Derailed Financials

February 12th, 2010 Comments

Wells Fargo Building - Portland In August, when I knew my employment was ending, I contacted Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to see if we could work something out. My idea was that by refinancing, restructuring, or some such – we could make our savings go longer and they wouldn’t get stuck with another empty house. I emailed our mortgage associate, I sent a message via the Wells Fargo website, and I called. After three weeks, I heard nothing back.

So, again I sent emails and placed phone calls.  A few days later I received a return call.  I was instructed to send a cursory financial income/expense report and a “hardship” letter.  I was provided a FAX number, but no address, no contact person, and certainly no email or web address.  Already this process was inspiring doubt – I don’t own a FAX machine, and I certainly don’t have a landline to FAX from my PC.  What century is this!?

Within the next week, I gathered the documentation, wrote the letter, and drove across the river to the Wells Fargo Loan office in Longview.  I had them FAX the materials and saved myself the few bucks that Office Depot would have charged.  Now I was left to wait and wonder – where did that document end up?  Who was responsible?  What steps do I need to take next? Within the next week, or two, someone from Wells Fargo called me. They wanted to make sure I was going to send in the appropriate documentation and hardship letter.  Of course I explained that I had already FAXed the materials, and after a few clicks of the mouse, the lady on the other end of the phone assured me they had indeed received my FAX.

What’s next?” I asked.  “What do you need me to do now?

Nothing.” She assured me.  “We will process your request and get back to you in the next three or four months.”

I’m sorry…  did you just say ‘three to four months?’  We’ll be out of money by then!”

She went on to explain to me that this is the standard processing time – but that I needed to call every week to keep my claim active. If I failed to call, they would cancel the process.

In the meantime, I received several letters in the mail, all with different return addresses, reminding and/or demanding certain information.  Information I had already FAXed in.  Or, within a day or two of receiving those letters, I would receive an automated call from Wells Fargo.  Sometimes the call would request that I stay on the line for assistance, other times a recording would state that is was important for me to call back and talk to someone at Wells Fargo.

Each time I spoke with someone, they would verify my information, address, whether or not we intended to keep the house, et cetera.  It was as if I were being treated like a first-time caller.  After awhile, I’d just interrupt the call-taker, and tell them I was returning a call – which of course I had already stated at the beginning of the call. And when we finally got to the specifics of why they, or I, called, each time I was told: “There doesn’t be any apparent reason to contact you.  You case is pending.  Thanks for calling.

Finally, about the time our bank account was down to zero, I received a call that said we had been approved for a payment moratorium until March of 2010. During that time, Wells Fargo would review my “hardship” and though we would owe several month’s of payments, most likely they would refinance our loan and work out a better payment strategy.  In the meantime, we had enrolled in unemployment insurance, food stamps, and the Oregon Health Plan.

I was advised to resubmit the required paperwork – even though they already had it on file – and they would send out a contract for us to sign.  When the contract arrived, we signed it, included the financial statements and hardship letter, and FAXed it back – again from a Wells Fargo institution.  Since our payment was set up for automatic withdrawal, I asked one of the people whom I spoke to, if they would stop that payment.

No, I was told – I needed to go into a bank branch directly to have that stopped.  So, when I was FAXing in the moratorium contract, I had them process the cancellation of the automatic withdrawal.

går det att köpa Viagra på nätet We were feeling hopeful – as if there were a light at the end of the tunnel. And then a couple of weeks later, I received an email telling me our account was overdrawn.  Apparently a mortgage payment was processed.  Of course this prompted a $35 overdraft fee and another $35 fee for transferring (not enough) money from our savings account.  In addition, the mortgage department was wanting to charge us for the NSF check.  But after a few phone calls, the mortgage payment was reversed and the various fees had been returned.  All was now well again.

Then I received another ca ll. I was told that our moratorium contract was “broken” and that we needed to reapply.  According to the nice lady on the other end of the phone, calling from St. Louis this time, when the last automatic payment was returned, that violated the stipulations of the contract.  Of course I tried explaining how there wasn’t supposed to be a payment, and that it was a mistake from their end that caused the payment to be initiated in the first place.  But even after convincing this person that it wasn’t our mistake, she still advised me to resubmit all the documentation again and to “reapply” for the hardship. I was mad, frustrated, and pretty discouraged.  Apparently we would be sent to the back of the queue again, and it would take another three or four months to process.  It turns out we didn’t have to wait that long.  I sent the material in the next week, and about a month later, we were informed that we no longer qualified because we hadn’t completed our responsibilities.

