Debt Help & Bankruptcy Canada

At Grant Thornton Limited, we provide solutions for people with debt and financial challenges. Consumer proposals, bankruptcy, and other debt solutions.

Tips for Valentine’s Day on a budget

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If you’re having trouble making ends meet, you don’t have to succumb to holiday pressure and spend money you don’t have just to show someone you love them. Some of our Licensed Insolvency Trustees across the country exposed their romantic side by sharing these great low-to-no-cost tips for having a memorable Valentines Day in 2017.

ALBERTA:

Freida Richer tells us how to have a romantic day in Alberta without breaking the bank!

  • Outdoor skating: Bundle up and head outdoors for skating at Olympic Plaza or snowshoeing at Bragg Creek or the Kanasksis Silver Skate Festival and enjoy Edmonton’s picturesque Hawrelak Park in the River Valley. You can get hot chocolate there or bring some of your own for afterwards and have a romantic winter picnic.
  • Plan and prepare a romantic dinner at home together: Staying in is a great way to save money, and enjoying a meal at home can be more romantic than eating dinner in a noisy, crowded restaurant. Set the stage with candles, and dig out your good dishes and wine glasses!
  • Explore the city: Exploring your own neighbourhood with your loved one is a romantic way to spend an evening without breaking the bank. There are plenty of activities around town that are perfect for a date night on a budget including a Telus Spark adult night a few days before Valentine’s Day, the Penguin March at the Calgary Zoo, cheap seats at the Calgary philharmonic (which start at $25), or try cooking classes at SAIT or  “Get Cooking, MacEwan University”.

HALIFAX:

We discovered Rob McLernon is a romantic at heart when he shared these tips with us.

  • Outdoor skating at the Emera Oval: Plan a romantic outing to the Emera Oval with your significant other and enjoy an evening of skating under the stars. Bring some hot chocolate and snacks for afterwards and have a romantic winter picnic
  • Explore the Halifax / Dartmouth waterfront: Walk the boardwalk, take the ferry across the harbor, and stop into a coffee shop for a snack. Exploring your own neighbourhood with your loved one is an exciting way to spend a romantic evening without breaking the bank
  • Plan and prepare a romantic dinner at home together: Staying in is a great way to save money, and enjoying a meal at home can be more romantic than eating dinner in a noisy, crowded restaurant. Set the stage with candles, and dig out your good dishes and wine glasses!
  • Go snowshoeing: Consider renting some snowshoes or cross country skis (or better yet, borrow equipment from a friend) and head out for a jaunt in Shubie Park or Point Pleasant Park.

CAPE BRETON ISLAND:

Thanks to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Licensed Insolvency Trustee Blaire MacNeil for these tips for planning Valentine’s Day activities around the island.

  • Venture outdoors: Consider renting some snowshoes or cross country skis (or borrow equipment from friends) and head out for a snowshoe hike around the Clyburn Loop at the Clyburn Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
  • Go to the movies – it’s cheap night: Movie tickets are cheaper on Tuesdays, and Valentine’s Day just happens to fall on a Tuesday this year! Take advantage of cheap night and grab a couple cheap movie tickets for you and your significant other.
  • Cook a romantic dinner together: Staying in is a great way to save money, and enjoying a meal at home can be more romantic than eating dinner in a noisy, crowded restaurant. Set the stage with candles, and dig out the good dishes and wine glasses.
  • Attend a community hall dance: If staying in is not your thing, the Practical Nursing Students are hosting a Valentine’s dance with a silent auction on Saturday, Feb 11 from 9pm to 1 am at Grand Lake Road Fire Dept. All proceeds go towards Loaves and Fishes, and tickets are $15 per couple! Call 902-317-1389 for tickets.

NEW BRUNSWICK:

Kristi Stuart and the New Brunswick team shared these tips.

  • Outdoor Skating: Plan a romantic evening of outdoor skating at the Arts & Culture Park in Quispamsis, or skate to music under the stars at Lily Lake Pavilion in Saint John. Bring some hot chocolate and snacks for afterwards and have a romantic winter picnic
  • Plan a romantic stroll through Rockwood Park: Bundle up, grab your loved one, and embark on a romantic stroll through Rockwood Park. Bring some hot chocolate and snacks and have a romantic winter picnic after your walk
  • Cook a romantic dinner together: Staying in is a great way to save money, and enjoying a meal at home can be more romantic than eating dinner in a noisy, crowded restaurant. Set the stage with candles, and dig out the good dishes and wine glasses!

