Are you digging one "debt hole" in order to fill another? Many of us, including our government, are dealing with poor budgeting skills, poor spending habits, illnesses, job losses and so on, that have created the many "debt" holes that we are now trying to fill. Only, there is nothing left to fill the holes. Or, maybe you're in the category that, with some organization, you can get back on track and begin refilling those holes in a way that will benefit you and your family's financial future.
Family Life Resources, Inc. makes every effort to help you determine a plan of action for your financial future. We strive to offer services and resources to help you not only understand your financial situation but to also help you improve it. Even if you believe there is nothing we can do, we can still do something. We can give you tools for the future. Jer. 29:11 promises us a “hope and a future.” With that as our guarantee in life, FLR is then confident in being a part of that promise. Although you may not see immediate results in your weekly budget, you will begin to see the peace that is promised and you will be able to move forward into the future that is there for you.
You've begun to realize your finances are not what they should be. Actually, you've known it for awhile but you were just too ashamed to admit it, even to yourself. And, you're certainly NOT going to tell anyone!
Living in financial shame means we believe we have made too many "stupid" mistakes with our money and have fallen short in managing our finances. We begin to believe we cannot climb out of the financial mess we have made for ourselves. We begin to believe this is our life. Worst of all, we believe we are alone.
Most of us are understanding when we hear of others having financial difficulty but we tend to be harder on ourselves. We recognize we are in a tough economy and people lose jobs. It is understandable that someone would have financial problems when there is sickness and death. However, when those things happen to us AND adversely affect our finances, we suddenly feel shame and want to hide our circumstances by trying to live as if everything is OK which, of course, only escalates our financial situation.
When bad things happen, it is not the time to go into hiding and pretend everything is ok. It is a time to get into your financial battle stance and begin fighting for yourself and your family. You need to alter your financial lifestyle and come up with financial solutions instead. So, here are some steps to eliminate financial shame; grab it by the ear and kick it out of your house forever!
GET ACTIVE - Shame can very easily turn into depression. The best way to overcome both is to get busy. Take the time to start asking questions about finances. How do you make a budget? What are my priorities in spending? Who do I or don’t I pay? Make yourself study! Get on the internet, go the library or meet with a specialist in finances to help you answer your questions.
TAKE IT STEP BY STEP - Every overwhelming situation demands we take a step back so that we can perhaps see our problems from a "birds eye view." When we are so close to a problem, it is hard to see what is going on or if there are even any solutions to resolve the problem. It is hard to deal with it especially if we are emotionally overwhelmed by it. So, take a step back, look at it from other angles and then, with some possible solutions in mind, follow through on them step by step.
OPEN UP - Share your situation with others you know you can trust. Whether it is your best friend, your pastor or a Certified Credit Counselor, just talking with someone will help you gain a better perspective of your situation. It may not be easy to open up at first but, you will definitely feel better and less alone if you do.
Debt takes time to alleviate. So does healing from some of the life situations that may have catapulted you into a financial crisis. Unfortunately, life usually doesn't slow down or clean up easily. Our lives are not TV shows that get better in 30 minutes to an hour. Most likely, no one will be dropping by with a check to pay your bills. And the lottery? Probably not a winner. Therefore, we have to take our financial healing as it comes which, is generally a slow progress from a high negative balance to less of a negative balance to (hopefully) a positive cash flow.
Financial crisis happens to almost everyone. Shame and self recrimination will not solve your problems. Taking control, setting goals and doing your best to meet those financial goals will. Get help! Contact Family Life Resources, Inc. for more information. They can help you develop a "plan of action" you can get behind...not hide behind!
I Included My House In My Bankruptcy…
What Does It Mean When You "Surrender" Real Estate In A Bankruptcy? When a client files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, one of the biggest decisions that he will make is whether to try to save a primary residence if the mortgage payments are not current. In most situations, if a debtor is behind on payments and "includes the home" in the bankruptcy, the mortgage loans are discharged. What this means is simply that the mortgage lender cannot pursue the debtor for any monies with regard to the mortgage note. However, even though the bankruptcy petition will list the home as being "surrendered," there is no mechanism by which the actual title of the home changes hands in a Chapter 7.
