Debt Help Getting Rid of Debt

8 Worst Debt Decisions Worth Learning From

“My lesson learned was to not allow a person to influence you into things that could haunt you in the long run, no matter if they are family or not,” she says. “It has taken me years to finally get these items off my credit and cleared up. Money spent on things I never seen or enjoyed.”

6. Buying too much home

This worst debt decision was more popular around 2000 when home loans were easier to get for people with poor credit, but it’s still an important lesson to remember for anyone who wants to buy a bigger and more expensive home than they can afford.

“We just went through a big, teachable moment with the recession,” says Paul Golden, a spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education, or NEFE.

Home buyers should avoid the upsale from their real estate agent and mortgage broker, and stick to the rule of thumb of having no more than 30% of their income go to housing expenses, Golden says.

7. Get a student loan when you don’t need it

A student loan can be a lifesaver for a college student who really needs it. It can also drag down their finances for years as they repay the loan. For a student who really doesn’t need the loan, it can be the worst debt decision of their young life.

[pull_quote align=”left”]”The ease to attain it created a frivolousness that didn’t allow me to look ahead. All I saw was what I wanted,” says Marcus Carter of his student loans.[/pull_quote]That’s what happened to Marcus Carter, a military veteran who returned home from overseas in July 2001 and was able to afford to go to a state university for free with his military benefits. Carter says he “greedily” applied for student loans even though he didn’t really need the money because his military benefits paid for his education.

Carter borrowed $45,000 and spent it on things such as “alcohol, women, clothes, weed,” as he puts it. “The ease to attain it created a frivolousness that didn’t allow me to look ahead,” he says. “All I saw was what I wanted. Right at those moments. I was able to live a life other people my age couldn’t, and could afford to embellish on that.”

He now has “as much debt as any other college grad, but mine is because I wanted a little extra money and didn’t think long term,” Carter says of his worst debt decision.

His student loan debt is now down to $43,000, and he’s on track to pay it off in about 10 years.

Student loan debts are outpacing credit card and auto loan debts in the U.S., and students should be wry of using them for living expenses, a spring break trip to Mexico or for other purposes not related to education, says NEFE’s Golden.

8. Consolidating debt can be worst debt decision

Putting all of your credit card debt in one bill can be appealing for people burdened by debt, but they should be aware of the extra fees. Interest is front-loaded onto the debt consolidation loan, Golden says.

People who do this should also close the credit cards they consolidated, otherwise they run the risk of using the cards again and doubling their debt, he says.

Those are the eight worst debt decisions we found. What’s the worst debt decision you’ve ever made and how did you learn from it? Tell us in the comments section below.

About the author

Aaron Crowe

Aaron Crowe

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the Bay Area who specializes in personal finance. He has been a writer and editor at newspapers and websites, including AOL's personal finance site WalletPop.com, WiseBread, Bankrate, LearnVest, AARP and other sites. Follow him on Twitter at @aaroncrowe, or at his website, www.AaronCrowe.net.

51 Comments

  • #8 is the worst thing that you can do when trying to rebuild your credit. Consolidation loan, yes. Close credit cards, No, unless you want to drastically lower your score. Learn how to use your credit cards I’m not abused them. Once you get them down to zero contact the companies to find out how long they can be inactive with a zero balance before they close them and just purchase something small that you can pay off each month and then let him sit again zero.

  • Buying a timeshare. Yearly maintenance fees keep going up and I do not even use timeshare. Sales pitch – was told I would save money on vacations. Also that I could go on Getaway trips at a big discount. Stopped paying yearly fees. Did not ruin my credit. Don’t buy Westgate timeshares!!!

  • My worst decision was going to Freedom Debt Relief. Besides making my problem worst. They took more of my funds for themselves instead of giving to creditors. I cancelled and working with creditors direct.

