Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Bankruptcy is Almost Always a Superior Choice to Debt Negotiators

If you are like most people considering bankruptcy, you have probably looked into working with a debt negotiator or debt settlement agency.  Here are four reasons why a bankruptcy is usually a superior choice.
1.       In bankruptcy, you pay back no more to unsecured creditors than required by law.  In a no asset chapter 7 case, you repay $0 to unsecured creditors.  In a chapter 13 case, you may have to pay back a portion to your unsecured creditors, but how much is a function of your income, your assets, and federal bankruptcy law…not the relative skill of your debt negotiator.
2.      Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not taxable income.  When you settle a debt through a debt negotiator or debt settlement agency, the IRS treats the difference between what you owe and what you settle for as taxable income.  This could cause you to owe taxes to the IRS.  Debts discharged in a bankruptcy are not considered taxable by the IRS and therefore you will not owe money on the discharged debt.    
3.      You are protected from lawsuits by the Federal Bankruptcy Court.  Many of our clients come to us due to lawsuits arising because their debt settlement plans are not paying their debts fast enough.  Debt negotiators don’t pay your creditors monthly.  Instead, they hold your money in escrow until they have enough to settle with one creditor.  Creditors don’t care that you paid the debt negotiation firm monthly…they just know they aren’t getting paid and that is all they care about.  Federal bankruptcy law affords you a “stay” from collection during your case, then prohibits creditors from suing in state court over uncollected debts after your case discharges.       

4.      Debt settlement plans do more damage to your credit score than bankruptcy.  While bankruptcy prohibits creditors from reporting to the bureaus after the case is filed, debt-settlement plans lead to credit score destruction.  Every account that goes unpaid while you’re in the plan will report your non-payment to all three bureaus.    It can take years to pay off a debt settlement plan and the entire time your credit report continues to show your non-payment.  The bankruptcy is a one-time hit, after which you can then begin to rebuild.  
     Call us at Oklahoma City Bankruptcy Associates to discuss your options (405) 233-0623 or visit our website at

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Nation's Housing: Fannie Mae gives 'transactors' credit for good behavior
By KENNETH R. HARNEY The Washington Post Writers Group Published: April 29, 2016

WASHINGTON — Are you a "transactor" or a "revolver" when it comes to your credit?

Terms like these never have mattered much to home buyers seeking a mortgage. You've probably never heard of them. Yet they are about to become more important to millions of mortgage seekers, and could even help determine whether you qualify for a mortgage in the first place.

A transactor is someone who pays off credit bills in full every month or makes more than the minimum required payment. A revolver is the opposite: Someone who routinely makes the minimum payment on credit cards and other debts, rolling balances over to the next month.

Credit industry statistical research suggests that, all other factors being equal, revolvers tend to present higher risks of future default to lenders, especially when they are accumulating substantial unpaid balances. Transactors tend to be lower risk.

But up until now, mortgage lenders and investors had difficulty distinguishing revolvers from transactors. Credit reports told them whether you as an applicant were late on card payments, whether you defaulted on your car loan, but didn't tell them what you paid on your balances month by month over extended periods of time.

They didn't reach back to show distinctive patterns and trends in your money management: Did you roll large monthly balances on three credit cards during the last six months of 2015? Are you a rate surfer, transferring balances from one account to another, always making minimum or no payments?

Up until recently, traditional credit reports used in the mortgage arena weren't able to answer questions like these. Now they will.

Fannie Mae, a dominant player in the mortgage market, will soon begin evaluating how all loan applicants have managed their credit over the previous two years — how much they owed in revolving debt each month, the minimum payment allowed on each debt, and how much they actually paid. Mortgage credit reports acceptable to Fannie will need to include "trended credit data" like this on every applicant.

As a general rule, according to Eric Rosenblatt, Fannie's vice president of credit risk analysis and modeling, the new system will "benefit borrowers who regularly pay off revolving debt" and should "provide more creditworthy borrowers access to mortgage credit." That's a big deal.

Starting June 25, the new reach-back data will become an integral part of Fannie's automated underwriting, an online system that is used by the vast majority of mortgage lenders to determine whether applicants are eligible for the loan they're seeking.

