Wallet Full of Plastic: Do You Need Credit Counseling?

credit counseling

Many people enjoy the flexibility of credit card spending, but the more credit cards you have, the easier it is to develop destructive spending habits. The convenience and ease of credit spending can be a slippery slope to overspending and unmanageable debt. If you find yourself with a wallet filled with plastic, it might be time to seek credit counseling to get expert advice on debt management and credit repair. At Veitengruber Law, our credit counseling team can work with you to improve your individual financial situation and help you gain control over your money and credit.

Credit counseling is a great way to receive expert financial advice and support to help manage your debt and organize your finances. It is important to make sure you are getting advice from true experts and not financial scammers. Our legal team provides debt management and credit repair services to get you back on the road to financial health. Many of our clients developed unhealthy spending habits over time, slowly building debt until suddenly finding themselves overwhelmed with payments. Out of control credit card debt can seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to face it alone.

At Veitengruber Law, we understand how the credit industry works. We strive to instill in our clients a holistic understanding of their finances and how the credit system works. Our team can give you the tools and insider advice to take control of your credit. In your individualized consultation, we will provide easy-to-follow strategies to rebuild your credit, even after major financial set-backs. Our attorneys can also help you establish a realistic and manageable budget by looking at your monthly bills, expenses, debts, and income and devising the best plan forward. We can give you the knowledge to negotiate better terms on your credit cards to make your payments more impactful.


You may be surprised by how much a few budget changes can massively improve your financial situation.


It is important to note that you don’t have to be in dire straits to seek credit counseling. Maybe you have a decent credit score, but making payments on time has recently become a struggle. Don’t wait to address your financial situation until debt collectors are knocking at your door. If your current budget isn’t comfortable or you find yourself struggling to make your payments, it might be time to reassess your financial situation. If you are feeling overwhelmed, be proactive about your debt and address your problems before they become emergencies. Credit counseling can help you avoid future financial woes like bankruptcy.

IMPORTANT FACT: Credit counseling and debt management are excellent alternatives to bankruptcy and can often even prevent it.

Even novice consumers can benefit from credit counseling. Seeking advice from experts when you first start living on your own is a great way to make sure you are starting on the right foot as you make plans for your financial future. We offer individualized counseling to help you understand how credit scores work, financially healthy ways to build credit, and how to make the most out of your credit right now. Establishing healthy spending habits and formulating a budget early on will set you on the path for a healthy financial future.

It’s our goal to help you become a stronger financial consumer. From helping clients out of extreme credit card debt via NJ bankruptcy to keeping homeowners in their homes via mortgage modification, and even simply offering advice to struggling novice consumers, we can get you back on track. We care about your financial future.

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I Received a NJ Bankruptcy Discharge: Now What?

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Having all or many of your debts erased in a New Jersey chapter 7 bankruptcy is referred to as a bankruptcy discharge. Most people filing for chapter 7 feel a great relief when their discharge is granted.

While you are deeply immersed in the bankruptcy process, it can be easy to view your discharge as the finish line. However, once you’ve passed that finish line, you’ll have new goals to reach for, and achieving these goals will be the true measure of your future financial success.

After bankruptcy, you’ll be aiming for repairing your credit score, which will take a hit when your bankruptcy is reported. Lenders will want to see that your credit score is slowly rising post-bankruptcy. While this isn’t always easy to do, it’s definitely not impossible. You can:

Apply for a secured credit card – While significantly different from a traditional credit card, secured cards are backed-up by money you pay up front. While few banks will see you as an ideal borrower right after bankruptcy, some offer secured card programs to borrowers who need help rebuilding their credit. This is a temporary solution that you should only use until your score rises enough to make you eligible for a traditional credit card.

Apply for a secured loan – This type of loan typically involves a credit union or a local community bank. You can either “borrow” from funds that you supply to your own loan account, or borrow money wherein you must make certain necessary payments before any funds will be released to you. While not a typical loan, these baby steps help your credit score because your loan activity will appear on your credit report, helping other lenders to see that you’re moving in the right direction.

Ask a family member to co-sign a loan or credit card – It’s true that we typically do not advise our clients to co-sign loans for friends or family members. A co-signer is putting a lot of faith into you, because they are essentially letting you “borrow” their good credit. The only times we recommend considering co-signing is after bankruptcy and when you truly have zero other options.

Request to be an authorized user – An alternative to finding someone to co-sign a loan or credit card is to request to be listed as an authorized user on a family member’s credit card. This is probably the option that will have the least positive effect on your credit score, but it can help a little bit. However, ensure that the lender in question reports all payment activity to credit bureaus for all authorized users, not just the main account holder.

