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The Side Effect of Debt

Debt is something that is a fact of life in the modern world.  Everywhere we turn, we are forced to borrow money in order to get ahead in life.  We have to borrow money for our education, our homes, our cars, even our phones and healthcare. In an ever more expensive world, debt is a burden that we must all bear.  One thing you should keep in mind though as you take on debt is that there is a side effect and debt should be used sparingly and in ways that will IMPROVE your life.

The Consequences of Debt

Debt has several side effects.  The first side effect is that you WILL pay more for an item bought using debt.  This is called interest and virtually every lender expects to be paid some amount of interest.  The second side effect is that you can face difficulty repaying that debt. When you take out loans, lenders generally look at your income vs liabilities.  That’s called debt to income ratio. If you lose your job or face a pay cut, you could find yourself stuck owing more than you can physically pay back. The third side effect of debt is that you can end  up being a slave to that debt. You’ll always feel like you have a yoke around your neck constantly pulling against you and keeping you from achieving your financial goals. Finally, the last side effect of debt is the added pressure that debt can put on you and your relationships.  Poor financial decisions is one of the leading causes of divorces and breakups. It even causes some people to rethink whether or not they wish to marry to someone.

Some Debts can be Good, but understand reality

Like I said earlier, some debt is necessary and in fact, some debts can even be beneficial.  Having a home loan can help you buy a house and build equity. Homes are often times the biggest asset the average american can own.  Home ownership is vastly higher in the U.S. than it is in most of the developed world. Student loans, when used responsibly, can help people meet educational goals that improve their lives and help them earn more money.  The biggest thing about these debts are that they need to be used sparingly and only taken out in small doses. Just because a lender says they’ll loan you $400,000 on your home doesn’t mean you should do it. Many people who took out student loans took out more than they needed or didn’t look at ways to cut costs like attending in state public schools, utilizing community colleges and technical schools or getting degrees that won’t help them achieve their financial goals.  Having $150,000 in student loan debt for a bachelor’s degree from your dream college doesn’t feel so good when the payments come due and you’re only making $20,000 a year working as a barista.

Interest is a real drain on household resources each year as well.  A typical family in America pays an average of $10,000 per year in interest and the average person could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest over the course of the life of a loan, especially mortgage loans.  Imagine what you could do with that money. Pay cash for you education, save for retirement, go on a vacation, the list goes on and on. The bottom line is, when you take out debt, make sure you always ask yourself if its worth it.  Is that $5 latte worth $8 by the time you factor in interest on your credit card? Is that fancy new $50,000 car worth the $70,000 you’ll ultimately pay after you account for interest? Asking yourself these questions while looking at the big picture can help you have a brighter financial future.

Don’t put off seeking professional help

A side effect is an unwanted outcome that often places a significant burden on the person experiencing it. If you’re already experiencing the burden of debt, you should consider contacting us for a free consultation .  We meet with clients all the time who don’t want to file bankruptcy because it would hurt their credit.  What they don’t realize is that having a credit score of 800 is useless if you are already maxed out on debt.  While repaying your debt is an admirable goal, it’s not always possible or even advisable. Starting fresh is exactly what bankruptcy is all about and why we do what we do.  Filing bankruptcy is better than spending the remainder of your life in debt, never getting ahead, and never saving for retirement. At the very least, you should speak with a qualified bankruptcy attorney about how they can help you recover your financial well being using the bankruptcy code to your advantage. Consultations with a qualified, award winning attorney, are always free at Harmon and Gorove.  We’ll be honest with you about your options and never pressure you to do something that isn’t in your best interest.

 

Is Student Loan Debt Dischargable in Bankruptcy

Student loan debt has been labeled a crisis in the United States.  The total outstanding amount of student loans in America currently stands at just over 1.5 Trillion dollars.  That’s more than is owed even to credit card companies. Needless to say, thousands of Americans are struggling with student loan debt each and every day.  They are putting off buying houses, getting married and starting families. The payments and the weight of those payments are keeping people from being entrepreneurial and taking risks. Student Loans are a yoke around the neck of American productivity and frankly, it’s causing our society a lot of trouble.

For people who find themselves unable to pay all their bills, Bankruptcy is a great way to get back on the road to financial prosperity.  Many people often come to our office asking if student loans can be discharged in their bankruptcy, as that alone is a significant contributing factor into why they can’t make ends meet.  Unfortunately, the answer to the question, are my student loans dischargeable, is often no. Student loans are nearly impossible to discharge, especially in this part of the country. In other parts of the country, appeals courts have allowed discharge in certain circumstances that are very limited and still allows only a select few to actually qualify for discharge and then it’s usually only a partial discharge. There are very few times that student loans are dischargeable and only if certain criteria are met.

