Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Facing the Reality of Credit Card Debt

Credit Cards—everyone has one and everyone has found themselves wishing they didn’t. Then comes credit card debt and while no one wants it; most everyone has it. It can seem like there is no way out and most people have a hard time facing the reality of it.

However, facing reality is always better than burying your head in the sand. Dealing with your debt head on will not only improve your sanity but also get you back on track. Here are some steps to help wipe out your credit card debt.

1. Facing reality
Yes, it will be painful, but you have to just grin and bear it. Recognizing the severity of the debt is essentially the first step.
1. Add up the balances on all your credit cards and other loans—figure out the total of what you owe. Note the interest rate you are paying.
2. Make a list of all your monthly essentials: rent/mortgage, utilities: heat and power, loans, auto payments, health insurance, taxes, cell phone bills, food… everything you cannot live without.
3. Calculate your total income and your monthly essentials. The end number will be your discretionary spending.
4. For at least one maybe two months, write down every cent you spend. It will give you an idea of how quickly things add up. 

2. Do you really need that
You might be surprised how quickly life’s little luxuries such as eating out and getting coffee every morning may add up. Instead of spending $3-$5 on coffee each morning put aside that money and use the extra change to pay down your debt.

3. Contact your credit card company
For some people, keeping up with their monthly payment is impossible. Calling your credit card company might be the only choice. It is important to know that if you decide to call your credit card company you MUST remain calm. Explain your financial situation and give legitimate reasons why you are a responsible person who is determined to pay off your debt.

4. Arrange your credit card debt from highest to lowest
Keep up with minimum payments on all your cards, but pay whatever extra cash you can afford on the card with the highest rate. Once that card is fully paid off you can move to the next highest rate and so on. This is a sure fire way to make progress. As this strategy continues to work, you will be able to pay off bigger portions of your debt.

5. Be cautious
Be cautious about debt settlement companies that “guarantee”. No company can guarantee a debt settlement with a credit card company. In fact there is no reliable shortcut in getting rid of your credit card debt. For the majority, it is a long process, so stay focused.

If you can follow these steps and remain determined through hard times you stand a chance against credit card debt. When that debt-free day comes, you will be glad you faced the reality.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Bankruptcy Means for Corporations and Brands

In today’s economy it is no shock that more and more American companies are announcing their plans to declare bankruptcy. In the past few months alone, corporate giants such as American Airlines, Kodak and Hostess have all managed to make headlines with their financial struggles. However, what does that mean for the brands that those companies have worked so hard to construct?

To this day, people are still buying cars from Chrysler, stores are continuing to stock their shelves with Sharper Image electronics, and many travelers are arriving at their destinations on American Airline planes. Although all of those companies have at one point filed for bankruptcy, their brands have remained synonymous with trusted American products and for some reason they continue to sell even after their parent company gone through a financial crisis.

Perhaps it is because Americans want to see other Americans succeed or maybe it is to keep jobs stateside, but either way consumer culture seems to do whatever it can to keep popular brands alive. Thanks to the massive consumer followings that many brands have developed, many times when a company files for bankruptcy, even if the company is dissolved, it can have a very minimal effect on product sales.

One way that popular culture keeps brands alive after their parents companies file for bankruptcy is simply through their name. Sometimes after a company has filed for bankruptcy a consortium of buyers will purchase the rights to the popular brand’s name and use them to market its own products. For example, in 2009 a group of buyers bought the rights to the Polaroid name for $88 million.

This tactic is becoming increasingly popular in developing world markets as well due to the boom in online shopping. Companies that buy the legal rights to a brand name can market that brand wherever they please, which allows consumers worldwide a chance to own an iconic American product, even if it is being sold by a no-name retailer.

These days it is important to remember that bankruptcy is more about restructuring a company than defaming it. Even companies involved in the biggest bankruptcy cases have found ways to bounce back, but when they don’t, Americans will make sure their brands continue to live on.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some Important Rules of Thumb when Going Through Debt Resolution

Debt resolution can mean a handful of things and can be achieved in many different ways. However, regardless of whether you are filing for bankruptcy or working toward loan modifications there are still some very important things to keep in mind in order to make the process go as smooth as possible.

