update: I racked up $20,000 in personal charges on my company credit card

Remember the letter-writer last month who had racked up $20,000 in personal charges on his company credit card and was in a horrible cycle of using the card to take Paypal cash advances to pay it off each month, thus moving it to the next month, along with interest charges? Here’s his update.

I went to my manager and just laid it on the table, cut out any mention of factors as to how I got here, just laid it out: I have $20k personal expenses on the company card and I can’t immediately pay it back.

He had to go to his boss, and she had a teleconference with me, along with HR. Along with the meeting invite, they attached the company credit card policy, along with the ethics policy.

The first question they asked was, “Do you understand how a company card is supposed to be used?” I said that I have read the documents they gave me, and from reading them and talking to my manager it is very clear that the way I have been using the card up until now is inappropriate.

The next thing they asked was, “Just to be clear, you have $20k of personal expenses and you can’t pay the entire amount in one lump sum. Is that what you are saying?” Then they asked, “How will you pay it back?” I said that I am happy if I pay only my rent and food, and they can basically take the rest of my pay until it is covered.

My manager’s boss said she is not happy with that, because it will put me under stress which might lead me to some other act of desperation or make my job performance suffer. She further stated that because it is such a large amount, they do not have the budget to pay it in order for me to repay the company slowly. She went on to explain that the American Express corporate card is not a true “credit card,” but a debit card and therefore the company must clear the bill each month or face fines, penalties, and a breach of the agreement that our company has with American Express.

She asked if I have fully explored loans, friends, family, and all other options. I said that I had and I could provide rejected loan applications to show the effort I have been going through to get this debt into my name.

She said that they need to go back to the finance team to figure out the next steps, and she stated she would schedule a meeting for Thursday (of this past week). I haven’t heard back from her regarding this, and I assume she is still waiting to hear back from the finance team and attempting to come up with a fix for this situation. She says that the issue of the misuse of the company card is a secondary issue and the first is how to pay the bill.

My manager rang me just after this meeting finished. He was full of support and offered to write up the cost of losing me. He said he would like to show his boss that it would cost 4 times the $20k for him to outsource coverage and hire a new person, not to mention the interruption the client would experience. He said I need to put together a budget showing my income and expenses and he suggested I do $100 per week personal spending in the budget, so they will see the game plan I come up with as sustainable. He informed me of a few company policies, where employees can “cash out” a week of holiday pay each year with approval and he said he is happy to aprove that. Also, he will find out if I can cash out retirement funds to help with this, and he is offering as much overtime as possible. He suggested If I seek an out-of-hours job to supplement this and that it be restricted to weekends only because otherwise I’ll get burned out and might not stick to the plan.

He suggested I compose an email full of action words, like “I can commit to x dollars per paycheck” rahter than “I’ll try to repay ASAP.” He even kindly offered to proofread my email and look it over before sending on to HR and upper management. He mentioned that the likelihood of legal proceedings is low due to it being easier for them to get money from me if I am still working, and at least in New Zealand, it’s bad for the company reputation to take the hard road with their employees. While he says he cannot predict the outcome, he will support every effort to retain me. He suggested as a start to just offer to relinquish the credit card and offer to expense legitimate things through my bank account going forward.

I put together a quick budget, reflecting that with no more spending on the card and no more of the monthly PayPal fees, I can get this paid off within 12 months, through payroll reductions alone. And I have stated that I’m still exploring any possiblites of loans, as well as seeking overtime and the possiblity of some weekend work to reduce the timeframe for total payback.

I am SHOCKED they didn’t fire me on the spot, relieved that it seems legal action is low on the list of likely outcomes, and totally amazed at their level of understanding and willingness to help me. It’s like this huge, scary, heavy, unknown thing that has been causing depression and taking my mind very dark dark places over the last 4 years is now lifted and I see a light … at the very least, it’s not going to grow any bigger. PayPal fees are out of the equation, so any contribution I make is going 100% towards the outstanding amount. You know, my friend, I think I am standing two inches taller.

Just waiting for this second meeting is a bit of “limbo,” but it’s far far better than this terror I have put myself in over this. It’s just good that it is in the light now. I’ll let you know what happens after this meeting (which I havent even got an invite for just yet).

{ 343 comments… read them below }

    1. Carpe Librarium*

      I am so thrilled for the OP – I actually teared up a bit reading this. Not a great situation to be in, but a thousand times better than last month!

      1. TheLazyB (UK)*

        Me too. Well done OP. I am glad it turned out so well. All the best for the future. And keep us updated :)

  1. UKAnon*

    I am so pleased for you OP! I really wish you the best going forwards, and I wish everyone could be blessed with as supportive a manager as you have. You sound like you are in a good place despite it all, and I hope that continues for you.

    1. The IT Manager*

      +1 I hope ultimately it comes out win-win for LW and the company.

      Not to poke at you, but all us to take this as a lesson learned … coming clean/being honest/telling the truth was helpful. Not only is the LW not getting in any deeper with pay pal trying to hide the problem but feels a lot better emotionally because the fear of being found out was weighing so heavily on him or her.

      1. Green*

        Coming clean should be done after consulting with an attorney if you believe you may have done something illegal, at the very least so that you can have full information and knowledge of potential consequences when you decide to go forward with coming of clean.

        So glad this worked out for OP thus far (i.e., legal action is low likelihood per manager), but that may have very much depended on the managers and company involved and their relationship with this particular employee.

      2. Mabel*

        I agree. It’s so stressful to feel like you have to hide things – especially things that you really can’t deal with on your own. It can’t have been easy to have the conversation with your manager (and his boss and then HR). Congratulations on taking the first step!

  2. Teacher Recruiter*

    Holy moly!! This is not the update I expected at all. Curious how the meeting this week goes, but the OP is very very lucky.

    1. K.*

      Me neither. Like the OP, I’m shocked he wasn’t fired. I can think of many, many companies that would fire and/or sue (or try to sue) an employee for much less than this. He’s lucky to have the manager he does. He’s also clearly a good performer.

        1. INTP*

          Yep, and suing would probably also bring them less money because it sounds like he’s willing to hand over everything he can afford without anyone paying for lawyer costs.

    2. NickelandDime*

      In the U.S., he would be gone and they may have pressed charges. This usually doesn’t result in the company getting their money back, but I think they do it for insurance purposes. I know someone that had an employee do this. They fired the person, at least got back the iPad and laptop, and filed theft charges.

      I don’t know what happened to them. I can’t imagine someone wanting to hire you because you stole $20,000 from your company and there are charges pending against you for the theft.

      1. sam*

        I think the biggest thing here is that because he came clean, rather than getting “caught”, allowed them the opportunity to at least consider working out a solution. If this had been discovered by anyone else at the company, they wouldn’t have had a choice but to fire him, not for the financial issues alone, but for the lying/covering up.

        1. NickelandDime*

          I’m glad it worked out for him. But I honestly think it would have gone differently here in the U.S. I hope he is able to pay it all back and move on from this. I would worry more about that part, but the fact that he came clean tells me he will probably get this taken care of.

        2. WorkingMom*

          Yes – the fact that he owned up to the mistakes and was able to prove how hard he’s been working to make it right. Happy to read this update, best of luck to you, OP!

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        eh, there are good people around the globe.

        These are good people the OP is dealing with, that’s the most significant factor.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, really. These are people that “get it”, with “it” being the terror in OP’s imagination of what could happen is probably greater than anything they could do to OP. It’s a company of thinking people. I would not mind working there.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            We’re pretty soft hearted about scrapes people get themselves into. I’m actually a harder ass than the rest of ’em – the CFO and the company owners are big softies. The CFO actually didn’t fire someone the first time he got caught stealing (equipment not cash out of the bank) because he felt sorry for the guy. Put him on a repayment plan. The second time he got caught however…..

      3. MicheleNYC*

        Not necessarily. A friend of a friend did this with her corporate Amex for and she worked for a multi-billion $ company. I believe she owed about $12,000 on her account. The company set up a payment plan for her to take care of the balance and took away her card. Once the balance was paid she was laid off. Obviously the mess she created had something to do with it. Most companies just want to get the money back and firing someone immediately will not solve that problem.

        1. Another HRPro*

          Agreed. I’ve seen several people get into this type of trouble. Those who come clean and learn from do well. Those that hide it or violate the financial policies again end up being let go.

  3. BabyAttorney*

    I wondered about you, KiwiLW, at least once a week since this came up. I’m so glad you took this route, and I truly hope with your manager on your side and everything laid out that the company is able to figure this out and yoy are able to repay everything. $20K in twelve months is impressive, and I hope they give you the chance to do it!

    1. TootsNYC*

      Ditto, you’ve been on my mind.

      I’m glad of your update.

      And as someone upstream said–what a lesson to us all that hiding things is SO much more damaging than dealing with them openly.
      Think what your position would be if you’d taken this to your boss in the very first month. (also not to poke at you–but a lesson for all of us.)

      Such a great boss, too, by the way.
      I think that your boss is this proactive on your behalf shows that you are good at your job and should feel confident about that.

  4. Simplytea*

    It always works out in the end :) and in 12 months you’ll be able to invest in yourself again!

    1. Carpe Librarium*

      Also, when all of this is paid off in 12 months, the OP could just keep going and simply bank what they had been paying to the company.
      OP, if you stick to the repayment budget for 24 months, by the end of it you will have not only paid back your company, but also banked $20,000 – which is a useful buffer against future emergencies.

      1. Natalie*

        Great idea! Once you get used to living with that money, it will be easier to save it.

      2. littlemoose*

        Heck yes. Sticking with that budget after the balance is repaid for another year, while tough, would build up a good nest egg, and would be a way to get something positive out of this whole situation.

  5. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    I wish you the best, OP. You realized you made mistakes and you were upfront, and… YOU HAVE A GOOD MANAGER.

    This is really good. Scary, sure, because money can be like that, but it’s quite good.

    *crossing fingers for the best outcome possible for OP*

    1. MegEB*

      SO true. It sounds like your manager is incredibly supportive and understanding, which will be a huge help down the road. Good luck!

  6. AndersonDarling*

    I hope in a year we get another update saying the debt is completely paid off.
    There were many bad decisions that led to this, but I’m glad the OP is taking control and making amends. What a great manager!
    Good luck!

