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Archive for the month “December, 2014”

23) Mortgage Meltdown: A Gen-X Survival Story

Elena was a hotheaded Italian woman in her late 30s. She dressed in breezy skirts, high heels and several layers of makeup darker than her neck, giving her the appearance of a mismatched mannequin. Elena was my boss. We specialized in “expert negotiation and arbitration of credit problems.” I was 21 and this was my first real job.

I worked in the office alone for two weeks while Elena was on vacation. Before she left, we reviewed several credit reports left over from the previous Director, who took cocaine lunches and quit without notice. He used Wite-Out over the bad stuff and faxed the changes to his clients. While Elena was in Florida, I contacted 150 clients to convince each one that we would service their files without the use of Wite-Out. Naturally, I was quite relieved when Elena returned.

We were a two-girl office under the umbrella of New England Financial Corporation, a company based in Riverside, California. NEFC was a fly-by-night that sprung up in response to the mortgage crisis in the mid-1990s. The small brick building lined with purple pansies was like a Norman Rockwell painting, a pretty front to hide reality. The economy was in the dumps and consumers were under water with their mortgages. NEFC offered a solution – for $2,000 they would short sell your home and guarantee no impact on your credit.

The atmosphere in the office was fairly casual. One day I walked into the storage room to retrieve a file. The Executive Accountant suggested we close the door so we could be alone, exploding in giggles. Earlier that week, he brought his newborn son and glowing wife into the office for show-and-tell.

It was worse when he was around the General Manager. They tossed out sexual innuendos, convulsing like Beavis and Butt-head until Elena would curl her lip and displace their comments with a sarcastic punch. Luckily, for us – our office was relocated.

The new office was on the 2nd floor of an attractive business suite in Grand Terrace. I loved my job. I wrote business letters, mailed dispute forms and kept the office organized. Every 20 minutes Elena would go outside to smoke, combing through the pages of credit reports, leaving behind red-kissed cigarette butts like dead soldiers on a battlefield.

Within five months, we made good progress on our client’s files and received few negative calls. The company partners offered to put me through paralegal school.

Then, one day in early April, Elena received a phone call from NEFC. They fired their secretary, a bulbous breasted young woman who would talk about Endometriosis while dropping salad in her cleavage on our lunch break. I was called in to take her place. Elena was pissed. We had a ton of work come in – all failed clients of NEFC – no charge. She was pissed about that, too.

“Why don’t you buy yourself a bottle of Wite-Out, Mike? I can’t remove your mistakes,” said Elena, slamming the phone in its carriage.

Reluctantly, I drove to the Riverside office. The last time I remembered being there, employees would stroll by on their way to the copy machine, shoot the breeze and watch the O.J. Simpson trial on the TV next to the coffee machine. No one was around upon my arrival. The constant ringing of phone calls from desperate customers infiltrated the building. The General Manager told me to take messages. I was the only person answering the phones. One client received a 1099 from the IRS moments after waking from a stroke in the hospital. He owed $42,000. Others had similar stories.

“Sir, I’m so sorry,” I told the man, “Unfortunately, there is no one here that wants to talk to you. I recommend that you do whatever you think is necessary to take care of your situation.”

On April 13th, 1996, the day was warm and sunny when I pulled into the entrance to NEFC. Several white, unmarked cars were sporadically parked in front of the building. I parked and walked down the pathway to the door. Two men with bulletproof vests greeted me. One tall, stone-faced man was from the California District Attorney’s Office and the other, from the Employment Development Department.

“Do you work here?” the DA guy inquired.

“Yes. I answer the phones,” I said.

A suited man with a clipboard took my name and instructed me to go into the conference room. We were kept for 5 hours, interviewed by the DA and EDD personnel as a group and individually. By the end of the day, four locations in Riverside County were raided and over 100 files confiscated.

I was escorted to a chair in the conference room and sat back to watch the show like a cat on a limb with coffee in hand. Two NEFC partners and the General Manager were sitting at the long conference table. They looked like prisoners facing a firing squad; their impending doom was palpable. Dark, wet circles formed under their arms and the ceiling lights reflected the sheen on their creased faces.

After the interviews, I was released. I was dying to talk to Elena and drove to the other office. When I walked up the stairs, Elena was walking out carrying a computer monitor.

“Get out of here,” she growled. They were raiding our office, too. Not wanting to go through a second interrogation, I walked past the broad window of our office and down the other stairwell. That night, Elena came back to the office and stole some furniture, a phone and a fax machine. She asked if I wanted to go with her and take some items as compensation for the paychecks we likely wouldn’t receive. I declined.

I never acquired my last paycheck. During the months that followed, I returned to my previous job as a part-time cashier at a gas station. I had to move out of my apartment. I stayed with several friends, sometimes sleeping in my car before my shift. Two years after, I left Southern California and moved to Oregon.

I learned a lot during those 8 turbulent months at New England Financial: always keep your nose clean, if a co-worker asks you to sit on his lap – it’s called sexual harassment, you can live on bananas and Top Ramon, beware of businessmen wearing tropical shirts and never mess with an Italian woman who has a twin sister.

Courtesy of Newspapers.com

29 Aug 1993 • News Record, North Hills • Pennsylvania • Page 43 | Courtesy of Newspapers.com

REFERENCES:

Company Profile for New England Financial Corporation. Updated 17 Jun 2014. Wysk.com Web. Accessed 19 Jun 2014.

Harney, Kenneth. Washington Post Writers Group. Title Transfer To Avoid Debt May Bring Tax, Credit Woes. The Seattle Times, 12 Nov 1995. Seattletimes.com Web. Accessed 19 Jun 2014.

Mulligan, Thomas S. ‘Credit-Repair’ Firms Raided in Riverside. Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr 1996. Articles.latimes.com Web. Accessed 19 Jun 2014.