Two of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, will supply two years worth of continuous, month-by-month data on the credit management patterns of millions of mortgage applicants.

This should prove especially important for consumers who might not qualify for a mortgage because their credit reports contain too little information to generate a credit score. Many of these would-be purchasers are first-timers, millennials just starting out on their careers. Others are individuals who simply do not make much use of credit but now need a mortgage.

TransUnion conducted a study of "unscorables" and found that by adding credit usage data into their reports, 26 million thin-file or unscorable consumers could generate credit scores. Nearly 3 million of these consumers could be classified as "prime" or "super prime" credit risks, possibly qualifying them for reduced interest rates from lenders, according to Joe Mellman, TransUnion's vice president and mortgage business leader.

Fannie Mae's use of the new credit report data will not affect anyone's FICO credit score, but it will open the door for applicants who look marginal or unqualified yet demonstrate responsible credit management habits over time. They may not have vast amounts of credit available to them, but they pay off or limit their balances.

Experts in the credit industry consider the upcoming move by Fannie Mae to be a major advance in fairer credit. Terry Clemans, executive director of the National Consumer Reporting Association, said it amounts to "the biggest change to the mortgage credit report in nearly a quarter of a century." Freddie Mac, the other big mortgage investor, is "evaluating" whether to adopt a similar approach, according to a spokesman.

Bottom line for you: Be aware that how you manage your credit could now become a key determinant of whether you get a mortgage. Transactors will reap the benefits; revolvers playing games with credit cards will get more scrutiny.

Harney's email address is


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Does Going to College Pay?

Is college worth the cost?

By Andrew Rossi
updated 7:23 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014

Is college worth the cost?

