One of the things I've tried to convey in all the writing I've done at It's Your Money is that sometimes, all it takes is one bad decision to bring the roof down.
CNN/Money: "From $70k to Food Bank"
As we see in the CNN article, when that "one bad decision" has to do with your mortgage, you're pretty much doomed. Signing on to a dubious mortgage and assuming that things will "work themselves out" as a matter of course gets folks into a world of hurt.
In the article above, Ms. Guerrero (the focus of the story) found herself in that exact neighborhood — 101 World of Hurt Way, if you will. As a single mom with two kids, a $70k annual income, and a modest mortgage, she would probably have been okay ... if.
But that "if" didn't happen.
Here's the "if" that did: Change "modest mortgage" to a $2,500-per-month, interest-only variety, and throw in a job loss. Now you've got fireworks.
What we aren't told is whether or not Ms. Guerrero took on that mortgage while she was still married. A second income to help make those payments would be ... well, vital. Obviously.
Still, here is my humble opinion: With or without a second income, that mortgage should've never even been an option.
It's easy to say in hindsight, but Ms. Guerrero — married or not at the time — was insane to take on an obligation like that. And the bank, as best I can tell, was insane for writing the note.
Good thing real estate only goes up. (The premise this whole mess was built on, of course.)
In the last 12 to 18 months, Brock said, the agencies he supplies have begun seeing more middle-class families coming to their doors.
"Our agencies have said there is an increasing number of people coming to them for help," Brock told CNN by phone. "Their impression was that these were not people they normally would have seen before. They seemed to be better dressed. They seemed to have better cars and yet they seemed to be in crisis mode."
Courtesy, I'm sure, of can't-miss real-estate purchases and the ever-popular Home ATM.
What makes Ms. Guerrero's mortgage particularly gruesome is that Ms. Guerrero was herself a loan processor. Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid.
She used her tax refund to help pay many of her bills for the first two months, but now that money's gone.
She says she's now in a middle-class "no-man's-land."
"It just happened so fast. It happened in a matter of — what — two months," she said.
Yep. That's what happens when you have a $2,500 mortgage payment and your job — which itself was dependent upon a real-estate bubble continuing to inflate — goes bye-bye.
Ah, Californians. Ever the optimists. I wonder what happens if the market hasn't turned before her I/O loan recasts?
I'm certain that none of this — bubble going pop, job loss, and so on — was even a consideration on the day Ms. Guerrero closed on her home. But it should have been.
Rather than "Expect the best, but plan for the worst," what I see here was "Plan for the best because nothing bad ever happens with California real estate."
One more case of Life doling out a mighty harsh backhand.