Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers know that anyone who has ever struggled with debt wants to ensure their children don't endure the same.
While some debts are inevitable, establishing good spending and saving habits early on can save them a great deal of heartache later on.
This is critical especially considering that a recent survey indicated that 12th graders were failing on basic, personal-finance literacy tests. (And only half of adults were able to get the right answers on basic questions about inflation and interest rates.)
A number of federal and state initiatives in the last year have focused on addressing these issues in high schools. For example, President Barack Obama's Advisory Council on Financial Capability has launched a campaign aimed at young people, with nearly two dozen money lessons important for children.
Here are some of those key points:
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Toni Braxton has won six Grammy Awards - and filed for two bankruptcies.
Our Colorado Springs Chapter 7 Bankruptcy attorneys understand that she intends to talk about her financial journey in an upcoming music television show.
While some may view multiple filings as a sign of irresponsibility, the fact is that there are some situations in which the filer may have little choice. It's also worth noting that someone who has already been through the bankruptcy process knows that when circumstances outside their control begin to snowball, there is no sense in wasting precious time and money in an effort to save a credit score that is likely to suffer regardless.
In Braxton's case, the first bankruptcy stemmed from a recording deal that was beyond deplorable. In fact, her late-1990s hit son, "Unbreak My Heart" reportedly earned her a total of less than $3,000.
Then two years ago, Braxton filed again after a medical ailment impeded her ability to perform Las Vegas shows she was contracted to perform. Promoters and venues lost a great deal of money, and sued Braxton. After unsuccessfully attempting to settle with them, she sought another Chapter 7 filing.
The Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 changes the wait times in between bankruptcy for certain debtors. But it's not true that you have to wait eight years across the board before you can file a new bankruptcy. Essentially it works like this:
If none of your debts were actually discharged in the previous filing - that is, you merely filed for the protection of the automatic stay - than these time limits won't apply to you.
Despite reports that the U.S. economy is inching toward improvement, we now know that household incomes in the U.S. fell to levels we haven't seen since 1989.
In fact, Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers understand that a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that median incomes fell by nearly 2 percent last year.
Families are on the brink of poverty, and despite falling income levels, many families have not adjusted their lifestyle. This, unfortunately, is a recipe for becoming trapped in debt.
The current presidential campaign is dedicating a great deal of focus to why this is happening and what can be done to prevent it.
On a macro scale, some of the issues economists have identified include:
Whatever the causes, having a reduced income means making adjustments. In some cases, those adjustments are only possible with the help of an attorney who can help you either reach a debt settlement or apply for bankruptcy protection.
There is an old saying that it's hard to see the forest through the trees.
Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers know this is one way of saying it's difficult to gauge the entirety of the situation when you're in the middle of it. This is exactly the case with debt.
It starts with a missed payment here or a credit card charge there. We continue moving along with life thinking it will eventually get handled or take care of itself.
The problem with debt, though, is that it compounds upon itself. Many people don't realize they're in trouble until they've depleted their retirement or other savings - money they'll never be able to recover.
Bankruptcy is one way to address debt that has become unmanageable. That is, you have no other real hope of paying it back, or to do so would take so long and be so arduous as to be detrimental to your future, and quite frankly unwise.
The only real way to know whether bankruptcy is the best option for you is to meet face-to-face with an experienced attorney who can help you comb through your finances to determine the right decision. Generally, if you're already considering it, chances are your debt has already reached a breaking point.
Here are some other questions to ask yourself if you're contemplating filing for a Chapter 7:
Are you juggling bills? By this, we mean are you applying for more credit cards or payday loans to get cash advances to pay existing cards or basic expenses?
Are you paying the bare minimum payments on your credit cards, loans and other bills?
Are you consistently putting more on your credit card each month than you bring home in earnings?
Has your income decreased significantly in recent months or years?
Are you having to take on overtime just to pay your basic expenses?
Are you being hounded by debt collectors on the phone and in the mail?
Are you concealing the costs of purchases from your wife or husband?
Are you using your retirement account or savings to pay for monthly expenses?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it's time to start considering your options. There is no hard-and-fast rule about the right time to file for bankruptcy, but if you start to see yourself slipping into some of these categories, it's time to explore ways to facing down the debt.
A new report from one of Denver's largest human resources firms indicates that salaried employees in Denver are set to receive some of the largest pay raises in the country.
Our Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers know this is great news - but it's important to note that it's only going to affect a small number of companies and individuals, and that the increases are expected to be marginal.
