Chuck Dagenet, a licensed practical nurse in Mesa, Ariz., and his wife lost their home to foreclosure last year, when they were due to refinance their mortgage. The house's value had plunged nearly 50 percent since they purchased it three and a half years before. Losing his house has convinced Dagenet, 46, that government needs to be more involved in defending Americans' finances.
While at work, Dagenet says, "people come in every year and say, 'Why are you doing this that way?' or 'You should do this differently.' It seems like no one was really looking over the banks' shoulder."
He and his wife were "not ... the most creditworthy people" when they secured their mortgage, he acknowledges. But when their home's value plummeted and they were struggling to figure out a way to keep it, the bank wouldn't even take their calls because they were not behind on their payments, he says.
In the context of his job, where his co-workers joke that they are more heavily regulated than America's nuclear power plants, Dagenet cannot believe that no one was looking more closely at his and others' situations. The banks "might not have been sitting on millions of dollars of foreclosures if they had listened to even half of the people who wanted to try and work through this," Dagenet said.
Dagenet's father and stepmother retired comfortably after careers as paralegals and after buying and selling successively more-valuable properties. Dagenet received two main pieces of financial advice from his parents: "Get your job, and buy a home," he said.
"But when you buy something that's supposed to be your major investment and it blows up, what can you do?" His answer is more government regulation of the financial industry.
This article appears in the April 25, 2009, edition of National Journal Magazine.