"We're still both in shock that it could go from something so good to so bad so quick," said Kent, 59. "New Century in 60 days went from top of the heap to out of business."
And the lives they lived. Each making in the six figures, they enjoyed the O.C. lifestyle. With Pacific Ocean views and their own private Garden these two were doing great. And of course their mortgage and their HELOC on a 2005 purchased house that has already lost 20% of its value within the last year.
Today, they're trying to get by on his unemployment benefits of about $450 a week, which covers only about an eighth of the basic payments they owe every month.
They have $10,000 in monthly fixed bills - their home equity line, mortgage, health and life insurance premiums. This does not cover food, utilities and other basic necessities. They are trying to do everything before they have to give up their home. They must have believed all of the housing hype, internalized it.
"We've used up most of our reserves, cashed in her 401K," said Kent. "We're going Mach 1 into a wall. When we run into it, then we've got to decide what to do next."
Despite their financial problems, the Copes have worked hard to protect their credit rating, staying current on bills.
Selling to the subprimers - and it sounds like that becoming subprime is their biggest fear. Giving up their retirements just to make sure they never become one of their old customers. This will probably prevent them from walking away - even when it may be in their best interest.
For Mysti, 37, all her efforts to find work since she lost her job last May have been futile. She said she believes the attention given to subprime borrowers who have run into trouble paying their mortgages work against her and other former colleagues. It's almost like having "Enron" on your resume.
"The media has somewhat tarnished the subprime industry and all the employees, and portrayed them as being dishonest," she said. "We're not dishonest. Not everybody was a bad borrower. Not every company was a bad lender."
Are trying to blame the media for the media for the mortgage meltdown and credit crunch? Since this is much bigger than Enron it is probably worse on the resume.
Mysti said she and many other employees who survived the early rounds of layoffs at New Century thought they'd be able to ride out the bad times even after the firm stopped taking new mortgage applications in March of last year and filed for bankruptcy in April.
"We were New Century. We were a large corporation. We were the No. 2 subprime lender in the industry," she recalled. "You figured someone would come in and want to invest and take it over."
But the potential buyers soon disappeared as did the remaining jobs. She and her co-workers got word on May 3 that they were being laid off, effective the next day.
Within in 2 months the company went under. Things were bad but since they internalized all the hype they could not see what was coming.
The Copes are just two of many in Orange County, formerly the center of the nation's subprime lending industry, now trying to move on. Nearly 9,000 jobs have been lost there in the past year, with more than 4,000 alone in Irvine, where New Century was based.
The subprime industry in Orange County was a close-knit close cluster of lenders. The industry rapidly expanded as executives at one firm would strike out on their own and setup shop nearby. But the industry fell apart even more quickly.
This is what keeps Irvine Renter so busy - these clueless insiders thought they were on top of the world - until their world imploded. We hear about how Countrywide's CEO was selling his stocks while the industry was imploding - just like Enron. People knew time was running out but were telling the employees that things were going great - their's was a huge organization that was too big to fail - it had to be worth something to someone. Are any of them too big to fail or is the collapse too intertwined with too many to allow them to fall?
"You know you could take a roller coaster ride down," he said. "But you never envisioned it could be a free fall.It's not just the subprimers that are in free fall anymore.