So You’re Behind on the Mortgage…

There seems to be countless Web sites, pamphlets and talking heads on television talking about foreclosure. But there is not much information about how to stop the process. Once the foreclosure judgment is entered, most banks want it all or nothing. I talk to countless people able to pay the majority of arrears and their mortgage company will not accept partial payment.

It’s very simple – if you can afford your house, a Chapter 13 can help you. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will not modify or change your monthly mortgage payment. But, you can pay the mortgage arrears over a 3-5 year repayment plan. You will start paying the regular mortgage payment and another to the bankruptcy court to get current.

So you fall behind on your mortgage, file a Chapter 13 repayment plan and then there is a loss of income. Sometimes it seems easier to bury your head in the sand and ignore the problem. But this is why you hire Geraci Law! You hire Peter Francis Geraci and Geraci Law Attorneys because we are here to help you. Almost every problem has a solution.

A similar situation happened to an Illinois couple. The wife lost her job during the Chapter 13 plan causing a loss of household income. Regular monthly mortgage payments fell behind and the couple was facing a motion to modify the stay (meaning the house is taken out of bankruptcy protection). The wife returned to work but could not pay the full balance to vacate the motion. Instead of the mortgage company’s motion being granted, Geraci Law Attorney Ashley Chike was able to work out a six month payment plan for the arrears. She was able to keep the house in the bankruptcy and prevent a foreclosure.

Minimum Wage Increased! For Seattle.

Earlier this week, the Seattle City Council approved the largest increase in minimum wage. The minimum wage in Seattle is $15 per hour (minimum wage in Illinois is only $8.25 per hour). The Seattle city council took a step toward balancing income inequality.

If other cities would follow the example, many people would not need to rely on credit as an income supplement. Instead, a person can budget to live within their means. When you are only making $330 per week (before taxes), using credit cards or payday loans as a crutch seems like an easy solution.

The problem is paying minimums means you are paying interest. The debt is not getting paid off and the balance might be increasing. So you are stuck in a bad cycle where you are current with the minimums but using credit because your income is going to paying the minimums.

Break the cycle and consider bankruptcy! You can file a bankruptcy and eliminate the debt allowing you to budget even with minimum wage earnings. So when your state or city increases the minimum wage, you have more income to save instead of paying toward high interest debt.

Should I file a bankruptcy?

How much debt do I need to file a bankruptcy? It’s a common question. What seems like a small amount to one person can seem like millions to someone else. Generally speaking, the biggest qualification for a bankruptcy is debt you cannot pay. But how much is enough?

The best place to start is your credit report. You can pull a free credit report annually (www.annualcreditreport.com). Many people are surprised when debt and judgments show up from years ago.

It’s a common misconception that unpaid debt will just disappear. It is not magic – debt doesn’t just go away. Your creditors may write off the balance but the debt is still owed. Creditors just consider you to be a bad customer but are not collecting.

If total debt is approximately $10,000 or more, consider a bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will eliminate any obligation to the balance and prevent creditors from calling you, suing you or trying to collect. If you have less debt but are behind on a car payment or a mortgage, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be an option. You can consolidate your bills into an interest free repayment plan and bring delinquent loan payments current.

If you are considering a bankruptcy, contact Geraci Law. We offer free phone and in-office bankruptcy consultations to figure out the best option for you. If we cannot help you, we’ll point you in the right direction.

Student Loan Interest Increases

I will blog often about student loan debt. Student loans are just a bill you must pay. Most people have education debt in some form or another. Federal and private student loans are not typically handled by a bankruptcy filing. However, other debts like financed cars, credit cards can hinder student loans from being paid.

Student loans are the next housing bubble. Most families simply cannot afford to send children to college without financial help. Other than working with the financer directly (there are some programs available) there is not a 3rd party program to consolidate loans to an affordable payment. Simply, you must pay the loans.

On July 1st, the interest rates on federal student loans will increase. Stafford loans for undergrads will rise from 3.86% to 4.66% and PLUS loans will increase from 6.41% to 7.21%. If you have a large balance in student loans and other debt, the increased payment could significantly affect your budget.

Bankruptcy will not help eliminate your student loans. But, you could eliminate the rest of your debt to make the loans affordable. When there is substantial other debt (i.e. credit cards, payday loans, etc), something has to give. Whatever is not paid, can go into collections and ultimately into a lawsuit.

Take the long weekend and make a budget. You can use a Geraci Law version by clicking here. If you have more going out then coming in, give us a call to see if bankruptcy can help!

Unhealthy Credit Scores

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report analyzing the effect of medical bills on credit scores. Findings show unpaid medical bills carry the same weight as unpaid rent when calculating scores. Medical debt and credit scores

Many people do not realize they owe medical bills. After a hospital stay or doctor’s visit, it’s easy to assume insurance covers 100% of the cost. If unpaid, a bill can go to collections and start negatively affecting a credit score.

Debt is reported to credit bureaus in two ways – from the original creditor (i.e. doctor, hospital) or from a collection agency. Majority (close to 99.4% according to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) is reported by collection agencies.

Most medical bills are caused by expensive and unexpected procedures – i.e. emergency surgeries, hospital stays, and emergency room visits. Insurance may pay part but not the entire bill. You could easily find yourself owing thousands for an emergency room visit.

Bankruptcy is an option. If you have a tremendous amount of medical bills, filing a bankruptcy will alleviate the stress that comes with owing. I spoke with a man from Illinois who was diagnosed as a diabetic. He was uninsured and spent three days in the hospital. In the end, the bills amounted to over $80,000.  Without a bankruptcy option, he would spend the rest of his life trying to pay down a three day visit.

Retire the Debt

Retirement should mean enjoying golden years and relaxation. It shouldn’t mean stress and sleepless nights trying to figure out a way to juggle debt. When most people retire, most live off a pension or Social Security benefits. Trying to pay debt, prescriptions and other expenses is difficult when you have other expenses.

Last year, people receiving Social Security benefits received a cost of living increase. Around the same time, the cost of Medicare and Medicaid increased, many retirees lost income. Many need to pay for supplemental insurance adding another expense to a fixed budget.

Increases in living costs can be disastrous for a fixed income. Monthly fixed expenses easy to pay when you are working are budgeted for when you retire. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of a gallon of milk increased 50 to 60 cents per gallon since January 2014. A gallon of milk could be a luxury for someone on a fixed income!

If you are about to retire and have debt; consider bankruptcy so you can retire debt-free! By eliminating the minimum payments on your unsecured debt, you can readjust your budget to afford the rising costs of things like milk.

Vehicles and Bankruptcy

Financing a vehicle with bad or no credit usually means high interest and large car payments. If the car is repossessed, the financer will auction off the vehicle for pennies. You will be responsible for the difference and could be sued for a car you do not have anymore.

You can file a bankruptcy with Geraci Law to handle the debt. If your car was repossessed and has not been sold, we file a Chapter 13 to stop the auction. Otherwise, Geraci Law attorneys can file a Chapter 7 to eliminate your obligation to the deficiency.

After your bankruptcy is discharged, you can rebuild credit by financing a vehicle. A way to shop for a new vehicle is to try to get a preapproval letter. Using a preapproval forces you to use a budget – if the preapproval letter approves you for a $25,000 vehicle; you know your limits.

Most people need a vehicle to get around. If you just filed a bankruptcy or have a high interest car loan, you have options to find an affordable vehicle. Step one is handling the bad debt with Geraci Law and step two is creating an affordable plan.