Category Archives: Financial Planning

Clearing Financial Clutter, Minimalist Style

Keep or throw away

Clearing Financial Clutter, Minimalist Style

By Attorney Ginger B. Kelly, June 6, 2018

Living the minimalist lifestyle has been an ongoing passion of mine for at least the past five years. Working on becoming less cluttered, less driven by my own urges and material wants, is something I strive to do every day.  In turn, this leaves more time to become more creative, mindful and wise. This is a process, not a destination.

Minimalism is also a movement. It’s a personal organization life-design and a simpler way of life.  Living the simple less cluttered life, financially, tends to make your wallet and your heart more full and happy.  A person only needs a few things to find comfort and safety.  Likewise, a person only needs a very few tools to keep their financial life under control and comfortable.  Many credit cards and savings accounts will not bring more mental calmness and financial security.  In fact, a cluttered financial life will limit your options and your productivity.

USE ONE SIMPLE PLAN TO PAY YOURSELF FIRST

First and foremost, pay yourself.  Use one long term savings account, if possible.  The strategy is to save at least 10% for your long term retirement goals.  The minimalist strategy is to have only one 401(k) or one IRA and invest in this.  If you want to get fancy, have two accounts. For example, have one annuity and one 401(k) or have two 401(k) accounts, one for each spouse. If you are older, it is not uncommon to have more than one long term savings plan.  However, a multiplicity of whole life policies, stocks, savings bonds, mutual funds and 401(k) accounts will not help to drive your financial goals forward.  In fact, many accounts drive most folks crazy.  Avoid multiple fees, multiple financial institutions, more than one financial adviser and tons of “stuff” to look after. Then, save it and forget about it. Have the money taken out of your pay check, each and every pay period, and you’ll never miss it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  This really works!

Tip:  If you can’t save 10%, start with a minimum like 4%.  Increase this figure every year until you reach the goal of 10%.  Ask your tax accountant and financial adviser to help you plan a strategy that is realistic and works best for you.

HAVE ONE CHECKING ACCOUNT AND ONE SAVINGS ACCOUNT

Two or more bank accounts do not help clear the mind nor do they add value to your life. Two checking and savings accounts require extra passwords, extra time, extra books, extra statements, extra checks and other not so valuable things, like bank fees and charges. Get rid of all checking and savings accounts but one, unless you own a business. If you own a business have two, one for your business and one for your personal finances.

Also consider having only one savings account and using it. A savings account is an important tool, useful for short term goals, like car repairs and/or down payments, kid’s activities like summer camp, gifts and summer vacations. A good rule of thumb is to save 5% to 10% of your gross income each month for short term goals. That means, if you earn $2,000 per month, you should be stashing away at least $100 to $200 per month into short term savings.

Joint Account Tip: Sometimes it’s a good idea to have designated “jobs” when working together with joint accounts.  Find a simple plan and strategy for you, as a couple, and follow that.  Be honest with each other and communicate about everything important. If you can’t work together, seek counseling, a trusted priest, pastor or neutral party to help you correct underlying breakdowns, fears and anxieties.

Savings Tip:  Saving the equivalent of at least one car payment each month just for transportation is a great rule to follow, whether or not you actually have a car payment. If you aren’t saving anywhere from $100 to $400 per month, simply for transportation, then a $50 bus or mass transit pass may be the better option. For most folks, driving to work is far more important than an expensive mobile phone plan or eating out over and over again.

LIMIT CREDIT CARDS TO ONLY THREE

Get rid of all credit cards and revolving credit accounts but three. Why three? Most people remember and retain information very well in increments of three. Any more than three points, topics or tasks and the waters get muddy.  As a bankruptcy attorney I’ve seen a lot of things.  Having tons of credit cards seems to be a thing these days.  The point here is to not get hung up on the numbers of cards you have, but to shed unnecessary high interest cards and revolving accounts that charge unwanted fees. Caring for balances and payment dates is easy, when there are only three. No is a very empowering word.  Set a goal and use the word no to your advantage. When it comes to credit cards, less is best.

Tip: Don’t close credit card accounts in the days, weeks or months before making big purchases, like a home or a vehicle.  Closing credit card accounts can actually lower your credit scores for a time. Keep this in mind. After you’ve made that big purchase, then you can begin to close small revolving accounts you don’t need and ones with annual fees and things that do not add value to your financial well-being and peace of mind.

Another tip: Coordinate your credit card payments with your pay period.  This makes paying your cards, on time, every time, easier. Then, every pay period, when checking on your bank balance and direct deposit, pay your credit card bills (all at the same time). Having multiple due dates on many credit cards is nothing less than stressful and confusing. Ask your lender how to do this.

As we can see, there are a few financial “things” almost everyone needs to get by in life and plan a successful future. Too many and life gets complicated. Jen, Ray and Mary are great examples of this.

