Budgeting Tips When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck

paycheck to paycheck

It’s a reality that life’s expenses simply cannot be ignored or avoided regardless of our circumstances. Most people work hard every day to earn the money they need in order to meet those expenses. Some people literally live from “paycheck to paycheck”, scrimping by on mere dollars by the time they get paid again – only to have their entire paycheck GONE nearly as soon as it hits their bank account. Believe it or not, there is also a group of people who don’t even have bank accounts!

If your income is just enough to allow you to squeak by each month but you aren’t able to put any money into savings, your financial future looks bleak. You need to be able to put some money aside for retirement as well as emergencies that arise along the way. If you have children, you’ll also most likely want to be starting a college fund for them.

Don’t think you can do it? Try out some of the following tips to see if you can make your money stretch just a little bit further each time you get paid.

First, you need to know your total monthly costs 

When you have some free quiet time, sit down (with your significant other, if applicable) and set out to determine exactly what your total necessary monthly expenditures are. Be sure to include:

  • Living expenses (rent or mortgage) plus any HOA fees
  • Utilities (gas, electric, phone, internet, water & sewer, trash removal, recycling)
  • Cell phone bill(s)
  • Car payment(s)
  • Gas (for vehicle) OR
  • Public transportation fees (train, subway, bus)
  • Food (include groceries as well as any restaurant bills)
  • Prescription and OTC medications
  • Other

Once you are sure you haven’t forgotten any necessities that you pay for regularly, the total amount is how much you’ll need every single month. If you have money left over, you’re doing great! Stop spending it and start putting a bit of the surplus into a savings account every month. Look for savings accounts that offer the most rewards. You may also choose to start investing some money if you have a monthly surplus, even if it’s a small surplus. Make your money work for you.

Why is living “paycheck to paycheck” so risky?

Chances are good that if you’re reading this blog post, you’re not left with much (if any) surplus after paying all of your necessary monthly bills. The very definition of living “paycheck to paycheck” involves regularly running out of money before your next pay day rolls around. If you’re finding that you need to borrow money from a friend or utilize your credit card for daily living expenses when your paychecks fall short, you’re not alone. Over 60% of Americans report having lived “paycheck to paycheck” at some point in their lives.

This is a very dangerous way to live because you make yourself susceptible to significant financial damage, like skyrocketing credit card debt, foreclosure, payday loan debt (DO NOT TAKE OUT A PAYDAY LOAN), bankruptcy and worst of all: a rapidly plummeting credit score.

Tricks to make ends meet

Consider downsizing – Whether just temporarily or for the long haul, think about relocating to a living situation that is more affordable. If you own a home, consider selling and renting a small apartment while you build up a savings account. Alternatively, buy a smaller home, move to a less expensive area, shack up with family, or take in a roommate (or several). Use the extra money to pad your savings account and bulk up your retirement plan.

Shop around – Look for better deals on all of your utilities. You can shop around for the best energy prices, and regarding other utility companies – it never hurts to ask. Negotiating a lower monthly payment is very possible because most companies don’t want to lose a valuable customer.

Stop using Check Cashing services – If you’ve avoided opening a bank account because of the required minimums, take a look at your local Credit Union. They tend to have more reasonable rates and minimums. You simply must have a bank account in order to make sure that your bills are paid on time, AND if you’re cashing your checks through a Check Cashing service, you’re losing a huge portion of your money due to their exorbitant fees.

Make a budget and stick to it – It is imperative to establish the basic costs of your day to day living and to stick to that number. You may find that making your coffee at home saves you a lot more than you’d realized, and that switching to store brand toiletries results in pretty substantial savings! Clip coupons and read grocery store flyers every week. Only buy what you absolutely need if it’s not on sale or you don’t have a coupon for it.

Pay down your debt – We realize this one is potentially the most challenging to do when you’re just getting by. We’re here to tell you that it is possible to wipe out your debt. That’s right – if you’ve been paying a large chunk of money just to manage your credit card’s minimum payments – we can help you eliminate those payments altogether, giving you a much more solid financial footing to stand on.

