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02 Jun 2018

Job numbers may be creeping back up, but so are gas prices. The fact that folks are getting back to work doesn't necessarily mean that a personal financial crisis has been averted. In other words, trying to catch up sometimes is more of a challenge than going backwards.


Whether you and your family are considering filing for a Colorado bankruptcy, or whether you are already rebuilding your path to financial security, advice from consumer advocacy groups and finance experts on how to protect your hard-earned income is information everyone can appreciate.

CBS News, U.S. World & News Report and the Fiscal Times each featured a handful of money-saving tips for consumers hoping to best stretch their earnings between paychecks. Suggestions include:

~ Unless you plan to pay off the balance of your credit card each month, don't use it to snag that 'sale' or 'discount' item.

~ Create a budget to take better control of your spending. Most banks now even offer online banking services that include expense analysis so you don't even have to do the work yourself. You just click a few buttons and your ATM card history will reveal if you are blowing 15 percent of your take-home pay each week on take-out.

~ Review your car insurance policies. Sometimes changing your deductible or coverage scope (or, your insurance company) can save you money.

~ Be willing to settle for a knock-off or a second-hand brand name item.

~ When grocery shopping, stick to your list and don't splurge on impulse purchases of specialty cheeses or coconut water.

Colorado debt-relief lawyers with the Law Office of Stephen H. Smith understand that even the most industrious Colorado families can find themselves overwhelmed by unmanageable (and often unexpected) medical bill debts.

Call (719) 520-0164 today to schedule a free consultation.

08 Mar 2018

Many of you can immediately save yourself the time involved in reading the rest of this post: if you have unmanageable debt, you need a bankruptcy attorney.

There is a wide variety of on the market, such as so-called ‘debt resolution’ agencies and ‘petition preparers’. For the most part, these places will do their best to make you, the customer, feel as if they have everything entirely in hand, and that your filing will be routine.


The reality is far from the case. Frequently, the people who work at those agencies are unlicensed, uncertified, and sometimes even untrained!

A bankruptcy attorney knows that every case is unique, and it’s the time and energy that they put into each and every case that lets you take back control of your financial freedom.

Bankruptcy attorneys know the full extent of the law, and how best to prepare you to deal with it. Yes, you could potentially save money by using a cheaper, unlicensed company, but we’re not just talking about the money that you have right now, but about the money that you will have for the rest of your life.

If you come out of a bankruptcy with remaining debt or without your vehicle, you may find that you just fall right back into the same position you were in, except that this time, you won’t be able to file for bankruptcy again right away!

A bankruptcy attorney isn’t just for filing for bankruptcy, either. They can evaluate your entirely financial situation and determine whether or not bankruptcy would even be the best option for you.

Give it a try, and have a free consultation with an experienced and proven bankruptcy attorney today. Call (719) 520-0164 today!

04 Feb 2018

If you owe money, and most Americans do, you’re probably being harassed by calls from creditors. They call at odd hours of the day, hoping to trick you into answering the phone, and make it so that whenever your phone rings, you have a moment of dread when you see a number you don’t recognize.

That’s really only the start of the problems, too. Creditors can repossess your property, garnish your wages, and more.

There’s more to consider than just physical harassment, though. The stress of constantly living in fear of creditors can have emotional damages, too: anxiety, depression, and plenty of others. It can get in the way of you working to your full potential, and even take the joy out of life.


That’s where bankruptcy comes in.

When bankruptcy is filed, an automatic stay is issued to creditors, which means that they can no longer attempt to collect from you. Practically overnight, the harassing phone calls will stop, and there’s a good chance that when the bankruptcy is over, they won’t start again.

Filing for bankruptcy offers you protection from creditors through the duration of the process. That means no calls, no repossessions, no garnishments, or anything.

Any good bankruptcy attorney will make sure that even when the process ends and the stay expires, the creditors will leave you alone. That’s because it’s their job to create a plan that works for you, so that you can pay back any debts that survive the bankruptcy process.

If you file properly and don’t overspend again in the future, bankruptcy means never getting another collections call.

06 Oct 2017

No one can see the future, and although no one deliberately makes decisions that lead to needing a Southern Colorado bankruptcy lawyer, it happens more frequently than you might think.  Debt accrues interest, fees, and grows beyond what many would ever imagine, and it becomes simply unmanageable. Excessive spending or the use of credit cards is only one possible reason. A lot of the time, unforeseen circumstances arise, like large medical bills for example. This can leave people in financial devastation that can not be undone given the monthly income they make every year.  These are reasons to consider the relief that filing for bankruptcy can offer.