Jen and Ray are a couple who decided to take the minimalist approach and de-clutter their finances.  They gave themselves clear goals to de-clutter their finances, with broken-down steps on how they wanted to attain them.  Most importantly, they wrote down why they wanted to live more minimally and posted their goals on a calendar.  Over the course of just one year, they reduced their credit cards from ten to four. They eliminated six checking accounts to two. They also started a joint savings account and began to save money into Ray’s 401(k). They have saved over $300 in typical,  albeit unintentional, yearly overdraft fees and bank charges. Even better, Jen and Ray communicate much better and have far less stress and anxiety.

Mary, in taking her first steps toward getting rid of clutter, wrote down the fact that she didn’t need hundreds or useless items and financial tools to be happy, unique and to feel secure.  Part of Mary’s plan was to get rid credit cards and spend less.  She eliminated her JC Penny, WallMart and TJMaxx cards and decided to keep her cash-back Discover card and a lower interest Citi Bank card with no annual fee.  Mary also decided to have only one checking and one savings. Then, she started to save 10% of her income for a newer car purchase over the next year.  In less than eight months, Mary has saved over $100 in extra bank fees and interest charges and tucked away over $1,000 in her savings account. Mary doesn’t go out to eat very often anymore, but that’s OK.  She likes to cook.  For Mary, creating nice things, like meals, helps her to be a better person, all around.

You’ve heard it before, “everything you do and have in life (material things, relationships etc.) either adds value to your life or drags you down.” (author unknown) There is no third option. Things that add value to your life are things that make you happy, lead you to become more creative, healthier, wiser, and more energetic, develop your talents and so on. The same holds true for your finances.

Please feel free to comment, below.  We are open to your tips and ideas for getting rid of financial clutter and eliminating stress.

The Law Offices of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting appointments to see clients in the Sturbridge, Southbridge, Dudley, Webster, Oxford, Sutton, Charlton, Auburn, Worcester, Framingham, Shrewsbury, Spencer, Brookfield, West Brookfield, Warren, Putnam, all of the Worcester County, parts of Hampden County and Northern Rhode Island.  We can explore whether or not bankruptcy is the easy way out in a comfortable, private place to talk.  We will have a fresh pot of coffee waiting for you.

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ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing, gardening, conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, http://www.attorneykelly.com or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2018 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under Collection, credit card debt, Debt, Debt Collection, Deficiency, Deficiency Debt, Empowerment, Estate Planning, Financial, Financial Planning, Massachusetts, Massachusetts law, Minimalism, Mortgages, News, practical stuff, Retirement Savings, Rhode Island, Spouse, Trending, Uncategorized

Bankruptcy Without My Spouse

Spouses

By Attorney Ginger Kelly, January 24, 2018

Bankruptcy is a great way to get a fresh start, but how will it affect your spouse if you want to file individually? Attorney Kelly investigates a few common questions about dealing with a bankruptcy when a spouse might be involved.

Am I required to file bankruptcy with my spouse?

The short answer to this question is no. If only one partner in a marriage owes debt, then only that partner should file for bankruptcy. Debts where spouses are joint and severally liable for payment will remain with the spouse who has not filed for bankruptcy. The exception is in states that follow community property law.  In community property states, single spouse bankruptcy for joint debts may in some situations be advantageous.

What happens to my credit or property if my spouse files bankruptcy?

As a general rule, one spouse filing for bankruptcy will not affect the other spouse’s credit rating or financial situation. Because a debt is a contract between a debtor and a creditor, each debtor must sign the contract to be liable for payment. The spouse not signing the contract would not be liable for the debt.  This is why the bankruptcy of one spouse doesn’t affect the other spouse or cause the other spouse to become bankrupt too.

What happens to joint debts when one spouse files for bankruptcy as an individual?

Under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, when one spouse’s debts are discharged, or wiped clean, the creditor can go after the other spouse jointly responsible for the debt.  But, in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, joint debtor spouses have a major advantage.  When the debtor spouse plans to re-pay his or her debts, over the time of the 3 or 5 year plan, the creditor will generally not bother the other spouse, as long as bankruptcy plan payments are deposited on time.

What are the exceptions?

There are some notable exceptions to co-debtor spouses when only one is filing for bankruptcy. For example, there is a possibility that the bankruptcy of one’s spouse may show up on the other’s credit report, but only if joint debt is involved.  If joint debt is involved, your bankruptcy may affect your spouse’s credit scores.  But not paying the debt will also affect your spouse’s credit scores. Another issue might involve applying for a joint loan in the future.  The bankruptcy of one spouse will affect the creditworthiness of both spouses applying for a loan jointly, or together.

Another exception deals with jointly held property. In a regular bankruptcy, the US Trustee may take non-exempt property and sell it to use it to pay creditors.  Even jointly held property can be taken if not exempted.  This is of vital importance in community property states, states where both spouses in a marriage own and are responsible for all the debt and property acquired during the marriage. The community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are not community property states but rather, common law property states.

