In Part 2 I described the crazy amount of debt I incurred during my law school years. I left law school with $170,000 in household school debt and a starting salary of $45,000. But I wasn’t done yet … not even close. You see, when I was in law school I had a professor who told stories about his rock band and the fun they had in the recording studio making music. I had a musical background and I thought that sounded so cool! He offered to sponsor a “record label” self-study course that I would propose for school credit. I had to start a record company and prepare all the associated corporate document, trademark a logo, and prepare a business plan. It sounded a whole lot better than Constitutional Law. In fact, my (then) wife and her brother were singers and musicians and wanted to record a country music record. I jumped in with both feet. As soon as I graduated from law school, I borrowed money to record, mix, master, and manufacture a record. I even brought in and paid guest musicians to play on the record. I then borrowed money to purchase live performance sound equipment, and we took the show on the road! Now, as you can tell, I had no common sense back then. My borrowing ambition had no limits! At first we toured in a mini-bus that looked something like this:
But that just wasn’t cool enough for me. I wanted to project a certain image. I wanted to pull up at the concert venue looking professional. So, I took the plunge and financed the production of a conversion tour bus complete with leather furniture, televisions, shower, kitchenette and… you get the point. I thought this was much cooler:
So off we went, touring the southeast in a diesel guzzling luxury tour bus. I was a newbie attorney by day and a record label jack-of-all-trades by night and on weekends. I was having fun and completely ignored the mountain of debt that was looming over my head. I kept telling myself (and others) that if it didn’t work out I would just sign up as a wage slave at a major law firm and slowly pay off the debt somehow.
As if the music biz debt was not enough, I also built a house and furnished it on credit. Looking back, I don’t know how I kept my stress level under control. They say ignorance is bliss. In my case, my financial ignorance combined with my arrogance about my ability to manage all of this debt created a house of cards that was bound to come tumbling down. And boy did it … and suddenly. One week before Christmas in 2001 my (then) wife and I split up suddenly. Overnight, a seven-year dysfunctional marriage ended and, with it, so did the music business. Like a game of musical chairs, the music suddenly stopped and the revenue that I counted on from touring and CD sales dried up instantly. But the debt remained with me.
By then I was working hard at executing my plan to get a typical law firm job and work myself to death to fill in the crater of debt I had created. However, I could not seem to make enough money to fill the hole. The payments for the house, tour bus, car, credit cards, and school debt were more than I could possibly handle. As a result, the bank repossessed the tour bus, I got behind on the credit cards, and I was barely getting by. And as fate would have it, I was now a bankruptcy attorney. How ironic. I had become a potential client for the law firm. In fact, my boss urged me to file bankruptcy. He didn’t want to see me working so hard only to spend all my money digging out of debt. However, I decided not to declare bankruptcy. Instead, I opted to work hard for as many years as it would take to retire all of the debt. I would not be out of debt for 10 years! In Part 4 I will talk about how I did it.
Thanks for reading and let me hear from you.