 

How to Manage Credit Card Debt During a Divorce

divorce and money

Divorce is complicated. When it comes to divvying out debt, even the most amicably separated couple can find themselves at odds. In New Jersey, you are responsible for any debt in your name—even if your spouse is the one who racked up the bill. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and end up spending buckets of money either paying off your ex’s debts or facing a pile of legal fees. To avoid making a complex situation any more confusing, here are some great money-saving tips for dealing with credit card debt during a divorce.

Deal With Debt Before Divorce

If you’re already facing credit card debt, it could be financially disastrous to add the high cost of divorce to your financial woes. While it may be difficult, your best option is to deal with the debt before you file for divorce. As tempting as it may be to wait for a court to figure out how to divide the debt evenly, you and your spouse will save a lot of money coming to an agreement on your own.

Meet up and discuss exactly what the two of you owe. If you both have your own credit cards, remove the other person as an authorized user from those accounts. Even if you are just an authorized user on an account, your credit can be impacted if your former spouse does not make on-time payments. If you have joint accounts, consider transferring the balance to new cards that you each take out separately. Look for balance transfer credit cards with low interest rates. If you can compromise with your spouse in how to divide the debt evenly, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars in legal fees.

If You End Up Paying Your Ex’s Debt

Unfortunately, some people don’t have the chance to be proactive about marital debt before a divorce because they only find out about the debt after the fact. If your name is attached to the account the debt is under, you may have no choice but to take responsibility for the debt. You can take steps to getting your name removed from the account, but in the mean time, you will need to make sure the account is getting paid.

In order to protect your credit, you may be stuck paying off debt accrued by your ex. It is important to note that while you can petition the court to have your spouse repay you for these debts, this path is expensive and you may never get the money back—even if you have a court order. This is why it is very important to make sure you and your ex do not share any accounts at the time you file for divorce.

If your ex does not remove your name from an account willingly, you will need to get a lawyer to prove you did not know about the account and did not benefit from the loan. If you do end up being responsible for paying off a portion of this debt, kept diligent records of your payments. If your ex decides not to pay their part, you will be able to prove that you have a history of making good on your payments.

Work on Creating Good Credit Post-Divorce

Whether you are facing the arduous task of building your credit from scratch or working on paying off debts accumulated in your marriage and subsequent divorce, you will need to generate a solid plan to rebuild your finances. Create a list of your debts to determine how much money you can afford to put towards each debt every month. Your new budget will need to absorb living expenses as well as any debt you are responsible for after the divorce.

It can be difficult to adjust to life under one income instead of two—especially if you are struggling under the weight of credit card debt. Veitengruber Law’s experienced financial legal team can help you come up with comprehensive debt-relief solutions catered to your specific needs. Managing debt during and after a divorce can be complicated and stressful, but you don’t have to do it alone. We can help you make a plan to eliminate burdensome debt so that you can start to move toward financial health.

How to Tackle Debt as a Married Couple

nj debt relief

Marriage is about two people joining their lives together. Making the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone also means sharing financial decisions and taking care of debts together. Both parties may be entering the marriage with student loans, credit card debt, or personal loans. While in New Jersey you are not legally responsible for debt your spouse accrued before your marriage, you will become a financial team with your spouse. This means helping each other tackle debts both from before and after you say “I do.” Here are some tips on tackling marriage debt and subsequently reducing the financial stress in your relationship.

While ideally you should enter into a marriage with a full understanding of your spouse’s financial situation, it is never too late to sit down and have the money talk. Overcoming debt together requires open, honest communication about what you bring to the marital table financially. Don’t just talk about your debts, talk about your goals, too. What will paying off this debt allow you to do as a couple? Setting financial goals together will allow you to both motivate each other and hold each other accountable.