In common law property states, like Massachusetts and Rhode Island, your individual assets and your interest in any property you own jointly with your spouse (typically half unless otherwise noted) are considered part of your bankruptcy estate. In other words, they split the baby, so to speak. But your spouse’s half or portion is protected, generally. The property your spouse owns in his or her name alone is normally not at risk.

However, it is important to know that in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the appointed US Trustee may be able to sell the entire jointly owned asset if you can’t exempt the value of your interest, provided that the property can’t be divided. If the trustee sells the property, he or she will pay your spouse the value of her interest and use your portion of the nonexempt proceeds to pay back your creditors. This is what I mean by “split the baby.” Keep this in mind.

What if my spouse gets calls and letters from my collection agencies?

Sometimes collection agencies will pursue both spouses even though only one spouse owes debt. If you feel that the calls and letters asking for payment are only meant for your spouse you can do something at this point. First, ask the collector to prove the debt by requesting proof of responsibility for those debts.  If the debt is solely to your spouse’s name, you can ask the collectors to stop calling you or sending you letters, but you must do this in writing (via letter).  If your spouse has already filed for bankruptcy, the collection agency can be stopped if his/her attorney would motion the court and ask to court to enforce the automatic stay.

Can I file for bankruptcy without my spouse knowing?

Yikes! Yes you can, but no don’t do it. Theoretically and in a legal sense, yes, you can file without your spouse knowing. However, because a Chapter 7 uses household income as part of the Means Test, you will need to report your spouse’s income. Also, in some extreme cases, some bankruptcy courts use income garnishment for debt repayment. Since you don’t want your spouse discovering their paychecks have been garnished, after the fact, it’s a really good idea to let them know from the beginning. Hiding bankruptcy is just a temporary solution, at best, and isn’t a good idea. Besides, secrets like this may wreak havoc on a marriage.

When do I need an attorney to file?

If you are considering bankruptcy, it always best to consult with a lawyer. A bankruptcy attorney will advise you to many things critical to your bankruptcy success. For example, fraudulent transfers come to mind.

Just the other day, while waiting for my client’s meeting of the creditors, I couldn’t help but to notice a pro-se debtor speak to the US Trustee at a subsequent meeting.  It’s an open floor.  Everyone can hear what’s going on.  This poor young man did not realize that he made a fraudulent transfer by giving a sum of cash money to his father within a certain period of time before he filed.  Not only can the US Trustee unwind transfers, quite often a discharge in matters like this are not permissible.  I felt sorry for that debtor.  He worked so hard to get to this point on his own, only to be met with a very unsettling outcome.  This is why most debtors need a good bankruptcy attorney.

A bankruptcy attorney will advise you as to whether bankruptcy is your best course of action, based on your situation. Also, your attorney can advise you as to whether or not your spouse will be affected if you file or whether or not they should file with you.

Filing for bankruptcy is a great way to get a fresh start, but it may affect your spouse if they aren’t filing with you. Find out more about joint debt, keeping your spouse’s property and more by contacting a skilled bankruptcy attorney in your local area.

The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is a boutique type law firm located in central Massachusetts. We are not Big Law.  We only handle a small number of clients at one time.  Each client gets personal attention and care.  Each client gets hours and hours of time devoted to their particular case. Our office is in an easy to find location in Charlton. This means you don’t have to drive to the big city of Worcester or Boston and pay for parking. We not only offer free parking, but free coffee in a calm and peaceful place. Your discussion with our senior attorney is very confidential. Your first consultations will last about an hour in a stress-free, homey type atmosphere.

As one client put it, “This is like an old fashioned law office, very comfortable.”

Book your appointment now to explore your best options for this New Year.  We’ll have a nice pot of coffee waiting for you when you visit.

Also, keep in mind that it’s tax return season. Many people use their tax refunds to help pay for their bankruptcy.  There is no better time than now (tax refund season) to talk for free and find out more about ways you might be able to get the bankruptcy that you need now.

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ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture. To find out more, visit, http://www.attorneykelly.com or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2018 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, Collection, credit card debt, Debt, Debt Collection, Filing, Financial, Financial Planning, Joint Property, Law, Massachusetts, Mortgages, Spouse, tax refund, tax return, Uncategorized

Student Loan Debt and What to Do about it

Oh the places youd go if you weren't riddled with student loan debt

By, Attorney Ginger Kelly, November 9, 2017

According to US News, about half of all Massachusetts workers have some sort of bachelor’s degree.  That means high rates of student debt plague our state. But even worse, according to the Boston Globe, over 50% of college students in Boston drop out of college. That leaves even more people strapped by student loan debt without a degree.

When the national average for student loan debt almost reaches the $38,000 mark, it’s no wonder why student debt is becoming truly a national crisis. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. For some college grads, the best strategy is to be aggressive with paying back student loans.

For one college grad, Meghan from Boston, who paid  back her student debt within five years, it was all about prioritizing. “It’s possible if you want it badly enough,” she said. Meghan itemized her debt wish list and named her reasons for wanting to be debt free. Writing down your reasons helps to keep you on your journey. Being able to refer back to those reasons helps to overcome challenges and to remember why you’re making sacrifices.

