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Identity Theft Tips – a Few Basic Tips About What to Do

You might not know until months later that you have been the victim of identity theft. Sometimes you find out when a loan application is unexpectedly rejected. Here are a few tips to avoid identity theft:

  1. Place a “security freeze” on your credit history. A security freeze prevents your credit history from being shared with potential creditors. If your credit files are frozen, a thief will probably not be able to get credit in your name. A security freeze generally costs $10 to place, thus $30 to place on all three bureaus.
  2. Do not carry your social security card with you.
  3. Do not attach or write a personal identification number (PIN) or Social Security number on any card you carry with you or anything you are going to throw away, such as an invoice or receipt.
  4. Shred any document that contains your credit card or Social Security number before throwing it away.
  5. If your insurance company or other business uses your social security number as your membership number, consider asking the business to use a different number as your membership/ID number.
  6. Alert your credit card lender if you do not receive your statements. Someone may be stealing your mail.
  7. Do not give personal information or account numbers to anyone until you have confirmed and verified that you truly need to provide this information. Resist giving any of this information over the phone.
  8. Frequently check your credit report to look for warning signs. At annualcreditreport.com , you can obtain one credit report each year for free.
  9. Add passwords to your credit card, bank and home accounts through your financial institution  Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name or your birth date as your password! In addition, don’t use the same password on all of your accounts. Finally, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols as permitted by your institution so that your password won’t be easily guessed by hackers who use dictionary-based attacks.
  10. Consider bankruptcy. If your “honest” credit was pretty messed up with unpaid medical bills, foreclosures, high credit balances and notations of “charged off” or “other than paid as agreed”, then consider bankruptcy to wipe out the “honest” credit problems for which you are responsible, and at the same time, wipe out the “phony” credit that the scammer incurred in your name by way of identity theft. It makes no sense to challenge identity theft related negative credit entries if your honestly-and-truly owed credit accounts are delinquent, unpaid and/or showing high balances. Just clean it all out with bankruptcy and then after the bankruptcy place a “security freeze” on your credit reports to prevent the scammer from effectively stealing your identity again.

Be careful out there! You work hard to provide for yourself and for those you love. Some lazy scammer out there wants to take the “easy road” by stealing your hard-won credit and financial identity!

Some comforting news about air travel

Traveling this summer? You may get better medical care than you think on an airplane.

Half of all flights have a doctor sitting somewhere in the airplane, reports Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press in her article that is sourced from a Thursday, May 29, 2013 New England Journal of Medicine article. More comfortingly, when there is an on-board medical emergency, sick airline passengers almost always survive.

There are about 44,000 medical emergencies out of the 2.75 billion passenger trips per year. Here are some interesting statistics quoted by Ms. Marchione:

  • The odds of a medical emergency are 1 per 604 flights, or 16 per 1 million passengers.
  • Planes had to be diverted for emergency help in only 7 percent of cases.
  • Doctors were on board and volunteered to help in 48 percent of cases; nurses and other health workers were available in another 28 percent. Only one-third of cases had to be handled by flight attendants alone.
  • Most common problems: Dizziness/passing out 37%, trouble breathing 12%, nausea or vomiting 10%.
  • About one-fourth of passengers were evaluated at a hospital after landing and 9 percent were admitted, usually with stroke, respiratory, or cardiac symptoms.
  • Out of nearly 12,000 cases, a defibrillator was applied 137 times, including in 24 cases of cardiac arrest where the heart had stopped. Note: Sometimes defibrillators are used to analyze an irregular heart rhythm to help doctors figure out what to do, not necessarily to deliver a shock, so don’t panic if someone wants to put a defibrillator on you. You might not get the shock!
  • In one study, only 36 deaths occurred out of 12,000 in-flight medical emergency situations, with only 30 occurring during the flight.
  • Pregnancy-related problems were generally rare–61 cases, in this study–and two-thirds of them involved women less than 24 weeks along with possible miscarriages. Air travel is considered safe up to the 36th week or the last month of pregnancy.
  • In one study of 12,000 in-flight medical emergencies, only three cases involved women in labor beyond 24 weeks of pregnancy led to a plane being diverted.

If your summer vacation plans involve air travel this year, then I hope that these statistics bring your a bit more peace of mind.

What you don’t know about “Charge off Dates” can hurt you

You may be able to remove some negative items off of your credit report by disputing old debts that are no longer due, and watch your credit score rise as a result!

Reporting invalid “out of statute” debt as currently collectible obligations is an old bill collector’s scam. If you fall into this trap, you could be tricked into paying money you don’t owe.

Did you know that consumer debt that has been in default for more than six years is not collectible using any sort of lawsuit or legal process, and therefore should not be reported on your credit report? However, there is an important exception to that rule in the case where debt is owed as a result of a lawsuit judgment that was issued at some time within that six-year period. I’ll explain how this exception applies later in this article.

Many Americans have several “out of statute” debts –debts that should not be listed as currently due on their Experian, Transunion or Equifax credit report. These debts are too old to be carried on the credit report. In these cases, you should write to the collection bureau that lists the debt and dispute the entry so that the debt no longer appears on your credit report from that credit reporting bureau.

Q: How do bill collectors get away with this?

A: Once a debt has been in default (unpaid) for six years, the statute of limitations to collect the debt has expired. The creditor cannot file a suit to collect the debt once the debt is too old, as having been in default for six years. However, to trick you into thinking that the creditor has additional time to collect upon the debt, the creditor will (out of thin air) make up a phony date called the “charged off date”, and put that phony “charged off date” on your credit report as the date of default.

Q: Why is my credit score important?

A: The benefits of improving your credit score are undeniable; improved employment prospects, cheaper car insurance, and low-interest rates for future car loans and mortgages are among the perks of a better credit score. A FICO credit score of 700 or higher is ideal for the best of benefits –850 is considered “perfect” credit.

Q: My credit is pretty rocky. Will disputing “out of statute” debts really help?

A: If your credit is already really troubled with many enforceable unpaid debts, then disputing a few here and there might not be that helpful–a bankruptcy filing might be the right call. We can help you determine your best course of action, contact us at www.washingtonbankruptcy.com. But if your credit is reasonably clean, you should make a habit of securing your free credit report each year, and checking it for errors. Even after a bankruptcy filing, you should get in the habit of making an annual review of your credit report. You can obtain your free credit report atwww.annualcreditreport.com.

Q: Why do creditors report “charge off dates” as occurring months or years after the date you defaulted on the debt?

A: It is a trick to fool you into believing that an aged and invalid debt is still valid and collectible. Actually, “Charge off date” is a term of no legal significance. So definitely make a written dispute of all credit report debts that have been unpaid and in default for six years or more, regardless of the “charge off date” reported in your credit report.