  7. Ann*

    I’m glad to hear that things are likely to work out for you. It’s great that your manager had a number of suggestions for you (cashing out the vacation pay, especially; that never occurred to me, but it sounds like a good option), and it seems like just having this weight off your back will contribute to your ability to pay back the money. Good luck!

      1. AMG*

        Perhaps because you feel there should be consequences? There will be. OP will need to regain the trust of his coworkers and his company, will have to sacrifice time, money and effort, and then there’s the anxiety, guilt etc. of having it hanging over his/her head. If OP didn’t see the problem, then I think s/he could be considered more of a detriment to society and harsher consequences would be warranted. This situation is clearly not all sunshine and roses, but OP owned up and there’s something to be said for that.

        1. AnonaMoose*

          This is pretty much a perfect consequence, and is the harder road actually. That’s good ‘parenting’ right there. Not all people who do bad things are bad people.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      What good would either of those do to fix the situation? Vengeance doesn’t pay the bills or fix the problem. A win-win solution retains a good worker and ensures the situation is actually resolved. And honestly, what does any of it matter to you?

        1. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

          And if he goes to prison, the taxpayers are paying ~$25K to feed, house, and guard him per year. I don’t see that as proper use of my tax dollars. I’d rather pay for coffee for those poor government workers.

          1. AnonaMoose*

            + 1 That’s exactly why I said this is a perfect consequence. He’s learning his lesson while actually paying off his crime. If he went to jail, it would be a free ride for a few months (if he even got time, it would likely be probation: woopty-doo), wheras this is the slow burn in which he has to work off his crime every day for the next 12 months. It’s the much tougher consequence, and it’s the RIGHT one, for all parties.

            And – they wouldn’t keep him around if he was a crap employee. It wouldn’t be worth it, even in a country that lambasts the company if they sack the worker (NZ). So, it makes me happy that they’re both learning a lesson. Because, for real, the fact that he was able to rack up that much in personal charges without any oversight is a large blip in their risk mitigation practices…

            1. Melissa*

              I wouldn’t exactly describe prison as a free ride for a few months, but overall I agree.

    2. Tagg*

      This is an unnecessarily callous response. The letter writer is a human being, humans make mistakes, the letter writer has owned up to that mistake and is doing everything in their power to make it right. Prosecution or the loss of their job would not make the situation any better and indeed, as the update says, it would only make it worse, and cost the company much more in the end.

      1. Steve G*

        The word “prosecution” raises the “is it illegal” question. Is it illegal to use a company card in a way that is against the company’s policy, but not explicitly illegal?

        1. fposte*

          Not the way you phrase it. I didn’t get every nuance of what the OP was doing, so it’s possible there was something that could be illegal, but it wasn’t obviously so.

          A civil suit, as is also alluded to, would be even more pointless because you do those to get money, and the whole point is the OP doesn’t have money. It is, IMHO, pretty smart of her employers to realize they’re likelier to get the money back if she stays.

        2. CNM*

          I’m pretty sure the answer is, yes, it is a crime to misuse a company credit card in this way. It is theft.

          1. AnonaMoose*

            I’m not actually certain of that. Let’s take a look at the card.

            Corporate Amex is really just a debit card that was signed on by a corporate tax ID instead of the personal tax ID (which is still vulnerable, but let’s not go there). If Joe puts $100 in personal charges on the card and pays it back – it’s not theft. If Joe puts $100 in personal charges on the card and doesn’t pay it back – it’s not theft. The company is taking the risk by adding Joe as a second signer. It gets philosophically dicey if we call it theft should the company pay it back in Joe’s name. But since Joe IS paying it back, there is no theft. In fact, it’s more like a personal loan from the company to Joe, albeit one that was poorly thought out.

            So, no, not theft really. But you could say that’s it’s not entirely ethical.

            1. Alanna*

              Wrong. It is embezzlement, which is a theft. I don’t know the laws in NZ, but in the US, a theft is still a theft as long as the owner of the property was deprived of it, no matter how long or whether they get it back or not. This is the perfect example of embezzlement.

              1. KiwiLW*

                to clarify it was a card with the company name on it , but from Amex point of view the debit was 100% mine. The main issue was that comapny policy staes it shouldnt be used for personal reasons

    3. LBK*

      Wow, that’s pretty harsh. I think we can all appreciate that sometimes you make a bad choice and end up in over your head; I know I sure have and I can think of a few people I know with otherwise excellent judgment who have put themselves in bad situations. The OP’s level of repentance bears him some kindness and patience, and ultimately, no one is likely to get hurt by this other than the OP. What’s the point in prosecution or punishment if it’s worse for everyone overall?

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Reminds me of the olden days when people in debt were thrown in jail…then we wises up enough to realize they cant work/earn $ to pay debt if they’re behind bars

        1. Anx*

          It’s made a comeback, though. Of course we no longer call them debtor’s prison, but people are being imprisoned all of the time for an inability to pay their bills.

    4. Jeanne*

      Can you elaborate on why? It may seem unfair like he’s getting away with something. He does have to pay it back. He’s probably paid extra in fees and interest and who knows the way he’s been juggling money. He has been admonished by many. I am sure his prospects for promotion went to 0 for the next 5 years or so. It’s really his manager’s decision if his work is good or the position is hard to fill or who knows. But I would be curious your train of thought.

      1. Ann*

        Yeah, I agree. I could understand being irked by the outcome here if the company just decided to absorb the debt, but that’s not what happened. The OP has to pay back everything (including extra fees), as he should, so he’s not really “getting away” with anything. His manager did a cost-benefit analysis and determined that it would be better to keep the OP on. A lot of thought went into this whole process, and that’s the way it should have been.

        1. Natalie*

          Plus the manager suggested OP relinquish the card, so there would be both a) a control against this happening again, and b) a punishment in the sense that OP will have to float travel expenses for the company out of his personal cash.

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      Relax, Javert.

      As the LW has shared, there are obviously consequences to his actions. Not all lessons must be taken to the most extreme outcome to be learned, and sometimes the harshest lessons aren’t effective.

      1. TootsNYC*

        And, he could still be fired; it’s not completely over.
        Well, the *dread* is over–that’s huge!

      2. The Strand*

        I love the Les Miz reference too, but moreso that the advice is coming from a poster named Muriel Heslop, from another story about personal accountability.

      3. Windchime*

        I’m going to try to find a way to use “Relax, Javert” in conversation sometime very soon. It’s perfect for this situation.

    6. Colette*

      The OP is making a good faith effort to repay the money. If they fire her, they’re on the hook for it. From a strictly practical standpoint, that’s not a good solution.

      I also think this was a result of poor financial knowledge & bad choices. The average US household has about $7500 in credit card debt. She’s not that far above that (especially when you consider that some households have $0) – the only difference here is that it’s a company card, not personal.

      And if she doesn’t pay it back, they still have the option of firing her or seeking a legal remedy.

    7. Ad Astra*

      I get that, if you were the manager, you would have fired him. That’s fine. But why root against someone who screwed up and reached out to this community for help? It sounds like firing him wouldn’t have been in the company’s best interest, and it’s not as if you personally have anything to gain or lose in this situation.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Rooting against someone who was kind of enough to share an update with us, no less. An update which we asked for and wanted. (And someone who’s basically a guest in my home, such as it is.)

    8. Green*

      The “person” who was harmed is the company. If the company is OK with the resolution, there’s no need for further restitution or punishment.

      I don’t think most people would have blamed the company if they felt they needed to fire or prosecute the person (particularly if they needed to file charges in order to get an insurance claim or something). But there’s a difference in that position being understandable from their perspective vs. it being the only path to “justice.”

      1. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

        And if the Supreme Court can say corporations are people, then corporations can show mercy too.

    9. TootsNYC*

      It could still happen. It’s not over yet.
      It’s just out in the open, and there is the possibility of ending the problem.

    10. Anna*

      I’m sorry you had so much personally invested in the OP getting fired and/or prosecuted. Are you council for the company he works for or something? Otherwise why so personally affronted?

    11. Laurel Gray*

      Jenny, I don’t know if you are in the US but I think this tends to be a default proposed solution people have for theft of any kind of any level at a place of employment. When we see any type of embezzlement, theft, or misappropriation of funds exposed via a news story, we usually only get the victim’s side. It is refreshing to hear the other side. Here we have an OP who wrote to AAM desperate for advice. It wasn’t like he came here with a link to his GoFundMe or Paypal for donations, the poor guy just wanted advice. When I go back and read the original letter and comments I realize the OP was also a victim — a victim of himself. He is battling issues that may take him years to fully resolve, years after this debt is paid back. I don’t think in a million years he thought he would go through what he did jeopardizing his livelihood in such a way after going through a bankruptcy and starting over. While I know it is easy to look at these things on the surface and want to execute a strict and firm punishment, sometimes it is better to just sit down and take in all the facts and suggestions. I bet the company learned some hard lessons about their business the same way the OP did.

    12. Coppertina*

      1) Noticing that Jenny hasn’t bothered to respond (rather troll-esque).
      2) Wondering if she works for a company that markets usurious credit products such as payday loans.

    13. A Bug!*

      Jenny, if you aren’t already familiar with the concept, I invite you to look into “restorative justice.” I think this is a pretty good example of where restorative justice can produce a better result than the conventional justice system. If the employer had fired the OP and reported the matter to the police, they could have filed a civil suit for recovery of the money, sure. But after being fired and facing whatever consequences flow from any criminal investigation and charges, how likely do you think it would be that the employer would ever actually see any meaningful recovery?

      Instead, the employer has looked at the situation and chosen the option that will give it the best chances of actually getting that $20,000.00 back. It’s not a “get out of jail free” card; the OP is going to have to make significant, genuine changes and sacrifices in order to repay his debt, and if he doesn’t, then there will be other consequences. Moreover, in light of the fact that his ongoing offense was motivated by shame, is it not a fairly fitting punishment that he’s now having to work on a daily basis with a whole pile of people who are fully aware of his shameful conduct?

      Do you think that the employer should be denied recovery of the money it’s owed so that the OP can sit in a jail cell for a few months and then spend the rest of his life struggling to find and keep minimum wage employment? Is that what “debt to society” means? That the victim goes uncompensated and the offender becomes a burden on taxpayers, all in the service of vengeance?