Another college grad, Jason, felt overwhelmed while trying to pay the minimum on his $45,000 student loans.  So he took a different path and got serious about paying down his student debt. He reviewed every portion of his bank account, tightened spending, worked two jobs, and established a “done with debt” deadline. This helped Jason pay off his student loan debt in less than a year. Jason said that he kept spending very low and worked hard at his corporate job and also side job to pay off debt.

Aggressive payment plans are fine for some, but for those with small children and other priorities, aggressively paying off student loan debt is not always practical or attainable. Never the less, a few tips for grads may be helpful, while keeping in mind that every situation is quite different.

Start saving during the grace period: Use the grace period to review repayment options and figure out what is most affordable for your situation.

Choose a short repayment plan: Try to choose the shortest repayment plan you can afford, if you can do this without eating cat food and borrowing your sister’s car constantly. Although extended payment plans have lower monthly payments, the total interest will more than double for doubling the time.

Pay off expensive loans first, with one caveat: Some financial gurus believe that prioritizing paying off loans with the highest interest rate first is a good idea. But because not all situations are the same, this may not be the best strategy for getting out of debt quickly. Each situation is different. More on this to follow.

Trade your service for your debt: Certain programs, such as AmeriCorps, erase part or even all of a federal student loan. A year of service at AmeriCorps can pay for around $5,645 of your loan. Honestly, I know of no one who paid off their student loans by volunteering in AmeriCorps, but it’s an idea that’s out there.

Keep close contact with your lender: Be sure to tell your lender if you plan on moving or changing your phone number or email address. If they need to contact you but you are unavailable, this could add to your costs. Running the risk of missing payments or other important information is not an option.

Enroll in an ACH direct payment withdrawal option: Enrolling in ACH direct payment withdrawals will not only keep you from missing your payments, it allows for a .25% interest reduction rate for all federal loans and most private loans.

Those are the tips most financial gurus tell us.  However, most folks aren’t going to pay off their student debt by volunteering in AmeriCorps. But it’s an option. Most folks don’t work for in a low paying public service job, nor do they want to. Public service is only an option, not the only path.

Most people, graduates especially, have different types of debt and families with children. People in this category may choose to reduce or pay off their overall debt and just pay the minimum on lower-interest student loan debt until it makes sense to pay this off with a more aggressive student loan payment plan in the future.

*More about paying off expensive loans first: Although this makes perfectly good sense in some situations, the reality of life is that this is not always the best plan. Alternatively, it’s may be a better idea to lower your debt using a different strategy, like zero interest transfer options.

To start on the path to a zero interest transfer option, begin by paying down higher balance debt first and watch your credit scores climb. Then, find one or two zero interest transfer options to get rid of expensive debt and provide more time to pay off overall debt. For a little more in-depth discussion about balance transfer options read,  “When balance transfers make good sense” by Attorney Ginger Kelly.

But it’s not always all about paying down student loans; becoming debt free and more comfortable in your own financial shoes is really about analyzing the total debt you have and working a strategy that makes good sense from a credit bureau point of view.

Total debt to income is what really hurts a person’s ability to feel more confident, secure and to enjoy life a little better. If you want to make a change for the better, maybe get out of your parent’s basement quicker, work on your student loans after trying these strategies. Notice, I did not say simple strategies. They aren’t simple and take time. So be patient. Patience is a virtue, so they say.

1. Lower your total debt to credit ratio: Prioritize personal and consumer loans (like credit cards) to lower your total percent of used to unused credit and really make your credit scores soar. Doing this will lower your total debt to available credit ratio. Having higher percentages of unused credit for all your debt will lower your debt threshold and increase your credit scores. Higher credit scores are what you need to get lower high interest rates or no interest credit card introductory rates with low fee balance transfer options. This plan is not instantaneous (like most good things), but over a year or less many college grads, and people in general, can increase their credit scores 50 to 100 points or more. But wait. Besting your best credit scores isn’t all there is to it.

2. Don’t close old credit card accounts. Then, never ever close old credit card accounts. Keep them, at least for a long while until your 100% confident it makes no sense to have better credit scores. Closing old accounts will damage your credit scores. Damaging credit scores while paying off debt can take you back to square one. Keep old credit cards and move on to the next step.

3. Find zero or low interest balance transfer cards, and use them. With a credit score of 700 or better, don’t run out and finance a new car but rather, find the best lower interest or no interest balance transfer cards by looking, very hard, online. Do the research and find the best deals and then transfer balances from higher interest credit cards to lower or zero balance cards.

Many times, frugal websites like Andy Prescot’s “The Art of Being Cheep”
help with the initial research. Nerdwallet.com and MagnifyMoney.com are also helpful websites. Magnify Money has a great chart on the best balance transfer credit cards and an idea of what kind of credit scores you need to get them.