  • Eliminate the Legal Obligation to Pay Many of Your Debts. This process of wiping the slate clean is called a discharge of debts. The goal of a discharge is to reduce debt to give you a fresh start. Whether it is through straight bankruptcy (Chapter 7 Bankruptcy) or through reorganization (Chapter 13 Bankruptcy), most or all of your debts can be cleared.
     
  • Stop Foreclosure on Your House and Allow You to Effectively Make Payments to Catch up on Missed Payments of Your Mortgage. If your home is in foreclosure, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy will stop the foreclosure any time prior to the sale. Bankruptcy does not eliminate mortgages on your property without payment. Rather, bankruptcy will structure a plan in order to repay your mortgage arrears (the amount that you are behind).
     
  • Prevent Your Car or Other Property From Being Repossessed. Even if the creditor has repossessed your car, filing bankruptcy can effectively force them to return your car or other personal property (if the bankruptcy is filed quickly enough). The past payments you have missed will be consolidated into your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy plan. After this you will no longer pay the finance company, rather you will make monthly payments to the trustee of your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy who will then pay the finance company.
     
  • Reduce or Even Eliminate High Medical Bills. Sometimes an unfortunate accident or major recently discovered illness can completely ruin a family. Many families have to make choices on allocation of bills. Often, bills that were once important become insignificant to the large medical bills acquired by a loved one. Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy can greatly reduce the amount of medical bills.
     
  • Recent Loss of Employment. Studies show that loss of work is one of the most common reasons people file for bankruptcy. This is very easy to see. A family can get comfortable on two maybe even one salary. They can take on regular amount of debts, join clubs, and pay normal bills with relative ease. All of a sudden one or both spouses lose a job and a family must go from two salaries to one. Losing a job is closely tied to high medical bills. Losing a job means this family may be left without the protection of insurance that was once provided by their employer. Often times these two factors combined create an almost impossible mountain to climb without the help of bankruptcy.
     
  • Stop Harassing Behavior From Creditors. Some creditors do not always take the right course of action when attempting to collect a debt. Often, creditors will persistently call the home of a particular debtor with demeaning and abusive behavior. Not only is this unethical it can rise to the level of unlawful. In essence, bankruptcy will put on hold the demands of many creditors and stop the harassing phone calls and other inappropriate behavior all together.
     
  • Restore or Prevent Your Utilities From Being Shut Off. As you have probably seen many of these reasons overlap. Some lead to another. If your home is in risk of foreclosure then your utility bill may also be in risk of being terminated. Filing bankruptcy can prevent the utility company from leaving you in the dark.
     
  • Provide Help For Large Amounts Of Student Loan Debt. While it is true that your student loans will not be eliminated like several other types of unsecured debt, bankruptcy can consolidate your student loan debt. This consolidation will allow a debtor to make monthly payments through Chapter 13 Bankruptcy that are within the financial ability of the debtor.
     
  • End Wage Garnishments. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will stop wage garnishment. Wage garnishment basically takes away your weekly earnings often times leaving you without necessities. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy allows you to purchase necessities for you and your family. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy will also help in this regard.
     
  • Challenge Certain Claims of Fraudulent Creditors. Bankruptcy will allow you to challenge these claims from creditors who are trying to collect more money from you than you really owe. An attorney can provide the support and the backing you will need to step up to these creditors. Attorneys often even the playing field between a big creditor and a single debtor. Filing bankruptcy with an attorney can stop fraudulent reporting by a creditor.
If you can relate to any of these scenarios, please contact the Colorado bankruptcy experts at The Law Office of Stephen H. Swift today.
19 Feb 2017

In this financially turbulent time, many Americans have found themselves facing foreclosure. It’s not an altogether strange story… Being able to make a mortgage payment is getting harder and harder as more people lose their jobs.

It only takes getting behind on one payment, and then before you know it, you can be paying huge amounts of interest. Creditors want to you owe them as much money as possible, which is why they entice you into vehicles, property, or other goods that would normally be beyond your means.


It may have seemed like a miracle that a credit company was willing to loan you the money to buy a great new house, but there was nothing miraculous about it. For them, it’s a win-win proposition. If you pay the money back, then it’s no problem for them. But if you fail to pay on time, they’ll just keep taking and taking until you have nothing left.

