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Gary Armstrong's Blog

When Student Loans Attack

December 14, 2012 Comments (0)

Student Loan Debt Hits $1 Trillion The student loan burden is now at a record $1 trillion. That number is staggering.  Many factors contribute to this growing number. The cost of college continues to rise at a rate higher than the rate at which salaries are rising. It is also outpacing the growth rate of teacher salaries. It now costs more to get a college degree, but the potential salaries for recent graduates do not support the bills that result from the degree. The private student loan...

Even Debt Collectors Have a Mean Big Brother

December 12, 2012 Comments (0)

This coming January, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will begin supervising large debt collectors. This is welcome news to many debtors. The Federal Trade Commission reports that the debt collection industry has been at the top of the list in terms of the number of complaints received for the past 4 years. Most Americans have experienced some level of financial hardship over the past couple of years, and that oftentimes leads to unpaid bills. There are strict guidelines to follow for...

Saving Your Assets Part 6 – Filing for Bankruptcy

December 10, 2012 Comments (0)

In this series of posts, we’ve been talking about ways to protect assets rather than liquidate or borrow against those assets to pay credit card debts. After all these years as a bankruptcy and consumer lawyer, it still surprises me when I learn that clients have bowed to the pressure of creditors by taking out home equity loans or cashing in 401k accounts to pay off unsecured debts. Those same clients wonder how bankruptcy could possibly be better than using assets to pay debts. The bottom...

Wishing, Phishing and SMiShing: Avoiding Online Holiday Scams

December 7, 2012 Comments (0)

This year, online retailers are expected to take in almost $100 billion in holiday gift-buying revenues, up 17% from 2011.  Access to online buying opportunities has mushroomed to include not only “traditional” websites, but social media portals like Facebook, and smartphone and tablet apps that pare down the essentials to a few easy taps on the screen. Unfortunately, not everyone engenders “good will toward men” at this time of year.  With awareness and some simple common-sense precautions,...

Saving Your Assets Part 5 – Debt Settlement Services

December 5, 2012 Comments (0)

If you don’t want to tackle debt settlement on your own, you can contract with a debt settlement company or you can hire a lawyer to act as your middleman. We’ll get to the lawyer angle in a minute. Most debt settlement companies maintain the same business model. You pay into an account with the company until you have accumulated an agreed-upon amount. At that point, the company will negotiate with a creditor and use the money in the account to pay the debt (and their fee). You continue this...

Saving Your Assets Part 4 – Handling Debt Settlements on Your Own

December 3, 2012 Comments (0)

In the last several posts, we talked about foregoing a home equity loan or a loan against retirement savings in favor or other methods to get credit card debt under control. Those alternatives include defending credit card lawsuits and bringing suits to stop unlawful collection actions. We also talked about how you can use a credit counseling agency to gain control of your debt. In this post, we consider another alternative:  negotiating debt settlements on your own.   If you’re behind in your...

Saving Your Assets Part 3 – Credit Counseling Agencies

December 3, 2012 Comments (0)

On our Saving Your Assets blog series we’ve talked about what you can do to pay credit cards and other unsecured debts without tapping into your long-term assets, like home equity and retirement savings. Now we are going to discuss credit counseling agencies. Credit Counseling Agencies A first step for many on the road to financial recovery is a non-profit debt counseling agency, such as Consumer Credit Counseling Service.  Most CCCS offices offer classes, individual counseling and debt...

Saving Your Assets Part 2 – Credit Cards and Other Unsecured Debts

December 3, 2012 Comments (0)

Last time, we considered home equity loans and cashing in retirement savings, and why those strategies aren’t great ideas for paying down credit card debt. We talked about how consolidation loans pay off credit cards but put the collateral — the borrower’s house — in jeopardy if the homeowner continues to use those accounts or is otherwise unable to make the mortgage payments. In the next several installments, we talk about about alternatives and the tools a debtor can use to manage...

Saving Your Assets Part 1- Home Equity Loans

December 3, 2012 Comments (0)

Using your house to pay credit cards? Cashing in your retirement savings to pay medical bills? Why those actions may cost you more in the long run.   Not long ago, one of the attorneys in our office was meeting with a potential client who faced foreclosure on a home equity loan. It was a sad and avoidable situation caused in part by desperation and in part by a lack of information. Until 2000, homeowners in the state of Texas had little opportunity to mine the equity in their homes. Until then,...

Can Social Security Be Excluded From Calculating “Projected Disposable Income”?

December 3, 2012 Comments (0)

The Fifth and Tenth Circuits join the Sixth and Eighth Circuits in concluding that Chapter 13 debtors are not required to include social security benefits in the calculation of their “projected disposable income” for plan purposes. The two cases, released within days of each other, considered similar facts.  Each had a debtor that disclosed but failed to include social security benefits to fund his Chapter 13 plan.  Each had a Chapter 13 trustee that objected to the plan and argued that the...