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  • Buying Your First Home As A Couple?

    Buying a new home as a young couple can be a very exciting thing. This is often one of the milestones of life, so it makes sense that you should be excited about getting your new home. However, if you are to have an easy time staying there, there are a number of things you would need to keep in mind. Most people usually take the process of buying a new house very seriously, and therefore do not make many mistakes. However, there are a few small things that you may end up neglecting, and which may make the acquisition of the house an easier thing. Some of these include:

    •    Choosing the right location. When you are trying to get a new home, you may find that it is very difficult to get one that suits your needs perfectly. In many cases, most couples tend to compromise on a number of things just so that they can get it over with. The location of the house is one of the things you should never compromise on. You always have to get a house that is in a neighborhood that you are comfortable with, and which is also close to any sites of interest you may have.

    •    Handling the mortgage. When you are applying for a new home mortgage, always make sure that you discuss the issue thoroughly with your spouse, and that you end up being on the same page by the time you are approaching the brokers. This will reduce the number of disagreements you may have in future about finances. To make the process of getting the loan easier, you can even split the responsibilities between the two of you. For instance, one can dedicate a majority of his or her income towards servicing the mortgage, and the other can take care of day to day issues such as the monthly bills and the savings.

    •    Consider any plans you may have for the future when choosing a house. For instance, if you are thinking of having children, buy a house that will be able to accommodate the number of children you want to get. It is often a good idea to get one that is slightly larger than this so as to cater for any surprises, such as when you get twins when you wanted to have one child.

    These are just a few of the minor issues that most couples tend to neglect when they are getting a new home. By always keeping them in mind, you can make the process of getting the house much easier!

  • Save Time and Money by Creating a Personal Budget

    Have you ever felt like your paycheck is disappearing as soon as you cash it in? While creating a personal financial budget may not seem necessary, it is one of the most important tricks for boosting your savings in a much shorter time period than you may think is possible. Instead of spending money as you go without a care in the world, budgets not only prevent unnecessary spending, but help in creating positive financial habits that will help you permanently in the long run. To help with the budget creation process, here are 5 steps in creating a personal budget that'll have you saving in no time.

    Income Recording: Preventing Unnecessary Debt

    Before researching into one's expenses, one should always record all of his or her sources of income. The biggest mistake in creating a personal budget is when an individual doesn't keep in mind all earnings before and after taxation. If you're being paid by the usual weekly or biweekly paycheck, taxes should have already been automatically taken off. If you're being paid by a net income or salary, you may have to manually deduct taxes from your total income.

    Breaking Down the Numbers: Categorizing the Necessary From the Unneeded

    After you've figured out your total earnings on a monthly to yearly basis, gather all of your past financial statements (a year or two back should be sufficient) in regards to expenses such as your utility bills, lease payments for automobiles, and mortgages. Any kind of personal spending receipts will also be beneficial. As your statements should be dated, organize them into monthly categories to get an idea on how much you usually spend per month. This step should help you in the next step of figuring out the most important part of a personal budget: picking out the fixed expenses that can't be skipped out in comparison to your avoidable expenses. (If you use personal finance software, such as Quicken, it will sort out your expenses by type automatically.)

    Picking Out the Avoidable from the Fixed

    Trim off preventable purchases and variable expenses for luxury and pleasurable purposes by setting out monthly budgets. If your past financial statements and purchase receipts indicate a lot of variable spending, then you're most likely spending excessively. Don't try to completely cut off optional expenses, though - not leaving a little money for fun is a surefire way to ensure you don't follow your budget!

    Determine a Goal in Mind

    Once your avoidable expenses have been determined, it is time to come up with a savings goal. A reasonable goal to start with is to aim to spend only 70-80% of your total yearly earnings. Do keep in mind that you may not be stay entirely in budget for the first few months, as budgets when first created are often a little bit too idealistic. As long as your income is growing compared to your expenses, you're making progress!

    The First Few Months are the Most Important to Record

    After you've set up a monthly budget and both monthly and yearly goals in savings, record every type of spending you find yourself doing for the first few months. This allows you to prioritize your spending habits and further determine what exactly you're indulging too much in.

    While making a personal budget may seem easy, keeping in line with it can be frustrating at times. With practice, personal budgets will become easier to follow through with and before you know it, your improved spending practices will become habitual. In turn, your savings will blossom in much less time than expected.

