Financial Planning

The subprime lesson: Everyone’s a potential victim

Andrews There's a misperception out there that anyone facing financial hardship because of a subprime mortgage is (a) a clueless rube who knows little about personal finance, (b) a gullible dreamer who was duped by swindlers, or (c) a bit of both.

"How else," the common logic goes, "can you explain why so many people eagerly embraced loans that they had no chance of paying back?"

If you believe that, you need to take a few moments and read "My Personal Credit Crisis," an excerpt from the book Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown, by Edmund Andrews.

Andrews is an economics reporter for The New York Times who has covered the Federal Reserve and sounded early warnings about mortgage-related shenanigans in 2004.

He also is on the brink of losing his Silver Spring, Md., home thanks to a combination of huge alimony payments, soaring credit card debt, a sinking credit score and a subprime mortgage that he can no longer afford.

The article is an eye-opening example of how anyone -- even an economics-savvy reporter making around $120,000 a year -- can find himself face to face with financial ruin.

"I thought I knew a lot about go-go mortgages," Andrews writes. "I had already written several articles about the explosive growth of liar’s loans, no-money-down loans, interest-only loans and other even more exotic mortgages. I had interviewed people with very modest incomes who had taken out big loans. Yet for all that, I was stunned at how much money people were willing to throw at me."

There's plenty we can learn from Andrews' struggles, and his article should be required reading for everyone. Check it out when you get a chance.


Bill Sheridan