Got Debt and The Institute, Perfect Together

Apr 25, 2023 | Debt, Foreclosure

Wondering today if Stephen King is the Sarah Poriss of debt? Or is it the other way around? Regardless, I was just thrilled to see that debt – and debt relief – is a key (the key?) plot device in King’s, The Institute.

Without ‘debt’ The Institute would pretty much end (badly for most of the characters) around page 250. It’s that big a deal – as it is for most Americans.

I’m not giving away anything, I’m not spoiling anything revealing this, so, please, read on.

Here’s King’s description of America’s debt problem (as relayed by a very smart twelve-year old):

Luke thought about his researches . . . One horrifying statistic in particular stuck out: Americans owed over twelve trillion dollars. Money spent but not earned, just promised. A paradox only an accountant could love. While much of the debt had to do with mortgages on homes and businesses, an appreciable amount led back to those little plastic rectangles everyone kept in their purses and wallets: the oxycodone of American consumers.


My thoughts on those little plastic rectangles from my last blog post: ” . . . study after study shows that when consumers use reward cards and think they are “getting something back,” they get a little hit of dopamine. It feels good. It feels and looks like you’re getting something for free.  They never think about how they aren’t really deciding how to spend their money.”

Back to The Institute and King’s protagonist, Luke.  His friend relays what debt collectors are doing to her:

“Sometimes they call at midnight! ‘Pay up or the bank’s going to take your house next week! You’ll come
back to find the locks changed and your furniture out on the lawn!’”

Luke had read about this,and worse. Debt collectors threatening to turn aged parents out of their nursing homes. Threatening to go after young adult children still trying to get some financial traction. Anything to get their percentage of the cash grab.

From Got Debt: Dispatches From the Front Lines of America’s Financial Crisis:

The biggest part of having too much debt that plagues the average American, especially when someone gets to the point where they can’t repay it, is what I’ll call the “boogeyman in the closet” phenomenon.

This is the fear that something terrible will occur THE MINUTE someone can’t make a payment on their bills. The belief that missing a payment due date on a credit card is going to cause the sky to fall, it’s going to cause instant public shame, AND on top of that, the boogeyman is going to come out of the closet or out from under the bed and GET YOU.

I know that this boogeyman is real because of the questions I get and the things people tell me based on their assumptions (or on the gobbledygook they read on the internet or that they get from their brother-in-law).

The boogeyman comes in the form of:

“If I miss my credit card payment, can they take my car?”

“If I’m overdue on my credit cards will they put a lien on my house?”

“Will my boss know?”

“Will they garnish my wages?”

“Will they take all my retirement?”

And, the big one,

 “Can I be arrested?”

Stephen King apparently discovered this boogeyman and ran with it. Fantastic. The New York Times called The Institute, King’s scariest – because most of it, most of its characters, seem so ‘normal’. Regular people, regular problems.

Debt is, unfortunately, a regular problem. Here’s what King’s hero has to say the solution to that is:

“You need a lawyer. Don’t even think about going to one of the quick-buck companies that advertise on cable, they’ll take you for everything they can and then put you in Chapter 7. You’ll never get your credit rating back. You want a straight-arrow lawyer who specializes in debt relief, knows all about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and hates the bloodsuckers.”

That speaks for itself. And me.

Latest in Articles

I’ll talk to anyone who is currently behind on their mortgage, thinks they may not be able to afford their mortgage in the coming months, or is already in foreclosure. The earlier we talk, the more options you have.

… Sarah Poriss.

Sarah Poriss, Attorney at Law, LLC is the largest woman-owned foreclosure defense law firm in Connecticut, providing homeowners with quality legal counsel in foreclosure mediation and foreclosure defense.

Working at Consumer Law Group in Rocky Hill, Connecticut for four years, Sarah specialized in representing consumers facing financial crises like debt collection harassment and identity theft. Upon opening her own office, she expanded her focus to defending consumers sued by credit card companies and representing homeowners in foreclosure.

Sarah has elevated her practice by exclusively representing clients with money issues. She played a crucial role in drafting foreclosure mediation rules as a member of Connecticut’s Bench-Bar Foreclosure Committee for seven years.

Additionally, she contributed to the Bench-Bar Small Claims Committee to enhance clarity in small claims proceedings and ensure debt collectors provide substantial evidence to win cases.

Ever wanted to pick a lawyer's brain without the complexities of hourly rates and retainers?

This is why we offer you a simple and affordable solution: A One Hour Session for $300. 

During your one-hour session, we will identify crucial adjustments in your financial strategy that can be implemented immediately!


We will address your immediate concerns and devise a strategy to enhance your financial well-being.


Fill out "What Money Matters To Me". This confidential questionnaire a tool is used, maximizing our time together.


We explore your financial concerns, identify areas for improvement, and craft your customized roadmap.


You leave with actionable steps, resources tailored to you, and the confidence to navigate improved financial health.