Author Archives: Stella Mason

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

Dealing with a bill collector is never fun and it can be particularly stressful when you’re sitting on a mountain of debt. Sometimes debt collectors fail to follow the rules outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If that’s the issue you’re facing, it might be a good idea to file a complaint. But if you’re personally making any of these mistakes, your debt problem could go from bad to worse.

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1. Ignoring Debt Collectors

Screening calls and avoiding bill collectors won’t help you get your debt under control. Debts generally have a statute of limitations that varies depending on the state you live in. Once it expires, the collector might not be able to sue you anymore. But you could still be responsible for paying back what you owe in addition to any interest that has accumulated.

In addition to the potential legal consequences of unpaid bills, letting old debt pile up can destroy your credit score. Unpaid debts can remain on a credit report for as many as seven years. So if your debt collector is getting on your last nerves, it might be best to stop hiding and face him head on.

2. Saying Too Much Over the Phone

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

If you decide to stop dodging your bill collectors, it’s important to avoid sharing certain details over the phone. You never want to say that you’ll pay a specific amount of money by a deadline or give someone access to your bank accounts. Anything you say can be used against you and agreeing to make a payment can actually extend a statute of limitations that has already run out.

A debt collector’s No. 1 goal is to collect their missing funds. They can’t curse at you or make empty threats, but they can say other things to try and scare you into paying up. Staying calm, keeping the call short and keeping your comments to a minimum are the best ways to deal with persistent bill collectors.

Related Article: Dealing With Debt Collectors? Know Your Rights

3. Failing to Verify That the Debt Is Yours

When you’re talking to a bill collector, it’s also wise to avoid accepting their claims without making sure they’re legitimate. Debt collection scams are common. So before you send over a single dime, you’ll need to confirm that the debt belongs to you and not someone else.

Reviewing your credit report is a great place to start. If you haven’t received any written documentation from the collection agency, it’s a good idea to request that they mail you a letter stating that you owe them a specific amount of money.

If you need to dispute an error you found on your credit report, you have 30 days from the date that you received formal documentation from the collection agency to notify them (in writing) that a mistake was made. You’ll also need to reach out to each of the credit reporting agencies to get the error removed. They’ll expect you to mail them paperwork as proof of your claim.

4. Failing to Negotiate the Payments

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

No matter how big your debts, there’s usually room for negotiation when it comes to making payments. If the payment plan your bill collector offers doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to throw out a number you’re more comfortable with.

Sometimes, it’s possible to get away with paying less than what you owe. Instead of agreeing to pay back everything, you can suggest that you’re willing to pay back a percentage of the debt and see what happens. A non-profit credit counselor can help you come up with a debt management plan if you need assistance. Whatever you agree to, keep in mind that the deal needs to be put in writing.

Related Article: All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

5. Failing to Keep Proper Documentation

Whenever you communicate with a bill collector, it’s a good idea to take notes. Jotting down details about when you spoke with a collector and what you discussed can help you if you’re forced to appear in court or report a collector who has broken the law. Collecting written notices from bill collectors and saving them in a folder can also help your case.

Bottom Line

Dealing with bill collectors can be a real pain. By knowing how to interact with them, you’ll be in the best position to get rid of your unpaid loans and credit card debt (that is, if you actually owe anything) on your own terms.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Steve Debenport, ©iStock.com/RapidEye, ©iStock.com/JJRD

The post The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

7 Eviction Moratorium FAQs for Renters, Landlords

If you’re behind on your rent because of the coronavirus pandemic, you just got extra time to catch up. During his first day in office, President Joe Biden extended an order that bars most landlords from pursuing evictions through the end of March 2021.

With millions of people at risk of eviction, housing advocates have argued that a large wave of homelessness could worsen the spread by crowding shelters and forcing people into cramped living spaces.

7 Eviction Moratorium FAQs: What Renters and Landlords Should Know

President Donald Trump initially passed the order through the Centers for Disease Control in response back in August. Before Biden ordered the extension, the moratorium was set to end Jan. 31, 2021. We’ve compiled what we know about the latest order into this eviction moratorium FAQ.

1. How do I know if I qualify for the eviction moratorium?

To qualify, you’ll have to sign a sworn declaration affirming that:

  • You’ve tried to obtain government assistance for your rent or housing payments.
  • You earned no more than $99,000 in 2020 if you’re a single tax filer or $198,000 if you’re married filing jointly. You could also qualify if you weren’t required to file taxes in 2019 or if you received a coronavirus stimulus check. (The income limits for the first stimulus checks were the same as the moratorium limits.)
  • You’ve been unable to pay the rent because you lost your job, income or work hours, or you’ve had significant medical expenses.
  • You’ve made your best attempt to make partial payments that are as close to the full payment as possible.
  • The eviction would either leave you homeless or force you into close quarters or a shared living situation.

2. What should I do if my landlord is threatening to evict me?

Print out this declaration form, fill it out and give it to your landlord or whoever owns the property you live in. Note that the form still cites Jan. 31, rather than March 31, as the date the moratorium ends. Each adult covered by the lease should print out their own form. You don’t need to send a copy to the federal government.

3. Does this mean my back rent is forgiven?

No, no, NO. We cannot stress that point enough. Any unpaid rent you owe will continue to accrue. In fact, the order explicitly states that it doesn’t preclude landlords from charging fees, penalties and interest as the result of missed payments.