I was mad, frustrated, and pretty discouraged

entrader A few days later, I received another phone cal l. This time from someone in Maryland (the fifth state from which we’d received correspondence from).  This lady was not just a call-taker.  She wasn’t working off of a computer-monitor script.  She had real information and was able to dialog with me.  She told me it was actually good that the other process fell through and that the Homeowner Mortgage Modification Program was now up and running at Wells Fargo and that we certainly qualify for that.

This new program would lower our interest rates from 6% to 2% for a few years, and in addition, they would refinance in order to lower our payments.  In a few years, the interest rate would increase, but never above 5%.  Glory hallelujah!  We had hope again.  Of course I had to resubmit financial statements and a hardship letter, which I did.  (By now I’d found a free FAX service online)

Last week I received a phone call from someone who informed me that they were looking at our materials and we should have an answer within a week to 10 days.  He gave me his name, direct dial phone number, and extension.  Finally, we were dealing with real people!  We were feeling good!  We have already missed three house payments, and apparently that’s the point where they start looking to foreclose.  We could see this saga having a good mediation – after almost six months.

He asked me if The Wife was working?

Yesterday, the same man called me again.  He asked me if The Wife was working?  “No,” I explained.  “even after getting her RN license transfered, she was unable to find work either.”

Oh, that’s too bad.  We can’t modify your loan if your only income is unemployment.

Now this is crazy talk.  If I wasn’t unemployed, I wouldn’t need the modification.  If they had modified this sooner, we would still be making payments.  I was really confused – and it took me a few rounds of questioning to figure out what he was actually saying.  I could tell that this young man was feeling a little sheepish too.

The one thing he told me is that I should focus on getting work.  Wells Fargo has no interest in our house.  It would cost them more to take it, then to let us continue to live in it.  And of course that is certainly true.  We probably owe far more than it is worth.  If we stay here, which we plan to do, they will recoup all the money, plus interest, they loaned us two years ago.  If we leave, they too will loose the equity that we’ve already lost.  Not only will they have to pay someone to maintain it, sell it, and all the associated paperwork that goes along with a foreclosure – but they will lose about $50,000 from the original loan.

On paper, we’ve already lost about $100,000 dollars in the last couple of years.  What amazing times we live in.

Mission to Sam OuandjaHowever, we feel blessed.  Compared to the people of Haiti, Darfur, and other remote, forgotten regions, we are living well.  A friend of mine just got back from Malawi.  He said that everyday they eat a cold, cornmeal mush – several times a day – and that’s all.  They live in mud and grass huts, the water is dirty, and they have little or no education.

Despite the bureaucratic, Catch-22 we find ourselves in, we are content, at peace, and hopeful.  In fact, we are much happier than we have been in a couple of years.

The one thing I’ve come to appreciate, is the needs of the poor.

The one thing I’ve come to appreciate, is the needs of the poor.  As I wrote in a recent post, many of those who have an income, health insurance, and the emotional/mental/spiritual capacity to stay afloat, certainly need to have more insight and compassion on those who don’t have those resources.

It’s tough out here!


  1. HOly moses (pardon the biblical refrence). That reads like a book, Gary i think you need your own column in a major paper…just reading that pisses me off..but i'm not suprised at how ridiculous the whole process is. i think a descent resolution will come but thats a story you can tell your grandchildren about…wow..sorry to hear.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Thanks Don! I appreciate your outrage – and affirmation. Maybe someday I'll write that book and all of this will be history.

