Top Money Arguments Couples Have and How to Stop

Facing money problems for couples is not unknown territory. Chances are, if you and your partner are like most couples, money can often be a touchy subject. Unfortunately, studies have proven that fights about finances are able to predict divorce rates. The scary thing is, these arguments can begin even before you and your partner get hitched. Today, we’ve got a few tips to help you avoid and/or resolve these challenges.

Problem #1: Differences in Spending Habits

One of the most common financial issues that a couple may face is how they are going to manage spending. More often than not, one partner gets labeled the “spender” and the other one the “saver,” but labels are never beneficial for a relationship and can lead to tension. When one person takes care of the grocery shopping, bills, and ensuring that the family and home needs are met, and the other spends their money on frivolities, one can see how frustration can easily boil over into arguments. The key to avoiding an argument is to side-step any surprises. A budget will assist in planning out monthly spending so that both parties know how much money is necessary for bills and other living expenses. This will help “the spender” to understand that they are possibly spending too much money on unnecessary things. Creating a budget together is a great way to improve communication and get closer as a couple, as well.

Problem #2: Past Debts

Most people come to the altar with some kind of financial baggage, whether it’s school loans, credit card debt, car loans, or even alimony and child support if this is a second marriage. If you are entering into a relationship and you have a lot of financial strife, it can sometimes feel like you’re dragging your partner down, but it’s important to remember that no one is perfect. Dealing with debt as a couple can actually strengthen a relationship, and in fact, by working together, you can reduce the debt more quickly. Again, working out a plan to pay down your past debt together (even if the debt is one-sided) will increase feelings of being on the same team.

Problem #3: Separate or Joint Accounts?

Should you have separate account for personal expenses and a joint account for household expenses or two totally separate accounts? From which account will you draw money to take care of your children? These are just two examples of the many questions couples frequently find themselves asking when determining how to best merge finances. Many times, this argument can leave one person feeling hurt because they feel that their partner doesn’t trust them enough to share a bank account together. The desire for separate accounts does not indicate that your partner doesn’t want to be close to you. In fact, it can be a good idea to keep separate accounts for many couples. Finding what works for you and your spouse will take time and some “from the heart” conversations. Whether you create a joint account or continue to maintain your own bank accounts, approach this subject with love and care, so as to avoid unintentionally hurting your loved one.

Solution: Good Communication

As we all know, good communication is the key to any successful relationship – romantic or otherwise. In order to navigate the maze of marital finances (spending habits, debt, bank accounts and more) – you need to come together as one. Approach financial conversations with an open mind, while being cognizant and respectful of your partner’s personality and opinions. If at all possible, discuss your ideas about finances when you are still dating. It never hurts to get the ball rolling as soon as possible on a topic as loaded as this one. The sooner you begin to get comfortable talking about money, the better off you’ll be – long after you say “I do.”

 

 

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Have You been the Victim of Predatory Lending?

nj real estate attorney

Predatory lending is precisely what it sounds like. While there are many lenders in the US who have all of their scruples, it’s important to know that unscrupulous lenders do exist. If you think you were granted a loan you didn’t truly qualify for, or a loan you can’t possibly make the payments on, you may be a victim of predatory lending.

In general, predatory lenders target groups of people based on their lack of understanding about loans and/or their inability to actually repay the loan. Some groups that are targeted include: the poor, the less educated, the elderly, and those who are in need of immediate cash.

Loans given to those who fall into the above groups benefit the lender and can seriously damage the borrower’s credit score and overall finances. Because of this, it is important that you have a clear understanding of any loan you are signing for. If you don’t understand some or all of the loan language, DO NOT SIGN.

As a potential borrower, you have the power to tell a lender that you’d like to wait to make an informed decision before signing. You should then walk out and go directly to an experienced NJ attorney who regularly works with lenders. This may be a debt negotiation attorney, or one that specializes in real estate transactions.

Your New Jersey real estate attorney will have the experience needed to advise you on the loan you are considering. He will also be able to tell you if you are being taken advantage of by a dishonest lender.

Specifically, mortgage lenders have been found to practice predatory lending in recent years. Unscrupulous lenders may target potential borrowers who currently have substantial equity in their home. This is because mortgage lenders will benefit from a loan backed by a borrower’s real property and even a foreclosure. Naturally, not all mortgage lenders are bad! In fact, most lenders are on the up and up.

