplement their income, but it gets to a certain point, it’ll happen to all of us, where we’re really not able to be on our feet all day long. That was what happened to her. She just couldn’t … She was able to work a little bit, but it wasn’t enough to make the difference. She had aged out of full employment, aged out of her husband, and she had aged out of working a significant amount of part time, and she still had to maintain the same rent, phone, cable, electricity … All the bills that all of us have. She’d outlived her ability to earn any income. In her mind, as all of us do, we keep hoping, “I’ll be able to get healthy, go back to work, something will happen.” All of us hold out for that ideal that things are going to get better. Then when we use our credit cards, we don’t think we’re going to use them just to not pay them back. We think that it’s a temporary situation, but for some people, that temporary becomes permanent when they’ve lost their ability to earn an income.
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Katherine: When she came to you, what were you able to help her do? It sounds like a very tough situation.
Peter Daigle: What we did is we filed a chapter seven bankruptcy for her, eliminated all of her credit card debt. By the elimination of the credit card debt, she was able to devote her paycheck fully to paying her bills. We also set up a budget for her as part of it. As part of the pre-bankruptcy planning, we worked with her on a budget. She came to realize that she has to live within her means. Because of the fact that she had to cut back … going from all the different packages that Comcast offers, to just basic cable, she had to cut down to one phone, cell phone and get rid of the home phone. She was able to make some decisions that she had put off before because she had the use of the credit cards, which were a crutch. Now she was forced to balance her budget each month. There was enough money to do it. It forced her to create a budget and live within her means.
Katherine: It’s not just about coming to get whichever chapter of bankruptcy I’m trying to file for my best situation, but there’s some advice with it. I’m able to get some advice, as well, on how to go forward in my new direction and my new situation. Do you find that people spend most of their time in the emotional part? Because just listening to you logically, it sounds like, “Okay, get a budget. Cut down on the cell phones, or the cable channels.” That kind of thing, logically. But do you think that there’s an emotional thing that we go through when we come through your doors with these issues? Do you think emotions is what gets us in a lot of trouble?
Peter Daigle: Good question. In her case, it was her husband that paid all the bills, so she never really had a budget. Between her husband working part time, as well as two social security checks, and her working part time, there was enough money to pay for all the different cable channels, and have the two phones, and go out to lunch. I think, for some reason, she just continued to live that same lifestyle without a wake-up call-
Katherine: Making any adjustment.
Peter Daigle: -to make the adjustment. A lot of folks have not really had much financial management training, especially if one spouse takes care of it. The same thing happens with divorce. If one person paid all the bills, and the other person just turned over the paycheck, it’s a learning experience to go on with your new life here. You’ve got to reinvent yourself as a single person with maintaining your own budget, and staying within your means. That’s just an example.
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Katherine: What an age to learn that.
Peter Daigle: I know. It’s unfortunate, but we see a lot of it. A lot of people don’t live within their means. They don’t really … have never really set the time to set a budget. Of course, you would say it’s common sense, and it’s something that we all do, but we don’t all do it. Before you know it that nasty Comcast just keeps knocking up your charges for the month for all these different things, and before you know it you’re giving half your paycheck to Comcast, and the electric company, and the phone company.
Katherine: What are some tips? Let me back up. Sometimes people feel like, “I’m an adult, I should know these things.” There’s just some things you don’t know if you have not had to encounter it. If you’re not the one that was paying the bills, so you would not … What are some words of advice you can give someone that may be up in age that is listening to the radio show, or someone that may be in a situation where they’re going to have to downsize? Some people have a hard time adjusting to living on less.
Peter Daigle: I think what the thing is, is just try to deal with the reality that you find yourself in. Don’t hold out for some future event. Don’t plan on winning that scratch ticket, don’t plan on somebody passing away and leaving you money, don’t plan on all of a sudden getting this huge promotion at work or anything else otherwise. Deal with what you have in the moment, be in the present. Say, “I don’t have the income. I really need to adjust my lifestyle.” Don’t bet on the future. That’s what happens with a lot of these folks. They’re betting on some event occurring that’s going to bail them out. As they say, kicking the can down the road, and figuring I’ll solve that problem tomorrow.
Katherine: Procrastination will mess you up. Peter, this has been a great analogy, a great demonstration of what the scenarios of bankruptcy looks like. We’ve been on the side of listener questions, and giving some guidance there, but having these real life scenarios where people have come through the door, and what is that like … Because I was waiting like, “What happened?” I’m listening to her story, but I’m like, “Okay, well Peter, what happened?” How do people get in touch with you so that they can talk with you, and they can get a copy of your free book that you have available for people to answer some of the most basic questions. How do they get in touch with you to get their bankruptcy questions answered?
Peter Daigle: Sure, Katherine. The best way would be to go to my website. It’s daiglelawoffice.com, D-A-I-G-L-E law office dot com, all singular. Through that website, they can contact me, they can request a free copy of the book, and they can email me any questions that they have, and I’ll be happy to get back to them.
Katherine: Awesome. Peter, thank you. Until next month, when you have your next story to share with us, have a wonderful day.
Peter Daigle: You, too Katherine. Thanks so much. Okay, bye, bye.
Katherine: You’re welcome.
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