  • "Ivory Tower" documentary maker Andrew Rossi examines the higher education crisis
  • Is proposed student loan reform an overreaction?
  • Is higher education more beneficial to individuals -- or the nation as a whole?
  • Colleges have become more like businesses, with students as their customers
Editor's note: On Thursday, November 20, at 9 p.m. ET, Emmy-nominated director Andrew Rossi presents the CNN Film "Ivory Tower," which paints an urgent portrait of a great American institution at a transformational breaking point. During the broadcast, join the Twitter conversation via #IvoryTower with Rossi and other issue influencers to learn more about the crisis facing higher education. Opinions expressed below are solely those of the author.
(CNN) -- Is college worth the cost? The question has echoed in the halls of government, over the family dinner table and throughout the media for decades. But the alarm bell has rung even louder in recent years, when student loan debt in the United States grew to over $1.2 trillion and tuition increases continued at nearly triple the rate of inflation.
Just this summer the debate about the cost of college seemed to reach a fever pitch, as dueling perspectives seized national headlines.
On the one hand, Senator Elizabeth Warren bemoaned the fact that "Millions of young people... can't buy homes, they can't buy cars ... all because they are struggling under the weight of student loan debt." In the same vein, President Obama declared that "we're still seeing too big a debt load on too many young people" as he signed an Executive action that would extend income-based repayment programs for graduates who can't earn enough to handle loan payments.
But on the other hand, a Brookings Institution study released just days later offered a starkly different message. Prominently covered by the News/Opinion vertical at The New York Times called "The Upshot," the study said that "the impact of student loans may not be as dire as many commentators fear." David Leonhardt of the New York Times crystallized the argument with a headline reading, "The Reality of Student Debt is Different From the Cliches." He pointed out that students with six figure debt loads represent a fraction of the overall picture and cited data that the ratio of borrowers' monthly loan payments to monthly income has remained consistent when measured since the early 1990s. The authors of the study further questioned whether student debt was creating any kind of drag on the economy at all.
Andrew Rossi
Andrew Rossi
So the question arose, was all this effort for student loan reform at the highest level of government an overreaction? Perhaps just a symptom of simplistic media coverage? Was The New York Times' own magazine cover about "boomerang kids" (featuring a recent graduate with $80,000 in debt living at home) or its front-page series on "Degrees of Debt"(featuring "a generation hobbled by the soaring cost of college") just another media cliché? Certainly a media organization can accommodate competing perspectives, but was the take away that we should finally stop worrying and sign every student up for more loans already?
It became quickly apparent, however, that the Brookings study had its flaws. One notable omission was the fact that 70% of the class of 2014 would graduate with an average debt of $33,000 per borrower, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Analysts also criticized various aspects of the study's method. For example, using data from 2010, the Brookings authors define "young households" as homes headed by people ages 20-40. This dataset includes people who graduated college in the early-1990s, when average debt per borrower was less than half what it is today. Perhaps even more importantly, this dataset excludes young people still living at home with their parents and therefore not the heads of their households. Such an exclusion is significant, since one in five college graduates under age 35 still live at home, and they are most likely the graduates with the highest debt levels (hence the phenomenon of "boomerang kids").
Web Exclusive: Andrew Rossi
Ivory Tower: Student debt crisis
Skyrocketing tuition
Another important caveat is the fact that the average repayment period on student loans has increased from 7.4 years in 1992 to 13.4 years today. So while monthly payments may be similar to what they were twenty years ago, they now last for almost double the time. This is where the meme of "student debt slavery" enters the conversation. It used to be the case that student loan debt could be paid off by the time one might decide to start a family and buy a home. But now, there is a sense that student loan debt will haunt borrowers deep into adulthood, negatively affecting their ability to make life choices that are part of a healthy future and a key to the health of our economy.
Perhaps the biggest oversight in the Brookings study, though, is that the data includes only borrowers actually making monthly repayments on their debt. Thus the study doesn't include all those who are in default, deferment or forbearance. And as data released in August revealed, less than half of student borrowers are actually paying their federal loans back on time, with defaults on the rise.
So the Brookings argument reads a bit like a tautology: those who are not having trouble paying back their loans are not having trouble paying back their loans.
But lets take a step back from all of this data-crunching about student debt, and consider an even more fundamental question: is higher education a public good that benefits the whole country, or is it simply a private good that adds to an individual's net worth? This is the culturo-historical perspective that Ivory Tower seeks to explore in order to come to a more nuanced understanding of whether college is worth the cost.
From the arrival of the first colonists in New England, college in America has been a place for the moral development and intellectual uplift of young people. By the time of our nation's founding, college had expanded from an institution simply meant to train the clergy to a critical component of a nascent democracy. An educated citizenry, according to Jefferson, was the best defense against tyranny. With the emergence of a new industrial economy in the 19th Century, college education became both a source of individual edification and national prosperity, and with the Morrill Acts of 1865 and 1890, the federal government created free (or nearly free) institutions accessible to people who never would have dreamed of going to college before. Private institutions also embraced this notion of education as a public good, with the wealthiest philanthropists of the era, such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Peter Cooper endowing institutions for the benefit of both individual students and the broader society.
Colleges have become more like businesses.
Andrew Rossi, filmmaker
In the 20th Century, the GI Bill of 1944 continued this tradition, offering free college education to millions of returning veterans, and laying the groundwork for an economic boom and vast expansion of the middle class. The federal student loan program itself began as a small part of Lyndon Johnson's vision for a Great Society, as he aimed to increase access to college through the Higher Education Act of 1965.
But by the 1970s, this tradition was derailed, and the emphasis shifted to the private good of education. State legislatures, inspired by the example of Ronald Reagan, made the argument that if students were receiving a wage premium from college, they should pay for it themselves. This attitude resulted in shifting the cost of college increasingly onto the shoulders of individual students through more and more student loans.
At the same time, colleges and universities have found themselves in an ever more perverse arms race to compete with each other. As students have become more like customers, colleges have become more like businesses trying to attract those customers with fancier dormitories, recreation centers, and other amenities not essential to their core academic mission. And while the soaring "sticker price" of college has been at least somewhat offset at many institutions by increased financial aid, many of those discount packages actually include loans. Indeed, only 1.25% of the over four thousand institutions of higher education in the country offer financial aid that meets a student's full need.
Returning to data and statistics, perhaps the most significant number one can cite in terms of the value of college is the $1 million lifetime earnings premium a bachelor's degree confers. For some, this statistic puts the debate about whether college is worth it to rest. But while we can say that statistically a bachelor's degree is worth it, that does not mean "college" as a whole is worth the cost. Indeed, 68% of students at public institutions do not graduate in 4 years, and 44% fail to graduate in 6 years. That means that nearly half of the students who are signing up for a public university education will not enjoy the wage premium promised to them, yet they may still be saddled with debt.
For students like these, the question of whether college is worth it is far more complicated. And in an economy where the disparity between the wealth of high school graduates and college graduates is increasingly stark, the choice to not go to college seems like financial suicide, even if the choice to take on debt may seem very risky as well. As Anthony Carnevale from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce puts it, "The only thing worse than going to college is not going to college." Ultimately, our society should not put so many young people, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds, in such a precarious position, particularly when the potential value of a college education for both students and society is so high.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Always Answer the Call: Expert Advice on Debt Collection

