Tuesday, June 5, 2007

So, um, about that student loan...

I fear my wild past is about to catch up with me.

Let's just say that money and I haven't had the closest of relationships through the years. As someone who fancied herself a "free spirit" during most of her 20s, it never occurred to me to keep careful watch over my finances.

Or, you know, pay my bills on time.

As a result, I found myself in Japan being rudely awakened one morning by a 4:00 a.m. phone call from a shouting, angry woman who cut me off and twisted my words and insulted me until I'd been reduced to tears.

Turns out, my bank had turned over my $40,000 student loan to a collection agency.

(Note to teenagers -- don't do 7 straight years of post-secondary schooling on student loans unless you're GUARANTEED to make at least $50,000 right after graduation. Otherwise, you'll spend the next decade handing over most of your money to an unsmiling bank employee. Not fun.)

In my defence, I'd just like to say that the Bank of Nova Scotia -- den of demons! -- never sent me any payment requests, receipts, or updates, so I never knew exactly how much I'd paid and how much I had left to pay.

Maybe they were too cheap to buy postage stamps to Japan?

Whatever the reason, they didn't give me the nudges I obviously needed to make my payments on time. And, well, I was content to let the matter slide. Until that 4:00 a.m. phone call.

And thus the fearing began...

Every month I missed a payment -- and every six months on top of that, for no good reason other than collection agents seem to enjoy shredding people's souls -- I'd get a phone call from someone telling me I was a shitty, shitty non-contributing member of society who enjoyed cheating decent people out of their hard-earned cash -- and that I was almost certainly going to die friendless and unloved, because that's all no-good scum-of-the-earth thieves like me deserved.

And every time they called, they made a point to emphasize how my credit rating was ruined -- for ever and ever. Because I couldn't give them the full $34,219 I still owed them all in one chunk -- since I wasn't willing to hit up my friends and family to spot me the money, so the collection agency could be done with me once and for all (oh, how I stunk up their lives!) -- they were going to make sure NO financial institution would EVER lend me money, EVER AGAIN.

In my 20s, living on a completely different continent, this didn't seem like so much of a threat.

But today? When I'm waiting to hear from a mortgage officer (from the very lovely Vancity Credit Union, the only bank I've ever encountered that DOESN'T seem to have been spawned in the bowels of hell) to find out if my husband the Dread Pirate and I qualify for a mortgage?

Well, let's just say I'm having a hard time concentrating.

Of course, I did end up paying off my student loans -- all $40,000 of them. So I *think* my credit record is back on track.

But I have no way of knowing for sure...

This afternoon, I should be getting a phone call letting me know if the mistakes of my youth are going to kill my dreams of becoming a homeowner.

Pray for me, if you're into that kind of thing...

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