Please read the rest of this article on my website. My website also contains many more useful tools and voluminous information on bankruptcy and financial planning that I invite you to browse and learn from at no cost or obligation.

Biggest Loser Turns Biggest Winner. The Little Known History of the Credit Card.

Between 1979 and 1981, Citibank lost over $500 million on its credit card operations. By 1990, this had changed and credit cards were suddenly profit leaders at the bank. What happened?

Easy answer: Citibank (and many other banks) realized that they were pitching credit cards to the wrong market segment. Since nearly the inception of credit cards, banks had been offering credit cards almost exclusively to the financially well-off; but after years of lackluster profit performance with credit card operations, the banks finally realized that the truly big gains were to be made by offering credit cards to lower income and middle income market segments. They began to market to the elderly, the student and to most anyone of modest or lower income, specifically targeting low-wage clerks, young professionals, clerical support staff, struggling teachers and many laborers. The banks saw it as a matter of survival—theirs, not yours!

Banking was at a troubled crossroads in the late 1970s. Bank industry profits were flat or in decline as traditional business and mortgage lending suffered losses associated with the troubled economic times. Compounding the profitability problems, the usually more glamorous and profitable areas of banking business such as third world lending and commercial realty lending were also then of hit-or-miss profitability. The banking industry needed a new profit source. Credit cards issued to middle/lower income borrowers were then introduced to fill the profit void.

The best explanation of this shift in credit card marketing focus to the less well off might be found with Robert D. Manning’s year 2000 book, “Credit Card Nation”, published by Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-04366-6. The following quotes from the book appear in chapter 1, pages 9, 12-13 and 20: “During the 1980s, the credit card industry’s marketing campaigns successfully expanded into middle-class markets, including blue and white-collar workers who suffered unexpected employment disruptions due to corporate downsizing and recession-related layoffs. This profitable linkage with lower-income households early in the decade emboldened banks to target other nontraditional niche markets such as unemployed college students and retired senior citizens in the mid-1980s, then the working poor and the recently bankruptcy with secured credit cards in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The results were impressive. The profusion of credit cards generated rapidly escalating consumer finance charges, merchant discount fees, and, of course, profits. Between 1980 and 1990, the charges of the average U.S. household jumped sharply from $885 to $3,753 per year, or more than twice as fast as disposable income, while average cardholder debt soared from $395 to $2,350. Credit card issuers earned between three and five times the ordinary rate of return in banking in the period 1983-1988.”

“By the end of 1994, the typical American card holder had amassed nearly $4,000 in revolving debt on a total of three of four bank credit cards with an annual interest rate of about 17 percent.”

Credit card marketing budgets concurrently exploded, too. Marketing expenditures by Visa, MasterCard and American Express had climbed to $75 million by 1985. The big three then more than doubled marketing expenditures by 1994, with a 1993-1994 2-year total combined expenditure of $385 million, (plus another $40 million spent by Discover) over the two-year period 1993-1994. Then combined credit card industry marketing budgets doubled again within a mere four-year period, climbing to $870 million total expenditure for 1998.

So, in a mere 14 years ending in 1994, the average household credit card revolving indebtedness had increased by about 1,000 percent (a 10 fold increase!) from $395 to nearly $4,000, and credit card industry marketing budgets had increased by something approaching 400% (a 4 fold increase).

So, does credit card marketing contribute to bankruptcies and indebtedness? Quite possibly.

1998 saw 1,441,891 bankruptcy filings. 1980 filings stood at about 300,000.

So putting it all together, average household revolving debt increased by 10 fold (about 1000 percent) 1980 through 1998 to a high of $4,000 as 1980s and early 1990s marketing expenditure of credit card products (much of which was to lower and middle income households) concurrently increased by a nearly similar 1000 percent (10 fold) 1985 to 1998 to $870 million. Following suit, bankruptcy filings in roughly the same period 1980—1998 increased nearly 5 fold (a little less than 500 percent) from 300,000 to about 1.4 million.

The banks found a way to turn the biggest loser in their stable of operations into the biggest winner of profits. The banking industry turned a broken-down, sway backed and under appreciated old nag of a pony into a Kentucky Derby jackpot winning thoroughbred—in part by feeding it what grew into an $870 million annual diet of marketing. Profits jumped and a whole new industry was created: the modern credit card. This led to an amazing turn around for the banks, mostly at the courtesy and expense of middle and lower-income America.

If you are struggling under a mountain of debt and do not see much hope of completely escaping from the debt within the next 24 months, then you should strongly consider consulting with us regarding a bankruptcy filing. Your initial one-half hour consultation is completely free!

After your bankruptcy filing, get discovered (and rich!) with Kickstarter.com part 2

Kickstarter is no gimmick: Amazingly, since 2009 Kickstarter.com has received pledges of $450 million dollars for more than 35,000 projects.

Kickstarter.com provides a valuable payment platform and portal for people to donate financially to the development of your idea. You promote your idea yourself, and then direct people to pledge funding to it by promising to permit a credit card charge when your idea reaches its funding goal. In todays world of Facebook, email, Linked In and Twitter, there are many ways to get the word out about your Kickstarter.com project, and to seek donations.

But Kickstarter.com is for the proactive inventor – If the project is not successful in reaching its stated funding goal by a stated funding deadline, then the credit card of the donor is never charged and the project terminates off of Kickstarter.com and is never funded. If using Kickstarter.com, you have to get off your duff and promote your project to potential donors, lest the project die unfunded for failing to meet the donation pledge goal by the stated deadline.

Here is how it works: So once you place your project on Kickstarter.com, then you start phoning all of your friends and family and asking them to phone their friends and family to make Kickstarter.com pledges. You also dun your Facebook “friends” to check out your Kickstarter.com project and to make donations…..and the idea is that you create “buzz” about your Kickstarter.com project with twitter posts and other social media, seeking more interested donors.

What do the donors receive for making a donation to your kickstarter.com project? Well, nothing, unless you promise the donors something. They do not receive any ownership interest or share nor rights to dividends or royalties on down the road in your invention or production. The donors have no future claim on you nor your invention or production.

The project to which you donate has a stated promised completion deadline, and donors are to receive RSS updates from you the developer as the project proceeds along, so your donors do learn what is going on with their money.

Also, some project promotors placing their project on Kickstarter will promise “rewards” – such as a free T-shirt saying “I donated to George Washigton nude” or perhaps an autograph of the soon-to-be-famous writer/artist to whom the donation was pledged, once the project is funded.

