Colorado Springs foreclosure lawyers understand that while rising home prices have helped to pull some homeowners from the debts of this housing crisis, younger homeowners are still facing an uphill battle.
According to real estate database Zillow, the percentage of homeowners who were underwater, or owed more on their homes than they were worth, dropped to about less than 1 percent (to about 31 percent)in the second quarter of 2012. This is somewhat encouraging, but of the 15 million borrowers who remain underwater, a huge portion of those are below the age of 40.
In fact, about half of all borrowers in this age bracket are underwater. This is double what the underwater rate is for older borrowers.
What we're likely to see as a result is a stagnation in the economy. That's because when these borrowers can't move out of their starter homes into bigger homes, those younger couples seeking starter homes have a harder time doing so. That means they are more likely to rent or continue living at home for longer stretches of time.
These under-40 underwater borrowers, in order to sell their home, either have to come up with a lot of cash upfront or go through a short sale.
What they don't necessarily have to do is simply walk away. Our Colorado Springs foreclosure lawyers know that the entire process seems daunting and frustrating, but you do not have to endure it alone.
Our attorneys are experienced at finding foreclosure alternatives, such as loan modifications and principal loan reductions. These are available with increasing frequency as the government works to settle with major banks over foreclosure abuses and other housing wrongs. So even if you were previously unsuccessful in working out an agreement or modification on your own, there's a strong likelihood that we can help you negotiate better terms with your mortgage lender.
This may help you avoid both foreclosure and/or bankruptcy, depending on how deep in debt you are.
Unfortunately, many homeowners simply struggle to pay the current price in the hopes that the market will rebound and they will be able to make their money back. The fact is, you may never fully recoup the losses on the investment you made in your home. However, you shouldn't have to go broke just trying to pay your mortgage.
We can help.
One of the most disturbing trends in money management is overuse of debt consolidation loans. Sure, they may be the perfect solution for people who have gotten into unforeseen financial trouble, but debt consolidation loans are too often used to treat symptoms instead of addressing an underlying problem. One of the greatest myths about these loans is that they save money on interest. The only way interest rates get cut is when someone borrows against home equity, but home equity loans can become a crutch as well.
Bankruptcy attorneys have seen many clients come into their office after thinking they had "fixed" their finances through debt consolidation, only to find out later on that the old habits are still there. They just "moved" the debt to a different collector. It's a bad idea to think you can borrow your way out of debt. A true fix will be neither quick nor easy, but it will have a lasting effect.
People who find themselves in debt frequently are likely to avoid addressing its real source, which is overspending and undersaving. Financial coaches rarely recommend a debt consolidation loan for clients because they know it doesn't work.
Statistics about debt consolidation
Some debt consolidation firms estimate that more than 78 percent of the time, after a client consolidates credit card debt, it gradually grows back. The reason for this is the client hasn't developed a game plan to prevent it from happening, such as saving for unexpected events or paying cash all the time.
When a debt consolidation offers lower monthly payments, most people feel like they've "won," but they soon find that the lower payment isn't coming from lower rates; just a longer payment term. Staying in debt longer usually means you pay the lender more money, which explains why so many lenders jumped into the debt consolidation business.
For example, say you've accumulated $30,000 in unsecured debt, including a four year loan for $20,000 at 10% and a two-year loan for $10,000 at 12%. Your monthly payment on the $20,000 loan would be $583 and you would pay $517 on the $10,000 loan, with monthly payments totaling $1,100. A debt consolidation company comes along and tells you they can lower your payment to $640 per month and by negotiating with your creditors lower your interest rate to 9% because all of your loans would be rolled into one. While this may sound tempting, what they don't tell you is now it will take you six years to pay off the loan. Instead of paying the $40,392 you would have owed on the original loans, now you're paying $46,080, even with the lower interest rate of 9%. Not such a great deal after all. But now do you see why these debt consolidation companies are so profitable?
How Can You Really Get Out of Debt?
The solution is not in the interest rate. You will need to change your spending habits by committing to a written game plan and sticking with it. If needed, get a second job and start paying down your debt. Figure out how to live on less than you earn and be frugal! Changing your habits isn't easy, but it will put you on the path to financial freedom and out of bankruptcy court, which is where you want to be.
Will a Debt Consolidation Damage Your Credit Score?
