Great-grandmother crushes over $23,000 in credit card debt

By Jackie Lam

Reviewed by Kimberly Rotter

Jan 08, 2024

Read time: 2 min

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They say that when it rains, it pours. 

Such was the case for Wanda. During the pandemic, Wanda's husband, who delivers milk for a Texas dairy farm, found his hours on the job getting slashed. Wanda—who is in her 60s, semi-retired, and employed part-time as a senior activities coordinator at her church—was laid off for an entire year. 

To make things worse, Wanda's husband was diagnosed with MDS, an incurable blood cancer. Then came the mountain of bills—for doctor's visits, medications, treatments and testing. 

To make ends meet, they used credit cards. At one point, they were running a balance of over $23,000 across 9 cards. 

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Debt collection calls never seemed to end

Bills were going up, income was going down, and the phone started to ring. Wanda didn’t know how to make debt collectors leave her alone. The calls never seemed to end, and they came at all hours.

"Even if you're doing the best you can, the debt collectors are just not happy with the payments you’re sending them versus what they want you to send," says Wanda.

Plus, Wanda was sad and ashamed that she couldn't help her family, which included her four grandkids and a great-grandchild. 

"You want to help your family, but we couldn't because we owed all these people money," she says. 

That's when Wanda decided to get help from Achieve to reduce her debt through debt resolution. Wanda and her husband enrolled 9 of their 12 credit card debts into the Achieve Resolution program. Then they made one monthly deposit into the dedicated account that was set up by Achieve for the purpose of negotiating their debts. Achieve helped Wanda come up with a customized plan that worked for her budget. Instead of feeling maxed out each month, she could budget for her bills. 

Achieve debt experts worked on Wanda’s behalf to get her creditors to agree to lower the amount she owed. 

"They reduced a lot of our bills in the first nine months." 

Facing creditor lawsuits

While working with Achieve brought relief, Wanda's credit card woes weren't entirely over. One day a law enforcement officer showed up at the couple's doorstep and left a card saying they had some legal papers to serve. 

It turns out that a major credit card company was suing them for the credit card balance they owed. The amount owed was over $10,000. Wanda and her husband were in utter shock. The fear, anxiety, and stress only got worse. Wanda had a hard time sleeping at night. 

"It was frustrating. You're constantly afraid that someone is going to knock at the door at any time. I was afraid I might go to jail," she says. Wanda was constantly on edge and got frequent migraines.

Wanda reached out to Achieve to help them figure out their options. She was invited to apply for an Achieve Acceleration Loan. This is a special invitation-only loan offered to Achieve members who have made all their debt resolution program payments on time. Achieve negotiated Wanda’s 5 remaining enrolled debts, and a loan was issued for exactly the amount that was needed to resolve them. 

The acceleration loan got Wanda and her husband to the end of their debt resolution program ahead of schedule. Then, instead of making a monthly payment to their program account, they made an affordable monthly payment against the loan until it was paid off. 

The couple were pleasantly surprised that the loan payment would be $635 a month, which they could manage. 

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Doing something about her debt, and feeling good about it

By working with Achieve to tackle her debt from different angles, Wanda felt tremendous relief as the huge weight of financial stress left her shoulders. Getting started gave her momentum to keep going on her debt repayment. "When you pay one off, it gives you that motivation.” 

She felt truly supported by Achieve, like there was really someone in her corner. "When you get that email saying someone is negotiating on your behalf, that is the best feeling." 

Wanda and her husband started putting money into savings while they were still getting rid of their debt. "Once you start making payments, you're able to have money to put toward something else you really want," she says. "We paid into our Achieve account, it built up and it paid what we needed. Now, we can have the 'lollipop.' We did something right, and we're being rewarded for it." 

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Showing up for herself and for her loved ones 

Before, Wanda would look at her bank account balance in the grocery store, afraid she wouldn’t have enough to pay for food. "Now, we can just enjoy our life and not have to check on how much is in the account before stepping into a grocery store to spend the grocery money," says Wanda. "And if the grandkids need assistance with groceries or whatever, we can do that." 

"We want to look forward to our retirement in the near future," she continues. She has an enormous sense of satisfaction in getting rid of her debts. “My kids don't have to worry about the burden of our credit cards."

Just like Wanda, many people struggle with overdue credit card bills and medical debts. If you feel like you are in the same boat, you are not alone. Get a free debt assessment today.

Jackie Lam - Author

Jackie is an Achieve contributor. She is an accredited financial coach (AFC®) who has written for Business Insider, BuzzFeed, CNET, USA Today's Blueprint, and others. She coaches artists and freelancers.

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Kimberly is Achieve’s senior editor. She is a financial counselor accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®, and a mortgage expert for The Motley Fool. She owns and manages a 350-writer content agency.

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