Budgeting & Bankruptcy

Budgeting is a big part of bankruptcy.  You have to set your monthly expenses and stick to them, with a bankruptcy trustee to oversee your every monetary move. Bankruptcy is not the end of the world, but it is not necessarily the only resolution to your financial problems.  Depending on your situation, you may have other legal choices available which could bring you a better benefit.  You are not going to see those possibilities if you file bankruptcy yourself or pay a non-attorney service to fill out the forms for you. There are long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you file, plus there may be a better option for you, depending on your circumstances.  You would not take chemo if you did not need it.  Why file bankruptcy if another resolution will bring you a better outcome?  Seek competent legal counsel to discuss your specific situation and to help you decide if bankruptcy is the right choice for you. In the meantime, if you are trying to get a head start on your new year’s resolution towards better wealth management, the Federal Trade Commission has a free online budget calculator to help you balance your monthly expenses […] Read More

What To Do About Unwanted Calls

There could be many reasons you receive unwanted calls:  (1) Wrong Number (including for debt collection), (2) Debt, (3) Sales Calls, and (4) Donald Trump wants your vote.  While there is not much you can do about political campaigns and wrong numbers, you may be able to reduce the number of calls for debt and sales calls with these options: Option 1:  Pay Your Bills On Time Generally this prevents creditors from picking up the phone in the first place; it also helps to build your credit.  BUT if that ship has already sailed… Option 2:  Ask Collectors to Stop Calling You can ask the debt collector to stop contacting you.  You still owe the debt, but you do not have to deal with all the calls and letters while you work out your repayment. Just because you owe money does not mean you lack rights. Write a letter to the debt collector or creditor asking them to stop contacting you, make a copy of that letter, and send the original to them, certified mail with “return receipt” so you will have a record of their receipt.  That should stop contact, with the exception of a communication to let you […] Read More

Infamous Black Tuesday

Today is Thursday, but in 1929 the 29th of October fell on a Tuesday…so did the Stock Market.  In more recent history, we have encountered the Great Recession.  While we continue the recovery, sometimes old credit card debt comes back to haunt, making consumers victims of Zombie Debt. Zombie Debt is debt that has been dead for a while, but does not know it is dead, and walks the streets looking for a victim.  The problem with Zombie Debt is that the debt is matured when the consumer fails to make payments.  Once the debt is matured, then the Statute of Limitations clock begins to tick, and runs for five to seven years (depending on which state the credit card is initiated). Another problem with Zombie Debt is that Zombie Debt collectors will say anything to get you to reanimate the debt; they whisper sweet nothings like, “Send us five dollars.” Beware, even a penny can resurrect the dead debt. Even if you already have a Judgment against you for this debt, you could be faced with a second Judgment for the same debt. The business model for collecting on Zombie Debt is based on numbers—debt-buyers purchase debt in bulk […] Read More

Foreclosure Figures

Home foreclosure is no longer making headlines like it did in the Recession, but Floridians are still feeling the impact from the economic downturn according to a survey by the University of South Florida and the Nielsen Company. Though Florida foreclosures have decreased, Florida ranks number two nationally in highest foreclosure rates in the third quarter, according to RealtyTrac.  They reported numbers in our area for September as follows: Clay County – One in every 368 * Duval County – One in every 541 Flagler County – One in every 497 Nassau County – One in every 516 Putnam County – One in every 506 St. Johns County – One in every 1,200 (* Note that Clay County is in the top five foreclosure counties in Florida.) While foreclosure is not currently the forefront of the news, if it is affecting you, then it is the headline of your financial life.  There may be a legal resolution.  Seek competent legal counsel to learn what legal choices you may have.   Read More