  8. Katie the Fed*

    Wow – that’s a good update. You might have actually been fortunate by the sheer amount of it – if they can’t cover it then trying to get it from you would be a “blood from a turnip” situation, but it’s also great that your boss went to bat for you. Clearly you’re doing a lot right if you have a boss wanting to help so much.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      Good point about the amount being perversely helpful. I guess when it comes to misuse of funds, go big or go home?

    2. Laurel Gray*

      “He mentioned that the likelihood of legal proceedings is low due to it being easier for them to get money from me if I am still working, and at least in New Zealand, it’s bad for the company reputation to take the hard road with their employees.”

      How much do you think location has to do with it? The OP is in New Zealand and we didn’t know that fact in their initial letter. I am still not convinced an American employer would be open to figuring out a solution together like the OP’s employer.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I think it depends on so many things – how much the company can absorb the expense, the particular worker involved, etc

        1. Colette*

          It probably depends on how common they think the problem is, too. In this case, they’re not likely to get the money back if they fire the employee, but they might be willing to take that hit if they think that other employees have heard (or will hear) about this and decide to do the same thing.

        2. Green*

          Agreed. I think it depends on the value of the employee, the relationship of the employee to the company (including longevity and established record of performance), the manager going to bat for the employee, company policies and how flexible they are , the existence of insurance to cover the situation, the advice of their legal counsel, the job role (does it involve handling money otherwise? or sensitive material?), and local laws/customs/culture.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Of course my experience is limited, but I think that US employers would have been harsher. To be fair, it is hard to compare cases because there are so many factors that vary.

        1. Anon Accountant*

          Some U.S. employers would be. I’ve known of people who owed companies much smaller amounts and were fired. One even confessed to his employer but they pressed charges to “make an example” to deter other employees. The amount he owed was about $3,000 when he confessed and was so guilt ridden. He was ordered to make restitution, had hours of community service and probation. Plus he likely had trouble finding a comparable position. The company fired him also.

      3. Ms T*

        American TV has also given US corporations a bit of a reputation for being unreasonably full of jerks. We ‘know’ its all exaggerated for entertainment, but combined with the fact its easier to see problems with cultures not your own, and various other factors (I can’t understand why business have managed to stop mimimum wage from increasing for so long, just for example), some of us in other countries start to think maybe its not as far from the truth as all that.

        1. Amy UK*

          Most of my impressions that American companies are harsh and awful actually come from real life- blogs like this being primary among the examples. I’m not talking “I have a bad manager” bad, I’m talking “the laws are set up entirely in the employer’s favour” bad.

          The amount of “Is this illegal?” questions on here that make me shocked when Alison says “No, why would it be?” is so high.

      4. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

        Eh, I’m in New Zealand and would not have expected this outcome either. While we’re not at-will, you can fire someone for serious misconduct with little issue, and misappropriating a company credit card is considered serious misconduct anywhere I’ve ever seen.

      5. Melissa*

        I think an American company would be more likely to knee-jerk to firing him and perhaps suing, but as has been pointed out that’d be a mistake because they’re far less likely to get the money back and would probably just spend more money covering for him and trying to find a replacement.

      6. BananaPants*

        I work for a multinational Fortune 500 company in the U.S. and I can pretty much guarantee that if it was my employer, this employee would have been fired regardless of where in the world he works. We have a clearly-articulated corporate card policy that every travel card holder is made well aware of when they sign the card application. I can’t even use my corporate card to pay for textbooks that the company is going to be reimbursing me for! $20K in personal charges would result in termination and likely civil action.

        The letter writer is fortunate that his employer seems to be somewhat forgiving. I am glad for him that a solution is found. I can’t help but wonder if the girlfriend who caused this mess is helping him clean it up now?

  9. penelope pitstop*

    So lightened to hear this that I can only imagine how you must feel, OP. Good on you for laying it out there and owning the situation. Also, you have a total, stand-up manager–who has your back personally and professionally. That speaks to how valued you (and your work) is, this issue aside. Those managers seem to be few and far between–hope his treatment of you is a model for how you treat others over the course of your career.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It would be interesting in the future to find out why they are reacting this way, OP. How did they come to the decision to handle the situation in this manner? Was it SOP? Was it just a matter of “let’s get the money back”? Or did they make an exception in your case and decide not to drop the hammer?

      You know, I would not be surprised that in years to come you, OP, get a chance to pay forward the fairness and even-handedness that you have been shown here. This is part of why I think it would be good to learn how they decided the matter, so if you are ever in a position of deciding how to handle someone else’s situation you know the factors to weigh in.

      1. BeenThere*

        Frankly I believe the cost of rehiring and going down the lawyer track would cost significantly more than the debt involved. New Zealand is also a very small country known for losing workers to Australia, it is on average more difficult to hire someone there that would be your ideal candidate.

  10. Koko*

    I just breathed a huge sigh of relief on OP’s behalf. I can only imagine how much better you feel not to have to carry this around anymore!

  11. LawBee*

    This made me a bit teary. Really a great outcome, and proof that being a good employee has benefits beyond the paycheck. I feel like hugging something! (We’ve all been worried.)

    1. Helen of What*

      I teared up too! I’m so glad OP’s manager is going to bat for him, and that the company is looking at this rationally.

      Best of luck OP, we all learn our share of hard lessons, you come out wiser in the end.

    2. This is She*

      Yes! I teared up too! I’m shocked at myself. But as soon as I hit the “I feel two inches taller” part, my eyes started spurting. I know what this feels like, oh, I know….

      So happy for the OP.

    3. spocklady*

      Yeah, I totally puddled. So relieved for you OP — it’s so great to hear that there’s a manageable solution and most of all that this situation is over for you and you should be out of the woods in a year. Your boss sounds amazing.

      Good luck, and do send us another update when when everything finishes settling out.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Similar sentiments here, OP. I was routing for you, and still am. Many of us will step in crap in the course of our lives. It’s not so much that we stepped in it, it’s what we do to clean it up that makes us or breaks us. You’ve made some good choices to go up against the mess and now you have good support. I wish you the best possible outcome. And I hope you let us know how you are doing in a year.

  12. Alison Read*

    I am so happy to hear the majority of the weight has been lifted. While this is not going to be a walk in the park, it is wonderful you have your manager’s support. I sincerely hope you’re able to stay on and the director recognizes how much company loyalty that will earn. Good luck to you, I’ve often wondered what route you took. I am impressed with your integrity for standing up and coming clean without excuses. Way to go!

  13. Nina*

    I’m so glad that you’re taking care of this, OP. And your manager is awesome. Props to the boss’ manager as well for recognizing that simply taking the remainder of your paycheck can actually make the problem worse, because it doesn’t give you any leeway for emergencies or important expenses. It sounds like you’re on a good path to clearing this debt and I hope it stays that way.

  14. Muriel Heslop*

    This is such a good update! I look forward to hearing in a year that you have cleared the financial debt. It seems like you have already learned so much from this – that is something of which to be proud!

    It also seems like you have a great manager from which you can learn a lot, too.

  15. LBK*

    I think this is a great example of why just coming clean and taking your lumps is always the best course of action – because sometimes you’ll be surprised to find that you don’t actually end up having to take them.

  16. AW*

    She went on to explain that the American Express corporate card is not a true “credit card,” but a debit card and therefore the company must clear the bill each month…

    How is it possible that this is just a debit card that must be paid off monthly and no one noticed the spending for over 2 years? This part is really confusing me; it doesn’t seem like it should be possible to build up a debt if it isn’t an actual credit card. That would mean the bank let the company overdraft $20K. You’d think someone would have flagged that.

    I’m guessing that the fact that this went so far means that folks other than the OP have explaining to do.

    1. LBK*

      I’m not sure if a corporate Amex is the same as a personal one, but for a personal Amex at least it’s not actually a debit card – it’s a credit card that’s not designed to carry a rolling balance. So you are expected to pay it every month in full, but it’s not like you have to deposit a cash balance to deduct from like a debit card. OP was paying it off in full (albeit in a way that’s almost definitely a violation of Amex’s terms of use) so there was no overdrafting, late fees, etc.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      This was explained in the original thread: after the statement cycle ended (let’s say on Day 21 of a month), the LW was taking a cash advance off the card of the total amount due, then using the cash advance to pay the full amount on the credit card. So, although the balance on the card stayed the same (actually increased, because she paid a fee every time she did this), it was technically paid off each month.

      1. AW*

        LW was taking a cash advance off the card of the total amount due, then using the cash advance to pay the full amount on the credit card.

        But how can you use the card to pay off the card and get to $0? If the card has a balance of $500 and you take $500 dollars off the card, isn’t the new debt $1,000? How does it ever appear to have a $0 balance?

        1. Helka*

          Because that’s looking at the bill that is due at the time, not the balance since the statement was generated.

          Here’s how the cycle would go, using entirely fictitious dates:

          Balance: 500
          Statement dated 7/20 shows balance due: 500
          On 7/21 OP pulls 500 off the card via Paypal and pays the balance due
          Card now shows balance due $0 because that cycle’s bill has been paid.
          Next month, the card balance is $500 plus Paypal’s fee
          Lather rinse repeat

          1. AW*

            OK, I think I get it. The cash advance doesn’t show up on the credit card until after the OP used it to pay the bill so at least for a short time (that cycle) the card appeared to have a $0 balance.

          2. pinky*

            thank you – I did not get it either – scary SCARy stuff! OP – congrats on coming clean, you can do this! And you will feel so great when you pay it all off fair and square!

        2. Colette*

          I assume the $500 you take out to pay the first $500 doesn’t have to be paid until the next month.

          Let’s say the fee for a cash advance is $5.

          January – charge $500
          February – take cash advance for $505, pay $500
          March – take cash advance for $510, pay $505
          April – take cash advance for $515, pay $510


        3. A Non*

          If I’m understanding it right, the OP used PayPal to pay off the card (so card = $0 and PayPal = -$20,000 at the end of the month) then went back the other way at the beginning of the next month. Apparently PayPal will float that much money for a brief time, which is kind of surprising.

        4. BritCred*

          Because he’d shift it to paypal and the processing time meant that the “payment” to the card had arrived but the charge to the card hadn’t yet hit. So it was going 1k-0-1k, the 0 being around the billing date.

        5. BRR*

          Because you had to only pay $500. The next month it’s $1,000.