    • I too went to Freedom….biggest credit mistake I ever made. They told me they would negotiate my debt down with the creditor, meanwhile while Freedom was taking my monthly payments, my creditor was ignoring them and suing me. Not until I received a summons on my front door did I know what was going on. When I contacted my creditor and brought up Freedom, they told me basically “Yeah, we don’t work with those organizations; you’re the one who owes us the money”. I was floored, and the creditor said the door for negotiations had closed. I was sued, lost and received a judgement. To add insult to injury, I had to battle with Freedom to get my money back from them…thanks for nothing Freedom!!

      • Freedom Debt relief sold me on consolidating my credit cards (3cards) with Chase Bank! After a divorce it seems like they knew I was left with a $12.000 debt ! They debited my checking account for 8 month’s before Chase contacted me and said that I’d been scammed. I was so mad that I was about to fly out to Tempe AZ. and open a can of whoopass on a guy named Adam. Chase Told me if I’d just called them they would work with me. I’m still looking forward to the trip to Tempe in the near future. I have not got a dime from them. I hope someone forward this to them.

  • I NEVER WANT TO BUY A HOUSE AGAIN! I RATHER RENT. TO EXPENSIVE! EX: PIPE BUST UNDER MY HOUSE…FILED A CLAIM THEY ONLY PAID $750 AND MY DED $2000…THEY ONLY PAY FOR THE TUNNELING NOT TO REPAIR THE BUSTED PIPES. I RATHER CALL A LANDLORD.

  • I am disabled and have been since 93. Due to low income less than 800.00 per month it didn’t take long to get over my head in credit debt. Past 3 years i’v had 3 surgeries, closed my own business due to surgeries. I got behind last year on payments to 4 cards. All have been closed by the card company’s and sold to debt buyers. Should i declare bankruptcy and try to start over . JUST OVER 5000.00 IN DEBT, INCOME LESS THAN 750 PER MONTH. THREATENED WITH LAWSUIT OVER ON OF THESE DEBTS. HHEEELLLPPPP

    • once they sell the debt it is paid. act like you do not know what they are talking about. what they do is record you and try to get you to say that it is your debt. ask them to send you correspondence showing that they have your wet signature on a con-tract showing that you are in bed with them in commerce. after the main company charged it off they zero’d their balance book so debt was cleared then they sold it to a collection agency for pennies on the dollar. do not fall for their lies or empty threats. if you’ve already agreed you’re basically stuck unless you just want to tell em to fuck off. THATS NOT MY WEBSITE SAME TIME ITS VERY INFORMATIVE.

  • Getting married to a guy who was a big spender. Money was printed to be spent. He had to buy name brand. Generic was not good enough for him. Look & listen to the red flag warning signs.

  • The worst credit decision I ever made was going into a construction business with my brother. Although I had 25-years prior business experience in the construction field, I failed to get a contract agreement with my brother concerning the basics of the project to construct condominiums on our inherited property. He agreed to put up the down payment capital and maintain the loan until sales could begin to be made on our 600,000 USD property value but he wanted to make the important decisions himself. The property required excessive grading expense initially. Then he wanted to construct contemporary units which did not sell satisfactorily in our area. The initial start of condo units was in 2002, about six years before the Great Recession of 2008. However, the grading expense was over 300,000 USD which provided 15 units of lot space. Two story units could have yielded about 28-units to drastically reduce lot costs. My proposal was to buy lots initially in other subdivisions to become more familiar with what products sell best in our area and obtain good work construction crews. In case of a beginning recession, the purchased lots would reduce capital outlay and reduce construction loan payments. But sales became problematical by 2006 as I explained early on that this would become our most major headache. In a new subdivision it may take 10-years before sales take off to be greater than one or two units per year. By 2007, the bank wanted us to start looking for a buyer for the property. In early 2008 before the Recession began, we actually sold the total property for sufficient funds to repay the bank and receive about 20% return on the value of the property. The loss was better than bank foreclosure; however, after 4-years the new owners who spent money on 34 new units were foreclosed on while selling only eight units. Our project encouraged another local builder to start a new subdivision on 40-acres just across the street. We incurred flooding on our property as the new project was on a hillside with excessive limestone rock requiring about 1.5-million grading expense to initiate building. These people also filed bankruptcy as the bank foreclosed in 2013 due to extremely poor management and judgment. Because of the Recession, I could not restart my specialty building materials and contracting business as most home contractors in the area were also in dire financial straits. All these losses were due primarily to the Federal government’s lack of expertise in controlling mortgage loans which began to restrict mortgages just before and during the Great Recession. Never start a new business with an inexperienced partner!!