A lot of people think that a debt consolidation will make their credit report look better because it will show a lot of closed, paid-off accounts. But the answer really depends on what you do afterwards. If you get the debts consolidated and then start using your old credit cards again it will hurt your credit score. The best thing to do after a debt consolidation is to cut up your cards and stop filling out credit card applications. Make your loan payments on time every month and check your credit score regularly for any changes.
Consolidating credit cards with high balances using an installment loan — a loan with fixed monthly payments — may actually benefit your credit rating, especially if you use the loan to pay off credit cards that are near their limits. At the same time, any new loan can cause a short-term dip to your credit scores — so don't be surprised if that happens.
Transferring a high-rate credit card balance to a card at a lower rate can be another way to consolidate. If you decide to go this route it's important to be disciplined in your approach. Otherwise, you may fall into traps such as getting stuck with a balance at a high interest rate after the introductory period ends. If you use a substantial portion of the available credit on the card to consolidate balances from other cards with lower balance-to-available-credit ratios, your credit scores may drop.
Remember, moving around debt is not the goal here. The goal is to pay off those balances to free up cash flow as well as to help build strong credit. A consolidation loan, used correctly, can help you get there just a little faster.
Contact Us today for more information and to receive a free consultation.
You may just now be settling down with the idea that your child is actually in college.
He or she is probably getting in the swing of classes, exams and group projects. But one area of study that college students as a whole routinely flunk is credit card savvy.
Too often, our Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers are seeing younger and younger clients who seek are seeking bankruptcy protection because they got in over their heads with credit cards.
The good news is that for a college student or someone in your early 20s, a bankruptcy filing is unlikely to dramatically impact your financial future. You have more time to bounce back than, say, someone who is facing down retirement in the near future.
That said, part of what credit card companies bank on with college students is that they won't know how to spend responsibly. The fact is, it's good for college students to have a credit card, as it can help to boost their overall credit history, which they are not likely to have much of at this point in their lives. However, the problem is that to a college student, a credit card can seem like a magical wand of instant gratification. But then, of course, the time comes to pay up.
In the interest of avoiding major headaches for your child, here are some bullet points of what you may want to discuss:
With the economy continuing on a downward spiral, millions of people are battling debt, foreclosure andbankruptcy in Colorado Springs and across the country. For many people, the stress can be overwhelming.
Medical experts have long warned that stress is a major catalyst for a number of serious and potentially life-threatening physical ailments, including weight gain, heart disease, gum disease, gastrointestinal problems and more.
It's a vicious cycle because the more stressed you are, the more your health suffers and the more you end up shelling out on health care - almost twice as much as someone who is carefree, according to researchers with the Health Enhancement Research Organization.
Many of the financial troubles you face can be addressed with help from an experienced Colorado bankruptcy attorney. Tackling your personal financial struggles with someone who has helped thousands of people in similar situations will not only augment the balance on your bank statements, it will also improve your well-being.
In addition to taking this crucial step to free yourself of these financial burdens, there are other steps you can take to alleviate these concerns.
First, seek help from your employer. According to a 2010 study by Buck Consultants, nearly three-quarters of all U.S. employers offer some form of wellness program, which encompass everything from discounted yoga classes to reimbursements for gym memberships. Stepping up your work-out routine will help to clear your mind and give you confidence to keep that same momentum in other aspects of your life.
If your company doesn't offer this type of reimbursement, look on sites like Groupon or search for trial memberships that might give you a few weeks free. Many gyms also want new customers, so they may be willing to cut you a deal directly if you ask.
Secondly, consider talking with a counselor. Many employers offer free or reduced-cost access to counselors on a weekly or monthly basis. Some also offer group sessions, which specifically address techniques to manage stress.
And finally, take some time each day to breathe deeply. A recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard found that meditating each day improves a person's memory and reduces stress. Even a few minutes a day can make a huge difference.
A new trend has been spotted with regard to classification of hospital stays for Medicare patients - and it's driving up medical debt at a rapid pace.
Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers know that medical debt is one of the driving forces for those seeking relief from bankruptcy.
The good news is a bankruptcy will erase those debts, allowing you to focus on your health, recovery and the future.