So Why Do I Still Need A Short Sale? We always advise our clients that it is usually in their best interest to take a proactive measure, in addition to the bankruptcy, to get the home out of his name. This is because in addition to the home still being in the client's name post-bankruptcy, the mortgage lien on the property still exists, and the lender will eventually foreclose on the property, thus extending the credit damage and making it take longer for the client to get a new home loan. Some solutions to this common situation include a short sale during or immediately after the bankruptcy, a deed in lieu of foreclosure, or consent to judgment. It is important to understand that while the home remains in the client's name, he is still responsible for it which means that if there is an accident that is not covered by homeowners insurance, there is liability. Also, code violations, real estate taxes, and post-bankruptcy homeowner’s association dues are not discharged.
Common Problem: Joe filed for bankruptcy over two years ago, and included the primary residence in the bankruptcy. Even though the loans are no longer on his credit report, the fact that he remains in foreclosure is reflected. The foreclosing lender is in no hurry to take the property back, and Joe moved out of the home when he filed the bankruptcy because his lawyer told him it would be “surrendered.” Joe’s credit score is good, but he has been told that he cannot get a new home loan because the old house is still in his name and he has to wait three years from the time that the foreclosure is finished.
Bottom Line Solution: Unless the client's main goal is to stay in the home for as long as possible, it is usually better to do a short sale than to simply wait for the inevitable foreclosure.
Samantha L. Dammer is a Florida bankruptcy and civil litigation attorney. She is a member of the Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association and has practiced law since 1998, and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2007. The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
5 Tips for Lending Money to Family and Friends
The question of whether you should lend money to family and friends is never a resounding yes or no. The business side of the decision is probably a no since there is not a real contract between the two parties. If the “borrower” decides to default, it can put the "lender" into a difficult position of being the 'bill collector." However, the emotional side of wanting to help a friend or family member can negate the practical side of business.
For example, Nancy wanted to help her daughter, a single mom, who had been laid off. Her daughter needed money for rent, car payment and food. Unemployment did not cover her total monthly expenses. Nancy’s concern was for her grandchildren’s welfare and did not want to see them suffer during this financial crisis.
Nancy’s daughter often had financial issues and had a history of not being able to repay her mother the money loaned to her. It is not that she didn’t want to but, she simply made just enough money to get by and not enough to cover any crisis that might occur, let alone to repay a debt.
This is not an unusual situation for the X-Generation. With the recent downturn of the economy, adult children are seeking more financial assistance from their parents. Not only that, this financial support, in many cases, has become long term. For many of these parents, it is the grandchildren they worry about and want to keep from suffering. Purchasing school clothes, school supplies, school tuition and extra curricular activities are just a few of the ways grandparents provide support. It is important to be aware that lending money to provide financial support, start a new business or to help with the grandchildren can certainly be helpful; but one should also be aware that taking this avenue can lead to misunderstanding and an unraveling of the relationship between parties.
Here are some tips to consider before lending money:
Make sure you have the money to lend. Don’t put yourself in financial crisis in order to save someone else. That means you must know your financial situation. Will you need to pull money from a retirement account, savings or checking? What consequences will you incur in order to gather the money to lend? What will happen if the borrower can’t repay the loan as agreed?
The best laid plans of men sometimes don’t work out. Loans to help start a new business, pay off debt or simply tie one over for the month are taken in good faith but, life happens and the loan is not repaid as hoped. How will this change your relationship with the borrower? Can you overcome this setback with a smile on your face and not become angry of the situation?
It might be best if you treat this loan as a business transaction. Write a contract that shows how much is borrowed, any interest to be charged, and how the loan is to be paid back. Have witnesses and get it notarized! If necessary, use an attorney. Above all, keep it official and businesslike! This contract will help alleviate any misunderstanding that might arise from “I thought you meant…”.