          The may 2015 bill could be $500, so you take that out and pay the $500 needed to cover the bill. That $500 is then added to the June 2015 bill which is now $1,000. Am I making any sense because I feel like I explained this terribly.

          1. Kyrielle*

            You are, but you’re forgetting the payment posts, so it’s not up by $500.

            Instead, the May bill arrives for $500. You use the card to “pay” yourself $515 ($15 of which goes to Paypal fees). At this point, the total balance is $1015, with $500 currently due – the other $515 will be due next month – but your Paypal balance is positive $500. You send the Paypal balance to the card; now your Paypal balance is $0 and your card balance is $515, all of it due next month.

        6. Ann O'Nemity*

          The LW was using a PayPal cash advance to pay off the card and then paying PayPal + fees with the card.

          Jan 1 – AE balance is $18,000
          Jan 2 – PayPal cash advance for $18,000, AE balance is $0.
          Jan 3 – PayPal bills AE for $18,000 + $500 in fees, now AE balance is $18,500

    3. Jeanne*

      When I read the original letter, I hadn’t even factored in how American Express cards work. They really aren’t credit cards.

      I can’t tell if there is a lack of oversight or if the OP has been truly good at juggling funds. It does seem there’s a lack if this went on for so long. Did no one read the statements? There had to be charges at non-work type places. But maybe this is part of why the OP is not fired. They don’t want to fire multiple people.

        1. Jennifer M.*

          They are charge cards. There is no interest rate because the balance is due in full every month. My personal Amex allows travel related costs to be paid over time, but that’s it.

        2. Kara*

          Credit cards involve extending credit over a period of time at a set interest rate. You can choose to pay them off in full or you can choose to carry a balance.

          The original Amex (green card) is NOT a credit card. It’s a CHARGE card. It allows you to charge purchases in situations where you don’t want to or can’t use cash and then pay them off all at one time. But you cannot carry a revolving balance on a charge card the way you can on a credit card. Even Amex specifies the difference between their credit cards (like the Amex blue or their co-branded cards) and their charge cards (the original green card and others).

        3. Karen*

          They’re not “revolving” credit cards (well, some of them aren’t – mine is), where you can let a balance stand and pay a finance charge at the end of the month. Many Amex cards are meant to be paid in full.

    4. Helka*

      Most American Express cards aren’t revolving credit — you have to pay the entire balance every month, rather than being able to carry debt over month to month the way you can with bank-issued credit cards or Discover cards. There are exceptions — I think it’s the AmEx Blue that is revolving. However, that is probably part of what got the OP in just this mess, since it really narrows options for paying off the debt.

      AmEx isn’t a debit card in the sense of being bank-issued — there’s no bank backing the card, there’s only American Express itself.

      1. Another HRPro*

        Corporate AmEx cards are fully backed by the company. By contract they agree to fully pay back the full amount. It is hard to catch something like the OP was doing because of the revolving payments (card -> cash advance -> card).

    5. Menacia*

      Yes! This is exactly what I was thinking…how could this have gone so long without anyone flagging it as at least questionable? I do hope, in light of this, that their accounting folks do put some additional checks and balances in place. I have always viewed the company card, as well as anything else given to me by the company (computer, cell phone, etc.) as a perk to make my business life easier. The one time I accidentally used my corporate card for a personal purchase I immediately rectified it. I do hope the OP has learned their lesson and that this does not occur again…

    6. Steve G*

      Wait, now I am really confused then, I am thinking the same thing……the original letter said the OP was paying off the card in full every week and so the debt was really then with paypal (who was advancing the cash), so how was there even a balance every month with Amex? It should have been with Paypal, no?

      1. Helka*

        The OP was paying off the card in full by using PayPal to withdraw the funds from the card. So it was a circular movement of money: Card -> Paypal -> Card.

        1. YandO*

          The way I understood it, it went this way: card->paypal->personal checking account-> card

        2. Steve G*

          I still don’t understand. So I have a $2000 balance on the AMEX and I need to pay it off by the 31st. So I take out a loan with paypal for $2000 + lets say $500 interest. So I now owe AMEX $0 and paypal $2500. Then on the 2nd I use AMEX to pay off paypal, and then need to take out a loan from paypal for $2500 + interest to pay off AMEX by the 31st of the next month. Is this how it works?

          I’m still not seeing how there is an ongoing balance of $20K on the AMEX. Or is the point that the OP kept doing the above until it got to the point where he needed to take out a $20K loan from Paypal to pay the AMEX, then use the AMEX to pay for paypal that same month and he said “I can’t do this anymore?”

          1. Natalie*

            You’ve basically got it, except that it was Paypal transaction fees rather than interest that were increasing the balance.

            1. Steve G*

              Oh, so the OP technically could have put the debt on a personal credit card (if they could get that much credit), and avoid telling the boss altogether?

              Not that it matters at this point, but I am curious how this works. I never knew paypal gave loans

              1. Natalie*

                It’s not a real loan (and almost certainly violates the Paypal TOS). OP had a Paypal seller account, so he was making transactions through Paypal. The “buyer” was his company card, and the “seller” was his own Paypal account. The card gets charged $2,200, say, and $2,000 is deposited into his Paypal seller account and can be transferred to his own checking account. (The $100 is kept by Paypal as a fee for the transaction.) OP then pays the $2,000 statement balance on his company credit card. The next month, the statement balance has increased to $2,100, so the OP does the same thing with a slightly larger amount.

              2. L McD*

                They extend lines of credit. I got one a long time ago to take advantage of an interest-free promotion and now they’re constantly trying to default me back to using that instead of my balance or bank account; it’s quite annoying.

              3. Ad Astra*

                Yes, I think the OP could have put that debt on a personal credit card if they had a credit limit that high. Though that’s a mighty credit limit for a personal card. Yikes.

                1. SystemsLady*

                  Believe it or not, I’ve heard you can get at least a pretty big chunk of that – without even specifically asking – just by having had/used a credit card as a debit card for 5 years or so. Yes, even if that’s most of your salary. Credit card companies can get pretty desperate for you to pay interest.

                  Though in the OP’s specific situation, I’m sure that would be hard to come by. Glad the company is working with them!

                2. Helka*


                  The OP wasn’t able to. They addressed that in the first post — due to a bankruptcy, their credit was such that they weren’t able to get a personal credit card or loan at all, let alone for that much money.

            2. Katieinthemountains*

              And the OP was paying off as much as he/she could with “real” money; the total balance just wasn’t dropping very much because IIRC, the Paypal fees were $610 each time.

    7. YandO*

      I have AmEx credit card and it functions just like a credit card, I carried balance on it ( interest free due to promotion) for over a year

      At OldJob we used corporate AmExes for employee expenses and they carried balances just like any other credit cards. If you did not pay off statements balance in full, you were charged a late fee for minimum payment and interest on the money owed.

      1. Another HRPro*

        Yes, the balance carries over for you and interest is charged, but the company has to pay AmEx in full each month and then gets a credit back when you pay the card off.

      2. Kara*

        Amex issues both credit cards and charge cards. They are two completely separate things. One can carry a balance and one cannot.

        I have to admit reading this thread I’m a little taken aback by the number of people who don’t understand the difference between a credit card and a charge card and how it’s possible to play the float the way the OP did. But then again, it does make clearer how someone could get in the OP’s situation.

        1. Natalie*

          Eh, I’m not sure charge cards were ever that popular except among the very wealthy or corporations, and they seem even less common now except as company cards. Does anyone even offer one other than AmEx?

          1. Kara*

            Amex has always been a charge card first company and didn’t even start issuing credit cards until I want to say the mid-90s. Prior to that is was considered a big deal to get approved for an Amex card because you had to have outstanding credit to get one, but I knew a lot of people who had them – both in my generation and in my parents generation.

            Back in the day charge cards were MORE common than credit cards. Amex, Diners Club, Carte Blanche and I believe the European version was something like Carte Bleu were all popular and very common.

            Credit cards as we know them with revolving balances didn’t really come into common use until the late 70s I believe. And they certainly weren’t available the way they are now until the 80s and later.

            1. Natalie*

              Yeah, I get you, but I’m not sure why the average person today would know that. You probably need to be at least 20 to be aware of popular financial products (maybe older if they generally weren’t available to every Tom, Dick & Harry). The average person under 55 (20 in 1980) would have grown up in a post-charge card world. Not to mention the majority people over 55 who were not surrounded by people who qualified for charge cards. The median age in the US is 36.

              Knowing about charge cards these days is like knowing that the greengrocer used to extend credit through trust accounts. People who like history and old books might be familiar with it, but not the average person.

            2. Kara*

              Also I suspect this is a generational thing. :) I suspect most people over 45 remember when credit cards were few and far between and everyone had a charge card and a gas card.

              Then again I’m willing to bet most people under 50 don’t realize that most people paid cash for their houses as well and mortgages were rare outside of the very wealthy until the 50s and 60s. Nowadays almost anyone who buys a house has a mortgage, but that wasn’t the way it used to be.

              1. Natalie*

                Yep, basically. Most people living are no longer baby boomers, and nearly all of the pre-Boom generation has passed. Time marches on.

                To have personal experience with home-buying prior to the 60s you’d need to be about 75 today.

                1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

                  My parents are the tail end of the Baby Boom generation and I still have 3 grandparents still alive. I don’t think most of the pre-boom generation has passed away. People live a lot longer these days.

                2. Bend & Snap*

                  Pre-boomers are The Greatest Generation, and yes, they’ve mostly passed, as well as much of the Silent Generation, which starts in the 20s.

                  WWII vets are dwindling.

                  My grandmothers are of the Greatest Generation, but they’re a rarity I think.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Amy, certainly there are still plenty of people alive over 70 (the pre-Boomers) but I would venture that the majority of their cohort has died. A generation is usually about 20-25 years, so the oldest GG people would be maybe 95. Their life expectancy at birth was maybe 75-80.

                4. Kara*

                  I realize no one is probably still reading this but according to the recent census numbers, over 1/4 of the current US population is still made up of Baby Boomers. Aging Boomers to be sure, but 1/4 of the population is a not-insignificant percentage.

                  And one can have personal experience with their parent’s home buying in the 60s and not be doddering. :)

                  But then that’s the hubris of youth I suppose.

