If you think that Occupy Wall Street is dead and forgotten, then you might be interested to discover Rolling Jubilee. This refers to a livestreamed concert event to raise money to purchase distressed debt and then – in a true twist – forgive it so that the debtors are left with a clean slate. The term jubilee refers to the Old Testament biblical practice of a periodic forgiveness of debt across society so that all start again with a clean slate.
Yes, you can purchase "distressed" – old – debt and then pursue it for collection via legal means. It’s frankly a lucrative venture but one so seamy that it’s left to the vulture financial types because you’re pursuing people who are truly down. The lucrative nature of the practice stems upon the fact that the debt is purchased for pennies on the dollar to reflect the likelihood of full repayment. The seaminess is that you’re dealing with people who typically have nothing and it’s going to require real pressure to get anything back.
There was a time years ago when I investigated its cousin, tax lien purchases, as an investment possibility; I subsequently wrote it off because it simply seemed morally repugnant to prey upon someone in such a circumstance. This isn’t to say that all debtors are victims since the taking on of debt often involves choice and free will, but we do live in a consumerist system in which the finanical sector has a largely free hand and that’s especially the case in regards to debt collection. The collectors don’t care about the why and how, just the money.
I know that I’m around that evening and will probably stream it with at least one of the kids. But even if I’m not going to stream it, I will put my money where my mouth is and donate because some folks truly are victims and I’m not comfortable letting them suffer for the sins of some of their peers. My hope is that they in turn learn and adapt accordingly.
And all of that aside, I’m going to continue to work to assure that my own kids have the knowledge and capacity to avoid that debt mess in the first place. Because home is where it all begins.