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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Meeting with a Bankruptcy Trustee is no scarier than dinner with your in-laws.

When you’re struggling with unmanageable debt, we know everything else in your life can suffer. The thousands of people we have helped over the years share similar stories. They’ve told us of struggling to pay the minimum amount on credit cards, borrowing from one card to pay another, liquidating assets to pay bills and still being overwhelmed with day-to-day financial obligations. We know this can happen to anyone. Suddenly a change in your work, health or personal situation can take you from managing—to being in serious financial difficulty.

 

The idea of meeting with a Bankruptcy Trustee can perhaps be intimating or feel like a blow to self-esteem. As you might imagine though, we have met with men, women and couples from all walks of life; all ages, occupations and backgrounds. Ultimately: anyone can find themselves with debt problems and that’s when we can be of help.

 

Meeting with a Trustee, here’s what to expect:

  1. Call or email us to schedule a confidential, no-cost, no-obligation appointment. We have several locations where we can meet and flexible office hours. You will be asked to bring along (or know) some of your financial details such as monthly expenses, debts (and to whom) and your monthly income.
  2. The Trustee will review the information you have provided and go through the options available to you, what may happen, the costs and timeframe surrounding your options. These might include Informal proposal, consumer proposal or bankruptcy. (Only a Trustee can help you file a consumer proposal or bankruptcy)
  3. If we cannot help you, we will recommend options to you and refer you to someone who may be of assistance.
  4. You will always have time to review and consider your options. We will not pressure you to make a decision. You will have a better understanding of the options available to address your debt problems and you will understand the next steps and implications.
  5. If you enter into a formalized process to address your debts, and documents are signed, then garnishees and collection calls will stop.

Remember, debt problems can happen to anyone. A Grant Thornton Trustee can be a source of important information and guidance to help you toward solutions—and peace of mind.

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 at  (your area code)310 8888.



You can’t take it with you… but—what CAN you keep in a bankruptcy?

There’s a lot of confusion and misconceptions about what you ‘lose’ or have to ‘give up’ through a bankruptcy and what is ‘exempt’ – meaning what you get to keep.

When you enter into bankruptcy (with the assistance of a Bankruptcy Trustee) this legal option will address your insolvency, provide you immediate protection from you creditors and an opportunity for a fresh start. (Remember, while most debts are covered by bankruptcy – not all are, talk to a Trustee for specifications.)

There are some assets you may not be allowed to keep if you file for bankruptcy. These are sold to pay as much as possible to your creditors against your debt. However, there are assets you are legally allowed to keep, these vary by province.

Some of the items you are generally able to keep, in Alberta, are:

  • Clothing up to a value of $4,000
  • Household furnishings and appliances to a value of $4,000
  • One motor vehicle not exceeding a value of $5,000 (equity)
  • Medical and dental aids required by you and your dependents
  • The equity in your principal residence up to a value of $40,000. If you are a co-owner of the residence, the amount of the exemption is reduced to an amount that is proportionate to your ownership interest
  • Personal property (i.e., tools, equipment, books) that you require to earn income from your occupation up to a value of $10,000
  • Social allowance, handicap benefit or a widow’s pension if the proceeds from the payment are not intermingled with your other funds
  • For farmers where your principal source of livelihood is farming: you may be able to keep up to 160 acres and personal property that you require for the proper and efficient conduct of your farming operations for the next 12 months

In BC:

  • Home equity in Greater Vancouver and Victoria up to a value of $12,000. In the rest of the province up to a value of $9,000
  • Equity in household items up to a value of $4,000
  • Equity in a vehicle up to a value of $5,000; The vehicle exemption drops to $2,000 if the debtor is behind on child care payments (to facilitate the enforcement of Maintenance Orders)
  • Equity in work tools up to a value of $ 10,000
  • Equity in essential clothing and health aids is unlimited

Keep in mind, if you chose instead to do a Consumer Proposal as your debt solution—you get to keep all your assets. A consumer proposal may also reduce your overall debt (by up to 75%). A Proposal isn’t bankruptcy but rather a means to explore other ways to address a variety of debt problems.  With the guidance of a Trustee you negotiate to pay creditors all, or a portion, of your debt over a specific time period or to extend the time allowed repaying the entire debt.  You need the majority of creditors to agree to the proposal—then all unsecured creditors are bound by it.

