Phillip Cioppa was a Roman Catholic priest for 18 years. His starting salary was $8,400/year and when he left in 2001 he was earning $18,000 (after taxes, Social Security and Medicare). To make ends meet, he used a credit card, and found himself in deep debt. He shares his story on credit.com:
In late 1983, I was so proud to receive my first credit card from a major bank. I got the card, which had a $1,000 credit limit, through the assistance of a friend’s sister, as I clearly did not qualify. I swore I would only use it for extreme necessities. However, soon after getting that first card, I began to receive offers for more and more of them. I thought, what could be the harm of having some additional credit cards? After all, I had no savings and made very little money, so the cards would provide me with a “cushion” in times of need. Unfortunately however, I began to rationalize those “times of need” as a dinner here and there, new clothes, and other “essentials.”
I faithfully paid the minimum due on each card every month and was never late with a payment. In return, I was rewarded with increases in my credit limits. Remember that first credit card with a $1000 limit? It soon had a $10,000 limit. However, I did not have to use that card only because I quickly acquired twelve cards! I was credit card rich.
Ah, but then came judgment day. On the day I informed my Bishop that I was leaving active priestly ministry, I took a close look at my finances and discovered that I had accumulated more than $54,000 in credit card debt! I realized that if I stopped using the cards and paid the minimum on each, I would not be out of debt until I was 92 years of age. However, I wasn’t worried. I told myself that because I was single and had no responsibilities other than taking care of myself, my credit card debt was really not a problem. And so I kept using the cards. Then, two years after I left the priesthood, I fell in love and got married. I now owed a whopping $67,500 in credit card debt and realized I was in serious financial trouble.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects