Dear Harry: My husband is retired, and I am still working. I have gotten us into a bad credit situation and don't know how to work it out. (I said "I" because my husband never used a credit card.) We owe the credit card companies about $39,000. We have a mortgage on our home for $77,000, and we pay $530 a month and we're not in arrears. At the present time we are very much behind in our credit-card payments because I had to take a $15,000 cut in my pay to keep my job. I cannot leave because I need another nine months before I am fully vested in our pension plan. I'm hoping to retire within the next four or five years, and I'd like to get my finances in order. I do not trust the debt-consolidation people. We have even started to talk about the possibility of bankruptcy. The harassing phone calls and threats are starting to get to us. Help!
What Harry says: You did not tell me what your home is worth. I'm hoping that there's enough equity in it to allow you to get a home-equity loan large enough to get rid of the credit-card debt, or at least a big piece of it. If you're not able to get enough, you will need some help in managing the debt. My suggestion is that you contact the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley at 215-563-5665. They have helped people in similar situations for many years. And starting now: Do not use a credit card unless you are certain that you can pay the debt in full each month.