    This guest post is courtesy of the PPI Claims team at PPI Claims Company, #1 in PPI claims information.

  • Options for Dealing with Student Loan Debt

    The average student from the class of 2010 has $25,250 in student loan debt, according to the Institute for College Access & Success in Oakland, California. Some graduates who fall into financial hardship are unable to make the monthly loan payments leading to a default on their loan. This can have serious financial consequences. For example student loan default can make you ineligible for additional federal student aid, federal and state income tax refunds can be withheld or it may even result in loan wage garnishment whereby your employer withholds a percentage of your wages for payment towards the debt. A default goes on your credit report and is similar to a charge-off, but unlike other loans student debt cannot be expunged in bankruptcy.

    Fortunately there are options available for graduates who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of student debt.

    Deferring and Forbearance

    If you fall into financial hardship and cannot repay your loan you may have the option of a deferment or forbearance. Forbearance allows you to reduce or halt payments for a set period of time. However interest still accrues on the loan for the period that payments are not made so you can end up in even more debt by the time the forbearance ends. Deferment is preferable to forbearance as the interest is paid for by the government while payments are put on hold. You only have about 3 years of deferment or forbearance until it is used up so it should only be used to prevent defaulting on a loan.

    Loan Forgiveness

    If you work for the government or in a public service job you are entitled to have your loan forgiven or erased after 10 years of service and 120 payments. Unfortunately only students who took out federal loans are entitled to loan forgiveness. These include Stafford loans, Federal Direct PLUS loans and direct Consolidation loans.

    Financial Hardship Payment Options

    If your income is low and you are struggling to make payments you may be eligible for one of the following plans.

    • Income Contingent Repayment Plan - The Income Contingent Repayment Plan calculates your payments based on your income. Your payments could be reduced significantly and any remaining loan payment after 25 years is cancelled.
    • Hardship Repayment Plans for Perkins Loans - Perkins loans are federally backed loans given to the poorest students. A Perkins loan means you can pay as little as $40 per month and payment can be stretched out over a longer period of time resulting in lower monthly payments.
    • Income Sensitive Repayment Plan - This plan is only available for the Federal Family Education Loan and means your payments are based on your annual income, total loan amount and family size.
    • Income Based Repayment Plan - You can get an Income Based Repayment Plan but it is only available for Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loans. An income Based Repayment Plan offers more options than under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan or Income Sensitive Repayment Plan and payments can be lower. Also your debt is erased after 25 years of payments and you can pay back less than the accruing interest. However you cannot obtain an Income Based Repayment Plan if your loan is in default.

    Consolidation Student Loans

    Student loan consolidation is a way of consolidating or combining all of your federal student loans into a single loan with one monthly payment. This makes it easier to keep track of your debt and it can have the added benefit of reducing your interest rate and helping you get out of default.

    Cancelling Student Debt

    It some cases you can cancel your student loans or part of your loan if you meet specific criteria. For example you were enrolled in a school that closed while you were in attendance, false certifications where the college did not make sure that you were qualified before starting the course or you are unable to work due to illness or injury that lasts five or more years.

    For students who opted for a federal rather than a private loan there are a number of options available to make payment on a loan easier and less burdensome. Income based repayment, debt consolidation, and even cancelling student debt are some of the options for avoiding default.

  • Future Income and Bankruptcy Fraud

    What is Bankruptcy Fraud?

    Bankruptcy fraud occurs any time someone lies or misstates income, assets or liabilities when filing for bankruptcy. Committing bankruptcy fraud can result in the bankruptcy case being tossed out of court and your creditors coming back with a vengeance for their money. Mistakes on bankruptcy filings can result in allegations of bankruptcy fraud. Efforts to shield assets by transferring them to heirs before filing for medical bankruptcy or sell items at a loss to relatives to pay off personal loans may trigger allegations of bankruptcy fraud. Always consult with a legal professional when you begin to see bankruptcy as your only option. Giving away property to mollify relatives or sell items below market value to raise cash to make this month's debt payment could endanger your bankruptcy case later on.

    What Is Future Income?

    Future income is the money you will receive or earn in the future. This money can come from a salary, sales commissions, the sale of property, inheritances, insurance payouts, royalties and any number of sources.

    When Is Future Income Related to Bankruptcy Fraud?

