Personal Finance 
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Bankruptcy can set you back for 26 years

Bankruptcy can present long-term roadblocks to financial securityMost people aren’t surprised to discover that personal bankruptcy can set you back by quite a lot financially. After all, you have to be in a pretty poor financial position to file for bankruptcy in the first place. But the effects of bankruptcy on your financial situation might be greater than you imagine.

According to a study from Ohio State University and University of Maine researchers, it can take 26 years for bankruptcy filers to catch up to their nonbankruptcy-filing peers in terms of net worth.

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 Personal Finance 
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Being bad with money doesn’t make you dumb

Being bad with money doesn't make you dumbAs someone who’s made his share of financial mistakes over the years and had close family and friends who I’ve watched slide into financial catastrophe, I can attest that financial trouble is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, self-doubt and helplessness.

For those in the worst kind of financial trouble, bankruptcy, the pressure and financial distress can be devastating, says Tim Tarvin, an associate professor of law at the University of Arkansas School of Law.


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 Debt 
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The Cost of Filing for Bankruptcy

This morning I wrote about the different types of individual bankruptcy but I didn’t discuss how much they cost.

Yep, even if you don’t have any money left and want to file for bankruptcy, there are costs involved! There are costs involved because bankruptcy involves the courts and the employees of the court have to get paid! The cost of filing for bankruptcy breaks down into three types – required credit counseling, bankruptcy filing fees and attorney fees.

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 Debt 
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Types of Individual Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy SignDespite being in a recession, I haven’t seen a lot of personal bankruptcy stories. Many businesses are folding and personal bankruptcies have increased, but the mainstream media hasn’t published many sensational articles spotlighting a remarkable spike in bankruptcies.

Does that mean it’s on the horizon? Or is it simply not news when you can talk about an domestic auto manufacturer calling it quits? Either way, I think it’s important to understand the different types of bankruptcy, even if it is a dirty word, because it could one day help you if you’re in trouble.

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 Debt 
31
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On Avoiding Student Loan Payments

Debt is a bitch and student loans have taken center stage recently as the credit crisis threatened the ability of students to get loans. However on this day, I read a story about how some people have resorted to moving overseas to avoid paying their loans, a step that seems like a lot until you realize the size of their loans.

Initially, I felt bad. Then I thought about it some more and realized that we all make choices and trade-offs in our lives and education is merely one of those choices you make. The story talks about Chris, who graduated with $160,000 in student loan debt and a master’s degree in music. Chris admits he could’ve (he didn’t say he “should’ve,” he said he could’ve) gone to a cheaper school but that he’s “most angry at the fact that for anyone who has debt that’s not student loan debt, there’s relief. You can get into $150,000 worth of credit card debt and you can declare bankruptcy and you can go on with your life. But with student loans, you’re being punished for being a better person.”

First, I’m sorry Chris, but you’re not a better person and someone with $160,000 worth of credit card debt is not a worse person; you both made your choices and are now are forced to live with them. It doesn’t matter what the money was spent on, it was spent and now you owe it. There is no woe is me, you can’t blame someone else, it’s all on you.

Second, $160,000 is a lot of schooling. Let’s say he went for six years (4 years undergraduate, 2 years master), that’s about $27,000 a year. He could’ve gone to a public school, he could’ve paid off more while in school, he could’ve done a lot of things. $160,000 for a M.S. in music seems very expensive to me (but I have no experience in that, it could be spot on).

Third, bankruptcy is not a panacea. It’s not like you walk into some courthouse one day, declare bankruptcy, and you’re free to do what you want the next day. When you declare bankruptcy (and prove it, which is not a simple task), it stays on your record for the next seven years. At a minimum, you can’t get a loan for anything. No car loan, no mortgage, no credit cards, no 0% financing… the list goes on.

Finally, and I know everyone is thinking it, but how could you expect to pay $600 a month? At 0% interest, it would take you 22.2 years to pay off a sum of $160,000. As a testament to how off his estimate was, his payments were four times as much – $2400 a month.

Running from your problems doesn’t solve them, it makes those problems harder to solve.