It’s important to keep in mind that you are in this together. After marriage, individual debt becomes “our debt.” Couples who have the most success tackling debt together tend to face their financial situation as teammates. Focus less on who brought more debt to the table and more on how each of you can contribute towards the goal of paying down the debt. Instead of only focusing on your debt individually, you will be able to stretch your money farther. Paying off debt when you’re working with two incomes will be easier than doing it alone.

Learning how to budget for two people (or more if you have children) will be very important to paying down your marriage debts. Don’t assume you and your spouse are on the same page about sticking to a specific budget. Sit down and determine how much money is coming in and out of the household on a weekly and monthly basis. You should both have a good understanding of your living expenses, debts, and financial goals. Be honest with your spouse about any financial difficulties you might be facing and see how you can fit this into your budget as a couple. After you know what your shared budget is, you will be able to come up with a realistic plan to pay off your debt.

Once you have a budget in place and a plan to pay off your debts, make sure you keep the conversation going. Check in with each other to make sure the budget you set is still in line with your financial realities and that you are making progress towards your goals. Like marriage, paying off debt is a long-term commitment that requires a lot of dedication and flexibility. Be patient with yourself and your partner as you take on the task of ridding yourselves of debt.

Make tackling debt together part of your goals as a couple. Financial difficulties are the leading cause of marital stress. If you have been struggling to pay down your debts and it is creating a strain within your marriage, it may be time to seek outside help. Veitengruber Law offers debt solution services to help you manage your debt and get back on track to financial health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free consultation.

Getting Savvy About Your Student Loans

student loans

You did it! You got the degree, graduated college, and are ready to branch out into your career. Graduation is a time to look forward to your bright future after years of hard work. But it’s also worth taking a look back—especially at your student loans. Many college students graduate without really knowing how much they owe, when payments are due, or even who they owe. How long will these loan payments be in your life? Organizing your student loan debt is a big first step towards your bright future after graduation. Here are six steps you can take to get on top of your student loan debt.

1. Who do you owe?

Are your loans federal or private? This is a good time to figure that out. Most college students have some kind of federal student loan debt. Go to studentloans.gov and enter your FAFSA information to see what loans you have and to find the government-hired company that services the loan. This will be the company you contact for all future interactions concerning your loan.

If you have private student loans this can be a little more difficult to track, especially if you weren’t exactly the world’s most organized filer when you were 17 years old. Your loan(s) also could have been sold to a completely different company than you initially used. In these instances, your college admissions office should be able to lend a helping hand. Your alma mater should have a copy of any loan agreements with your records that can tell you who your loan servicer is. Your credit report can also help you determine information about any private loans.

2. How much do you owe?

This is really a two-fold question: What is the amount you initially borrowed and what is the current amount of principal you owe? If you have been making some payments towards your loan, it is important to find out if these payments went towards the principal of your loan or if they went towards interest. Federal student loan balances are frequently not up to date, so contact the lender directly for the true amount of your loan. Private student loans should be up to date with your most recent statement, but it never hurts to make direct contact if you have any questions about what you owe and what you’ve already paid.

3. What is the interest rate?

Knowing which loans have higher interest rates can help you determine which loans should take priority as you begin repaying your debt. All federal loan interest rates after 2006 are fixed, meaning the rate remains the same over the duration of the loan. Private student loans as well as federal loans taken out prior to 2006 may have variable interest rates. Find out how often the rate changes and if there is a cap on how high the rate can go. If you have an unreasonably high interest rate, it is likely due to a poor credit score when you applied for the loan. Ask us how to refinance your student loan!

4. What are my payment options?

Your lender should be able to tell you the estimated payoff dates of your loans which can help you establish a payment plan that works for you.

  • Federal loan monthly payments will automatically calculate based on a standard 10-year repayment plan. If you cannot afford these payments, there are many income-driven repayment plans that can allow you to make smaller payments more in line with your budget. It’s important to understand any special conditions of these plans and how smaller payments may impact your loan balance.
  • Private loans are much less flexible when it comes to payment options. Review your loan agreement. Most private loans will spread out payment equally month by month for the duration of the loan. If you are struggling to pay back your private student loans, reach out to your lender to discuss payment alternatives. They would much rather you be making smaller payments than none at all.

