Wednesday, September 26, 2012
I fervently believe that FEAR…(False, Evidence, Appearing, Real) is a stealer of dreams.
One of my fondest memories as a child was having my older sister teach me to swim in the ocean. I was about 4 years old and would be frustrated by the fact that I could only go in the ocean as far as my waist because I could not swim. I wanted to go out further and would have my older sister “shooing” me back to shore and telling me “you can’t swim, so go back”. Finally, I assume because she did not want her little sister to drown, she decided to teach me how to swim.
First lesson was that I lay in her hands as she held me afloat on my back in the water. I did it the first time… she simply said “pretend like you are sleeping”. Before I knew it I was floating… my 4 year old mind immediately processed the fact that drowning in the ocean was no longer an option, this was because my 4 year old rationale was, if I ever got tired while swimming, I would just float on the water and “pretend like I was sleeping” until I was rested. I had no FEAR and never needed another lesson from my sister. I taught myself how to swim after that.
I can’t tell you how many times, I have consulted with that 4 year old girl, now 36 years later.. Yes I am now 40. Anytime, I feel anxiety when faced with a decision I go back to that 4 year old girl that was absolutely FEARLESS… and she has not let me down to date.
We all have that child in us, we all can remember when people and things seemed like giants and we were curious but never afraid. Don’t let FEAR steal your dreams, don’t rob the world and yourself of the dreams that are in you because of FEAR.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
A Letter to Natalie Hawkins (Gabby’s Mom) and Gabby Douglas:
Dear Ms. Hawkins and Gabby:
First let me tell you how grateful I am to the both of you for the sacrifices you made to show on the world stage the best of the possibilities to this great country … The United States of America,.
As an immigrant who came to this country in 1991 from Jamaica and became a citizen in 2004; I came like so many others because of the promise of this country which is, if you work hard and sacrifice you will realize your dreams.
The both of you are a living testament to that dream.
I saw in the news the fact that your family had to file bankruptcy so that you could give yourself an opportunity to fulfill your dreams. I had the misfortune of reading some of the comments from the uniformed who would ridicule you for making such a heart rending decision.
Remember, this is the United States of America, which is a land of codes and laws; the Bankruptcy Code is Section 13 of the United States Code. It is a right (not a gift), afforded to every individual and company that happens to reside in this country. The individuals, who formed this great nation as we know it, fled Britain and decided that unlike the land they fled, no one should spend a moment in “Debtor’s Jail” because they could not pay their bills due to someone losing their job, losing a source of income, the failure of a business or illness. This is a country that at that at its core, believes in the ability to get back up, it will support you and in some instances give you the ability to forgive some or all of your debts so that you can realize your dreams.
The reason is simple, when you succeed, we all succeed. What would have been gained if the family was not able to afford itself of the ability to file a bankruptcy petition?
In such an event it may have made more difficult for us as a country to bask in the glow of your family today. You see, when we give each other the ability to get back up and possibly attain our dreams, we all win.
You are no different from another great citizen of this country called General Motors, which afforded themselves of their ability to file a bankruptcy in 2008 and four years later, they are the number 1 car manufacturer in the world. What would have been gained if General Motors was not afforded the ability to file? What would the collateral damage had been to so many families?
So guys hold your head up, your family like General Motors, faced some tough times and your family like General Motors did whatever it took to survive and realize your dreams and realize your dreams you did.
As my younger sister told me once… “There is no shame to your game”. The game here is your life and dreams. You played it with your all, you used every means available to you including the Bankruptcy Code and you won. We are all the better for it.
Very truly yours,
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Student Loan Lenders a/k/a The Original “Gangstas”
So many of us go or have children that go to institutions of higher learning. The first and most important stop in that journey is to go to the Financial Aid Office and determine how much we will borrow in Federal and Private Student loans in order to finance our college and or graduate degrees.
My question is simply, if an 18 year old walks into a banker or loan officer’s office and request a loan for $100,000 over a four year period, where said 18 year old has never had a job and has no cash or other collateral…what would be the loan officer’s response?
The loan officer would with good reason deny such a loan, so why is it that we have so many 18 year olds leaving colleges with student loans of $100,000 or more?
Students that I have spoken to have no concept of the debt they are taking on. They indicate that the money felt like “free money” and they are encouraged to take it.
Well… that money is FAR from free. Once you are in, it is very difficult to get out. If you don’t pay them back on time and on schedule, there is no way out. It’s like luggage you carry around until you pay for it.
Think about this… if you owed the IRS income taxes that was more than 3 years old and you filed your tax returns each year on time by April 15th each and every year, you are able to file a Bankruptcy petition and have discharged your 3 year old past due taxes.
Let’s think that in, a bankruptcy can relieve you of the debt of one of the most feared entity in our society yet a bankruptcy filing will not relieve you of your student loans. The only way that you are relieved from student loan is to be declared legally disable. That means if you are 80 years old and you are not declared disabled, you are liable and you expected to pay student loans. That is “Gangsta”.
The student loan lenders dole those loans out because short of possibly death or the borrower becoming disabled they are guaranteed payment. They will levy your bank accounts, garnish your wages and take your income tax refunds but they will be repaid. Either you pay them back willingly or they take their payment from you plus attorney’s fees.
Ok… solution, for those of us that have younger children, start saving for the child’s higher education from the day they enter the world. Start saving at a minimum $100 per month in a 529 account or some other investment or insurance vehicle and you could have approx. $100,000 on the child’s 18th birthday. At that point you write checks.