What do you get from Kickstarter.com? Well, money to pursue your dream project! If you are seeking riches, and should you prove to have a lucky good idea, then you may be “discovered” by an investor, promotor, supporter or backer who offers to further back your project or to buy the rights to continue along with your idea.

Any project you promote for donations on Kickstarter must be a project with a clear goal. “Fund my life” projects for further education or a vacation are not allowed. Whether it be creating a work of art, creating a music album, editing and publishing a book or completing a technology invention prototype, there must be a definable completed product to be eligible.

Examples: Some projects of all different sizes have been suprisingly successful at receiving funding, and some have been done by very local people here in the Pacific Northwest:

– Morgan Stinson of Olympia, Washington is creating a game called “Dracula: Judicial Inquest” for which he has received $340 in Kickstarter.com pledges, and he will thus likely meet his goal of $400 in pledges, for as of February 28, 2013, he still had 15 days left to gather pledges before his project pledge expiration deadline of March 14, 2013. Morgan is offering t-shirts as a reward for pledges over a certain level.

Others are bigger and receive amazing levels of pledges:

-Development of a “nano lightbulb” hoping to be the most efficient lightbulb ever has received donation pledges of $240,967, which is 1,204% of the requested $20,000 in donations – as as of February 28, 2013, there were still 7 days left to pledge.

-Amazingly, the development of an “affordable desktop 3-D printer” received $2,945,855 in pledges, which was 2,945% of what was requested as only $100,000 in pledges was requested. Simply amazing.

Many projects are modest and yet receive suprising levels of funding:

– “Growgarden: a simple hydrogarden in a jar” has received pledges of $6,823, which is 1,364% of what was requested in pledges, and as of 2/28/13, there are still seven days remaining to make a pledge.

Where does bankruptcy come into this? Since this is after all a bankruptcy blog……

If you have an idea, keep it in your head and do not develop it and do not post it on Kickstarter.com until AFTER you file for bankruptcy. Intellectual property like ideas and inventions can be taken away from you in bankruptcy and sold to the highest bidder by the bankruptcy court trustee.

As a precaution, you should list in your bankruptcy papers that you have an idea or a concept for a “growgarden” or other such invention, but that there is not even a prototype. In a bankruptcy case, the court trustee has to quickly decide whether it wants to take away and promote your idea – and if it chooses not to do so, then the idea and all rights to it are returned to your full right and ownership without limitation. I am almost certain that in the overwhelming majority of cases your idea will receive no interference or expression interest. When the bankruptcy court trustee takes a “pass” on taking and promoting your idea then the idea/product is returned to you free and clear.

So, if you have an idea like the “nano lightbulb”, the “growgarden” or “Dracula: Judicial Inquest” you should first get rid of any troublesome debts by way of bankruptcy filing before you further formulate the prototype model and you should certainly file for bankruptcy to get rid of troublesome debts before you post the idea on Kickstarter.com seeking donations towards the prototype development and subsequent marketing.

But returning to the “smartwatch” idea which was promoted and discovered on Kickstarter.com: Mr. Pogue of the New York Times liked the “Martian Watch”. I liked it too: here are a few highlights: eventually, it will have a “find your iphone app” whereby you can make your iphone ring to locate it when lost by activating a function on the watch. Likewise, your smartphone will broadcast (via bluetooth) text messages, facebook posts and e-mails for viewing on your “Martian Watch”.

The “Martian watch” can also be configured to announce and read aloud incoming text messages and it can set off your smart phone’s camera remotely. The “Martian watch” also functions as a speaker phone, so you can really be just like Dick Tracy, the famous comicbook detective, and speak directly into your watch….

And you can use Apple’s Siri function to tell your “Martian watch” to “dial mom’s cell phone” and then have a wristwatch speakerphone conversation with mom… without ever touching your cell phone… pretty cool!

One last thing – the Pebble Watch (a competitor of the “Martian Watch”) raised $10 million in development funds on Kickstarter.com.

Ready to dust off that idea?

Rebuild your credit score after bankruptcy

The Wall Street Journal’s “Smart Money” feature states it clearly: bankruptcy can help improve your credit score over the long term, even if your score hasn’t declined very much.

Just being cautious with your credit after bankruptcy is of number one importance, according to “Smart Money”. There are many consumers who may see quick gains in credit score recovery from a bankruptcy, and other consumers for whom a bankruptcy filing can arrest an otherwise inevitable long term credit score slide.

Consumers who fail to significantly reduce the amounts owed on high balance credit accounts my eventually see a decline in their credit score. Carrying high balances on credit over time can eventually be as harmful to your credit score as late mortgage payments, repossessions, or delinquent accounts placed with bill collection companies.

Some consumers may already have made payments late, missed payments altogether, or have had accounts turned over to debt collectors. These consumers are probably already out of the “good credit” 700+ credit score range. A credit score of 850 is considered “perfect”.

John Ulzheimer, president of Credit.com Educational Services, a consumer credit education group, is quoted in an article entitled “Declaring Bankruptcy Can Improve Your Credit Score” in ”Smart Money” by Aleksandra Todorova. Mr. Ulzheimer asserts that after filing for bankruptcy, consumers who fall into either the high balance or struggling to make payments categories may see their credit scores increase, depending upon the point where they have fallen on the credit decline trajectory. Why? To start with, credit reports are largely wiped clean with a bankruptcy filing.

According to Ulzheimer, many consumers see a fairly quick improvement in credit scores after bankruptcy. Here’s why: When calculating scores, the formulas developed by Fair Isaac (the company that calculates the most widely used credit score, known as the FICO score) are set up to grade someone’s credit standing as compared with that of consumers in a similar financial position. To do that, Fair Isaac divides consumers into 10 groups, using what it calls “score cards”. It then ranks the consumers in each group based on the others in the group. One of these score cards is bankruptcy filers.

With a bankruptcy filing, the FICO score is then determined based on how one does after bankruptcy compared with other bankruptcy filers, explains Fair Isaac spokesperson Craig Watts. The reason? Fair Isaac has found this to predict credit risk better. ”It’s a much fairer comparison,” says Mr. Watts. ”You’re not compared with people with rosy, perfect reports.” Thus with good after bankruptcy credit management, a good score in the 700s isn’t impossible, and when the bankruptcy drops off of your credit record in 7-10 years, you might even then hit that perfect 850.