              2. Melissa*

                People paid cash for houses? Wow, yeah, that is definitely not something I knew. I’ve read a lot of articles about how the things the middle-class used to be used to – houses, cars, vacations – are slipping away, but the reality of it doesn’t really hit me until people say something like this.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, I don’t really know anyone who has one. And I also think “charge card” is occasionally colloquial for “credit card,” at least I think I’ve heard it that way among my parents’ generation. And maybe they even had actual charge cards! But I think they had credit cards and called them “charge cards.”

            1. Ann*

              A “charge card” was a card issued by a particular store, like Macy’s. It allowed you to buy things on an account with that one store. Credit cards came along later and you weren’t always able to use them everywhere. I remember it being a really big deal when restaurants and grocery stores started accepting them.

          3. Saturn9*

            >>Does anyone even offer one other than AmEx?

            I work at a bank call center. Mastercard and Visa both do charge cards but I haven’t seen one that’s a personal card yet, just business cards, and even for business, they’re fairly uncommon.

    8. TootsNYC*

      He’s *been* paying it off–by borrowing from PayPal. And paying PayPal w/ the card.

  17. JMegan*

    I do remember this letter, and I’m so glad to hear such a positive update! I especially love this line:

    >>While [my manager] says he cannot predict the outcome, he will support every effort to retain me.

    That is really good news, and I bet it’s a weight off your mind as well. You’re lucky to have such a supportive boss, and it sounds like the organization as a whole is willing to work with you to get this cleared up. Sounds like the actual outcome is not nearly as awful as you imagined it might have been, which is very often the case. Good luck!

  18. Karyn*

    I’m glad to hear that the OP got this worked out, and I hope he’s learned from this experience. When I had an AMEX corporate card, I used it when I would park at my job (usually took public transportation but occasionally had to work late so would drive in) and then have whatever I charged that month taken out of my paycheck. Mostly I did it because my boss got points for charges. For whatever reason, sometimes I wondered if that was unethical/stealing, since my boss never “approved” my doing that, but then again, my coworker had a parking card that the company paid and then was deducted from her paycheck, so I guess it was the same thing.

    Either way, I’m glad that you got this worked out and are no longer suffering in silence, OP.

  19. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I hadn’t thought of using retirement funds. It would be painful to lose all of that savings, but in the US you can cash out or borrow from your retirement funds (but you’d take a significant tax hit to do it).

    1. Helka*

      You’d take a significant tax hit, and your retirement savings would basically never fully recover. My mother had to do this many years ago, and to this day she deeply regrets it (though she really had no other options).

      It’s not a good thing to do in general, but in the short term, it may wind up being the only solution.

        1. Chrissi*

          It’ll suck because she’ll lose so much money and future earnings from compound interest, but if there’s no tax hit, then this seems like the obvious solution. Also, it ends up being a bit of a punitive measure as well, for anyone that thinks the LW is getting off easy.

        2. T*

          If the savings are in KiwiSaver, though, I don’t think they can get them out. I suppose it’s possible the company might have a different savings plan but unless it’s a multinational I think that’s pretty uncommon.

          1. dragonzflame*

            Unless you could claim hardship, but it’s pretty hard to empty your Kiwisaver and I don’t know if this would qualify.

      1. Ad Astra*

        That depends on how far into your career you are and how much you’ve saved up. We emptied my husband’s retirement account when I got laid off. It was only about $3K (minus taxes and fees), which was just enough to pay off our final bills and rent us a U-Haul to move back in with his parents. It didn’t feel great to deplete an account you know you’re not supposed to touch, but it was the only way to get us out of there.

        Of course, we’re millennials, so we’re sort of expecting to just drop dead at the office one day.

        1. Ife*

          “Of course, we’re millennials, so we’re sort of expecting to just drop dead at the office one day.”

          I dream of retirement the same way I dream of winning the lottery.

        2. BananaPants*

          My husband cashed out a 401(k) last fall when we were in some pretty significant financial straits after he lost his job earlier in the year. It was only around $5K after they took taxes and fees and we had to pay another 20% penalty come tax return time. It got us through the crisis and things are far better now but it still felt wrong to use it. You have it drilled into your head that you DO NOT TOUCH your retirement accounts but we did and survived it.

          He’s starting a new job and will be eligible for the 401(k) with company match immediately. Yay, I guess, but in your mid-30s it’s kind of like closing the barn door after the horse got out. We’re Gen X/Millennial cuspers and share your expectation of working until we drop.

    2. GOG11*

      As long as you pay it back, I don’t think it carries tax consequences. If you cash out, yes, but if you take it out as a loan you just have to pay it back on the timeline the company/retirement program requires.

      1. Verde*

        +1 – you can loan yourself the money from your retirement account and pay it back in increments; there are no tax penalties there. The interest rate is lower than a credit card, so it’s a great way to pay something off.

          1. Natalie*

            Is there any interest, or does the fee cover that? If it’s just the 10%, that’s not bad for someone with bad credit.

    3. Jessa*

      I did suggest it in the original post. The fact is at this point, whether it takes a hit or not, the OP has an absolute duty to take that hit. The company does not have 20k of money to throw at this (the OP said this in the update post,) any future problems should be on the OP not the company. Although they may not be able to. There are rules about how and when you can close/remove money from a 401k type retirement account. There may be issues. The OP may need to talk to the company about that.

    4. AthenaC*

      No tax hit for borrowing, unless OP was terminated while still paying off the loan. At that point the money becomes a “deemed distribution” and the OP will owe tax.

      But that’s assuming OP has sufficient funds and that the plan has a loan policy.

    5. JC*

      Even if there aren’t tax consequences, I still caution you and others against thinking this is a viable strategy—especially if you end up falling on it again. My in-laws had raided their 401ks at various times in their lives because of financial hardships. Now my MIL is a 70-year-old widow who has no savings and lives off of social security and support from me and my husband. It’s really hard for her and heartbreaking and frustrating for her family. I’d try to exhaust all other options before going down that road.

      And remember that $20k at 8% interest compounded for 40 years is $400,000! Even if you don’t get returns that high, you’re still losing out of a serious amount of cash over time by cashing out now because of compound interest.

  20. The Other Dawn*

    This is such a great update! OP, you have an awesome boss and you’re lucky to be working for someone like that. Please come back and update us again.

  21. Lily in NYC*

    You must be so relieved!!!!! I’m so glad you didn’t get fired and that you have such an amazingly kind boss.

  22. zora*

    So glad for you, OP! It sounds like you have a great manager, and he is right about how it would cost a lot more to get rid of a good performer and bring on a new person, a lot of managers don’t think that way anymore. But it is so good that you did the right thing here. It is not always easy, but I think it always is the best thing in the long run. Good luck with the next steps and keep us updated!

  23. Helka*

    Holy moly, OP. I hope you really appreciate how mind-bogglingly lucky you are. Your company and especially your boss are doing everything they can to work this out with you, and somehow your trick for paying off the card using the card itself doesn’t seem to have tripped any red flags for money laundering.

    That said, I am so, so relieved on your behalf. I can’t imagine what kind of a burden this has been for you, and after going through something like this, hopefully you’ve really gotten the money mismanagement beaten out of you. I think you absolutely took the right approach bringing this to your company’s attention, and that is being repaid by them being so very willing to work with you.

    Good luck continuing to get this straightened out.

  24. GOG11*

    So glad to hear how you and your employer are handling this, LW, and good luck to you as you move forward. What a relief it must be to not have to hide this every month anymore!

  25. BRR*

    I have the utmost respect for you OP that you came clean.

    One piece of advice, I would think very hard about touching your retirement savings. Loans and cashing out will cost you a fortune in penalties and taxes not to mention losing out on the compounding interest. In addition, I believe in most cases your retirement accounts cannot be touched in bankruptcy.

    This was probably mentioned in the first post but double check your withholding. If you’re withholding too much that might help boost your monthly payments.

  26. Sadsack*

    Good deal! I am very happy for you that this is being handled so well by your employer. I am not a bit surprised that being honest about this has made you feel that much better about the whole thing. I hope you work out terms that you can live with and will be able to put this ordeal behind you.

  27. BritCred*

    Sounds like they got on board with it very quickly once you told them. Either way I want to give a big thumbs up to them for dealing with the ongoing problem and being aware of putting you in too much financial stress before slinging the blame. Good luck with the other meeting and I hope that you do keep your job.

  28. Althea*

    Wow! Relieved for OP, though I hope s/he still gets some help with personal finances…

  29. CNW*

    Thank you for providing the update. I am so relieved for you and I have tears of happiness for you. As someone who has worked her way out of debt, you have a long road ahead of you but you’re definitely on the upside. And what a fantastic manager! This is a great learning experience for the rest of us. I wish you all the best!

  30. Turanga Leela*

    OP, I’m so impressed that you came clean and even more impressed with how your company has reacted. It sounds like everyone is in problem-solving mode. You must feel so much better to have this secret off your chest. Big hugs.

  31. Amber Rose*

    OP, this is why the best advice for screw-ups is to confess. I hope the meeting goes well, and even if it doesn’t, you did the right thing and that’s great.

    Make sure to continue being nice to yourself and eat well/sleep well. There’s no mistake that is worth wrecking your health over.

  32. Anonaconda*

    This was one of those letters that stays with you. I’m glad it had a happy ending.

    I would agree with others who would caution you against cashing out your retirement account(s). For one thing, I don’t think your company could make you withdraw from those accounts, since there would be personal tax consequences for you. I even doubt that they would be able to withdraw any matching amount they’d promised. A better option might be to pause your contributions to those accounts for a few months and put that money towards paying down your debt.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I admire OP’s guts on this one. First, when he asked what to do and then when he actually followed up and did something. It takes strength. There is no doubt in my mind that OP will keep following this and make good here. I am sure there are people reading and not commenting but they are using this to consider what they should do with their own predicament.

  33. Called this one wrong*

    If there was some kind of betting pool where you could wager on the outcome of AAM letters, I would have been out a lot of money on this one.

    How you didn’t get fired is beyond me. Is this a New Zealand thing? A cultural difference I don’t get in America? Cause wow, most places would have fired him/her without a second thought and then sued you for the lost funds.

