Our Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorneys have talked a great deal about the student loan debt trap that many young people have found themselves in over the last few years.
However, a new element of this crisis has recently emerged: That of older adults who are battling student loan debt. We're not talking about the parents of college students (although, they too are struggling).
These are individuals who have perhaps gone back to college either to change careers or boost their skill set. However, what certainly seemed like a smart move a handful of years ago has now left them burdened with debt and with fewer job prospects to boot.
It's important to note that unfortunately, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will not erase student loan debt, except in extreme circumstances (your bankruptcy lawyer can help you explore whether that is a possibility for you). But what a bankruptcy can do is free you from the other debts that may have piled up as you worked your way through school.
These are not individuals who were careless about their future or reckless about their money. Here are some examples:
1. A 51-year-old who acquired nearly $90,000 in student loan debt after graduating from chiropractic college 15 years ago. Financial aid officers told her she could likely expect to repay it within five years. But with the economy tanking, she was never able to get her practice off the ground. Able to make the minimum payments, her loan has ballooned to over $150,000.
2. A 59-year-old attended school for arts administration back in the 1980s. He didn't finish his degree, but ended up taking various field-related jobs. As other financial obligations took priority, his student debt kept getting put to the back burner. He still owes$20,000.
3. A 64-year-old who attended law school after earning a Ph.D. in immunology, and then sent two children to college at top universities. Collectively, the family owes about $120,000.
Not all of these individuals are in terrible shape, but many live paycheck-to-paycheck. That means one medical emergency or personal injury could send them into a tailspin of debt.
You do have the ability to take the reins on the situation before that happens.
We can help.
Many people contemplating filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy worry that they may not be able to save their home.
Our Denver bankruptcy attorneys know, however, that the truth of the matter is bankruptcy is often one of your only options for saving your home.
While it's not going to be the solution for everyone, there are many people who can benefit. Consulting with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer is the only way to know for sure, but here are some thoughts to help you as you weigh your options:
A bankruptcy will halt a foreclosure proceeding. It will effectively end the creditor harassment. This gives you time to reorganize your finances and in some instances, catch up on your missed or late payments.
It's generally going to be one of the best options for you to explore if you are behind on your payments but you still have ongoing and steady income.
In fact, a lender can't foreclose or even try to collect debt from you once you've filed. A Chapter 7 will delay the foreclosure. It may also help you to ward it off altogether by freeing you from other debt so that you have the means to be able to pay your mortgage.
Another possibility is filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This option allows you time to fix your finances, usually within the course of three to five years. In this scenarios, the court will set an income-based budget with monthly payments handled by the bankruptcy trustees.
These trustees in turn pay those bills, first attacking the secured debt. Then, they focus on unsecured debt, starting with any back taxes you owe. After that comes debts such as medical bills and credit cards. After that, trustees will pay the remaining bills, usually for a few cents on the dollar.
If borrowers are able to keep up with those payments, they can usually come out of a bankruptcy with their home still in their possession.
What the court generally can't do is reduce your mortgage debt down to what the home is actually worth (a big concern for the many homeowners who are underwater) or lower interest rates or loan terms.
However, given some recent financial settlements finalized to hold some of the largest banks accountable for foreclosure abuses, there may be some additional remedies you may seek in terms of loan modification.
Contact us today for more information.
As Colorado Springs residents continue to grapple with a massive, fast-moving wildfire that has already killed at least two people, destroyed more than 350 homes and damaged dozens more, many may have just been pushed over the edge to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
It's no surprise that many were already suffering financially prior to this. Now, many have lost everything.
Our Colorado Springs bankruptcy lawyers know that despite the stringent guidelines imposed by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, special provisions were set forth to protect those who had suffered a major natural disaster, such as flooding, a hurricane, or tornado - or a fire.
Specifically, these provisions were created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Part of it deals specifically with bankruptcy fraud, which the courts do take very seriously. Usually, if you don't have sufficient or proper paperwork, your case might be closed, your debts deemed non-dischargeable or you might even be prosecuted. But these new provisions allow that if you're important documents or other paperwork was destroyed as a result of a natural disaster, you can't be prosecuted or penalized for that.
In that same vein, the normal deadlines and meetings that you may have been otherwise compelled to meet become more flexible. One example might be that a debtor might not be able to leave their location due to flooding. So in turn, if they do not attend their credit counseling meetings as a result, they can't be penalized for that.
Plus, while the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act was designed to make it more difficult to file for bankruptcy (in an effort to drive down fraud), the natural disaster provisions actually make it easier for you to file if you've been affected by an act of nature. In part, that involves waiving lost property through the means test, waiving your credit counseling requirements and, as we mentioned earlier, not punishing you for not having the proper documentation that may have been lost in the disaster.
Those whose homes may have been damaged or destroyed by this blaze may feel financially ruined and hopeless. We can help.
If you are stuck in a cycle of high-interest debt, it could be time to consider filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Colorado Springs bankruptcy attorneys know that it becomes a vicious cycle: You have poor credit, so they give you a high interest rate, and then you're stuck barely being able to make the minimum, so you're scraping by just so you can cover the interest. At that rate, it could be a very long time before you are free from debt.
For example, let's say you owe $20,000 and your interest rate is 17 percent. At that rate, you could pay $400 every month, and it would still take you 7 years to pay off - assuming you put no additional charges on that card. In that 7 years, you will have paid $15,000 in interest. Now, let's say you can get that interest rate lowered to 10 percent. At that rate, still continuing to make that $400-a-month payment, you can pay off that debt in five years, and pay about $6,000 in interest.
As you can see, interest rates make a huge difference.