Perhaps instead of a loan, make it a gift. If you can financially handle it, a gift can be a real blessing to family in financial need. Make it very clear upfront that you don’t expect the money to be repaid. Also realize that once you give the money, how the borrower chooses to spend it is out of your control. They may want it for one reason but spend it in another way. The money is now theirs to spend as they see fit. You can’t judge how they spend it. You can however, vow never to lend (or give) them money again. That is your right.
Say no to the habitual borrowers. Especially if they never repay the loan. Offer instead to pay for financial counseling to help them overcome the behavior that leads them to continually borrow money. Habitual borrowers can take advantage of you to the point where your relationship is affected and it is better if that does not happen. If they do not want counseling, that is their choice. Just let them know that it is not in your best interest to loan money to them.
Wanting to help friends and family is a natural instinct. If you are not comfortable in making the loan, don’t do it. You do not need to be the “bank” for the people in your life. If however, you have the financial capacity and want to help, then by all means do so with practicalities in place. Also, be prepared that the loan might not be paid back. And never, never, never co-sign for someone. That is for another blog!
Images Credit: www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Here are some blogs worth reading or re-reading to help you on your way to financial success.
FLR BLOGS ABOUT DEBT MANAGEMENT is just what it says, managing your debt. Taking steps to manage your debt can include getting organized, putting together a budget and even reviewing your credit report! Read the following blogs for some pointers!
FLR BLOGS ABOUT BANKRUPTCY. Bankruptcy is one the most difficult financial decisions a person may have to make. In many cases, filers of bankruptcy have used up every resource they had to avoid filing. Now, their only alternative is to file in order to have a fresh start. The best thing you can do before filing is to get informed. Here are some blogs to help you do so. Remember, this information is not legal advice; you need an attorney for that.
FLR BLOGS ABOUT RETIREMENT. There are nuances to retirement. It is not just about saving but what you are saving the money for. Our blogs delve into the real cost of retirement and provide information on how to really prepare for this next big step in life.
There are many things you need to do to prepare for a job interview. Knowing your credit score is one of them. As competition for jobs become more competitive, a low credit score could mean the difference between getting that second interview and getting the “sorry to inform you” letter.
Opponents of the policy state that your credit score has nothing to do with your ability to do the job. They believe utilizing a credit report in the hiring process is an invasion of privacy. They also claim the hiring process should only be tied to your job skills and past employment history.
However, more employers are looking for the best candidate they can find to fill the position. They site various reasons to pull an applicant’s credit report, according to an article by Rachel Farrell from CareerBuilder.com. She cites some positions require money management skills and the handling of sensitive information while others stated reasons from employers don’t involve the concept of money or security at all.
Is it legal for an employer to pull your credit report? It is if you give them permission. You may do that just by completing the application form from the potential employer. Some forms may ask for your social security number and your date of birth. In fine print a disclaimer may be found stating that this information may be used to pull a credit report as additional information required for the hiring process. Those forms will have a signature line at the bottom. You just gave permission to pull your credit report.
This is not all bad news. If your credit score is high, you may have a greater advantage against other applicants. If your credit report shows a period of time of financial difficulty, you are not alone. Other applicants will probably have the same issue due to the economic downturn this country has experienced lately. If you have a long history of poor credit then you may need to defend your position.
Here are some reasons an employer may feel the need to review your credit report as part of the hiring procedure.
- This is not any different then checking other information on the resume.
- Some job positions require money management skills.
- Identity theft is a major concern and companies have an obligation to protect sensitive information.
- Poor personal money management may open the door for possible fraud or theft.
- Information on the credit report can help verify information stated by the applicant on the resume.
- Credit report information provides a picture of the applicants financial life.