As you begin your journey post-bankruptcy, the most important thing you do will be to make every single payment you owe to anyone ON TIME. This includes the aforementioned secured loans as well as utility bills and any other monthly expenses. Bankruptcy discharge should have given you a huge break from significant debts, leaving you with enough money to pay for your living expenses with a little bit left over each month. This means there are no more excuses for late payments.

When we work with a bankruptcy client, we also offer credit repair assistance after your discharge. If you’ve received your NJ bankruptcy discharge and you’re still struggling, we’re here to help you figure it all out.

Image credit: John Eisenschenk

Namesake Credit Mix-ups and How to Repair the Damage

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Although not as common as it once was, naming baby boys after their fathers is still a custom that is practiced in this country. Proud fathers naturally want to continue a family tradition that may have existed for centuries. In fact, some women also choose to name their daughters after themselves, however this is a much less common occurrence.

Aside from the cultural aspects that are intertwined with baby naming practices, giving your child the same name as one of his/her parents may be setting them up for a lifetime of headaches.

In addition to everyday confusion related to which person is being referred to (Are you talking about Big John or Little John, Junior?), sharing an identical (or nearly so) name can lead to financial mix-ups that are much more inconvenient.

Especially as the child grows into an adult and begins to acquire his own assets and credit rating, it’s unfortunately common for fathers and sons with the same name to have some co-mingling of their credit information.

How does this happen?

As much as we’d love to think that every financial institution and lender is doing their due diligence when processing loan applications and other important identifying documents, mistakes are made every day. Incomplete information leads employees to fill in the blanks of their own accord, which is where the errors begin.

Employees who are unfamiliar with the people involved are often on the paper-pushing end of financial transactions like loans. Given the task of ensuring that all documents are complete, these employees may have to search for a person’s social security number, for example. In a situation where a father and son share the same name (and suffixes have been dropped), matching up the wrong social security number is an easy mistake.

Will I have to change my name to fix my credit?

Although it may help in your future financial endeavors, changing your name won’t do anything for the errors that already exist in your credit report. You’ll need to be in close contact with all of the credit bureaus to dispute every instance of the wrong identity being used. As long as you follow through with your dispute(s), you should be able to have all of the incorrect information removed, which will improve your score if it was negatively affected.

In order to prevent this from becoming a never-ending problem that keeps coming back to bite you, take the following steps:

  • Always provide your social security number and give complete information when filling out any type of financial documentation, especially loan applications.
  • Sit down with your father (or other person with whom you share a name) in order to educate him about the situation at hand. Encourage him to fill out applications in full as well.
  • Be consistent with the name that you use on applications. If your name contains a suffix, like Jr., Sr., or III, use it without fail when you apply for anything. If you have always used a nickname, continue using the same name for all financial transactions into the future. Consistency is the key.
  • Check your credit report annually for any new errors that may pop up, and deal with them promptly to avoid serious consequences to your credit score.

 

Image credit: Francisco Osorio

How to Buy a Home With a Low Credit Score

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If you’ve made some mistakes in your financial past, you’ll see the effect of those mistakes displayed in your credit score. Many people with poor to fair credit scores wish to make a large purchase (like a vehicle or house) but are stymied when they realize that their credit history adds a degree of difficulty to the process.

There are many reasons that make buying “better” than renting. Some of them include:

  • No more landlords! You get to make all of the decisions about your property and your home, which naturally does add some responsibility into your life, but you’ll also feel a sense of freedom when you get out from under a landlord, especially if you’ve had a negative renting experience.
  • Homeowner tax deductions!
  • You can go “green.” Renters have no control over making home improvements that will lower utility costs, but as a homeowner you’ll be able to make changes like using solar panels and adding insulation.
  • You can make a home your own. Whether this means extensive renovations or simply changing the wall colors – it’s all up to you when you’re the owner.

If you are dealing with the roadblock of a low to fair credit score but are working with a NJ credit counseling professional to continually bring that number up – you are on the right track to becoming a homeowner.

