Financial Future Part One

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The Burnham family looks like any normal south central Kentucky family with two kids, a house, and a dog. But it wasn't long ago that Cliff and Toni Burnham were struggling financially and worried about their future.

Toni says: "We got married and came into marriage with him having his own credit card debt and me having my own credit debt. And then after a year of marriage we were in, I think, $25,000 worth of debt."

The two met in college at Western Kentucky University where they each got their first credit cards.

Cliff says: "It primarily started with credit cards when we didn't realize how bad they were and how much trouble you could get into."

The Burnhams are not alone. According to Federal Reserve statistics, twenty-somethings were more than twice as likely as older people to have a negative net worth. The median net worth for this age bracket was just $9,200.

Toni says: "We were expecting our first child, and we realized something had to be done."

They tried to tackle the problem on their own but found out it wasn't an easy task.

Cliff says: "Trying to pay them off and you consolidate and you go out and get a loan but you don't close those accounts and you don't cut up those credit cards so you start charging on them again now you have new credit card debt."

They say the lowest point they reached was when they could not afford to pay all of their monthly bills so they were forced to choose which ones were the most important and pay those, then pay extra on the other bills the next month.

Cliff says: "So you're not really getting ahead and you're really just getting deeper and deeper and you've got companies calling you and wanting to find out why you aren't making their payments and that kind of stuff."

The Federal Reserve shows one out of ten families headed by twenty-somethings is at least 60 days late on a bill. The Burnhams even considered filing bankruptcy, but eventually they were able to work with a credit counseling agency to help reduce their interest and lower their payments. It took the Burnhams five years to get back on track.

Cliff says: "It was pretty tough working extra hours at your regular job. I also took on a part time job at a local restaurant working Friday and Saturday night. So I did 4 1/2 years of 6 day work weeks."

Looking back Toni says they bought a lot of things they wanted, but that the things they purchased weren't always needed.

Toni says: "Now we are much better. We have one credit card. We do not charge in excess. If we can't afford it we don't buy it."

The Burnhams say they save cash to make purchases as they can afford them and they hardly ever use credit cards.

Cliff says: "So we don't really have that desire to go out and open new ones and get back into it. Especially since it took us five years to get out of the debt that we were in."

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