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Hold it, fold it or run

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em,

know when to fold ’em;

know when to walk away,

know when to run…

Thus is the advice that is given to a young protege of the Gambler in the hit Kenny Rogers song. This advice is also good for people who are facing problems with debt to consider.  One of the toughest things for people who are facing uncertainty about their finances is knowing when to fold and get the financial help they need. 

We often play a bad hand

Almost everyone wants to repay their debts. We feel like it’s the “right” thing to do.  Paying your debts fits the narrative of the hard working hero who scrimped and went without to pay your debt in full.  Lord knows the creditors who push these massive debt loads onto people with the false assumption that they’ll be able to pay want you to think that not paying your debts will be the financial ruin of you until the end of the world. 

If you’re in debt, it’s hard to know what your choices are and to know which debts are the best to get rid of and which ones you need to keep. 

The problem is that no one talks about the actual cost of paying off burdensome debt.

Nobody talks about people who have such a strong commitment to pay burdensome debt, get blinded to other needs and other financial pitfalls.

Certainly, no one mentions good people who sacrifice and still fail to find a way to pay off their debts.

Nobody seems to care about the elderly; drowning in debt with no hope of better times ahead.

So how do you know how to play your hand, so to speak, when choosing the best way to succeed at getting out of debt?

Just like the cards you have, the decision about what to pay (hold) or file bankruptcy on (fold) depends on a number of factors. 

What’s the amount you owe?  

HOLD:  the lower your total debt, the more likely you can succeed in paying it off.

FOLD:  If you have a very large amount of debt it will take longer to pay off and will likely cause other events to interfere.

What’s your age?

HOLD: If you’re young, you have more time, theoretically, to pay off your debts due to the amount of time you have left in life to work. 

FOLD:  If you’re close to retirement, now’s the time to seriously start looking at cleaning up your finances

Do you have critical debts?

HOLD:  Do you owe taxes, have a mortgage or owe some kind of domestic support? These critical kinds of debts should take priority over unsecured or other debts that could be discharged. If you don’t owe these types of debts, a payment plan for other debts can often succeed.

FOLD:  paying unsecured bills when you owe these critical types of debt is EXTREMELY risky.

What does your retirement savings look like?

HOLD: IF you have a pension or a substantial amount of money saved for retirement, you can try to get your debts paid.

FOLD:  If you’re way behind on saving money for your golden years, wouldn’t it be better to use that money to save for retirement instead of paying back unsecured creditors?

Do you have an emergency savings fund?

HOLD:  If you have a big enough cushion to sustain a loss of income, try to pay off debt.

FOLD:  If you’re like the majority of Americans and have very little saved, you make yourself even more vulnerable diverting money to existing debt.

How to succeed

The number one thing you want to avoid is spending money you don’t have on old debts when you have no reasonable chance of succeeding.  Living paycheck to paycheck with no savings isn’t a good way to live and it makes life very tough. The young protege got some good advice for that taste of whiskey.

Kenny Rogers’ gambler told him:

That the secret to survivin’

Is knowin’ what to throw away

And knowin’ what to keep

Keep paying on old debts only if you have the ability to succeed.  Otherwise… well you know how the rest of the song goes. 

If you feel lost and are unable to find a way out of debt, contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove.  We have helped tens of thousands of people get the help they need in order to get the fresh start they so desperately need.  

 

A Study: Debt in Georgia

Consumer debt all over the country is approaching record levels.  We are all aware of the student loan crisis and medical debt, but the reality is, debt of all kids is at an all time high.  Citizens of the State of Georgia are facing incredible levels of debt.  More than 39% of Georgia residents have at least 1 account currently tied up in debt collection.  A recent CNN report states that more than $14 Trillion dollars of debt is outstanding in America.  That includes mortgages, student loans, car loans and credit cards, medical debt and other debts.  These levels of debt are scary to most people because levels of debt this high represent unsustainable amounts of money to service these debts.

The average American Family lives on less than $64,000 per year and while that number has risen lately, it pales in comparison to the average amount of debt carried by Americans at more than $137,000 .  Citizens of Georgia face higher collections and levels of debt that the national average. Citizens of Georgia have on average about $2,700 of credit card debt which on average costs around $275 a month in payments in order to actually pay it off.  That is a significant payment for most citizens in Georgia who average a gross monthly income of only $4,600 before taxes.  

What can we do about debt? Well that’s the million dollar question.  We try to pay it off if we can.  No one takes out a loan wanting to not pay it.  We often find ourselves struggling to deal with paying our debts and maintaining basic necessities and unexpected emergencies.  If your level of debt has become unsustainable, contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove to see how we can help you achieve freedom from debt with a completely free consultation with one of our award winning attorneys.