The “V” Shaped Curve Leads to Inevitable Credit Recovery

In her article on About.com entitled, “How Much Will Bankruptcy Hurt Your Credit Score”, LaToya Irby, Credit / Debt Management Guide, takes us through the decline and recovery of a consumer credit score in various scenarios. The “worst case” scenario for a bankruptcy filing might be a temporary credit score drop of a mere 150 points for someone with an already mediocre credit score of 680-690, and even less than 150 points if a credit score is already in the troubled 500-650 range. If one’s credit score is already coasting down to 680-690, then bigger problems are probably already on the way. The good news is that a bankruptcy filing can 1) end the days of that forever lingering sub-700 mediocre to poor credit score or 2) halt and then reverse a downward-moving credit score trend. The reason is that with a long term credit score of 680-690, you will not receive many low-rate credit offers anyway, so a bankruptcy filing could easily be a step in the right direction to better credit offers in the near future. So consider taking the bankruptcy hit now to strip away the credit disaster, and then begin to rebuild a better financial future.

Ms. Irby does relate that if a consumer’s credit score is really high—a score of 780, for example—a bankruptcy filing could lower the score by 240 points to a poor score of 540. However, starting from that low point, a credit score can recover with amazing speed to the point of qualifying for a home mortgage in as few as two years after bankruptcy. Better yet, the consumer might even be able to comfortably afford the mortgage without the crushing debt burden eliminated after bankruptcy.

Is Chapter 13 better than Chapter 7?

Generally, bankruptcy in Chapter 13 where the debtor makes full or partial repayment of debts according to a reorganization plan is not better for rebuilding credit. A Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” filing offers the best financial recovery strategy for most consumers. In Chapter 7, all or nearly all debts are wiped out in a quick and short proceeding without any repayment required. Many people misunderstand Chapter 7, and mistakenly believe that they will lose their house in a Chapter 7 and that their car or 401k savings plan will be taken away. This is not correct. Rarely, if ever, is any property or item taken away in Chapter 7, and consumers can keep a house and car in Chapter 7 if they wish, so long as any mortgage or car loan payments are kept up. Ms. Irby of About.com Guides researched the question of whether 7 or 13 was better for quick credit recovery, and decided that Chapter 7 is better for a quick credit score recovery, relying upon information released by FICO.

In 2010, the Fair Isaac Company, the provider of the popular FICO credit scoring model in which a score of 850 is considered a “perfect” credit score, published information about how bankruptcy can affect a credit score by proving some mock scenarios with different credit profiles. The FICO mock examples did not differentiate between the effect of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies, so the proprietary and secret FICO formulas do not seem to prefer or favor a debtor who makes full or partial repayment through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. This argument seems to suggest that most consumers might as well file for Chapter 7 when it comes to FICO credit scores, because a Chapter 7 filing is over so much more quickly than a three to five year Chapter 13 full or partial debt repayment plan. LaToya Irby authored an interesting article entitled “What Your Credit Score Is Made Of” that describes the components that make up consumer credit scores in more detail.

Credit Restoration 101

Restoring credit after bankruptcy is not nearly so hard as people might think, and there is an easy rule of thumb to begin the speedy recovery of a FICO credit score. That is, simply maintain a good credit record with any accounts which survive the bankruptcy, including child support payments, utilities, mortgages, and car loans that are kept after bankruptcy.

Ask.com Guide’s Ms. LaToya Irby sums it up: ”You might be surprised to see how soon after bankruptcy you begin receiving credit card offers again. If you file for bankruptcy, know that your credit isn’t lost forever.”

Aleksandra Todorova of the Wall Street Journal “Smart Money”‘s agrees: “[H]ere’s some surprising news: In many cases, the damage done (by bankruptcy) to one’s credit score isn’t nearly as bad as expected. Over the long run, obtaining a score high enough to make you eligible for very competitive rates isn’t out of the question.”

Advanced Credit Recovery

Consumers can turbocharge their after bankruptcy FICO credit score recovery with a little further reading and follow-up action. There are a number of online guides and some great books available to help you learn how to speed up your FICO credit score recovery after bankruptcy. Consumer debt expert Gerri Detweiler, www.gerriderweiler.com, is the author of “The Ultimate Credit Handbook: How to Cut Your Debt and Have a Lifetime of Great Credit, Third Edition,” for example. For starters, the first four credit recovery steps recommended in the aforementioned WSJ’s “Smart Money” column are really easy steps to get a credit score back into the desirable 700s – maybe even within two years. Here’s a summary:

(1) Damage Control. Make sure that all the accounts listed in your bankruptcy are listed in your credit report as $0 balances and/or “discharged in bankruptcy” because if the creditor keeps erroneously reporting it as having a collectible balance, it will slow down or stop your credit recovery progress. You may get your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to check for erroneous reporting, and then learn how to dispute erroneous information on your credit report.

(2) Get a New Credit Card. If you can’t get a credit card with a small credit limit, then search for a lender who will issue you a “secured” card. A secured card is one that is backed by a modest cash deposit. Look for a lender who promises to let you “graduate” to a regular unsecured credit card following 18 months or so of on-time payments.

(3) Piggyback. If you have a very trusted friend or relative with good credit repayment habits, ask that person to allow you to become an “authorized user” on one of their credit cards. This may eventually “bootstrap” your friend’s good payment history into your credit report history.

(4) Bigger Loans. I have seen some people get a car loan while they are still in the 4 month Chapter 7 process. For others, a car loan within a few months after bankruptcy is often a possibility. Of course, only finance a car loan if in fact you really need a car. Should the need arise, start shopping for a lender and auto dealer who will work with you. It is important to be choosey about the terms of any car loan. If you are shopping when the auto dealership is under a crunch to make a sales quota, you might find that the auto dealership needs you more than you need them. Do not accept a ridiculous loan interest rate! If the car lot finance manager cannot get you a reasonable after bankruptcy interest rate of 8-14%, then move on immediately. Find a more flexible lender. I have heard tales of some people even getting a 5.0% interest rate car loan—or less—after bankruptcy on a car loan. Be tough, be polite and be fair during your negotiations, and you may be surprised at the favorable outcome.

Gerri Detweiler says that sometimes consumers have to face the music and file bankruptcy. Rebuilding a credit score into the FICO 700s range after bankruptcy isn’t necessarily that difficult, especially by starting with the four good credit restoration fundamentals reviewed above.

Ideas for Action

Saving a credit score in the short term shouldn’t be seen as a good reason to avoid or postpone filing for bankruptcy, particularly if you have either high debt balances or are struggling to make payments on time. If you find after a sober examination of your finances that you are unable to completely clear consumer debts to zero within a couple of years, bankruptcy may be the prudent choice. Even if your credit score isn’t below 700 currently, it is quite likely that it will end up there anyway if your financial resources are stretched too thinly. ”You have to be realistic about your ability to get back on your feet financially by repaying your debts within a reasonable time without an extreme or ridiculously small household budget which is not long-term practical” says Ms. Detweiler.

