Why Bankruptcy? Because Friends Don’t Let Friends Pay Credit Cards From Savings
Legal Notice: You are not my client, this is not legal advice, it’s a bunch of codswallop and hogwash, rely on it at your own peril, nor does reading this article make you my client. If you rely on this information and use it in your case and it goes badly for you, tough noogies.
So you’ve lost your job, broken your leg, gotten a divorce or someone has died.
You find out that on top of the $20K in credit card bills that you knew about, there’s another $30K that you didn’t.
I’ve heard all of this before.
Let this be a lesson to you, if you are letting your spouse do all of the finances, stop, wake up and smell the plastic. Go into the bills and read each one. If English is not your strong suit, bring a friend. Chances are, if only one spouse is ever doing all the accounting then that person may have bad things hiding in that pile of papers that he or she refers to affectionately as the bills.
No, it’s probably not a girlfriend or boyfriend, could be but probably not, but it could be a gambling problem or worse. And it could just be that after 15 years of spending $200 more per month than you earn, the total balances on all credit cards is now $36,000 higher than you thought. ($200 x 12months) x 15 yrs = $36,000. Of course it will be a bit smaller because of monthly payments or it could be a lot higher if some cards were used to pay other cards which usually happens after a few years of living that way.
I once had a client whose spouse had a gambling problem, that spouse had a friend who was a notary, who also had a gambling problem. They were partners in crime. While the innocent spouse was out to sea double entendre intended with the Navy, the stateside spouse and the in-cahoots-notary got together and created a 2nd mortgage and pulled all the equity out of the house and gambled it away while the innocent spouse was gone. Needless to say the innocent spouse also asked me if I do divorces, I don’t.
Face it, if you’re letting your spouse handle all of your finances, then guess what, eventually you’re going to end up alone and living la vida broke-a because you’ve only got a 50-50 chance of not getting divorced, but the other half end in death and either way, one or both of you ends up alone. I cannot begin to tell you how many widows and widowers I’ve met with who had no idea that the life insurance hadn’t been paid, had no idea that the cash value in the life insurance had been withdrawn and spent on girls, guns, boys, gambling, drugs, alcohol, and good times. More often, it’s like I stated in the first place, you’ve been living on $100 to $200 less per month and paying that difference with credit cards for the last 15 years, and I’ve seen that go on for 25 years as well. You’ve been just living a bit above your means, or your income.
So, you’re broke and alone and you realize that you’re not completely destitute, there’s some savings socked away somewhere.
Let’s say you find you’re left with $50K in debts on credit cards and unsecured loans, such as signature loans.
You’ve got $100K in your 401k plan, $20K in cash in the bank, some clothes, some furniture (no antiques or heirlooms), one 12 year old Honda Accord with a big rumple in the fender, you’ve got wedding rings that are 20 years old and you only paid $1000 for them back then (retail), your home is worth $200K and you’ve got a loan on it for $150K. And that’s all you’ve got.
You don’t have a job, you’re alone and you’re 50 years old, and you if you could get a job, you have no currently usable skills. Your only income is your dead spouse’s retirement which pays $1500/mo. What should you do? Please realize I can’t fit every scenario into one blog article. If you have specific questions you’ll have to call.
Most of your friends, Suze Orman and that buckets of money guy will probably tell you to pay off the credit cards with the cash and then tap into the 401k or pull some equity out of the house. Some of the financial pundits will get a little cheeky and say you should offer each credit card 30% or 40% and try to settle them for an average of about 35cents on the dollar. That way you could use the cash, not tap into the 401k or the house and still have a little left over. While it’s not a bad solution, remember that you still only have an income of about $1500/mo and your mortgage probably comes to about between $800/mo to $1200/mo depending on when it was refinanced last and many other factors. Even if your mortgage is low, how do you live on only $700/mo. It can be done but that’s a different article coming soon.
Why pay them even 35% when you could pay them 0%? After paying your bankruptcy attorney approximately $1500 in attorneys fees and the $300 filing fee for the case, you’ve only paid out about 3.5% of the total balances on the cards and loans. In CALIFORNIA you can keep the 401k, you can keep the equity in the house, you can keep the $20K in cash, you can keep the clothes and furniture, you can keep the little bit of jewelry, and yes, you can keep the old beater car. Is 3.5% better than 35%? No brainer.
In other words, you keep everything except the cost of filing the case. If any of the credit cards comes forward and says that that debt was created via fraud, you can say that it wasn’t your fraud, the missing spouse did it. And yes, even if the card is in your name, if it was identity theft, (your spouse stole your identity to create a card in your name), that’s not you committing fraud, it was your spouse. So sue him or her.
Bottom line, you’ve still got your 401k, your cash savings which must guard with your life because you don’t have a job. If you only spend $500/mo of it, it will last you 40 months on top of the $1500/mo in income that you do have in our little example above. You can see that if you can’t find a job in the next 40 months, then at least you had that much breathing room. If you paid out a 3rd of your savings to pay off credit cards then you’d have a year less than 40 months to find the next job. How much of a cushion is enough? With 40 months you could go back to school and finish a degree.
Sure they’ll tell you that employers are looking at your credit scores, and some do, but not if you have no interesting skills other than how to raise a family. I’ve got friends older than me who are working at Home Depot now. Great way to supplement the income but after years of raising a family there’s no other jobs they can do. I’m pretty sure credit was not an issue.
I’ll tell you about identity theft in another article.
For now, just realize that if you can keep all of your savings and file bankruptcy, why would you ever, ever do what the financial pundits tell you and pay off credit cards with savings when you don’t have a job? Anyone telling you to do that must have a freaking hole in their head. DON’T DO IT. Just Say NO. If you are not in California, go to the attorney of your choice and ask what you could keep if you filed a bankruptcy in that state. Also, if you live in Arizona, move to El Centro or the nearest California City closest to you and commute to work if you have a job or whatever you commute to and then file. That way you won’t be an Arizona resident when you file and, while you won’t get to keep $20K in cash like you would if you were from California, it will at least be substantially more than what Arizona will allow you to keep when you file.