If your debt load is causing you stress beyond trying to plan the perfect Valentines Day gift, contact one of our debt help professionals near you for a free, no obligation debt consultation.

Black Friday & Cyber Monday: How to get past the hype and shop smart

pexels-photo-230544_72Door crasher deals. Limited quantities available. Lowest prices of the year – 4 days only!

With the holidays right around the corner and discounted deals constantly advertised to you, Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a time when you can get wrapped up in spending. Online shopping has become more prevalent and more convenient than ever before but can quickly send you into a spiral of debt if you’re not careful.

There is a psychology behind all the advertising and promotions surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s important to be aware that retail “events” like these are really just marketing tactics meant to over-hype discounts and deals that could promote and result in overspending. The advertising feeds on our emotions and plays into the fear many of us have of missing out on something big. There is a lot of buzz and excitement created as marketers aim to whip shoppers into a frenzy by putting high demand items on at seemingly deeply discounted prices — available only for a short period of time.

If you aren’t careful, you will end up buying more than you had intended – and spending more than you have by using credit and buying impulsively. If you are planning to participate in big retail days like Black Friday/Cyber Monday, be smart about it.

Tips for Smart Shopping

  • Don’t shop because you fear “missing out on something big”. The reality is that deals or discounts come in waves and will be available at multiple times throughout the year. Do the math to determine if it’s really a “deal” not to be missed.
  • Give yourself a financial reality check before shopping. It’s important for you to quickly pull out a statement of your largest debt (credit card or loan statement) to see the dollar amount owing on that account. You need to think about how you will feel tomorrow if you add on more debt today. Decide if it’s worth it.
  • Make a list. With discounts available on so many products, it can be easy to lose track of what you are looking for and make impulse purchases you will regret later. Making a list of exactly what is needed allows you to be in control of where your money is going.
  • Set a budget and stick to it. In addition to planning which items are on your list, set a strict budget of how much you are able and willing to spend. As you are shopping, keep a tab of how much you are spending and cut yourself off once you reach that limit. Despite the discounts being offered, some items may simply be beyond a reasonable budget.
  • Be aware that online shopping can result in overspending. These days, people don’t have to leave their homes to participate in Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping. The problems with the ease of shopping via your home computer or cell phone is that you will likely use a credit card for the purchase and you’ll end up purchasing multiple items within a short time frame since it’s very easy to submit a payment and move on to the next item.
  • Is it really a “deal” if I buy it on credit? If you buy that great deal on credit, are paying only the minimum monthly payments on your credit card balance and it takes you more than 6 months to pay off your purchases, your overall cost with interest will end up voiding any original deal or discount you are getting.

Overall, just be honest with yourself about your financial situation. With the weakened economy and the unfavorable US exchange rate, many consumers do not have the financial means to participate in holiday shopping. If you are living pay cheque to pay cheque, assess if holiday shopping is a smart financial decision or if there are more economical gift options you can explore, like giving the gift of your time or making home-made gifts.

Do you have some great tips you use to avoid overspending? We’d love to hear them.

I’ve overspent! Now what?!

If you’ve already shopped and fear you overspent, don’t remove the tags. Leave the items in the bag and look at them the next day to decide if you still feel the same excitement. You might discover that an item in the bag was more a want than a need and you can still return it.

What are some warning signs that you are spending more than you should?
• You’ve maxed out your credit card (and are already only making the minimum payments).
• You feel guilty about your purchases – knowing you’ve bought ‘wants’ and not ‘needs’.
• You’re regularly spending more than you make.
• You’re dipping into your savings.

If you recognize some of these warning signs and are feeling the pressure of carrying an overwhelming amount of consumer debt, book a free consultation with one of our Licensed Insolvency Trustees. They can look at your personal financial situation during a confidential, no obligation meeting and make recommendations on what options are available to you.

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Freida Richer is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with our Edmonton, Alberta practice. You can watch her Money Smarts segment on the third Monday of every month on Global Morning News Edmonton.

 

 

Do my student loans still have to be paid even if I go bankrupt?

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Larry Crandall, Licensed Insolvency Trustee

Yes, but with some exceptions.

If you ceased to be a full-time or part-time student more than seven years before declaring bankruptcy, your student loans will be extinguished when you are discharged from bankruptcy.

If the period between your termination of studies and bankruptcy is less than seven years a student loan guaranteed under a federal or provincial program will survive your discharge from bankruptcy. You continue making payments.

After five years, however, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act permits an application to the Court for waiver of your obligation if you experience, and will continue to experience, financial difficulty. The Trustee can help you with the application to the Court.

