Most people have probably read Edmund Andrews' piece in The New York Times, My Personal Credit Crisis (expanded into the book Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown). Many raised eyebrows when reading this:
We had very different ideas about money. Patty spent little on herself, but she refused to scrimp on top-quality produce, Starbucks coffee, bottled juices, fresh cheeses and clothing for the children and for me. She regularly bought me new shirts and ties to replace the frayed and drab ones in my closet. She thought it wasn't worth agonizing over nickels and dimes. I was almost exactly the opposite. My answer to any money squeeze was to stop spending. I would skip lunch at work to save $7. If I arrived at the Metro just before the end of rush hour, I would wait for five minutes to save 50 cents on the fare.
But en route to that moral, it turns out the story has been tidied up a little.
Patty Barreiro, Andrews' wife, has declared bankruptcy twice. The second time was while they were married, a detail that didn't make it into either the book or the excerpt that ran in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine.
Andrews' desire to shield his wife is understandable--hell, laudable. No decent person wants to parade their spouse's financial trouble in front of the world. But this is material information that changes the tenor of his story. Serial bankruptcy is not a creation of the current credit crisis, and it doesn't just happen to anyone, particularly anyone with a six figure salary.
Many people were already skeptical of Andrews' sob story because it was to a large part one of his own making. He seems to want to shuck responsibility because he had enablers. But this piece of information changes things a great deal. As Megan notes the very few individuals have serial personal (as opposed to business) bankruptcies on their record, and, those who have upper middle incomes to boot are even rarer.