We sometimes wonder if the stages of grief can translate to other parts of our lives, like our financial situations. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. We may run through them in a matter of seconds, or it could take years. But think about the last time you owed a little more than you could afford, and remember how you reacted. Did you start with denying that you had missed a payment or that the account was past due? Were you angry with yourself or the bank?
For some of us, budgeting is not as easy as it sounds. We have tried putting money into envelopes to make sure we meet our monthly obligations, but when life gets hectic, the envelope system falls by the wayside. We just try to make ends meet as best as we can, and when funds are short, we find a way to cope.
We have been talking about credit scores and the inconsistencies in how credit bureaus calculate the scores. Consumer advocates, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, have begun to zero in on the role medical debt plays in credit scores. Medical bills, they argue (and consumers agree) are not the same as revolving, unsecured credit, but nor are they the same as secured credit. If you fall behind on payments, the hospital cannot put a lien on your newborn the way a mortgage lender can put a lien on your house.
At least 25 years ago, a friend tells us, she was out to lunch with a business acquaintance. The check came, and they figured out how much each of them owed. As they rifled through their wallets for the right combination of ones, fives and tens, the colleague mumbled, "You know, it's just paper, but it rules our lives."