A larger national study, conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, indicates that low-paying jobs aren't actually going anywhere. In fact, about 30 percent of available jobs today will put a full-time worker either just at or below the poverty line. Unfortunately, it's going to stay at that 30 percent until at least 2020, and estimations that higher-tier jobs will grow after that point aren't hopeful.
The fact is, many people took on jobs that were beneath their skill level when the recession hit. It was never intended to be a long-term thing, and that's why in the meantime, a lot of these folks racked up enormous amounts of debt - credit cards, loans, medical bills - believing that they would eventually pay it all off.
If you're one of the lucky few in Denver who will be expecting a raise, you may now be able to start putting a dent in those debts.
But to take a look at what was actually reported, Aon Hewitt, the human resources firm, surveyed some 1,300 businesses across the country. The average base pay for workers had risen 0.1 percent this year as compared to 2011. Certain Denver companies, meanwhile, saw a 3.2 percent increase this year over last and expect a 3.6 percent increase in 2013.
To put this in real terms, if you're making $40,000 a year, a 3.2 percent increase represents about $1,280 year or $128 a month. Certainly, this is an improvement - but it's not going to pull you out of tens of thousands of dollars of debt if that's what you're facing.
Meanwhile, 30 percent of the population is making around $11 an hour, which puts them at about $23,000 a year. If you are part of a family of four and make this much, you are on the poverty line.
A bankruptcy is one way of clearing those old, looming debts to make way for smarter spending and saving habits.
There's no doubt you've heard the phrase, "Bankruptcy should be a last resort."
For people who are in relatively good financial shape, that's probably a good mantra to keep. The whole idea of bankruptcy is not to make it easy for people to avoid debts they can easily pay off.
However, Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorneys know that for people who are struggling with mountains of debt, waiting to file until you're out of all other options can be dangerous, and the reasons are numerous.
Often, we see clients who have dragged their financial burdens on far longer than was necessary - because they were seeing bankruptcy as the last option.
But the fact is, you save yourself an enormous amount of stress and further financial trouble by exploring it as an option sooner.
By not doing so, first of all, your health is likely to suffer. We have worked with countless clients who had become physically ill as a result of their financial woes. Not only is their stress high, but they don't sleep. Some drink alcohol or overeat or chain smoke. Others suffer from depression. The bottom line is it's not a healthy way to live your life.
Secondly, it's highly possible that you'll end up making some costly, and maybe even irreversible, financial mistakes. This is easy enough to do. For example, some people cash out their retirement in order to pay off their credit cards, only to later realize they'll have to file for bankruptcy anyway. They'll never get that retirement money back, and the credit card debt would have been forgiven.
Thirdly, you may think you don't need to file because you're treading water with your finances. But the fact is, that's all you're doing, and without the relief that bankruptcy provides, you won't get any farther. That means you won't ever be able to save up enough for retirement or pay off your student loans or have any savings cushion. Again, it's not a healthy way to live your life - and you have options.
One of the top reasons people avoid bankruptcy like the plague is that they fear the impact on their credit score.
Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers won't sugarcoat it and say there will be no affect whatsoever. However it's worth noting that when you file for bankruptcy, the scoring algorithms are such that you are being compared in segments with others who have suffered similar financial blows.
And the fact is, many more people are filing for bankruptcy these days than ever before. Their reasons are varied, but mostly it boils down to enormous medical bills and student loan debt, the housing crisis and out-of-control credit card debt.
What a Chapter 7 bankruptcy does is wipe the slate clean. It erases your previous debt (with some exceptions) and allows you to start fresh again.
It's true, though, that a Chapter 7 will remain on your credit score for about 10 years. However, many people have found that this is not nearly as inhibiting as it sounds. You can still buy a house, get a car loan, etc. You may have higher interest rates and that will force you to keep your spending in check, but it won't cripple you.
If the idea of a Chapter 7 scares you, you can always explore a Chapter 13. This is an option whereby you structure a payment plan to your creditors to pay back a portion of what you owe in monthly installments. A Chapter 13 usually only remains on your credit report for 3 to 7 years after it's discharged.
Another option is debt negotiation or debt settlement. This is similar to a Chapter 13 in that it involves you paying a fraction of what you owe. However, it's not all encompassing and it doesn't necessarily involve all of your debts.
So let's say you owe $15,000 on a credit card. You hire an attorney to help you reach a debt settlement and end up with a bill for $4,000. Your credit may still be damaged, particularly if the debt has already gone to a debt collection agency, but it's generally easier to repair your credit than it is to claw yourself out of debt.
It may come as a surprise to some people to hear that a Colorado Springs bankruptcy can actually be looked back upon as being a positive thing.
As "Real Housewife" Teresa Giudice explained recently on the show, the bankruptcy "made us stronger."