That’s why filing for bankruptcy is such an important part of your rights as an American. If you’ve bought a house beyond your means, or if you’ve suffered a bad turn of luck, you may be facing foreclosure. If your house is foreclosed, you may have nowhere else to go, but the credit companies don’t care. That’s not their problem.

If you file for bankruptcy any time before the foreclosure sale date, your property can be protected under bankruptcy law, and in most cases, you can even just keep the house!

28 Nov 2016

It should come as no surprise to learn that singles are less affluent compared to other family structures. According to recent research by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, singles reported the lowest income levels (averaging $32,000), the lowest asset levels ($110,000) and the lowest rates of homeownership (43 percent). A surprisingly low 17 percent said they were on track to reach their retirement savings goals and 20 percent hadn't even started saving. The biggest worries for singles were affording their living expenses and maintaining their standard of living in retirement.



Most of the financial stress originates from relying on one income instead of two. This makes singles more vulnerable than couples who enjoy double earnings. Additionally, singles tend to earn less money and have lower education levels than their married peers, whether they have children or not. The study also reported that singles between the ages of 45 and 80 were less likely to have taken steps to pay off debt than married couples of the same age.

Changing demographics raise economic concerns

The MetLife study comes at a time when the country's demographics have already shifted in favor of single-person households. In fact, the U.S Census Bureau reported that single-earner households had grown to 31 million as of 2010, a 15 percent increase over the previous ten years. Meanwhile, traditional husband-wife households are on the decline, making up less than half of all households in America. If singles continue to be financially insecure, this trend could prove to be troubling for the economy.

Of course there are always individuals that buck the trends and find a way to make single life sound better. Eleanore Wells, a singles expert and author of "The Spinsterlicious Life," said it is far easier for her to save for retirement, because her money is her own and she can spend it how she wants to. Wells isn't the only one who feels this way. Many divorcees say they are better off single than they were as a couple, especially if their partner was less financially responsible.

Are singles more likely to declare bankruptcy?

Single people face more financial stresses than couples, but bankruptcy is usually caused by major economic stresses, such as a lost home, lower wages or unemployment. Any significant financial strain is likely to result in bankruptcy, but it's even harder to dig out of debt when you're facing it alone.

Singles are also less likely to seek the advice of a financial counselor, and less likely to save for retirement. The MetLife study found that couples were far more likely than their single counterparts to pay off debt or have met with a professional to help them map out their finances.

All of this stress on singles ultimately results in a higher rate of Colorado bankruptcy filings for single-headed households. But there is a bright side of bankruptcy; it can give you a fresh start and a clean financial slate. A successful bankruptcy is unrivaled in terms of the freedom it offers. One of the benefits of being single during the bankruptcy process is that you won't have to worry about jointly-held debts, as is often the concern with couples or recently-separated individuals.

A consultation with a Colorado Springs bankruptcy attorney will help you determine if bankruptcy is the right solution for your debt problems.  Many people try debt counseling first, or a debt consolidation loan.  An attorney specializing in bankruptcy can advise you on the best course of action. 

15 Sep 2015
Experiencing a damaging credit event like a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy doesn’t mean you will never be eligible for a mortgage again.  As you prepare to buy your next home, take a look at this useful chart to see typical waiting periods before you can be approved for a mortgage.  If you experienced extenuating circumstances*, your wait time may be shorter than you think. 






*Extenuating circumstances are temporary events that are beyond a borrower’s control, such as the loss of a job, medical bills or death of a wage earner. Divorce and the the inability to sell the house after a job relocation do not qualify.  These events must be documented, and they are subject to review by the underwriting team.
27 Mar 2015

If you are facing foreclosure, it won't be long before your friends and family start offering advice. You may hear about some proven strategies to keep the mortgage company at bay, and other actions that may help you avoid foreclosure. But first it is important to understand foreclosure.


What is foreclosure?

A bank foreclosure is a legal process through which a mortgage lender can take possession of your home when you are not making the monthly mortgage payments. While it is different in every state, it usually follows that when you miss a few payments on the mortgage, the lender will send a default letter. This letter usually urges the borrower to make payments to catch up or to make some alternative arrangement with the bank. However, if the situation is not fixed within a few months of this letter, the bank will begin the foreclosure process.

What is the foreclosure process like?