However, if you get a bad feeling while you are discussing your loan options with a lender, it’s in your best interest to leave their office before signing anything, and take copies with you. When you meet with your NJ real estate attorney, he will be able to read through the proposed loan contract in order to inform you of your best next move.

Don’t risk getting yourself in over your head on a loan that you ultimately will default on. Know all of the facts about the loan by working with a professional who can guide you toward honest and helpful lenders in New Jersey.

Fear of Filing: What’s Keeping You from Bankruptcy Relief?

Without a doubt, money incites emotion.

What emotion depends on the specifics of your financial situation. Suddenly getting a substantial raise at work gives a feeling of success and relief. Coming into an unexpected windfall of money can evoke a sense of thrill and excitement. Steadily watching the number in your bank account dwindle inevitably leads to anxiety, stress, and panic.

Realizing your debt is higher than you can handle can provoke a fear that feels like you’re drowning. Learning that you have solid options to get out of debt when you thought it was an impossibility should instill a solid sense of comfort. Unfortunately, the thought of filing for bankruptcy comes with its own set of complex and confusing emotions.

Even though you may know and logically understand how the New Jersey bankruptcy process can eradicate a large percentage of your debts, you may hesitate to take the necessary steps to file. You’re not alone. In general, those who know they need to file for bankruptcy but are afraid to do so, are afraid of one (or more) of the following:

Ridicule/social embarrassment

Yes, it is more socially acceptable today to file for bankruptcy, but this fear isn’t unfounded. You may have some naysayers and Negative Nanceys if you file for bankruptcy. While they may tsk tsk behind your back, what’s most important is getting your financial life back on track. What will the naysayers have to cluck about when all of your bills are current and you’re able to rise above your strife? Keep your eye on the prize, and kick any and all negativity to the curb.

Job loss/difficulty finding future employment

In order to assuage this particular fear, it’s always a good idea to discuss a potential bankruptcy with your current employer before filing. An informed boss is much better than one who finds himself “hoodwinked.” As long as your higher-ups and HR department give you the green light, you’ve got nothing to fret about.

As for future employment, as long as you keep your nose to the grindstone and make the most of filing for bankruptcy, chances are good that a potential future employer will look at your overall financial picture rather than zero in on just one incident. Bankruptcy discharge is your opportunity to get a strong foothold where your finances are concerned. By using bankruptcy as a tool, you can get out of (and stay out of) debt, improve your credit score, and completely turn your life around.

Inability to buy a home/fear of losing your current home

It’s true that filing for NJ bankruptcy will lower your credit score temporarily. This does mean that making large purchases that will require a loan are off the table, but only in the short-term! By remaining steadfastly dedicated to cleaning up your financial past, a lender will see that you’ve made a lasting change. In just a year or two, you will be able to make large purchases again.

Losing your home is a huge fear for almost everyone when they think about bankruptcy, although this fear is largely unfounded. Now, if you should decide that your home mortgage is out of your budget – you can decide to go forward with a short sale or foreclosure in order to downsize. However, if you would be able to successfully make your mortgage payments if your other debts were gone or significantly reduced, filing for bankruptcy in New Jersey triggers the automatic stay.

Do you have other fears about filing for bankruptcy that weren’t mentioned here? Call us; talk to us. We can walk you through what you’re afraid of and help you understand the process. We’ll give you real, honest feedback, even if that means bankruptcy isn’t right for you.

Collection Defense vs NJ Bankruptcy

If you have been sued by a collections company or “debt collector,” and the debt truly belongs to you, the most important piece of advice is: Do not ignore the lawsuit.

With that being said, people in your position naturally wonder if they have options. Being sued for a debt that perhaps you thought had been forgiven, or that had reached its statute of limitations, can come as a surprise. Many times we put these things out of our minds because it is easier than focusing on it and worrying about it.

Unfortunately, by putting a large debt that you failed to repay out of your mind, you are now faced with a lawsuit that asks you for the entire lump sum that you owe. This sum may even be larger than you remember due to late fees, attorney fees for the collections agency, and interest.

