by Michael B. Joseph, Chapter 13 Standing Trustee (Retired)
Social media and internet dating sites have given rise to romance and confidence schemes. Catfishing and spear phishing are extensively used. Catfishing is faking an identity on the internet. Spear phishing uses more sophisticated and direct messages to trick the victim. New AI programs make it easier to reach and victimize the targets.
by BFine.org Administrator
Are you looking for ways to improve your credit score? Like many people, you may have a poor credit score because of missed credit card payments, loan payments, declared bankruptcy or defaulting on a loan. However, one thing you are doing monthly is paying rent and the three major credit bureaus will include rent payment information in credit reports if they receive it.
Most Americans consider April 15 an unofficial “holiday” with the final rush to file federal income tax at midnight. The Internal Revenue Service has given taxpayers a little more time in 2023.
Keith Rucinski, Chapter 13 Trustee, Akron, OH
Every year, there are people who never went to college, but are required to pay on a student loan.
Every year, there are people who are required to pay for a car they do not own or drive.
Every year, there are people who have to pay on credit card debt for charges they never made.
Who are these people? They are co-signers.
Anyone hoping to take control of their personal finances must start with budgeting.
Simply put, a budget is a plan. People need to plan for how much they’ll earn, how much they’ll spend, and what their long-term financial goals will be.
There are many reasons we urge everyone to take the time to create a budget:
New year, new financial goals: If you’re starting off the new year with a list of resolutions, consider adding some financial to-dos, such as improving your credit score and making a plan to pay off your credit card debt once and for all. Nearly half (49%) of Americans want to save more money, a third (33%) want to improve their credit score and another third (31%) plan on creating a personal budget, according to an Experian poll on the top financial resolutions for the new year.
Are you being sued in Smalls Claims Court for an old credit card debt by a company you do not recognize? You are not alone. In Massachusetts, 17% of people have a debt in collection, and that number nearly doubles to 31% in communities of color.
What should you do if you are sued? Show up to court. If you do not show up, the court will enter default judgment against you, and you may have to pay 12% interest on it. Judgments are good for 20 years and may negatively affect your credit, making it difficult for you to get housing, a loan or even a job.
After battling pandemic-related hardships over the last two years, many Americans expected some level of normalcy in 2022. Except now they're facing a volatile, and stagnating wages that aren't keeping up with . And as macroeconomic tailwinds point toward a recession (whether it's already here is ), concerns over finances are taking an even heftier toll.
More than 80 million Americans are having difficulty paying their bills during the COVID-19 recession, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey.
This financial insecurity extends to necessary household expenses like utility bills. As a result, many local governments and public utility companies have passed moratoriums on utility shutoffs, so that people can still have running water, electricity, and heat even if they fall behind on payments.
After a year of chemotherapy and radiation, doctors told Penelope Wingard in 2014 that her breast cancer was in remission. She'd been praying for this good news. But it also meant she no longer qualified for a program in North Carolina that offers temporary Medicaid coverage to patients undergoing active breast cancer treatment. Wingard became uninsured. She'd survived the medical toll, but the financial toll was ongoing. Bills for follow-up appointments, blood tests and scans quickly piled up. Soon, her oncologist said he wouldn't see her until she paid down the debt.
Try holding your credit card up to your ear, real close. You might hear the soft tick, tick, tick of your interest rate going up. Back on May 4, average U.S. credit card interest rates clocked in at 16.41%, according to financial information site Bankrate. By July 6, 17.01%. By August 17, 17.67%.
In fact, such rates are at a record high since CreditCards.com started compiling data 15 years ago. And more Federal Reserve rate hikes are expected down the pike, in an ongoing effort to rein in inflation, putting upward pressure on lending rates across the board.
Cathy Moran, Esq., (Redwood City, CA)
The responsibility of a co-signer is one of the single most common misunderstandings about law.
Put bluntly, a co-signer is just as responsible for the debt as the primary borrower.
Co sign someone else’s loan and you put yourself in the creditor’s spotlight.