Admittedly, a credit score that’s below about 580 is going to make it challenging for you to acquire a mortgage loan. Although it will be challenging, it isn’t impossible. Here are some tips that will make it more likely for you to be approved for a home loan in the near future:

  • Get a co-signer. If you’re determined to own a home NOW and your credit score falls into the “low” range (<580), ask a close family member or friend with good credit to sign the mortgage with you. Technically, the loan will then belong to both of you, but you will be the only one making the payments. When your credit score improves, you can have the co-signer removed from the loan.
  • Make a large down payment. The fact that you want to own rather than continue to rent, even with a low credit score, tells us that you have a reliable source of decent income or that you’ve had some kind of financial windfall recently. Either way, making a significant down payment often convinces lenders that sub-prime borrowers are on their way up and are not a lending risk.
  • Apply for an FHA loan. Because this type of loan is backed by the US government, you can (often) qualify for an FHA loan with a credit score in the 500s. You’ll be paying for your low score with required mortgage insurance, but if you can afford it, an FHA loan is a good option. After you pay down your loan a bit, you can petition your lender to remove the insurance.
  • Avoid making any more financial mistakes. For potential borrowers with bad credit, lenders look to see that your score is moving in the right direction. They also want to know whether you’ve missed any rent or utility payments in the last year or two. If your financial stability is super new, you may need to wait to apply for a mortgage until you are able to increase your credit score and/or generally improve your overall financial situation.

Image credit: Mark Moz

What is Credit Counseling? Is it Right for Me?

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All of the terms associated with getting out of debt can get so confusing that you may end up not even understanding which service(s) you could benefit from. That’s why we’re putting out a Back to Basics series, explaining many of the most common terms we use regularly. Look for a new Back to Basics post every week.

What is Credit Counseling?

Just as a marriage counselor sits down with a married couple in order to evaluate the state of their relationship, a credit counselor takes a good look at your finances. He will then work with you to design a plan of action that will see you paying off your debts faster, spending less money on non-essentials, and putting more money into savings.

Typically, you’ll be seeking credit counseling when you’ve found yourself deep in debt with no end in sight, but you can also seek this kind of help if you don’t have a lot of debt but want to save for retirement, pay for your child’s college education, refinance a loan, and more.

During your credit counseling sessions, you will essentially receive an education about how to improve your ‘Money IQ.’ This means that credit counseling is not just a temporary quick fix; you will learn how to maintain financial stability for good.

Who Provides Credit Counseling Services?

Firstly, you should know that there are many credit counseling services in business today who use unethical and often illegal methods to attempt to get you the results you want.

It is important to choose wisely when looking for help with your finances. If you have a lot of debt and need assistance negotiating with lenders, look for a certified and experienced NJ debt settlement law firm.

Many credit counseling services will claim to be able to help you settle your debts in addition to providing you with credit counseling assistance. The truth is that they usually don’t have the ability and necessary knowledge required to negotiate with lenders or to help you file for bankruptcy. All too often, debtors end up even deeper in debt after working with a so-called ‘credit counseling company!’

When you work with a certified debt negotiation attorney, you’ll be in good hands. Look for a New Jersey credit counseling law firm that also specializes in debt restructuring, bankruptcy, credit repair, asset protection and real estate matters (especially if your debt has pushed you into or toward foreclosure.)

How Much Does Credit Counseling Cost?

While you may be able to find a company that will quote you a remarkably low price for their services, remember the saying: “You get what you pay for.” Also – keep in mind that these companies are routinely engaging in fraudulent methods (scams) that have them promising results to customers that they simply cannot, and will never, deliver.

Rather than paying an uncertified company for credit counseling services that’ll get you nowhere fast, consider paying someone who really knows what they’re doing and get a huge return on your investment!

It can be a knee-jerk reaction to balk at the thought of hiring an attorney, but when you find the right certified New Jersey bankruptcy attorney, he will always have valuable experience in the areas of credit counseling and debt negotiation.

Will you have to pay an attorney to teach you how to get out of your unfortunate financial bind? You definitely will – but it will be more than worth it when your debts are either completely discharged (via bankruptcy), negotiated down to much lower amounts, or refinanced and restructured.

Do you think you could benefit from some high quality credit counseling? Would your life be less stressful if your finances weren’t constantly on your mind? If you want to learn more about our credit counseling program – call today and we’ll set up your free consultation. [(732) 852-7295]

We are happy to consult with you in our offices or over the phone, and we look forward to helping you.

Image credit: Coalition for ICC

Is Fear Keeping You from the Financial Help You Need?

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One of the biggest hurdles for many of our clients is fear. This emotion can be a gigantic stumbling block when it comes to getting assistance in many situations because asking for help is hard. You may think that asking for help means you’ve failed at something, but that line of thinking will only magnify and worsen the problem at hand.

The reason you have trouble asking for the help you need is because we live in a ‘self-help’ society where, for many people, seeking assistance suggests a deficiency of some sort.

Regarding personal finances – it’s completely understandable that many of our clients come to us at the last minute. The hard truth about the extent of your money problems can be really difficult to come to terms with. Feeling out of control and unsure how to fix things, it probably has felt easier not to think about money at all.

