Confessions of a high-end repo man

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

More Americans are falling behind on their bills this year. In fact, 25% of adults in a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, admit they aren’t paying their bills on time – and 7% say they have unpaid debts that have gone into collections – the highest it’s been in a decade.

When this happens to the highest-earning households with delinquent statuses on their high-end luxury assets, banks hire recovery agents like Ken Cage, president of International Recovery and Remarketing Group (IRG), to locate and return the goods. In the past 13 years, Cage has repossessed over 2,600 private jets, helicopters, and luxury yachts, and showcases some of his craziest repos on Discovery Channel’s “Airplane Repo.”

“The worst thing a debtor can do is run away from the debt. A lot of people think it’s easier to find an airplane or a boat than it is a car, but there are lots of crazy things that happen when you’re in a repo,” says Cage as he recounts the numerous times he’s been shot at, punched, and threatened while working.

In most cases, banks will look to recollect their assets when a loan is 60 days past due or more. Typically, after six months a bank will have to “charge off” or write off the loan as a debt that is unlikely to be collected. “When the bank gets to the charge-off date, they tend to lose a lot of money, so they hire me halfway to that charge-off point,” explains Cage.

Be honest about your debt

The worst thing a delinquent debtor can do is to avoid calls, break promises on payment dates they’ve set up, and attempt to hide their assets from being repossessed. That sets off a red flag for debt collectors who then immediately turn to repo men like Cage to secure the assets before any damage is done.

“When we’re dealing with repossessions of airplanes and boats we’re dealing with big egos, so they get very angry and misdirect their anger at me as opposed to the bank,” says Cage. But it’s important to remember the repo person has been sent by a bank, no one is out to embarrass you, and the process can be painless if you are professional and honest about your situation.

On many of his jobs, Cage has helped save face for the debtors and avoid embarrassment by acting like he was there to buy the boat or plane, when in reality he was there to inspect and secure it.

“If I come to your door, the best thing a debtor can do is tell me that you’re going to call the bank immediately and get this taken care of…have the bank call me, and I’ll walk away. It’s that simple,” says Cage.

Banks don’t want to repossess your asset if they don’t have to

Repossessions can cost banks and creditors a lot of money, especially on luxury assets like yachts and planes. On one particular case, the fuel costs to return a yacht from South America to Florida was over $150,000. The additional expenses add up quickly: aside from the fuel, the bank had to pay Cage, a captain and crew for the yacht.

Because he is also a licensed broker, Cage and his partner are able to collect a commission on the boats and planes they secure. With the ups and downs of the economy, this extra boost helps sustain his business. “With the economy doing alright now, we don’t have nearly as many cases as we had before, but the great thing is that the sales are up dramatically,” explains Cage.

As much as it keeps him in business, Cage encourages people to live within their means: “Don’t let your ego make financial decisions for you,” says Cage. He’s seen far too many people live on the financial edge as they’re trying to keep up with the Joneses. Instead of buying what they can easily afford, the desire to impress makes them lose sight of their financial reality. And falling behind on just one payment for their yacht or jet can lead to falling behind on their mortgage, then credit cards, and it all comes crumbling down around them, says Cage.

Throughout the month of June, we’ll randomly select winners and award $100 and $500 Amex/Visa Gift Cards to help eliminate your debt and conquer your finances. Visit bit.ly/yfsweepstakes to learn more and enter. Winners will be announced every Friday.

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