My name is Jason Chappa. I am forty five years old. I am married and have two children, ages eleven and nine. I am reaching out to you, asking for your help in alleviating the long lasting consequences of the mistakes and unwise decision that I made in my youth that I have been carrying with me for over a third of my life. I have over $24,000 in credit card debt and more than $100,000 in student loans between my wife and myself, along with a $134,000 remaining on my mortgage. This debt isn’t new. I haven’t acquired any new credit card debt in over seven years. Because of only being able to pay the minimum amounts due on my debt each month or sometimes being late because of unexpected expenses, the interest rate hikes and late fees have turned my debt pile into what seems to be an unsurmountable debt mountain.
What I would like to convey to you is that I am not asking for your assistance because I don’t want to pay my own financial obligations. I am positive that I have fully paid all that I have taken over the years, and much more. The reason I am asking for your help is because I can’t escape the trap that lenders set for young and unwise borrowers that haven’t been taught the dangers of credit cards, and borrowing without a complete and thorough explanation of exactly what it is they are getting themselves into. “How did I get into this trap” is something I ask myself almost daily, every time the phone rings and a creditor leaves a voicemail or a letter shows up in the mail saying I owe more money than I can pay. I would like to give you a bit of background on who I am so this letter doesn’t seem like only someone asking for money without understanding a little bit about the person you are helping out, and explain a bit better the circumstances that have brought me to where I am today.
The biggest moment that altered my life was when I was nine years old and my mother passed away from a three year long battle with cancer. My father was suddenly thrust into having to take care of three boys, ages nine to seventeen. Along with this my father was also responsible for paying a massive amount of medical bills, causing him to take on two jobs and be away from home most days and evenings. My brothers and I learned to be self-sufficient and take care of ourselves however we could. Soon after my mother’s passing my oldest brother joined the Marines to escape the depressing atmosphere that had taken over our home. This was his escape which was most fortunate for him. The Marines taught him discipline in many aspects of his life, including financial discipline.
My middle brother is extremely gifted in math and spent most of his time pursuing his education. He spent five years at home after my mother had passed before heading off to college where he obtained his Master’s degree and now has become the associate dean of the math department at UT Tyler. Even with his extensive knowledge of math, his Master’s degree, and a good paying job, he still has difficulties managing his finances because he was never taught this at home or at school.
As I mentioned earlier, I was nine when my mother passed away. I spent ten years living in a home where I mostly took care of myself. I was responsible for cooking, cleaning, and getting myself to school. My father only had a high school degree so the jobs he had didn’t pay adequately to match the amount of hard work he did. I watched my father struggle to pay our bills. I saw how he would use credit cards to pay for the things, not realizing at the time that this would have the same outcome on him as it has had on me. It just seemed so easy then. If you wanted something you would pay for it with a credit card and worry about it later. If he would have shared the struggle of the endless cycle of debt with me when I was younger I feel that it would have impacted me and helped me realize the trap that credit card companies use to pray on desperate people. As good parents do though, he wanted to shield me from his problems so that they would not become mine. Unfortunately I followed his example.
I moved out from home when I was nineteen. Ten years after my mother had passed away the environment in my home hadn’t changed much. I had a steady job and felt that I had to get out on my own. Not having many of my own belongings from living at home, I had to furnish my new apartment. This was my first experience with my own credit card. I bought a washer and dryer from Best Buy. It sounded great when I applied for it; a $1,000 line of credit, no interest for twelve months, a ten percent discount on your fist purchase, and renting a washer and dryer from the apartment complex was going to more than my monthly credit card payment, and I get to keep the washer and dryer. I made my payments on time for the first twelve months but didn’t really understand at that time that the interest would accrue if I didn’t have the full balance paid off after the no interest grace period had elapsed. What I thought was going to be a twelve month purchase turned into 30 months and ended up costing me a lot more than I had expected.
That was the beginning of my mistakes; I spent money I didn’t have and didn’t have the ability to pay back. Coming from a childhood with countless examples of struggling and making it by any means you can made this seem normal. I continued this cycle for many years and as time went by the amount of creditors I owed money to steadily increased. I always thought that at some point I would be able to get caught up with all off the debt I owed and get to a point where I could actually keep some of the money I was earning. But here I am, over twenty five years later, still struggling to get out from under the overwhelming pressure of debt.