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22) Letter to Baby Boomers – Discussion

This is a response to a recent comment by Deane from my post, 20) Letter to Baby Boomers from Gen-X. Here is her original comment:

“At the risk of sounding blase about it all… I feel I must let you in on something quite disturbing. It took a while for me to decide if I truly wanted to step up to the microphone, after all , it is your house and I am obviously an intruder here. However, since it seems no one else has come along to stand up in our defense I figured “what the hell?”

I realize there are a butt load of things to be enraged about these days, not the least of which is how impersonal life has become since technology has advanced us to the point of instant communication on a grand scale with anyone around the world we choose, at any time we choose. I believe we have become jaded. It is too easy. Most of us were raised knowing we had to work for what we needed. Things were “earned”, not simply given. We didn’t misplace things on a regular basis. Telephones were attached to the wall by a cord that did not unplug in order to move to another room for privacy. We never showed up without calling first. There was a code of conduct we were expected to adhere to that made us have to consider what we said before we spoke in order not to offend others. If you screwed up you admitted to it. The way you behaved around others when your parents weren’t around was how you were remembered. And that mattered. I could go on complaining all day but I won’t because all of that was how we were SUPPOSED be, it wasn’t reality. We were not so different than you are now. We had our reasons as well. But there was one thing we didn’t have then… instant answers. No Google, no face book, no 24/7 access to knowledge. Everything had a closing time. The Seven Eleven stores were the beginning of the stay up late businesses. That was a huge deal for us. Our towns rolled up the sidewalks in the evenings and rolled them back out in the morning. Anything late night was age related and waiting to get to that age took forever. Our angst was punished and fighting back could get you “put away”. We fought back anyway. There were protests, riots, sit ins, etc. Many changes did come about from our efforts. Earth Day (originally known as Ecology Day)was our doing. Voting age changed from being 21 years old to 18 years old. Abortion became legal. Before then it was the “back alley abortions” or the “Mexican abortion” and both were horror stories no one wanted to have to experience. Free clinics offered free birth control pills that were actually free in the beginning. Parents had the last say in all things and children were not given access to legal representation when they were abused by adults. It was our word against theirs but the judges were always from their side of the argument. The things we did back then to cause the changes that finally occurred were hard fought and we never let up. They knocked us down repeatedly but we came back with new strategies to get them to listen. We had to convince them with logic and common sense because screaming only made them deaf to our words. But we kept at it.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the work it took to get the changes we wanted back then. You bring those memories back to life and you will see how much faster the ice melts. Just make sure the cause you are working on has merit. Show us the benefits for the changes you want to make and try not to put the cost solely on the tax payers backs.”

This is my response:

Dear Deane,

I agree with you in many ways. I too, am a taxpayer. If I lived in your time, I would have been right beside you protesting in the throws of major social upheaval and many important changes did occur as a result of the protests, the activism and those achievements should never be taken for granted by any generation.

With that said, the beef I have is what happened after those pivotal years. It appears that many baby boomers turned their backs on the ideals they so passionately stood for and began shifting their efforts toward monetary pursuits in the late 1970s and 80s. It’s as if they threw in the towel. I can understand that things change; you start having a family and you have those demands as your focus. But, the thing that really bothers me is that these wonderful concepts like Earth Day didn’t become staples in the daily lives of many Boomers who so passionately wanted to change the world. Houses grew bigger, 1 car per household evolved to 2 or 3, more appliances sucking up energy and the consumption of cheap, exploited labor produced products; none of this being sustainable or in a good direction for a world facing serious environmental problems and overpopulation. As a nation, we didn’t get serious about the environment until 30 years after the energy crisis in the Carter years.

I completely agree that we have become impersonal in our daily lives. With so many gadgets and useless ways to suck up our time, we all forget the things that are most important: family, sharing, being in nature, living for the planet. With that said, there is a lot of sharing going on, just not in the conventional way that we grew up with and that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

When Generation X came along; like yours, we had none of the technologies of today’s world. Like you, I miss my phone that plugs in the wall and prefer going to the bank and talking face-to-face with a real person. I haven’t become jaded, I’ve always been. But, I am an optimistic realist as well. I believe that people can change and do. I also believe that we are in such a muddle of consumerism and entrenched in profit margins that it makes change difficult.

I adapted to the new technologies pioneered by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (both of the Baby Boomer generation). Gen-X put these technologies to use in the 1990s and fell on their face with everyone else when the bubble burst.

I tend to disagree with things being easy today; only that information is more accessible. If I lived in the 1960s, I likely would have had an easier time continuing my education beyond a bachelor’s degree and gone full swing for my PhD. Unfortunately, I am not willing to take on any more student loan debt as I am already $38,000 in the hole and have been on Income Based Repayment plan (IBR) since I graduated. I put myself through school while working and live a very minimalist lifestyle. I don’t plan on buying a house unless I can buy it outright. I have just enough education to be qualified for a manager at a retail job with high stress and little pay. Not only has the middle class disappeared, the variety and mid-range jobs are also becoming extinct. Since I am 40 and already late in the game, my only other option is more schooling, more debt and no guarantee that there will be any career available to me beyond the Financial, Legal and Medical fields. The only way for anyone to improve his or her situation is to start his or her own business or become a gypsy.

I agree wholeheartedly that there is an extreme lack of manners, emotional intelligence and personal responsibility in the world today. I think it’s due to a variety of factors relating to our modern lives, the demands we place on ourselves and the simple fact that there is more of us competing with one another. I do not wish to offend, only to inform, as I feel our generation has very few voices.

I want to thank you for responding with a wonderful piece of dialogue and appreciate your viewpoint.

Most Sincerely,

Latchkey Lisa


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Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

 

 

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