Dealing with Debt-Updated-02-12


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Seminar for Rutgers employees, February 2012

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Dealing with Debt-Updated-02-12

  1. 1. Dealing With Debt Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management Rutgers Cooperative Extension
  2. 2. Objectives• Learn about the danger signs of debt• Learn ways to cope with financial distress• Learn about high-cost credit fees and traps• Learn to use credit wisely
  3. 3. Your Questions?
  4. 4. How Much In Debt Are You?Total up: – Number of creditors – Individual debt balances – Total debt balance – Monthly payments for each creditor – Total of monthly payments
  5. 5. How Much Do You Currently Owe? Creditor Name Outstanding Balance1. _______________________________________2._______________________________________3. _______________________________________4. _______________________________________5. _______________________________________6. _______________________________________Total Debt: $________________
  6. 6. Consumer Debt Ratios Consumer debt repayments (monthly) Take-home (net) pay (monthly) Example: $390 = 21.6%$1,800 (over the 10-15% recommended amount)
  7. 7. Annual Debt Ratio Consumer debt + mortgage or rent (monthly) Take-home pay (monthly)Example: 390 + 720 = 1110 = 61.6% 1800 1800 (over the 40-50% recommended amount)
  8. 8. Debt Danger Signs• Getting a loan to repay existing debt• Charging more each month than payments• “Juggling” (rotating) payment of bills• Using credit card cash advances for bills• Chronically overdrawn bank accounts• Depending on overtime to make ends meet• Being at or near maximum credit limits• Calls and letters about overdue bills
  9. 9. 3 Stages of Credit Difficulty• Early - begin paying late penalties – pay minimum due – a month or 2 behind• Later - bills are months overdue – difficult to pay minimum – creditors are making contact• Final - court proceedings threatened/pending – wages subject to garnishment – secured items (car, etc.) repossessed
  10. 10. Strategies to Reduce Debt
  11. 11. 1. Try to Increase Income– Adjust tax withholding on Form W-4– Be a 2-income household or work overtime/sideline job– Increase child support or alimony– Food stamps, SSI, TANF, & other public benefits– Selling assets (second car, jewelry, etc.)– Upgrading employment skills/job training programs– Charging adult children room and board– Use of tax benefits (earned income credit)– Request money loaned to others
  12. 12. 2. Try to Decrease Expenses• Trade in cars less frequently• Switch to a long-distance savings plan• Use only a no annual fee or low interest credit card• Consider less expensive housing• Install energy-saving devices or insulation• Lower setting on water heater• Shop at consignment and thrift stores• Brown bag lunches and snacks• Avoid vending machines: bring food from home
  13. 13. 3. PowerPay (Debt Acceleration)• Start by sending each creditor whatever amount was previously sent (minimum payment or above)• As soon as you pay off one debt, apply the monthly payment amount (e.g., $30 to Sears) to a remaining debt• Continue until all debts are repaid• Greatest savings generally occur by repaying highest- interest debt first (e.g., department store credit cards)• Can be done for free at
  14. 14. More About PowerPay• Analyses assume no additional debt• Can also choose to repay debts in order of lowest balance or shortest term first• Can do analyses with – optional extra monthly payments (e.g., $50/mo) – optional one-time lump sum payments• Payoff calendar shows the amount paid to each creditor
  15. 15. Required Information For a PowerPay Analysis• Name of each creditor• Balance owed• Monthly payment (minimum or above)• APR (interest rate)
  16. 16. PowerPay Process• Stop borrowing or charging until all debts in the PowerPay calculation are repaid• Make the same dollar amount payment each month until all debts are repaid – The money gets reallocated to creditors differently every time a creditor gets repaid
  17. 17. More About PowerPay• Three repayment options: – Highest interest rate first (in sequence) – Lowest balance first – Shortest payoff term first• Can add one-time or periodic additional payments (e.g., bonus, tax refund)• Savings will vary according to length of debt, number of creditors, APRs, etc.