  • Hi, me and my husband have been renting for 33 years. First few years we had low income and bad credit, last few years husband had health problems disabled now, but stable.credit score better. We still have dreams owning but I feel we are too old now I’m almost 52 , my husband 58. I don’t want to be paying 2000 dollars mortgage at retirement age. Getting a 15 yr morgage would be ideal but it would cost more each month. New Jersey is high you can’t buy a decent home in a decent neighborhood under 200, 000. I don’t have 20% to put down. Please advise Thankyou and

    • Hi Jannifer,

      You are certainly not too old to purchase a home, but you will need to put 20% unless you want to pay a higher rate. To protect themselves in the event of default, mortgage lenders often charge an additional amount for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). You have a smaller down payment, but pay more each month.

      If you are having trouble finding an affordable home, you may want to consider a condo or town home–they tend to be less expensive and many include amenities like a community pool or gym. Come up with a budgeted plan to save the amount of your down payment over the next few years, and clean up your credit in the meantime.

      You may also want to look into government programs like an FHA loan, which is intended to help lower-income individuals and families buy homes that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

      With some hard work, planning, and research, you and your husband can finally own a home.

      Abbey

  • Hi Abbey,

    I’ve had a few problems similar to some of these. My worst being, home equity loan lines of credit. I’ve had one that I’d been instructed would be paid off, completely, by a last payment of $2100 (but now am seeing new correspondence about debt after five years); and another, that had a fifteen year pay-off that’s past that time limit, still having a debt after seventeen + years (as if I’d paid very little!) Both, continually, being reported to the credit bureaus in more than duplicates.

    Thanks for listening. I await your response.

    • Hi Pekay,

      Are these debts that are delinquent and gone to collections? Or are they current, just taking forever to disappear?

      Abbey

  • Just wanted you to know I thought this was a great piece !
    Caught myself before getting in these with exception of student loans.

    • Thanks Diann, it’s great to know that you liked the article so much. What would you say has been your “worst debt decision” in the past?

      • I remember back in 2005 we were loosing our home because of a few things that happened to my husband. The worse dept deal I did. Was refinancing my home. Not just once but 3 times. That hurt me a great deal. We ended up loosing everything.
        If I knew then what I know now. It would have been very different. And don’t over extend your credit worth. I hope some day I will be able to buy a house again thank you

  • I do have 1 credit card debt but I have other more serious debts (they are all serious). I have 2 payday loans ($250 ea) they a year old, an old (2008) $10,000 charge off on my credit for a vehicle that was totaled in a car accident, which they repossessed and picked up for the collision garage the following day but I’m still being charged the full amount, I have a large student loan ($30,000+), bank debt of $500 and Capital One Secured of $500). I have been harassed by the payday loan people on a daily basis and at work. I was thinking about filing for bankruptcy for all the eligible debt. I have previously filed bankruptcy in 2002 which that wasn’t necessary but I feel this time it is. I do regret getting the payday loans and do not recommend them to anyone. They have been harassing me 24 hours a day, I closed all bank accounts associated with the payday loans as they have contacted the bank trying to get money and more than they were supposed to originally get. Payday loans will try scare tactics by threatening to have you locked up, taken to court and even try to garnish your wages. DO NOT use these people at all.

    I am looking for some advice on the bankruptcy. Most debt solutions and counseling pertains to credit card debt which I really don’t have.