Student loans will be part of your financial reality until you pay them off. It can be daunting to think about paying back this debt while you’re still establishing yourself professionally, finding a place to live, and making your mark on the world. Don’t panic! Answering the above questions can help you create a plan of action to pay off your debt and get back to planning for your bright financial future. If ever in doubt, reach out to Veitengruber Law. We can help you make sense of your loan repayment options.

How Debt can Impact Your Mental Health

Debt impacts almost everyone to some degree. A mortgage, a car loan, student loans, credit card debt, medical expenses—once everything is added up, debt can be overwhelming for some people. Unmanageable debt has obvious financial impacts, but owing money can have a major negative effect on your mental health.

In a 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association, 62% of Americans indicated money as a “significant stressor” in their lives. Financial uncertainty, overwhelming debt, or a major economic event can increase stress and cause many mental and emotional side effects, like: guilt, shame, denial, resentment, anxiety, anger, fear, insomnia, panic attacks, substance abuse, high blood pressure, and even suicide. There are many different circumstances that can lead to debt-relate stress. Divorce, illness, and a change in employment status are all factors that compound mental health issues related to debt. The bottom line is that not having enough money to pay bills can significantly impact mental and emotional wellbeing.

Whatever the cause for your debt-related stress, here are 6 ways to manage your stress and work on creating a healthier financial life:

1. Admit the Problem

Sometimes, just admitting to yourself that you have a debt problem can be powerful. It can be easy for people struggling with anxiety and depression to ignore the root cause of their mental and emotional turmoil. Ignoring the underlying issue will only make it harder for you to get the help you need to tackle your debt and, in turn, improve your mental health.

2. Get Professional Support

If your mental health symptoms are impacting your ability to function as you want to, it may be time to seek the help of a qualified professional. Especially if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, it is important to talk to someone about your debt-related stress. Be open and honest with a therapist about your financial situation.

3. Get Your Finances in Order

Face your debt head on. Gather all your financial information together in one place so you can get a clear picture of your debt situation. This can seem overwhelming at first, but once you know how much you owe, you can come up with a plan to work on paying off the debt. Knowing that you have a clear understanding of what you need to do, your stress level will start to diminish.

4. Set Realistic Goals

Every debt situation will be completely different from the next. Your goals for getting out of debt should be based on how much debt you owe and your capacity to reasonably make payments. Achieving a small but realistic goal will encourage you to continue towards bigger goals. Paying down debt can be a long process, so establishing realistic expectations for yourself can improve your outlook as you pay down your debt.

5. Find an Accountability Buddy

People facing a lot of debt can feel isolated from everyone around them. The shame and embarrassment many people associate with debt can cause them to closet their debt issues. Find someone you can trust—a friend, family member, or a debt support group—and be open with them about your debt issues. Ask them to help hold you accountable for reaching your debt repayment goals. Talking about your debt issues can be a huge stress reliever.

6. Work with a Debt Relief Professional

Seeking help from an experienced and trusted NJ debt relief attorney is an excellent step towards financial health and peace of mind. The right experts can help you assess problem areas in your finances and look for solutions fit to your needs. A debt relief attorney can even look into your terms with lenders and utility companies to negotiate for more affordable terms.

Not all debt is bad debt. The decision to take on debt can allow us to get an education, provide a home for our families, or get life-changing medical care. When debt becomes unmanageable, it is not the end of the road. Veitengruber Law provides full-service debt relief solutions that are tailored to each client’s unique situation. Our team has years of experience restoring financial health through debt negotiation. We know how heavily debt can weigh on the hearts and minds of our clients, which is just one of the myriad of reasons why we do what we do!

