New Family–New Expenses (my bankruptcy story Part 3)

It’s 2006 and I’m 46 years old. Never been married. Never wanted kids. You might even call me kidaphobic. I love animals…from afar.  I am deathly allergic to cats and I am highly allergic to dogs.

I’m a few months into my new CruiseOne gig when some guy in Egg Harbor Township finds my profile on Yahoo Personals. I ignore him; he has 3 special needs kids  (ages 9, 12, 15)  and two dogs. And……a not yet ex-wife who lives in the in-law suite in his house.  He says his life is like living in a hurricane. Hey, at least he’s honest.

And he’s persistent. He says it was the picture of me smiling with a pink hat that drew him in.  I finally give in and start chatting with him with the understanding that no way in heaven do I want to be in the eye of a hurricane.

He tells me sells game worn hockey jerseys and he’s thinking of creating a Game Worn Hockey cruise. So we have lunch.

His name is Milton Byron and we’ve been living together for 4 years now…in the eye of a hurricane.

Four months into our relationship (we took turns driving back and forth from Cherry Hill to Egg Harbor Township), Milt suffered a TIA otherwise known as a mini-stroke. Although his motor skills were not impaired, he did and continues to suffer from blackouts, fugues, and extreme bouts of tiredness.

His business was suffering, the kids were suffering. Their mother was fighting her own demons at that time and wasn’t capable of helping.

He needed me, so slowly I started moving in and started the “Marilynization Process.” The house was in turmoil. His three sons lacked discipline and took no responsibility for the way the house looked. I was living in the personification of the phrase “men are pigs.”

I share this with you because I used a home equity loan on my condo to create a place that I could feel comfortable living in. I built myself a beautiful master suite bathroom with a jacuzzi tub and shower. I’d been single for 46 years and although I had lived with someone once before, we had two bathrooms. I wasn’t about to live with one bathroom now.

Then we remodeled the bedroom. And because I had bumped the youngest out of his bedroom, we remolded the two remaining kids room.

But it still didn’t feel like home to me. Most of my furniture, my books, paintings, knickknacks that made it feel like home were still back at the condo.

It took about two years for me to finally move all of my stuff from Cherry Hill to Egg Harbor Township. Two years of paying for a place I wasn’t living in.

I was helping cover expenses at my new home, paying expenses at my empty condo, and trying to make payments on both the home equity loan and the SBA loan. I slowly being pulled down into the abyss.

By 2009, I was starting to get that sinking feeling…

Drowning in Debt—part 4 of my Bankruptcy story

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Keeping Afloat–my bankruptcy story (part 2)

If you have ever started a new business you know the adrenalin rush of ideas that swirl within your mind. So much to do, so little time…and often not enough money.

My business coach told me early on, “Plan your work and work your plan.” So I wrote my CruiseOne franchise business plan. That plan was to reach out to my extensive database of organizations and groups and book multiple cabin trips as the mainstay of my business.

One of the reasons I chose to purchase the CruiseOne franchise over other travel franchises was their marketing department. I came from an pr and advertising background and I felt that the direct mail co-op programs, website and other marketing opportunities they offered fit my vision perfectly. So I poured a lot of marketing dollars into my budget.

Also in my business plan was a real, physical office space…not a bedroom converted to an office. I wanted a place to entertain potential clients, visiting cruise line reps, and hopefully an employee or two. I wanted to feel legit and my ego needed it. (damn that ego)

So I rented space in the business condo development right around the corner from my own condo in Cherry Hill.  I had always loved that complex and now I was a bonafide resident. And guess what, my office backed up to the parking lot of the Coastline Restaurant.  I got such a kick out of telling people that my CruiseOne office looked out on the coastline…

I rented two offices; one large  and one small. I asked a friend of mine to come in and work with me to handle administrative duties and would pay her a portion of my commission on any sales she brought in.

Big mistake. It basically ruined our friendship. Five years later we are friends again, but it will never be what is was and I miss that.

And this is also the start of the bigger problems. There wasn’t enough revenue coming in to pay me, let alone an employee. I used my credit cards to pay for new furniture, new computers, for marketing, for subscriptions, for memberships and sometimes for electric and phone bills, too. I had to cover the rent, health and business insurance, and pay myself out of the business account. Oh yeah, and taxes.

I found I was really good at spending money. And I realized quickly that working only part of the plan will lead to failure.

My business plan was developed with group cruising as the base of my sales. But mostly all I was selling was individual cruises…and let me say a huge thank you to all my friends and family that supported my individual cruise business.

So I decided I needed more money to do this right. I approached a bank for an SBA loan. Straight up I gotta tell you, there was NO WAY I should have been approved for this loan. But I was.

And it kept my business afloat for 3 more years.

Look for the next installment, “When Life Supersedes Business”

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It Isn’t Just About the Money….my bankruptcy story

Denial. That’s how it started.

No, I’m okay…it’ll work itself out…I’ll be fine. No worries.

Truth is, I was plenty worried, but the idea of bankruptcy was so foreign to me…no not foreign, appalling…no worse than that…it was beneath me, that I wouldn’t even give it a second thought. My ego had decided my fate.

The credit card and loan debt mounted. What had seemed like a good idea just two years earlier started to spiral me downward.

Without boring you with all the details, let me give you a quick “how did I get here?” synopsis.  In 2003 I was 43 and on top of the world. I had a good paying job, a high-profile position in the business community, my house was paid off and other than my car, I really had no major debt. I paid most of my credit bills in full when they came in.

My fortunate situation was due, in part, to an unfortunate event….the money was left to me when my mom passed in 2002. She drilled in my head that I had to have stability and security. She made sure that she left me, and my brother, with the ability to enjoy life. My father had passed back in 1987, just after they had both retired. They never got to share the “good life” for which they both worked so hard.

So I paid off the mortgage on my condo in Cherry Hill, stashed some in my checking account, and put the rest away in stocks and mutual funds for my future. And I took vacations, went out a lot, and underwrote a new CD for a local Philly Blues band I loved, the Dukes of Destiny. I was single and I did what I wanted to do. I was in a good place.

During a vacation in Mexico in 2004, I realized I wasn’t as happy as I thought. Daydreaming on a beach can do that to you….fill you with thoughts of “what ifs.” The job, while fulfilling in many ways, was never going to provide future advancement. I needed space. I needed to be on my own again (I had owned a career placement firm for marketing and public relations professionals from 1999-2001).

So I came back from Mexico and said adios to my job. Except they wouldn’t accept my resignation. I was an important member of the team….and in the end I stayed.

By summer of 2005 with two more beach vacations behind me, I was done. I needed to be someone else.  Many of my friends suggested that since I love to travel, why not go in the travel business.

In October of 2005, after much due-diligence regarding the industry and possible companies,  I bought a CruiseOne franchise.

Look for “Keep Afloat”, the next in this series about bankruptcy.

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