Consumer Bankruptcy

Post-COVID Debt Continues to Grow as Bankruptcy Filings Fall in 2021

Financial analysts had predicted a bankruptcy surge following the COVID-19 pandemic. Courts were closed for the majority of 2020, but as they began to reopen, it was believed that a massive wave of bankruptcy filings would follow. Oddly enough, that surge never came, and the number of consumer bankruptcy filings continue to drop.

According to figures from the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), 181,000 bankruptcy cases were filed in the U.S. by May 2021, which is 29 percent lower than the number of cases filed by that time in 2020. As many people were forced out of jobs or laid off with businesses temporarily or even permanently closing, consumers are continuing to rely on credit cards to cover expenses.

It is reported that consumers wait an average of 22 months after their first 90-days past-due notice before filing for bankruptcy, accumulating what is called ‘shadow debt.’   

Shadow debt is debt that has not shown up yet on the consumer’s credit report, such as unpaid rent, accruing medical bills, and bounced checks. This shadow debt causes a great deal of stress for consumers as they work through the decision to file for bankruptcy. Many consumers report that they seriously struggle with debt for up to two years before making the decision to file.  

Most of this shadow debt is unsecured debt or debt that is not otherwise secured by collateral. Common forms of unsecured shadow debt are past-due credit card bills and medical bills. An ABI study reports that shadow debt can increase on average by $7,200 for each month the consumer delays filing for bankruptcy.  

According to a National Bureau of Economic Research study, consumers owe an average of $240,000 in total debt by the time they actually file for bankruptcy. Therefore, delaying filing for bankruptcy is not always the best decision. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help determine if bankruptcy is the right option for that individual.

Please click here to read more.  

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.  

Debt Relief

What is Debt Relief and When Should I Seek It?

Debt can seem like an insurmountable burden, impossible to escape once a consumer has gotten too far in. Different options are available for dealing with credit card debt, student loan debt, and other consumer debts.  

Many times, consumers find themselves overwhelmed with several different types of debt in differing amounts.

student loan debt, Student Loans

Former ITT Tech Students Receive Debt Relief from Biden Administration

The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday that 18,000 former ITT Technical Institute students who were found to be defrauded by the shuttered for-profit university will have their federal student loans cancelled in full. This move is a step in the right direction. The for-profit school closed permanently in 2016, leaving tens of thousands of students with massive student loan debt, and no degree.  

More than 30,000 former students petitioned the Department of Education to cancel their debt under the “borrower defense to repayment law.” However, even after being defrauded by ITT Tech, their claims were denied by officials under the Trump administration.  

Credit Card Debt

Credit Card Debt Drops a Staggering $56.5 Billion in First Quarter of 2021

Credit card balances saw a record reduction during the first quarter of 2021, after a previous record-setting reduction year was seen in 2020.  According to a study published by the personal-finance website WalletHub, American consumers paid off $56.5 billion in credit card debt during the first quarter of 2021. 

WalletHub reported that American consumers paid off $82.1 billion in credit card debt in 2020, which is a significant accomplishment considering the challenges many people faced last year. However, this decrease in credit card balances does not necessarily mean that the credit card debt crisis has been solved. There is still a collectively $900 billion in outstanding credit card debt. The average household carries a balance of $7,519, and these figures are expected to rise. In fact, WalletHub is projecting consumers will add $60 billion to the nation’s total credit card balances.  

The quarter one decrease in credit card debt was 51 percent larger than the average credit balance paydown since the Great Recession.   

Certain U.S. cities did better than others in paying down credit card balances. Pembroke Pines, Florida, ranked number five on WalletHub’s list with an average household credit card debt of $16,549 and a total credit card debt of $948,650,144. Pembroke Pines citizens paid a total of $64,124,649 of this credit card debt with an average household balance paydown of $1,119.  

Fort Lauderdale came in 24th on the list of cities that did well in paying down their credit card balances. The average Fort Lauderdale household carried $14,400 in credit card debt with a total debt in the amount of $1,073,761,245. Of this amount, Fort Lauderdale residents paid down $72,581,618.  

Financial analysts believe that this data shows that U.S. consumers are in good financial shape in 2021. However, they do anticipate a $60 billion national increase by the end of the fourth quarter of 2021, considering the fact that COVID stimulus packages and additional unemployment benefits will phase out this year.  