  18. 18. Sample PowerPay Analysis
  19. 19. 4. Contact Creditors ASAP – Seek a deferment or reduced payments – Overdue payments -- add to end of loan contract • Be sure account is reported as CURRENT in credit reportsTwo Types of Late Payers: – People having trouble but trying to work things out – “Deadbeats” who have not paid their bills and ignore their creditors
  20. 20. 5. Be Proactive With the IRSMake contact with IRS---do NOT ignore them • Contact them well before April 15 deadline • Explain financial situation – #1 Rule: Penalty for not filing tax return is much greater than penalty for not paying tax • late filing: 5% of taxes for each month unpaid + interest • late payment: .5% for each unpaid month + interest
  21. 21. 6. Credit Counseling– Budget counseling – should be a nominal cost– Debt management program (DMP) • Must incur no further debt and surrender credit cards • Administrative fee charged for cost of repaying bills • Will only take on clients with ability to repay debt National Foundation for Consumer Credit 800-388-2227 or In NJ, look for state-licensed counseling agencies
  22. 22. 7. Debt Consolidation Loan• Take out one loan (e.g., home equity loan) to pay off a variety of creditors • Cannot not borrow your way out of debt! • May increase overall cost of debt • May pay a higher interest rate than before • May consolidate debts previously interest free • Temptation to overspend again• Not a good option if you have “spending issues”
  23. 23. 8. Voluntary Surrender• If unable to make payments: – Return secured asset to creditor OR – Obtain creditor’s permission to sell the asset – Saves on repossession fees – Avoids repossession being listed on credit record – Sometimes creditor will accept asset as payment in full• For a house, the term for voluntary surrender is “deed in lieu”
  24. 24. 9. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (Liquidation)– Takes 4 to 6 months– Erases all obligations except: - child support - student loans - alimony - federal and state tax– Right to future income is retained– Surrender to trustee all assets that are not legally exempt– In NJ you can choose either federal or state bankruptcy exemptions
  25. 25. 10. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy (Reorganization)– Plan approved by court to repay all or part of debt within 3- 5 years using future earnings– Creditors must get at least as much as with Chapter 7– Debtors must live within the plan– Debtors allowed to keep property; make monthly payments to trustee to pay creditors– Best for those with steady income and equity in home or car
  26. 26. Credit Card Fees and Traps
  27. 27. What is the Worst Credit Card Trap of All?• Teaser rates?• Default rates (penalty APRs)?• Late fees?• Over-the-limit fees?• Minimum payments?
  28. 28. Credit Card Minimum Payments!
  29. 29. The Minimum Payment Trap• Credit card minimum payments are calculated as a percentage of outstanding balance• Typically 3% of amount outstanding• The lower the percentage required… – the LESS you’re required to pay per month – the MORE a debt will cost you over time
  30. 30. Example: $5,000 Balance and 18% Interest Rate• 3% minimum • 4% minimum payment payment• $150 this month • $200 this month ($5,000 x .03) ($5,000 x .04)• $4,567 total interest • $2,808 total interest• 16 years to repay • 11 years to repay1% difference saves $1,759 and 5years of payments!
  31. 31. More Payment Comparisons
  32. 32. Pay More Than the MinimumWhen you send in more than the minimum requiredpayment, you: – Shrink the outstanding balance – Reduce the amount of interest owed – Cut the time you’re in debtFederal Reserve Credit Card Repayment Calculator:
  33. 33. Factors Affecting Finance Charges• APR (interest rate)• Grace Period• Balance calculation methodResult: significant effect on the cost of credit.
