Saturday, February 28, 2009

Notes from the meltdown

I got a letter the other day from the good people at Capital One, whose usual (weekly) correspondence consists of offers to transfer a balance to my Capital One credit card (now canceled after the letter, which was a change in terms for the worse) or to "upgrade" a loan I took out with them in 2007.

That loan came at a fortuitous time: We had an assortment of debts, from the now-paid off CRV to the costs and fees associated with being homeowners. OK, there might have been some frivolous stuff in there, too.

The loan terms were pretty good. They handed over a stack of loot eerily similar to what I needed with three years to pay, for about $1,900 in interest (7 percent, so you math whizzes can figure out how much I borrowed). I figure $50-odd a month is an OK price for peace of mind. I pay about that for Internet service, after all.

After about a year of payments, last June or so, I started getting the dear-valued-customer letters offering me the "increased flexibility" of a much larger loan. The most recent offer I got was to lend me $30,000, a portion of which would be used to pay off my current loan and the rest handed over with a minimum payoff plan of four years at 8 percent. To keep payments similar to what they are now, I'd have to opt for the 7-year payoff plan at 9 percent.

Seven years? Ouch. We're very fortunate to be out of woods with debt (unless, you know, you count the next 15 months of loan payments and the 2012 end point for the butterfly lady's student loans and the house), but I would like to remind anyone who thinks me overly smug that I work at a newspaper, which means that being out of debt is pretty god damn urgent.

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