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0773 Dealing With Debt

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 773: Dealing With Debt.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 773. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in – say it with me – beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com; you know that. You know that you can go there to download a Learning Guide with all of the words, definitions, sample sentences, additional definitions, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and a complete transcript of this episode. You know that. Did you also know that we’re on Facebook? Well, we are: facebook.com/eslpod.

This episode is a dialogue about “debt,” when you owe other people money, when you borrow money. That, of course, can sometimes lead to problems. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Kristin: Let’s go shopping!

Ed: Wait a second. What are all these?

Kristin: They’re bills, but they don’t have to be paid yet. Don’t worry. Let’s go! There’s a new pair of shoes with my name on it.

Ed: Hold on a minute. This is a notice saying that you’re behind on your house payments and if you don’t pay soon, your house will go into foreclosure.

Kristin: Oh, they’re just bluffing. I’m only a little behind in my payments. I’ll get to it next week.

Ed: And this is a notice from your bank telling you that your car is being repossessed because you haven’t made a car payment in three months. Is that true?

Kristin: I refuse to look at anything as boring as a bill today.

Ed: And these are from the power company and the phone company. They’re going to cut off your services if you don’t pay now.

Kristin: If I could just charge those payments, I’d be okay.

Ed: Not with these credit cards. You’re maxed out. I’m surprised you haven’t heard from collection agencies already.

Kristin: Maybe I have. They can hound me all they want, but I’m not that behind on my payments. I’m tired of waiting. I’m going shopping with or without you.

Ed: You’re on your own. I refuse to help you toward your financial ruin!

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Kristin saying to Ed, “Let’s go shopping!” Let’s go buy some things. Ed says, “Wait. What are all these?” He’s looking at something. Kristin says, “They’re bills, but they don’t have to be paid yet.” “Bills” (bills – the singular is “bill”) are statements saying how much money you owe a company. Usually when you have some sort of service, the company that is giving you the service – or the product – sends you a bill. You can have a gas bill, an electric bill, a telephone bill; you have to usually pay these every month. Kristin says these bills that Ed is looking at don’t have to be paid yet. “Don’t worry,” she says, “Let’s go! There’s a new pair of shoes with my name on it.” The expression “there’s (something) with your name on it” is used to describe something that you want to have very badly; you have plans to buy it. So for example if I was going to buy a new car, I might say, “Oh, there’s a Mazda Miata with my name on it,” or, “There’s a Ford pickup truck with my name on it,” meaning those are things that I want to buy. Of course, it doesn’t actually have your name on it; you’re saying that that is something that you are going to get.

Ed says, “Hold on a minute. This is a notice (this is a letter) saying that you’re behind on your house payments and if you don’t pay soon, your house will go into foreclosure.” “To be behind on (something)” means to be late, not to be doing something as you had scheduled. “I’m behind on my accounting.” I was supposed to finish my accounts last week and I’m still working on it. “I’m behind on my bills” means the bills were supposed to be paid last month and I haven’t paid them yet. In this case, Kristin is behind on her house payments. When you buy a house in the United States, usually you get a loan from the bank – you borrow money from the bank, they lend you money – and then you have to, of course, pay the loan back every month. That’s what “house payments” are. Ed says that the notice says that the house payments of Kristin are behind schedule, and that her house may go into foreclosure. “Foreclosure” (foreclosure) is what happens when you don’t pay your loan back to the bank. If you take a long time, and you don’t give the bank their money every month, the bank can come and take your house from you because you haven’t paid the loan back. This, unfortunately, has happened a lot here in the United States in the last few years.

Kristin says, “Oh, they’re just bluffing.” “To bluff” (bluff) means to say something, to say that you’re going to do something bad, but you don’t really mean it. You’re not serious; you won’t actually do that. Sometimes we use the verb “bluff” when we’re playing cards, a card game like poker. You say that you have something, but you don’t actually have anything. You’re bluffing; you’re lying, basically. So, “to bluff” can be to lie, or “to bluff” can be to threaten to do something bad but not be serious about it, not actually intend to do it. Kristin says, “I’m only a little behind in my payments. I’ll get to it next week.” “I’ll get to it” means I will take care of it, I will handle it later.

Ed – who for some reason is looking through Kristin’s mail, I’m not sure why – sees another letter – another piece of paper – that is a notice from Kristin’s bank telling her that her car is being repossessed. “To repossess” is similar to a foreclosure; the bank comes and takes back what it gave you or what you borrowed money to buy – the bank didn’t give it to you, but the bank gave you the money to buy the house or buy the car. Now for a house, when the bank comes and says we’re taking your house from you, that’s called a “foreclosure.” When it’s anything else, like a car or maybe you borrowed money to buy furniture or whatever it is, we call it “repossession.” “To possess” means to own or to have something. “To repossess” means to take something from someone else, usually someone who has borrowed money from you. There was a movie many years ago called the Repo Man (repo). “Repo” stands for repossess. Usually, we talk about this verb when dealing with someone’s car, when they borrow money for a car and they don’t pay their loan. Ed says that Kristin’s car is being repossessed because she hasn’t made a car payment in three months. Remember we talked about house payments, money you pay to the bank every month for the loan that you have; that loan is called a “mortgage” when you by a house. Well, this is a car loan, and for car loans you have car payments; you pay the bank every month for the loan they gave you to buy your car. Ed says, “Is that true?”