    1. K.*

      I somehow missed that this was in New Zealand, and I wonder if employees are treated better and/or have more rights over there. Because I’m with you (and said as much upthread) – I think in the US, the OP would have to work for a company that could cover the loss AND a boss that was feeling particularly generous in order to come out with a job. People in the US get fired if the cash register is short $5.

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think you missed anything – I don’t believe the original post mentioned the country, and with so many American commenters we just defaulted to US.

      2. quietone*

        Yes, NZ workers have more rights. There is a documented process to fire someone and a tribunal to go to for disputes. That said, this might have been an exception to that process.

    2. AW*

      OP seemed to attribute it to culture:

      He mentioned that the likelihood of legal proceedings is low due to it being easier for them to get money from me if I am still working, and at least in New Zealand, it’s bad for the company reputation to take the hard road with their employees.

    3. Ad Astra*

      I’m also wondering if there’s some kind of cultural difference. It seems like an American company/manager would feel almost forced to fire someone for this, even if they didn’t want to.

    4. some1*

      I think in general the US more punitive as a whole than other countries. The LW mentioned that the company has an interest in keeping him on to pay this $ back. However, as a fellow American, I can definitely see how a lot of American companies would fire the LW purely to set an example.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Not only fire, but after a very simple and calm meeting have security and a burly manager escort the person out the building to make the scene that oils the wheels on the gossip wagon.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Someone suggested above that insurance requirements might be one reason why companies immediately fire an employee and press charges; the employee will probably never be able to repay the debt in that case, but the insurance company will. So perhaps there’s also a difference in insurance policies from one country to the next.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          Are there really criminal charges here? I’m not a lawyer so maybe my question is naive, but credit card default, non-payment doesn’t result in illegality..

      3. Koko*

        “I think in general the US more punitive as a whole than other countries.”

        We’re #1! In mass incarceration of non-violent offenders!

    5. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      I’m in New Zealand and would not have expected this outcome either. While we’re not at-will, you can fire someone for serious misconduct with little issue, and misappropriating a company credit card is considered serious misconduct anywhere I’ve ever seen.This isn’t true, at all.

      1. NZ Employer*

        Under New Zealand law the employer is still be required to follow a fair dismissal process or they risk leaving themselves open a personal grievance, or a lengthly unfair dismissal claim. No matter how serious the misconduct good business practise in NZ is to follow a clear process and document it fully. It may well be that the OP’s employer is simply following said process to protect themselves further down the line.

        However, there is a second point to consider. The OP states that their employer does not have the budget to cover the AmEx bill. If the employer dismissed the OP and pursued them through the civil and/or criminal courts the likely outcome is that the OP would be declared bankrupt. At the end of the day the employer is stuck with the original bill, legal costs and the cost of interruption to business.

        NZ has very strong employment laws and these are enforced by the courts here. The consequences of dismissing staff without following the letter of the law can be significant, in financial terms and very damaging to a company’s reputation. New Zealand companies also often have very poor financial controls in place, as demonstrated in this example.

  34. Kate M*

    Congratulations, OP. I’m so glad that you have this out in the open. I know that is a huge weight lifted off of you.

    In making a budget to stick to, I would offer a few suggestions. I mentioned this in response to your previous letter, but YNAB is honestly the best budgeting tool I’ve ever found. I would seriously look into using it (not affiliated in any way, just a big fan of the software). But regardless of how you budget – be sure you are being honest with yourself about ALL of your expenses. Don’t forget to account for the non-monthly bills that come up – Amazon Prime membership that comes once a year? Car registration/inspection? Any quarterly bills you have? You need to divide your yearly bills by 12 (or quarterly bills by 3, etc) and budget the same amount towards them every month. That way, you’ll have the money available when it comes due. Forgetting these irregular bills is one of the big ways people get into debt – they just account for all of their regular monthly expenses, but then are out of money by the time these come up.

    Next, although this might be a little out of your range right now with you trying to put as much money towards your company as you can, when possible you need to start building rainy day funds. Have a fund for car repairs, medical bills, etc. Save up for these types of things before you actually need the money. Remember, these aren’t unforeseen expenses – you know they’re going to happen, you just don’t know when they’re going to happen.

    Starting to budget is always the hardest. You’re trying to repay past mistakes, pay for current expenses, and save for the future at the same time. With the amount that it sounds like you’ll be able to give your company, in a year you should be in a good situation. But please keep up with a budget – not only will it help you in this situation, but it will help keep you from getting into debt again. Just some friendly advice, hope it helps!

    1. L McD*

      seconding YNAB, if you can stick to it. it really changed how I think about money, but i have been so busy/stressed lately i’ve been terrible about recording transactions. I’ll regret it come tax time!

    2. Ad Astra*

      Hopefully, the OP’s manager and HR will understand the importance of setting aside even a little money for emergencies, and will be fine with him working that into his budget. Given their reaction thus far, it seems possible.

    3. Chrissi*

      For people that have a hard time budgeting, I think it can go one of two ways.

      One, you set up a lot of categories and try and stick to it as hard as you can. This worked for me when I first started budgeting because it was new and exciting and it made me really think about and see how much I was spending in certain categories (dining out, especially). It’s a good way to train yourself in the ways of spending and saving.

      Two, you set up the easiest budget ever – bills (including annual expenses prorated over 12 months), nondiscretionary spending, and discretionary spending. I started doing that after the allure of having 14 different categories of spending wore off (I used Mint). I organized it by store, so Target was discretionary spending even if some of what I spent was on necessities, and Petsmart was nondiscretionary because the cat has to eat. That ended up working out best for me, because I could just check it and didn’t have to spend tons of time on it once it became a chore.

      The take-away is that you can budget in a variety of ways, but the important thing is to do it and be mindful of how your money is being spent.

  35. Mimi*

    Well this is a happy ending, all things considered (much happier than it might have been). Of all recent questions to AAM, this is the one I wanted an update on the most.

  36. Laurel Gray*

    OP, I am happy you came forward and a resolution is in the near future. However, I am dying to know one thing:

    What role has your girlfriend played in all of this since you came to AAM with your dilemma? By role I mean any financial assistance she may have provided in your time of need since helping her during her time of need contributed to the downward spiral that turned into $20k.

    1. Leslie*

      I’m dying to know this, also! Doesn’t seem fair to OP to carry her yolk through hard times, so to speak then be left alone in his.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Do you mean “yoke”? But I agree – the girlfriend helped create this situation. I hope she’s contributing to the solution.

  37. Wilton Businessman*

    It would carry a lot of weight with me if the OP said:
    “I know I screwed up. Two months ago I have changed my lifestyle and have already paid off $2,000. If I continue on this pace, I will have the card paid off in X months. I wanted to be open and honest with you about my mistake and let you know I am rectifying the situation.”

    The fact that the OP hasn’t even started making the changes in his life tells me when push comes to shove, he’s not going to make it.

    The fact that this guy/gal hasn’t been fired astounds me.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      Once I read he was in New Zealand, it made more sense. Here in the ol U-S of A, that “at-will” gets thrown around and it is easier (albeit time consuming) for an employer to fire you, sue you, and then have your next employer’s wages garnished to recover their damages. I have never heard of a theft (of this magnitude) from a US employer story end positively.

      1. Another HRPro*

        This technically isn’t theft. It is fraud and it is a policy violation. The truth is most companies (even in the US) do not actually want to fire employees. Often the cover-up is worse than the crime in my experience. If the OP hadn’t been proactive and told his employer (vs. being discovered) this may have had a different outcome.

        I believe that good employers value performing employees who are honest and when they make a mistake, admit to it and are prepared to fix the situation.

    2. AW*

      The fact that the OP hasn’t even started making the changes in his life

      I looked but I can’t see where it says that in the update.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think OP is right in going one crisis at a time. Since OP agreed to make payments such that the bill would be paid in twelve months, I figured he had done some budgeting work also in order to reach that conclusion.

        Basically, this is a work blog and I kind of did not expect OP to elaborate on his personal life.
        Anyone who has written a budget knows that it involves some self-examination and even some tears. Additionally, budgets need tweaking until they are perfected. I think OP is telling us he has started his journey, he does not mean to imply that he has reached a major destination or even a milestone in the journey. This isn’t the type of situation that one can heal overnight.

    3. Anna*

      Considering the OP actually did own up to it kind of puts your Debbie Downer attitude on notice. He needed to come clean and then work out a plan, both of which he’s done. I’m not entirely sure what part of him actually following through on the advice Alison gave him indicates he won’t see this through to the end.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I thought, though perhaps I’m mistaken, that the biggest reason the debt grew was because of his unwise solution of borrowing from PayPal to pay it off.

      The first non-work expenditure was a crisis situation, not an extravagant lifestyle.

      And that the slow increase was due to a “lifestyle” of servicing that debt in a costly way.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, that the fees were over and above what the OP could contribute monthly to paying down the debt. So no matter what, they just kept getting deeper and deeper.

        That, and there was a sense of hopelessness.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          This whole thing sounded like the situation people often get into with payday loans and title loans. (I wondered why OP turned to Paypal, but maybe those businesses aren’t common/legal in NZ? I can remember when you never saw them in the US, except for in certain desperately poor areas in some states…)

    5. Marissa*

      As far as I recall from the original letter, the whole point was that the OP could not change their lifestyle any further. They were living hand-to-mouth and still could not put enough towards paying the debt because it was so huge and had to be paid off in full at each billing period.

      “Somehow I have managed to rack up a rolling balance of $20,000 on this card and I can’t ever pay it all off in one go. I had a bankruptcy a few years ago and cannot qualify for a loan to cover the full amount.”

      They couldn’t rectify the situation (or at least start to) until they came clean.

      1. Anx*

        I’m confused, though.

        There’s mention of a retirement savings account, so how was the OP living hand-to-mouth. It sounds like there were savings the whole time.

        1. AW*

          1) It sounds like it’s a company retirement account, like a 401K, so it’s not as easy to withdraw from as a regular savings account.

          2) There isn’t necessarily a lot in that account. I can see not blowing what little retirement you have on a credit card debt if it isn’t even enough to resolve that issue.

        2. Anna*

          Most retirement savings are hands-off until you retire. You can’t dip in to them in an emergency like you can with a regular savings account that exists for just such a reason. Otherwise I think the OP would have known to pull from there rather than trying to manage this through slight of hand. He was unwise, not completely moronic.

