First Person: Credit Card Debt Nearly Ruined My Life

Yahoo Contributor Network

Looking back at my younger self, I realize how stupid I was. Like many of the baby boomer generation, I thought budgets were for little old ladies living on Social Security. Personal finance was something that 40-something married guys with kids and minivans worried about. I was doing just fine without either. I had credit cards!

Credit was easy to get, and each new card was a reason to celebrate. I bought the latest electronics, decorated my house, and indulged my clothes shopping addiction. I had a good job, so paying the bills when they came in was not a problem. The limits kept increasing, so I spent more. I never worried about saving and lived from paycheck to paycheck, never imagining that the next payday might not come.

Boy was I wrong. At 52, I am living on that budget I thought was years in my future, and I am regretting my cavalier attitude toward credit card debt. How did I get into such a situation?

In 2005, I lost my job when I took leave to have surgery and my boss replaced me during my absence. At the age of 45, I found myself in a situation that many of my fellow boomers would also be facing when the economy tanked in 2008: I was jobless, with little savings and lots of debt.

For over a year, I lived off an unemployment check and my credit cards. I maxed them out trying to maintain my standard of living, started paying the minimum payments, and eventually could not afford to pay them at all. Creditors were calling daily and my good credit rating took a nosedive. All I wanted to do was ignore the situation and hope it would go away, but I eventually had to face the fact that I had brought this on myself with my careless money management. I knew I had to do something, but curbing my spending and following a budget was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

Today I consider myself lucky because I did eventually find another job. Although it was not a high paying one, at least it was an income and I was able to start digging my way out of the financial pit I had created. By sticking to a budget, I have managed to pay off over half of my credit card debt. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting a little brighter now, but I regret that the money I thought I would be putting away in my 50's to enjoy my golden years is now going toward making sure that I have enough to survive them.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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