Don’t let the fear of bankruptcy hold you back: It will get better.

Fear is a powerful thing.  Fear motivates people and holds other back. It’s true,  your life after bankruptcy may be different than it was before you went and made the best financial decision you’ve made recently. While its true that bankruptcy generally reduces your credit score, it’s likely that your credit was already not so great.  Bankruptcy can occasionally make it harder to get credit in the future, especially in the short term, but over time things get better.

Fear of bankruptcy and its aftermath isn’t a good reason to avoid using it when you need it. Bankruptcy is there for a reason and that reason is to help you in your time of need.  Bankruptcy can free up your finances and allow you to get through life without the need to take on more and more debt. With the financial freedom and stability bankruptcy provides, you may not even miss the credit lines you once had.

Recovery after bankruptcy: What happens next?

After a bankruptcy you’ll be considered, at least temporarily, a high risk borrower. Your best bet for rebuilding your credit is to make on time payments with your utility providers, especially cell phone and internet companies as they often report on your credit. With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll have it reported on your credit report for the next 10 years and if you choose a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it will stay on your credit report for the next 7 years. 

While you may have trouble getting loans or credit, most people are able to get credit for some kinds of purchases after only a year or two.

While you’re in the bankruptcy process you’ll encounter some minor difficulties on occasion. You may find it harder to rent an a place to live, buy a car or get a job.  If you already have a place to live and a good job or a reliable car, do your best to maintain the status quo. It could be difficult to get a car loan immediately after bankruptcy and while many landlords understand that people get in trouble sometimes, there are landlord who may exclude you if you have poor credit. 

After bankruptcy, the key things to do is remember to pay all of your bills on time. Stay current on them so that your new post-bankruptcy record stays clean and shows positive change from the bankruptcy moving forward. You may want to take out a credit card that requires a full deposit. These are available at many reputable banks and are usually available to people regardless of their credit history. This kind of card is designed to help you build your credit on one hand and it also keeps you protected by not allowing you to borrow more than you put down as a deposit. 

These are some things to think about with bankruptcy. We are always up front with our clients about he way their life will change. Your life may change after bankruptcy, but you will be able to move on and have a life without debt that overwhelms you. If you’re interested in scheduling a free consultation to discuss your options, contact the compassionate attorneys at Harmon and Gorove for a free consultation today. 

Chapter 7 is often a better choice than debt consolidation

Every day, you turn on the radio and listen to product advertisements.  One of the major advertisers in the United States are debt consolidation companies.  You see their ads on TV and hear them on the radio every day.  They pop up in your facebook feed or in some google ad on the side of a webpage.  They make fantastic claims about being able to reduce your debts and consolidate your debts into a manageable debt load like they have some kind of magic wand.  It sounds like its too good to be true, and it often is.  What they’re selling you costs money, lots of it.  They make very good money on people’s need to be free of the burden of unmanageable debts.  Most of these companies just consolidate your existing debt into another loan with a lower rate.  When you’re already struggling, how are you going to make the payments on another, albeit potentially smaller loan. 

Another reason why debt consolidation can be dangerous for those struggling financially is that using a lump-sum payment to reduce the balance on your credit cards means that there’s more money to spend on your credit cards and the cycle of debt often just starts over again.  Debt consolidation loans can actually cause you to end up deeper in debt than you already were. 

Debt consolidation is a temporary fix at best.

Consolidating or reducing your existing debts may feel better temporarily but it fails in one aspect.  It doesn’t address the issue of having a substantial debt load still out there that is no longer sustainable with your current income.  You’ll probably still have a very high debt to income ratio and you’ll probably still be spending a ton of your disposable income servicing this newly consolidated debt.  Chapter 7 Bankruptcy can change that.

Chapter 7 proceedings can eliminate your debt, freeing you from it forever

Debt consolidators just change who you pay.  Instead of having to write 10 small checks every month, you write one big one to a loan company.  Sometimes, it feels good and gives you a false sense of security because you pay a lower interest rate or have lower monthly payments due to the loan being spread out over a longer period of time. The bottom line is though, you will still have to repay those debts in full.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, those debts no longer impact your financial future. If you qualify for a Chapter 7 and successfully complete your bankruptcy proceedings, the result will be a discharge of your unsecured debts, such as credit cards, signature loans and medical debt.

Instead of being on the hook to repay thousands of dollars, you’ll have a blank slate that will free up more of your income for other expenses. You’ll also have an opportunity to rebuild a positive credit history. Instead of spending all your time worrying about bills and struggling to make monthly minimums, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have the money every month to handle your finances responsibly and buy not just what you need but what you want as well.  Contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today to find out how we can help you get debt free. 