Articles quoted or referenced in this article:

How Much Will Bankruptcy Hurt Your Credit Score

http://credit.about.com/od/bankruptcy/qt/How-Much-Will-Bankruptcy-Hurt-Your-Credit-Score.htm

Credit expert Gerri Detweiler

http://www.gerridetweiler.com/

Amazon.com: The Ultimate Credit Handbook: How to Cut Your Debt and Have a Lifetime of Great Credit, Third Edition (9780452283923): Gerri Detweiler: Books

http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Credit-Handbook-Lifetime-Great/dp/0452283922

AnnualCreditReport

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

How to Dispute Consumer Credit Reporting Errors and Fix Your Credit Report – Money Management

http://www.moneymanagement.org/budgeting-tools/credit-articles/credit/how-to-dispute-consumer-credit-reporting-errors-and-fix-your-credit-report.aspx

Declaring Bankruptcy Can Improve Your Credit Score – SmartMoney.com

http://www.smartmoney.com/borrow/debt-strategies/declaring-bankruptcy-can-improve-your-credit-score-20681/

After your bankruptcy filing, get discovered (and rich!) with Kickstarter.com

David Pogue, personal-tech columnist for The New York Times, states that 2013 is the year of the “smart watch” in his “State of the Art” column entitled “Dick Tracy, Your Watch Is Ready, Almost”, published February 27th.

The apparent market leader in “smart watches” will be the Pebble Watch. The next products to challenge for the lead will have names like the Cookoo, I’m Watch, Meta Watch, Casio G-Shock GB-6900 and Martian.

Come on! What does a discussion of new “smart watches” have to do with a bankruptcy blog? It has lots to do with bankruptcy!

First, every single one of the “smart watch” products have something on common, says Mr. Pogue. The concept behind each prototype was first floated on Kickstarter.com, a website where people with an idea seek donors who would contribute to their prototype.

Second, if you have an idea for something like the smart watch and you file for bankruptcy, what happens to your idea? Can your idea be taken away from you as intellectual property to be sold with the proceeds distributed to your creditors? If you have an idea, when should you post it on Kickstarter.com for funding requests?

The answer is “yes”, you can lose rights to your great ideas in bankruptcy. Your idea can be taken away by the bankruptcy court trustee and sold to the highest bidder. So if you are on to something big like the “smart watch” at the same time you are struggling with debts, you might want to file for bankruptcy before you do any significant marketing or development work on your invention, and you should certainly file for bankruptcy before you ever post your idea or invention on Kickstarter.com.

Could an idea of yours find funding on Kickstarter.com and even lead to post-bankruptcy riches if you are “discovered” by the right people? Very possibly yes, as Kickstarter.com does not limit participation to technology and physical inventions, but welcomes performance artists, musicians, authors, and fashion designers. Kickstarter.com wasn’t established just to help inventors to make money by finding a financial backer to buy your idea. Kickstarter.com may enable you to develop something of benefit to humankind that you otherwise would not have the resources to pursue. It is a platform for sharing ideas and for connecting ideas with crowd sourced funding.

Don’t discount your ideas. Even seemingly weird ideas might find funding on Kickstarter.com. Venture capitalists and Fortune 500 companies now regularly scan Kickstarter.com to find promising ideas and concepts that they might fund and develop. This is how the “smart watch” idea was discovered, says Mr. Pogue.

Check back soon for part two of this blog post that will include actual success stories from Kickstarter.com and more great ideas!

Hollywood secrets: 7 big stars and their almost unknown bankruptcies and bonus: 8 best uses for the first $1,000 of your tax refund

Even after a long day of sympathizing with clients as they share financial troubles, I still have ample appetite to consume the latest news story of a celebrity’s financial train wreck.   I cannot pass up a headline announcing the latest financial woes of the famous and telegenic.  Even after a 20 client day, I will still pause to read about a celebrity debt default.   I sometimes ask myself:  How could all of that talent, fame and fortune leave one insolvent? How ever did it happen?

 The layout of this blog post is unique:  following every (ho-hum, yawn) financial inspiration tip of what one might do with the first $1,000 of any tax refund is a little tiny tidbit of irresistible celebrity financial muckraking.

 You will get seven celebrity financial crashes and eight financial advice tips about how you might spend the first $1,000 of your tax refund – all mixed in one package.  I think that is a square deal.

Enjoy!

The average tax refund is $2,913.00 – some of this is understandably might used for “catch-up” on household obligations or to repair aging vehicles.  But if you can spare $1,000.00 of the refund, consider using the $1,000.00 for the benefit of your financial future – so I present eight tips about how to best use $1,000.00 of your 2012 tax refund.

 But on to the crashing celebrities:  We almost all know about Mike Tyson’s 2003 filing for bankruptcy protection and Anna Nicole Smith’s two filings.   But did you know about Walt Disney’s bankruptcy filing?  After bankrupting at age 21, he went on to found a company that grossed $38 billion in revenue last year.

Some of our most loved and respected celebrity entertainers have faced financial woes and were able to reconstruct their lives and finances with the assistance of the US Bankruptcy Courts.

If you are besieged with bills and collectors (or know someone who is) – then reach out to us for a consult and let us open the door to a bright post-bankruptcy future.  Just consider Walt Disney…. he did just fine after bankruptcy.

1.   Tip:  Use $1,000 of your tax refund to open a Roth IRA for yourself, a child or a grandchild (or even a nephew or niece!).  If you, your child or grandchild had taxable income for the year (even if no tax was due or paid) you can usually contribute up to $5,000.00 into a Roth IRA for yourself or that child or grandchild.  But lets take it easy, as $1,000 would be more than a generous.  The Tax Code provides the rest of the generosity as this contribution will grow tax-free year after year, and it can be withdrawn tax-free after age 59.5 years.  What greater gift than to begin the creation of a nest egg for yourself, a loved child or a grandchild – so toss in $1,000.00 and watch it grow!  Even if you or your loved one has financial troubles in the future, the money in the Roth IRA is virtually unreachable by creditors.  Now on to the celebrity financial woes……

2. Celebrity bankruptcy:  Actor Sherman Hemsley “a/k/a George Jefferson” filed for bankruptcy protection in June 1999.  He was unable to repay a $1 million dollar loan and had IRS issues to boot.  After some time he did withdraw his bankruptcy petition after negotiating repayment arrangements with his creditors.

3. Tip: Use $1,000 of your tax refund to replenish your emergency fund – set up a separate savings account for this purpose at a bank where you don’t normally do business.  If you want to REALLY  go for it, set up a paycheck allotment or auto-deposit of $100 monthly into the same emergency fund.  In just two years, this fund will grow to nearly $5,000.00.