Kristin says, “I refuse to look at anything as boring as a bill today.” She thinks that her bills are not interesting; they’re boring, so she’s just not going to look at them. Ed continues to go through Kristin’s mail. He says, “these (these letters) are from the power company and the phone company.” The power company is the company you buy your electricity from. Usually there’s just one power company for a given area. Sometimes the local government owns the power company, but in many places a private company has the contract to give everyone electricity. A phone company is always, at least in the U.S., a private company that provides you with telephone service. Ed says that the power company and the phone company are going to cut off Kristin’s services if she doesn’t pay her bills. “To cut off your services” means to stop giving you what you were paying for – or what you haven’t paid for, in this case. So, to cut off your power, to cut off your phone service, that’s what will happen if you don’t pay your bills.

Kristin says, “If I could just charge those payments, I’d be okay.” “To charge” (charge) means to use a credit card to pay a bill. You don’t have the cash – the money, so you use a credit card, a Visa or a MasterCard, to pay the bill. The word “charge” also has some other meanings in English; take a look at our Learning Guide for those. Ed says that Kristin can’t charge the bills; he says, “Not with these credit cards. They’re maxed out.” “To max (max) out” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to use the most you possibly can of something. “Max” is short for “maximize,” it’s related to the word “maximum,” the most of something. Well, to max out your credit cards means to use all of your credit. The bank usually gives you maybe 1,000 or 2,000 or 5,000 dollars that you can spend with your credit card, but then it says okay, no more. Well, Kristin has maxed out her credit cards; she can’t use them anymore until she pays her bills.

Ed says, “I’m surprised you haven’t heard from collection agencies already.” A “collection agency” is a company that helps other companies get their money from customers who don’t pay. So if you have a cell phone and you don’t pay your bill, after a few months another company – a collection agency – might call you and say hey, we want the money. Now, they can’t come and hurt you, but they can do other things that will hurt you financially if you don’t pay your bill.

Kristin says, “Maybe I have,” meaning maybe I have heard from collection agencies. She’s saying that these agencies have probably already contacted her. She says, “They can hound me all they want.” “To hound (hound) (someone)” means to bother someone, usually by asking for something over and over again. “His wife hounded him about cutting the lawn,” about cutting the grass outside. Or, “He hounded the employee to finish her work.” To be constantly asking someone. Well here, we’re talking about collection agencies hounding you, calling you, and that’s what collection agencies I think will do. They keep calling you until you pay your bill. Kristin says, “I’m not that behind on my payments (meaning I’m not very behind; I’m not that late). I’m tired of waiting. I’m going shopping with or without you.” So Kristin doesn’t want to pay her loans or worry about all of these problems with her debt, she’s just going to go shopping.

Ed says, “You’re on your own,” meaning you have to do this by yourself, I am not going to go with you. He says, “I refuse to help you toward your financial ruin!” “Ruin” (ruin) is a very bad situation, when you are completely destroyed, when the worst thing has happened to you. Financial ruin is when you don’t have any money anymore; you don’t have any way of getting money. You have maxed out all your credit cards, you’re house is in foreclosure, your car has been repossessed; we might call that “financial ruin.”

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Kristin: Let’s go shopping!

Ed: Wait a second. What are all these?

Kristin: They’re bills, but they don’t have to be paid yet. Don’t worry. Let’s go! There’s a new pair of shoes with my name on it.

Ed: Hold on a minute. This is a notice saying that you’re behind on your house payments and if you don’t pay soon, your house will go into foreclosure.

Kristin: Oh, they’re just bluffing. I’m only a little behind in my payments. I’ll get to it next week.

Ed: And this is a notice from your bank telling you that your car is being repossessed because you haven’t made a car payment in three months. Is that true?

Kristin: I refuse to look at anything as boring as a bill today.

Ed: And these are from the power company and the phone company. They’re going to cut off your services if you don’t pay now.

Kristin: If I could just charge those payments, I’d be okay.

Ed: Not with these credit cards. You’re maxed out. I’m surprised you haven’t heard from collection agencies already.

Kristin: Maybe I have. They can hound me all they want, but I’m not that behind on my payments. I’m tired of waiting. I’m going shopping with or without you.

Ed: You’re on your own. I refuse to help you toward your financial ruin!