The following is list of important rules you should follow when going through the debt relief process:

1. Keep good records and ask for everything in writing.
Written correspondence holds much more weight than phone conversations so you may want to avoid collection calls altogether by asking that creditors send you what they need through the mail. Then, start a file of your correspondence with the debt collection agency as these records may be required during court proceedings.

2. Send all documents through registered mail.
Sending registered mail may cost more, but it can be very valuable in the long run. Registered mail documents that the receiver actually got whatever was sent to them by delivering the sender a signed receipt. That receipt ensures that no one can claim that whatever you sent got “lost in the mail.”

3. Keep your cool and don’t rush the process.
Debt resolution can be frustrating at times, but try not to be tempted to show a sense of urgency to resolve your debt. Keeping a level head and maintaining your patience can prove to creditors that you are confident enough to wait for their best possible offer.

4. Ask creditors to remove negative listings from your report.
After going through debt resolution, if you succeed in paying your debts in full there is nothing to stop creditors from removing negative listings from your credit report. Be sure to ask them to remove the listings and send you their agreements to do so in writing.

If you have further questions on the best ways to resolve your debt, visit our website at:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tips for Making Debt Resolution Possible in 2012

Around this time each year, many Americans find themselves reevaluating the past year and resolving to make the next one better. We promise to be healthier, get back in shape, call our in-laws more; but one thing we tend to forget to rebuild is our finances. This year, the Credit Advocates Law Firm wants Americans everywhere to get back on the path toward good credit, and we have just the tips to help you get there.

First, take an overall, honest assessment of what you owe then create a repayment plan for what you want to pay off first. Be sure to tailor your plan to suit you, for example if you are more motivated by smaller and more immediate accomplishments, start with the cards that have the lowest balance. Understanding what you owe and figuring out how to tackle the payment is a promising first step in the process of debt resolution.

Next, start off strong by paying more than the minimum on your bills and paying it on time. Even if you can only afford a few dollars over the minimum, it will eventually add up. Also, paying your bills on time is an easy way to boost your credit score while avoiding costly late fees.

After you’ve regained a handle on your payments, focus on resolving some of the spending habits that got you off track in the first place. Try to limit your credit usage to only one card while working on getting the others paid off. Additionally, remember to exercise restraint when shopping and don’t forget to always ask yourself “Do I really need this?” and, “Can I pay for it with cash?”

Finally, it is important to build a solid support system of peers and advisors to help you along the way. Talking to your family and friends about what you’re going through can be a big help in reaching your goals. However, if you do not feel comfortable sharing your financial details with them, try contacting a financial counselor or competent legal advisor.

Debt management is something you must want to do for yourself, but you do not have to go through the process alone. This New Years, if you decide to make a resolution for a financially secure 2012, remember that the attorneys at Credit Advocates Law Firm are available six days a week to help with any issues you may have.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Avoid Collection Scams by Knowing Your Rights

At some point, everyone incurs debt. However, how many times have you or a loved one encountered an actual debt collector? For some, talking with a debt collector can easily become a negative experience. For that reason, it is extremely important that you know your rights when dealing with a collection agency.

First off, do your research. Before you talk to any collection agency, make sure to verify that they are a legitimate organization. Scam-artists that claim to work for collection agencies are constantly popping-up all across the country, and unfortunately many have been successful. Be sure to ask the debt collector for a legitimate address, (not a P.O. Box,) and phone number before giving out any information. If the collection agency cannot provide any of that information, it is probable that they are a scam.

These scammers are also notorious for using scare tactics to intimidate their victims into settling a “debt” quickly and without a paper trail.  According to the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), it is required by law that the collection agency give you, in writing, proof of the debt you owe within five days after calling. Do not allow the debt collector to force you into paying anything over the phone or online.

After you’ve made sure the collection agency is not a scam, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the fair debt laws provided by the FDCPA. For example, it is illegal for any debt collection agency to contact you late at night or early in the morning and it is also illegal for them to contact you at work if you have formally asked them to stop. Knowing these laws will ensure your protection against unlawful treatment by collection agencies.

If you feel you are being harassed by a collection agency, or if you know of one committing unlawful acts, it is important to tell someone. Visit our website to learn more about your rights when it comes to collection agencies, and do not hesitate to contact Credit Advocates Law Firm if you feel you are being scammed or treated unfairly. 

