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Savings Rate in America is Scary

The average American family is struggling with savings.  While as much as 70% of people agree that the economy is humming along at a record pace, many people often do not see the real benefit that Wall Street is reaping in their own bank accounts.  Here in the United States, the economy may be doing well but the savings rate reaches has reached a new low.

 

A recent study by the Federal Reserve says that the average American consumer is unable to cover a $400 emergency expense without tapping credit or having to sell some possessions. Many attribute this to the rising cost of living and the recent uptick in consumer debt and student loan debt which are both having a negative effect on the savings rate.  Student loan debt in America now tops 1.4 Trillion dollars and is causing many people to not be able to purchase homes and cars and is even blamed for delaying marriages and keeping people from starting families.

 

Another disturbing trend in the savings rate in America is the fact that more than 50% of people have less than 1,000 dollars in savings.  Despite the fact that more Americans are feeling confident in the economy, a full 57% of Americans don’t even have 1,000 dollars saved. This is disturbing because many people still expect to retire at or around 65.  The average social security check people receive in retirement is approximately 1,400 per month.  While that will continue to increase as time goes on, it is a sobering thought that many people who are late to get into the savings game may have to finance their retirement on just under 17,000 dollars per year.  


As we stated earlier, most people are feeling more financially secure but they are failing to save.  You can make that savings easier if you contribute to employer funded or matched retirement plans which save your money for you, keeping you from ever getting your hands on it.  If you work for an employer that does this, we highly recommend you using this. If you are having to save on your own and you keep finding it harder and harder to put money away you may be a good candidate for bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy can be a positive thing for your finances and it can help you eliminate may of the unnecessary debts that are holding you back from creating a savings plan. If you are struggling with creating a savings plan, give us a call.  The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove have decades of experience helping people out of debt and making meaningful financial changes in their lives.  

Why does Bankruptcy Exist?

Why does bankruptcy exist?  I can tell you from more than 10 years of legal experience, that is the question most often asked by creditors who are baffled as to why they lose out when someone files bankruptcy against a debt that is owed to them.  While it can be unfortunate for the creditor, for the person needing protection that bankruptcy offers, the choice is stark.

First, let’s look at a little bit of the history of bankruptcy.  For hundred of years, if you couldn’t pay back your debts, your assets were often seized to satisfy those debts and if you didn’t have enough assets to cover the debts owed, you’d be thrown in jail.  While this doesn’t make much sense, being that if you’re imprisoned you can’t exactly work to pay off your debts, it was the law in Great Britain and even in colonial times here in America. This all changed with the Financial Panic of 1837.  This was the first time that debtors were able to file for bankruptcy protection voluntarily. Changes have occurred over the past 180 years that have made bankruptcy fairer for the debtor and the creditor.

At times, a person’s debts can become so overwhelming that they become paralyzing.  Debts can feel like a type of financial bondage that steals a person’s hope for future prosperity and ability to take care of his or her family.  From my ten years of experience, I have found that none of my clients actually want to file bankruptcy and all of them desperately want to have the financial capacity to repay their creditors. Unfortunately, they have reached a point in their life where they feel that this is simply impossible.

This is where bankruptcy becomes a type of safety net.  The reasons for bankruptcy are numerous. First, bankruptcy serves to provide a debtor with a fresh start and renewed sense of hope.  The Supreme Court has stated that this fresh start is the “essence of modern bankruptcy law” and that debtor is provided with special protections in bankruptcy called exemptions “to ensure that bankruptcy will provide a fresh start.” Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 244 (1934).

From the perspective of macroeconomics, bankruptcy is an essential part of capitalism. In an economy without bankruptcy protections if a business fails you’re out of luck but in our country bankruptcy can serve as a fail safe.  Without this fail safe what business person would ever take a risk with his or her money? It is obvious that no one starts a business just to file bankruptcy, bankruptcy itself provides for an invaluable safety net that will allow a person to take the debts from the past and move forward into a brighter future.

Many creditors often ask, what about me?   While it is not obvious why bankruptcy would benefit creditors, creditors are protected by the law as well.  First of all, we assume that a person who is looking at filing bankruptcy has exhausted all other financial options.   For the most part, debtors generally don’t have much more than their household goods and furniture, a car, and a home, if they’re lucky. The reality of the situation is, no one is going to get paid back in full. By assuming bankruptcy is unfair for creditors, must also acknowledge that the alternative probably wouldn’t be better either.