Consult An Attorney Before You File Bankruptcy

When everything else goes wrong, talk to an attorney before you file Bankruptcy.  Yes, you can file Bankruptcy on your own.  Yes, there are non-attorney services that can help you file.  Yes, you can get a textbook and do your own brain surgery…but should you? “Bankruptcy” is best used as a term of recovery rather than an act of desperation.  It can give you a fresh start or reset.   Sometimes it is easier to rebuild credit from zero rather than to spend years paying off all the creditors.  Depending on your circumstances, Bankruptcy can help you rebuild quicker—it stops the bleeding and starts the healing. However, while Bankruptcy often takes care of immediate debts, it can create problems for your future in terms of your credit score.  Bankruptcy tends to limit more severely your ability to get a loan for a house, a car, or an education. Seek competent legal counsel to discuss the specifics of your situation and whether Bankruptcy is the best strategy for you.   Read More

Bring Popcorn for Bankruptcy Movie Series

You bring the popcorn, the US Courts provides nine short films on bankruptcy.  Each film is less than five minutes—you can binge-watch without wasting your life.  You might even learn something. The US Courts website has a free online film series geared toward the general public about bankruptcy.  Topics include:  “Introduction,” “Types of Bankruptcy,” “Limits of Bankruptcy,” “Filing for Bankruptcy,” “Creditors’ Meeting,” “Bankruptcy Crime,” “Court Hearings,” “The Discharge,” and “Legal Assistance.” While they are informative about the basics of bankruptcy (and you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home) consult competent legal counsel before you file bankruptcy.  There are long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you file.  An attorney can review the specifics of your situation to help you determine if bankruptcy is right for you. To view the US Courts bankruptcy films, go to their YouTube channel at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=12&v=jobpaNCY-LU   Read More

Are You Receiving Unwanted Calls?

If you owe money you may be getting calls from creditors or debt collectors.  To learn more about your rights as a debtor, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection. If you do not owe money and are tired of sales calls, try these free registration websites for DO NOT CALL lists at the State and National levels: National DO NOT CALL LIST registration: https://www.donotcall.gov/ Florida DO NOT CALL LIST registration: https://www.fldnc.com/   Read More

Debt Collector Decorum

The Debt Collector Cotillion does not include calling consumers late at night, or causing their phones to ring continuously or repeatedly.  A good debt collector knows how to inspire you to pay within the law.  A bad collector strays into unfair debt collection practices. Just because you owe money does not mean you lack rights. The Federal Trade Commission has put together a two-minute video to walk you through the basics of debtors’ rights (you can view it online at http://bcove.me/t6s6l7lf); seek competent legal counsel if you need further assistance asserting your rights.   Read More

Consumer Inertia & Payday Loans

Consumer Inertia is when you buy the same thing all the time, never trying anything different or even considering other choices, similar to the cycle of payday loans. Sure, payday loans present an aroma of kindness and sensibility—instant cash for immediate use.  The TV ads look so sympathetic, plus cold, convenient cash freshens the situation with greenback gratification.  However, payday loans provide a false sense of wealth. The problem with payday loans is that they are habit-forming and tend to lead to greater poverty.   A payday loan is a cash advance secured by personal check or paid by electronic transfer.  You write a check for the amount you want to borrow plus the fee for borrowing the money.  The lender gives you the amount borrowed and agrees to hold your check until your next payday.  However, if you come up short on payday, you have to pay new fees to roll over the loan, thus making the borrowed money more expensive each time the loan is extended. The Federal Trade Commission gives the following example: Say you need to borrow $100 for two weeks. You write a personal check for $115, with $15 the fee to borrow the money. The […] Read More

Exempt Incomes from Money Judgments

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.  That is the idea behind Social Security, disability, pensions, and income that provides more than one-half the support for dependant or minor children—those are exempt incomes from money judgments. Small Claims Court can be a lot bigger than you think.  Even though it only deals with matters less than $5,000, that can be a big claim if you have limited means. Everybody should pay their debts, but you should not have to decide whether to buy food or pay the electric bill.  Thus there are certain incomes that are exempt from money judgments. The key to an exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible for a collection exemption does not mean you automatically receive it.  Exemptions have to be filed within 20 days of the Notice of Garnishment that you receive after your account has been frozen. A Judgment is bad, but ignoring it is worse.  Seek competent legal advice to learn more about collection exemptions.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions and how to claim them.) Read More