Debt Resolution Concepts: Debunking Credit Score Myths

Credit scores have not been around forever. In fact, they are a fairly new concept to the American consumer, and just like all new concepts they take some time to get used to. However, in the meantime, the notion of what a credit score is has been clouded by myths aimed scaring consumers into using products and services they may not even need. The knowledgeable staff at Credit Advocates Law wants to put an end to these myths and put power back in your hands.

Myth #1: Having too high or too low of a card limit will hurt my score.

The limit on your credit card has nothing to with your credit score. What lenders are actually looking at is the gap between the limit that is set and how much credit you have actually used. The larger that gap, the better your score will be. However, having a higher limit is not always the best option for some people. Track your monthly spending and see what works best for you. If you can keep your credit usage low and continue to pay bills on time, you will see it reflected in your score.

Myth #2: Keeping the same credit card for a long time will improve my score.

This is one way that creditors trap people into staying with their company, even though the terms and conditions of the card may be undesirable. Lenders are more interested in your payment history and credit utilization that we discussed in the last blog, not the amount of time you keep a card. Plus, after you get rid of a credit card it can still influence your credit score for up to ten years.

Myth #3: Credit scores say the same thing about everyone.

When it comes to credit scores, a bad number to one person may be outstanding for another. Your score is analyzed on a personal level by lenders who look at age, background and family history. This is important to keep in mind when checking out credit report websites, as they do not account for your personal history.  

Going through debt resolution can be emotional. Understanding your credit score and the myths that go along with it can help protect you throughout that process. Keeping yourself informed is crucial when it comes to pulling yourself out of debt and avoiding costly scams. Keep checking our blog for more tips and advice on credit-related topics and services.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Debt Resolution Concepts: Understanding Your Credit Score

Everyone has seen television ads urging people to go online and check their credit scores, but how many people actually know what a credit score is or what it’s used for? Since the early 2000s, credit scores have become increasingly important in American consumer society, and yet many of us still have no idea how they work. Because there are multiple factors that can influence your credit score and many different ways to increase it, understanding the basics is very important when it comes to debt resolution and rebuilding your financial wellbeing.

Consumer credit scores came about thanks to the work of a company known as FICO, or the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO is an analytics company that developed a “standard measure of consumer credit risk,” or a mathematical formula that calculates a person’s credit score. FICO then sold this formula to lenders so that they could learn more about their borrowers’ financial responsibility. Basically, a credit score predicts how likely a person is to default on their credit.

Credit scores are used by different lenders for different purposes. Most commonly they are used to approve people for loans and then to determine the terms and the interest on the loan. However they can also be used by landlords to approve someone for a house or apartment, cellphone companies as a qualifier for a contract, utility companies to determine your down payment, or even by insurers to set premiums. Because your credit score can greatly influence so many aspects of your life, it is crucial to understand how it is developed.

There are five different components that FICO uses to calculate a credit score, and each component accounts for a certain percentage of the overall score:
    • Payment history – Whether or not you have paid bills on time accounts for 35 percent of your overall credit score. The more bills that are paid on time, the more your score will increase. Late payments can cause your score to drop.
    • Credit utilization – Describing the gap between the credit you actually use and your credit limit, credit utilization accounts for 30 percent of your overall score. In other words, the larger the gap between what you actually spend and what your allowed to spend, the better your score.
    • Length of credit history – How long your credit history is accounts for 15 percent of your credit score. The longer your credit history, the better. But don’t be discouraged; building credit takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
    • Types of credit used – The different kinds of credit you have had makes up 10 percent of your total score, and variety is a good thing. Having different types of credit, such as loans, mortgages or credit cards, shows that you are confidant in managing multiple finances.
    • Recent searches for credit – Credit searches, or credit inquiries, make up 10 percent of your score and can have a temporarily negative impact on it as they increase. Searches for credit happen when people attempt to find a new credit source, such as a new credit card. These inquiries do NOT include personal credit checks done on your own or by your employer.
Now that you understand how your credit score works and what it is used for, you can take one more step closer to a financially stable future. And even though there will be more steps ahead, Credit Advocates Law is proud to offer you the knowledge and support you need in the debt resolution process.