Have you ever gotten to a point where you say “Enough is enough?” Eddie Vidmar did. After a series of serious setbacks — a layoff that wrecked his credit, and a car wreck that could have claimed his life — he reached the point where he either had to step up to the plate or settle for a life of health and financial complications.
He decided not to settle, and in a remarkably short period of time turned his credit — and his health — around. Here’s how he lost 50 pounds and boosted his credit score by more than 50 points.
Vidmar, of Akron, Ohio, first became familiar with his credit reports in 2007 when he decided it was time to stop paying rent and buy a home. He purchased his credit reports and found two problems: a state tax lien for taxes that had long ago been paid, and a $100 collection account from a visit to the ER. (The bill had been sent to his old address.) With a little persistence, he was able to get both items removed and buy his home.
“Things went well from that point forward,” he says. “I bought a new car that same month. I was working at an Internet provider as an IT Specialist, and everything was fine.”
Everything was fine, that is, until May 2011 when his company downsized and he lost his job. He explains what happened next:
“Unemployment only does so much for us, and I took the next job I could find, which unfortunately included a rather steep pay cut. I was able to maintain my mortgage, car payments and utility bills, but four revolving accounts went into collections. I had no options, as that pay cut was a severe blow to my game plan. I was able to find a better paying job after five months at the lower paying job, but that five months was fatal to my credit.
“That 697 (credit score) that I had when I bought my house dropped to 560, as two of those accounts went through a court collection process. One was written off as a bad debt, which will stay with me for 7 years, and the fourth I was able to settle for less than the full amount.
“The two that went through court saw a local law firm designated as trustee, and I worked out monthly payments with them. I knew it would be a long road, but it had to be done that way. I was consistent with those payments, and watched those two debts shrink as time passed.”
Totaled on the Highway
Just when he thought things were finally getting back on track, he hit his next hurdle — quite literally.
“On Jan. 25, 2013, a car crossed a median on the highway and hit me broadside with such force that I was driven into a guardrail and spun 180 degrees. My car was totaled, and I was very fortunate to live through the accident. That driver was not insured (his fault), and I did not have collision coverage (my fault — I have it now!), so I was on the hook for the balance of that car. In addition, I also needed to buy another car immediately so I could get to work.
“That accident was on a Friday afternoon, and I only missed two days of work despite a level 2 concussion, several facial lacerations, two broken ribs, and a bruised sternum. My credit was in such poor shape that it took 16 inquiries before the dealer could find someone to finance me, and that lender charged me 17% for the loan.”
Vidmar finally caught a break shortly after that when an appeal he had filed for VA benefits was finally resolved in his favor, providing him with the means to pay off both car loans and the two old outstanding debts. He was also able to retire at that time.
Assessing the Credit Damage
It was, however, no time to sit back and relax. His credit score was lousy — “about 560 when I bought my reports in November” he remarks — and he was physically out of shape as well.
“My weight peaked at 310 pounds, and I was buying bigger and bigger clothes to a point where I was wearing size 52 jeans. I needed a plan. Being diabetic made it even more critical that this be addressed.
“On Dec. 27, I began on my plan. I stopped eating beef, pork and chicken, as well as everything high in carbs, like rice, pasta, bread and potatoes. I was eating way too much fast food, as many as 7-8 times per week, and eliminating meat and chicken would keep me out of those drive-throughs. I started using protein meal replacement shakes for breakfast and lunch, with a fruit snack in between. Then a sensible dinner and a fruit snack at night.
“In addition, I picked up a used Wii, a used Wii balance board, and the Wii Fit software and started doing 45 minutes of exercise every night. I also began using the “off” switch on the television more often when the weather here in Ohio finally became nice enough to spend more time outside. I added two half-mile walks on the many walking trails we have here. It’s good for me, and my dog loves it!
“That combination of a change in eating habits and exercise has resulted in my weight going from 310 to 260 in 5 months, and I am now wearing size 44 jeans. That adds up to a loss of 50 pounds and 8 inches in 5 months. I will be working this plan for the rest of my life, as this was not a fad diet but a lifestyle change.”
On the Rebound
As for his credit, Vidmar realized he needed a plan for that as well. Here’s what he has learned:
“I spent a great deal of time on the Internet, reading the blogs on Credit.com and gathering information.” (He also monitors his credit scores each month for free on Credit.com.)
“It is very important to stay focused and that often requires you to face some harsh realities and unpleasant truths. If your credit is bad, you made it that way, and you can also fix it. Once you have your credit reports, make sure that there are no bad entries on it, like things you can prove are settled but still hanging out on your report…then you can plan for how you are going to fix it.
“You will also need to accept that in many cases, the only thing that will heal your bruised credit is time. Inquiries will stay on your report for 2 years, but they lose weight after 12 months. I can say that after 12 months, those 16 inquiries I had on my report lost so much weight that my score jumped greatly.”
Getting a secured credit card was another step he took to help build better credit. But he uses it very carefully and only on necessities. For example, he will fill his gas tank once with the card and make sure that he pays the balance off before it’s due.
“In both my quest for better health and better credit, I found that it was not easy to do, but having a solid plan in place helped,” he says. “I made my plan to eat healthier and exercise, and the results after just five months are noticeable. I also made a plan to use my credit responsibly and not apply for new credit, and the results after just six months are noticeable. My score has gone from 598 to 665, a jump of 67 points.”
For others who may be trying to make a major change, whether it’s losing weight or fixing their credit (or both!), Vidmar urges them not to give up: “Plan your work, and work your plan, and you will reach your goals. If you set your resolve and stay with it, you can’t NOT succeed.”
More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:
- What’s a Good Credit Score?
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life