Understanding all this we realize that bankruptcy is an equalizing force among creditors. Creditors are broken up into roughly three different classifications: The first is secured creditors like your mortgage or car loans, the second is a priority creditor like alimony or child support, and the third is just unsecured like a credit card or medical bill.  An example of this works would be a situation like this. A debt collection law firm is attempting to collect on a credit card issued by a bank and the debt collection law firm pursued a garnishment suit against the debtor in magistrate court. They won and got a judgment, and started garnishing the debtor’s paycheck to the fullest extent allowed by law.  By doing this the debt collection law firm collected $1,500.00 in three months for the bank.  The problem with this is that there is a section of the bankruptcy law that says that if an unsecured creditor is paid more than $600 within 90 days of the debtor filing bankruptcy (even if it’s court ordered), that creditor was given preferential treatment.  This means that the bankruptcy trustee can force the bank to turn over the $1,500 so the trustee can distribute that money to the unsecured creditors in equal shares. So, from that perspective, even creditors may benefit by some equalization under the bankruptcy code.

With all this said, I hope I’ve answered the question, Why does bankruptcy exist. It exists for both the creditor and the debtor.  It helps to ensure fair treatment of the creditors and to help the debtor get a fresh start. If you feel that you may be in need of a consultation with a bankruptcy attorney give the caring and compassionate attorneys at Harmon and Gorove a call to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. With our expertise you may be able to regain your financial freedom and start down the road to prosperity.

What About My Life Insurance?

A life insurance policy is one of the most important assets you can invest in.  Life insurance often provides a monetary safety net for families facing the prospect of losing a parent or spouse to keep them from facing financial hardships.  If bankruptcy appears to be on your radar it is imperative that you tell your attorney about any and all life insurance policies, you hold and what types of policies they are.

A good number of assets are not subject to be taken in bankruptcy and others can be protected, including your life insurance.  Protecting your life insurance is something that can easily be done but you have to notify your attorney about these policies before the case is filed in order for the attorney to make the necessary adjustments. In the event that your policy is whole life with cash value, it is imperative that your attorney know the actual cash value amount of your policy to ensure that you can cover that amount with your exemptions when you file for bankruptcy protection. If you are thinking about filing bankruptcy, you’ve already made a positive choice to improve your family’s financial position.  If you’re someone who doesn’t have life insurance, purchasing a policy can be another wise financial decision you can make after your bankruptcy is concluded.

Whether you must protect a life insurance policy or not, if you think bankruptcy is an option, make an appointment to speak to one of the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Harmon and Gorove to find out more about how bankruptcy can be the first step toward renewed financial success.  The decisions you make today will make a world of difference in your and your family’s financial future.  At Harmon and Gorove, we have helped thousands of individuals and families file both Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies.  Our clients have often weathered severe hardship that has resulted in overwhelming debts. They made a decision to address their debt head on and give themselves the fresh start down the road of financial freedom.

If you are interested in learning about your options through bankruptcy, make an appointment to speak with one of the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today.  Call us today at 770.253.5902 for a free consultation with a professional and compassionate bankruptcy attorney.

Stopping Creditor Harassment

 

Not much is more stressful that feeling the heavy burden of unmanageable debt. When you add the prospect of non stop harassment by creditors on top of the burden of debt the situation becomes unbearable.  People who have been victims of creditor harassment and bill collectors know how uncomfortable it is when the phone rings, especially when it keeps rings all day long. A number of people assume there isn’t a way around being constant creditor harassment, there are provision in the law to make it stop.

What you have to do first is to realize that doing nothing will not fix the problem. The sad reality of it is that collection agencies have hundreds of staff members whose sole job is to make phone calls and harass you into paying a debt that you may not even owe. The question is, how do I make it stop?

Creditor Harassment: know your rights

You DO NOT have to accept being bullied by collection agencies. One thing you have to understand is that while they may be rude to you and harass you, you are not under their control. Don’t ever scream at them, lose your temper or threaten them; always keep a level head.

You must remember that you have rights that they absolutely must respect. There are a number of things that collectors can’t do when attempting to collect debts. They are not allowed to call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you have given them permission to reach out to you at those hours. You should always establish boundaries on the very first phone call. You also have the right to tell them they are not allowed to contact you at work or reach out to your family. Finally, and most importantly, if you wish for the calls to cease, you can tell them not to contact you.  Once you have completed the phone call send a follow up letter via certified mail asking for proof that you explained to them how they should contact you in the future. Under Federal law all notices must be in writing to retain full legal effect.