In order for your loans to be discharged you must prove what the court calls and Undue Hardship.  What actually qualifies as an undue hardship is usually up to the court of appeals that is deciding your case.  In order to qualify for an undue hardship you must pass what is known as the Brunner Test. The test is composed of 3 basic things:

  1. The debtor is unable to maintain a minimum standard of living for themselves and their dependents with their current level of income and expenses.
  2. Their current financial situation appears that it will continue throughout the course of the repayment plan and finally
  3. The debtor has made a good faith effort to repay all the loans that they took out.

IF the court determines that you meet these criteria then they would cancel part or all of your outstanding student loan debt.  I will be very honest. In the decades our office has been operating we have only had 1 client actually have their student loans discharged and that client was going through a terminal disease.  Sadly, it probably isn’t going to happen. There are, however, other options available.

Filing a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy can allow you to discharge many of your other debts, including medical debts and credit card debts that are taking up valuable disposable income. That income, if freed up, could allow you to get your student loans paid back very quickly and allow you to get that burden off your back for good.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by debt, including student loans, come see the experienced and friendly attorneys at Harmon and Gorove.  They have decades of experience in handling bankruptcy cases of all kinds and they can help you decide which path is best for you during our free, no obligation consultation.  Contact us today to see how we can help you become debt free.

 

Tackling Credit Card Debt

With credit card debt in the United States nearing 1 TRILLION dollars, it’s easy to say that a great deal of people are feeling overwhelmed by the debts carried on their revolving accounts. Many people who carry balances on their credit cards pay just the monthly minimums and ignore the problem.  This is NOT a good plan. Pretending your debts don’t exist just makes the problem that much worse. This strategy will backfire on you every time in the long run. It will make you miserable, it will cause you to be unable to save for the future and it could eventually drive you into bankruptcy.

If you are interested in trying to get started on paying down your long term credit card debts we have some advice for you.  The best strategy starts with the first step and that step is often to modify your spending habits by creating a budget and sticking to it. Just small modifications to your daily routine can mean big savings that you can then start using to pay down your balances one at a time, always starting with the payment with the highest interest rates.  

Step one is to decide on a repayment strategy.  Don’t allow yourself to continue to drown under the weight of multiple credit card payments each month.  If you start working your way down from the top (meaning you pay off your biggest balance or highest interest rate) you can begin to reduce your debts quickly, freeing up more and more disposable income that you can then use to continue to pay off other debts.

Another step you can take is to communicate with the people you owe money to. If you’re struggling with the exorbitantly high interest rates that are routinely charged by credit card companies, sometimes just giving them a call and asking for an interest rate reduction will allow you to free up more money to pay down the principal on the card each month.  Sometimes credit card companies will work with you on rates if you’ll commit to repaying the debt at that lower interest rate.

There are lots of options available to you if you feel like your drowning in credit card debt.  The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove can help you find a way out of debt for good. Contact us for a free, no obligation consultation to find out how we can get you started down a path to financial freedom.

 

Your Cosigner filed Bankruptcy, What Now?

So often when someone needs to make a large purchase they must take out a loan.  The vast majority of us, myself included, have to incur debt to make these large purchases.  For many of us, getting this loan is going to require a cosigner. A cosigner is an additional person (besides you) that will agree to be liable for the debt in the event that you default on the loan and stop making payments.  The cosigner, just like you, is expected to pay back the loan in full if the other part can’t or won’t. What happens though, when your co-signer files bankruptcy? How is that going to impact your role as the primary borrower?

The best way to explain this situation is to give you an example.  Becky is looking to buy herself a new boat. Becky’s credit isn’t good enough to get the loan for the boat without a cosigner.  Becky’s cousin, Tammy agrees to be a cosigner on the loan but won’t be listed on the title as an owner of the boat. A few months later, Tammy has to file for bankruptcy and through the bankruptcy process, Tammy is remove from the loan and no longer required to pay it back.  You ask, what happens to Becky and her boat now?

Becky still has to pay back the loan.  As the primary borrower, she still owes the balance of the loan.  If Becky pays the loan back in full, the boat is hers, free and clear.  The only issue with being the primary borrower and the cosigner in a finance contract like this is that eventually the property will be titled in the primary borrower’s name.  Issues can occasionally arise if the finance company declares the loan in default due to the cosigner’s bankruptcy but these can usually be remedied by refinancing the loan in solely into the name of the primary borrower.  This can even result in lower payments for the primary borrower.

Additionally, Tammy’s bankruptcy shouldn’t show up on Becky’s credit.  Occasionally, situations arise where this is reported to credit bureaus but they can usually be resolved by filing a dispute letter with the three credit bureaus. Our advice is usually this: don’t cosign.  If you can’t afford to buy something using your own credit, maybe you need to explore less expensive options.