However, we still need to make consumers aware of what is increasingly becoming a driving force for some of these situations in which individuals - particularly the elderly - are owing tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It has to do with the way patients are classified when they are in the hospital. If you are considered an "inpatient," that means you have been formally admitted into the hospital. The way Medicare works is that if you stay three or more days in inpatient care, certain medications will be covered, as well as subsequent rehabilitation costs for the first 20 days, and then another $145 a day after that - up to 100 days.
However, if you are classified as "under observation" while in the hospital, or if your classification is switched at some point prior to those three days, none of that is covered. It's a technicality, but one more and more hospitals are switching to for this reason:
Hospitals get paid quite a bit less under Medicare for "under observation" patients. However, with tremendous cuts to Medicare left and right, the agency has employed a number of auditors to trim costs. Those auditors are second-guessing almost every inpatient admittance. If they determine an inpatient classification wasn't necessary, those auditors have the authority to withhold payment from the the hospital entirely.
That means hospitals are taking their chances by simply classifying patients as "under observation" automatically - no matter that it seems to violate even the basic Medicare rules and that it breaks the bank for patients, particularly those who may require longer-term treatment.
What's worse, many patients aren't even aware of it until after they've been released - when they get their bill.
Doctors say the classification won't impact the level of treatment you receive. But at the end of the day, they're interested in your physical health - not your finances.
That's where we come in.
Collection agencies are becoming increasingly aggressive with their tactics, as evidenced by a soaring number of lawsuits filed by individuals who have been harassed by these companies.
Colorado Springs Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers know that these businesses can be brutal - calling you at all hours of the day and night, on every line you own, even going so far as to contact family members, neighbors and relatives.
You have the right under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to request that these communications stop by sending what's known as a cease communication letter. You can ask that they only communicate with you in writing or that they cease contact with you altogether.
However, many companies will flagrantly ignore this request (and the law) by continuing to contact you. This is where their conduct stems into the territory of harassment and abuse, and that's where a lot of these lawsuits are coming from.
It's noteworthy that when you file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court issues what's known as an automatic stay. This is spelled out in 11 U.S.C. 362, and it essentially bars the continued communication of your debtors to you for a period of time while your bankruptcy proceedings are being processed.
According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, there were nearly 900 consumer credit lawsuits filed just in May of this year alone. Those suits were filed in all 50 states and throughout some 90 federal court districts.
What that number reflects is a 12 percent increase over April of this year - and it's grown every month since the beginning of this year.
The number of consumer credit lawsuits has actually tripled in the last five years, beginning in May of 2007. From January through May of this year, nearly 6,300 of these suits have been filed.
Some industry analysts say that the debt collection business is fast-growing. Along with it, there is the misuse of consumer information, as well as the ignorance of the Fair Debt Collection Practices law.
Nearly half of all Americans aren't able to save up as much money as they should, often necessitating debt relief in Southern Colorado and elsewhere in the country.
This is according to a recent poll which found about 45 percent of people have less savings than credit card debt. Southern Colorado debt relief attorneys know that the economy is inching toward improvement, but many people are so deep in debt that they find it nearly impossible to claw their way out.
This most recent survey, from, Bankrate.com analyzed the spending habits of more than 1,000 adults, and looked at how much people have been able to save. What they found is that just 54 percent of U.S. consumers have more savings in case of an emergency than they do credit card debt. If and when an unplanned event or emergency happens, half the people in the country will be in serious financial trouble.
What's more, about 16 percent don't have any savings.
These figures represent about a 2 percent improvement over last year - not much to celebrate.
This kind of financial insecurity is harmful to the economy overall, experts say, because when people aren't able to save, they aren't likely to spend on more than what they need day to day. If they do, they are risking their own financial future, as having money stored away for an emergency can be critical in helping you avoid finding yourself crushed by debt.
Meanwhile, another survey found that Americans are having a hard time saving for retirement. In fact, almost half the country isn't saving enough to allow for a decent standard of living once they are no longer able to work. That survey also found that a third of Americans don't have enough to cover an unexpected doctor's visit or car repair. On average as a country, we're saving less than we used to.
Stephen Brobeck, the executive director of America Saves, said what this all collectively illustrates is that the recession has ended for a large number of families, particularly those in the lower income brackets. Working families are still struggling with a sagging housing market, sky-high unemployment rates and incomes that have stayed stagnant.
An experienced Colorado debt relief attorney can help.
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.
Bereaved family members have enough to contend with when someone passes away without having to shoulder the burden of left-over debts.
