Your Questions About Debt-free Living

Sharon asks…

Please explain the procedures for filing for bankruptcy?

I have a plethora of medical bills. I’d like to get rid of all of them, and start over.

1. Average cost?

2. How to find a good lawyer?

3. Time frame?

4. What is the court process like?

Thank ya!

Also, I am a single male with no kids. I don’t know if that matters, but I’m not married or supporting anyone.

I’m not proud to have to do this, I just want to become debt free besides student loans.

John answers:

It all varies.

1. In the state of WI, it is about $1,700.00 or so to file, depending on the firm and what they are willing to do.

2. My friend got a referral. Best thing to do is call around and find out who you are comfortable with (they get access to a lot of stuff), or talk to other attorneys and ask whom they would have do their bankruptcy if they were in your shoes. Lawyers know who is good at different fields.

3. About two to three months. My friend began hers in March, and it was discharged at the end of June. It will take some time because with the new laws, for Chapter 7 (total discharge of debt), you have to first go to a certified debt counselor (see the Dept of Commerce website for a list of the certified ones) and try every way possible to get out of debt. If the counselor signs off that you qualify for bankruptcy, then you go to a lawyer and file the paperwork. From there, you will have to take a debt counseling course (either in a “classroom” setting or on-line) from a certified course. After that is done and signed off on, you then will be discharged. You have a certain time period from the time your hearing is to complete this course, and then your debt will be discharged.

4. Basically, they ask you if you are who you say you are, and ask some questions about the listings of items. The judge will ask about if you have any credit you are asking to be discharged from that is less than 90 days old. There are a few other simple questions, and then they tell you if it will discharge or not. You will then have to complete a course (on your own – they don’t set it up for you or notify you when your time is close), and then they will discharge it fully.

Call Catholic Charities – they are a certified debt counselor, and they base pay upon your ability to pay. They are very helpful, and they will be with you the entire way. They also have the counseling course you have to take (for a fee, and it is on-line or live) for a seperate fee.

Good luck!!

Mark asks…

I want to leave my husband but he has maxed up all my credit?

I am afraid that I will be stuck with paying for whatever my name is on. I was debt free when I met him, I hate how he handles finances, like he thrives on living credit, and I cannot live like that! We just don’t get along, he gives his ex wife money, beyond child support, he has no respect for me, I hate him. How do I get out of this?

John answers:

Your right, you will get stuck with paying for all the cards with your name on it.

Take him off of the cards and move out or kick him out. Make sure that you have friends to help you in the process (preferably big ones).

I wish you well.

Joseph asks…

What new mandatory EXPENSES are there in retirement, apart from increased medical costs?

Asking the question, without the typo & correction – no-one was reading the correction.

I have high current income. But it mostly goes on paying down debts & retirement savings. As I will be debt free going into requirements, the “expert” recommendations of how much I need for retirement seem excessively high.

I don’t need activity suggestions thanks. Already got plenty.
A, Hunch – I earn $100,000 right now. $50,000 goes on my mortgage and retirement savings. That suggests I need $50,000 when I retire to maintain my current life style – except that I’m so focussed on my very uncertain consultant life I’m not really doing anything but working, eating & sleeping.

But aside from Social Security, I have the English version of SS too. On top of that I have a pension too from a British company – that’s essentially an index-linked annuity.

So even though my lump sum savings are low, I have several forms of income that will always be there, meaning I feel like I have nothing close to what I should have. But I still feel comfortable – IF I don’t have major new costs :)

John answers:

I’ve been retired since age 50 and I know I spend a lot less than when I was working. I don’t spend much on clothes, shoes, gas, or eating out anymore. Of course everything increases in price every year like taxes, insurance, food, medical expenses, well everything really. Some added expenses I have are maid service and handyman services (used to be able to do that stuff myself). What I have found is that if you want to live the same lifestyle you need to have the SAME income that you have now. Our investment income plus social security and a pension total almost as much as when we were working. Medical expenses are the biggest cost that we have; my insurance was cancelled when they found out I had diabetes and the medication costs around $500.00 a month and each doctor visit is also $500.00. My husband has medical insurance through his old employer and it is just a supplemental policy, but that has gone up two or three hundred every year so far.

Susan asks…

How well can you live on minimum wage?

What I mean is, is it possible to live on minimum, have a semi decent place to live, a few luxuries in a safe area, if you live alone?

If not, what are some things you wouldn’t probably be able to have? I understand you wouldnt live like a celebrity, but is Minimum wage enough to live reasonably well on?

John answers:

Not “reasonably well” by most people’s standards, but you could get by in many places (not in more expensive places). That wouldn’t even cover rent in Manhattan or San Francisco, but you could make do in small town middle America, some place where you could rent a decent apartment or even buy a modest house for $400 – $500 a month.

That assumes you enter the situation pretty much debt-free, or maybe with just a cheap car loan. Helps if your employer provides healthcare insurance (or you just do without), and you don’t mind eating a cheap high-carb diet featuring lots of rice and beans and 3-for-a-dollar frozen burritos.

If you were to deny yourself things that modern people consider basic staples — cable TV, Internet access, cell phones, a new SUV, going out a lot — it’s amazing how cheaply you can live.

Mandy asks…

How do I stop getting myself into debt and make more money?

I can’t help but live beyond my means, I spend mire than I earn, I owe thousands. I can’t get out of this spiral of debt without living like a pauper which would depress me so much I’d rather die.
There’s no one that can help me. I can’t tell anyone about this as I’m so ashaamed.
I find it difficult to work more hours as I am a busy mum with kids too.
I just can’t find a solution, any ideas?

John answers:

Compulsive spending is real, the hardest person to say ‘no’ to is yourself. It’s going to take major changes in how you live and how you perceive happiness and contentment. It’s going to take a serious budget, real hard work, and some patience. When things get tough think of how good it will feel to be debt free, sleeping easy, not afraid of the mail…Thinking about that can become kind of a balm in the tough days ahead. Speak with a debt counselor to get you started down the right path.

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