 Frugal Living, Shopping 
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How Retailer Bankruptcies Affect You

Retailer Bankruptcy SignMany people see the retail industry slumping this year because of the continuing credit crisis, meaning Americans can’t borrow as much to continue our spendy ways, and increased prices across the board, meaning Americans can’t buy as much with the money they still have. Either way, there are only a few ways that a retailer bankruptcy actually affects you. First, let’s take a look at what actually happens when a retailer goes bankrupt. Then, we’ll talk about how this affects you.

Retailers Going Bankrupt

When a retailer goes bankrupt, it’s almost irrelevant to the consumer what type of bankruptcy protection they file for because the effects are the same. Chapter 11 means they want to soldier on, restructure their debts, and try to get back on its feet. Chapter 7 means the business is kaput, everything is going to be liquidated, and there’s no hope for the company.

How This Affects You

Gift Cards: Either way, a retailer in bankruptcy protection will see all of its gift cards frozen and made worthless. This is the greatest impact on the consumer and one reason why I argue that you shouldn’t hold onto gift cards. When Linens ‘n Things and Sharper Image filed bankruptcy earlier this year, both froze gift cards. There are exceptions and those often occur in the case of Chapter 11 bankruptcies, where the retailer will still honor gift cards, because they want to keep good will. If they freeze gift cards but still keep stores open, it’s less likely that consumers will shop there after they’ve been “screwed.”

Another scenario is when those gift cards are made worthless by the bankrupt retailer, other retailers may swoop in and offer discounts to those holding the worthless gift cards. It’s akin to airlines offering fare discounts to those holding bankrupt airline tickets.

Liquidation Sales: Just because the retailer is going under doesn’t mean you’ll find any good deals. CompUSA’s liquidation sales were awful, Shaper Image liquidation sales were awful, and Bombay liquidation sales were awful. When the items were overpriced in the first place, it’s hard to justify paying “normal” price for something you can never return. However, there are always deals to be found if you’re diligent but don’t expect a fire sale just because the retailer is bankrupt.

Returns: You’re probably out of luck on returns with a bankrupt retailer. Any purchases you make after they’ve declared are definitely not returnable, in fact they will probably put up huge signs in the store indicating “all sales are final” and “no returns.” As for purchases before they went bankrupt, you might be able to return it but I doubt it. If the retailer is really going away, there’s no reason to accept the return. If the retailer is restructuring, you might be able to return it but I wouldn’t bet on it.

A retailer going bankrupt is never a good thing, even if you’re a bargain-hunter swooping in, because a lot of people will have lost gift card value (in the case of Linens ‘n Things, ~400,000 lost around $42M in gift card value!), the sales will probably suck, and you lose another sales-tax, income-tax paying shop in your neighborhood.

(Photo by paul keleher)


 Personal Finance 
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Bankrupt Retailers, Bankrupt Campaigns & Just Banks

You can delay the reaper but you can rarely totally avoid him and this past week Linens ‘n Things filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a few weeks after they were originally predicted to have succumbed. If you read my post about how they were going under and how you shouldn’t hold onto gift cards, then you wouldn’t be one of the 400,000 customers stuck with $42M in worthless gift cards.

Mrs Micah talked a little about contributing to presidential campaigns and how the contributions amount to very speculative investing. It’s an interesting thought, especially after noting people contributing to “lost cause” campaigns like Huckabee’s, that definitely gets you thinking. I was never one for political campaign contributions, I think my money is better served going towards health/medical related charitable causes.

Lastly, I did a roundup of the best high yield savings accounts.


 Personal Finance 
33
comments

Linens ‘n Things May Declare Bankruptcy, Don’t Hold Gift Cards!

It took a while but LNT is liquidating its remaining stores as of October 14th, 2008.

Linen ‘n Things has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, freezing $42M in gift cards.

We received many gift cards as wedding gifts (thanks!) and fortunately none of them were Linens ‘n Things cards because they’ll be filing for bankruptcy tomorrow ($15 million quarterly payment is due!). What does this mean for gift card holders? There is a possibility that Linens, as Sharper Image did, will suspend the acceptance of gift cards and anyone holding one will be left with nothing. Gift card holders are considered unsecured creditors during bankruptcy, which puts them after secured creditors and thus less likely to receive anything. You didn’t think you were lending a company money when you bought it, huh? :)

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