You are protected by the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, creditors are not legally allowed to do the following:

  • Repeatedly call you
  • Call you at unreasonable hours or late at night
  • Call your employer if you’ve told them not to
  • Call without identifying who they are
  • Contact your friends, family or neighbors unless you give them permission
  • Employ deceptive tactics
  • Threaten you with child custody, arrest, or loss of welfare benefits
  • Threaten with self-help repossession when not authorized by the law
  • Use derogatory, obscene, or insulting remarks
  • Directly contact you after you’ve told them to call your lawyer instead

Always make sure you receive proof of debt

Don’t just assume that you owe a debt to someone just because a debt collector has called you. The cold hard truth is that you should never pay the collector anything until they can prove that you actually owe the debt. Debt collectors often try this tactic to scare people into paying a debt by mistake. If the company calling you is unable to provide you with real proof of the debt you can simply tell them to stop calling you. .

I would even go so far as to say that even if you are pretty sure that you owe the debt, make them prove it to you anyways. As I have previously stated, sometimes debt collectors try to collect on fraudulent debt. Additionally, third party debt collectors often buy debt without ever receiving proof that someone owes it. This situation gives you a huge leg up and can often times result in you not having to pay the debt.

You should always be honest. If there isn’t any way you can pay the debt tell the person who called you the truth. If you think there may be a time when you’ll have some money then give them an estimated time when you might be able to pay. By doing this you could eliminate the incessant phone calls.

You can try to make a deal

There are some creditors that are not impossible to work with.  They may be inclined to make a deal with you. Some companies may allow you to make small payments over time or they may forgive a portion of the debt they say you owe if you’re willing to pay right then.  Generally speaking, third party companies are usually more willing to work with you since they often buy debt in bulk for much less than it was previously worth.

If all else fails, see a lawyer

If you feel you’re a victim of creditor harassment and you can’t find a way to get them to stop contact the Attorneys at Harmon & Gorove today.  We can assist you in filing bankruptcy so that your creditors will stop harassing you, ruining your credit and garnishing your wages.

Someone Told Me I Can’t File Bankruptcy…

Today, so many people are worried that once they have decided to seek help someone might tell them they can’t file bankruptcy.  Whether it is the judge, a trustee or a creditor, They fear that someone might reject their bankruptcy petition all together or tell them they can’t file bankruptcy and put the right back at square one.  The long and short of it is that the chances of this happening are very very slim. This is why you hired an attorney to begin with. Trying to file a case “pro se” might lead you down a road full of serious legal problems, but filing with an attorney is definitely the right choice.  Your attorney’s job is to guide you through the process and make sure that your situation is fully vetted. The attorney will know your entire situation so that when your bankruptcy petition is filed with the court you will be in full and complete compliance with the bankruptcy code and the local rules set out in each judge’s courtroom. Whether it is a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your attorney will make sure that it is smooth sailing through the bankruptcy process.  

Like I stated earlier, the road is usually smooth and clear when you hire an experienced Newnan Georgia Bankruptcy Attorney. The only time you might find yourself facing problems in your bankruptcy is when you don’t disclose your entire financial history up front to your attorney and the court.  Your mother probably used to tell you that honesty is the best policy and if she did, she was right. That proverb holds true in Bankruptcy as well. You have to tell your attorney everything that’s going on in your financial life.  Whether you had a car accident and have the potential to recover money from it, you’re going through a divorce or you are being sued for something that you may be liable for, you have to disclose this to your attorney from the start.  Your attorney is best able to serve you when they have to complete and total picture of your financial situation. When that is the case, your attorney can almost always guarantee smooth sailing all the way through your bankruptcy case.  

If you are behind on your bills, being harassed by creditors or just feel like there’s no way you’re going to get ahead, make an appointment today with one of our compassionate and experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Harmon & Gorove. We will work with you to get you a fresh start in your financial life and get your credit back on track after bankruptcy.  

 

Bankruptcy: Don’t Make These 6 Mistakes

The prospect of filing for bankruptcy protection is a serious decision that isn’t to be taken lightly.  Generally speaking, if you file bankruptcy the right way it will have very profound positive impacts on your life and allow you to restructure your finances in a viable way going forward. However, if it isn’t done correctly you can find yourself fighting for years to come to clean up the messes and mistakes of a failed bankruptcy. Often, we see people who come through our office who have experienced such failed bankruptcies and we are stuck cleaning up an expensive mess made by unqualified attorneys who filed things incorrectly or simply didn’t know what they were doing. Below, I list the top 6 mistakes that people commit when filing for bankruptcy,

They go to a “BIG BOX” bankruptcy firm  to file their case.