If you have borrowed, make whatever sacrifices you can and pay them back. If you have credit card debt, get rid of the credit card debt and use the funds you had paying the credit cards and pay your student loans. There are various hardship programs for your Federal Student Loans. Make sure that you have applied and you are enrolled in them. There is not much help for the Private Student Loans so pay.
Morale of this story is prevention is the best cure… Student Loans of any kind must be a last resort. If you can work and pay a portion of you school tuition, do that. If you can go to county college for 2 years for less and go to the more expensive 4 year college 2 years later do that. In which event, you will pay the higher tuition for 2 years as oppose to 4 years.
If you are just starting to have children, the time to start saving is now, so that in 18 years you are not filling out a FASFA form you are writing checks!!!
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Struggling even in the Suburbs
If you have a grave illness, it seems everyone comes to your aid. Everyone, family and friends alike sympathize and run to your aid or so it seems.
However, if you find yourself struggling financially many of my clients indicate that they feel alone and ashamed. There is a sense that no one else is going through what it is they are experiencing. No one will understand.
NEWSFLASH… The country is in a recession. Poverty has made its way and taken a foothold even in the Suburbs.
If you have lost your job or about to lose your job, you have to change your mindset and the sooner you come to terms with that fact the better. You have to take on guerilla tactics in order to prepare for this period in your life.
The trick is to make sure that you keep or hold onto as much of your financial resources as possible to ride out this lean time.
That means you must make some critical financial life preserving decisions.
First item on the agenda is you must eliminate debt by any means necessary. If you are about to lose your job or have lost your job, why would you use your savings and unemployment payments to pay credit cards? Why would you use or waste your limited resources paying credit cards when you don’t know how long this hard time is going to last?
Especially when during this time of crisis, the Bankruptcy Code gives you the right to a “Fresh Start” under the law and you pay nothing.
There is also the issue of items such as a home or a car… remember this is again “guerilla tactics”.
Why continue to pay for a home, that is now currently underwater, or worth a lot less that you owe when you could possibly rent for significantly less?
I have advised clients in such cases especially with those in New Jersey or New York, where foreclosure could take anywhere from 3-4 years, to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and surrender the home back to the lender. However, it will again take the lender 3-4 years to foreclose and take back ownership of the property, so during that period you continue to live there but instead of paying the lender the mortgage, pay the mortgage to yourself.
If you can’t afford to save the entire mortgage amount, then at least save $1000 per month. Therefore, when the lender forecloses in 4 years, you hand the lender the keys but you walk away with $48,000 in cash.
Also, when the lender forecloses and sells the property for less than you owe on your mortgage, the lender cannot try to pursue you for the difference, generally referred to as the “deficiency”. This is because, you have already been protected by the Bankruptcy you filed 4 years earlier.
If you have a car that you were financing, it is highly likely that the car is worth less than you owe… if you absolutely need a car would it serve you best to turn the car you are financing in and buy yourself a “hooptie” with cash? A good used car that is reliable but inexpensive and you would not have to pay full insurance coverage which is another savings. Again we are trying to keep as much money in our pockets as humanly possible when faced with financial crisis. We a coming up with strategies so that we survive for the longest possible time .
If you have credit cards and there is going to be a large difference between what the car is worth you returned and how much the lender recovers when they sell the car, then again you file a Bankruptcy, get all that debt discharged and get your “Fresh Start”. At that point all the debt is gone and you have the ability and opportunity to move on with your life and focus on just weathering this financial storm.
Good times end, but bad times ends as well, so just take the right steps so that you can make it to the end of your current bad time.
Friday, July 6, 2012
I HAVE TWO OR MORE MORTGAGES ON MY HOME AND MY HOME IS UNDER WATER… CAN FILING A BANKRUPTCY PETITION HELP ME?
Let’s look into this conundrum…
A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy maybe the best solution for this situation but why?
What most individuals don’t understand is that the Bankruptcy Code has some very powerful provisions. The aim of the Bankruptcy Code is to strip away as much of the unsecured debt as possible and leave the Debtor in the best possible financial situation. It’s generally referred to as giving the Debtor a “Fresh Start”.
If an individual owns a home or any real estate really, and finds himself or herself in a situation where the real estate is “under water” or “upside down” they must first determine the value of the home.
So let us do the analysis using relatively easy numbers…
Your home has two mortgages, the first mortgage has an outstanding balance of $80k and a second mortgage has an outstanding balance of $20k but your home is now worth $70k.
Under certain provisions of the Bankruptcy Code such an individual could file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and “avoid”…or in lay mans terms, “get rid of” the second mortgage after completing a Chapter 13 case.
The reasoning is simply this; the home does not have enough value or equity to secure the second mortgage. This is because the entire value of the home $70k is encumbered by the $80k first mortgage, so there is no more value or equity in the home to secure the second mortgage.
So you could walk into Bankruptcy Court with 2 mortgages and at the end of the process you walk out with one. Further, if you are behind on your first mortgage the Bankruptcy Court will give you up to 5 years to pay incremental payments so that you cure the mortgage payments you are behind.
Where I am from, there is a saying, “In the abundance of water only the fool is thirsty.”
So if you are in a home and you are struggling to pay both mortgages and the home is “under water”… seek out a good Bankruptcy attorney and get your “Fresh Start”. The option is there available to you… USE IT.