4. Use the zero balance time to aggressively pay down all revolving debt. With a zero or low interest credit card introductory rate, take this time to aggressively pay down all your credit cards. This will help your credit to grow.

5. Now it’s time to say good bye to student loans. At this point, with better than average credit scores, you have placed yourself in the best position possible to become more pro-active regarding paying down student loan debt. Student debt tends to be the lowest interest debt most people have. So why not make the most of the bargain and aggressively pay down this type of debt last and not first. Manage your debt before you debt manages you.

If there is no way to pay down your debt or debt is managing you, or even killing you, talk to a good consumer debt lawyer or bankruptcy lawyer immediately. Sometimes, they can advise you on which debt to pay first or not and whether or not bankruptcy is an option to explore. Most offer free first consultations.

My advice to people is to find at least three lawyers who offer free first consultations. Visit all three and compare. Pick the lawyer that makes the best sense to you, one that you can talk to, and then stick with that lawyer. Not all lawyers are perfect, remember this. But finding a good adviser who can help you manage your finances and deal with overwhelming consumer and student loan debt is like finding gold when you least expect it.
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ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture. To find out more, visit, http://www.attorneykelly.com or call us at (508) 784-1444.
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NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2017 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under balance transfers, Bankruptcy, credit card debt, Debt, Empowerment, Financial, Financial Planning, Massachusetts, practical stuff, Student Loan Debt, Trending, Uncategorized

Tricky Short Sale Deficiency Judgments

Short Sale KeysTricky Short Sale Deficiency Judgments

By Attorney Ginger Kelly

Agreeing to a short sale may seem like the best way to avoid foreclosure in many situations, but what happens to the money owed, after the short sale?

Quite often homeowners think short sales are the perfect solution to a difficult situation, the silver bullet, so to speak. The bank agrees to accept a sale price for less than the mortgage amount and presto, foreclosure averted!  But the problem with this is, a year or so after a short sale is completed, the mortgage lender can (and often will) seek a deficiency judgment against the former homeowner.

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale is when you sell your home for less than the total debt balance remaining on the mortgage. The sale price is “short” of the full debt amount. The short sale process involves the mortgage lender agreeing to accept the sale proceeds and release the lien on the property and then, the proceeds of the sale pay off a portion of the mortgage balance. Short sales are one way for borrowers to avoid foreclosure.

What is a Deficiency Judgment?

A deficiency is when a foreclosure sale doesn’t produce enough funds to pay the mortgage debt in full. The amount of the deficiency is the difference between the amount of the mortgage debt and the foreclosure sale price. A deficiency judgment is a judgment that the lender may obtain from a Judge, giving the lender the right to collect the deficiency from the borrower.

In a short sale situation, for example, if a homeowner sells their home in a short sale for $200,000, and the amount owed on the mortgage was $250,000, then $50,000 would be the deficiency amount. The lender could get a judgment from a Court Judge for the amount left owing and then some. This includes not only the $50,000 deficiency, but interest, other costs and sometimes attorney’s fees.

Deficiency Judgments in Massachusetts and Why are They So “Tricky?” 

Massachusetts is one of those states where a lender is permitted to seek a personal judgment against a borrower after a short sale to recover the deficiency amount. The tricky part comes in when, in general, once the lender gets a deficiency judgment against a borrower, the lender may collect this amount by using things such as a wage garnishment, bank account levy or by placing liens on titled property, like automobiles and motorcycles.

In Massachusetts, after a short sale, the lender can choose to do one of the following two things about the deficiency:

  1. The lender may choose to forgive the deficiency amount and issue to the borrower a Form 1099-C (Cancellation of Debt), which reports the deficiency as taxable income to the IRS. If this happens, the borrower (former homeowner) will have to pay taxes on the additional income this brings in the year they receive the 1099-C.  For most people, who were struggling to pay their mortgage, this causes tremendous hardship.
  2. The lender may choose not to forgive that part of the debt that has not been covered by the sales price and keep the right to file a court action to obtain a deficiency judgment.

If you are a homeowner and are thinking about negotiating a short sale with your mortgage lender in Massachusetts, it is very important to negotiate with your lender before you agree to a sale, to have the deficiency forgiven.

How Can I Avoid a Deficiency Judgment Following a Short Sale?

There are at least four ways to avoid having to pay back the deficiency.

  1. Negotiate a Waiver of the Lender’s Right to Seek a Deficiency Judgment

When a homeowner finds it necessary to sell their home in a short sale, it is important to try to negotiate with the mortgage lender and ask them to approve not only the short sale, but to a waiver of the right to seek a deficiency judgment. If your lender agrees, this provision must be included in the short sale agreement.  That means, always get the waiver in writing.  The short sale agreement must expressly state that the transaction is in full satisfaction of the debt and/or that the lender waives its right to the deficiency.