Your credit report can reveal a lot of information about you as a person. Your character and your ethics are questioned as a possible employee. Credit reports can reveal hidden information about you such as different social security numbers, addresses not corresponding with reported employment history found on your resume and public information such as a bankruptcy. While most employers would not use a poor credit score as a reason not to hire you ( if they do they must provide you with a copy of the credit report used to determine their position) it could come into play when job skills are similar to other applicants and other variables become a factor.
What should you do? Have a Credit Report Review Session with a Certified Credit Counselor. This review will help you determine what can be done to improve your credit score as well as providing education on how to dispute errors. Counselors can also help you prepare a response should you have had a period of time where you experienced financial difficulties. Don’t be caught off guard during the job interview. The more you are prepared the better you are able to sell yourself and your job skills.
CREDIT REPORT SURPRISES? Go Ahead, Take A Look.
Admit it. You haven't looked at your credit report because you fear what you'll find. You probably won't open that bottom drawer in your refrigerator for the same reason. It's time to open both and let them air out.
WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW CAN HURT YOU.
Knowing the contents of your credit file is one of the most important moves you can make in improving your finances and making good money decisions. Your credit report is like your old school report-card, except that it includes just two subjects. It reports on the subject of history (have you paid your bills on time in the past) and on the subject of math (did you send in the right amount). Just like when you were in school, a bad report card can have some serious consequences (your parents won't ground you for life, but your creditors might). So it is in your best interest to know what your report says about your financial behavior. What you don't know can hurt you and your financial future.
START WITH A CREDIT REPORT REVIEW BY A CERTIFIED CREDIT COUNSELOR.
Many people pull a credit report and try to analyze it on their own, but quickly become confused with the format and content of the information. First are the codes... J, T, B, 063,141, OMG! Then there are the abbreviations.... GEMB, CPTL, EETU, EIEIO. You have to figure out what bold face type means and how to read the "grid" that contains dates opened, last date reported, how many times delinquent and for how long, ...you get the idea. I believe that most people would be better served with a credit report review by a Certified Credit Counselor. The adviser's can explain the jargon, decipher the codes and help you understand the different sections found in the report. But, more importantly, the Counselor can give you valuable advice about how all of the entries either help or hurt your ultimate credit score and how you can take the actions necessary to improve your credit. A new credit review service is now being offered by Family Life Resources, Inc. at
6 THINGS YOU CAN LEARN IN A CREDIT REPORT REVIEW SESSION.
1. How your credit score is determined by the various agencies. Scoring models use a set of criteria based on repayment history, outstanding debt and several other minor factors.
2. Positive and negative issues on your report that most strongly affect your credit score and how you can go about correcting them. You can't solve a problem until you can define the problem. A counselor can pinpoint problem areas and help you develop a Plan of Action for addressing those issues.
3. Rank where your score stands among the national benchmarks of other borrowers. Statistics are available to tell you how you are doing versus your neighbors (I bet they aren't doing as well as you think).
4. Get an idea of minimum credit scores required for various types of borrowing. This can be a very helpful tool when you're trying to borrow. The score needed for certain lenders varies by market and economic conditions and are constantly changing, but you can get a rough idea of the likelihood of obtaining a loan.
5. Help determine if you have been the victim of Identity Theft. These days spotting identity theft may be the single most important reason to keep track of your credit file. Law enforcement agencies report a skyrocketing incidence of fraud in credit cards, tax refunds and false identification documents.
6. Reveal errors in the report that may be drastically lowering your score. Many credit reports contain mistakes, although, in fairness to the bureaus, most are minor in nature. Still, a misreported delinquency or other accounts not belonging to you could drag down your score. You, and only you, are responsible for monitoring your file in order to keep it accurate.
NOT A DO-IT-YOURSELF PROJECT.
So, get some help in understanding your credit report. It is far too important a document to take on as a Do-It-Yourself project with serious consequences if you get it wrong. Once you've cracked the code and know what you're looking at, then you will be ready to tackle it on your own with future reports. But you have to take a look first. Go ahead, take a look. And while you're at it, would you clean out the bottom of that refrigerator. Yuck.