by Thursday Bram on 14 June 2012 reposted from www.wisebread.com2 comments
Photo: achichi
Paying down debt can be a difficult proposition, particularly if the situation has progressed to the point where you have to deal with a debt collector. But there are steps that you can take to make the process more manageable and less stressful. Expert Michelle Dunn has experience on both sides of the table — both as a debt collector and as a debtor. (See also: How to Deal With Collection Agencies)

Why You Should Always Answer the Call

In an ideal world, you would pay off every bill long before it could go to debt collection. But if something goes wrong and you wind up dealing with calls from a debt collector, you can still pay off your debt and resolve the situation. Ignoring debt collectors is the worst option. Dunn points out: “You will have to deal with them calling and sending you letters, and the debt may be reported to your credit report. You should never ignore a collection agency — that only intensifies the calls...and can promote court action.”
It’s crucial to actually respond to those phone calls and letters to verify that the debt is being correctly handled. If there is an error, whether in the amount of the debt or if it’s even your debt at all, you have only a limited amount of time to address it. Dunn says, "You must ask for verification within the first 30 days of being contacted. If you wait and ignore the calls and letters and the 30 days goes by, by law you are acknowledging that you owe the money. It will be much harder for you to dispute the debt after that, and you may lose in court, since the law states you have 30 days to dispute the debt or request the verification. So the best thing to do is make payments or stay on top of the situation and dispute within those first 30 days, in writing!”
If the debt collector can verify the debt, you need to set up a payment plan with the collector and then make regular payments as scheduled. Dunn notes that even if you are making payments as scheduled, a collector can still take you to court if he believes you can afford to make a larger payment. It’s worth your while to do everything to discharge such a debt as quickly as possible.

Worry About Your Credit Score Later

If you’ve reached the point where a debt has gone to collections, your credit score is going to take a hit no matter what you do. It’s easy to get caught up with thinking that you need to fix your credit as soon as possible, but the reality is that your credit can’t be your first priority. Dunn weighs the chance of going to court against a good credit score: “You must pay everything off before you can think about repairing your credit. When accounts are placed with a third-party agency, make a payment [on each account], or you can end up in court.”
Eventually, you’ll be able to refocus on your your credit, but in the meanwhile, eliminating debts that have been handed over to collectors has to come first. Dunn says, “Once accounts are placed for collection, you just have to make payments to them all until they are paid in full.” Of course, you should keep up with the minimum payments on your current bills, as well.
“The only way to get out of debt faster is to pay it off faster. Budget your money, cancel your credit cards, get rid of the cell phone, get rid of cable and internet, carpool, bring your lunch to work — get a part time job. The only way to get yourself out of the hole you dug is hard work; you need to make more money somehow and send as much of it as you can to the creditor,” says Dunn. “The most important thing to remember is that it is easier to work with and pay off the original creditor than a collection agency. Don't let your debts get out of your creditors’ hands — work with them, communicate, and avoid being placed for collection. You will have a much easier time of it.”
Dunn’s own experiences with debt have made her particularly aware of what is necessary to pay off debt; during her divorce, she found herself with only her income to provide for two children. She pulled it together. Her experiences and her extensive advice on how to handle debt collectors are detailed in her e-book, Dealing With Aggressive Debt Collectors.

