FORT WORTH — Experts say the recession is over. But ask a lot of Texans, and it's doubtful they would agree.
Thousands of families are still struggling to stay afloat.
Alethea Hopkins does what she must to survive — from providing private music lessons to sewing, the Fort Worth woman has managed to keep the lights on in her small apartment.
"I have determined that if it came to it, I would pack it up and live in my car if I had to," she said.
Those are sobering words from a woman who not long ago had a steady job, her eye on a home, and little in the way of debt.
But that all changed when Hopkins left one job for a better offer — only to have that position fall through, disqualifying her for unemployment benefits.
"When I at first had that teaching position offered to me and it disappeared, I was down to maybe $300, $400 of credit card debt," Hopkins said.
Her debt has now ballooned from a few hundred dollars to $20,000.
Hopkins never imagined she would face a financial crisis like this.
The daily cost of living — groceries, rent, utilities — coupled with the cost of unexpected medical bills and car repairs all added up very quickly.
"I had to use the credit card to supplement my very existence," she said. "It was not cost of excess or want — it was 'I have no engine in my car that died."
The debt mounted, compounded by high interest rates on the credit cards she used to survive. Hopkins said her finance charges were bigger than her car payment.
She finally asked for help, and is now in the first year of a five-year consolidated debt payment plan.
Alethea Hopkins urges everyone to heed this advice: "The biggest thing is to have that reality check of what is a 'want,' what is a 'need,'" she said.