Chase the WaMu Bait & Switch

Even as I signed the modification with Washington Mutual I felt niggling questions…why was the payment so high? Over $6600.00 a month is an awful lot of money, but I guess that’s what I needed to pay to clean-up the negative amortization and improve my credit rating.

And we all know your credit rating is almost as precious as your virginity – it must be kept intact.

So pay I did. I paid the February and March payment not only on time, but added in extra money towards the principal. I was making decent money in my new job and aside from this mortgage, my expenses were minimal. I could actually see the loan amount getting smaller. This was a good thing. Of course all good things come to an end, although the end was more abrupt than anything I could have imagined. On March 25, 2008, my new employers informed me they had radically underestimated the operating expenses for the business and they simply could not afford to pay me, the sole employee other than a part-time clerical person, the salary I’d been promised. Effective immediately they needed to implement a 50% salary reduction. I’d been paid for March and had thirty vacation days, so I could get paid another month at full salary but after that, as of May 2008, my salary was cut in half. Not a wage freeze or a 10% or 20% reduction, but a 50% salary reduction.

With only six months in the job I knew if I started a full-on job search people would think I’d done something wrong and that I was a job-hopper or a problem employee. Not good. I had to suck it up, at least until September 2008, when, with a full year on my resume, it wouldn’t look so bad to seek a new job. I had some non-retirement savings, about $60,000, having sold a second home, so what I could do each month was supplement my reduced earnings by dipping into the savings, thus keeping the mortgage current, continuing to reduce the principal and improving my credit rating. And it actually worked, for a while. I took on more freelance work and in order to keep everything going, rented my home again for a summer month and even took in guests while I was in residence.

In September 2008 my official job search began, and I joined the ranks of countless 50+ year-old baby boomers seeking a senior-level, high-paying job. Something else happened in September 2008:

WaMu Assets Sold to JPMorgan in Record Bank Failure  

Sept. 26, 2008 (Bloomberg) — Washington Mutual Inc. was seized by government regulators and its branches and assets sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co. in the biggest U.S. bank failure in history.

WaMu became “unsound” after customers withdrew $16.7 billion since Sept. 16, the Office of Thrift Supervision said yesterday. Branches are open today and depositors have full access to their accounts, Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said.

The failure of WaMu, which has $188 billion in Deposits, ratchets up pressure on lawmakers to piece together a rescue package for the nation’s financial system. The government’s inability yesterday to reach agreement on a bailout and the seizure of the biggest savings and loan sparked a sell-off of bank stocks, led by a 27 percent tumble in Wachovia Corp…

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