10 Purchases You Should Never Make with a Credit Card

Credit cards can be powerful financial tools. They offer convenience, the opportunity to build credit, and can act as a loan to buy bigger ticket items. But when credit cards are not used wisely, they can cause a great deal of financial trouble. Overspending can lead to unmanageable credit card debt. To avoid out of control credit card debt, here are 10 things you should never purchase or pay for with a credit card.

1. Mortgage Payments

Most mortgage companies will not allow you to make direct payments with a credit card. If you do find a way to circumvent the rules of your mortgage servicer to make your payment with a credit card, you are asking for trouble. If you cannot pay off your credit card balance in full before your next payment is due, you will be paying for interest on a substantial balance. This added interest, on top of the interest you already pay on your mortgage, means you will end up paying much more for your mortgage payment than you should be.

2. Household Expenses

There are some arguments that favor paying for household expenses with a credit card. These arguments point out the convenience of online payments and credit card rewards. But the risk of paying your monthly home bills with a credit card is that you can easily lose track of your balance. If you go over your credit limit, you could face fees and heavy interest rates, not to mention potential late fees if your card is declined and you cannot pay your bill. Linking your online accounts to your debit card and checking account offers the same ease of payment without the added risks.

3. Medical Bills

The cost of medical care is expensive and many people struggle to pay off their medical debt. Paying for medical expenses with a credit card only makes this situation worse. If you find you cannot pay a medical bill immediately, get in touch with your medical care provider to see if they can set up a payment plan for you. Payment plans through the hospital will likely charge you much less in interest than a credit card issuer.

4. College Tuition

Most schools charge a 2-3% convenience fee for charging payments. If you cannot pay off the bill before interest accrues, you will end up paying even more. If you need help paying your tuition, the interest for student loans are often much lower than for credit cards. Talk to your financial aid department about work study opportunities, grants, scholarships, and other ways that can help you pay for college costs.

5. Wedding Expenses

Big, lavish, Pinterest-worthy weddings are all the rage right now. The average wedding costs $35,000.00. It can be tempting to start charging all your expenses to a credit card to pull off the wedding of your dreams. But unless your dreams also include crippling credit card debt, this is the worst way to budget your wedding. When you’re paying with a credit card, it can be easy to lose track of your budget and spend way more money in interest. It is better to save money ahead of time and start planning once you have enough money put away.

6. Business Startup Expenses

Paying for business expenses or startup costs with your personal credit card can be a recipe for disaster for your new business. It can take years for a business to become profitable, which means you could end up paying high interest on debt you cannot afford to pay back. Instead, opt for a small business loan which tends to have a lower interest rate. Looking for investors can also give you the cash you need up front to finance your startup.

7. Taxes

While you can pay your taxes with a credit card, you will end up paying more money which does not make good financial sense. The payment processing services that handle federal and state tax payments charge between 2-3% for using a credit card on top of a $2-$3 flat convenience fee. If you owe thousands in taxes, your processing fees can really add up!

8. Down Payments

Using a credit card to cover the down payment on your house, your car, or any other big purchase that comes with a loan is a good sign you can’t actually afford the loan. By charging the down payment, you are adding a large cost in the form of interest rates to the sales price of your item. If you find yourself scrounging around for the money for a down payment, you are better off waiting and saving.

9. Big Ticket Items You Can’t Really Afford

A good rule of thumb for credit cards is if you can’t pay it off in full by the end of the month, don’t pay for it with a credit card. This goes for cars, appliances, furniture, equipment, and any other big purchase you can’t afford outright. The interest you will accrue carrying this balance statement to statement will make these purchases more expensive in the long run. If you need to finance these kinds of purchases, look into financing options directly from the seller or loans that will allow you to include these purchases in your monthly budget.

10. Small Indulgences

These are the things you don’t really think about: your morning coffee, a sandwich for lunch, a few drinks with friends. It is convenient to just swipe your card, but without being super careful about your spending, this can lead to an out of control balance. Unless you are taking advantage of some kind of credit card rewards, it is best to pay for these items in cash. This will help you stick to a budget and spend more mindfully.