    • Hi Bonnie,

      Yes, payday loans almost always end up costing borrowers much more than the loan is worth, due to the crazy interest rates. Once you fall behind on payday loan payments, the interest charges and fees can be almost impossible to catch up with.

      What advice are you looking for in regards to declaring bankruptcy? It can be the right decision, depending on your financial situation.

      Abbey

    • Typically bankruptcy attorneys don’t charge for a consultation. You can sit down and discuss your situation at length with them and they can advise you on the best option for you. If you choose to do this I would highly recommend you take a copy of your credit report for the attorney to view with you

    • Hi Francis,

      Tax liens, even when paid, typically remain on your credit report for 7 years. If it is a Federal tax lien, you can request to have it withdrawn through the Fresh Start Program. You can apply for this through the IRS website.

      Good luck!

      Abbey

  • that very last piece of advice was not the best. Closing credit cards does two things. First it takes away the length of credit history almost like you didn’t have that card for 15 years. Second it shows that you cannot manage having revolving debt. Both of these will impact credit significantly and should be considered when selecting cards to close. I definitely recommend taking then out of your daily wallet and stashing them away in a safe place not used or opened everyday.

    • Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for sharing. Yes, closing an account can hurt your credit score, especially if it is an older account. If you believe that you can trust yourself not to accumulate any more debt on those cards once you transfer the balances to another account, then it may be in your best interest to keep the accounts open. The most important thing to do when trying to get out of debt is to not create any more debt, so it is important for each individual to choose an option that works best for them.

      Abbey

  • My experience in paying off credit cards and closing the accounts i a negative one, because reducing your available credit causes a steep drop in your credit score, and that can raise interest rates everywhere.

    • Hi Dave,

      Did you close your accounts so that you wouldn’t be tempted to use them, or because you just weren’t aware of the negative affect that closing the accounts could have on your credit score?

      Abbey

  • Im in a pickle now. I got my credit up to par better than its ever been. About 3yrs. Ago i put a infinity truck in my name for my cousin. She pays on it reg. & payments have never been late. It was &18,000+ & payments are down to about $11,000+ and I was glad 2 do it. My cousin is now bout 33yrs. Old and has had a lot of surgeries in her life so her credit is not the best. But surely not the worse. Now i am trying to buy a house, & even though i have nothing negative on my report, I know if i at least get that vehicle off my report, that would be even better on my behalf. But recently I tried 2 get the credit union i have the truck by 2 put the truck in her name, and she was turned down, so it has to stay in my name. I don’t know what to do? Also I co-signed a sallie mae student loan with my husband years ago, and i want that loan to be strictly under his name. What can I do 2 chang this? Thanks

    • Hi Shantel,

      It’s great that you are using your great credit to help out your family by co-signing their loans, however this can be a sticky situation for everyone involved. Do your cousin and husband have better credit than when you first co-signed for them? It is important that they work towards being able to qualify for their own loans to relieve you of the burden.

      As to your husband’s student loan, I would recommend contacting Sallie Mae directly to see what their policy is for removing co-signers. They may already have a policy in place that you can review on their website.

      Abbey

  • The worst financial decision my husband and I made was buying a time-share. Our time share is paid off but the maintenance fees have become a struggle for us and they keep increasing. Its extremely hard to get rid of a time share and its become costly to do so. I checked into it. Our time share is in Florida where there are thousands of them and a lot of people trying to rent or get out of them. So renting it is extremely competitive- you end up losing money on the rent because people are looking to rent at the best deal. We’ve found that its cheaper to just rent a timeshare when you want to go on vacation. Renting one is cheaper than paying maintenance fees on an owned one. Also our time share is willable to our children. The time share salesmen pitch this as a benefit, however its a major disadvantage. Why would I want to pass this headache on to my children to ruin their finances? So we have stopped paying on the maintenance fee’s. I told the time-share company to just take it .. we don’t want it anymore (its paid off) I want no money for it, I just want out of the agreement. Its not that easy though. I can’t even donate it because it’ll cost me thousands. So I now I’m wondering what will be in store for me with the non-payment. I have excellent credit so this is will now become a ding in my score. I just feel like the continual payment of the fees to be a huge waste of money especially if like in our case we weren’t even using the time-share.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      It’s amazing how something can sound like such a great idea when you buy it and then turn out to be a huge money pit. I’m sorry to hear this timeshare has become such a financial burden for you, especially since you purchased it with the intention of enjoying it with your family.