      My recent post Five Years Ago

  2. Denny Lin says:

    I am pretty mad and frustrated about your plight. I am grateful that you are finding contentment and happiness in all of this. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Thanks Denny! I appreciate your outrage. I admit, some days are better than others, and it could get worse – but really, we do feel blessed. I'd much rather go through this than undergo the bullying my family went through over the last couple of years. At least we escaped with some sanity, serenity, and spirituality intact! 🙂

      My recent post The Emperor is Naked

  3. Jamie Todd says:

    Good post Gary. We can understand much of what you are going through. I went through a similar experience with our bank, and was not happy with the process, or with the results. I also realize we are still blessed despite all of it.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Thanks for the support Jamie! It's all good – in the long run. 😉

      My recent post Survivor: Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast

  4. KC Robertson says:

    Can a person really understand this if they haven't been poor through no fault of their own? If they haven't eaten cornbread and beans for a year or lived in a boxcar, converted to a house, hoed cotton with "wetbacks", got nothing for Christmas. Commiserating is one thing… but…

    One of the reasons there are so many conservatives is they have no idea about what being poor really is. If people understood being poor there would be more liberals.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Good point KC – my grandparents re-emigrated to Oregon during the depression. With a 6 week old son, they drove from Minot, North Dakota to Oregon, in an old Model T. It took 3 weeks, lot's of bailing wire, sleeping beside the road, etc. Three and half years, and two daughters in-between, my Dad was born in his grandparent's log cabin on the Oregon Coast. No electricity, no running water – the whole deal. Crazy times.

      My recent post Get Off My Lawn!

  5. We are in a very similar boat, and it sucks! I called the IRS this week to talk to them about some back taxes, and was told that I am living an extravagant lifestyle and I am a not good piece of dirt because I have not paid my back taxes. I owe the government money and what kind of person am I to pay? I tried to explain that I would LOVE to have the money to be able to pay them, but we are barely keeping a roof over our heads. He was so insensitive and rude, I was shocked.

    I'll probably end up in jail.

    KC- I totally agree with you. People don't understand what it's like to be poor. I think it's an experience that everybody should go through. It's humbling. And it also makes you less dependent on yourself and MUCH MORE dependent on God!

    Gary- I agree, even in my struggles and hardships I am thankful for what I have. We are not in a good position, but it could be SO much worse!

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Brandi I'm sorry about your treatment by my employees at the IRS. They have totally run amok and no longer respond to my pleas for kindness, temperance, or civility.

      If you're big enough, and far enough in debt, they'll work with you. But otherwise, they'll just take your house, your wages, and your sanity. Don't give up, if you show a willingness, they will work with you – but in the meantime, I'd scrape together some cash! 😉 (Your mother would never let you go to jail – she'd bail you out and then hold it over your head the rest of your life!)

      My worst fear is living in a 2 bedroom, suburban, white-trash apartment complex. We can do two bedrooms, it's all the other rug-rats that scare me – and the influence on my kids. Other than that – Matthew 6!!

      My recent post Civics 101

  6. Sean Wiese says:

    That sounds exactly like what I have been through with Chase. There is really no incentives or penalties to force them to actually work with homeowners. Now that I have a short sale offer on my house I have resubmit all that paperwork again ??

    1. Gary Walter says:

      It is lunacy. Obama thought he could embarrass them into doing the right thing. They only snickered and deposited their bonus checks.

      My recent post 31 Million Americans Unemployed

      1. Sean Wiese says:

        Yeah and there was nothing put in place to restrict the bonuses as the admin knew about them and didn't exclude them or restrict. As far as home repos I would be interested in a real breakdown of who and where has gotten help. But guessing that would be like counting the number of job created with the stimulus.

  7. Gary Walter says:

    [youtube iqbrNwF8LJg


    My recent post Do Conservatives _no_ Love?

  8. Yvette Perez says:

    So ridiculous and so many of us getting the same run around…what a joke!

    1. Gary Walter says:

      I honestly believe, that up until this past week, it has been the challenge of ramping up their HMMP program – staffing, computer programming, procedures – that has not allowed them to be personable, reasonable, or really very helpful. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that this is challenging for them too! We were no longer customers that add value to their business – but problems that stand in the way of their recovery.

      But this last phone call – that I can't get a modification when my only income is unemployment – well, that's just crazy!

      I most likely could get a job for $12-13/hour – but we would have less income than we do now. I'm making real progress, and taking practical steps to replace my previous income. It's in their best interests to work with me now – in preparation for that future. Screw the protocols – take a look at the situation here. We are real people – caught in a real vice.

      But overall, I firmly believe that the squeaky wheel gets the grease – and if homeowners don't squeak, but instead go down amicably, well, others are going to get the grease, not us.

