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

Happy upcoming September ‘New Year’

For many of us, September feels more like the start of a New Year than January does. September marks the end of summer and brings a ‘back-to-school’ reality that we feel (whether or not we have school-aged children).

September is a time to re-focus, get back to work and also—back on budget!

If you have back-to-school-shopping to tackle, then budgeting is essential. Too often compelling advertising, apparent sales and our child’s idea of what they need, can cause us to spend more than we have . . . and more than we can afford. Buying clothing, back packs, lunch boxes, stationery supplies and electronics can be an expensive undertaking. If your child is off to college or university the costs can be even higher to set up dorm rooms and to purchase books, food plans and transit passes.

A good start to managing your budget is to involve your child in the planning. Refer to lists the school or post-secondary institution has provided. Remind your offspring of the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ (it will serve them well for their future money management too). Determine together what is essential for when school starts and what can wait to see if it is really required. Encourage your child to pay something towards some of the ‘needs’ from their savings; or at least to pay for their perceived must-have from the ‘wants’ list. There are many back-to-school budget planners online to help you track planned and actual expenditures. These can help you avoid impulse purchases and stay within budget.

Budgeting for upcoming expenses

Balancing the budget

 

But what if you don’t have back to school expenses…

September can also the ideal time to pause and refocus on your personal or family finances. It’s a good opportunity to revisit your near and long term goals.

In the near term you might be looking at how you’re going to plan and pay for the expenses associated with the upcoming holidays (both Thanksgiving and Christmas) or deal with the additional rising costs of heating and electricity. There is also thinking about getting yourself ready, do you have what you need for fall and winter (ie:a fall/winter coat and other clothing)?

If you are carry debt, resume your commitment to paying it off; remember to start first with high interest rate credit cards. It can be a time to check in again on your household budget and ways to trim expenses. And, it can be an opportunity to start saving for upcoming holiday spending. Even a little money put away each week starting now, can help toward the costs of future Christmas or Hanukah celebrations.

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 in at 310 8888.

 

 

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.



The payday loan love affair is over (or should be).

It’s February and the month has been aglow with talk of love and romance. However, one relationship that is waning in appeal (and rightly so) is Canadians’ love affair with payday loans.

These small, short-term unsecured loans are rarely linked to a repayment date aligned to a borrower’s payday—but that was the initial concept: If you are short of money and can repay a loan once you get paid . . . then come on down!

Sometimes these loans are called ‘cash advances’ and they typically rely on the borrower having previous payroll and employment records.

Payday loans may seem attractive to some consumers in need of ready cash but consider that for a $15 charge on a $100 14-day payday loan the annual percentage rate is over 391%*!

In addition to being expensive, payday loans are also a short-sighted way to address financial troubles. If you are regularly strapped for cash and have maxed out other (more cost-effective) sources of credit it may be a sign that you are carrying an unreasonable and unmanageable debt load.

Payday loans will not help ease your debt problems; they are an expensive way to just keep your head above water. Bottom line, if you are struggling to make ends meet and drowning in debt repayment, it’s time to look at available options to solve your problems—for the long term.

You might consider a consolidation loan (to address your debts), but you may not qualify because of your debt ratio or impacted credit score.

One popular option is a Consumer Proposal. It focuses on what you are capable of paying (not just what you owe)—this could be 75% less than the total amount you owe. You can qualify for a Consumer Proposal if you owe up to $250,000 of non-mortgage debt—and most debts can be covered. This essentially allows you a fresh start.

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 to pay the entire debt. You need the majority of creditors to agree to the proposal—then all unsecured creditors are bound by it.

It’s time to break off the unsatisfying relationship with payday loans and develop a sound financial future.

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 310 8888. www.gt.alger.ca

*Estimate, actual amounts may vary.

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