How to Deal With Collection Agencies

by Jessica Harp on 29 August 2007 reposted from www.wisebread.com66 comments
Photo: jk+too
As anyone who has been through collections will tell you, the collection agencies tend to lie and to cheat in order to manipulate the collections process to their advantage. So how do you regain your power as a consumer from the collection agencies? By following these nine suggestions, you can stop screening your phone calls and turn the collections process to your advantage. (See also: Always Answer the Call: Expert Advice on Debt Collection)

1. Know your rights.

A common complaint is that collection agencies do not play by the rules. They make harassing telephone calls and threaten to kill your dog. Why are they allowed to do this? Because we let them! Most consumers do not know their rights, so we leave it to the collection industry to police itself.
So what is the best way to make that collections agent behave and stop threatening to kill your dog? Know your rights! Read, learn, and memorize the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (If you don't want to read through the legalese, our very own Linsey Knerl wrote a spot-on article highlighting the finer points of the FDCPA.)
Nothing strikes more fear into the heart of a collection agent than a consumer saying, "According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you are not allowed to call me more than one time per day and no more than three times per week. If you call again, I will report you to the FTC and the Attorney General's Office." The very fact that you are demonstrating knowledge of your rights will make them behave quicker than a stern look from their mother.

2. Know your debt.

Every consumer is entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies. By requesting your credit report, you will have a fairly good idea of how much you owe and to whom.
One lesser-known fact about your credit report is that items generally disappear from your report after 7 years from the date of last activity. If you have an item that is getting ready to fall off your credit report, do not take any action on that account! You will restart the entire 7-year time limit. If a collection agent calls you about a bill from 6.5 years ago, do not confirm this debt. Confirming a debt will restart the 7-year limit. Ask them to send you any paperwork that they have on this bill. Procrastinate taking action on this bill for another 6 months, and the debt will fall off your credit report. In most states, you are not under any legal obligation to pay a debt that has not had any action for more than 7 years.
This advice does not apply if you are planning to purchase a home. Mortgage lenders will see all of your debt — no matter how old it is. If you want to buy a house, you will need to pay down most of your debt.

3. Keep a written record of every call.

When a creditor or collection agent calls you, ask the caller for their full name, the name of their company, and their employee identification number. Every employee will have some type of identification number, so do not let them tell you otherwise. Gathering this information, along with the date, time, and reason for the call, will assist you in filing any necessary complaints with the FTC and AG's office.
If you are being hounded or harassed by creditors and/or collection agents, consider buying a recorder for your phone. A recorder will further assist you in filing any complaints against a specific person or company. Just remember to tell the caller that the call is being recorded.
In my experience, collectors will behave if you start the phone call by politely asking for their employee identification information and telling them that the call is being recorded. Once again, these actions tell the agent that they are dealing with an informed consumer who will not hesitate to report them to the FTC or AG's office.

4. Attitude is key.

When a collection agency calls you, they are expecting to reach a very rude and aggressive consumer. Imagine what a loop you will throw them for if you are calm, polite, and cooperative!
As difficult as it may sound, maintaining your composure allows you to have the upper hand when dealing with collection agents. As I stated earlier, the collections process is a game. The more composure you have, the more power you earn. This will translate into being able to set your own terms with the collection agent.

5. Keep your creditors informed.

The moment you know you will not be able to make a scheduled payment, call your creditor or collection agency. Usually, they will work out another payment option for you, or they might waive your scheduled payment. Creditors and collection agencies are less likely to work with you if they have to hunt you down. So, take the initiative to call them. Explain your situation and ask how they can help you.
Additionally, if you move, it is your responsibility to inform your creditors or collectors of your new address. If a creditor or collector cannot find you but can show they made a good faith effort to contact you, they can pursue legal proceedings without your direct knowledge. The next time you go to apply for a job or for credit, you might be surprised to learn that your wages are being garnished or that you have legal action listed on your credit report.

6. Get everything in WRITING!

Let's say your great attitude and cooperation has gotten the collection agency to agree to accept your suggested monthly payments. Do not send any money until you have this agreement in writing! Collection agencies are infamous for reneging on verbal "agreements".
If you pay a debt in full or work out a settlement offer with the creditor or collection agency, make sure to get these actions documented in writing.