 4. Celebrity bankruptcy: Actress Kim Basinger filed in 1993 after a town she purchased in 1989 (at the encouragement of relatives) turned into a financial nightmare.  She had hoped to turn the whole town into a theme park of some sort, partnering with investment company Ameritech.  Also compounding her financial challenges was an $8.1 million dollar judgment against her for withdrawing from the film “Boxing Helena”.  Eventually Kim bounced back well, winning an Academy Award for her film role in “L.A. Confidential” and eventually settling the $8.1m lawsuit for about half of what she owed.

5. Tip:  Get a Professional Review of Your Finances from a fee-only non-commissioned financial advisor – which usually costs less than $1,000.00.  How is this different from calling Edward Jones or Charles Schwab?  There is a big difference, as your local stockbroker is a salesperson, not a truly neutral financial advisor.  Contact the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors for a local referral.  A note of caution: if you have not yet filed your own bankruptcy to be rid of burdensome debt, I doubt that your friendly financial advisor will be able to instantly resolve financial woes.  But once free of hopeless debt, you may have a little extra in the household budget – and this could be wisely invested  in mutual funds, IRAs, GETT educational credits or other funds to suit your family’s long-term needs as recommended by your professional (non-commissioned) Personal Financial Advisor.

6. Celebrity bankruptcy: Crooner Wayne Newton  “a/k/a Mr. Las Vegas” filed for bankruptcy protection in 1992.  His woes then included $20 million in unpaid bills related to a libel lawsuit he had filed against ABC for claiming that organized crime was involved in some of his casino dealings.  By 1999, Mr. Newton was doing better, but again faced financial problems by 2005, including a $1.8 million IRS taxes and $60,000 in unpaid airplane storage bills.

 7.  Tip:  Improve your home’s curb appeal with a $1,000 tax refund trip to Home Depot.  Yes!  You get to go shopping!   $1,000 will buy a trip to Home Depot for some new landscaping shrubs, a stylish new front door with fancy door knocker, a gallon of paint and three pink yard flamingos.  There are two reasons for sprucing up your home: If you have to suddenly relocate and sell your home to chase a new job, you will be glad you took care of this “sprucing up” when you had the extra funds and time.  Plus, coming home to a pretty home after a long day of work or job hunting is truly gratifying.  Don’t own a home?  Then plan “B” for those not owning a home is a little weird – spend $500 on professional wardrobe items and save the other $500 for your emergency fund – because should you eventually want to purchase a home or change apartments,you are going to need that $500 you placed safely in your emergency fund!  Likewise, looking professional at work is never a poor investment.

8. Celebrity bankruptcy: Singer Vince Neil a/k/a Heavy metal band “Motley Crue” frontman.  Mr. Neil has actually filed for bankruptcy twice, the most recent time in 2010.  One of his creditors was his lawyer, to whom Mr. Neil owed $16,000.00, for getting him out of many a heavy metal jam.

 9. Tip: Hire a lawyer to write your will for $1,000.00 from your tax refund.  Yes, you can cheaply use an online form downloaded from the internet from legal zoom or worse and avoid the lawyer fee – but watch out!  There are many issues you might overlook, and legal situations are treated differently state to state, so your Florida oriented form might not work so hot in Washington.  Here are a few examples of subtle issues a lawyer might better address:  Nominations in your will of a guardian to care for minor children, care for pets upon your passing, “health care directives” which direct when the medical establishment should back-off providing medical care to you and finally, addressing confusion between the death division of “non-probate” assets such as life insurance policies, IRAs and 401k’s and “probate assets” such as homes and realty investments.  Special note: if you have not revised your will or changed financial asset beneficiary designations since completing a divorce, you had better get on it!

 10.  Celebrity bankruptcy:  Baseball player Jose Canseco walked away from his 7,300 square foot Encino, CA mansion in 2008.  While technically not a bankruptcy, abandoning your mansion seems pretty darn close to bankruptcy to me.  Jose retired from baseball in 2002 after a long and highly compensated career with the Oakland Athletics.  In 1988, he was the first player in major league history to steal 40 bases and hit 40 home runs in the same season.  Two costly divorces and a steroid scandal laid low Jose’s finances and his mansion was foreclosed.  He tried out for the L.A. Dodgers in 2004, but was passed over.

 11.  Tip:  Hire a personal fitness trainer and diet coach with $1,000.00 from your tax refund.  Try two sessions per week (one hour per session) at between $50 and $75 per hour to learn modern fitness technique.  This seven to ten week investment may be the best money you ever spend.  Fitness trainers and diet coaches are not just for movie stars any longer.   I know that trainers work: Before starting with my trainer, I had never heard of “short burst cardio” – “burpees” – “bosu balls” – “kettle bells” – “arnolds” or “skull crushers”.  With a richer vocabulary, a slimmer midsection and a much more positive mental attitude I strongly recommend a fitness coach.  I revolutionized my diet with the trainer’s help and went from 219 pounds down to 201, dropping six inches off of my waist from 38 to 32.  If not for the personal trainer, I would still been stuck in the same old unsuccessful exercise rut.  Try the trainers at the YMCA for economy – but if you want the best, then try “The Club at Gig Harbor”, where I meet my trainer.

 12. Celebrity bankruptcy: Mark Twain filed for bankruptcy in 1894 after a failed investment in an automatic typesetting device called the Paige Compositor.  The investment cost Mark Twain his fortune (and also cost much of the inherited fortune of his wife), but he bounced back after bankruptcy.  He went on to replace at least a portion of his fortune as a lecturer.  Ironically, the man who coined the phrase “the Gilded Age”, Mark Twain, went broke.

 13. Tip:  Spend $1,000.00 of your tax refund to beef up career skills.  Consider courses at community colleges or some on-line courses to strengthen the weaker portions of your resume and experience.  A stronger resume can ease a transition into a new position with your current employer, or provide you with a new classroom learned skill that will be a focal interview “talking point” if you are interested in reaching out to new potential employers.

 14. Tip:  If you have not yet paid off your debts in full, then invest $1,000.00 of your tax refund money in the bankruptcy services of James H. MaGee.  Each year that you toil along with debt means one less year to accumulate adequate retirement savings and one more year of hope-robbing and health-corroding stress.  A bankruptcy case can often mean quickly restored creditworthiness – call us for a consult, and I can explain how and why!  253-383-1001 www.washingtonbankruptcy.com

5 Financial Scams That Target Your Money

Financial strain combined with busy lives can compromise the ability to make sound financial decisions. Are you a generous person with precious little time to research charities? Are you too busy to carefully monitor your online profile? If “yes”  to any of these questions is your answer, then I caution you: be aware of these five financial scams.

