When Truliant's Greenville, SC Manager Neil Garrett greeted Shirley Mayes at his Member Financial Center in July 2009, he could sense her worry.
A heavy debt load and the stress of constant calls from debt collectors was causing her major stress. She feared she might lose her home.
“Shirley said the phone wouldn’t stop ringing. She was in tears,” Garrett said. They spoke about her situation. He knew the solution. They would have to rebuild her credit, together.
“I told her I needed a commitment from her if we were going to get out of it,” he said.
Over the next six years, they would work to achieve that goal. For the first year, they would meet each Friday. Garrett advised Mayes to start ripping up credit card offers as she received them and to write fewer checks. Together they developed a system to manage her finances and heavy debt load.
They created a folder with bills on one side and a sheet listing income and other financial items on the other. They kept track of balances, what bills she had and when they were due, and Mayes paid enough on bills to keep collectors satisfied. They paid small amounts on several bills each month.
“We’d prioritize the bills. Make a game plan for the month. She documented it and brought it to me on Fridays,” Garrett said.
Slowly, Mayes’s credit began to improve. The Friday visits became less frequent. They started coming every two weeks. Then at longer increments. Garrett also kept in touch with Mayes’ son who lives in Virginia, to discuss progress on his mother’s financial improvement plan. Last year, her credit had improved to where Mayes could move her mortgage to Truliant, including all the debt wrapped into the loan.
“There’s no telling how much interest we saved the Mayes,” Garrett said. “Now she comes by about once a month to say ‘hey’ and tell me how great they are doing and enjoying life in their retirement years.”
Garrett, who has worked for Truliant for 14 years, said he works at Truliant because the values of the credit union match his own personal values and those he values in his community.
“What we at Truliant deliver is what I live. My character out there matches the character in here. There’s nothing hidden. It’s about a value system for me. Matching where you work and your personal life matters to me,” Garrett said.
“Putting people on the right track in life financially, no matter what cycle in life they are in, is a passion and Truliant allows me to do that at work and in my community,” he added.
Mayes continues work at breaking the cycle of bad debt. She said that now, before she makes a major purchase, she talks to Neil first. She and her husband of 50 years, Melvin, still have needs, like a new roof and some dental work, but now she approaches those needs and wants in smarter ways.
“Neil knows his job. He knows finance. Truliant looks out for people like us. It’s a blessing,” Mayes said. “He’s taught me if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Without Truliant, I really believe I would be down sick.”
Garrett said his job allows him to be the same person at the office that he is in his community.
“Everybody needs goals. Life happens fast, and Truliant takes the financial stress away and allows people to maintain and achieve their financial goals in life. But, people shouldn’t have to end each day like Shirley was.”