If you find yourself in financial trouble due to cosigning a loan with someone else, contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today to see how we can help mitigate the damage of cosigning a loan.  

Cosigning is ALWAYS a Bad Idea

We understand how hard it is to say no, especially to a friend or family member.  Let me say this loud and clear, when a family member of a friend asks about cosigning a loan for them, RUN FOR THE HILLS! JUST SAY NO! DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SIGN THAT LOAN!

No matter how sure you are that they won’t default on the loan, you may even feel it in your soul, DON’T DO IT.  If a lender is asking for a cosigner, there’s a good reason. It’s because they believe that the primary borrower won’t be able to make their financial obligations.  More often than not, the lender is right.

When it comes to cosigning, you’re being asked to guarantee a debt.  If the primary borrower doesn’t repay the debt, you’re on the hook for the debt and the creditor WILL come after you. You’ll be on the hook for late fees, collection costs, attorneys fees and the principal balance of the loan.  If the debt goes into default it WILL show up on your credit report. The bottom line is, cosigning is always a bad idea.

Cosigning is always a bad idea.  Have I made myself clear up to this point? Cosigning a debt puts you in the worst possible situation.  You receive no benefit from the loan you’re cosigning. You aren’t getting a student loan to improve your education, you’re not getting a house to live in and build equity in, you’re not getting that flashy new car to ride around town in. You’re just on the hook for all of it.  You can have you bank accounts and assets seized, your paycheck garnished, you could be subject to litigation and you could ultimately end up in bankruptcy.

We understand that it’s difficult to refuse to help someone you love.  Telling friends or family members no is one of the toughest things you can do. However, it may be the best thing you can do for your relationship.  Think about what your relationship will be like if your friend or family member defaults on the loan or even just misses a payment. That’s going to show up on your credit at a minimum and will likely bring your score down 20 or more points.  The damage that cosigning can do to relationships can not be understated. You’ll be left with a loan and a relationship that will be severely damaged from here forward.

If you’ve cosigned a loan with someone who has missed payments or defaulted on a loan completely and you find yourself on the hook for their mistakes the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove can help.  We are experts in dealing with these kinds of issues through the bankruptcy code.  Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation about how we can help you get out from under these debts and get your life back.

How to Recover from Bankruptcy

Dead end roads, dead end jobs, dead end relationships.  All these are good examples of things that can truly be a dead end.  Notice, however, how the word Bankruptcy was NEVER mentioned as a dead end.  Quite the contrary, Bankruptcy can be a fantastic new beginning that can give you a fresh perspective and fresh start on your road to financial success. Bankruptcy allows you the kind of fresh start you need after a run of bad luck or a series of bad decisions.  By using these mistakes and learning from your bad luck, you can have a great deal of success after bankruptcy. Below, I list how you can successfully recover after bankruptcy.

 

  1. First things first, you MUST learn from your mistakes and misfortunes.  It is important to identify what happened and what caused you to file bankruptcy in the first place.  Was it bad choice, a spate of ill health, a run of bad luck or just plain stupidity. The decision to file bankruptcy was hard enough and let’s be honest.  You probably don’t want to be back here again. In order to avoid this problem in the future, you’ve got to figure out how you got here in the first place.
  2. After you identify your mistakes the next thing you’ve got to do is to plan for the future.  You need to create a budget based on what you can ACTUALLY AFFORD based on your income. Making this budget and sticking to it will lead you to a lifetime of financial success and keep you out of our office in the future.
  3. Once you’ve made plans, the next thing you need to do is set some goals.  Where do you want to be in 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years or a decade? You need to set goals and work them into your budget.  Such goals should include an emergency savings fund. An emergency cushion should be at least 6 months worth of your expenses in the event you have a job loss or experience medical problems in the future.  
  4. Once you’ve set up goals, you need to work on re-establishing your credit.  The only caveat to this is that it must be done SLOWLY AND DELIBERATELY. You can start out by rebuilding your credit slowly but getting a credit card and using it for a deliberate purpose.  Only buying certain things and ALWAYS paying it off at the beginning of the month. Over time this will allow your credit score to recover once you’ve shown your responsible and able to pay off your debts each month.  
  5. Finally, it’s always best to have a positive attitude.  Bankruptcy can be stressful (although we try our best to ease that stress) and cause a lost of difficulty in life. It is, however, important to focus on the positive aspects of filing bankruptcy. If you let this process continue to kick you while you’re down, you won’t be able to complete the other 4 steps to recovery.  

 

A significant majority of people come out of bankruptcy and find themselves more successful and better prepared for the financial road ahead.  If you feel that bankruptcy might be able to help you improve your financial situation please contact us for a free, no obligation consultation so we can show you just how we can help.  The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove have decades of experience in helping people get back on their feet, recover from financial trouble and achieve their goals.  We look forward to helping you!