The financial scams that we will review can be categorized as either “get ahead” scams or “help” scams.

In nearly 20 years of law practice emphasizing bankruptcy, I have been very impressed by the generosity of my clients. At the same time, my clients are generally hardworking people, and are exceptionally busy. They often provide substantial financial help to family as well as support to charitable causes like disaster relief, religious groups, or charitable organizations—sometimes in combinations. Balancing families, commitments to others, and workplace responsibilities, it is no wonder that my clients sometimes don’t take the time to investigate whether an opportunity or a request for help is truly legitimate, or whether it is an exploitative scam.

The “help” scams that touch the hearts of my generous clients make me sad. Unfortunately, the best of intentions and most generous of natures are exploited from time to time by unscrupulous shysters.

When it comes to “get ahead” scams, I sometimes sadly learn that their efforts, and drive to get ahead financially have been exploited by equally shady characters.

Both types of scammers are very active now. They know that many innocent, good-natured people may have a little extra cash this spring. The scammers step up their efforts in late February, March, and April because their targets may receive federal tax refunds.

Even if you aren’t expecting a tax refund this year, you may still be a target for the scammers. The “get ahead” variety will attack whatever funds you’re willing to part with in the hopes of investing in bettering your life in some way.

We all remember the old internet email scams of yesterday; clumsily written, and misspelled email come-ons offering huge windfalls in exchange for helping some long-lost offspring of exiled monarchs move a still larger fortune from some small country to ours with your help. All you need provide is a complete personal dossier that enables identity theft and a raid on your bank accounts.

Today’s newer scams are often better written, and sound more plausible, than the offers of a huge commission for helping someone move funds from overseas. These new scams are still every bit as dangerous to your family’s finances and identity as those that originated in the mid-90s.

Three Questions

Let me ask you three difficult questions:

  1. If you are under either financial stress or have an unexpected need for income, would you consider an offer to “get ahead” quick?
  2. Has your good nature and willingness to sacrifice a bit of your worldly goods—perhaps feelings of guilt for the conditions that you see the needy in when compared to your own—led you to consider doing something—anything—that could “help”. You may feel that you are either too busy or that it is rude to question the veracity of those who make such plaintive entreaties for urgent financial help?
  3. Are you too preoccupied or does it seem too confusing to properly monitor your profiles on social media? Unprotected, open profiles provide scammers the best hunting grounds for opportunities and information.

If you don’t consider yourself at risk in any of the aforementioned areas, do you know of a friend or loved one who might be financially pressed or overly generous, and may more easily fall prey to one of the scams we described above? If under financial strain, you can always contact with us for a free and confidential consultation. If a friend or loved one is in need, we welcome you to accompany them so that you can provide moral support and encouragement. After all, that is why we have friends—for support and encouragement.

If you or a friend or loved one owes money on medical bills, taxes, credit cards, collections or court fines, by all means call us. If you or a friend or loved one is struggling under the weight of a costly mortgage or vehicle payment, then please come in for a consult. Don’t fall prey to the allure of a scammer’s “get ahead” story.

The Five “Big Ones”: The Hottest Scams of 2012-2013

  1. Over payment/Fake Check/Car Ad scams: – A “get ahead” scam. The online ad says: “Get Paid Just for Driving Around”—naming a prominent and reputable company offering $400 or more per week to drive around with the company’s logo on signage placed on your vehicle. The scammers are convincing; they even mail you a check with strict instructions to wire-transfer part of the money to the “appointed” graphic designer who will create, customize, and deliver the advertising banners which will be later mailed to you for placement upon your vehicle. When the check mailed to you bounces a week later, the “graphic designer” is long gone, you are out the money which you wired over to the “graphic designer”, and you have a nice overdraft situation to deal with at your local friendly bank or credit union. Exasperating!
  2. Emergency Scam: Grandchild or friend in trouble overseas! Help! I am in London and lost my wallet so can’t even pay for a phone call to explain, so I am contacting you by text message or email to send me $500 (or more) by wire transfer. Some nice person lent me their computer or this text messaging capable cell phone which can’t make nor accept overseas calls. That’s why—and how—I am able to contact you only by text message or through this new email account I just set up at the local Internet cafe. I need to pay an overdue hotel bill, and to make travel arrangements, so if you could please wire $500.00… You get the picture of course.
    Thanks to social media sites, the scammers can feed you back a more plausible story by extracting personal details from your social media profile. For example, you might receive a very factually specific “help” scam message like, “Yeah, remember the video camera Jane got me for Christmas? I was so excited to take that new video camera I received last Christmas on this spontaneous trip to Denmark. I am so bummed that just after arriving, I was mugged, lost my cash, credit cards, and phone, and I can’t even pay my hotel bill. By the way, not paying your hotel bill here in Denmark is punishable by imprisonment. They have given me two hours to get the funds to pay the hotel bill or else the Danes are going to imprison me along with a huge bail obligation I won’t ever be able to afford.”
    “Emergency” is an old “help” scam, but the new twist is that real events and names are used in the communication to make it more believable. This information is skimmed from unguarded social networking profiles.
  3. Mystery Shopping: a “get ahead” scam. Mystery shopping can be legitimate, but to learn how it really works, visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association www.mysteryshop.org site. You might avoid falling prey to a scam.
    The mystery shopping scam is really just a variation of the over payment fake check scam described above. As a scam, the mystery shopping “employer” hiring you first sends you a check. As your first project, you are assigned to “evaluate” the customer service quality of a money transfer wiring service. You are supposed to cash the check on your own bank account, then you are to wire back some significant portion of the proceeds to the mystery shopping “employer”. They toss in a legitimate sounding requirement to complete a questionnaire about the money transfer wiring service staff—whether they were professional and courteous, etc.
    When the check you received from your mystery shopping “employer” bounces, and you are left holding the bag for a large overdraft obligation, you will realized that you are the victim of a scam. Good luck tracking down your mystery shopping “employer” to make good on the bounced check.
  4. Advance Fee/Prepayment scam: a “get ahead” scam. We all need a little extra cash from time to time to provide for family or household needs. The fraudsters know this. Watch out for “no credit check” or “easy repayment terms” for a loan advertised online. You will find there is a catch to such a great deal in that you have to first send in a payment for a “loan insurance policy” or to “secure” or “process” your loan.
    Of course, once you send in the payment for the “loan insurance policy” or to “secure” the loan or to “process” the loan, you learn that there was never any loan to be made, and you have lost the funds you paid.
  5. Charitable contribution to help those who suffered through tragic events: a “help” scam. Now, this one is really sick. While not necessarily a financial benefit/gain scam, it is among the lowest of the low. Reports abound of entreaties through social media and email seeking donations which are (falsely) dedicated to the suffering victims and their families. There has allegedly been at least one FBI arrest related to one of the many scams preying upon national sympathy for the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims.
    If you do wish to donate to Sandy Hook Elementary related causes, perhaps you should first review the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance site www.bbb.org/us/charity to help you confirm that a charitable organization that interests you is legitimate.