That should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Keeping up with the rising cost of living has become almost second nature for many Americans at this point. But that doesn’t make it any easier, especially when it comes to putting food on the table. Though inflation has widely cooled off, grocery prices remain high — with food giant Nestlé predicting that prices will keep rising this year.
You might know P.J. Byrne from the movies, most likely as one of the fast-living brokers alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street." But these days Byrne's most important role is closer to home: that of son and caregiver. His 79-year-old father has suffered from dementia for about 10 years, which currently requires 24/7 home care from not just one but often two health aides. It adds up to about $200,000 a year in costs for the family.
For Michael Whitty, it all started with one question: "I wonder how much this is all adding up to?" That is what the Chicago estate planning attorney asked when he kept getting email notifications about subscription renewals. For a few apps, some magazines, wine sites and software charges, "I was spending something like $150 a month on subscriptions," he said.
The Rev. Rose Thompson has lived in her home for 25 years, in an apartment building in Laurel, Maryland. Suddenly last December, she was in danger of losing it. Thompson and her neighbors received notice that the building had been sold and that the new landlord was instituting a steep rent hike. “My rent was $875 a month, and the letter said the new rent would be $1,600,” says Thompson, 65. “It said we had 60 days to move out if we didn’t sign the lease for the new rent.”
Do you have a budget? There’s no shame if you don’t — only 32% of U.S. households do. But that’s a problem. For example, 65% of us have no idea how much money we spent last month, and that “not knowing” can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and dread at what might be on the horizon. No one wants to be afraid to take a peek at their finances — far from it!
One of the building blocks of personal finance is budgeting. But the word budget can be confusing or feel restrictive. Adding to that, there are many ways to budget—but what it boils down to is creating a plan for your money and tracking where it goes. Ideally, a budget creates more freedom, not less.
Getting to college and learning how not to spend all your money can be very daunting. Maybe you spend all your money the first two weeks of school even though your parents told you to be wise with your allowance, because you only get paid once a month. Or maybe you have a job and are completely financially independent, so you’re fickle with your money which prevents you from doing anything fun. It can be difficult trying to figure out the basics of having to provide for yourself.
Whether you're stuck in a cycle of debt, earning too little to maintain your desired standard of living, or simply wanting to get a jump on saving for a major financial goal, such as buying a home or investing, you may need help to get on track with your objectives. Follow these strategies for taking control of your finances right now.
For many young people, budgeting can feel like a chore. A recent study found that 57% of young people dread the thought of budgeting..
We’ve seen countless different household budgeting strategies over the decades we’ve spent educating consumers about managing their personal finances and conquering their debt.
Crafting your own monthly budget isn’t all that complicated, but it can be tedious and downright depressing when you’re first starting out. After all, creating a spending plan usually means cutting in areas you probably enjoy, such as dining out and entertainment.
The FTC honors the contributions and legacy of Black Americans across U.S. history. One of the top consumer issues we’ve heard from people living in majority Black communities is related to credit bureaus. Your credit history tells businesses and potential employers a story about how you use money. What is your credit history saying about you — and is it accurate?
Last year, we reported that Americans paid over $120 billion annually in interest and fees on credit cards. Since that time, average interest rates charged by credit card companies have quickly increased. It’s critical that consumers can find and switch to credit cards with the lowest and most competitive rates. That’s why we’ve been carefully examining barriers to a fair and competitive credit card market, especially as it relates to the role of consumer credit reporting.
Dear Liz: My spouse and I have added each other as authorized users on our credit cards. My spouse has more debt than I do. Does this impact my credit scores?
Answer: Possibly. Credit scoring formulas look at how much available credit is being used on each account. If your spouse has higher balances than you but also higher credit limits, your credit scores may not be harmed much, if at all. If, on the other hand, your spouse is using most of their available credit, your scores could suffer.
When you want to apply for a credit card or finance a large purchase like a mortgage, one of many numbers a lender will consider before approving your application is your credit score.
This three-digit number will also determine the interest rate you’re offered when borrowing money, which impacts the total cost over the life of the loan. So before applying for financing, it’s important to check your credit score and see where you stand.
How often have you checked your mail or answered your phone only to find another prescreened credit card offer?