Photos credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Bankruptcy Facts: What You Should Know
In 2010, there were about 1.5 million bankruptcies filed in the United States. Around 71% of those were filed as a Chapter 7. While those rates dropped in 2011 and continue to decline in 2012, bankruptcy is still an option if you do not have the financial resources to repay your debt. Bankruptcy is not an easy fix and it will take time and patience to complete the filing. It will also cost you a filing fee of around $300.00 as well as fees for other items such as bankruptcy certificates, credit reports, attorney fees etc. With this said, there are some factors to consider.
There are bankruptcy alternatives. You will need to review these in order to ascertain if bankruptcy is the best option for you. A Certified Credit Counselor can help you as well. These options include:
- Working through a debt management program.
- Working with the creditors in their internal hardship programs.
- Selling assets to pay down the debt.
- Refinancing your home to reduce monthly expenses.
- Getting budget counseling to better manage money issues.
- Selling your home to pay off debt.
- Getting a loan modification to reduce monthly expenses.
- Settling your debt for less then full balance.
Bankruptcy Filing: Completing the Petition
- You can file the bankruptcy yourself by downloading the forms off the trustee’s website. This may cost less but if you do not complete the forms in a proper manner, your bankruptcy can be dismissed and you would need to refile.
- You can hire a document preparer to help you complete the forms. It is similar to hiring someone to do your taxes. A document preparer cannot give you legal advice or represent you when you meet with your trustee.
- You can hire an attorney. They will complete your bankruptcy petition, help you meet your legal obligation to your creditors, give you legal advice and represent you when you meet with your bankruptcy trustee.
- There are two bankruptcy classes you will need to complete. The first one is a counseling course or bankruptcy briefing you do before you file your petition. Your attorney cannot do this course for you. If you are filing with a spouse, you both must take the course. The goal of this course is for you to understand your alternatives and your specific circumstances. You want to make sure bankruptcy is the best course of action in your situation
- The second course is to be completed after you file and receive your bankruptcy case number. It can be done before you meet with your bankruptcy trustee or after the meeting but before your bankruptcy is discharged. It is a two hour education course that covers a variety of subjects. The goal is to give your information so you do not have to get into a financial situation where you would need to file bankruptcy again.
Warning: Some factors that might affect your decision to file bankruptcy.
1. Past child support, some taxes, and student loans cannot be discharged.
2. Not all items are exempt when considering personal property. Some items may need to be sold to pay down debt.
3. If cash flow ( not enough income to meet monthly expenses not including revolving debt) is an issue, the bankruptcy may not provide you with the relief you need. If you have not been paying your credit cards and still cannot meet basic living expenses then bankruptcy may not help.
4. If you are out of work, home in foreclosure and car repossessed....you have nothing left for the creditors to take. You might want to wait it out and see how far the creditors will take the collection process. Of course, if you find employment, then bankruptcy might come back in as an option.
Don’t let your fear of a legal process keep you from taking advantage of this option. If you feel your financial situation will not improve within the next two years and your financial resources are very limited, then bankruptcy can give you a fresh start.
Filing bankruptcy is not an easy choice but may be necessary to get a "fresh start." However, there are some little known facts that may impact your ability to file bankruptcy or dictate which bankruptcy you can file.
With the economy less than stellar in these last few years, we see families using credit cards to fill in the gap for many expenses that would normally be paid for out of a checking or savings account. As a result, some surprises can occur when filing bankruptcy (we are not an attorney and the following is not to be considered legal advice but for educational purposes only).
In a chapter 7 bankruptcy you can't discharge a debt you incurred to pay off taxes you owed to a government agency
Let's say you owed income taxes last year and the only way you could pay them was by using your Visa card. Now you want to put that credit card into your bankruptcy. Can you place that card into your bankruptcy? Yes, BUT..your Visa may bill you for the amount you charged to pay your taxes after your bankruptcy is over.