As well as proving this level of hardship to the Court, you will be required to show that you acted in good faith in connection with your student loan. You may be asked how you used student loan money, how you have used your education, how diligently you have tried to repay the loans and whether you have stayed in touch with the lender and appropriate government agencies, availing yourself of interest relief plans and other repayment programs.

New Repayment Assistance Plan 

As of November 1, 2016, the Canadian government put new measures in place to help recent post-secondary graduates manage their student debt. Canadians don’t have to repay their Canada Student Loan until they’re earning at least $25,000 a year.  Learn more…

If you have questions or would like to have a free consultation with one of our trustees, contact one at our location nearest you.

Some people are driven to deliver quality. Fortunately, some are awarded for it.

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Frank Fabiano, CPA, CA, CIRP Licensed Insolvency Trustee Partner and Vice President

 

A strong commitment to quality is core to everything we do at Grant Thornton. It is foundational to our success as a firm.

Frank was recently presented with our National Professional Excellence Award recognizing him as a partner who exemplifies the commitment to professional excellence to which the entire Grant Thornton team aspires.

Frank services Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.  If you, your company or your client is experiencing financial difficulty, give Frank a call. Not only is he the right professional to consult, he’s understanding, respectful and here to help.

Learn more about Frank and book your free consultation.

 

 

Advice for Canadians facing housing foreclosure


Given recent news that nearly 1 million Canadians would be unable to keep up with their monthly payments if interest rateshouse-icon_purple  increased by only 1%, Freida Richer, Licensed Insolvency Trustee with Grant Thornton’s consumer insolvency team in Edmonton, warns that consumers who are unable to continue their mortgage payments may be facing a housing foreclosure.

She’s worked with consumers in a variety of financial situations and offered her advice for consumers in this situation:

  • Approach the situation earlier rather than later: A housing foreclosure can be more damaging to a consumer than filling bankruptcy. While facing financial worries can be daunting, approaching these situations earlier rather than later allows more time to find a solution that works for both the lender and the borrower.
  • Work with the bank: Banks don’t want to see a house sitting empty, if you work with your bank you may be able to live in the property until it is sold, granting you much more time to find alternative options.
  • Know your equity: More equity in a home often means a longer redemption period for a homeowner. Having more equity in a home could mean the difference between one day and six months in that home.
  • Resolving your exposure when foreclosure occurs: A mortgage deficiency judgment obtained against you as a result of the foreclosure is treated as an unsecured claim which can be resolved through a Consumer Proposal or Bankruptcy.

To learn more from Freida, visit www.gt.alger.ca

…and the tax man cometh — dealing with tax, the CRA, debt help and bankruptcy

Every year, without fail, just like snow and temperatures will eventually fall in the winter, mosquitoes will pester us in the summer… every April, the tax man comes. With the deadline for Canadians to pay their personal taxes (by April 30) lets explore the issue of when you OWE money to CRA (Canada Revenue Agency).

Currently we (the trustees at Grant Thornton) are seeing about 50% of our clientele dealing with with some amount of tax debt that is owed to the CRA . While this may seem like a relatively high number, tax debt is not unusual.

One of the major trends we continue to see is people not filing their taxes for fear of owing money – this is not only a mistake, but failing to file your taxes does not get you out of paying the taxes for the year, if you owe, it can actually lead to larger amounts being owed through fines and penalties. We have seen tax debt to the extent where 50% of the amount owed is a build up of fines, interest and penalties over multiple years.

Here are the most common reasons people fall behind on paying (or filing) their taxes:

  • High costs from relationship breakdown – separation or divorce has caused people to incur costs associated with legal bills and support payments, distracting them from focusing on tax filing and remittance requirements
  • Lack of knowledge – this is more common among self-employed people that have been making good money in their respective trade. Often these people may fail to recognize the need to maintain compliance with CRA – they often put aside the matter until it’s too late, or underestimate the amount they need to set aside to pay tax which ends up causing them trouble. Some small business owners simply do not know what is required and have been soo busy working on the profit side of their business, they neglect to care for the compliance side.
  • Procrastination – some people are born procrastinators and just put off dealing with their taxes until they have completely forgotten about them all together. Then one day they are forced to deal with many years of unfiled taxes.

“The biggest mistake we see people make is neglecting to file their taxes year after year, and letting costs build up to insurmountable amounts – frequently, the penalties and interest from either not filing or not paying becomes as much as the tax owing,” says Freida Richer. “People are eventually pushed to resolve their tax debt because of the following reasons:

  • the CRA begins to garnish their wages to a point where they have no choice but to deal with their taxes,
  • the CRA threaten to file writ on the property of their home,
  • they get pressure from family or have a change in their life (birth or marriage) and want to get their finances in order.
  • their is a freeze put on their bank account.