          1. Aussie Teacher*

            In Oz, our superannuation (retirement funds) are absolutely untouchable until retirement age, no matter what the personal circumstances/emergency is.

          2. Anx*

            Oh, okay.

            I thought you could dip into them but had a higher tax rate if you did that. I’ve never had access to a 401K, and unfortunately you can’t put any money into an IRA unless you are earning an income, so I haven’t been able to do that either.

            1. Anna*

              You CAN take out loans against your 401k (and since the interest rates tend to be much lower than, say, credit card interest rates it can make sense to do that) but there are penalties and it’s possible he doesn’t have anywhere near that amount in the account. In addition, you don’t usually have access to the full amount. I think IRAs are even more restrictive than 401ks. But like you I don’t have an IRA.

    6. RG*

      I disagree. Like other people have said, there’s a larger issue at play here in terms of how OP handles money. Maybe it was one thing, or some emergency that just snowballed from there, but regardless, there was some mistake or decision that started the chain reaction. So if I’m a manager, and I’m trying to recoup this money for the company, then no, actually, I don’t want you taking the initiative without checking with me. I don’t trust you to try to handle this on your own without it blowing up in your face again. I need to hold your hand and micromanage you for the first three or four months to establish a new track record.

      1. RG*

        Ah! It did start with something…well, not small. I just remembered that this started because OP suddenly needed a car.

      2. misspiggy*

        Don’t forget that the OP’S manager was the one who encouraged her to use the card for personal expenses originally, and the OP refrained from throwing the manager under the bus. So the manager doesn’t really have the right to get too high and mighty.

        1. RG*

          Right, well, the manager doesn’t know that OP’s boss suggested that, and like OP acknowledged in the first letter, most likely meant to charge the down payment, not the entire cost of the car. So if I’m the manager, my decision is still the same.

  38. Colorado*

    Great update OP! I commend you for doing the right thing. Sounds like you work for a great company.

  39. Elizabeth West*


    Even if they had fired you, OP, at least you have it off your chest. You know now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  40. AndersonDarling*

    If I remember correctly, some of the debt was used to help the OP’s girlfriend move and for some of her other expenses. I hope she is going to help the OP get back on his feet!

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I mentioned this a little above. I would really like to have an update on that particular part of the story!

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Originally she didn’t work for 2 years and covering her expenses brought him into debt. I’m hoping the OP gives us an update on her role because the $20k seems so less daunting if 2 people are working together to pay it down.

  41. Ad Astra*

    Glad we got an update on this one! It sounds like the OP’s boss values him an awful lot, which is awesome. I’ll bet that in the same situation, an underperformer (or just someone who doesn’t get along with his boss) would be out the door immediately.

    It’s also a really good sign that HR and the boss are both concerned about the stress involved with paying this back. They are absolutely right that asking for more money than the OP can afford to give, or asking the OP to work more hours than he can handle, would backfire. Sometimes there’s a real business case for not being punitive or vindictive.

    OP, I’m so glad you got this off your chest. You’ve got a long road ahead of you, but it sounds like you’re going to get through this!

  42. LawLady*

    One thing to note is that $20,000 in New Zealand dollars is $13,152 in American dollars. Still a huge chunk of change, but $7 grand less terrible. I think I missed that LW was in New Zealand when I read the first letter.

    1. Lanya*

      That sounds much more doable in a year’s time than the full $20,000, but still a lot of money.

    2. The Strand*

      Yes, but he’s making NZ dollars, so really, it’s as bad as it seems.

      I once had a debt in US dollars, but I was earning a living overseas in a country having a currency crisis. The exchange rate was half that of the US. That’s bad.

      But if you owe $20k NZD and you’re earning NZD the exchange rate doesn’t factor.

    3. Emmies*

      If you’re earning NZD and living somewhere like Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, $20k in NZD might as well be one million dollars.

      The cost of living here is so expensive (rent/mortgage, food, petrol, insurances, power, water, council rates, internet etc.) compared to almost anywhere else overseas, that a decent percentage of your wage just goes on the basic costs of living. I earn above the national average and still 45% of my take home pay goes on housing alone.

      1. The Strand*

        Great point. I visited Auckland in the 1990s (loved it) and I was struck by how expensive my meals seemed to be, including in comparison to Australian cities.

      2. V.V.*

        OP mentions that his boss was going to try to help arrange overtime work… while it is nice to get some extra $$, I didn’t think New Zealand had the same laws about OT as the US.

        In the US overtime is paid at 1.5 x the ordinary hourly salary.

        Correct me if I am wrong Kiwis, but I thought unless it was specified in one’s employment contract, New Zealand employers are not obligated to pay any more than the usual sum for overtime hours worked.

        If that is the case, man. OP has a really tough road.

        1. Emmies*

          It really depends on your contract, there isn’t a hard and fast rule about it.

          At my previous workplace, any overtime I did I didn’t actually get paid for but received lieu time instead. So when I had to come in a couple of times on long holidays to look after my cell cultures, I got ‘paid’ in extra holiday time. Unfortunately, unlike normal accrued annual leave, you couldn’t opt to be paid this out instead of taking the time. Double unfortunately, due to the nature of the work some people were working every other weekend on top of their normal Monday-Friday duties (that they had to do – couldn’t just work Wednesday-Sunday), and some ended up with 6 months plus of lieu time (which due to the nature of the business, they couldn’t just take off either!). And they wondered why morale was always so low… But it was all within the confines of NZ law.

          At my workplace before then, I got time and a half for anything over 40 hours.

          So hopefully OP has a pretty decent overtime clause in his contract.

  43. fposte*

    I’m so glad this got posted–I just this morning saw that the OP put an update on the original post but it was before the all-important meeting.

    I’m really glad this looks like a good direction for resolution for you, OP.

  44. Renee*

    What a great update! Just curious (and I might have missed this in the update or the comments), but it sounds like this type of card needs to be payed off in full every month. So since the LW isn’t going to be going the PayPal advances anymore and instead will just be paying X amount per month, will the company be paying for the interest that will start accruing?

  45. Mena*

    I’m really (really) surpised (ok, shocked) by this update. Your boss is going well above and beyond here (please appreciate it!). But then, it is in the company’s best interest to keep you on board as a means to re-couping anything at all.

  46. T*

    I remember this letter well and it seemed like one of the most dire letters I’ve read at AAM. There seemed like very little chance of a good outcome and I was just hoping OP would stay out of jail. It was one of the few letters where I couldn’t think of any advice other than confessing and asking for mercy.

    I honestly think this was a smart move for the company, assuming OP is a good employee. For starters, they would have to replace a good employee which is always a hassle and often a crap shoot. Then there would be legal fees, court dates, drama, etc. And they might not even get their money back. I assume OP could ultimately declare bankruptcy or something. Either way, I would attack this debt and be aggressive as possible to show how grateful you are to be given a second chance. Your company could just as easily have turned your life upside down and you would be recovering for years or even the next decade.

  47. Dasha*

    OP I was stressed out just reading your first letter. I’m so glad you were honest and I bet you feel a lot better. :)

  48. Green*

    I’m glad the employer responded the way they did, but it also sounds as though the LW took some really good advice from people on the thread (about excuses and explanations that sound like excuses or trying to otherwise justify or rationalize it). Often “Man, I really effed up [full stop]” is the way to go. It really conveys that you understand that you take full responsibility, want to fix it, and that there’s no real “explanation” that’s going to work here. LW, I’m glad you decided to confront some difficult truths and framed it as an inexcusable error (ironically now more likely to be excused).

  49. BrandyTeapot*

    Wow. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to be this valuable to a company. Truly inspiring. (Not that I want to steal thousands of dollars from my workplace! But I’ve been fired for being late before and I can’t help but marvel at and aspire to this level of indispensability.) Glad it seems to be working out!

  50. Sunshine Brite*

    So glad to hear this update! Pull your girlfriend in to get her participation to work towards her part of the personal debt.

  51. Isben Takes Tea*

    I’d love an update one it’s all paid off so we can have a global AAM celebration party.

    Way to go, OP!

    1. Today's Satan*

      My best friend from elementary school is named “Kevin Anne [Lastname]”, but she went by Anne. In college, she starting going by her first name. So it’s quite possible to be a woman and be named Kevin. :-)

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Years ago, I knew a woman named Shaun who had an Aunt Kevin! I always thought that was really cool!

      2. Wren*

        There’s a Kevin Anne in my profession as well, but as far as I know she uses the whole thing, not shortening to Anne.

    2. Growing Pains*

      I’m quite sure the OP is a man. Alison and a lot of readers default to feminine pronouns, which is why you’re seeing “she” so much.

  52. INFJ*

    I am pleasantly surprised by how reasonable and helpful the OP’s manager and HR are being. Hope everything works out!

  53. JennG*

    LW, congratulations. I hope the plan to work things out goes forward but whatever the outcome the way you took responsibility with integrity and honesty was awesome. No one can take that away from you and in the future if anything comes up you will have the experience to deal with it head-on rather than playing paypal or other games. Keep at it!!

  54. L*

    I was just thinking about this the other day.

    I hope the OP realizes that they are still not creating a realistic plan to live. I understand you’re trying to live on bare bones, but for the love of cheese YOU NEED A BUDGET! Rent + food isn’t sustainable. You need to factor in your actual life expenses (food, transportation, etc.) and then commit to a repayment plan. Obviously your priority is to pay back your employer, but unless you realistically learn how to handle money you will end up back in the debt trap again.

  55. Jason R.*

    OP, you work for some really, REALLY good people – uniquely good, in my experience (and I deal with employers for a living in my professional capacity). Give thanks for that, and do what you can to do right by them in the future.

  56. Anna*

    Where the EFF if your gf during this time? Seems unfair that you helped her during her time of need, but now when it’s her turn to step up to the plate…

    1. INFJ*

      To be fair, just because OP doesn’t mention her, doesn’t mean she isn’t supportive.

      It would be a really long update if we heard all about the gf, mom and dad, sister and brother, and how he already asked Uncle Tyrion for a loan, but was shot down…

    2. AW*

      It’s not fair to assume the LW’s GF isn’t helping out just because the OP hasn’t mentioned it.

  57. Emmies*

    Hey OP, a fellow NZer! When I saw that, I just wanted to go back to your original post, and just put some information out there if you ever run into all the car problems you had in the first place.