There are many great attorneys out there that work for these “big box” firms and they are wonderful, caring people. The only problem is, when you’re looking at these firms, you often have somewhere between five and ten attorneys juggling 150-200 or more cases a month. The long and short of this is, they can’t ever get to know your case PERSONALLY. They will pass everything off to a secretary or paralegal that just files the paperwork and never takes the time to actually get to know you and your case. Our office handles several clients a month who have had their case filed by a “big box” bankruptcy mill only to see it get dismissed because of some technicality or missed deadline by the untrained and overwhelmed staff. If you’re sitting in some rarely staffed satellite office or the waiting room has 50 chairs in it, you’re probably not going to get the personalized service you need and deserve. If getting good customer service from the same people ever time isn’t that important to you, you might be a good fit for a one of these types of firms.  The biggest difference between a “big box” firm and a local bankruptcy firm is service. You aren’t going to pay them any less in the long run but you definitely won’t have access to your attorney like you would going with a smaller firm.

Hiring an attorney that doesn’t have actual BANKRUPTCY experience.

They may be your buddy you went to high school or college with, they might be a general practice attorney that has been in the same spot for 40 years, they might even be $100 less than the bankruptcy practitioner up the street but don’t let them fool you. Bankruptcy laws change CONSTANTLY and the only people who keep up with those changes are the people who file bankruptcies on a regular basis.   Like doctors, attorneys specialize in certain aspects of the law because the law complicated and no one has time or the ability to be able to practice 10 different types of law, especially if they’re concerned about not making mistakes. Don’t end up being a lab rat for some attorney who THINKS they might be able to handle filing bankruptcies, your financial future depends on it.

Using a bankruptcy petition preparer service.

There’s an old adage out there that I love to use.  NEVER hire a discount plastic surgeon or a discount lawyer, the damage that a hack can potentially do just isn’t worth it. Hiring a petition preparer may be cheaper but it’s usually just an accident waiting to happen. While I list 6 major mistakes you can make, this one should probably be at the top of the list.   People often go through their case, sometimes for 5 years or more, thinking that everything is humming along smoothly.  Sadly, people often find out after the fact that a debt wasn’t reaffirmed correctly or paperwork was filed incorrectly. Petition preparers are just supposed to type and in the State of Georgia, they are not allowed to give legal counsel.  If something goes wrong, you have no recourse since you agreed that all they were doing was typing, it was your responsibility to handle everything else. We have cleaned up the mess of hundreds of people who used a petition preparer. These people often find themselves being investigated for fraud by the U.S. Department of Justice, facing the threat of losing a home they didn’t know they had equity in or even ending up in the wrong type of bankruptcy altogether.  Generally speaking, you can start a Chapter 13 for around $75 and a Chapter 7 for around that same price. There is literally no reason to not hire an experienced Bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy you’re dealing with the federal government and all its resources. Discount shopping for bankruptcy could leave you in a massive mess.

Not fully listing your assets.

When it comes to your attorney and your bankruptcy you have to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If your name is on the title you absolutely HAVE to list it in your case.  Your trustee doesn’t care if it’s your grandmother’s car and she’s the only one who drives it, if your name is on the title you have to list it. Committing bankruptcy fraud is an actual criminal offense, thousands of people are investigated each year for bankruptcy fraud and hundreds of them go to FEDERAL PRISON each year for committing it.

Transferring property out of your name before you file.

Transferring a house or a car to someone else out of your name isn’t going to help you, in fact, it’s one of the biggest mistakes you’ll make. Trustees have broad investigatory power and they WILL look into your background.  If you sold your house to your aunt for $1,000 three weeks before you filed bankruptcy the trustee WILL find out. Sometimes transferring things isn’t a big deal but sometimes it is.  Only a competent attorney who specializes in bankruptcy can tell you which one is the case.

Paying debts to family members or friends before you file.

This is one of the biggest mistakes we see when people come in for a consultation. Obviously, you don’t want to stiff your Aunt Shirley out of the $500 bucks she loaned you to make the down payment on your car. Guess what, the court doesn’t care. In fact, if they find out you paid anyone off in full right before you filed bankruptcy whether it is a friend, family member of a title pawn, they’ll go after them to get that money back and distribute it to your creditors. Paying off one person while bankrupting on someone else is called a preference payment.  Preference payments are not legal. Meeting with a qualified attorney can help you understand this process and can also explain when a trustee can attempt to collect preference payments from friends and family member and when they can’t.

Speaking with a competent bankruptcy attorney in Newnan or LaGrange doesn’t cost a dime. Our attorneys will meet with you at a time that is convenient for you FREE OF CHARGE. We will do a complete examination of your financial situation and give you our recommendations for how to best meet your financial goals. Don’t make a major financial mistake that could haunt you for years to come.