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.

Find the fun in scrimping and saving – strategies to knock debt out

OK, with the New Year a week in, how is your resolution doing? Finances seem to be one of the items topping the list this year for Canadians. You may have holiday shopping, entertaining or travel bills that need paying. Let’s not forget those credit card balances you’ve been carrying for a while. But how do you make room in an already tight budget and figure out which debt to tackle first.

So, it’s time to look around and find creative ways to ‘scrimp’, cut back, change things up and presto: extra money to apply to that holiday (or old) debt and then eventually add to our savings.

Where to start? There are some easy, tried and true ways that when added together really can result in more money in your wallet.

How about nixing the daily coffee fix? If you buy one $4 latte each day, that coffee habit will set you back $28 a week, about $120 a month and $1,460 per year. Keep that up for five years, and you’ve slurped away $7,300, not including any money you might have earned by investing your cash instead.

Take a look at your cable TV, Internet and smart phone contracts too. Candidly telling your supplier you intend to make savings can actually result in some! Discuss the packages and contracts you have and see where you can remove TV channels that you don’t watch, eliminate phone features you don’t need . . . or perhaps where bundling services can result in overall cost savings. Perhaps you no longer need a landline. And, when your smart phone contract comes up for renewal, consider forgoing the tempting upgrade to new technology and stay off contract with a streamlined package of services at a reduced fee.

We all know that eating out can be a significant drain on finances. So too, can be daily visits to the grocery store. It’s proven that popping in for milk typically leads to the purchase of at least three other impulse items. Instead, take time on the weekend to plan a week’s worth of meals and purchase all the supplies in one shopping trip. Quadruple make and freeze favourites like Chili that can serve several meals. Utilize a crock pot slow cooker too: prepare quickly before you head out the door and return to a meal all ready to go – and a great smelling house! Of course, it always helps to use coupons if you have them (look on line and print off) and check with your preferred grocery store as to which day of the week has the most cost savings and offers.

Other small ways to cut back:

  • Cancel magazine subscriptions or agree with friends to share the cost and circulate the issues.
  • Give up expensive habits like smoking and alcohol.
  • Install a programmable thermostat that can easily cut your energy bill by 10 to 20% (check out the NEST).
  • Stretch the gaps between hair cuts or colour treatments – after all Ombre is a trend.
  • Before shopping for new clothes, clean out your closet and figure out where you can re-style and re-purpose some of what you already have. You may be able to sell some items at a consignment store or re-discover outfits that you can adapt or re-incorporate into your current favourites.
  • Don’t spend a lot of money entertaining your children. They mostly crave time with you . . . so implement fun no-cost family activities like tobogganing nearby, or movie and game nights at home where everyone unplugs from devices and spends quality time together.

The money you save may later help fund a great family vacation!

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 www.GTDebt.ca or www.GT.Alger.ca.



Which is the best method for paying down debt: Snowball or Avalanche?

Avalanche method recommends paying highest interest debt first, while snowball advocates smallest amount first.

Many of us have used our credit cards, cash advances and borrowed money over the holidays, shopped our way though the malls, ordered online and picked up gift cards for our friends, family, coworkers and picked up those little secret Santa gifts, all of this adding to the costs of the holidays. We purchased a turkey or ham, all of the trimmings, some spirits, made baked goods and bought boxes of chocolates.

Aside from the 5lbs you would like to lose, how many of us are going to be going on a debt diet over the next few months? Which is the best method to conquer those few debt pounds we plan to lose?

Blake Elyea, from our Vancouver office spoke to Canadian Press about some of his thoughts regarding the Avalanche method and the Snowball method, but which will work best for you?

‘Avalanche’ involves paying highest interest first

The avalanche method involves tackling the highest interest rate debts first — an approach that can save you money on interest payments, but may require more willpower if your highest-interest debts are also the largest ones.

“Mathematically that’s the best approach,” Elyea says. “However, you’re not going to see the instant results necessarily as quickly with that approach. It’s going to take more discipline.”