    Firstly, if you buy a lemon from a dealership and the engine totally dies within a month of purchase (or a reasonable time frame, I think the wording actually is), then the dealership is actually liable for either a full replacement, repair or a full refund of the purchase price. Essentially, the fair trading act covers dealerships. So if the car isn’t fit for purpose, or doesn’t do that purpose for a reasonable amount of time, the dealership is liable the same way any other retailer would be. The only exception to that is buying direct from another person, like through a normal Trademe sale.

    Secondly, your old insurance company was being a jerk! It might not be too late to go to the insurance ombudsman with details of the accident and your old insurance policy. If it was a agreed sum insured policy, the insurance company has to pay that out no matter what when they say the car is a write off, unless you were at fault in the accident (which it doesn’t sound like you could be at all from your description, unless your WOF or rego were out). I used to have my 25 year old car insured for $4k, and even though I never would have been paid that out if I were to sell it, that was the amount the insurance company agreed it was worth, so had it been written off, I would have been $4k better off (minus the excess). It might still be worth looking into.

    Glad things seem to be working out for you now though. The bankruptcy laws in NZ are quite archaic and need updating. Hopefully you’ve not got long to go until your discharged, and can put all the worries of being a bankrupt behind you soon :)

  58. The Strand*

    Are you seeing someone regarding your ADD (per my original comment)? Not the person who dispenses your prescription but someone you talk to at length?

  59. ginger ale for all*

    This is probably one of the nicest managers that I have read about on AAM. I wish this could be on a year end 10 Best management responses list or something like it.

    And OP – thanks for the original letter and update. It was an awful situation and I am glad you are on your way out of it.

  60. J.*

    That initial post made me so anxious for you, and I’m thrilled that your manager has been so kind and understanding. I hope this continues to go well!

  61. Vicki*

    They would have been insane to fire you, OP. If they fired you, you’d be unemployed (and, technically speaking, possibly no longer responsible for that card. How would they ever get the money back?

  62. Coach Devie*

    Happy to see an update and wish the best for OP. I hope they do a third update after the meeting.

    I haven’t read the comments yet, but I assume the general consensus is that we are all glad that he has finally admitted what he’s done and is apparently getting a chance to remedy it.

    Seems a little odd to me, however, that they included the bit about “after reading the documentation, I NOW see it was a misuse of the card” (paraphrased) when they knew FROM DAY ONE. But I suppose that is water under the bridge now, and the next step is just moving this forward and NOT LETTING IT HAPPEN AGAIN.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think OP has found a place in his head where he is willing to go without FOOD than do this again. He’s had one heck of a nightmare and it has been going on a long time.

    2. Rocky*

      I’m in NZ too. You can’t get money out of your Kiwisaver retirement fund, with a couple of very specific exceptions. There are indeed payday loan companies here and it’s a growing industry (I worked on some “anti-loan-shark” legislation which is currently before Parliament). It’s hilarious that someone thought that because NZ$20k is only US$13k, the OP has a more manageable sum to pay back…to put it in perspective, the median wage in NZ is around $35k. No idea how much the OP is earning, but I’m sure $20k really does feel like $20k!!

  63. Alex*

    OP that is great news.

    That said, I hope you will consider financial counseling of some sort.

    Furthermore, I would recommend getting things in as much financial order as feasible.

    It’s great your company is working with you but I can’t help but think you are likely in a very precarious situation. Right now they want the money- but once you have paid it off I would be worried that you could be first in line for a lay-off or something.

  64. Natasha*

    OP, your manager is an angel. I am so happy for you. I wish you peace and solace as you move forward in life. I can only imagine your relief!

  65. Sparky*

    OP, I’m relieved for you, I can only imagine how relieved you must be. Two inches taller, and probably sleeping better, too? I hope this all works out for the best all the way around.

    I hope things are going as well for the widowed father of two who didn’t have gas money. His situations stays with me too.

  66. not telling*

    As a teaching point, I would be very interested in the legalities here. I have a ‘company’ amex card. It has my name on it and I had to provide the information on the application. The company’s credit history was used to secure the card. The monthly statement is mailed directly to me, not the company. I submit a copy of the statement to accounting with the cost codes identified for each charge and they reimburse me–but ultimately I am responsible for making sure it gets paid. If I’m lazy and don’t submit my statement to accounting in time to get my reimbursement check, then I still have to find a way to pay it off. If I use my reimbursement check for something else, then I still have to pay off the balance. But the account does not appear on my credit history.

    As many have mentioned, there may be a legal issue of ‘theft’ of company funds, but I wonder in my scenario if that is true? It’s not really the company’s credit or available funds that I am taking, if I use it for personal use.

    To OP: Kudos to owning up. It takes serious cajones to admit to a major mistake like this, knowing you may not only owe thousands but that you may lose your job as well. It sounds like you understand you aren’t out of the woods yet–you still have to wait for accounting to come back with a resolution. I hope you continue to be proactive. Make sure you get any resolution in writing, and spend every day proving your worth (someone else above hinted that they may just be keeping you on until you work off your debt–I hope that’s not the case). Whatever happens, remember that if you can face this, you can face just about any serious challenges in life!

  67. Justin*

    Glad he’s not being fired but it’s amazing that he wasn’t over something this huge. People get fired for things that are far more minor than this.

  68. Bubbles*

    First time commenting because I have to say how happy and relieved I am on your behalf. I hope you can put this behind you soon. You have some great people working with you too. I’m glad to hear they’ve been reasonable about this and aren’t making paying it all back harder than it would be already. Best of luck to you. :)

  69. Emmie*

    I am really proud of you, OP. There is peace that comes with being truthful, and I wish you well while you pay this debt off. Sometimes our mistakes are our best teachers. We were all worried about you, and I said a prayer for you. I cannot wait to read the update next year that you paid this debt off, and rebuilt your trust there.

  70. Juli G.*

    OP, I’m glad this worked out for you. Please follow through on your commitment. A colleague of mine has been generous to employees in similar situations twice and been burned each time (including one where the person abandoned their job and likely left the state and possibly the country). I would love to see you honor the commitment and restore my faith in this.

  71. jules*

    “I said that I am happy if I pay only my rent and food, and they can basically take the rest of my pay until it is covered.
    My manager’s boss said she is not happy with that, because it will put me under stress which might lead me to some other act of desperation or make my job performance suffer. ”

    That’s a sign of a pretty healthy workplace environment right there. I hope things work out fully, but you seem to have a good starting point here.

  72. Another unnamed*

    Again, congratulations on (a) coming clean and (b) having such a supportive employer!

    I don’t know about the NZ situation, but in the UK, this would almost certainly count as a loan from your employer. That means they’re effectively giving you a benefit of the interest on that loan – so if you’re at 5%, that’s $1,000 per year. In the UK, you’d be liable for tax on that amount: at basic rate, you’d owe the tax-man $200 more this year than usual.

    Of course I don’t know the NZ tax laws, but it’s probably worth checking.

  73. Same girl*

    I know you are still under stress OP, but what a relief it must have been. I wish you ALL the BEST!

  74. Dana*

    So glad to read this update! Humans acting like human beings…so rare. Congrats on getting this weight off your chest, OP, and good luck with everything getting resolved!

  75. Kvaren*

    I am very happy to hear about this. I’ve been thinking of the OP occasionally, hoping that things work out for him.

    “It’s like this huge, scary, heavy, unknown thing that has been causing depression and taking my mind very dark dark places over the last 4 years is now lifted and I see a light”

    Moments like that are truly beautiful things.

  76. Kathlynn*

    I figured out what bothers me about the woman’s response. The “well can’t you borrow from family/friends” I know this is a common response, from all creditors. But it’s one I do not think should be asked.

    1. Emmies*

      When I worked in debt collection, that was the second thing we were taught to ask, right after ‘whats your credit card number so I can process this immediately’.

      That was, hands down, the worst job in the world – aside from all the abuse, there was all the really stupid stuff we were told to say. What was worse, if we weren’t getting results, and were then found to be deviating from the things we were told to say (no matter how stupid), we were heavily penalised.

  77. This guy got fired*

    If you were wondering why so many of us — especially in the U.S. — were shocked this guy didn’t get fired, let me offer this example: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2015/07/22/when-the-government-shut-down-a-hud-employee-ran-up-thousands-of-dollars-on-his-agency-credit-card/

    A government employee used his credit card to buy $12k worth of personal items. He got prosecuted, convicted and fired. It’s nearly impossible to fire a government employee. Government employees kill people and don’t get fired. And this guy got fired!

  78. JJ*

    As an HR pro…my guidance probably would have been to fire him. Ultimately it boils down to an integrity issue. OP misused a resource to an extent that is very hard to believe he/she didn’t at some point ask themselves “should I be doing this…?” and ultimately came clean after the pressure was mounting and he/she could not pay it off. Had they been able to pay it off without getting caught…would they have come clean at all? Integrity. How will the company be able to trust this person in the future when such an enormous lapse of judgment has been unearthed? This is the workplace…not your mom and dad. It is not the appropriate place and/or source to be educating individuals on personal ethics. Good for the OP for coming clean and fortunate that the company is going to work with him…but I don’t think the take away here should be it’s ok to brazenly break company policies and expect the outcome to be a self-enlightened redemption courtesy of your employer just because this particular one chose to address it as such. Just my .02….

  79. JJ*

    I also find the implication from some that as long as he is a high performer (versus a low performer) it somehow justifies the decision. It doesn’t seem ethical to send the message that it’s ok to grossly break the rules as long as you’re a stellar performer but we won’t show the same compassion and understanding if you’re a lousy performer. Not the type of ethos I’d want at play for any company I’m working with.

  80. Blue Anne*

    I am SO glad to read this. This is absolutely fantastic. Well done, OP. You did the right thing with it.

  81. Mindy*

    I am really stunned at this — I was in the same situation about 12 years ago (and less than 1/2 this amount). Came clean — couldn’t live with myself. Was fired, charged criminally and served time in state prison.

  82. Lisa*

    I hope the girlfriend he supported for 2 years is helping with the repayment. I’m glad it worked out as well as could be hoped for.

  83. Jacob*

    My company does not let us take the company credit card home for this reason in fact the only reason the company has it is for online orders or phone orders we use cash or checks for stores and paper bills

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