Should I Use My Emergency Fund to Pay Off Debt?

pay off debt

Most financial advisors recommend having at least three to six months savings in an emergency fund at any given time. An emergency fund can be helpful in getting through the expensive curveballs life throws your way. Unexpected car maintenance, the sudden loss of employment, medical emergencies, and unforeseen home repairs are examples of events for which you may have to use your emergency fund. Sometimes, though, it can be tempting to use this money for expenses that aren’t necessarily true emergencies. If you have a big pile of debt, it may seem like using your emergency fund to pay down the balance is a good idea. Here are the reasons why you shouldn’t use your emergency fund to pay down debt, and a few exceptions where you might want to consider it.

The simple reason not to pay off your debts with emergency fund money is that most debt is not an emergency. This fund is specifically meant to cover unforeseen costs and expensive emergencies. Cars loans, student loans, mortgages, and personal loans all tend to have set, predetermined monthly payments. That means this debt is controlled and you know what to expect every month. As long as you can meet those monthly payments and expect to be able to continue to pay on time, there is no reason to dip into your emergency fund. Paying off your debt over the agreed upon timeline is not, after all, an emergency.

While it may seem like you have all this debt looming over your head, you have to remember that your emergency fund is specifically there to handle the unexpected. Your monthly car payment is not going to have the same impact on your financial stability as sudden and major car repairs from an accident. Where will you be if you use your emergency fund to pay off your debts only to find yourself dealing with a major financial emergency a short time later? Since you never know when a mishap like this will occur, it is best to save the emergency fund for actual emergencies.

There are, however, a few exceptions. An “emergency” will change in definition from individual to individual. Having kids or pets, owning or renting your home, owning your own business, and the stability of your employment are factors that will likely impact what you consider an emergency worthy of tapping into your emergency fund. This also goes for determining whether or not your debt is an emergency. Unmanageable, high-interest credit card debt, for instance, may count as an emergency depending on your specific circumstances. If you find yourself struggling to pay your monthly bills and are facing down the consequences of late or missed credit card payments, this could be enough of a reason to dip into your emergency funds.

Before you panic and deplete your emergency fund to pay off debt, think about why you have this unmanageable debt in the first place. The reasons behind the debt can also be a determining factor in whether or not to use your emergency fund. Was the debt unavoidable or due to some unhealthy spending habits? If your unhealthy habits are behind the debt, it may not be the best idea to dip into your savings and emergency fund. Understanding the reasons behind the debt is the first step to changing those habits and avoiding similar mistakes in the future.

Even in the event that you do determine debt to be a financial emergency, it is not a good idea to completely drain your emergency fund. You are better off leaving your emergency fund alone (or continuing to build it) while you make the minimum payments required on your debt. Debt-swapping, or replacing your high-interest debt with a lower-interest option, should be considered before dipping into savings. If you are able to pay down the debt a decent amount, you could justify using a small portion of your emergency fund to finish paying off the debt, but even this should be a last resort.

When it comes down to it, emergency means emergency. Being honest with yourself about your financial situation is the first step to proper money management. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to build up savings or an emergency fund. Don’t let that hard work go to waste! At Veitengruber Law, we can help you come up with debt solutions to stay on top of your financial situation so you don’t have to consider dipping into your savings.

How to Challenge Wage Garnishment

how to challenge wage garnishment

If you are unable to pay certain kinds of debts, creditors have the ability to seek legal recourse by taking you to court and securing a wage garnishment order against you. Wage garnishment is a court order sent directly to your employer, requiring them to withhold a specific amount of money from your paycheck to be sent to one of your creditors. The good news is you may be able to challenge the garnishment by objecting in court. Here, we explore your options when creditors start coming for your paycheck.

Before we talk about how to object to wage garnishment, it is important to note that there are federal and state rules in place to protect debtors from unfair wage garnishment practices. The amount your employer can withhold and the specific rules will be different depending on what kind of debt is in question and what your personal financial situation looks like. In New Jersey, there are specific laws in place to ensure you will have enough money to pay for your living expenses while your wages are being garnished. Creditors can only take up to 10% of your income when you earn less than 250% of the federal poverty level OR up to 25% when you earn more. Employers also cannot fire their employees for receiving a wage garnishment order.