Incautious generosity, financial strain, and family/work time pressures can lead to scam vulnerability and potentially to a financial disaster. Take the time to think carefully. Am I or someone I know truly vulnerable to a “financial gain” or a “help” scam? You may still be confused about some aspect of these offers, or some other major financial decision that could have life changing consequences. If so, a free 30 minute consultation with me, consumer/small business bankruptcy attorney James H. MaGee may be of help. Every situation is different, and the options may vary according to the details of the case, but as it is a free 30 minute consultation, why not take advantage of my expertise with no obligation?

Rebuilding the financial foundation for your life after falling behind on bills, or after a life changing event, is complex, no two cases are exactly alike. I may be able to help you understand your situation more clearly; I can certainly help you by discussing certain trade-offs and options concerning your situation, including bankruptcy chapters and their applicability to your situation. You can email my scheduler through our website for your free 30 minute consultation at www.washingtonbankruptcy.com or e-mail directly at staff1@washingtonbankruptcy.com. To schedule immediately, you can reach a member of our friendly staff by calling at (253) 383-1001. Our office hours are Mondays through Thursdays, 9 AM until 5:45 PM, and on Fridays from 9 AM until 12 PM.

Winning Ways to Distribute Your Tax Refund

If you’re receiving a tax refund for tax year 2012, or any tax year, congratulations! The government is refunding the no interest loan that you made in that tax year. Your refund may be small, in which case you deserve congratulations again for not making too large a loan to Uncle Sam, or it may be larger, in which case it may make sense to review your withholding options.

Those topics are for another day. Let’s take the case of the typical taxpayer.

Tax Return documents
In 2012, for the 2011 tax year, taxpayers received a tax refund that averaged $2,700. That’s more than a month’s worth of income for two thirds of US taxpayers.
So, what would you do if you received an extra month’s pay?
I agree with most personal finance advisors who recommend that you pay yourself first. The one thing that you can count on is the need to save for events in life that you didn’t count on. You may not have planned for an event that involves an unexpected expense, but if you have a savings plan, you have better options than someone who has no plan.
OK, so how much of the refund should I save? Let’s pick $1,000.
Here are some ideas—winning ways—to make that payment to yourself.
1.       Make savings a habit. Start a Roth IRA. If you don’t qualify yourself, consider opening one for a family member. If you or your family member had taxable income for the year (even if no tax was due or paid), you can usually contribute up to $5,000.00 into a Roth IRA. The Tax Code provides that this contribution will grow tax-free year after year. What’s more, it can be withdrawn penalty free and tax-free after the person who owns the Roth IRA reaches age 59 1/2. Even if financial troubles occur in the future, the money in the Roth IRA is virtually unreachable by creditors, even if you or your loved one has to file for bankruptcy.
2.       Create a personal financial emergency fund. Set up a separate savings account for this purpose at a bank or credit union. Financial planners recommend that this fund cover three to six months of your typical living expenses. Most employers’ payroll systems can help you set up a paycheck allotment or auto-deposit of $100 monthly into your emergency fund. In just two years, your fund will grow to nearly $5,000.00.
3.       Get a professional financial review. If you feel that you might have enough income for some modest retirement counseling, then get a professional review of your finances from a fee-only non-commissioned financial advisor. You should expect to pay less than $1,000.00 for your personal review, leaving the balance to allocate as your advisor recommends. How is this different than calling Edward Jones or Charles Schwab?  There is a big difference: your local stockbroker is a salesperson, not a truly neutral financial advisor. Contact the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors for a local referral.
4.       Invest in your home. Whether you concentrate on a specific room in your home—the kitchen, a bathroom, the family room—or spread your efforts inside and out, you can make noticeable improvements by doing it yourself. Not only will you enjoy living in your upgraded home, you may find that the home improvements you made improved the resale value of your home should you need to sell your home someday.
5.       Invest in yourself. Some people may not like it, but those who “dress for success” usually do succeed more than someone with the same skills and personality who don’t pay attention to their appearance at work and socially. The book at the link was originally published in 1975. The advice is just as good today as it was then. Don’t overspend though. Limit yourself to $500, and follow the guidelines in the Dress for Success book or other business-friendly sources. You can always upgrade your wardrobe again after you get that big raise because you showed your bosses that you take your work, and your appearance at work, seriously.
If you feel your wardrobe is covered, there are other good ways to invest in yourself—your skills, your mind and body, even your creativity.
6.       Extend the life of your car. The tips at the link helped one car owner keep his machine running for 3 million miles. Keeping your car running well, and avoiding major expenses—like purchasing a replacement car—is a great way to save. If you already do a great job of maintaining your vehicle in tip top condition, you may want to treat yourself to a great detailing job for the exterior and interior. Tacoma’s own Griot’s Garage has great tips and videos that will help.
7.       Hire a lawyer. There are events in life that require professional advice and services. You’ve seen several of them in the 6 winning ways I covered above. A lawyer can help you author key documents that establish plans that cover events in life that many of us don’t want to think about, but must be addressed sooner or later. Starting with a will to simply cover the division of your assets, nominations of a guardian to care for minor children, care for pets upon your passing, “health care directives” to instruct health care providers about how you want your care handled under certain circumstances, and finally, directions for the division of “non-probate” assets such as life insurance policies, IRAs and 401k’s and “probate assets” such as homes and realty investments in your will. Your lawyer can help you ensure that your wishes are clearly established in a will that will help your loved ones avoid surprises and unnecessary stress that your family after your passing. If you divorce your spouse someday, the same lawyer who helped you establish your will is in a great position to help you to address any changes to your beneficiary designations as a result of your divorce.
You or someone you know may want to turn over a new leaf, and implement one or more of these ideas. Great! However, if indebtedness is too great, you may need to take steps to deal with that past debt before you can return to positive net financial worth. If you can’t see a way clear to paying off your debts in full within two years, filing a bankruptcy case can often quickly restore your creditworthiness and put you back on the path towards a brighter financial future. Call us at (253) 383-1001, or visit our site:washingtonbankruptcy.com/contact-us, to schedule a free personal consultation with me so that I can explain how and why. Don’t wait; stop procrastinating! Act now to regain your peace of mind right away.