Of course, that's not what the banks want, so they are likely to play hard ball when it comes to negotiating. And at the end of the day, if you're borrowing money because you're spending more than you make, then getting a lower interest rate is not going to be a long-term solution.
Factor in a major life change, such as a lay-off or illness, and the situation quickly begin to snowball.
This is where a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help.
If will allow you to leave those debts behind - and not look back.
In moving forward, however, as you try to rebuild your credit, you are likely to be offered only credit lines that have exorbitant interest rates. The key at the very beginning is to taking out only the credit that you can afford to pay back in a short period of time. Doing this regularly over time will allow you to ultimately boost your credit score after bankruptcy.
What you want to keep in mind is that all this money you are forking over in interest to these banks is making it more difficult for you to retire on time, send your kids to college, start your own business - or whatever other goals you have.
A bankruptcy can change that.
For those who have already undergone a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or are considering it, chances are keeping a close eye on your credit is high on your priority list.
Colorado Springs bankruptcy lawyers will tell you that your credit is indeed important, as it impacts everything from your ability to buy a car to, in some cases, secure employment.
So it's understandable that you would want to monitor your credit, and there are agencies that advertise this service.
It's not worth it.
First off, you can't count on them to be honest. A lot of these companies go on about how they offer "free" credit scores. Some of the services will even insinuate that they are actually the federally-mandated, official site for free credit reports. But in fact, there's only one, and you can find it at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Additionally, a lot of people end up saying they didn't realize they were even signed up for credit monitoring until they began seeing their bank account debited.
The thing is, even if you are getting "free" credit scores, it is probably not the FICO scores that the majority of lenders rely on or the service that you've signed up for is not free - or both.
Secondly, some companies will try to sell you on the fact that they can protect you from identity theft. Of course, if you're struggling with debt, theft is the last thing you need. However, a credit monitoring service isn't going to stop it. You may catch it a little sooner, but it's not going to prevent thieves from getting a hold of your information and racking up even more debt. The good news, though, is if there are fraudulent charges on your accounts, you can fight them.
Thirdly, it's simply not worth it for what you pay. You figure that you're going to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 each month. That equals about $240 annually. If you're already in debt or just emerging from a bankruptcy, that's not likely an amount you can afford - especially for a service you can essentially get for free on your own.
Increasingly, cash-strapped companies are passing that pain onto their employees - with the end result being reduced or frozen wages and waning benefits.
Colorado Springs bankruptcy lawyers know that in this market, those are often things so many of us can't afford to lose.
To get a better sense of what's happening with employers and employees across the board, let's take a look at the numbers:
Since 2007, some 40 percent of employed adults have experienced their benefits declined or cut off completely. That's according to a survey conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education (also known as NEFE).
Of those individuals, more than 70 percent said it was their health insurance benefits that saw the largest reductions. As employers were forced to cut back, it was their workers who burdened the majority of that cost for higher co-pays, premiums and deductibles.
In fact, the average out-of-pocket cost for workers' health plans climbed by nearly 8 percent, which equaled nearly $3,500 for an average family of four. That's a lot, especially when you consider that many families are already struggling to avoid losing their homes and put food on their tables.
Five years from now, it's expected that roughly 50 percent of the largest Fortune 1000 companies are going to simply drop health care coverage altogether. That's going to have an enormous impact on struggling employees.
Now the majority of employers (more than 60 percent) are saying that if they did drop health care coverage, they would make up for it by offering their employees some other incentives, such as higher pay, more vacation time, etc. However, what we're seeing of those companies that have already dropped health care coverage is that that hasn't historically been the case.
Workers are making less money and their ability to save for retirement has been significantly hindered. A quarter of those workers surveyed said they had to scale back their 401(k) contributions, and another nearly 15 percent said they had to stop contributing to it altogether.
That leaves the future looking quite scary.
A Colorado Springs bankruptcy attorney can help.
For Colorado Springs debt-relief lawyers, a pair of competing headlines about statewide gas prices serve as a perfect illustration of just how complex, uncertain and stressful the economic recovery remains for many struggling families who are overwhelmed by debt and thinking about filing for Colorado personal bankruptcy.
On March 18, the Denver Post reported that Metro Denver recorded the lowest gasoline prices of any major city in the country last week, registering a whopping $1.23 difference in per gallon prices with Los Angeles, where gas prices were highest.
But just one day later, an article in the Reporter Herald revealed a recent and dramatic 4.6 percent spike in statewide gas prices. In Fort Collins alone, gas climbed more than $0.15 per gallon in one week.
TIME offers a few tips for Colorado motorists hoping to save pennies at the pump:
~ Invest the $40-55 for annual membership a big-box retailer (for example: Costco or Sam’s Club) that offers discounted gas.
~ Paying cash inside (instead of using your credit card at the pump) can mean up to $0.10 per gallon in savings at stations where credit card payments come with a premium price tag.
~ Go the there's-an-app-for-that route by downloading a gas-price checker app, or turn to websites like gasbuddy.com to find the cheapest gas in town.
According to the American Automobile Association, so far this week Colorado per gallon prices for diesel, premium, mid-grade and regular fuel are highest in Vail and lowest in Fort Collins. With that said, Denver and Boulder have tied for lowest premium price at $3.88 per gallon. (Meanwhile in Vail, premium gas tops $4.26 per gallon).
Denver bankruptcy attorneys know that for many Colorado families fighting to make ends meet, spending a few cents more (or less) at the pump can be the difference between staying in the black or reaching a personal financial crisis. For nearly three decades, the Law Office of Stephen H. Swift has helped thousands of Colorado families obtain debt relief. To schedule a free initial consultation to discuss what we can do to help you, call (719) 520-0164.