If you’re going to adopt the avalanche approach, you should be checking your balance and tracking progress and making a small budget to reward yourself when you reach your  short term goals.

‘Snowball’ method tackles small debt first

The snowball approach, popularized by U.S. radio and TV personality Dave Ramsey, involves tackling your debts from smallest to largest.

Knocking off the smallest balances first — while maintaining the minimum payments on all the other debts — gives the debtor some “quick wins,” making it a good approach for those who need to see some instant results in order to stay motivated, says Elyea.

“We all like instant gratification,” says Elyea. “We want to see that we’re making progress.”

It’s your choice

Although the avalanche method will save money on interest payments compared with the snowball technique, Elyea says any strategy that involves taking stock of your financial situation and actively tackling your debt load is a good one.

“If you have a structured way you’re going to approach your debt, either method is going to get you there,” says Elyea. “One might take you a bit longer than the other.”

If you are in a position where your debts feel overwhelming, one option might be to get a free consultation from a licensed trustee, not only can a trustee assist with helping you to plan and budget, but they may be able to offer additional debt reduction suggestions such as a  consumer proposal, an informal proposal to creditors, and, in certain situations to file for bankruptcy.

Whatever your financial situation may be after the holidays, if you feel financially hungover, there are options, take stock, develop a plan and reach out for help if needed.

Grant Thornton – Canada | We provide solutions for people with debt and financial challenges.

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, ask us about a consumer proposal. Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll free at 310 8888.

Excerpts adopted from the Canadian Press article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/debt-experts-recommend-avalanche-strategy-but-snowball-works-too-1.2886215

No gifts? Yes, really; it’s a good idea.

If you have elderly parents who may be struggling financially, now’s the time to suggest they don’t buy gifts for the grandchildren this holiday season. Sound radical? We think not.

Here’s why:

First, consider the reality of many older Canadians. In 2013, Statistics Canada found that about one-third of retirees have debt. Among those 55 and over who are not yet retired, two-thirds are in debt. While half of retirees with debt owe less than $25,000, Stats Can found that about one-sixth of them say they’re in hock to the tune of more than $100,000.

Blake Elyea, a senior vice-president with our team in Vancouver, says he sees a growing number of seniors as clients; those 65 and older made up 9.5% of all insolvency filings in 2013 (up from 9.2% in 2012 and 9.1% in 2011), according to Industry Canada. This trend is seen across Canada.

“The common thing that I see is either poor planning or no planning for retirement and maintaining your pre-retirement lifestyle. Then when your income changes, the shortfall is being backstopped with credit cards and a line of credit,” Mr. Elyea says.

Consider too that many seniors live on fixed incomes; they lack the means to aggressively address debt repayment. The knock-on effect can be that adult children have to pitch in and help their parents financially. That’s often a recipe for stress for both generations.

Secondly, do our children really need more video games or designer duds – and are the grandparents the ones that should be buying these expensive gifts?  We believe there are many more quality gifts we can give this year, the gift of time being the most valuable!

What we all crave over the holidays (including the kids) is rest and less stress. So, tell the grandparents they are off the hook for gifts. Their wallets will get a break and they can skip the shopping hassle. Instead, suggest some ‘old fashioned’ fun together as a family. Game nights, cookie-making or gingerbread house building together; share stories and family reminisces. Maybe start a family tree project together.

The holiday season at its heart is intended to be a time of togetherness and appreciation, and yes, even your kids – could be the happier for it.

http://business.financialpost.com/2014/12/06/indebted-seniors-need-to-discover-their-inner-scrooge/



Not our parents’ generation when it comes to personal debt

It’s been said before:  In a number of ways, we are not like our parents’ generation. Things will always change. Bottom line, we often think and act differently from our parents.

Perhaps new technology and the digital revolution spring to mind first?  It’s true. From the fax and laptop to smart phones and wearable technology, the world looks and works in many new, and evolving, ways.