You should know that you aren't responsible for debts that weren't in your name or that you did not co-sign for. That doesn't mean widows and widowers especially won't suffer a financial blow.
Here are some things you need to know:
The credit card companies and other creditors have the right to collect their payments from the deceased person's estate. If it's a secured debt, such as a vehicle payment, the vehicle may be repossessed and resold, with the remaining balance, if there is any, billed to the estate.
However, if there is not enough to cover the debt from the estate, creditors are generally out of luck, and must eat that cost.
If it's unsecured debt, such as a student loan, creditors can still collect the remaining balance from the estate.
Of course, this may affect any beneficiaries of the estate as the amount they can collect will dwindle based on the debts owed. However, beneficiaries won't be held responsible for the remaining balances on bills if the estate won't cover it.
However, there are some exceptions. If your spouse passes away and you had multiple joint accounts, joint debts or had co-signed for some of those debts, you can still be held responsible for the entire amount. This is often a harsh reality when spouses die, particularly because your income has effectively been halved (or more) by your loss, but your expenses haven't decreased.
You may be able to offset some of that cost through any life insurance policies you may collect, but that may not cover everything.
This is why many widows and widowers end up filling for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the wake of a death, particularly if the deceased was the primary wage-earner for the family. Adjustments must be made in your monthly costs in order for you to get by. Sometimes, the only way to get rid of that debt is to have it erased in a bankruptcy.
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.
"My attorney (Matthew Hansen) is a very kind person. I felt very confident in his skills. He is very knowledgeable and efficient. He didn't make me feel embarrassed to be filing for bankruptcy. Thank you Matthew! Laura was very friendly, and everyone I interacted with was very nice and helpful as well."
– Sherry M., Colorado Springs, CO
"Steve explained things well so you know what you're doing. The staff was very helpful with everything, including the paperwork."
– Raymond & Rhonda P., Colorado Springs, CO
"From the first time that I entered the office, I was treated with the utmost respect. It was like I had been knowing all of the employees for years!! Every person that I came in contact with was extremely courteous!!!
I rate my overall experience a 12!! And I wouldn't change a thing on the website.
Cris is absolutely wonderul!! While Alicia was extremely courteous and humorous!!! Stephen (Swift) was extremely professional and courteous. One of the nicest gentlemen that I have Had the pleasure of working with. I can't thank him enough."
– Pete, Colorado Springs, CO
"Upon my first visit to the office, I was in an unfamiliar part of town. I was also bewildered and experiencing anxiety. I was not even sure I should be there or how to proceed in a very new situation where my back was against a wall. The first person I met in the office was the lovely receptionist. I have to say that she has the absolutely right demeanor and is extremely successful in her position. She has a slight but comforting smile and persona. She is confident but not arrogant in processing the needs of clients. I do not feel that this is a small achievement in any way. I feel this person in many ways sets the tone for the office as the gate keeper of the office and emotional clients. She definitely helped me thru this process with her silent and dedicated service to me, the clients and the office."
- John C., Colorado Springs, CO
"Upon entering Steve's office, one immediately knows they have entered his "zone". Steve will talk, think, contemplate, then act. He then spins his chair around, garbs paper, types on the computer and zaps something thru the printer. Occasionally, a document needs to be scanned or something else from outside the office is needed, and Zap someone appears without having to yell down a hall or call out. There is definitely a team here that is in sync. There may be a question out of the blue suddenly or a brief conversation about something else. The whole time, Steve is on point. I felt from day one, a trustworthy confidence in placing my future in his hands. I was not wrong. I also never once felt rushed, brushed off or that my concerns were not his. I felt that Steve is in this for me and his clients. I have a debt, gratitude and confidence in Steve and the Swift team that far exceeds the fees pain."
– John C., Colorado Springs, CO
"Thank you to everyone who worked on my case. My driving priviledges are now restored and I have a fresh start. I am very grateful to the Swift Law Firm! Everyone was very kind and helpful and easy to talk to.
Ward was very knowledgeable and knows the pros and cons of your case. Definitely a man to listen to concerning your case, and he was very helpful!
Matt Hansen is a good man, very helpful, gives good advice AND he is willing to go the extra mile. Steve Swift is a man of action who knows his profession. He lifted a heavy burden, and I cannot thank him enough for an excellent job!"
- Henry R., Colorado Springs, CO