  34. 34. Average Daily Balance Method• Most common computation method used• Outstanding balances added daily• Total is divided by days in cycle• New purchases may or may not be added• Interest assessed each day at daily rate
  35. 35. Average Daily BalanceDate Charges Payments BalanceApril 1 ---- ---- $200April 12 $135 ---- $335April 25 ---- $110 $22511 days @ $200= $2,20013 days @ $335= $4,355 6 days @ $225= $1,350 Total= $7,905Average daily balance=$7,905/30 days=$263.50
  36. 36. Late Fees• Capped at $25 for first late payment (CARD Act) – Second late payment can cost more (e.g., $35)• Cannot exceed late $$ amount due – Example: $25 late fee on a $20 minimum payment• Multiple fees on a single late payment are prohibited – Example: Late fee and returned check fee Buyer Beware: Some credit cards with low interest rates charge high fees
  37. 37. Over-The-Limit Fee• Fee charged for exceeding credit limit• Mist opt-in to exceed credit limit (CARD Act)• Charged monthly until balance drops below limit• Cannot exceed $$ amount due – Example: No > $10 penalty if exceed limit by $10
  38. 38. Transaction Fees• Fee charged each time a credit card is used – Example: 50 cents per charge• Most common transaction fees are for – cash advances – balance transfers
  39. 39. Penalty APRs (Default Interest Rates)• High punitive interest rates (e.g., 28.9%) – 2 to 3 times higher than regular APRs• Lenders profit from borrowers’ mistakes• CARD Act Rules: – Cardholders must be 60 days late with a payment before default rate can be charged – Up to 60 days late: default rate allowed on FUTURE charges – After 60 days late, default rate on OUTSTANDING balances also – Default rate ends “not later than 6 months” after the date it was first imposed if payments are made on time
  40. 40. Penalty APR Triggers After CARD Act:• The only way to trigger the Penalty APR for an existing balance (i.e., purchases you have already made) is to be a full 60 days past due in making a payment.• A re-pricing of your APR for any other reason can only affect future transactions, and cannot occur in the first 12 months of your agreement.• If the credit card company changes your interest rate, it is required to send you a notice specifying the reason for the rate increase 45 days in advance.
  41. 41. Tiered Pricing• Risk-based interest charges• Range of possible APRs quoted – Example: 7.99% - 20.24%• APR determined by applicant’s credit score• Lower scores (subprime) pay higher APRs• APR unknown until consumer gets card
  42. 42. Cash Advances• Cash loans from a credit card• Often made with checks attached to statement• Expensive way to borrow money – No grace period – Cash advance transaction fee – Higher APR than for purchases• Often cheaper than other short-term loans
  43. 43. Getting Credit
  44. 44. The Five C’s of Credit• Character - Do you pay bills on time?• Capacity - Can you repay the loan?• Capital - What are your assets & net worth?• Collateral - What assets do you have to secure the loan?• Conditions- Lenders will review how general economic conditions will affect your ability to repay your loan
  45. 45. Secured Credit CardsSecured Credit Card (or CollateralizedCredit Card) – Backed by collateral in theform of a savings account opened at thefinancial institution that issues the card. Example: Deposit $1,000 with creditor to borrow $1,000
  46. 46. Look For a Credit Card With• A regular (non-teaser) APR of 15% or less• A grace period of at least 25 days• Transaction fees of 3% or less• No annual fee• No penalty APR or a rate less than 20% (e.g., credit union credit cards may have)• Good “perks” (if you are a “convenience user”) Source: The Credit Card Trap, The State PIRGs
  47. 47. Credit Card Disclosures- Front• Introductory or promotional APR – Example: “1.9% APR with a balance transfer”• Advertised credit line – Example: “Credit line from $5,000- $100,000”• Special offers and privileges – Example: “Year-end summary of charges”• Application deadline date – Example: “For transfers until April 1, 20xx”
  48. 48. Credit Card Disclosures- Back“Schumer Box” required by law to include: – Actual APR (after introductory period) – APR formula (if rate is variable) – Length of grace period – Amount of annual fee, if any – Minimum finance charge – Transaction fees (e.g., cash advances) – Method of computing balance for billing – Late payment fees – Over-the-limit fees
  49. 49. Disclosure Format
  50. 50. Online Credit Card Resources• – Information and balance payment calculator• – User-friendly credit card information• – Semi-annual credit card survey results• – Annual credit card survey results