Is filing for bankruptcy your only option?

While it is impossible to give a blanket answer to this question (as everyone’s case will vary wildly) – the general answer is that no, bankruptcy is not your only option when you are being sued for an unpaid debt.

There are several things your NJ bankruptcy attorney will ask when you meet with him or her. Is this your only significant debt? What is your income? Can you repay this debt if it is broken down into payments?

If you have other debts along with the one in the lawsuit, and your income doesn’t allow you to get ahead on paying them back, it may be that bankruptcy is right for your situation.

Can you negotiate with the debt collector?

On the flip side, if the debt in this lawsuit is literally your only debt (outside of your mortgage and car payment), and your income is steady, you might want to have your bankruptcy/debt resolution attorney negotiate with the collection company.

For example, if your unpaid debt amount is $15,000, you may be able to talk the debt collector down several thousand if you pay in a lump sum. It is also possible to negotiate a payment schedule if you wish to avoid bankruptcy.

Is collection defense an option for you?

Collection defense is only appropriate if the debt in the lawsuit doesn’t belong to you, or if the lawsuit contains errors. So, if you are being sued in error, then collection defense is an option, but the reason many people opt for a different resolution is that collection defense representation can get expensive. Regardless of how much you pay your attorney, you can still end up losing the case, even if the debt collector is in the wrong. This is because NJ law doesn’t require strict proof of signed agreements when it comes to credit cards. Therefore, you may end up owing hefty attorney’s fees and still have to repay the debt in full when all is said and done if you go this route.

The only way to know for sure which direction you should go is to sit down with a NJ bankruptcy lawyer or debt resolution attorney. Often, bankruptcy attorneys also specialize in credit repair and debt resolution strategies other than bankruptcy, so look for an attorney who is well-versed in all areas in which you need assistance.

Should I Pay my Debts or Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney?

bankruptcy attorney nj

When you are face to face with a huge pile of unpaid debt, you might wonder if it would be more cost effective to put a pay-off plan into effect or to make an appointment with a bankruptcy attorney. Naturally, both options are going to cost money – but there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you determine which option will end up costing you less in the end.

Firstly, it must be said that there isn’t a cut-and-dry, cookie cutter answer to this question, so please take the advice herein with that knowledge. There are a number of variables that will affect the direction you ultimately choose to take, like:

  • How much debt do you have?
  • What type(s) of debt do you have?
  • What is your current income?
  • Do you foresee your income increasing in the near future?
  • Is there a potential financial windfall in your near future (like a work bonus)?
  • How long do you want to spend paying off your debt?
  • Are you ok with losing credit score points (temporarily)?

If you are currently not even (or barely) able to make the minimum payment each month on sky high credit card debt, you’re looking at a very long road ahead and you will have paid a huge amount of interest at the end of your debt pay-off journey. In this case, filing for bankruptcy looks like it would be a better decision, because your bankruptcy attorney’s fees are likely to cost you less than how much you’ll be paying in interest over the years. Also, by filing for bankruptcy, you can rid yourself of your burdensome debts as soon as you case is approved for a discharge. This will allow you to start a savings account, put your child through college, or otherwise focus more of your income in a way that you weren’t able to before.

The bankruptcy route will knock your credit score down for awhile, but if you’re working with a bankruptcy attorney in NJ who knows what he’s doing, you’ll be counseled on how to potentially bring your score even higher than it is now. This can usually happen in 12-18 months after a bankruptcy discharge if you follow the recommendations given.

On the flip side of the coin – maybe you have more debt than you’d like to have but you’re not drowning in debt. This is not an uncommon situation to be in. If your income is substantial enough to handle your monthly cost of living plus (give or take) double your minimum payments on at least one of your debts, you may be a good candidate for avoiding bankruptcy.

It’s impossible to give you a completely straight answer to this question, as mentioned earlier, because everyone’s financial situation is so unique. The above general tips are just that – general – and you should base your final decision off of the in-person advice you get from an experienced NJ bankruptcy attorney. He will be able to comb through your debts and assets in order to properly guide you toward making the choice that will best fit your finances.

Get in touch with a reputable New Jersey bankruptcy attorney today – most offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose but debt!

Can Wages be Garnished for Money Borrowed from a Friend?