  1. Make a Settlement Offer

The second option homeowners have is, if the mortgage lender does not agree to waive the deficiency, the homeowner can offer to settle the deficiency for a smaller amount. Many lenders agree to accept a smaller amount because collecting a deficiency is expensive and typically takes a long period of time.  It’s easier for lenders to accept a reduced lump sum, rather than going through the expensive and lengthy legal process to try to collect.  A homeowner can also negotiate to repay the reduced deficiency debt in installments, over time.

  1. Hope the Lender Won’t Sue for the Deficiency

If the homeowner was not successful in negotiating a waiver of deficiency or a reduced deficiency payment plan, the mortgage lender will likely call and send collection letters stating that the deficiency amount is owed. Collection letters typically come from a lawyer’s office or a collection agency.  However, without taking the homeowner (borrower) to court and getting an actual deficiency judgment, the lender cannot levy any bank accounts, garnish wages, or place judgment liens on other property the borrower may own.

To get a deficiency judgment, the lender must file an expensive lawsuit. Many borrowers, who are forced to complete a short sale of their homes to avoid a foreclosure, are judgment proof.  This means that they don’t have much money, wages or other property (assets) that a creditor can take to pay off the judgment. If a borrower can’t afford to pay the deficiency, there is a possibility that a mortgage lender won’t even bother filing a lawsuit against them.

  1. Declare Bankruptcy

The other possibility is to file for bankruptcy to eliminate the debt.  A Chapter 7 bankruptcy would totally discharge the deficiency relieving the borrower of the entire debt. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will require a payment plan for 3 or 5 years to pay a portion of the total amount owed. Bankruptcy may also be the most pro-active way to alleviate the tax problem before the lender issues a 1099-C.  Income taxes are not typically discharged in Bankruptcy unless they are very old and a borrower can’t retroactively discharge a recent 1099-C tax debt.

On the other hand, if taxes or the deficiency are all the borrower owes, bankruptcy may not be the best option.  However, Bankruptcy may be something to consider when the borrower is facing a lot of debt they can’t pay, or when a borrower needs to eliminate the possibility facing a tax burden they simply can not afford to pay in the future.  To find out more about whether or not Bankruptcy is really the easy way out, click here.

September 14, 2017

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The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting new clients.  Call and schedule your first appointment.  We are a small law office offering your first confidential consultation, absolutely free of charge.

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ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.com, visit us at Ginger B. Kelly on Facebook or feel free to call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2017, by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, Debt, Debt Collection, Deficiency Debt, Financial, Financial Planning, Foreclosure, Law, Lawsuits, Legal, Massachusetts, Massachusetts law, Mortgages, practical stuff, Short Sale, Uncategorized

Auto Loans and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Auto Loans after Bankruptcy

Auto Loans and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

By Attorney Ginger Kelly

Going through a bankruptcy can be a stressful experience. And it can get even more stressful if you suddenly need to finance a car.

Clients often ask, “If I file for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, can I get a car loan?”

My response is this:  “Well yes, and no.”  Then, I typically say, “Let me explain; yes, you can typically get a car loan after your debts have been discharged under a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, but your chances of getting a car loan approved is far less before you receive the final discharge disposition.

More about this…

Auto Loans and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Filing and Discharge

The first thing to know is that a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Filing is the first thing filed at the beginning of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  The Discharge is the final disposition of the bankruptcy judge.  In other words, the Discharge is typically the last thing.

If you need a car loan, it’s better to wait until your Chapter 7 bankruptcy has been discharged before you apply.  Don’t apply for a loan after a Chapter 7 has been filed.  Wait.  A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is typically discharged around 60 to 75 days after the meeting of the creditors, also known as the 341 meeting. The meeting of the creditors typically happens 30 days after your bankruptcy petition is filed. A good bankruptcy attorney will explain this before you decide to file.  Find out more about whether or not bankruptcy may be right for you by reading, “Bankruptcy, the Easy Way Out. Really?”

Technically, you can apply for a car loan after the meeting of the creditors, but it’s very difficult to get this type of loan before the final discharge.  Almost no lenders and very few subprime lenders loan money to anyone in the midst of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Lenders do not want to give loans to people with open Chapter 7 bankruptcies because of the risk factor involved.  If a new debt was discharged, in the Chapter 7 liquidation process, the lender would lose out big time. Therefore, rather than placing themselves at such great risk, most lenders simply choose not to lend money for any reason, if you’ve filed but not received a final discharge.

Because lenders, including most subprime lenders, will not loan money without a final bankruptcy discharge, it’s best to wait until after the discharge to apply for an auto loan.

Car Loan Approval Post Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Discharge

While credit scores take a big hit after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, the discharge still offers the best option for a fresh start and a brand new financial beginning.  Most people in financial trouble are unable to rebuild their credit without filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and typically take longer than the 10 years to rebuild.  After 10 years a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is removed from a credit report. This is why most chances are better for getting approved for a car loan after filing any Chapter 7 and receiving a discharge, rather than not filing for bankruptcy at all.

