Valley woman who hosted Obama economic event has her own economic worries

It's not every day that a presidential candidate conducts an economic summit in your backyard. That's exactly what happened to Mimi Vitello of Van Nuys back in January. KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde caught up with Vitello to continue the conversation about the economy.

Kitty Felde: Don't tell Barack Obama, but Mimi Vitello didn't vote for him in the February primary. She preferred Hillary Clinton.

But she's come around since. She's even sent a few small checks to his campaign. It was January when Obama discussed credit card debt and the real estate market in Vitello's backyard with a few of her neighbors.

Vitello is a nurse who works on health care quality. Back then, she was worried about being able to afford her mortgage. So how's she doing now?

Mimi Vitello: I got a very little raise for merit just this last month, and I make pretty good money for a single woman and yet, I am paying an interest-only mortgage that is substantial enough and not able to even put away for property taxes, because I don't save money.

I can't save money because there's a lot of other costs that I have. I had outstanding medical coverage costs that weren't covered by my insurance, so I still have that I'm paying for, for instance.

I refied and was lucky I could get – I didn't refi my mortgage, I refied my equity line at a lower interest rate, but I couldn't refi the mortgage because no bank wanted to take it on. And I have like $300,000 principal left on my house and right now we're checking to see what it's worth actually in this neighborhood.

There've been foreclosures around. So we're curious. I just talked today to my mortgage broker. So she's checking currently what my, if I'm upside down. I have a feeling I am.

Things are stable economically for me. I'm not, you know, holding on by my nails. But I also know things are due. Big bills are due. And I know that I've only been able to pay as I go, check to check.

In the last year and a half, I had home issues, typical home issues, that come up, especially with a late, an old home, where all your savings might go to. And so that's where all my savings went to.

Repairs of this, repairs of that, you have to take care of it. And so, you know, I was seriously considering, you know, I need to spiff up my house just to sell it to get out of it. But I can't sell it now. It's not the time.

Felde: Well, did you want to sell? Or do you have to sell?

Vitello: I don't have to sell. I don't want to be in a position where I need to, or... but I'm not in that position right now. I'm just sort of – I think – biding my time like many other people in – just normal debt. This used to be normal debt.

I don't really talk about it outside of my own head because I'm not necessarily as mature financially as I am professionally, and debt, and paying bills, and taxes has always been an emotional issue. It was an emotional issue seeing my parents go through it, growing up, watching that anxiety.

And I think it's not unusual in who I've talked to so that now, with the state of what's going on in the market, in the world market, not just ours, my own pocketbook, it's like "Oh yay! Everybody's with me now. I don't have to suffer and be scared alone. (laughs) It's like, we can all go into debt!" (laughs)

You have to have humor or you're not going to, you know, get up every day, and you want to stay under the covers. I'm, I'm always – and I am seriously always hopeful. And it's not... I don't know what I base that in except for that I'm capable, I'm able, I have a great job. And I have – I'm not going to be homeless. And nor will my three cats.

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