Never judge a book by its cover – or a man by his profession.
Repo men have a reputation for a steely coldness. After all, they make their living retrieving motor vehicles from those who have fallen behind on their payments. It’s not unusual for them to get cursed, punched or shot at in the course of their work. No surprise they tend to be hard-bitten.
But Jim Ford is different.
Just before Thanksgiving, Ford, owner of an Illinois repo company, was tasked with repossessing an elderly couple’s 1998 Buick. Stanford and Patty Kipping, who are 82 and 70, had only a few $95 monthly payments left on their car when a jump in the cost of their prescriptions placed them in a financial bind.
That didn’t sit right with Ford. So, he tried to negotiate a deal with the bank on the Kipping’s behalf. But when that failed, Ford sadly towed away the Buick. And then did something remarkable. Using a fundraising account on GoFundMe.com and personal appeals to friends and colleagues, Ford raised $3,500 to help the Kippings. He paid off the Buick and did some overdue maintenance on the car. On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Ford returned the Buick to the Kippings along with a turkey and $1,000 in cash.
“It was a miracle come true,” Patty Kipping said as neighbors cheered Ford.
I love this story for its message of compassion. Jim Ford is an inspiration. But as a financial planner, I must also point out that this story also serves as a cautionary tale. The Kippings are on a fixed income and lacked the reserves to meet the challenge when things went sideways. An underfunded retirement is a scary place. Do what you must to avoid it. There are plenty of Jim Ford’s in this world, but we should never be dependent on the kindness of strangers to make our way in retirement.
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