…and have you ever seen a sad person on a Waverunner? — Daniel Tosh
I’ve never bought into the “money doesn’t buy happiness” lie, because I know that not having it isn’t especially enjoyable either.
This post will be all about the Benjamins, and I apologize in advance if it isn’t particularly scintillating, but I’ll do my best.
I’ve always had outstanding credit. I remember when we got pre-approved for a house loan, the agent was practically drooling when he saw my FICO score. I get at least three credit card offers a day in the mail. It seemed like people were lining up to give me money. So I honestly thought financing my surgery would be the easiest part of the journey.
The thing about all those credit card offers is, at some point they stopped mentioning how much they were willing to give you. And the evil thing about applying for cards is, the more you apply, the more your score is actually negatively impacted (not hugely, and not permanently, but it still isn’t a crap shoot I’m willing to play with).
My starting point was Credit Karma, who actually has a handy Android app. It is totally free, and they do what’s called a “soft pull,” which checks your score without affecting it. The app and site also have pretty handy tools, with suggestions of cards to apply for (still lacking a dollar limit, however) and lots of reviews of cards and banks by consumers.
I was unpleasantly surprised to see that at some point my score had dropped to “fair.” This caused me some worry, and I now do believe the “use it or lose it” wisdom (or at least, don’t stop paying attention to it). Everything checked out on the report though, so my only hope in raising it was to pay down some debt.
You know what we could really use? A site that lets you try different scenarios to see how each affects your score, to figure out the best short-term solution (because at least one card on my file is nowhere remotely close to being paid off, but I do have a few smaller balances. But which of those are hurting me the most?) I’ve always felt everyone needs the three following people as friends: a car repair advisor, a computer tech advisor, and a financial advisor (and ideally, a medical and/or vet medicine advisor, but let’s not be greedy). Boy, do I wish I had a financial advisor right about now.
I had tracked down two medical loan sites (well, people offering medical loans aren’t hard to find, but research carefully. Lots of shady companies looking to prey on your desperation): fundmydr.com and unitedmedicalcredit.com. Both of these are actually loan finders, not loan givers. The first had limited info that I could find. The second had hundreds of glowing reviews, but more than one mentioned a $900 fee being tacked on and that made me nervous. So I contacted the first.
I heard from them exactly once, to send me a link to lendingclub.com. This is similar to prosper.com, a new idea in lending that doesn’t involve banks but rather private investors. Well, they turned me down and I never heard from fundmydr.com again, so two thumbs down to them.
However, lendingclub did suggest AmOne, another loan finding company. I started communicating with them, I won’t say with more success, but they at least haven’t vanished after one half-hearted attempt.
The first thing AmOne did to help me was send me to a different credit score site, where my score appeared to be back in the low 700 “good” range, right where I left it when I stopped paying attention. I remarked about it, and the agent said everyone who used Credit Karma had the same experience. So, what gives, Credit Karma?
She sent me to three sites that did soft pulls (all unsuccessful), then we started wading into the water of the hard pulls (the ones that wallop your score; this made me very, very nervous).
Long story short, through them I tried OneMain Financial, which said outright they couldn’t loan more than $9,999 (I’ve no idea why one extra dollar is a hardship), but I figured what the heck, that would be the lion’s share of what I needed (as a refresher, $11,485 is the magic number).
I hooked up with Tim, a business-like and not overly friendly guy who reminded me a bit of Dave, my superhero who got us refinanced after a month of hell. For the record, I don’t trust overly friendly people. They come off as insincere and artificial. I’d much rather have someone brusque but professional, who doesn’t waste time with pleasantries, who is good at what they do and isn’t going to lie to me.
I answered Tim’s questions and he went away for a few days. I honestly thought that was the end of it, until he called back unexpectedly to announce I’d been approved for $7500. Well, since this fell significantly shorter of the magic number than $9,999 (although a damn sight more than anyone else was offering), I more or less dismissed it out of hand. Tim seemed disappointed. “If you change your mind, come on down. You could walk out with a check today.”
I kept looking, with similar lack of progress. The only good news was through working some serious overtime and maintaining a spending freeze, I had managed to put about $800 in savings over the course of two pay periods. I wish I could make this the plan and save the entire amount the old fashioned way, but the truth is these windfalls are incredibly few and far between, and saving thousands would most likely take me several years. And waiting that long would kill my poor impatient heart long before potential breast cancer had a chance.
I tried my bank, who I guess doesn’t love me as much as I love them. I tried a local credit union chosen purely at random. Nothing and nothing
A week later Tim called back to remind me the money was still mine for the taking. He really, really wanted my business. I reassured him I hadn’t ruled him out entirely but I was still exploring my options.
My last hope was CareCredit, a well-known medical credit card that we had actually used to pay for vet bills and a dental procedure I needed once upon a time. This turned out to be the biggest rollercoaster ride of all for me. Let me just say, trying to predict your own results from reading reviews and forums and comment threads of other people’s success is a fool’s game and a huge waste of time.
At first I thought, I was already in their system, and obviously in good standing since I had paid off the old balances long ago. All indicators were they were extremely generous with CLIs (credit limit increases) with existing customers. I could just request one of those.
Wrong. It had been too long and I had dropped out of their system, but I was free to reapply. Which I did, and was instantly approved for $7500.
At this point I suspected someone was playing a big cosmic joke on me.
But, you might say, problem solved! Between CareCredit and OneMain, you’re approved for more than the magic number! True, but I had to look at my monthly payment, and no matter how I worked it between the two, it would be higher than I was comfortable with. I want this surgery more than I’ve ever wanted anything, but not enough to spend five years in a panic trying to afford the payments every month. Nope, my best bet was getting it from one lender with manageable terms, even if that meant biting the bullet and waiting to save up a couple thousand to make the difference.
I did go back to Tim to see where borrowing less than $7500 would put me. And here’s where the first glimmers of a potentially feasible and concrete plan appeared.
We had previously discussed using my car for a secured loan; the problem being, my 18-year-old Honda is only worth about $300 (and I like it that way. I don’t worry about it getting stolen). However, Tery’s car is 6 years old and thus worth much more. Tim said if I put my name on the title, then we could use hers (without looking at her credit, most importantly) and he might be able to get me practically the entire amount. Even with a payment I could handle.
Tery, who feels bad that her really shitty credit forever means that she can’t help my loan chances, is more than happy that her car can be of service (and it’s rather poetic justice since I cosigned for the car loan and that’s one of the biggie items on my report that’s silently affecting my attempts now). She’ll have it paid off in three short months, and then things will start happening.
I can wait three short months. That gives me time to save more (I still want a safety cushion for leaner months), and lose more weight, which more time is always better than less. I also have a second meeting with Dr. Steinwald the beginning of June to see if there’s any wiggle room in that magic number.
So, there’s my super boring post without a proper ending about financing my surgery (maybe). Hope you enjoyed it!