"With $200k in Debt, Where Do You Start?"
(Or, if they have mentioned it, I missed it completely.)
This might just be the worst "real life family" financial situation I've ever seen brought to light in ANY national paper. And that's saying a lot. The Hetmers have the market cornered on debt and denial — that's for sure.
A few ironies that jumped out at me:
1) They have four kids, and needed a lawn service?
2) Both are real-estate professionals ... who refi'd to interest-only a few years ago and have zero equity in their home.
3) The financial planner suggests that they rent their current house and lease a cheaper one, saying that the couples' real-estate experience could allow them to pull this off. Really? Like it allowed them to do so well on their in-the-red current house and their multitude of other money fiascoes? (We'll not even talk about how their entire existence — jobs and all — relies upon real estate: their jobs, their only decent asset, etc.. Good thing real estate only ever goes up.)
4) They have a timeshare in Hawaii they can't afford to use, and their idea of cutting expenses is dropping their YMCA memberships and newspaper subscriptions.
In the article, the list of financial missteps is seemingly endless. I'd like to respond to a few more items:
Right. Not because you're leveraged to the hilt, anchored to an interest-only refi on a home you can't afford, and living a lifestyle that's in an altogether different universe than are your financial means. "Honey, get the door. It's denial."
I'll tell you what doesn't fit: your spending and your income. Because it would be absolutely shameful to purchase a used vehicle for cash. Well ... if they had any cash, I mean. And with that zero-percent auto loan, they're practically getting the car for free, right?
Considering? Considering? You don't think USA Today could've made this up, do you? Is anyone really this stupid?
Guess that answers my last question.
Interesting aside to this story: A popular internet message board (which shall remain nameless for now) first directed me to this USA Today story. By the time I got to the related message-board thread, it had mushroomed to a ten-page length. The readers of this particular board tend to not be dumb people, nor are they terribly forgiving of stupidity.
Thanks to the beauty (horror?) of the internet, and of archived web pages, the folks on this particular board had tracked down the address, phone numbers (home and work), and everything else related to the Hetmers. They dug up websites from prior employers, email addresses, you name it. They even found the name and location of the Hetmers' church ... which, appropriately enough, is apparently only too happy to receive prayer requests from its congregation.
On the one hand, I shake my head at the overwhelming ridiculousness of the Hetmers' current situation. And I also wonder, thanks to the USA Today story, how much worse did their lives just get? Internet roamers and marauders can be relentless.
(By the way, I'm told that maps.google.com shows the Hetmer household to be located just a short putt from a country club and golf course ... thus the title of this article.)
Lots of stuff to think about, huh?