With a Consumer Proposal you keep control of your assets and it has shorter-term – and less significant – impact on your credit rating than bankruptcy.

More on bankruptcy exemptions in Canada.

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.  Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, free consultation. Call us toll free from anywhere in Western Canada: 310 8888 or visit us online for more information and videos on this and many other topics: (AB) www.gt.alger.ca or (BC) www.gtdebt.ca

See us on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwhtdNlBzwmnMsATvelc3cQ



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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We can help with tax (CRA) debt!

Sometimes bankruptcy really is the best option

We know from experience that debt problems are typically not a sign of weakness or bad decisions. Often circumstances beyond a person’s control such as divorce, illness, inherited debt or unemployment can make debts unmanageable.

So, our role is to help people explore every possible way to resolve their debt problems. There are options and we frequently help people implement solutions that avoid bankruptcy. We understand people may feel there is a stigma or a sense of failure attached the idea of going bankrupt.

However, there are times when bankruptcy is absolutely the best (or only) course of action.

Keep in mind that sometimes efforts to avoid bankruptcy can actually make things worse. An individual may use a line of credit or take on a new loan to deal with debt. These may help in the short term but ultimately can increase debt problems. We know people want to avoid bankruptcy because of the impact on their credit rating. While it’s true your credit rating ‘takes a hit’ when you go bankrupt—it is also negatively impacted when payments continue to be missed.

The positive outcome of going bankrupt is that you are finally able to have a ‘fresh start’ after years of trying to cope with excessive debt and feeling like you are not getting ahead. And, many people don’t realize that tax debt to Revenue Canada is a dischargeable debt in bankruptcy too.

When you declare bankruptcy you are allowed to keep your RRSP’s and you may be able to keep your home, car and your ‘tools of the trade’ (exemption amounts apply), so realistically you can be in a good position to ‘start over’ and rebuild your financial situation. Keep in mind that during a bankruptcy you will be making regular payments towards your estate and once you’re discharged from bankruptcy, with the habit of making these payments, you could consider taking this same amount each month and placing it in an emergency fund,  savings for retirement or a down payment.

Bottom line: there are situations where declaring bankruptcy is the responsible choice and the quickest way to a new, stronger future.

To learn more about bankruptcy and whether it is the best course of action to address your debt issues, contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll free from anywhere in Alberta 310 8888 for a free consultation or visit our website at www.gt.alger.ca for more information on your debt options.

Why an ‘emergency fund’ can be the difference, but there is help available.

Floods, lay-offs, illness: Why an ‘emergency fund’ can be the difference between tough times and serious financial trouble.

We’ve all watched in disbelief as floods have ravaged areas of Calgary and Southern Alberta. Many families are affected. Some homes and businesses are lost completely. Others require extensive – and expensive – remediation and/or rebuilding. Times like these (among other crises) can stretch the limits of our emotions and finances.

This is where an individual or family’s emergency fund can be a lifesaver, or at the very least—an initial buffer against the financial impact of an unexpected occurrence or need.

The purpose of an emergency fund is to improve financial security by creating a safety net of funds that can be used to meet emergency expenses. It can also reduce the need to use high interest debt, such as credit cards, as a last resort.

If you are a renter with few financial obligations you will likely need less in an emergency fund than a family with a mortgage, car payments and other obligations.

Most financial planners suggest an emergency fund contain enough money to cover at least three months of living expenses. Banks and other financial institutions do not carry accounts labeled as emergency funds; it is up to you to set up this type of account that provides you quick and easy accessibility in times of crisis or unexpected expense.

If, due to the recent floods or another crisis, you are currently facing financial struggles and an unmanageable debt load—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 310 8888.

You can also visit us at www.gt.alger.ca for more information