Newbery (Punk Rocker, 2016, etc.) shares stories of cleverly settled debt in this memoir.
During his career as a property owner in the early 2000s, the author accrued his fair share of debt; at one time, he writes, he owned more than 4,000 apartments across the United States. By dealing with his creditors and attempting to negotiate his way back into the black, he says that he learned how the American financial system is stacked against borrowers. Luckily, he also learned ways that borrowers can use that system to their advantage to escape huge amounts of debt without bankrupting themselves or losing their homes: “every debt has a unique set of circumstances,” Newbery explains, “and creditors are constantly making errors. You just need to find the errors and exploit them.” The best thing to do, he warns, is to not go into debt, but for those who already have, he offers some advice. He walks readers through a series of chapters that each deal with a peculiar debt scenario, and he shows how informed and assiduous debtors (real people, with names changed) extricated themselves with minimal damage. In one chapter, for instance, he recounts how he settled a $5.8 million debt for only $225,000. In another, he tells how he helped a friend avoid a foreclosure on her home with a passive-aggressive strategy of inaction. In a third, he reveals how a tumultuous breakup with his beloved Southwest credit card led to embarrassment while trying to pay a bill at an Olive Garden restaurant. Newbery clearly knows his stuff: the scenarios he describes are highly particular, and he spends time going into great detail, weighing the various options available to the person in question. However, his decision to offer lightly fictionalized anecdotes, rather than essays, is curious; they read like Socratic dialogues, and the artifice of the form is somewhat distracting. Even so, readers will be able to glean a great deal of helpful information from Newbery’s experiences, and they’ll walk away with a firmer understanding of the intricacies of his subject.
An imperfectly constructed but knowledgeable personal-finance book.