When you’ve waited until the eleventh hour to reach out for help, you’re much more likely to be acting in panic-mode, which will cloud your thinking. It can also impair your ability to communicate your needs effectively, making everything that much more confusing for everyone.

Veitengruber Law advises anyone struggling with any of the following to stomp out FEAR and ask for help as early as possible:

  • paying your monthly living expenses
  • outstanding credit card debt
  • imminent foreclosure
  • looming sheriff’s sale
  • job loss (which will quickly lead to financial strain)
  • divorce as a displaced homemaker or stay-at-home-mom
  • overwhelming medical debt
  • identity theft that led to a financial crisis
  • deficiency judgement after short sale or foreclosure
  • any other personal or business financial burden

The earlier you come to us, the better we will be able to help you sort out whatever money situation you’ve found yourself in. We want everyone who needs us to have no fear about consulting with us. In fact, you should be proud of yourself for reaching out to a bankruptcy attorney who has the experience needed to turn your situation around.

With all of that being said – if you have let fear hold you back and you’ve come to the sudden realization that you’re about to be in real, serious trouble, we’re still here with open arms, ready and willing to go to battle for you.

Did you bury your head in the sand as the foreclosure sale date on your home passed? Does it feel like there can’t possibly be any way to save your home from sheriff’s sale?

Even when it feels hopeless, push your fear aside and call us. We’ll have an entire team working to save your property or solve whatever financial puzzle you challenge us with. Last minute solutions aren’t ideal, but when you work with us, they are possible.

We can help you file for NJ bankruptcy, which will automatically postpone a foreclosure, even if the Sheriff’s Sale is tomorrow! We’ll go over your financial details to determine the best plan of attack. No matter what money emergency you’re facing, Veitengruber Law is the team you want on your side. We prioritize legal emergencies. You will not be ignored, pushed to the bottom of the schedule, or left to play phone tag with our voice mailbox.

If you need help saving your home, getting out of debt, filing for bankruptcy, applying for a loan modification, or arranging the sale of your home via short sale – message us today or call us now (732-852-7295) to get the kind of assistance that gets results.

 

Image credit: David Goehring

Will My Credit Score Drop if My Car is a Lemon?

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If you’ve purchased a new car in recent years, you more than likely expected to have zero problems with it. After all, that’s the main purpose of putting out the money and extending your credit for a brand new vehicle: reliability.

After successfully managing to negotiate with your car dealer, being approved for an auto loan, signing all of the necessary paperwork and starting to make your new monthly payments, it can be a huge downer if your car starts to have issues. The only thing you probably thought you’d have to do for your new car (at first) was taking it in to the shop for regular oil and filter changes.

Naturally, all new vehicles are now covered by warranties that put the onus on the dealership to fix any problems without charging you a fee. In theory, that’s all well and good, and of course does give new car owners some degree of peace of mind.

However, what if your brand new car starts to have a multitude of problems, and your dealership just can’t seem to fix them, even with repeated attempts? As well as being a huge disappointment (you just bought a new car that is potentially less dependable that the old jalopy you were driving), the fact that it seems as though your car literally cannot be repaired can start to make you a little nervous.

Will I Have to Continue Making Payments on a ‘Lemon’?

It can be very upsetting to realize that you are the not-so-proud owner of a ‘lemon.’  You may be worried that you’ll be stuck making payments on a non-functional vehicle. On top of that, if your car is non-functional, will you have to attempt to buy yet another vehicle, leaving you with two car payments??? Lastly, and most importantly, how will all of this affect your credit score?

The good news is that you have the law on your side. Every state now has Lemon Laws in place in order to protect consumers from a vehicle that meet the following criteria:

  • Has problem(s) that began very soon after you purchased it;
  • Its problem(s) were reported to the dealer by you in a timely manner so that it could be attended to under warranty;
  • Even after multiple repair attempts, the vehicle’s problem(s) persisted;
  • Its problem(s) are causing the car to be unusable or unsafe.

If you purchased a vehicle that meets all of the above criteria, it is likely a lemon, which means you will be able to seek recourse using your state’s Lemon Laws. As there will be some negotiations involved, it is advisable to seek out an attorney who is familiar with Lemon Laws to help you. The vast majority of people who inadvertently bought a Lemon are able to recover what is essentially a refund from the dealership. Almost all costs associated with the purchase of the vehicle can usually be won back, with a small fee sometimes charged for mileage put on the car during your ownership.

Your credit score should not drop because you bought a faulty vehicle. However, keep a close eye on your credit report around the time of your Lemon Law case, to ensure that it remains error-free.

 

 Image credit: Anna Oates