Property taxes can be discharged: maybe
Property taxes must become due more than a year before you file bankruptcy to be able to be discharged. However, in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the lien on your property will stay. This discharge may have no value for you if you are planning on selling your property. You will have to satisfy the lien before you can sell.
Loans from tax-deferred retirement plans
If you borrow money from your 401K or other type of retirement plan that would qualify under the IRS rules for tax-deferred status, that debt cannot be discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy. It will survive your bankruptcy and will need to be addressed.
Lets say you went to on a cruise. You spent more than $550.00. You bought some jewelry and other luxury items on your Visa. You get back from your cruise and find you have been fired. You panic and want to file bankruptcy. In a chapter 7 bankruptcy those charges may not be dischargable. It will be presumed by the court that you did not intend to repay the debt unless you can prove you were not going to defraud the credit card company.
Many of these debts discussed in this blog can be discharged in a chapter 13 repayment plan but if you want to qualify for chapter 7, do your homework. Bankruptcy law is very complicated. Get advise from an attorney. Don't leave anything out when you talk to them. It is the little things that come up at the 341 meeting that can hang up your bankruptcy discharge. Be honest with your attorney and don't try to hide information. If you want further information on bankruptcy visit our website at www.FLRMinistry.com. We invite you to read our other blogs, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Some of the above information was taken from the following resources: Nolo: Solve Your Money Troubles, Nolo: The New Bankruptcy , United States Bankruptcy Code & Rules Booklet, The National Consumer Law Center: Guide to Surviving Debt.
Image credit: renjith krishnan
Before I answer the question "Can I transfer property before filing Chapter 7?" let me start by stating that I am not an attorney and this blog does not contain legal advise. Bankruptcy law is complicated and any legal questions should be taken to an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy law. With this said, the simple answer to the question is "Yes."
Of course life is not simple so let me expound on this. Property can be transfered or sold prior to bankruptcy. The real question is when. There is a two year period immediately preceding the bankruptcy that trustees look at very carefully. Any property, real or personal, can be sold at the fair market value and you can even use that money to pay your attorney for filing bankruptcy. But property transfered during that two year period, that is less then fair market value, can cost you your bankruptcy.
Some people want to transfer or sell property in order to protect it from being taken or sold and then the money distributed to their creditors as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. Their intention is to get it back after the bankruptcy has been discharged. That behavior is fraudulent and can cost you to lose your bankruptcy discharge. An example would be: Selling a car to a friend for $50.00 then filing bankruptcy. Even if the title is transfered, the car was not sold at the fair market value. The court will interpret this as hiding an asset from your bankruptcy estate. If however the bluebook value on the car was $5000.00 and you sold it for $5000.00 then the transfer of the title was honorable.
A more common example is taking your name off a joint account like a deed. Lets say Grandma left her property to her five grandchildren and you are one of them. But you need to file bankruptcy and do not want to harm the the others who are titled on the deed as well. You can quick claim the deed over but you will need to list that transaction in your bankruptcy petition ( because the petition asks that question) and the trustee may not approve your bankruptcy unless the property is sold and your portion is returned to your bankruptcy estate.
The transfer of titled or real property is easy to track. The transfer of personal property is easier to hide or so you may think. A woman filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. When the appraiser came through her home they saw a large free standing jewelry box. When they looked inside it was empty. The trustee wanted to know what happen to all of the jewelry. The woman stated it was costume jewelry and she gave it to her children. The trustee stopped the bankruptcy because they suspected she had, in that large jewelry box, jewelry that had value and she was attempting to defraud the court.
Many times, property that is transferred prior to filing bankruptcy can be kept and claimed as exempt. However, because people are not aware of the bankruptcy laws, they choose to transfer property and complicate their bankruptcy process. It is best to wait past the two year period after the transfer before filing. It is always a bad idea to commit perjury.
If you would like more information on bankruptcy see our other blogs on the subject. You are invited to visit our website at www.FLRMinistry.com or call us at 800-553-8621 Monday - Friday 9:00 - 5:30. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get updates.