After a loan has been in default for a month or two, the bank will send Sheriff's Sale Notice. Usually, this sale is scheduled to take place within four weeks of the date of the letter. Sheriff's sales are auctions where people can bid on the house; however the lender is usually the winner of the auction. In certain situations, the lender can attempt to collect any balance of the loan above the price paid at the sheriff's sale. This debt is called a "deficiency" but it usually a dischargeable debt in bankruptcy.

On the day of the sale, the lender assumes ownership of the property and the "redemption period" starts. This period of time is designed to protect the borrower's from abuse by the lender and it usually lasts for six months. During this time, the borrower can remain in the home, but doesn't have to pay the mortgage or property taxes. The borrower may also buy back the home at the price paid at the auction, but this might be impossible since lenders won't give loans to people right after a foreclosure. At the end of the redemption period, the borrowers can be evicted from the home.

How can bankruptcy help?

Filing for bankruptcy during a foreclosure can help in a couple of ways, but it must have been filed before the sheriff's sale. For one, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you catch up on payments if you fell behind on your mortgage. Secondly, Chapter 7 allows you to stay in the home longer while stopping the lender from collecting a deficiency after taking the home.

Chapter 13 and foreclosure

If you fall behind on your house payments but you still have a large enough income to pay the mortgage, then Chapter 13 might be the ideal solution. This is particularly true when you have some equity in the home and want to hold on to it. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to pay back the amount your fell behind over the period of three to five years, while continuing to make regular mortgage payments. Once the arrears are paid, the mortgage will no longer be in default.

Chapter 7 and foreclosure

If you fell "underwater" on your mortgage because the balance is higher than the value of your home, or you can no longer afford to make monthly mortgage payments, then Chapter 7 may be just the fix. Chapter 7 bankruptcy legally protects you from any actions taken to collect a debt, including the sheriff's sale on a foreclosed home. While the lender can still ask the court to hold a sheriff's sale, the protections of Chapter 7 can last up to three months. In the case of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can gain an additional 1 to 3 months in the home without paying a mortgage.

Perhaps more importantly, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges any deficiency debt that may result from the house selling at auction for less than the balance of the mortgage. In cases where the deficiency judgment is quite large; which can occur when the house is remortgaged or underwater, a Chapter 7 filing can be quite helpful.

20 Jan 2014

This may be one of the most common questions I hear as a Colorado bankruptcy attorney, "Can I keep my house if I file Chapter 7?" But the answer isn't always so simple. In Colorado, keeping your home after Chapter 7 bankruptcy will depend on your answers to three questions. Do you really want to keep it? Do you have any equity in the home? And are you current on the payments?


Deciding whether you want to keep your house may be difficult, but if you owe more than it is worth it might not be an asset worth saving. Also, if your interest rate is too high or the house needs a lot of work it might be more than you can afford to keep. Some Colorado filers find they are better off letting it go in the bankruptcy and buying another home a few years down the road. The good news is that in Colorado, you can almost always keep your home if it makes financial sense to do so.

Secondly, the trustee in your bankruptcy case will want to know if you have any equity in the home. If the house is worth more than you paid for it, then you have equity. If you have equity, the trustee will determine if you have more equity than what is protected under the state's exemption statutes. These are the laws that determine what you get to keep in a bankruptcy. Unless you have exempt equity, the trustee is not going to come after your home. However if you have non-exempt equity there are some steps that can be taken to minimize it. This will be a topic for discussion with an experienced Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer.

Finally, if you are behind on your mortgage payments at the time of filing, your lender could either demand that you get caught up immediately or they could ask the court for permission to foreclose. This causes some risk and it might be better not to leave this decision up to the mortgager. When you speak with a bankruptcy attorney, find out if it makes more sense to get caught up before filing Chapter 7, or if a Chapter 13 bankruptcy makes more sense. Chapter 13 allows you to repay arrears on a mortgage over a three to five year period.

One of the benefits of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Colorado is how it wipes out all of your dischargeable debts. This will include not only credit cards and medical bills, but also the debt you still owe on your home and automobile. While you may no longer owe money on your home, keeping your home after bankruptcy will largely depend on you. Below are three common options for handling your home after a bankruptcy.

Reaffirm: This process allows the petitioner to request that the judge waive the discharge of a specific debt. With a mortgage or home-equity line of credit (HELOC), you agree to continue making payments on the house as agreed. As long as you continue to do this, the mortgagor cannot foreclose. However, if you become unable to pay, the lender can not only foreclose, they can sue you for the difference between what you owe on the home and what they sell it for at auction. One of the advantages to signing a reaffirmation agreement is it allows you to rebuild your credit score faster after bankruptcy.

