The Over-50 Resource
By D.M. Henahan-Bryan
“There” was what we thought of as security—nothing fancy, just a
basic comfortable existence within the walls of our simple abode
on our own little patch of earth in this big universe. We also
owned one or two cars, typically dependable, non-gas-hog Toyotas.
Yes, being part of the American middle class, we bought a few extravagances
like a big-screen TV, DVD players and computers. We even went out to eat
at places like Outback Steakhouse once or twice a month while helping our
granddaughter out at college and not worrying about being able to feed our
two, now also middle-aged pound puppies, who still love to romp and play
in our backyard.
When we were “there,” this was all we hoped it would be, nothing more, nothing less and
nothing too extravagant.
“There” was during the mainly peaceful and prosperous 1990s, characterized by a great bullish
real-estate surge and lending institutions that acted like kind-hearted, generous friends eager
to help make your life better. “Here” befell us after the warring, unstable post-9/11 years,
distinguished by a cold, bear real-estate market, epidemic levels of foreclosures and
bankruptcies leading to recession.
“Here” is where we, too, find ourselves filing for bankruptcy and trying our best not to
become another foreclosure statistic. How did we get “here” from “there”? This is our
modern American, middle-class boomer tale.
It Didn’t Take Much
My family’s financial decline all came down to several factors, some of which we had control
over (such as investment and spending choices) and, therefore, must take responsibility;
others we had no control over, such as sudden, devastating health and employment problems.
The old adage “when it rains it pours” has truly applied to us for several years now¬¬—with no
break in sight.
Let’s rewind to when my husband Ken and I purchased our first home—a two-flat—in the early
1990s. We were both working then, and life was good. Perhaps the first setback came in 1994,
when my acute spine problems progressed into chronic, debilitating pain. I had to quit work
but wasn’t ready to accept myself as “handicapped,” so never applied for disability. Also
during this time, we had some financial responsibility for relatives in need besides ourselves.
Still, we managed fairly well on Ken’s salary until he suffered a massive heart attack in July
2003. It was a coronary the doctors refer to as “the widow maker” as it usually happens to
men and they don’t often survive it—if they do, they usually are so damaged they wish they
hadn’t, according to the cardiologist.
How Did We Get Here From There?
Bankruptcy after age 50, Part I