Whatever the motivation, people should know that only a Trustee can help negotiate tax debt with CRA.”

With tax season approaching, now is the time for people to be especially mindful of their taxes and keep in mind that filing them, even if you owe, is still better than neglecting them all together.  CRA is more inclined to work with you if your taxes are filed and up to date than if they find out you have not filed your taxes in years.

On another note, keep your receipts and all tax related documentation for seven (7) years, you never know when/if you will be audited and its much easier to save the information than to try to hunt it down later.

If tax debt has become a challenge that you are ready to deal with, contact one of our trustees where we can review your options. Consumer Proposals allow people to make a fair and reasonable proposal to their creditors, including the CRA, for a revised repayment plan. Often times we are able to consolidate and reduce the overall debt owing and provide and interest-free repayment schedule for up to 60 months.

With multiple locations across Canada, there is sure to be an office near you.

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How much is it really costing you? Credit cards and smart shopping.

When was the last time you put a purchase on your credit card? For most people making purchases on their credit cards is a daily, if not weekly, occurrence. So when was the last time you looked at the interest rate on your credit card? Or calculated how long it would take for you to pay off that purchase?

We often ask what makes a person choose when to call a Trustee for help with their debt. As Angela Lock, CIRP a Trustee in our Calgary office mentioned, “People tell me they are seeing these notes on their credit card statements of how long it will take them to pay the balance, and for most its shocking”.

Can you imagine buying an iPhone and having it take 2 years to pay it off? Assuming you put this purchase on your credit card, at 17% interest, that $859.00 iPhone would cost you an additional $300.

Most of us don’t think of these things when we are making purchases. Here are some tips to help keep you paying less in interest fees and keeping more in your pocket:

  • Do your homework. Find the best possible deals and make a list of the items you intend to purchase. Don’t purchase anything outside of this list.
  • Determine your budget before embarking on a shopping trip. Once you spend your budgeted amount, do not purchase anything else.
  • Whenever possible, spend using debit or cash – or if shopping online, set up a PayPal account where offered and make purchases using that instead of your credit card.

We have become a generation less accustomed to making purchases with cash and feeling the transaction of money leaving our hands, we have become reliant on the ease of ‘paying with plastic’ so being aware of our finances can get away from our immediate attention.

Putting off dealing with debt – missing payments, living paycheck to paycheck, transferring money around to deal with debts – can lead the problem to get worse and worse and get out of control. Taking the first step to seek out help can be the hardest step towards a fresh financial start. But by calling a licensed trustee you can get free financial advice or help with filing a consumer proposal which can reduce consumer debt by up to 75 percent.

Contact us to talk to a Trustee in Canada.

Visit us online:

AB: www.GT.Alger.ca                   
BC: www.GTdebt.ca   
ON: www.ThunderBayBankruptcy.com
NS: www.wedlakeinc.com



The oil and gas price wave in Alberta, preparing your finances for whatever happens

It’s been said that most people in Alberta are either working in the Oil and Gas industry or have someone close to them that does.

With oil prices plummeting to the lowest they’ve been since April 2009, many consumers are fretting over the health of the economy and job security. According to Statistic Canada, Alberta’s unemployment edged up to 4.7 per cent in December from 4.5 per cent the month previous. Shell Canada, one of Alberta’s largest oil projects, recently cut hundreds of jobs – striking fear into residents that more lay offs are to come. With this in mind, I thought you might be interested in a story looking at the impact on Albertans’ personal debt and expert tips on how to prevent consumers from falling into a financial crisis during this time.

When it comes to debt in Alberta, the province holds highest average household debt in Canada, sitting at $124,838 –nearly $50,000 more than the Canadian average. A recent BMO Report shows that despite the slump in oil and the decreasing number of jobs in the province, consumers are still spending at an unsustainable rate. Experts are warning consumers to take stock of their financial situation and prepare for the anticipated job cuts.

Average Household Debt
National ATL ON AB BC
2013 $72,045 $47,237 $76,970 $89,026 $79,089
2014 $76,140 $64,120 $67,507 $124,838 $99,834

Bruce Alger, licensed trustee with our consumer insolvency team in Alberta elaborates on his concerns, “Albertans continue to have the highest household debt in the country, and as other expenses continue to hike up such as utilities, property tax, and potentially interest rates, now is the time more than ever for consumers to have discipline and caution in term of their expenses.”