Stay and Pay: This means you will continue paying the mortgage without a reaffirmation agreement. Essentially, this means you are paying a debt you no longer owe, but it keeps the lender from foreclosing because they are still receiving payments. Once you have paid the full amount that was owed before the bankruptcy, the lender signs the title over. This is a popular option because it even allows you to sell the property, but refinancing is impossible since there is no current debt left on the note. Along these same lines, if you were to go into foreclosure the lender cannot sue you for a deficiency.

Surrender: If you decide not to keep your home, or you don't feel that signing a reaffirmation agreement would be wise, you may simply hand the keys over to the lender and walk away. Chapter 7 bankruptcies free you from any associated debt with regard to your home, so there is no threat of the lender coming after you later on.

 

21 Nov 2013

A lot has been written about restoring one's financial fitness after bankruptcy, but bankruptcy does just as much damage to a person's psyche. After bankruptcy, anger and shame are natural emotions, but they don't need to last forever. Many people find that a financial catastrophe like this it is just what they needed to get a fresh start. While this doesn't negate the fact that bankruptcy causes long-term damage to their credit report, one that won't go away yet for seven years, it is still better than continuing along the path they were on.


Even if your friends and family tell you it's going to be okay, the experience can still be bruising to your ego. "The creditors make you feel like you failed, you are a loser and you are worthless," says Robin Hardy, a person whose company, the Moosey Group Inc., filed for bankruptcy.

According to many bankruptcy "survivors," a common reaction is a feeling of failure. The shame of having to declare bankruptcy can be crippling at first, particularly for successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. Feelings of failure go beyond one's personal bank balance and extend to include family relationships, business alliances and one's professional reputation. Needless to say, this impact is felt beyond the individual. This is why it is so important to take any necessary steps to avoid bankruptcy entirely.

Secrets of surviving personal bankruptcy:

Here are some "survival tips" to help you stay out of trouble before you contemplate bankruptcy:
Don't bite off more than you can chew. Every time you make a purchase with a credit card, put away the amount of that purchase in a separate account and pay the bill in full every month. This may be a difficult habit to form but it will keep you from accumulating more debt.

Downsize your lifestyle. Get a roommate or find a less expensive place to live. Avoid the dining out trap and learn to cook delicious meals at home. Bring your lunch instead of going out every day. Cut back on "extras," like premium cable channels, satellite radio, regular massages.

If you do have to declare bankruptcy, don't wallow in guilt. A lot of people find that they get a second chance at life through bankruptcy. Take this time to reinvent yourself and take this opportunity to get a fresh start with your financial future. From a business perspective, bankruptcy forces you to explore who you really are and embrace the opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Why do women file for bankruptcy?

Other than women who have overspent on credit cards, there is another set of circumstances that affects women more than men. It is the dishonesty of a significant other or spouse.

In many cases, a woman's husband may have convinced her to put her home in her name only, but then when the relationship fell apart she was stuck with the burden of paying the mortgage. In other cases, a woman may have added a fiancé or significant other to her credit card, then after breaking the engagement she was forced to file for bankruptcy because of the bills he racked up.

Other than dishonesty, some common causes include a bad economy, medical bills and job loss. Many women have found they needed to file for personal bankruptcy after a divorce if their job wasn't sufficient enough to sustain their current debt load.

No matter how you landed in bankruptcy court, it isn't a death sentence. Many people find that after bankruptcy they are happier, more grounded in their personal lives and careers, and better able to navigate their financial future.

Who is filing for bankruptcy?

According to one of our recent blogs, "What Are The Patterns of Bankruptcy Filers" the most common reasons for bankruptcy are often related to circumstances beyond the control of the filer. For example, a study from 2005 revealed that 46 percent of bankruptcies were related to medical expenses from a serious illness not covered by insurance and the resulting loss of income. Shortly after this study was completed, drastic changes in the economy caused bankruptcy from unemployment, underemployment and credit card debt.

At the time of petition, the average age of the filer seems to be rising. Since the early 90's more senior citizens are declaring bankruptcy while fewer filers are under the age of 25. In fact, since 2007 those under 25 made up less than 2% of all filers. During that same period of time, the percentage of older petitioners more than doubled, now accounting for nearly 20% of all filers.

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