Back to Basics

When the economy took a downturn in 2008, Darin was laid off from a good-paying job in art direction and marketing with a national insurance company for whom he had worked for 10 years. The company had relocated him twice, the last time in 2004 to Lancaster County.

Darin’s wife Stephanie worked in retail for a small shop that did not provide health insurance. Stephanie experiences a chronic inflammatory disorder and must take various prescriptions to keep her symptoms under control. When Darin lost his job, the couple also lost their health insurance. They could not afford the COBRA payments to extend their insurance.

The monthly mortgage payments on a new home coupled with having to pay all their medical expenses out of pocket were daunting expenses without Darin’s income. They put their mortgage payments and medical bills on credit cards while Darin looked for another job. Given the economy, he felt fortunate to find another job in 5 months even though he was earning half what he had been earning previously.

Once Darin was working again, they had to wait 3 months before his health insurance benefit would begin. That was another 3 months of paying for prescriptions and doctor visits with credit cards.

In the meantime, Darin had been calling the mortgage company to explain their situation and try to work out a modification that would reduce their monthly payments. He never heard back from them. Stephanie searched the internet for “loan modifications” and, following the links, eventually landed on Tabor’s website. “We had never heard of Tabor,” Stephanie explains.

They met with Randi Shober, one of Tabor’s Financial Counselors. She looked over their finances and started making calls. “Randi, bless her heart,” recalls Darin, “was able to get to the right person. Just one letter on Tabor letterhead was all it took to get results. It may not seem like a lot, but just a couple hundred dollars a month meant being able to purchase medicine, or taking the dogs to the vet.”

With a successful loan modification, it was time to deal with their credit card debt of nearly $17,000. Randi put them on a debt management plan (DMP). She laid out the journey for them and told them what to expect … that it wasn’t a quick fix and it would take 5 years to pay off. They had been making minimum payments on their own and getting nowhere. On the DMP, they were able to cut monthly payments in half and actually pay down the debt.

“We made sure we were never late,” says Stephanie. She learned to be very organized about their bills.

“She was always organized,” offers Darin. “But with the DMP, I became more aware of when bills are due,” adds Stephanie. As the debts were paid off, they received a statement from each creditor thanking them for paying off the debt and showing their balance as $0.

Stephanie remembers being skeptical about getting into the program. In college she had tried to handle her debt through a for-profit program and ended up worse off. She’s happy to report that “Tabor’s program lived up to what I hoped it would do.”

What was important to Darin was “having somebody I can personally have a conversation with. If something came up, we knew who to talk to. It wasn’t impersonal or an 800 number.”

Darin feels that what they learned is really important for teenagers to learn and understand how to handle their finances. They would “absolutely, without a doubt” recommend Tabor. “Tabor can help anyone,” says Darin. “If there is anything that is important, it is breaking the stigma.”

“Start out how you mean to go on,” Stephanie advises. “It was hard work and it took a lot to stick with it … a lot of sacrifices that we made. I’m not going to repeat that situation. And now we have a savings account. We got into the habit that if it’s not in the checking account, we can’t have it.”

Darin adds, “It’s just going back to the basics. My father used to say ‘If you don’t have the money, you don’t need it.’ I like not having that weight of wondering what will be on my credit card statement.”

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