    Failing to report future income is a form of bankruptcy fraud. You are not always aware of future income. If you have been trying to sell a book manuscript for years and then hit it big a year after your bankruptcy, no fraud has occurred. If you were in negotiations to sell the rights and didn't tell your creditors this during the bankruptcy proceedings, you have committed bankruptcy fraud. If you quit your job to lower your income in order to qualify for bankruptcy or spite creditors (or an ex-spouse), you are open to charges of bankruptcy fraud if you pick up a good paying job after the bankruptcy is discharged. Failing to report deferred compensation to a bankruptcy court is bankruptcy fraud. Not reporting lump sum payments at retirement like unused vacation time and sick time is also bankruptcy fraud.

    Your retirement accounts are generally protected from liquidation during bankruptcy. So are public employee pension plans, Social Security payments and disability benefits. However, failure to report these plans and any income you receive from them is bankruptcy fraud. If you can make payments to creditors but do not do so, they can request that the bankruptcy case be thrown out. While your pension payments may not be garnished, you have a legal and moral obligation to pay your creditors if you can. Failing to report pension income or future retirement plan benefits during bankruptcy is fraud.

    Another form of bankruptcy fraud is selling rights for less than they are worth or transferring rights to someone else. If you sell an oil and gas lease for pennies on the dollar to a family member, future income from that lease could have been used to pay creditors. Transferring royalties for a book or patent to an ex-spouse to prevent increased demands for child support or alimony could be construed as bankruptcy fraud. Signing a quit-claim deed on a rental property to a family member or former spouse can also be mistaken for bankruptcy fraud. Always consult with a legal professional before giving up sources of future income.

    --About the Author

    Michael Bolinske is a Minnesota Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer helping people file bankruptcy the right way.

  • Cramdowns, Foreclosures, Second Mortgages and Bankruptcy

    Primary mortgages are rarely modifiable, even in bankruptcy court. However, your bankruptcy attorney can work with your first mortgage holder to enter a payment plan to make up missed mortgage payments or enter a longer mortgage term to make the monthly payments more manageable. Unsecured second mortgages have more flexibility, both inside and outside of bankruptcy court.

    Keeping Your House With a Second Mortgage

    For those entering Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the second mortgage can be added to the debt repayment plan along with the primary mortgage. You must include the second mortgage in the bankruptcy petition, whether it is a secured loan or unsecured debt. Then you will need to make the monthly payments on time and in full. At the end of the payment plan, the debt is paid off, payments continue under the mortgage terms reaffirmed by the court or the remaining second mortgage balance is discharged by the bankruptcy court. It is possible that the second mortgage balance is discharged even while the primary mortgage remains. However, you must speak with a bankruptcy attorney to find out if this is an option where you live.

    You can save your home from foreclosure even if you have two or mortgages on it. However, you need legal representation to properly renegotiate these loans or enter a payment plan to be able to keep your home. Without legal representation, you may inadvertently agree to become liable for a deficit if the house is later sold in a short sale or foreclosed upon.

    Second Mortgages, Foreclosures and Short Sales

    If your home is sold to pay your mortgage debts, the second mortgage is paid after the first mortgage is paid. If there is not enough money to satisfy the second mortgage, the remaining debt may be paid out of the money raised by liquidating your assets or it is dismissed when the bankruptcy is discharged. If you sell your home, you can also choose to enter a payment plan to pay off the second mortgage balance.

    If the mortgage holder forecloses on the property before you file for bankruptcy, they can take the house regardless of the repayment terms you would like to enter. The balance remaining with the first and second mortgage holders becomes unsecured debt and will need to be included in your bankruptcy petition.

    A bankruptcy court in rare instances will force mortgage holders to accept a cram down or reduction in principle, where the court forces the creditor to modify the mortgage agreement to accept less than was originally agreed without reclaiming the asset or forcing its sale. This happens more often with second mortgages than first mortgages. It is rare for a court to cram down or modify a first mortgage. Seek the advice of a legal professional to find out if this is an option in your state. However, your attorney can negotiate with the creditors to turn a 15 year mortgage into a 20 year mortgage or refinance it into a lower interest rate loan. If the home is sold at a loss, as happens with many underwater properties, you need legal representation to prevent a crushing debt load or massive tax bill on the forgiven balance.

    Never send back the keys and hope that this will satisfy the mortgage company. While "jingle mail" may be emotionally gratifying, it does not resolve the problems associated with unpaid bills, outstanding mortgage balances or collection efforts.

    --About the Author

    Michael Bolinske is a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer at Bolinske Law, helping people improve financial troubles.