There are certain situations in life that call for borrowing money from a family member or friend: if your financial situation is less-than-optimal, and if your credit score is poor. When you’ve exhausted all traditional lenders and “bad credit” lenders, your Hail Mary may be asking someone you know to lend you money.

In these situations, most people make grandiose promises to pay the money back (sometimes with interest). Out of sheer gratitude, it can be easy to make promises you’ll never be able to fulfill. On rare occasions, the friend or family member (especially if it’s one of your parents or grandparents) will wave you off if and when you try to pay them back. Note the use of the word “rare.”

The honest truth of the matter is that, unless they’re abundantly wealthy with cash flowing in faster than they can spend it, your personal lender is going to expect to be repaid the money that you borrowed from them. In all likelihood, they’ve probably dug into a savings account that was specifically earmarked for something important in their own life, like paying for a child’s college education or putting a down payment on a home, in order to help you out of a bind. Failure to repay this ultra-generous favor is frankly very uncool.

Just as you wouldn’t borrow money from a traditional lending company or banking institution if you had no means to pay back the loan (because they wouldn’t lend you the money if you didn’t qualify in the first place) – you shouldn’t take money from a friend or relative if you have a pretty solid hunch that repaying them isn’t in the cards.

What can happen to me if I never repay a debt I owe to a friend?

Just as any debt that you leave unpaid, the lender (in this case, your pal) has every right to collect the money from you. Naturally, most loans of the personal nature tend to start out with the lending party casually mentioning the money he’s owed. This may happen several or a multitude of times, depending on the nature and patience level of the person who loaned you the funds.

You can prevent straining your friend’s patience by making a plan to pay him back the very second his money hits your hand. After all, “it takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Electing to borrow money from anyone and then ignoring their requests for repayment is a bad deed, indeed.

Your good-natured lending friend is likely to tire quickly of gently asking you for the money he’s owed, and personal relationships are bound to suffer the longer you fail to make good on your handshake agreement. What many people don’t know is that even personal loans between friends and family members can be enforced in the NJ court system.

What started out as a buddy helping a buddy out can end with a nasty court case wherein you’ll be sued for the money owed, and wages can be garnished from your paycheck if you don’t have enough money to satisfy the judgment straight away.

Save yourself the hassle and a relationship that you likely value: start repaying the money you borrowed, even if it’s a small amount at a time. Good faith often goes a long way, especially when life-long friendships are involved.

How to Dispute a Debt and Win!

We’ve talked a lot on our blog about how to handle your unpaid debts so that your credit score doesn’t tank, because a low credit score makes it much harder for you to borrow money, buy a house, and purchase a vehicle. Even potential employers today have the ability to find out how you handle money before deciding whether or not to hire you. For the aforementioned reasons, keeping a decent credit score is something that rightfully demands your attention.

Keeping tabs on your ever-shifting credit score and the details contained within your credit report(s) is the easiest way to ensure that you don’t have any long-lost debts doing serious damage without your knowledge. If and when you discover an unpaid debt that belongs to you, it’s important to pay the debt ASAP to avoid losing valuable credit score points. Working with your credit repair attorney in NJ, you can negotiate a debt pay-off schedule that works for you. Remember to check back in with the credit reporting bureaus as soon as you’ve paid off said debt to make sure it has been removed from your credit report.

What happens if you receive a notice from a collection agency for a debt that you have no recollection of owing? While your first instinct may be to toss it in the trash with the rest of the “junk mail,” slow down for a minute. There are two very good reasons why you should NOT ignore any letter from a debt collector.

  1. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s possible that you do owe an original creditor money. Bills are be misplaced, mis-sent, and lost every day. The original creditor may have also made a billing error when they originally charged you. The bottom line is that it is possible that you owe money that you forgot about or didn’t know about.
  2. Debt collectors can continue to attempt to collect on a debt, even if it was never your debt to begin with, unless you respond to them, in writing, within 30 days. Therefore, even if a collection agency is completely falsifying information in the hopes that you will simply send them some money, do not ignore it.

