Stress as disturbing as debt itself

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Dear Debt Adviser,
My husband and I are in a financial crisis. My husband is a building contractor. The last three years have been devastating. Until recently, he has been sitting on two homes and a lot. In December, he sold two homes but sold them for a loss of over $100,000. Having signed a secure note for the building loans, we now owe the bank approximately $100,000. With no work to speak of, he has taken a job at Home Depot, but we are unable to make ends meet. I am employed as an elementary school teacher. We have depleted his 401(k) and sold stocks and bonds to pay bills. We have had to use credit cards to survive. I see no end in sight. Where do we go to get help? The stress is affecting our health. Help!
— Marilyn

Dear Marilyn,
I know things are bleak and there appears to be no hope, but the economy will improve and the housing construction market will once again be robust. History is on your side, and after every downturn, we have bounced back and thrived. Future prosperity in a year or two is not, however, going to help you now.

Right now, what you need to do is contact a reputable credit counseling agency. You can find one by visiting and A counselor will review all your finances, make recommendations and get you the help you need. You should leave your counseling session with short-term goals agreed upon by you and your husband: a bare-bones budget to cover your essential expenses such as mortgage, utilities, car loans and insurance; and a written action plan for moving forward. All for free!

You have a dependable job in education and your husband has found temporary work, so you have a steady, albeit reduced, income source. For now and the near future, you will have to take the steps necessary to meet your expenses with what you are now earning. You will go over this with your credit counselor, and you should receive a list of options to deal with your situation that will assure that you get your financial situation under control.

Money aside, I am worried on another front. Financial stress can definitely cause health and marriage problems. Keeping your troubles a secret can exacerbate the problem. Talk with your doctor, minister, friend or someone you trust. You will get through this difficult time more easily if you have outside support and an outlet for your anger, frustration, guilt and every other emotion related to your stress.

If you are keeping up with the news at all, you know that you are certainly not alone. In fact, I would be willing to bet that once you begin talking about your situation, you might even discover that your church or other organization has a support group. You can find online support at many different sites such as or this blog at

Good luck!

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