7. Stick to your guns.

Never agree to a payment plan you know you cannot afford. If you know that you can afford to send the creditor $10 per month, tell them that. They will try to pressure you into paying more than you can afford. They will tell you to borrow from grandma, your church, or your kid's piggy bank. Do not allow them to tell you how much you can afford!

8. Never refuse to pay.

In the course of politely explaining to your creditors that you cannot afford their suggested payment of $250 per month, they will ask, "So, are you refusing to pay your bill?" No matter how angry you are, do not fall for this trap. They are trying to provoke you and have you on record as saying that you will not pay your bills. This will be used against you in court. Instead, calmly say, "I did not say that. I said I can only pay $X per month." If you continue to restate that you can only pay a certain amount per month, the collector will usually get so angry that they will hang up on you, or they will accept your offer.

9. Never give a collection agency access to your bank account.

Creditors and collection agencies have been known to take more than the authorized amount out of people's bank accounts. By providing them with your bank account information or by paying with a personal check, you are enabling this practice. Send payments by money order or Western Union. Not only will you protect your bank account information, but you will have another record of payment for your files.

reposted from 

Oklahomans default on student loans at higher rate, report shows

Oklahomans are defaulting on student loans at a higher rate than all but four states or U.S. territories.

By Brianna Bailey Published: March 20, 2013    Comment on this article 2
When a borrower calls the Oklahoma Student Loan Authority with a problem repaying a student loan, Customer Service Supervisor Mary Anne Evans and her staff try to find a way to help, whether it means a deferment, forbearance or reduced payments.
“Generally, we try to assess their situation, whether it be unemployment, economic hardship, or it could be that they are going back to school,” Evans said.
However, there's only so much the student loan authority, which services about 150,000 educational loans in the state, can do to help borrowers, said Larry Hollingsworth, vice president of loan management for the authority.
“We don't really have a magic wand — we're not able to make their student loan debt go away,” Hollingsworth said. “It's still a debt that they have incurred, and that they have to repay.”
Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that Oklahoma has one of the highest student loan default rates in the nation.
Students are borrowing more than they were just a decade ago because of the higher cost of a college degree, Hollingsworth said.
“I do think the amount of loans they take out has increased as tuition costs have increased,” he said. “Students borrow more to help with school costs, so more students are having difficulty than they were five years ago or 10 years ago.”
A report released last month by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that over the past eight years, the amount of total outstanding educational debt in the United States has nearly tripled, swelling to almost $1 trillion.
The number of student loan borrowers and the amount each borrower owes both have increased by 70 percent since 2004, the report found.
Oklahoma had the fifth-highest default rate in the country in 2010 compared with other states and U.S. territories, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education, released in August 2012. Only Puerto Rico, Arizona, Arkansas and California surpassed Oklahoma in the rate of student loan defaults.
Oklahoma's student loan default rate was at 13 percent in 2010, compared to 9.1 percent nationally.
More recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City also shows higher student loan delinquencies in the state.
About 15.2 percent of student loans were delinquent in Oklahoma in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 9.7 percent nationally, according to consumer credit data from the Federal Reserve Bank.
Some try bankruptcy
Although loans can't typically be discharged through bankruptcy, many people file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy to help ease the burden of student loan debt, said Patrick Moore, an Oklahoma City bankruptcy attorney.
Debtors who file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can get monthly payments reduced through a court-approved repayment plan while they get their finances in order, Moore said.
“Student loans are really going to be the new upcoming problem. I've seen a definite increase in people who have a large amount of student loan debt,” Moore said.
Cristy Cash, director of counseling for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma, said the nonprofit agency has seen a growing number of people seek its services because of student loan debt.
The problem of student loan debt can also be compounded with credit card debt and other financial problems, she said.
“We see more and more people come in with problems with student loan debt because they can't afford their repayment plan,” Cash said.
Ready, set, repay
The Oklahoma College Assistance Program, a division of the State Regents for Higher Education, launched a new website,, this month to help borrowers manage their student loan debt. The website includes information on repayment options for borrowers as well as loan consolidation and estimating loan repayments.