A former priest’s confession: how I ended up drowning in debt

A cautionary tale from financial expert Philip Cioppa — who just happens to be a former priest:

Most of you don’t know it, but for 18½ years I served as a Roman Catholic priest. In 2001, I left the priesthood in excellent standing to pursue other avenues in life.

When I left however, I was deep in credit card debt. I dug myself out eventually, but looking back at my situation, I marvel at how easy it was to get into debt in the first place.

It used to be that every Catholic priest lived in a rectory, had a housekeeper, a cook and a maintenance man on premises. However, let me assure you, times have changed.

Today the rectories are very often uninhabited, the cooks are gone and the maintenance man could very well be the priest himself.

Clearly, the life of today’s typical priest mirrors the reality of his parishioners, including the fact that it’s often full of financial difficulty.

When I was ordained in 1983, I earned $8,400/year. When I left in 2001, I earned (after taxes, Social Security and Medicare) $18,000/year.

Out of this salary I had to pay for my car, car insurance, life insurance, clothing and personal care expenses, not to mention an annual deduction for health and dental care.

When all was said and done, I was left with an average of $11,000/year to live on, which did not leave much for pursuing more in life than sitting in my room, which some unenlightened Catholics feel a priest should do anyway.

So, what did I do? I got credit, of course!

In late 1983, I was so proud to receive my first credit card from a major bank. I got the card, which had a $1,000 credit limit, through the assistance of a friend’s sister, as I clearly did not qualify.

I swore I would only use it for extreme necessities. However, soon after getting that first card, I began to receive offers for more and more of them.

Read the rest.

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