There came a point in my life when I recognized the cycle I was in and that the only way I was going to get out of it was through making impactful changes. The way I thought this was going to happen was simply to make more money. I told myself if I made more money I could pay my debt more easily, eventually putting me in the position of having no debt at all. I began talking with my brothers about wanting to improve my income because both of them have successful careers. I didn’t share with them the struggles I was facing from my debt, only that I wanted to make some improvements in my life. Their advice, naturally, was to continue my education. As tough as it was to make the decision to commit to going back to school I decided that this could be the impactful change that could turn my situation around. I enrolled in school and continued working full time. Because I was already struggling paying my current debt, I took out student loans to cover the expenses of college. They were glad to give it to me with, and with little effort on my part. Because I was working full time it took me six years to earn my Bachelor’s degree, each year accumulating more student loan debt. As long as I was enrolled in classes I didn’t have to worry about paying back my student loans. I knew for sure that when I completed my degree I would begin a new career and make enough money to support myself and be able to manage my past debt and my new student loan debt. I did complete my degree, with high honors, and felt proud and accomplished. That excitement and renewed sense of hope was soon extinguished when the student loan payments started coming in the mail. I was able to utilize my degree to obtain a better job, but not to the degree that I expected, and now I had another large sum of debt to contend with.
While getting my degree did help improve my income somewhat, I found myself still not being able to keep up with my debt. I was working 40+ hours every week and trying to live on a modest budget. During the course of the six years that I was in school I met the woman that would become my wife, and the week before she graduated we found out we were going to have our first child. This brought to light that education alone was not the fix-all solution to my debt problem. I realized I had to change my fundamental thinking rather than my doing. I had only ever witnessed and experienced living in perpetual debt and had grown accustomed to that lifestyle, thinking that it was a normal way to live. With that old mindset I was constantly paying and paying, thinking that eventually it would lead to financial freedom. Even through six years of college I had never been educated on the way the debt system works and the logic behind how money lenders want to keep you paying and paying for as long as they can, with minimum payments, heavy fees and interest rate hikes when you have late payments. I quickly learned how that for every $100 I was paying less than half was actually going to the amount of money I spent. I learned to stop depending on credit so much and figured out how to live without them. Unfortunately the long term effects of my previous bad habits still plague me. As I said in the beginning of this letter, neither my wife nor I have used credit cards in over seven years. The only new debt we have taken on is the purchase of a car because we were involved in a wreck two years ago. We live a very modest lifestyle.
I am not asking for your help only to be back in the same situation a year from now. I have learned the hard and cruel lessons of debt and I do not want to ever be back in that position again. I do not want to feel the relentless pressure and stress of always owing. I want to enjoy the freedom of knowing that I’m not working for someone else. I want to be able to lay down a solid financial foundation so I can provide for my family and prepare my children for a successful future, making sure to pass along to them the lessons that I have had to learn in the most difficult of ways.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you can help my family in any way, I would appreciate it in ways more than a few pages of words can express. You would be helping me more then with just money; you would be giving me my life back. My most pressing need at this time is to get caught up on my mortgage payments. I am two months behind which would require $3,368 to bring this account to being current. I am also two months behind on my car payment which would require $648 to bring this account to being current. After getting caught up on these necessities our amount of debt is $271,000 from our mortgage which is $134,000, our student loans which exceed $100,000, our credit card debt which is just over $24,000, and our auto loan which is a little over $13,000.
Any amount that you are willing to contribute would be applied directly to those debts. I am willing to provide you with confirmation that your generosity is not being taken advantage of with receipts and statements showing the progress you are helping me make. I am not just asking for you to give in blind faith, and if you would prefer to contribute directly to my creditors I will provide you with the information to do that as well. I was instructed to upload documents proving my financial need but I don’t feel secure posting that type of information on any website. I will send individuals that are considering helping me those types of documents on an individual basis, as they are requested.
Thank you again for the generosity and willingness to help a stranger in need.
Jason N. Chappa