The essential step for getting credit, post-discharge or after the Chapter 7 bankruptcy final disposition, is working with a trustworthy car dealership who knows your situation and a variety of subprime lenders.  Only a few car dealers work with subprime lenders, others do not.  When dealers work only with traditional banks, most people with a Chapter 7 discharge will not get a car loan approved. When the dealer works with a variety of subprime lenders, chances for loan approval are greater. It’s really that simple.

This is why knowing your dealer is important as well as being careful not to get that hard inquiry on your credit report until you are relatively sure you will be approved. Having a hard inquiry “hit” on your credit report only complicates things. You can read more about this in my article, When Balance Transfers Make Good Sense. Unless there is a good chance you will be approved and you are willing to accept the terms of the loan, don’t bother applying for that car loan.  If all the cards are in line and you’ve received your discharge, go for it. Chances are better you will get approved.

August 14, 2017

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The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting new clients.  Call and schedule your first appointment.  We are a small law office offering your first confidential consultation, absolutely free of charge.

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ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.com, visit us at Ginger B. Kelly on Facebook or feel free to call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2017, by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under Auto Loans, Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, Debt, Financial, Financial Planning, Law, Legal, Massachusetts, Massachusetts law, practical stuff, Uncategorized

When Balance Transfers Make Good Sense

farmers market 2

Last week, while at a Farmer’s Market, I met an old friend.  Instead of chatting about the price of carrots and cookies, we began talking about finances. I listened to her talk about the worries of being a social worker and how she was struggling with her six figure debt while surviving on her very small salary.  I asked her if she had credit card debt. She said, “Yes.” “And how’s your credit score?” I continued. “I think it’s pretty good, last time I checked,” she said. I then asked her, “Have you ever considered a balance transfer?” She didn’t say anything for a moment. She was thinking. Then she asked, “What’s a balance transfer?”

Do the Math

 Let’s make it simple. A balance transfer is moving debt from Bank A to Bank B in order to take advantage of a reduced or zero interest rate. Let’s use a hypothetical to illustrate. Let’s say that a person named Jane has $10,000 of credit card debt. Jane’s interest rate is 20% with Blue Bank.  Jane also has a good credit score of 700, and she makes payments to her Blue Bank card of $300 per month.

Jane is paying $3,600 a year.  Over the next 12 months, she is paying $1,845 of that $3,600.00, in interest. If Jane decides to take advantage of a balance transfer offer, she can move her debt to another bank and reduce her interest rate.  Jane looks around for offers.

To entice Jane, Yellow Bank offers a great interest rate or a no interest rate for a set period of time, which could be 6 months to 18 months. Yellow Bank wants Jane’s debt and hopes that if she opens a new credit card account; Jane will keep spending, pay later or do both. But even more, Yellow Bank hopes that Jane still has a balance to pay off at the end of the low-interest balance transfer period. This will give Yellow Bank more return on their risk because Jane will be paying higher interest rates.

Hypothetically, let’s say Jane decides to transfer her Blue Bank balance to Yellow Bank. This sort of transfer happens between two banks, not two bank accounts at the same bank.  If Jane moves her Blue Bank card debt to a Yellow Bank card with zero percent interest, she will be able to apply all her payment each month toward her principal.

According to MagnifyMoney’s tool, one balance transfer could save Jane $3,675. With multiple balance transfers, (giving Jane more time to pay off the balance) Jane may be able to save as much as $4,118.

But that’s not all.  There are fees and don’t forget the tricky introductory periods. Jane may have had to pay up to 5% to transfer her balance over from Blue Bank to Yellow Bank, which is $183.75.  But if you subtract the balance transfer fee from the interest Jane would have paid, Jane will still save about $3,491. Not too shabby.

Tricky Balance Transfer Fees and Introductory Periods

On the surface, a balance transfer looks straightforward, but make sure the balance transfer is truly worth it.  Balance transfer fees typically are 3%, 4% or even 5%.

According to UK market at researchers Consumer Intelligence, research indicates that 20% of consumers who transfer card balances, to get a better rate, never pay down their debt.  40% make late making monthly payments, 21% missed payments entirely, 10% pay less than intended and 23% have no idea why they suddenly were being charged interest.  A whopping 34% never pay their balances down before they are charged interest, something to keep in mind.  It happens to the best of us.

It’s OK to be somewhat concerned about the introductory period.  But don’t fret too much about being victimized by a “bait and switch” type banking scheme. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 stops banks from luring customers into a balance transfer and then drastically increasing the interest rate months later. Once you agree to a balance transfer at a set interest rate and period, you’re guaranteed the rate as long as you follow the rules. Banks can only cancel your promotional rate if you’re 60 days late with payments. Don’t be late, a cardinal rule.

Some cards have zero balance transfer fees and zero interest introductory rate offers.  Look for these. However, these are typically available to people with really good credit scores. We’ll talk a little bit about credit scores, in a moment.