In New Jersey, a creditor can garnish your wages only after they have sued and obtained a court judgement against you. The exception to this rule is if the creditor is collecting unpaid income taxes, child support payments, or defaulted student loans. Once your creditor has decided to sue you in an attempt to secure a judgement against you in court, you will likely receive a written notice and a hearing before your employer will start withholding money from your paychecks. This notice is called a Notice of Garnishment of Personal Earnings.

Once you receive this notice, you have to act fast. Your right to object to wage garnishment is limited and time sensitive. Depending on the debt in question, you can have between five and thirty days to bring forth a legitimate objection to the court decision. If you do not object within this time frame, your right to object to the garnishment is legally waived and your employer can begin withholding wages to send to your creditor. The garnishment letter will contain instructions on how to object, including specifics on court dates, deadlines, and expected objection formats.

If you decide to argue against wage garnishment and you receive a new hearing date to plead your case, there are a few valid legal reasons to object to the court order. Though this is a time consuming and complicated process, you still only have a limited time to present your case to the court. Some common reasons to object to wage garnishment are:

  • Federal or state limits aren’t being followed
  • You have a head of household exemption
  • Your creditor did not follow proper legal procedure
  • You are self-employed
  • The debt in question has been paid
  • You are already experiencing wage garnishment with another creditor
  • You are making payments to the creditor already
  • You have filed for bankruptcy

An experienced attorney will be able to work with you through some of the more difficult aspects of the court proceedings. They will know what the court is looking for and how what objections will work based on your specific case.

At Veitengruber Law, our experienced team will work with you to come up with a customized legal plan to meet your needs. If you are struggling with debt, it may be time for a fresh start. Our bankruptcy and debt relief legal team has years of experience working with clients to ensure a brighter financial future. We can help you explore all your options and protect your interests.

What if I Can’t Pay Back my Personal Loan?

personal loan

Personal loans, unlike student loans, mortgages, or auto loans, can be used for almost anything. If approved, you receive a lump sum that must then be paid back in monthly installments. From big purchases to home renovations to consolidating debt, a personal loan can be a useful financial tool. But sometimes, as with anything else, “life happens.” Unexpected financial difficulties like a pay cut or medical expenses can disrupt even the most carefully planned budget. When a financial set-back occurs, it can be difficult if not impossible to keep up with bills and payments. Often, it is loans and credit cards that are the first payments to be put off. What do you do if your situation has changed since being approved for a loan and you can no longer make payments on your personal loan? Today we’ll give you a few examples of steps you can take to remedy the situation.

While most people are reluctant to talk to their lender in the event of a financial set-back, this is often the best thing you can do. In fact, most lenders will respect a proactive approach to handling the situation and appreciate your dedication to paying back the loan. The sooner you make your lender aware of the problem, the more likely they are to work with you. On the other hand, simply ignoring missed payments can result in an accumulation of late fees, collection efforts, a drop in your credit score, and even default. If there is a valid reason you cannot make the payments, your lender should understand and work with you to find a mutually agreeable solution.

Once you have taken steps to make your lender aware of your situation, they may be willing to revise the terms of your loan to make monthly payments more manageable for your new financial circumstances. Lenders who are willing to negotiate will look at your expenses, other debts, and income to determine a more realistic monthly payment. So while the total principal of the loan will remain the same, payments can be made more affordable. The solution might even be as simple as changing the monthly due date of the payments to a time when it does not conflict with other bills. You may even be able to negotiate a deferment on your payment—it doesn’t hurt to ask!

