Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

March 3, 2009

Surviving Financial Ruin

You wouldn’t think brain injury or a blog about it would have that much in common with the current state of economic woe in this country and all over the globe.   It does.

It is not uncommon for those of us who have suffered traumatic brain injury to also suffer financial ruin as a result of it.  Brain injuries are not only catastrophic in their ability to render wide-scope damage, they are largely invisible, leading disbelieving insurance companies and employers to refuse disability and workman’s comp benefits.  Bills keep coming and money abruptly stops coming.  It doesn’t take long to find yourself in a pretty big hole.  Too often the survivors of tbi cannot return to the level of ability and income they based home, car and furniture purchases on and are faced with surviving on an income totalling, sometimes, a tenth of what they were used to.

I’ve learned a lot in the 13 years since my injury and subsequent financial downfall.  I was thinking that, perhaps, I could help those of you struggling in this wicked economy since it doesn’t appear its going to rebound anytime soon.

My first rule is, never kill yourself over money.   There’s no sense to it.  Silly, really.  Especially in today’s economy, there’s no shame in losing your house, having your car repossessed, or having bad credit.  It’s commonplace and everyone gets it.  There’s no longer a stigma attached to what we once considered eyebrow-raising happenstance.  Stay and fight.  Usually it’s mostly ego and pride that lead people to kill themselves over fortune turned misfortune.   Today you recover from bankruptcy in two years and nobody blinks at foreclosure.  Please don’t teach your kids that money is ever important enough to kill yourself over.

Next rule…If you are crafty enough to turn five dollar bills into hundred dollar bills and pass them off by buying a small-ticket item and keeping the huge amount of change (teenager is doing that right now in Michigan)…If you are savvy and slick enough to slide your sorry ass into people’s homes dressed as employees of the water company in order to steal their money….If you are smart enough to conjure up financial schemes that dupe millions out of millions…

Then cure cancer!  I always shake my head when I hear of people who are brilliant mastermind criminals who create mind-blowing computer viruses and intricate banking scams and complex insurance fraud.

People!!!!  If you’re THAT  smart, why don’t you focus your obvious talent on something that will win you and award you more recognition, admiration and money than you could imagine.  Stop with the bush league antics and aim higher.  We need all the thinkers and creators on our side if we’re going to improve our economy and our health and our lives and our country.   Step into the light.  Healthy brains are too important.   We can’t afford to waste even one of them.

Big rule here.  This one is unwavering.   When things get tough and people get desperate, they do desperate things.   We’ve all read recently how people are starting to act in desperate, ridiculous ways in order to get money.

But the rule is, you don’t hurt old people, kids or animals.   No ifs, ands or buts.   Nope.  You don’t break into an elderly woman’s house and scare the bejesus out of her while you ransack her drawers for her Social Security check.   You don’t host illegal and cruel dog fighting matches in your basement for extra cash.   And you don’t (this one’s gaining in popularity) pimp out your teenage daughter during sex parties in your home in order to come up with next month’s mortgage.

During the Great Depression, they said former CEOs of wealthy corporations were standing on street corners selling apples.  It might get a lot worse than what we have now and people are already acting like knuckleheads.

My advice to those who are starting to feel the pinch of this new and battered economy is to take some time.  Stop panicking.  Take a deep breath.  Many are waiting for some big tsunami to wash away everything when, in reality, it’s all about the trickles.

Little things.  If you’re still using all brand-name products, start there.   Read labels.  Start buying items that are Made In America.  Start shopping at stores whose owners live in your home town/state.  Save money first on items that don’t depend on taste like bleach, detergent, dryer sheets, and garbage bags.  Then try new food products.  One report on the local news swapped out comparable food items and saved sixty dollars in one grocery trip.  Sixty!

Start a conversation with friends and family members about how you might all consolidate rides and products and dwellings.  Panic starts when you don’t have a plan and you have no options.  Start with the worst option.  For most it would be losing their home.  Figure out who you might live with and have that conversation.  If you know you will always have a roof over your head, you’re going to be fine.

Start to barter.   Share your skills and abilities.  I’ll give your kid math tutoring if you fix my roof.   I’ll fill your cavity if you fix my brakes.  I’ll teach you the piano if you clean my carpeting.   You get the idea.

I lost a home.  I lost my credit.  I lost more than forty thousand dollars a year.  I moved in with my brother and my dad and I live in the basement I grew up in.  Any new clothes are gifts.  Any extra money is a mistake in my adding.

And I’ve survived this for thirteen years.  The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to be rich to lead a rich life.  You don’t have to own a fortune to feel fortunate.    This is a new day. 

There’s no more, “keeping up with the Joneses” when the Joneses have a note on their door and their house is empty.   When all the wealthy people were tossed into the ocean from the sinking Titanic, I guarantee you no one was comparing dress labels.

People survived the Great Depression.  They survived the Dust Bowl and the Dirty Thirties.  We made it through the 70s and tough times in the 80s when more was wrong than our huge hair styles.

It’s going to be OK.  So what if you end up sharing an old 1997 Chevy instead of your 2 new coupes with the thousand dollars in payments?  So what if you have to move in with friends or family for five years until you can recover?  At the end of long lives, nobody’s going to be counting your credit rating.

Nobody cares.  And if they do, hopefully they will be the first of your losses.  

P.S.  Don’t give up chocolate.   Never give up chocolate.  That’s just inviting madness.



  1. very nice post.
    check this privat chat

    halt die wurst warm

    Comment by Symnmeasy — March 30, 2009 @ 4:17 pm | Reply

    • Thanks. Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — April 3, 2009 @ 1:09 pm | Reply

  2. THankyou!
    This has saved little bits and pieces of me that were losing hope.

    Comment by Invisibly_Disabled — February 21, 2010 @ 10:57 pm | Reply

    • I can’t tell you how much your note delighted me. Thank you!!

      Comment by karaswanson — February 22, 2010 @ 2:23 am | Reply

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