      Have you reviewed the agreement with the timeshare company? There may be a clause that details what you need to do in order to dissolve the agreement and relinquish the timeshare. There also may be options for selling it, however you will most likely need to reduce the price to much less than you paid for it. The problem with simply stopping your payments for the maintenance fees is that you agreed to pay them when you bought the property, so by not paying you may be putting yourself at risk for additional fees or even legal action. This can cost you even more money and have a serious affect on your credit score. You may find it helpful to search online for stories of others who have had this same problem, as they may have specific suggestions to help you get rid of this burdensome vacation property.

      What are some other tactics that the salesman used to convince you to purchase?

      Abbey

  • Any drawbacks to consolidating credit card debt into a home equity loan? I currently don’t have a mortgage but too much credit card debt. It’s bringing my credit score down.

    • Hi,

      Without knowing all of the details of your situation, I can’t advise you as to whether a home equity loan is a good idea. Just keep in mind that when you borrow money against your house, you take the risk of losing it if you are unable to pay. Make sure that you do extensive research to find the best option for your situation before you make any decisions.

      Abbey

  • I’ve found that going into a business without checking out all the costs of operating it or the actual demand for the services or products can cause a pile of debt. What was, hopefully, a way of making money can turn into a losing proposition. If the income is not sufficient to cover the expenses, you end up borrowing to pay for them. Eventually, you cannot borrow anymore.

    A business that that has a steady flow of repeat customers can do well but you better make sure those customers will go to you rather than your to competition. You also need to balance your spending between paying for necessary expenses and marketing. If you spend too much on expenses, you are wasting money. If you spend too little on marketing, your business will not have enough customers.

    You need to get all this information and get lots of advice from professionals or successful business people before you invest into a business or you could go into debt without a way out.

    • Thanks for reaching out with this great advice. Do you recommend any specific places people can go to get sound advice before starting their own business?

    • I got laid off July 24, 2009, and things were so bad in my area that my temp agency could not even find me PT assignments. Every morning was spent checking job search engines I’d set up. Every chance I got I modified my resume, cover letters and apps to fit jobs for which I was often over qualified but desperate to find work. That desperation left me open to ‘business startup’ companies who must get their ideas attached to these sites for people desperate like myself. After one disastrous start, the ‘perfect’ opportunity presented itself as a ‘fool proof’ method of starting up an internet business guaranteed to succeed. Key word here is FOOL which I was. Followed their blueprint and would love to plaster their name in this comment so others don’t get suckered in as I was. As is mentioned above, you have to be diligent to face up to the expenses you incur before you risk your severance pay on something that’s never gonna work. My son pleaded with me to ‘get out’ of this marketing plan since not one person ever signed up with me while all around me the people above me got richer and richer. Even spent money to attend a couple of seminars thinking it would show me how to fix whatever I was doing wrong. While there, during the awards ceremonies the same people won the big prizes, big money, big everything with a ‘token’ new person thrown in to make the rest of us believe we were not wasting our time and money. To succeed all you had to do was follow their marketing plan step by step. Expenses piled up with monthly ‘dues’, obtaining several domain names to ‘protect’ your business, webinar costs, advertising, etc. Upon finding out I was an article writer, they were elated saying it was THE BEST way to garner customers. They taught me how to change up my writing style in order to funnel business to the ‘website’ they’d set up for me. Even my writing skills failed to bring in even one customer. And ‘failed’ is how this turned out. Not only did I lose thousands of dollars doing every thing they said to do but combined with my failure to find gainful employment a feeling of being a complete failure permeated my life. To make things worse, my ‘sponsor’ never wanted to hear anything negative. She would chastise me if I tried to talk to her about my inability to sign anyone at all up for this perfect business plan. Abbey asks above for specific places to go for advice before starting your own business. Trust your instincts, talk to trusted friends and family–if you cannot sign them up, how can you expect to get complete strangers to hand over ‘lots’ of money–contact the BBB and get the SBA to look at your business plan. But the most important advice I would give is to set a firm deadline–a date to which you will stick–at which point you will bail out even if it means saying good-bye to money (and a lot of time) you’ve ‘invested’. Otherwise you’ll continue to ‘throw good money after bad’. Yes. I learned a lot while following all their instructions for setting myself up in an internet marketing business. But I’d rather turn back time and have some of the thousands of dollars I lost on this ‘education’.

