Fresh out of college, I was the big time Morehouse Man, Mr. Cum Laude, Mr. The World is My Oyster, Mr. Business (inner voice: You can stop now…I get the picture homie). I remember being offered an internship with JP Morgan Chase through my marketing professor Dr. Wells, and I didn’t take it. Sometimes I wonder if it was the right move, because it’s such a renowned firm. But I told myself from the start if I was going to work a job, the only one I wanted was a health profession. I still had dreams of becoming a doctor of some type. Early in my college career I decided that dentistry would be the better fit if I want to have a family someday. Becoming a dentist seemed appealing because of the regular work hours, but a doctor’s pay, and the prestige of a health profession. I could have a family and live comfortably. Yeah…that would be the life…
I did eventually go back and try to do Organic Chemistry and bombed yet again. I just couldn’t get myself motivated with the sciences. I felt like I was having to force feed myself the info, and I couldn’t keep it down.
The job hunt was on…
and I searched…
and I searched…
I was able to find sales positions pretty easily with my business degree, but honestly…I didn’t want to be a salesman. My karate teacher had a full staff, so that option was out. I remember being desperate for work, and ended up taking a janitorial job for an apartment complex. Being a janitor was good because it was a quiet job with lots of time to think. I would often think “Why am I scrubbing this toilet, for nearly minimum wage when I have a college degree from a good school?”
To make a long story short, I took a exam to become a teacher, because I knew the pay and benefits would be better. In Georgia, math and science teachers were in high demand. So I took an exam to become a math teacher. Unintentionally, I ended up following in my parents’ footsteps (My Mom taught mathematics for many years and eventually went into administration; Post military, my Dad taught science and is now an administrator).
In 2006, I was 26 years old, working in the Dekalb County School System as a math and science teacher in the Dekalb County School System. I’ll be perfectly frank, I was utterly unhappy with my job, with my life. I wondered if this was it. Was this all I was going to do with my life? Go day after day dealing with a body of students, most of whom didn’t give a rat’s ass about what I was trying to teach. I wondered if my crowning, life achievement was going to be finishing college. I was severely depressed, living with parents, feeling pretty unfulfilled. I had days where I would sit in the car, wondering “Am I gonna get out of the car and teach today?”
I was earning and income, about $34,000 per year if I’m not mistaken, but with student loans, the car note, credit card debt, etc., I always felt like I didn’t have enough to take care of things. So I started looking into ways that I could earn extra income. I knew I when the school term ended in June I wasn’t returning. I was searching for ways to earn income after I stopped teaching. My search would lead me down a road that would forever change my life and my thoughts on business and money.
I had been a selling on eBay for a few years already and would always say to myself if I just make it to that “Powerseller” Status (an honor designated to sellers who sell over a certain amount each month) I can just work for myself. That was far from the truth. I spent a lot of extra money trying to source my business, and it wasn’t easy.
Let’s see…there was shipping, customer service, product acquisition and then some. Having to handle everything from A to Z was wearing me out! I was working full time, put money into my business, which wasn’t doing well (despite the Powerseller status). To me all the certificate meant was that I was getting people their products and earning X dollars of gross income. Profit wasn’t taken into account and that’s where I was hurting. I had a thing for selling video games and systems, but the margins were incredibly small. I left a huge pile of crap in my father’s basement from all of the yard sales I had been to. THANKS DAD! But I stopped my business thinking there had to be an easier way….
I had a very close friend (we’d known each other since the fifth grade) who was also trying to do the same thing, and he got in contact with some “guys” that did real estate and another guy that did “car deals.” I can’t remember who he did business with first but I think he made about $3000 on his first car deal. That was enough to sell me. That was more than I take home in two months as a teacher. I met with his real estate acquaintance first, and in hindsight, I just didn’t know enough about it to get involved, I didn’t know the right probing questions to ask in order to ascertain whether or not this was a good deal. I just went off of what my friend was saying, and he didn’t know enough to make an informed decision either.
The idea was to let the company use my credit to secure a house for an nice up-front cash payment, they pay the monthly mortgage and rent out the house. Even when I type it now, it sounds like a stupid thing to do…but I was desperate to change my life. I signed on the dotted line with Brockman Enterprises and did in fact get a nice cash payment (I think it was about $7000). And for quite a while the company was doing everything that it said it would do.
In the meantime, the same friend did some more car deals and did a contract through Brockman Enterprises. He was getting some nice checks. I decided to do some car deals as well through Red Star Investment Group. This was actually kind of similar. I used my credit to help secure a high-end vehicle that would be rented out for an up-front cash payment (yep, it sounds shady, too). I was told by the company owner that if I were listed as an officer of the company, my credit wouldn’t be at risk. He lied.
Everything was good until I tried to get a place on my own and found that my credit score had been totally destroyed. RedStar Investment Group wasn’t making payments on any of the three high-end cars that I had been a guarantor for. 30-day late payments turned into 60 which turned into 90, and then things started to get bad. A repo man went banging on my mother’s door at 3 a.m. and it really scared her. The same thing happened to my Dad, but my did is ex-military, so let’s just say he was prepared. I immediately contacted the owner of RedStar, and can’t remember the bullshit excuse he gave me, but I was trying to get those cars to the repo man, thinking that if I did that, they’d call it even. The guy wouldn’t release the cars, so I had to find out where he lived, and give one repo man his address. I was able to get two of cars picked up. I got some nasty emails from the guy, one saying “Do you want a battle, cuz I will win!” I called him out as the scam artist that he was, some not-so-plesant, four-letter words were exchanged.
It sucked because I needed the cars to be returned. I called the police, and everyone I talked to said there was nothing they could do because the car had been signed over. Eventually the repo people got the car in Alabama, I think. What it was doing there? I can’t say for sure. I didn’t care, I just wanted to set things right.
Around the same time, the Brockman company stopped making house payments, and my credit was in a downward spiral. Fortunately that company was able to sell off that house and that took some weight off of my shoulders.
The cars were in, the house was sold, everything was okay, right? WRONG! Just because the cars were repossessed didn’t mean that the bills went away. I had balances of like $30,000 for a single vehicle and the other two were around the same price. I didn’t have that kind of money!! I had one and only one option left…bankruptcy.
I didn’t have the resources (I can’t remember now if it was $700 or $1300) to pay an attorney to handle bankruptcy. My mother loaned me the money to get out the mess I was in. Truth be told, there were several attorneys that turned me away. I remember one of them just saying “You’re screwed. I can’t help you.” Eventually I did find a lawyer who helped me with my case. He also allowed my to pay in reasonable installments.
In late December, the filing proceeded. It’s such a sinking feeling to walk into the Attorney General’s office along with everyone else who’s filing. Everyone looks dejected, and has to make a statement. I think my situation was the only one of its kind in the room. When the Attorney General got to me, have gave me the fiercest glare and questioned me about the cars. He didn’t seem to believe my story about Red Star Investment Group. He put my case under review.
I was on pins and needles…wondering if the bankruptcy was actually going to go through, if I was going to be able to get out of this mess.
Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.