Our Colorado Springs bankruptcy lawyers know that many of our clients express that the whole process is freeing. That's not to say it is without its challenges or that it's easy. In fact, this is why it's critical to have an experienced attorney by your side, helping you sort through the details. It can be a difficult choice to make, but once it's all over, the reward is a fresh start.
Guidice and her husband, Joe, who are from New Jersey, filed for a joint petition, which means their filings have to be separately discharged.
There has been a great deal of back-and-forth between the Guidices, the lawyers and the bankruptcy trustees. In fact, Joe Guidice actually abandoned his effort to have his debts forgiven through the process after invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. The court had claimed he was hiding assets and income, including a pizza restaurant, a boat and expensive gifts and trips - something that was reportedly learned after the trustee viewed episodes of the show that were filmed around the time the bankruptcy was filed.
Generally, if a bankruptcy trustee believes that someone is lying to the court, they will make a criminal referral to federal prosecutors. This is not a place you want to be. After consulting with a criminal defense lawyer, Joe reportedly agreed to withdraw his bankruptcy petition. That means he's still on the hook for his debts. That means that he would still be responsible for payment of the debts they hold jointly, even if Teresa is absolved of liability.
Teresa is nearing the end of her pursuit to have her debts discharged through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
In a recent episode, she reportedly said she was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Statistics can be deceiving.
While recently-released figures seem to indicate that home prices are actually up, the reality is that we may soon see a glut of foreclosures in Denver, Colorado Springs and across the country.
Our Colorado Springs foreclosure lawyers know that it has a lot to do with people who are underwater on their homes, and yet are hanging on by their fingertips, hoping the market will do an about-face so they won't lose as much money. this means there are fewer homes actually on the market, which is driving down the supply, and therefore increasing the demand. There have even been bidding wars in a few cases.
When we look at the figures across the country, we see an increase of little more than 1 percent on home prices, when compared to a year ago. While this may seem minimal, you have to remember that the value of homes plummeted after the market tanked in 2008. The fact that it's inching up at all is seen as an improvement - until you really analyze what's going on.
Of course, it is good for those homeowners who are looking to sell right now. They're probably still going to take a loss, but it will be blunted by this short-term spike.
However, this is not going to last long-term because we still have a large number of people who are on the brink of foreclosure. They may be making the minimum monthly payments, but just barely.
This is where our Denver foreclosure lawyers come in. First of all, if you're trying to remain in your home, we can look into helping you secure a loan modification, meaning we could fight for your loan amount to be lowered to what would be considered a fair market value.
However, there may be some situations in which it actually makes fiscal sense to default and allow the loan to go into foreclosure. Of course, that's not a decision you should make without the assistance of a skilled attorney, and we can help guide you through the process.
The other thing that is going to eventually work against these homeowners is that you have banks that are scrutinizing their loans more closely than ever, combined with a populace that has a higher track record of poor credit scores. This is ultimately going to drive down that demand.
Colorado bankruptcy attorneys know that with wedding season coming up, many brides have visions of destination vows, mile-high wedding cakes and princess gowns.
But all of that can quickly lead to a Colorado Springs bankruptcy, if you're not careful. Of course, parents want to give their children a memorable and special occasion. They reason that it's a once-in-a-lifetime event.
While there may be certain aspects upon which you can certainly splurge, it's important not to get yourself into a pattern of debt for a one-day event, no matter how special. Consider that according to TheKnot.com, the average wedding cake costs a whopping $550. For a cake.
So the key is to spend smartly.
Here are some ideas for ways to keep your wedding costs down:
One trick to try is to have the first layer of your cake be a yummy sheet cake. But for aesthetic purposes, consider using a cardboard "fake cake," or a decorated foam set that sits atop one layer of the real stuff. That way, you cut the bottom layer for pictures, then wheel it in the back for the bottom layer to be cut and served. No one is any wiser and you just saved several hundred dollars. Or, consider serving cupcakes instead.
Consider hosting this event at a relative's home and serving cheese and meat trays and salads from a local deli or supermarket. This could save you bundles.
Of course, it would be rude not to feed your wedding guests at all. But the time of day will determine what kind of food you should feed them. And if you have an earlier wedding (say, morning or early afternoon), you can opt for breakfast or lunch food, which can be a whole lot less expensive than a dinner. Think waffles, French toast and omelets versus salmon and braised beef.
You can curb your costs here by serving wine, beer and perhaps a "signature" drink, which can be less costly than stocking up on various kinds of high-end liquor. You may even want to consider skipping the champagne toast, or substituting sparkling cider instead.