  51. 51. College Students and Credit Cards (CARD Act)• Credit card companies prohibited from offering free merchandise in exchange for card applications (on campus, campus events)• No credit cards under age 21 unless cosigner or proof of income to make payments• Maximum amount of credit < 21: greater of $500 or 20% of annual gross income in most recently completed calendar year• Aggregate limit for ALL credit cards held by someone <21: 30% of annual gross income in most recent completed calendar year
  52. 52. Alternatives to Credit Cards for College Students• “Authorized user” on parent’s credit cards; reimburse parents – Parents see everything charged; may be fees – Affected by parents’ credit card history• Joint account with parents – Credit history reported to credit bureaus; builds credit• Secured credit cards – Still need to follow CARD Act cosigner/income rules• Prepaid debit cards – Not “credit”; use will not build credit history; high fees – Less protection than credit cards if lost or stolen
  53. 53. What is a Credit Report?• A summary of someone’s history of paying debts and other bills• Prepared by credit reporting agencies (a.k.a., credit bureaus)• Used by those who have a legitimate need for the information – lenders – insurance companies – potential employers (new state laws) – potential landlords
  54. 54. Your Credit Report• Compiled by Credit Bureaus – Companies that collect information about how promptly people pay their debts and manage credit – Obtain information from banks, stores, credit card companies, other lenders, and from public records• Review credit report for accuracy every year and before making application for a large loan• Credit File Request Form (handout) or online at
  55. 55. Three Major Credit Bureaus• Equifax: 800-685-1111 or• Experian: 888-397-3742 or• TransUnion: 800-888-4213 or• Different pieces of data about borrowers in their data bases• Social Security number acts as a “magnet” to assemble data and create a credit report
  56. 56. Four Main Parts to a Credit Report• Identifying Information: name, SS Number, current/previous addresses, birthdate, employer• Public Record Information from Local Courthouse: liens, foreclosures, bankruptcy• Other Credit History Information: list of loans and credit cards, timeliness of payments, defaults and negative information (for up to 7 years)• Inquiries: Usually 2 years; self-initiated and promotional (for marketing purposes)
  57. 57. Time Limits on Negative Information• Negative information can be reported for 7 years – Late payments, repossessions, collections, foreclosures, etc.• Bankruptcy can be reported for 10 years• Most recent data affects credit score the most
  58. 58. What is NOT in a Credit Report?• Bank and brokerage account balances• Medical history• Race, gender, religion, national origin• Driving record
  59. 59. Credit Scores• FICO Credit Score – 350 to 850 – Higher score = less risk – Available from for a fee – May get for free from lenders when applying for a loan• VantageScore – New scoring technique – Developed collaboratively by 3 credit agencies – Range = 501 to 990
  60. 60. Credit Scoring Factors• Bill payment history, weighted to emphasize past 12 months (35%)• Proportion of outstanding debt to available credit limits (30%)• Length of credit history (15%)• Number of recent credit inquiries (10%)• Mix of types of credit used (10%)
  61. 61. Ways To Improve Your Credit Score:• Pay your bills on time (#1 weighted factor)• Keep older accounts open – Older accounts establish length of history• Keep debt-to-available credit ratio < 50%• Get a mix of types of credit – Revolving and installment• Check credit reports and fix mistakes• Avoid inquiries: supply own report to lender
  62. 62. Beware: Co-Signing a Loan• Co-signing means guaranteeing someone else’s debt – Lender would not require co-signer if borrower was a good risk• Can you afford it if the borrower defaults? • If borrower doesn’t pay, cosigner is liable for the full amount plus any late or collection fees • If payment is missed, creditor can collect from the cosigner first • Unpaid debts will appear on the cosigner’s credit report
  64. 64. Warning Signs of Credit Fraud• Advance payment required• Legal rights not explained• Advice to create a new identity• Advice to file frivolous disputes
  65. 65. Wise Credit Management Quiz
  66. 66. Questions? Comments? Experiences? For additional financial resources, visit