If you are being held responsible for a debt that you don’t recognize or remember, you can dispute the debt by sending the collection agent a letter via Certified Mail, with return receipt requested. In your letter, state that you are writing to dispute the alleged debt, and that all collection attempts should cease unless they can provide you with all of the following:

  • The full amount of the alleged debt
  • The name and address of the original creditor
  • Proof that you are responsible for the alleged debt
  • Documentation showing that the collection agency is licensed to collect debts in New Jersey

If the person attempting to collect money is doing so fraudulently, you should never hear from them again once they receive this letter from you. On the other hand, if there is a legitimate debt that you’re responsible for, you will receive the information you requested. Either way it is advisable to contact a credit repair attorney and/or a consumer fraud attorney in order to get your desired results and to keep your good credit score safe.

Image: “Credit Dispute” by Cafe Credit – licensed under CC 2.0

Are You Committing Financial Child Abuse?

Although it may be something you’ve never considered, there have been many reports of what is now being called “financial child abuse.” One of the easiest ways to commit financial child abuse is to use your child’s Social Security number instead of your own.

Why would anyone use their child’s Social Security number?

Typically, the perpetrator has found himself with a significant amount of debt that may include wage garnishment. What this means is that any time the adult in question attempts to get a job, his debts follow him and his creditors will be able to take a portion of his paycheck.

Because of this, the adult decides to use his child’s Social Security number when applying for a new job. Oftentimes, the father and the child in question have the same name, making this kind of activity slightly more difficult to detect by law enforcement.

Is it a crime to use your child’s Social Security number?

Not only is it illegal, but to do so would be committing a number of serious crimes including:

  • Identity theft
  • Fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Social Security fraud
  • Theft

These crimes will almost certainly prevent the adult in question from ever discharging any of his debts in a bankruptcy in the future, and in addition, he may face prison time and thousands of dollars in fines.

Why is it a crime? Who is it really hurting?

The reason it is a crime to use a child’s Social Security number to obtain employment or a loan, etc. is because regardless of whose Social Security number is being “borrowed,” it is illegal to do so. End of story. A Social Security number is not something that can be borrowed, shared, or changed.

It can affect the child in question by tacking on Social Security wages to his SSN that he may have to answer for later in life if the activity is not stopped and reversed. This can cause the child serious legal problems involving Social Security fraud, even though he had no knowledge of the crime being carried out.

What is a better solution to my debt-related problems?

It is always a good idea to avoid committing a crime in order to get out of paying your debts. The reasons? You’re going to end up getting in serious trouble, you may go to jail, you will owe more money in the end, you will cause conflict within your family, and most importantly: There is a better solution!

You can erase the debts that you have. You do not have to borrow someone else’s Social Security number to get around your creditors. It is understandable and admirable that you want to get a job to support your family. Just don’t resort to committing a crime that you will regret later in order to do so.

Filing for NJ bankruptcy will wipe out most or all of the debts that you have racked up (with some exclusions) – allowing you to have a relatively clean credit report and no debts that will be taken from your wages.

Will a bankruptcy appear on my credit report?

It is impossible to avoid a bankruptcy showing up on your credit history, however, taking the responsibility for your debts and doing the right thing is viewed much more favorably by employers and lenders. You will have a much easier time getting a job with a bankruptcy on your record than if you had been convicted of fraud and identity theft.

The bankruptcy will disappear off of your credit report within seven to ten years depending on which chapter you file. Committing a crime like identity theft or Social Security fraud will remain on your criminal history record for the rest of your life. Which sounds more desirable to you? Do the right thing – file for bankruptcy and get rid of your debts so that you can move forward with getting that job and supporting your family the right way.

Fixing Your Credit to be Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Loan

If your credit score is very low (under 500), you may feel like you’ll never be approved for a mortgage. Owning your own home is a life-long dream for so many people, and luckily, it’s not one that you have to give up. You will, however, have some work to do before you will be granted a mortgage loan.

Anyone who is looking to buy a house in the relatively near future should take a good look at their credit report(s). The higher your credit score is when you’re approved, the better your mortgage rate will be. This can save you hundreds of dollars on your monthly mortgage payment. First, request a copy of your most recent reports from each of the three main credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

As an aside, it’s wise to take a look at your credit report once a year on a regular schedule even if you’re not in the home-buying market.