As bankruptcy attorneys, we see credit card debt as one of the most common problems facing those with serious financial challenges.  It is not surprising with the high interest rates, unreasonable fees, harassing debt collection calls, penalties and never-ending minimum payments that do not even make a dent in your actual debt.

Filing for bankruptcy is a viable option for those struggling with insurmountable credit card debt. Chapter 7 is the fastest form of consumer bankruptcy and forgives most unsecured debts like credit card debt, medical bills and personal loans.  There are certain qualifications a consumer must meet in regards to income, assets and expenses to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is determined by the bankruptcy means test.

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.   

 

Credit Card Debt

Which Debts Should You Pay First After Paying Off Your Credit Cards?

Credit card debt is not the only type of consumer debt people struggle with. Once this debt is paid off in full, it helps to have a plan on which debts to tackle next.

According to data from the Federal Reserve and TransUnion, American consumers paid off a total of $82.9 billion in credit card debt in 2020. Credit card balances continued to drop by $49 billion in the first quarter of 2021, which is the second-largest quarterly balance decline seen since 1999. Despite this fact, more than 20 million American consumers have their student loan debts in forbearance.  

For the most part, financial advisors recommend that consumers pay down any debts they have that carry the highest interest rates, which is why credit cards are usually the first focus. With stimulus programs still in place, providing extra income to consumers temporarily, many financial advisors argue a different theory should be followed. 

Instead of focusing on the debt with the highest interest rate, consumers should look at all their debts and consider other options, such as refinancing other debt sources to lower their interest rates or modify payments. Refinancing could be a possibility for unsecured personal loans, as well as for mortgage debt.  With lower interest rates, consumers are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to save money and lower monthly payments, making it easier to pay off debts in full. 

Once credit card debt is paid off, many financial advisors recommend that consumers focus next on paying off their car loans. A car loses its value significantly as soon as it is driven, which is why so many consumers find themselves owing more on the car loan than the vehicle is worth. The interest rates of car loans tend to be moderate to high, although not always as high as credit card debt, depending on the consumer. Many times, it is advisable to either sell the car and use the proceeds to pay off what is owed on the loan or to refinance the loan.   

Once personal loans, credit card debt, and car loans are paid off by the consumer, it may then be advisable to pay off outstanding federal student loans. Since payments and interest is paused on federal student loans until September 30, 2021. During this time, any payment will go towards principal and not interest rate. Paying down this debt will only help improve the consumer’s credit score. 

Please click here to read more.  

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.   

Medical Debt

COVID-19 Pandemic Leads to Medical Debt Crisis

Medical debt is a financial stressor for many Americans, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with the pandemic well into its second year, countless Americans are becoming overwhelmed with medical bills with no end in sight. 

Scientists are studying the long-term effects of COVID-19 on those who contract the virus. Many of them have suffered through several hospital stays, multiple treatments, and several referrals to various specialists. Each of these events, of course, comes with its own set of medical bills. 

According to Credit Karma, medical debt spiked 6.5 percent since the pandemic first hit at the start of 2020, increasing by approximately $2.8 billion. The number of individuals with past due medical debt increased by nine percent during this time, jumping from 19.6 million to 21.4 million.   

Another medical debt survey conducted by Lending Tree found that 60 percent of Americans polled carried some level of medical debt. Fifty-three percent (53%) of them saying that this debt was more than $5,000. Of those surveyed, 72 percent surveyed said that their medical debt has kept them from purchasing a home or having a child in the near future.    

Many consumers have felt forced to rely on credit to pay off their outstanding medical debts caused by a COVID diagnosis. However, paying these debts via credit card only delays payment of what is owed.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumers and businesses hard. According to a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, the Employee Benefit Research Institute, and the W.E. Upton Institute, 7.7 million American workers lost their employee-sponsored health insurance benefits by June 2020, affecting not just the 7.7 million workers but also their 6.9 million dependents. Due to the loss of this insurance coverage, overall cost of medical care has skyrocketed. On top of losing that health insurance coverage, many Americans also lost their job and thus their income source, making paying these high costs nearly impossible.  

Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to offset these high medical costs. The bill’s protections provide a short-term solution for those struggling with medical debt. Democratic lawmakers are pushing heavily towards expanding health care and addressing the costs of medical treatment. Some of these efforts have been to reduce the negative effects medical debt has on a person’s credit score. 

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Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

COVID-19, Debt Collection

Debt Collection Lawsuits Pause While One Debt Collector Continues to Pursue Collections

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, most debt collectors hit the pause button on collection lawsuits due to widespread national lockdowns. However, one of the largest debt collectors, Sherman Financial Group, continued to pursue its collection efforts. 

According to a study conducted by the Wall Street Journal, Sherman Financial Group had the largest increase of any debt collection firm between March 15, 2020 and December 31, 2020. The study analyzed filings from five state-court districts from the start of the pandemic to the end of 2020. The number of filings went up by 52 percent from the previous year. In comparison, debt collection filings went down by 24 percent with respect to the industry overall. 

Bankruptcy Law

What is a ‘No Asset’ Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case?

In a no-asset Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the person filing for bankruptcy keeps all of their property because it falls within the exemptions provided under federal law or the law in their state.

With a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, a filer surrenders their assets to the bankruptcy estate, which uses them to pay off creditors. But in reality, this is only true of non-exempt property. Many of our cases, are in fact, ‘no asset’ cases. Bankruptcy law recognizes that filers need to retain some property so they can survive the process with something on which to build a future after bankruptcy.

Debt Relief

Credit Counseling vs. Bankruptcy- Which one is right for you?

When it comes to dealing with debt, you have options.  Debt relief can ease the burden of overwhelming debt, but it’s not right for everyone. Given a person’s financial and personal circumstances, certain considerations should be kept in mind when making the determination between credit counseling and bankruptcy.

If the consumer has a steady income and can pay back his or her debt within a few months to a year, credit counseling may be the wise choice for him or her. However, if the person has an overwhelming amount of debt in comparison to his or her income, filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the better option.  

Credit Card Debt, Debt Relief

The Best Way to Conquer Credit Card Debt

Many consumers find themselves still struggling with large amounts of credit card debt. Much of this credit card debt is carried over from previous years. Certain steps can be taken to tackle credit card debt and either pay it off in full or reduce the amount owed to a more reasonable number.   

The first step is to push the pause button on spending and inventory the situation. The consumer’s debt cannot be conquered until the spending stops. It is important to review what has been purchased the past few months, determining how much has been spent and what is owed. It also helps to write down what the interest rate is for each card, noting the balance owed and the minimum monthly payment. Taking this first step will allow the consumer to be able to put together a budget and a plan to pay off the debt over time.  

Once the consumer has a chance to review his or her debt situation, the next step is to select a strategy to pay down the debt. Two of the most common methods include the snowball method and the avalanche method.  

With the snowball method, the consumer arranges his or her credit card balances from smallest to largest balances. The consumer focuses his or her attention on the card with the smallest balance first, paying down as much as possible on that card while continuing to make the minimum monthly payments on the other cards. Once the first card is paid in full, the consumer focuses on the card with the next smallest balance until all cards are paid off in full. The snowball method requires a great deal of patience and discipline, but it can be an effective way to pay down debt. However, this method does involve paying more in interest over time since credit cards with higher balances tend to have higher interest rates. 

The avalanche method works similarly to the snowball method, but the consumer focuses on the credit card with the highest interest rate first. This method allows the consumer to get out of debt quicker than the snowball method since it focuses on the larger balances with the higher interest rates first, but it can be hard to stay motivated with this method since seeing the results of the consumer’s efforts can be harder to immediately see. 

Another method to pay down credit card debt involves consolidating the debt through a personal loan or balance transfer.  Many credit card companies offer balance transfers, allowing the consumer to transfer multiple credit card balances to one card with a zero or low introductory interest rates. It is important that the consumer pay the balance down before that promotional period expires, however. Otherwise, the interest rate can skyrocket at the end of the promotional period, leaving the consumer in a worse position than before. A personal loan can also be used to pay off all the consumer’s credit card balances. This method allows the consumer to focus his or her attention on one, fixed monthly payment over time in lieu of multiple credit card payments.      

Please click here to read more.  

If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.