5 Common causes of Debt

People come into our office all the time with debt.  It’s kinda what we do.  If you’re here and you’re not in debt or seeking a divorce, chances are, we won’t be able to do much for you.  Over time, this has given us perspective on what actually causes debt.  Below are the top five causes of debt. 

1. An unexpected emergency

Many people find themselves in debt because they aren’t prepared when something bad happens. Your entire HVAC system may go belly up and need significant repairs. You may crash your car or get really sick only to find your insurance doesn’t cover everything. To keep these scenarios from wiping out your savings and leading to debt, you once again need to boost your emergency fund.

2. College costs

Going to college is expensive. So many people find themselves saddled with debt from college and often in the early part of their lives. This makes getting ahead and acquiring those assets that help build wealth even harder than before.  The average class of 2016 graduate left school with $37,172 in student loan debt. Those student loans can force a new graduate into even more borrowing just to cover basic necessities, which only furthers the downward spiral into debt.

3. Loss of income

Losing your primary means of generating income can really hurt you. You might have been laid off or maybe you did something stupid and got yourself fired. Maybe you’re self employed and had a sudden decline in revenue for your business. Maybe you had to stop working to care for loved one.  Perhaps your health took a turn for the worse and you were forced to retire early or significantly reduce your hours.  When horrible things like this happen, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed and debt can quickly follow.

4. Being poorly insured

Insurance is one of the most vexing things about life. It frequently feels like a waste of money … until you need it. Many people find themselves in very serious debt  when a bad event hits and they aren’t properly insured. Imagine  your house burning down without homeowners insurance or wrecking  your car with a liability only policy. All of these things can lead to serious financial consequences. 

5. Keeping up with the Joneses

People are always looking next door and seeing what the neighbors are doing,  yours truly included. Maybe Todd across the street is putting in a pool or your college roommate is sharing photos of their latest European vacation. Maybe your obnoxious sister-in-law just closed on a house twice the size of yours. Life really feels unfair when you feel like you have to go without and like many people, you may feel pressure to “keep up” with those you perceive to have it better than you. 

DON’T DO IT THOUGH, THIS IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER.

Chasing a lifestyle your income won’t support will have you turning to credit cards and other consumer debt to fund frivolous buys. The spiral into debt can be quick, overwhelming and unforgiving. The average millionaire drives a Honda, Ford or Toyota, and lives in a normal house in a middle class neighborhood. No one is saying you shouldn’t treat yourself to nice things or go on vacation every once in a while; but if you can’t actually afford those things you’re hurting yourself in the long run.

If you’ve found yourself drowning in debt, whether it’s one of these causes of debt or not, reach out to the experienced and compassionate lawyers at Harmon and Gorove for a free consultation today.  We have decades of experience helping people get their finances back on track and and creating lasting prosperity for our clients.  

 

The $1,000 Emergency!

Everyone has an emergency pop up from time to time.  The car needs repairs, you broke your arm, the toilet is backing up or the roof is leaking.  An unexpected emergency can cause a serious problem for lots of people.  We have talked about the savings rate in America before and how so many people have so little money saved for retirement or unexpected expenses.  A new study recently released by bankrate.com paints a very bleak picture for people in the United States when it comes to funding an emergency. We you can read the study in the post above or we can give you the TL;DR summary here:

  • Bankrate reports indicate that the percentage of U.S. adults who would use their savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit or car repair has remained within the range of 37 to 41 percent since 2014.
  • Nearly four in 10 Americans (37 percent) would borrow money in some capacity if hit with an unexpected bill.
  • Among respondents who reported that they or a close relative paid for a major unanticipated expense in the past year (28 percent), the average cost was $3,518.

 

Having an emergency can be expensive.  The average cost of an unexpected emergency expense is over $3,500.  That can put a pinch on the wallet of even the best savers in our country, yours truly included.  Over 30% of the respondents to the survey said that they would have to take on additional debt to cover the expense of a $1,000 emergency.  Many people even turn to fundraising services like Go Fund Me to help with unexpected problems.  While all of these are options in a time of need,  what we really need to look at is the cause of the problem, our ability to save.  So many people are burdened with debt and debt collectors live to make money off the shame of having debt.  Funding unsustainable debt keeps up from being able to get our lives back on track and increase our savings.  

That’s where we step in.  Bankruptcy is viewed by many as a last resort.  Something that is shameful or should only be considered if you’ve exhausted all options.  The truth is, Bankruptcy is a good financial tool that can help you get your life in order and get a fresh financial start.  Harmon and Gorove offers Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy plans to help you get your life back in order and hit the reset button on your finances.  Contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today for a free consultation.  Let us help you sort out your life so the next time a $1,000 emergency comes along, you’re prepared.