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28 May 2010

Ten Steps to Save Your Clearance from Bill Collector

  • Henderson, William. Personal Conduct and Security Clearances. May 24, 2010
  • Follow-up question from a reader on LinkedIn: What if you get caught up with the economy and get bad credit. What will that do to a security clearance?
RIF'ed after 25 years with Lockheed Martin, I’m looking for the right exit on the information superhighway, taking hat in hand to seek that temporary, entry-level job that the ruling party canceled my job to “pay for.” Sometimes -- specifically, after talking to the bill collectors, it so discourages me that I cannot stand to face the oncoming traffic, let alone the mirror.

Sometimes, I fear a Catch-22: I won't land a job because half a year (so far) of unemployment flushed my credit; but I can't make good on my credit because I can't land a job.

The following reflects my plan to face and mitigate bad credit's threat to my clearance and potential employment.

(Pardon me for shifting from first person to second, but this is too painful to write otherwise.)

Bad credit reflects a pattern of dishonest, unreliable, or rule-breaking behavior. You promised to pay your creditors and did not do so. That looks dishonest. Poor budgetary discipline at home presages poor budgetary discipline at work. Willingly or not, you broke your contracts. You now have trust issues with your employer and your government.

The mother of bad credit, overwhelming debt, renders us vulnerable to coercion. I am convinced that dealing with some collection agents fits the adverse sign of association with persons involved in criminal activity. It would not surprise me if some NSA analyst has passed around the office recordings of some of my phone conversations with them. Constant robo-calls and unreasoning, threatening collection agents can rend the heart of a sensitive, otherwise responsible person by debriding scabs from an already-wounded conscience.

As they say of torture, everyone has their limit. Anyone of poor character, or anyone with a lower threshold of emotional pain will eventually do anything to make the torture stop.

Since employers hire you to make money by properly handling their assets and the government entrusts you to create product or service by properly handling its assets, toasting your credit means burning your reputation; and that makes hiring you unpalatable.

Desperately clutching your privacy will not improve your situation. Living openly will decrease your vulnerability to exploitation. Clearance investigators know this. Create a budget, project out until you become debt-free. Offer to show them your plan for controlling your debts. As the referenced article says, [o]ccasionally security clearances are granted with conditions such as a promise to . . . pay off delinquent debts by a certain date.

Offer transparency not only to your employer; also avoid concealment of business or financial problems from family members. When the police interrogate the unfaithful husband on TV, what does he always plea? Please, don’t tell my wife! When investigators talk to your family, they will want to know whether your financial secrecy gives enemies leverage. Living openly not only mitigates your adverse information, it brings peace. It frees you from dealing with fear of exposure and allows you to deal with the real challenges of securing your employment and making ends meet.

Clearance adjudicators will consider you according to a whole person concept. If you need to, shift your life’s focus from satisfying your inward flaws to pursuing outward and upward goals. Correct flaws in your lifestyle, work toward educational or professional goals, or “give back” with altruistic service. You will balance the negatives with positives, become a better person, and live a more secure, peaceful life.

To recapitulate:

   1. Be honest with yourself about how you got into this situation. Accept the parts that were your responsibility.
   2. Be honest with yourself about the results of your situation. Don't blame the government, your employer, or bill collectors for what they have to do -- even if they are morons.
   3. Be open and painfully honest with your employer and clearance investigators.
   4. Be open and painfully honest with your family and any non-coworker associates that depend on your honesty.
   5. Make getting out of debt your primary hobby. Create a financial plan with realistic, measurable goals and dates for getting out of debt.
   6. Make reading Dave Ramsey's books and listening to him on the radio part of your plan.
   7. Turn to an accredited credit counseling agency if you need to.
   8. Make other lifestyle changes to live below your means, improve your character, and otherwise improve your life.
   9. Continue your education. Study towards a (higher) degree, earn a certificate, obtain a professional certificate.
  10. Serve others. You may have to exclude some religious activities from your resume', so consider adding involvement with charitable, civic, professional, or service organizations.

Steel yourself for painful honesty. Show that you have a plan to make good on your word. Create redeeming value in yourself. You just might save your clearance, your job, and your soul; so have faith.

Copyright 2010, Richard Wheeler. All rights reserved.