Blank envelopes and phone calls from unnamed phone numbers may seem like official notifications. More often than not, answering these notices leads you to find yet another offer claiming that you have been prescreened for a new line of credit.
Your credit report is meant to be an accurate, detailed summary of your financial history — however, mistakes happen more often than you may think.
If medical debt you’ve already paid has been lingering on your credit report, you may want to see if that has changed.
In December 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) launched a market monitoring inquiry into Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL).
Credit scores were founded on, and perpetuate, racial inequality.
Buy now, pay later” can be a convenient payment method. But if you don’t factor the recurring payments into your budget, it can get messy.
Credit card debt is on the rise as consumers face higher prices almost across the board.
When a financial emergency hits, you may find yourself scrambling to get your hands on the money you need.
Dianne C. Kerns, Chapter 13 Trustee, Southern Arizona
We’ve all heard the radio advertisements: “If you have more than $10,000 in credit card or tax debt, you may qualify for a new program that credit card companies don’t want you to know about. Settle your debts for pennies on the dollar without filing bankruptcy.”
The truth is that there is no debt settlement program. Credit card companies and the IRS have no obligation to settle your debts. These advertisements come from profit motivated companies that appeal to your desperation when you’re struggling under the weight of debt.
Keith Rucinski, Chapter 13 Trustee, Akron, OH
One of the largest delinquent accounts on credit reports is unpaid medical debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, credit reports reflect unpaid medical debt of nearly $88 billion. Credit reports play a large role in everyone’s life and its important that your credit report is as positive as possible.
Recessions don’t always follow bank collapses, but the recent failures of First Republic Bank, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank have pushed recession fears up a few notches. For retirees, this means added worry about the safety of their money. With that in mind, let’s take some time and review the financial safety nets you have — and those you may not.
Many people prepare their own taxes each year. The Internal Revenue Service website has computer programs to assist taxpayers to file online. For people with only W-2 income, using computer programs are a quick and easy way to file taxes. However, life is not always easy. Experienced tax professionals (Certified Public Accountants, Enrolled Agents) can be helpful to address changes in your life that impact your finances.
Criminals and con artists use many scams to target unsuspecting people who have access to money. Consumer scams happen on the phone, through the mail, e-mail, or over the internet. They can occur in person, at home, or at a business. Here are some tips to protect yourself from scams:
Many New Year’s resolutions revolve around getting finances in order, but most people don’t know where to start. The National Association of Chapter 13 Trustees (NACTT) encourages people to begin with financial education from reputable resources such as their public education website, BFine.org.
Although it may not be the first thing on your mind as a newlywed, creating a strong financial plan for your future should be animportant point on your to-do list. Moreover, your financial strategy needs to include planning for risk—and thinking about what could go wrong, even if it’s uncomfortable. Often, that means buying life insurance.
While personal finance isn't typically taught in school, we can still catch up with online courses.
If you’re looking for a way out from under overwhelming credit card bills and other debt, bankruptcy could wipe out your balances and offer a fresh start. But filing for bankruptcy has downsides, so you might consider debt consolidation as a way to simplify your finances and pay off debt faster.
For years you’ve lived on a college budget, scrounging meals where you can, buying gas on a trip-by-trip basis, and never once pondering the term “401(k).”
Only 2% of women are investing for their retirement. It is important that you start early, start small and start investing in assets that leverage the power of compounding, like Equity Mutual Funds..
A homestead is an owner-occupied residence that can provide homeowners with certain financial and legal protections.
A statute of limitations is the amount of time a person can take in order to take legal action on a certain event..
If you want to get your money straight, get your head straight first.
No one wants to find themselves losing their home to foreclosure, but if you’re in this situation, there’s potentially still time to recover using the right of redemption.
Calculating the total cost of owning your car — or one you might buy soon — is the best way to make sure your auto budget is in line. But with soaring car prices, higher interest rates and jumping gas prices, it can be difficult to know exactly how much your car is costing you.
The choice between buying and leasing a car is often a tough call. On the one hand, buying involves higher monthly costs, but you own an asset—your vehicle—in the end. On the other hand, a lease has lower monthly payments and lets you drive a vehicle that may be more expensive than you could afford to buy, but you get into a cycle in which you never stop paying for the vehicle.
