How to Make a Financial Comeback: 3 Real-Life Tales of Resilience

Marisa Torrieri

financial comebackEver worry you’ll experience a financial setback so bad that it could leave you homeless?

New Yorker Jessica Jaye*, 43, believed the only thing between having an apartment and living on the streets was her ability to manage her five-figure credit card debt by using one card to pay down another. It certainly wasn’t the life she had planned for, or envisioned, years earlier.

In 2000, the music industry worker quit her job so she could focus on being a songwriter while taking on part-time receptionist work. But after 9/11 part-time work dried up, and she turned to her credit card to make ends meet. With every $10 swipe of her credit card, she told herself she would turn things around … eventually. But, of course, “eventually” never came.

Five years later, she was $80,000 in debt.

Even as she swiped away, Jaye didn’t foresee racking up a debt load nearly twice her current salary. “I was making very little money, living in New York City, and too proud to ask my parents for help, so I started living off my credit cards,” she recalls. “I always had to use my credit card for something, either to pay my rent [with credit card checks], to buy groceries, to pay for gas and electric. I have nothing to show for that money except not becoming homeless and emaciated.”

In 2005, she got a full-time job as a legal assistant and secretary for two entertainment lawyers, put her plans to “make it” as a songwriter on hold, declared bankruptcy and started the painful road of working her way back to financial solvency.

Jaye’s story—plus those from two others who have seen their pocketbooks emptied in tough times—is a testament to one fact: Making a financial comeback is entirely possible. But it requires a lot of work.

How Financial Setbacks Happen

James Dannucci and his wife, Meegan, had great jobs as a software engineer and schoolteacher, respectively, when Meegan decided to take a couple of years off between 2005 and 2007 to raise their first daughter, Mia. Dannucci and Meegan had prepared for some financial challenges—paring down to a single salary, shelling out for additional food and health care expenses. But then came a blow that blindsided them.

In 2007, the recession started, and the company Dannucci worked for let him go. “So I basically had to go scrambling for a job,” says Dannucci, 42, who lives in New Fairfield, Conn. “In order to keep the ball rolling, I had to dip into my retirement.”

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  • lulu

    I don’t understand – what comeback if she filed for bankruptcy – which is completely fine, but the comeback angle in this story doesn’t fit.

    • ProfessionalLush

      I was thinking the same thing. “Filing for bankruptcy” and “hopefully get a job when you’re unemployed” are not exactly life lessons??

  • Baby Buster

    Ms. “Jaye”, the lawyer’s advice to begin rebuilding credit through accepting credit card offers directed at not entirely credit worthy applicants is sound. Your insistence that they (the credit card issuer) do not raise the limits, however, is not. Your available credit is a fair portion of what comprises your credit score. By having them not extend you more credit, you’re only harming yourself. You’ve been disciplined in re-emerging from bankruptcy; trust yourself to be disciplined with a card with higher limits. Also, remember that given the fact that it’s a low-credit score marketed card, the interest APR is probably atrocious. That more than anything should motivate you to only use it when you are certain that you can pay the total balance at the time of the bill.

    Good luck with your return to financial stability. It’s too long of a road on which to doubt yourself.

  • Jtownes

    Judge much. I think that the comeback is that despite filing for bankruptcy she has not dug herself back in as many who find themselves in dire financial straits never change the the habits that got them there in the first place. My advice to the danucci’s is they should have looked at the option of her going back to work and him staying at home a lot sooner. My husband is the stay at home dad because my salary far exceeds his. Even though I would love to be home it just isn’t practical