      • Hi Sarah,

        Thanks so much for sharing all of this advice. It just goes to show that even companies that seem legitimate at first can potentially be scams. It’s unfortunate that you had to learn these lessons the hard way, but hopefully our readers will follow your advice and thoroughly investigate any new business adventure before investing time and money.

        How long did you work with this company before you threw in the towel? Have you since been able to find better employment?

        Abbey

  • Got a Home Equity Line of Credit on my horse ranch. Told a family member. She asked to “borrow” $10,000 to “put in the bank” to look solvent when refinancing her home. She was supposed to return the money in a month. She spent all the money, I had nothing when I needed it, had to borrow again at a high interest rate, and 8 years later, we’ve been to court, she tried to file BK, and thanks to a good attorney (I also have to pay), got a court order for monthly repayments. Meanwhile, family broken up, she hates me, etc etc etc. DO NOT LOAN MONEY, especially to family!!!!

    • Hi Nance,

      Sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience loaning money. Unfortunately, money can sometimes change even the closest relationships for the worse. If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently? Do you think that there is a way to say no to money requests from friends and family without causing a rift?

      Abbey

  • I can’t believe I’m even in this situation! I worked for years building my credit after my divorce a little over 10 years ago. Scratched & saved & done without until I was able to buy my own home, my lifelong dream! At the end of the home loan process, my lending representative cautioned me against going into any more debt for a year and to be careful. A month after closing I received offers from the two top home improvement stores, took them as I did need (& want) to do some repairs & remodeling. A couple more great rate offers for credit cards that I accepted intending NOT to use and reserve for emergency vehicle repairs if they arose. It didn’t take long for insanity to take over, perhaps from so many years of not having or being able to buy that all of them was maxed out. My credit score has dropped over 100 points due to high balances & debt to income ratio. Now I need to trade in my truck which is in need of repairs I can’t afford due to all my “new” bills & is now over 15000 miles, still owe more than its worth & lenders won’t touch me. I was old enough to know better & now in the position that just making payments, a little food & necessities are all I can afford. I still have a 100% on time payment record but it is just minimum payments I can make. Absolutely NO money to do things like take my kids to the movies or bowling and never an unnecessary trip anywhere to conserve gasoline. This is no way to actually live and has caused me intense stress every single day. I am seriously considering bankruptcy at this time and only keep my home and upside down vehicle so I can keep it maintained & on the road.

    • Hi Michelle,

      It’s amazing how even people with a history of financial responsibility like yourself can suddenly find themselves deep in debt. I’m sorry to hear that you have found yourself in this situation, but remember that you can get yourself out. Options like debt settlement and bankruptcy are there to help people start over with a clean slate and build a stable financial future. Not knowing all the details of your situation, I can’t advise you as to which options are best for you, but I can tell you that there is a light at the end of a tunnel.

      It may be time to sell your home and move into something smaller and more affordable, or possibly take up a second job so that you can put the extra income toward paying more than the minimum amount due on your credit cards. Many of our readers have paid off their debt without having to declare bankruptcy through a lot of hard work and dedication, so remember that all is not lost.

      Abbey

Leave a Comment