In Jane’s hypothetical situation, if she does nothing, she pays $4,718 in interest over 50 months until the debt is paid off.  If she transfer’s once, she pays $1,043 in interest (at 1.7%) and fees over 37 months until the debt is paid off.  If Jane transfers her debt multiple times, she will likely pay less in interest and fees over 36 months until her debt is paid off. More often than not, for users with good credit scores, lower “promotional” interest rates more than make up for the fees spent on transfers.

Messing Up Good Credit Scores

Credit scores often drop, depending upon how a balance transfer is accomplished.  First, any hard credit inquiry when opening an account is a bad mark on a credit score.  But how bad is that bad mark?  It depends.

According to Quizzle, a free credit score report website, it is quite probable that every hard inquiry into your credit report will cause a drop of three to five points in your credit score.

Maxine Sweet, Experian’s vice president of public education, told The Huffington Post that recent hard inquiries “account for very few negative points in scoring models and are even less negative within a few months.”

Beware, however, if you are trying to refinance or buy a new home or car, in the near future, it may be best not to ding a good credit score before you finance the big purchase. According to a website called Credible, there are ways to protect your credit scores from the dings received by hard inquiries.

In our hypothetical, if Jane decided that she didn’t want to lower her credit score she would be placing an economic value of about $943.60 on each point she chose not to lose. This doesn’t make sense, if Jane has no intention of refinancing or purchasing a new home within the next 1 to 2 years and she already has good credit. In Jane’s situation, it seems rather penny wise and pound foolish not to take advantage of a balance transfer offer and save the $4,718.00 in interest, over the course of about 50 months.

What to do with Old Credit Cards

It’s also good to know that opening a new account lowers the average age of the overall credit profile, but canceling an old card after transferring a balance really puts a negative ding on the credit scores. That’s not good because again, lowering credit scores might mean higher costs in other areas of life, like renting an apartment, starting a business, purchasing a home, refinancing student loans or trying to buy or re-finance a home.

If a zero interest balance transfer makes good economic sense to you, and you’ve done the math, it’s probably best in most circumstances to keep the old credit card account open, provided new balances are not run up on the card.

Balance Transfer Rules of the Road

  1. Don’t miss payments — ever.
  2. Typically, you have only 60 days to complete the transfer. Do this or lose the promotional interest rate.
  3. Don’t close your old card.
  4. Don’t use the new card to rack up more debt. In some cases, interest will immediately start accruing on the new purchases (unless there is a 0 percent purchase offer). As a general rule, it is best not to use the card since the goals is to pay off the debt.
  5. Never use the card at an ATM for a cash advance, especially don’t do it with a balance transfer card.

Finding a Balance Transfer

As a general rule, to qualify for a balance transfer, you’ll need a credit score of 680 or better.  According to Nick Clements, co-founder of financial products comparison website, MagnifyMoney, “Banks are looking for ‘high-balance, low-risk’ customers.” This means that your credit card debt is probably less than $20,000 and you always pay on time, and are likely paying the minimum due or just a bit more. If you have had credit for a while, MagnifyMoney offers a free balance transfer calculator for consumers carrying credit card debt.

When to Avoid a Balance Transfer

A balance transfer can be a simple way to slash interest rates and amount of time it takes to pay off debt. But it isn’t necessarily right for everyone. “If you can pay off your debt in six months or less, or can’t afford multiple transfers, than it probably is not worth doing a balance transfer.

If you have debt that you can’t possibly manage, and have little or no hope of paying it off, talk to a good Bankruptcy lawyer now.  There are more ways to skin a cat.  In other words, your helpful lawyer may have great ideas on how you can become virtually debt free and save most of the things you own, like your car, your savings and your home.

Lower Credit Scores, Now What?

If you have a lot of credit card debt and a credit score below 680, you may not qualify for a balance transfer, but no worries. You can still reduce your interest rates by using a personal loan. Ask your local bank or check out websites like Lending Club or Prosper

These websites allow you to pre-qualify for a personal loan, using soft inquiry rather than a hard inquiry on your credit report. The soft inquiry doesn’t cause a drop in credit score points, but as we mentioned before.  The hard inquiry will.

Some Things Just Make Good Sense, Some Don’t

Unless you are in the process of buying or refinancing a home or financing something big, and you’ve got the golden ticket of a 680 credit score or higher, it just doesn’t make good sense to pay high credit card interest rates. Do the math.  Figure it out. Even my friend from the Farmer’s Market now has a plan to help manager her debt, even with her meager social worker salary.

If a Balance Transfer Makes no sense and your debt getting way out of hand, you know what to do.  Good bankruptcy lawyers typically don’t charge for a first consultation. Find a good bankruptcy lawyer, set up your free consultation and see if a fresh start is right for you.

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The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting new clients.  Call and schedule your first appointment.  We are a small law office offering your first confidential consultation, absolutely free of charge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.com, visit us at Ginger B. Kelly on Facebook or feel free to call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2017, by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

 

2 Comments

June 29, 2017 · 4:22 pm