If your lender does not work with you to revise the terms of your loan and is still demanding on-time payments, you will have to find different ways to make the payments. Consider areas in your budget you could cut back on, even if it is only until you’ve paid back the loan. Determine which expenses are necessities (like food, utilities, transportation to work, etc.) and which are extra. If it is possible, try selling high dollar items, like a second car. You may even consider doing side work or getting a part-time job to help offset the cost of the loan payments. Explore all of your budget-revising options to avoid missing payments.

In the event you still cannot afford to make the payments on your loan, don’t assume all hope is lost. When you’ve done all you can do to remedy your finances and you’re still struggling, it is time to reach out for professional help. At Veitengruber Law, our team of experts has years of experience dealing with difficult lenders and assisting borrowers in getting back on the right financial track. We will negotiate with lenders on your behalf to find effective solutions for real financial relief.

We understand that not every debt problem is the same and we will work diligently to come up with a customized solution for your specific situation. Bankruptcy is not the only solution to unmanageable debt, although it may be the best solution for your circumstances. Our team will perform a holistic financial analysis to help you make informed choices about your financial future.

How will my Spouse’s Debt Affect me?

When you meet someone new, finding out their credit score is typically not your go-to first date conversation starter. In the whirlwind of new romance, money matters tend to remain ignored. It is often much later in the relationship—after a couple has already become financially entwined through marriage or the sharing household bills—that financial issues come to the surface. You may be surprised to find out your spouse has accrued a substantial debt that you had no idea about. When facing this startling new information, it may be difficult to know how to move forward with your partner. Here are some tips to dealing with a spouse who has debt.

1. Hold Off On Making Judgements

In situations like this, emotions can run high. You may feel lied to or betrayed by your partner for concealing their debt. Breathe through your initial reaction. When people feel attacked they tend to shut down or become defensive. Keeping an honest, open space for communication with your spouse will allow you to move forward to fix this problem together. This also goes for making judgements about their current financial choices. If you see your spouse making consistent efforts towards paying off a debt, don’t chide them for their purchase of a new pair of shoes. Paying off debt is a process that you cannot expect your spouse to complete overnight.

Keep in mind that debt accumulates for many reasons and a past debt does not necessarily mean your partner cannot be financially responsible now. Maybe they were overzealous with their first credit card or are struggling with student loan debt. Unemployment, divorce, and medical expenses can also add up quickly. Don’t judge too harshly until you have the full picture of your spouse’s debt.

2. Get the Details

The amount of debt your spouse has makes a difference, so it is important to know the exact number they are currently working to pay off. How your partner is paying off the debt matters, too.  Is the repayment situation short term (over a year or two) or long term (5-20 years)? If it is a long term repayment plan, you can expect this debt to impact your life together for years to come. This is also the time to check your spouse’s credit report with them. This will give you the full picture of any late payments, high balances, legal judgements, or bankruptcy filings they may have.

3. Know When You’re Liable

Many people assume that once you get married, you automatically take on your spouse’s past debt. This is not true. Your credit histories will remain separate for any debts or financial troubles that occurred before your marriage. New Jersey is a common law state, meaning that even after marriage you’re only responsible for debt accrued in your name.

This changes once you open joint accounts, apply for joint credit, cosign on loans, or include your spouse on an account as an authorized user. These actions will show up on your credit report and you will be responsible for the debt. If at any point your spouse cannot make payments, even if it is on debt they personally accrued (after the date of your marriage), you will be responsible for the full payment of the debt.

4. Decide How You’ll Make Purchases Going Forward

Your spouse’s debt, and its impact on their credit score, may make it difficult for you to make big purchases together for the duration of the repayment period. Depending on how much debt they have and how low their credit score is, you may be looking at taking on the full weight of big purchases for awhile. You may be hesitant to apply for joint credit, cosign, or add them as an authorized user on your accounts. Have an honest conversation about how you will make big purchases together going forward.

At Veitengruber Law, we know the stress of large debt can create a lasting impact on marriages and families. Our experienced legal team can help you sort through the debts and create a future path that looks bright. Our comprehensive approach to resolving debt problems can help relieve the stress on you and your spouse.