If you've recently declared bankruptcy, getting an auto loan is difficult, but not impossible. Filing for bankruptcy affects your credit score, which makes you a less favorable borrower in the eyes of many lenders. However, there are ways to get approved for an auto loan even with a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy on your record.
The payday loan industry is notorious for its predatory practices and tendency to disregard the law. Federal and state governments alike have attempted to rein in payday lenders to protect consumers, especially since most payday loan borrowers ended up regretting their payday loans.
If you take a drive down the main road leading to most military bases in the country, you’ll likely see car dealerships lining both sides of the street.
After the birth of her son, Lauren Hynds wanted a way to work out that would be easy enough to manage while caring for a newborn. That’s when she saw ads for Peloton, the workout bike with the cult following.
Signing a car lease can be a big commitment since you agree to drive a vehicle for a fixed number of miles and months.
You might want to refinance your loan if you’re having trouble making your mortgage payments or to take advantage of a lower interest rate.
Scammers promise to make changes to your mortgage loan or take other steps to save your home, but they don’t deliver.
Keith Rucinski, Chapter 13, Trustee Akron, OH
It is Monday morning and you need to buy gasoline on the way to work. While pumping gas your stomach reminds you that you did not have breakfast. You grab a coffee and doughnut (the breakfast of champions) at the gas station convenience store.
Going on your first business trip as a young professional is exciting. You are trusted to represent your company; you’ll have new experiences and might even experience a new city. As exciting as it is, it’s still work and your company will only pay for business related expenses.
Moving into your first apartment is one of the most exciting and memorable experiences in life. But it does not come without its share of financial responsibilities and surprises.
You’ve put in the time and effort to land your first full-time job with benefits. You have arrived in the adult world. You will have health insurance and a steady paycheck, but HR has more papers than you’ve ever seen. You are asked to make decisions on things you don’t know about. Be prepared!
When you learn to swim, it is a process. There is an experienced swimmer to guide you. There are flotation devices to help you stay afloat until you can tread water on your own. Learning to build credit is a similar process.
There is nothing like graduating from school. No more staying up all night writing a term paper or cramming for a test. No more anxiety about that final exam and hoping you passed the course. It is now time for the “real world” and your first full time job.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who have student loan debt you have probably been following the multitude of news reports about loan forbearance, repayment, forgiveness, and settlements over the past two years. You need to know what is going on with student loans, but keeping track of the news reports can be exhausting.
Scott Waterman, Chapter 13 Trustee, Reading, PA
If a student loan borrower is having trouble making their monthly payment, bankruptcy may be an option. When a Federal Court of Appeals blocked the Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Program in November 2022, borrowers thought their chance to free themselves from burdensome student loan debt had disappeared. However, just three days later new guidelines were issued making it easier to discharge loans through bankrupty.
The student loan pause is actually, definitively coming to an end after over three years. President Joe Biden is soon expected to sign the debt ceiling bill approved by the House and Senate earlier this week. The compromise measure would preserve Biden’s signature student loan forgiveness plan, but would codify the end of the student loan pause.
With student loan forgiveness still uncertain, borrowers can expect more changes — and perhaps some potholes — on the road to paying down student loan debt. As part of the Biden administration’s changes to the student loan system, the U.S. Education Department (ED) issued new servicing contracts for existing student loans.
The Biden administration announced on Thursday updated guidelines that will make it easier for those struggling with their student debt to discharge it in bankruptcy. The new bankruptcy policy comes from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education, and allows federal student loan borrowers to prove that they’re experiencing financial distress requiring a fresh start. Under the rules, the agencies may recommend that a bankruptcy judge discharge a borrower’s student debt if they find their case warrants it.
President Joe Biden may have announced one-time blanket student-loan forgiveness, but that doesn't mean he's done helping borrowers who attended fraudulent for-profit schools. On Tuesday, Biden's Education Department announced it has approved $1.5 billion in student-debt relief for 79,000 borrowers who attended Westwood College.