Saturday, April 01, 2023

Nobody plans to fail. We all graduate college with plans to change the world, to make our mark, to have a grand house, a successful career, money in the bank and a big nest egg for when we retire.

But then something happens that gets in the way. It’s called life.

Just when you start to save some money you start paying for diapers, doctors, medicine, baby clothes, cable, insurance…

You have to buy a house and you have a mortgage payment, taxes, electric, landscaping.

And then the tuition starts. You didn’t imagine the cost of tuition would be such a big part of your paycheck. How is it possible to save when your expenses are so high? And that’s assuming everything is going well.

Then all of a sudden it happens. Your company has layoffs. Your business income drops.

And then the Great Recession hits and all bets are off. Eight years later, while many people are back on track, many others are still living paycheck to paycheck, withdrawing from their retirement funds to pay mortgage bills, driving in 13-year-old cars and missing weddings to avoid paying for gifts. For most of us, living comfortable lives, this is a way of life we can’t understand. But for too many it is the frustration they feel every day.

Paying with a debit card for groceries, relieved the charge went through; paying late fees on car and mortgage payments; getting deeper in the hole paying fees for late payments; watching your credit score drop so that any chance to refinance your mortgage and reduce your expenses becomes impossible.

I am a mortgage loan officer. I spend my days helping people who have steady sources of income buy homes and refinance their mortgages, helping them reduce their monthly expenses. However, several years ago I worked as a bankruptcy attorney and debt consolidation consultant. I assisted people in trying to resolve their debts and refinance and restructure their mortgages. In many cases we were able to find solutions, at times negotiating second mortgages and credit cards with reduced settlements, reducing interest rates, deferring interest payments and, when applicable, discharging debts in bankruptcy.

Regardless of the particular instance, in almost every case, the successful debtors had a support network. The ability to reach a settlement often hinged upon having a family member who would lend money to make a lump sum payment or co-sign a note.

However, even when we were able to resolve the financial issues, the lack of a true support network for many and the extreme pressure of dealing with the situation inevitably led to marital and other problems. It’s hard to work toward a better life when you can’t pay your daily bills.

Having an organization like Project Ezrah provides people like these with the support they need while they are sailing these rocky waters. They still have to steer their boats, but knowing they have others to help navigate, to guide the sails and to repair the boat when the storms threaten to break apart their vessel makes a tremendous difference in making it through. The support gives them the ability to dedicate effort to being productive at work or to find employment if they are not working. To sleep at night and have the strength to parent their children during the day. To have just enough energy to actually communicate with their spouse and preserve their relationship as they work through their challenges.

Most of my former clients did not have this resource and although we were able to eventually alleviate their financial concerns, in many cases, the damage was too overwhelming and that caused a rift in their family.

I no longer work as an attorney but I am happy to lend my assistance through Project Ezrah to people looking for some help as they navigate difficult financial times. Fortunately for me I get to offer assistance as a mere small part of a large dedicated mission. Fortunately for our community we have Project Ezrah and its invaluable team. I encourage those in need to contact Ezrah and for those who have an expertise to offer your skills.

The Project Ezrah dinner will be held on December 17 at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood. Please show your support for this wonderful asset of our community and very important organization by attending.

David Siegel


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