Once you have a copy of your credit reports, the first thing on your agenda should be scanning it with a fine-tooth comb to check for any errors. This is the easiest way to give your credit score a quick boost.

If you find any errors (debts that are being reported incorrectly, satisfied debts that continue to show up as unpaid, payments marked as late when you paid on time), filing a dispute with the agency whose report contains the error(s) is the next step. Working with a New Jersey credit repair attorney is a good idea if you have errors and a lot of negative marks on your credit report. Your attorney will negotiate with your creditors, requesting forgiveness for lesser offenses like late payments. This “goodwill letter” is frequently an effective approach to jump-starting your credit repair process.

Once you’re sure that any errors have been appropriately dealt with, the following behaviors will give your credit score further boosts to get it up to your “goal range.” Your NJ credit repair attorney will know how much your score needs to increase in order for you to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

Make your monthly bill payments early

Even better, if you can make an extra payment each month on your credit cards with the highest balances, you’ll be able to zap your debts faster.

Create a debt resolution plan

In addition to making more than one payment per month, create a plan to pay down all of your existing debt until it’s gone. The lower your credit utilization ratio, the better.

Raise your credit limits

Related to lowering your credit utilization ratio, you can also request a higher credit limit on one or two of your credit cards. Be careful with this tip, though, and only do this if you have the self-control to keep yourself from charging even more purchases.

Consolidate

If you have more than one card with the same lender, keeping your oldest card active and transferring balances from newer cards (and then closing the newer cards), the overall age of your debt will be older, which looks good to credit bureaus.

If you are diligent about reigning in your spending, paying all of your bills early or on time, and taking the steps listed above, it is possible to boost your credit score 50-100 points in six months to one year. Your results will be dependent on your starting credit score and the type and number of dings currently on your credit report.

Before you know it, you’ll be walking out of your lender’s office with a mortgage pre-approval letter!

Disclaiming Your NJ Inheritance to Avoid Creditors

The news that you have been named a beneficiary in someone’s will is generally considered a positive thing; although you (hopefully) aren’t looking forward to the passing of your loved one, it usually feels good to know that they cared enough to bequeath part of their estate to you. There are times, however, when you may not wish to receive your New Jersey inheritance. Do you have the ability to say “thanks but no thanks?”

In New Jersey, estate law says that you can refuse to accept a gift, which in this case is your inheritance. This right to refusal is known as a disclaimer.

While it may seem strange that someone would choose to turn away inheritance money or life insurance proceeds, there are a few reasons for doing so. One of these reasons is avoiding creditors.

Do you have a lot of debt? Are creditors constantly calling? If so, you may worry that all of your inheritance money will go directly to paying off your debts. This is a very valid worry, because that is precisely what would happen if you accepted any kind of windfall while swimming in debt.

If you are attempting to disclaim your inheritance so that your creditors don’t have access to it, you may be hoping to divert that money to your children or other beneficiaries. Unfortunately, in New Jersey, it is illegal to use a disclaimer to get out of paying your creditors. If you choose to disclaim your inheritance under these circumstances, it is highly likely that your creditors will still be able to access the funds due to the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act.

Discussing your situation ahead of time with your loved one will give them a chance to protect the money that you are hoping to avoid giving directly over to your creditors. One way to do this is to set up a protective trust or to simply leave you out of the will altogether and instead name your children or other family members as beneficiaries. Your creditors have zero claims to any money that is inherited directly by your children.

Going to these lengths to avoid paying your creditors signals that you are significantly deep in debt. While we understand the desire to keep from handing a large windfall directly to creditors, we also must note that there are steps you should take to get out of debt, and the sooner, the better.

Your options for debt relief in New Jersey depend a lot on the specific details of your situation.

  • How much debt are you carrying in comparison to your income?
  • Are you living beyond your means?
  • What is your credit score?
  • Do you own a home that you wish to keep?
  • How many different kinds of debt are you carrying?

NJ debt negotiation and relief is available to you. Beyond refusing windfalls, disclaiming your inheritance and any other steps you’re taking to avoid paying your creditors, imagine if you didn’t have to worry about those creditors at all anymore. Ridding yourself of a large chunk (or potentially all) of your debt is very possible; your financial future can look anyway you want it to as long as you take the right steps, now.