What’s also true is our change in attitude and actions when it comes to personal debt. In 2012, the Globe and Mail reported on a poll conducted by a firm of bankruptcy trustees. The results show that most Canadians are quite comfortable with using debt as a financial strategy. Yet, this was a time when debt loads had risen to alarming new highs. The survey found that nine out of 10 respondents would consider borrowing money to cover an unexpected expense that was not an emergency.

By contrast, in the 1960s, families frequently lived a ‘middle class’ lifestyle and managed to own a home on one income (usually the Dad’s). The mindset was typically to save for needed things—rather than to borrow. And, this lifestyle rarely included the additional luxuries we see fairly common in our lives today: second cars, cable TV, eating out, vacations and plane travel, smart phones and tablets, pricey gym or golf memberships, designer duds etc.

The downside to our view of what constitutes the appropriate lifestyle of the 21st century is that to acquire and maintain this level of consumerism we may spend more than we earn (a concept that would rarely be considered acceptable in the 1960s)! In our work at Grant Thornton, we often see where this can lead:  Consistently living beyond ones means, borrowing, excessive purchasing and maximizing high-interest credit cards can put individuals and families into highly stressful situations with increasing debt loads (whether we believe we can afford it or not).

Our role is to help people address their debt problems and find ways to rebuild a solid financial future. We can help with tips and reminders so that you may not need our assistance again in the future, including: disaster proof your life (get your life insurance and an emergency fund in place), spend less than you earn, aggressively pay down high interest debt, read the fine print on any purchase agreements (you may be liable for significant interest payments if you miss the eventual payment due date) and delay consumption (save for that vacation rather than charge it).
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, ask us about a consumer proposal.  Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll free at 310 8888.

BC: www.gtdebthelp.com

AB: www.GT.Alger.com

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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Yes, death and taxes are inevitable.

You’ve heard the old adage that the only two certainties in life are: death and taxes.

Well, it’s ‘tax time’ again and the truth is that you can rarely escape your tax obligation to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Unlike some of your other creditors, CRA has unique powers to collect what you owe and they will still charge penalties and interest on all of your overdue taxes. It’s a policy designed to keep us on the straight and narrow. So, if you do get into arrears, watch out, until the debt is paid in full, the CRA can

  • withhold child tax credits
  • withhold GST credits
  • can take money from your bank account
  • garnishee your wages without getting a judgment against you.

CRA has millions of taxpayers and they are almost always unwilling to accept less than full payment; ‘almost’—because there are situations where some relief is available. This is where we can help!

If you do owe personal income taxes and can’t pay the balance in full, you can always explain your situation to CRA and try to negotiate a payment plan. For example, if you owe $1,000, you may offer to pay $100 per month for the next ten months. If CRA accepts your offer, you’ll likely still pay interest until your debt is paid.

Another option is to make a formal Proposal to CRA. This is done with the help of a Bankruptcy Trustee. A Proposal isn’t bankruptcy but rather a means to explore other ways to address a variety of debt problems. Making a Proposal to CRA and your other creditors (banks, pay day loan providers/cash stores) is quite common. A Proposal can be a way to reduce the overall amount you owe, negotiate lower re-payments amounts and/or expanded repayment terms.

Making a Proposal to CRA does not guarantee a reduction of your overall tax debt or extended payment terms, but if you meet their criteria, there is a better chance it will be accepted. CRA will be looking to see if your taxes are filed and up to date and, if prior to your Proposal you have to have been a taxpayer in good standing. You’ll need to make a case for extreme circumstances hindering your ability to pay the full amount as due—and demonstrate you are truly an honest and unfortunate debtor.

The Proposal will only include taxes owing prior to the Proposal date. Tax returns due during the Proposal period must be filed and any tax owing paid as due. Depending on your situation, payments negotiated through a Proposal could be made for up to five years.

The other option to addressing tax debt is bankruptcy. It’s a common misconception that personal income tax debt is not discharged by bankruptcy. This is not true; personal income taxes are covered by bankruptcy and this solution should be discussed fully with a Bankruptcy Trustee to see if it’s the best solution for your situation.

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 free from anywhere in Alberta and BC 310 8888.

In Alberta: www.gt.alger.ca     In BC www.GTdebt.ca

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