Alger offers some tips to consumers in Calgary to brace their financial situations:

Plan for the worst and start an emergency savings fund if you haven’t already – the goal is to get to several months of living costs put away in case of job loss

  • Seek out where you can easily cut down on every day costs and apply the saving against debts or your emergency fund
  • Talk with a financial expert, like a licensed trustee, who can offer free advice on how to deal with any mounting debts or debts that have the potential to become a problem.

So our question to you is, has the price of oil affected you or someone you know? Have you started to take a review of your finances and developed a plan to ride out the oil and gas wave?

If you or a family member are facing financial struggles or would like some help with managing your debt, one of our professionals is available to discuss your situation. There are many options available to help and you may not need to go bankrupt. Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll free from anywhere in Western Canada 310 8888. Visit us online at BC: www.GTDebt.ca or AB: www.GT.Alger.ca.



Is a car a necessity or luxury? guess it depends on where you live….

Most people need to commute to work, there’s generally not an option, but is car ownership even possible in some locations?

If you buy a condo in Downtown Vancouver and you want a parking space, there is a good chance you are going to pay a lot for it.

In Calgary the simple act of parking your car at work is expensive: some of the most expensive parking in Canada.

An analysis in a Toronto real estate blog looked at parking, car payments or depreciation, insurance, gas, and maintenance. It found — even for Sunday drivers — the cost of ownership was $870 per month. That’s $10,400 per year.

Transportation experts  have reported the numbers are similar in Vancouver and that’s why many young urban professionals look at the other options.

What are the options? If you can’t afford a car, the good news is that you dont have to go into debt to get one either. There are many services popping up that can help you bridge the gap: Gar to Go, Uber and a few others.

“Now with car-sharing programs, more and more young people in particular have found realistic ways to get around. As a consequence, you can see they’re taking out licences less and they are not buying cars; they are finding lower cost substitutes.

But though car ownership may have become a luxury for people living downtown, it is still a necessity in some other areas. For many in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, commuting by transit is not an easy option.

A recent study by the Pembina Institute found only 19 per cent of Metro residents live within walking distance of rapid transit, compared to 21 per cent in Calgary, 28 per cent in Ottawa, 34 per cent in Toronto, and 37 per cent in Montreal.

There are options, there are always options.

Our trustees offer free consultations, credit counselling, consumer proposal administration and bankruptcy services. Call 310-8888 for a free, no obligation consultation.

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Big income . . . and big debt?

Celebrities – and ‘regular folk’ too – often file bankruptcy or consumer proposal for similar reasons:

Limited financial education: If, like a whirlwind celebrity’s (think YouTube insta-sensation) rise to fame you go from having nothing to having the world at your fingertips, a financial education is not usually part of the package. Learning how to effectively save, budget, and invest can take years, and sometimes a team of help, to achieve. When handed huge checks to cash, many celebs go out and buy the biggest house and fastest car, rather than learning how to properly handle their money.

For ‘mere mortals’ a significant career promotion with pay increase (or an inheritance or elusive lottery win) can add a boost to our credibility and add some additional buying power. But, it’s essential to learn how to manage your money, your budget and your long-term financial planning.

Materialism: Our culture can be highly materialistic. It prompts some people to try to ‘one up’ each other with larger houses or forever be ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ with more expensive vehicles. Young people, in particular, can be susceptible to the ‘celeb mindset’ believing their ownership of the latest designer handbag or electronic item is a given. The easy access to credit cards to people with limited income and often limited money management experience (see above) can lead to serious debt problems.

Celebrities, like the rest of us, can get caught up in having the finer things in life. But, a great TV gig can get cancelled and when the paycheques stop rolling in, it’s harder and harder to maintain that same standard of living without getting into serious debt.

Lack of investment in self: Often the stars surround themselves with lawyers, accountants, and insurance professionals to help them with proper estate, tax, and insurance planning. Sometimes they don’t double-check the work done on their behalf, or they don’t properly vet the financial professionals they hire. Not surprisingly, many fall prey to unscrupulous advisors.

The lesson here for ‘man on the street’ is to take ultimate responsibility for your own financial affairs. Yes, seek the advice of proven professionals. Ask other trusted sources for referrals. Get second opinions. And – refer again to the info above – get educated!

If you are facing financial struggles or would like some help with managing your debt—one of our professionals is available to discuss your situation. There are many options available to help and you may not need to go bankrupt. Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll at 310 8888.

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