They had an unfortunate brush with the mortgage industry a few years ago, though. They finally purchased another home then with a conventional fixed mortgage in the fall of 2001. But in 2005, they refinanced. I was in New York by then, but I warned them repeatedly: don’t get an adjustable-rate mortgage. Interest rates will only go up. My folks didn’t. Or thought they hadn’t.

But guess what? An unscrupulous broker had added an ARM to the mortgage —against their expressed wishes and unbeknownst to them. My folks didn’t notice it at the closing, or indeed, until they decided to move outside of town a couple of years later. They also learned that the broker had put a big fat pre-payment penalty on the note to boot. Like most people, they didn’t understand the fine print. Their fault was in trusting someone who they thought was on their side (They had to structure a lease-purchase agreement with a buyer to avoid the big pre-payment penalty).

Both terms, it should be noted, increased the broker’s commission and increased the mortgage’s value on the secondary market—the one that is blowing up now all around the world.

Most people aren’t losing their homes today because they’re sick and can’t work, though that’s surely not a tiny number. Others lost their jobs, or their lives got complicated by divorce or some other family trauma. And many others got put into balloon mortgages or option ARMs they didn’t understand, or were refinanced into ones they couldn’t afford, by some crooked broker. Or they just simply bought too much house, egged on by marketers and a culture that says spend, spend, spend.

However they got into foreclosure, my heart goes out to them. I remember what it’s like.

Fifteen years after we lost our home on 56th street in Tulsa, I’m glad to report that my folks are doing okay. Two years ago, they were able to get out of the second house and buy that property outside of town. They’re trying to pay extra on this note so they can pay it off —30 year fixed at 6 percent—in their early 70’s, God willing. They’d be about ready to burn the mortgage on the first house if they hadn’t lost it.

So, we’re all right. Most of these Americans losing their homes may be, too, though only after huge setbacks that will make them far less secure financially than they would have been for the rest of their lives.

My sister and I both went to college. I’m a journalist, newly married, and she’s raising a family. A few months ago she and her husband moved across the street from my parents… into a house bought from someone who could no longer afford the payments.

Me and my wife? We rent.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.