      My recent post Good to Great: Survivor, part 2

  9. they bullied you….?? thats almost incomprehensible!!!

    1. gwalter says:

      When the usual tactics of discussion, debate, and peer pressure didn't work – they then threatened my livelihood – and therefore my family. Few of us can stand up to that kind of pressure.

  10. Gary Walter says:

    At least this isn't us:
    <H2>Bank of America forecloses on house that couple had paid cash for</H2>
    SPRING HILL — Charlie and Maria Cardoso are among the millions of Americans who have experienced the misery and embarrassment that come with home foreclosure.

    Just one problem: The Massachusetts couple paid for their future retirement home in Spring Hill with cash in 2005, five years before agents for Bank of America seized the house, removed belongings and changed the locks on the doors, according to a lawsuit the couple have filed in federal court.

  11. @SteveAllen says:

    Dealing with financial institutions in the UK is a nightmare but we’re not alone: Derailed Financials (via @daddytude)

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by @SteveAllen #daddytude […]

  12. KC Robertson says:

    I think there is a way to escape most of these problems.

    1. Start with a map and a government publication called the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Education and Medical careers usually are a good fit because there are a few glorious charming students no uptown, modern, teacher wants to bother with. There is a declining aging population that requires medical care.

    2. Choose an occupation that is universally mobile. Something that is in demand everywhere. … See More

    3. Find a place that most people DO NOT want to live and make your life there. Most of the time glorious property will be undervalued to the point of seeming FREE. Banks will not lend money to most of those places. Everybody will know everybody except you. You will find the people there friendly and hospitable, high school girls will hitch hike to dances; drugs in the community will be sold by a “socially responsible dealer” who slaps teenagers off his step, crime will be nonexistent. If anything happens to your kid somebody will bring them home.

    4. Don’t worry how crazy friends and relatives think you are. You can make the place as culturally rich or barren as you wish. ( I own two satellite dishes one for TV and one for hi-speed internet) In thirty years it is very likely civilization will come out and surround you.

    Directions to most of those places include the phrase “the pavement ends”, or “park your car and catch the ferry at…” Someone will ask “isn’t that place dying?” The most sincere concerned people you know will whisper to you that it is nothing less than child abuse to raise a child there. When I was a youngster these places included names like, Silverton, Telluride, Aspen, and a thousand others… they are still around the U. S. A. but you have to search. There are lots of them in rural Canada. There are even more in Newfoundland.

    Happy Hunting !!!!

    1. Gary Walter says:

      My FIL used to own property in Telluride. My grandparents let the family homestead, on the central Oregon Coast, go to strangers because they were afraid their kids would fight over it. They sold it secretly. I have an aunt & uncle that live in Northern BC – Dawson Creek or Ft. St. John.

      It's a really good plan KC.

  13. KC Robertson says:

    In it’s heyday My grandfather doubled all the money he had won in bunkhouse cards and earned in the mines in the winter in one night in Telluride. Decided to stay the second night. The second morning he borrowed train fare back to the mine so he could earn enough money to go home the next week and start the spring farming.

    He had 700 acres of irrigated farmland east of Ignacio by about 1920.

  14. Julie Greene says:

    I'm sorry about the mess. The banks brag about how much they relief they have provided, but where is it?

    We have been going through something similar with Bank of America. We asked to refinance due to hardship, they said they approved us to fill out the paperwork but the paperwork is taking months to get to us (via snail-mail). We call and ask for it and they tell us "it's being processed".

    I talked to a lawyer and she told me unfortunately that is how they operate, that we had to keep riding them and harassing them in order to ever see that paperwork. So in the meantime we work full-time and and spend another 20 hours on harassing the bank. You are supposed to keep looking for work but take time to keep harassing them too? It's a tangled web they weave that only serves to daze and confuse us.

    You are in my prayers 🙂
    My recent post Buzz by Julie Greene from Buzz

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Wow Julie, I didn't realize you were going through that to0. I'm so sorry!

      Have you gone online and filled out the form (the link is on the post ( – do you think that would help?

      It is terribly frustrating – but, I keep putting into practice Jesus' advice to live one day at a time (Matthew 6).

      My recent post Survivor: Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast

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