[end of dialogue]

I’m never on my own when it comes to our dialogues; that’s because the wonderful Dr. Lucy Tse writes them for us.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
bill – a written statement of how much money one owes to a company and when it needs to be paid

* Don’t forget to pay the cable bill by the 15th of each month.

there’s a (something) with (one’s) name on it – a phrase used to describe something that one wants to have, especially when one plans to buy it

* There’s a house with my name on it, but I need to apply for a loan first.

behind – not doing something as scheduled; doing things later than planned, especially not paying bills when they are due

* How did you get so far behind on your homework assignments?

house payment – money paid each month on a mortgage (a loan to buy a home)

* Most financial advisors suggest making sure your house payment is less than one-third of your income.

foreclosure – the process in which a bank takes ownership of a home because an individual was not paying off the loan as required

* A few months after the Chansons lost their jobs, their house went into foreclosure and they had to move into a small apartment.

to bluff – to threaten or say something that is not true because one hopes it will change someone’s behavior

* Kids can tell when their parents are bluffing versus when they’re serious in their threats.

to repossess – for a bank to take ownership of something when the previous owner was not making payments on the loan used to purchase it

* If you don’t start making your car payments on time, the bank might repossess your Porsche.

power company – a company that provides electricity service to homes and businesses

* The power company is trying to teach people about the benefits of energy-efficient light bulbs.

phone company – a company that provides telephone service to homes and businesses

* How much does your phone company charge per minute for international calls?

to cut off service – to stop providing service because someone has not been paying for it

* The natural gas company isn’t allowed to cut off service during the coldest times of the year.

to charge – to pay for something with a credit card, not with cash, a check, or a debit card

* When I got my first credit card, my brother told me to never charge so much that I can’t pay my credit card bill the next month.

to be maxed out – to have reached the maximum amount available for spending on one’s credit card; to have reached the highest point of something; to have reached an extreme limit

* Between work and volunteer activities, Louise’s schedule is maxed out. She needs to learn to say no!

collection agency – a company that helps other companies collect the money its customers have not paid on time

* If a customer doesn’t pay three bills in a row, we pay a collection company to help us collect the debt.

to hound (someone) – to nag, bother, or annoy someone repeatedly until he or she does something

* Did your parents hound you to clean your room when you were a teenager?

on (one’s) own – doing something by oneself, alone, without help from other people

* How old were you when you learned how to wash your clothes on your own?

financial ruin – being bankrupt; being without any money and having bad credit

* Our company expanded too quickly and caused its own financial ruin.

Comprehension Questions
1. What is the bank going to do?
a) It’s going to raise the interest rate on her car loan.
b) It’s going to take away her car.
c) It’s going to give her a less expensive car.

2. What are the power company and phone company going to do?
a) They’re going to stop providing electricity and telephone service.
b) There going to begin charging late fees.
c) They’re going to tell her employer that she isn’t paying her bills.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
behind

The word “behind,” in this podcast, means not doing something as scheduled or doing things later than planned, especially not paying bills when they are due: “Khaled asked his brother for some financial help when he started falling behind on his rent.” The phrase “behind bars” means in jail or prison: “Luke was behind bars for years after he was caught stealing from the company.” The phrase “behind the times” describes someone who is old-fashioned and does not have or understand modern, up-to-date things: “Trent is so behind the times that he doesn’t even have a cell phone or an email address.” Finally, the phrase “behind (someone’s) back” describes doing things in a secretive, hidden way so that someone does not know about it: “Did you really negotiate that contract behind my back?”

charge

In this podcast, the verb “to charge” means to pay for something with a credit card, not with cash, a check, or a debit card: “To control her spending, Miranda cut up her credit cards so she wouldn’t be able to charge anything and had to pay for everything with cash.” The phrase “to charge” also means to make someone pay a particular price for an item or service: “Can you believe they’re charging $30 for each CD?” When talking about electronics, the verb “to charge” means to plug something in so that the battery refills with energy: “Don’t forget to charge your camera before we go on vacation.” Finally, the verb “to charge” can mean to officially accuse someone of having broken the law or done something wrong: “Charles was charged with murder, but it was all a big mistake.”

Culture Note
Debt Consolidation

Many Americans “live beyond their means” (spend more money than they make; have an expensive lifestyle they cannot pay for) by using credit cards and loans. “When that catches up with them” (when they have to face the consequences), they are “shocked” (surprised) and “horrified” (surprised in a bad way) to realize how much they are “in debt” (owing money to others). Many people try to change their “spending habits” (the ways people normally spend money), but realize that they need help.

People who are in debt can “turn to” (seek help from) “debt consolidation companies” that help people develop “strategies” (plans) to “consolidate” (combine many things into one thing) their debt. Debt consolidation involves “taking out” (borrowing; getting) one loan and using the money to pay off credit cards, “past-due bills” (bills that have not been paid on time) and other types of debt. The single loan may have a lower interest rate, and it is more convenient to “service” (make payments on) only one loan. In addition, the people no longer receive calls and letters from collection agencies, because their original “credit lines” (sources of money that needs to be paid back) have been “paid off” (paid fully, with no remaining amount due).

Some debt consolidation companies provide additional services, such as “credit counseling,” where they educate people about their “finances” (budgeting; money management) and help them find ways to spend less and pay off their debt more quickly. The companies can also assist with “debt settlement,” or negotiations to get “creditors” (people and companies that have loaned money) to “write off” (no longer try to collect) part of the amount owed.

The most beneficial debt consolidation companies are “non-profit” (do not try to earn money) and are there to help people. Other debt consolidation companies try to make money from people in debt by providing them these services, but charging very high fees. It is important to find out what kind of debt consolidation company it is before deciding to use its services.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a