If your rent is $1,000 a month and you last paid in August, you should expect to owe $7,000 in back rent for September through March, plus whatever fees and interest your landlord tacks on AND April’s rent when April 2021 rolls around.

4. Does the order provide money for rental assistance?

No. The order simply delays eviction proceedings for another two months. It doesn’t offer financial assistance for renters or landlords. However, the stimulus bill that became law in December included $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.

The assistance will be administered by state and local governments. Renters may be eligible if their household income is less than 80% of the area median income, they’ve been impacted financially by COVID-19 and they’re at risk of losing their home. Money can be used for back rent and utility payments, as well as future payments.

To apply or get more information, you’ll need to contact your local housing agency. Figuring which agency to connect with can get complicated. If you’re not sure what agency to contact, try calling the 211 helpline for direction.

5. I’m a landlord who lives off of rental income. What does this order mean for me?

The order doesn’t include financial assistance, however, you could be eligible for a piece of the $25 billion of rental relief. Check with your local housing agency for more information.

Landlords can still pursue evictions, back rent, fees and interest once the moratorium ends. But the order also makes it clear that landlords who violate it could face hefty penalties.

An individual who violates the order could face a fine of up to $100,000, a year in jail or both — and that’s if the eviction doesn’t result in death. If a death does occur, the possible fine goes up to $250,000, in addition to the possibility of a year in jail.

Organizations that violate face a fee of up to $200,000 in cases that don’t involve death, or up to $500,000 for cases where a death occurs.

6. What if I live in a motel?

You’re not covered under the order. The moratorium only applies to tenants covered under a lease. It explicitly states that those living in hotels, motels and other temporary housing are excluded.

In this case, we strongly suggest calling the 211 helpline, which can connect you with local housing resources.

7. Are there any circumstances in which a tenant can still be evicted?

Yes. You can still be evicted for reasons other than not paying. Engaging in criminal activity on the property, threatening other tenants and causing property damage are all still grounds for eviction.

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What to Do if You’re Behind on Rent

If you’re behind on rent, you need to treat this as a temporary reprieve to get a plan in place. Don’t wait until March to make your action plan.

Your first step is to try negotiating with your landlord. They may be willing to accept partial payments or waive fees, particularly if you can show them that you’ll be able to resume on-time payments.

Take a hard look at all your bills. Your food, health care and shelter are your top priorities. We’d advise paying your rent unless doing so means going hungry or without medication. Stop making credit card and loan payments if you must. You’ll still owe that rent come April. It will be a lot easier to recover from falling behind on credit cards than losing your housing.

Get connected with local resources now. When you’re facing homelessness, the best resources are available at the local level. Calling that 211 helpline now, even though you’re not on the brink of eviction, is a good starting point. They can also connect you with local food pantries, which could free up some money to put toward rent.

Reach out to family and friends. If you know someone with a spare room who might be willing to let you move in, now is the time to start talking — provided, of course, that the living situation wouldn’t put you at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Pay whatever you can. Every dollar you can put toward rent is a dollar that you won’t owe in April, so pay as much as you can toward your rent, even if you can’t afford the full amount. If you do find yourself facing eviction, showing that you made a good-faith effort to pay can only help your case.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Repossession Credit Scores: What You Need to Know

One of the harsh truths of secured loans is that your asset can be repossessed if you fail to make the payments. In the words of the FTC, “your consumer rights may be limited” if you miss your monthly payments, and when that happens, both your financial situation and your bank balance will take a hit.

On this guide, we’ll look at what can happen when you fall behind on your car payments, and how much damage it can do to your credit score.

What is a Car Repossession?

An auto loan is a loan acquired for the sole purpose of purchasing a car. The lender covers the cost of the car, you get the vehicle you want, and in return you pay a fixed monthly sum until the loan balance is repaid.

If you fail to make to make a payment or you’re late, the lender may assume possession of your car and sell it to offset the losses. At the same time, they will report your missed and late payments to the main credit bureaus, and your credit score will take a hit. What’s more, if the sale is not enough to cover the remainder of the debt, you may be asked to pay the residual balance.

The same process applies to a title loan, whereby your car is used as collateral for a loan but isn’t actually the purpose of the loan.

To avoid repossession, you need to make your car payments on time every month. If you are late or make a partial payment, you may incur penalties and it’s possible that your credit score will suffer as well. If you continue to delay payment, the lender will seek to cover their costs as quickly and painlessly as possible.

How a Repossession Can Impact Your Credit Score

Car repossession can impact your credit history and credit score in several ways. Firstly, all missed and late car payments will be reported to the credit bureaus and will remain on your account for up to 7 years. They can also reduce your credit score. 

Secondly, if your car is repossessed on top of late payments, you could lose up to 100 points from your credit score, significantly reducing your chances of being accepted for a credit card, loan or mortgage in the future. 

And that’s not the end of it. If you have had your car for less than a couple of years, there’s a good chance the sale price will be much less than the loan balance. Car repossession doesn’t wipe the slate clean and could still leave you with a sizable issue. If you have a $10,000 balance and the car is sold for $5,000, you will owe $5,000 on the loan and the lender may also hit you with towing charges.

Don’t assume that the car is worth more than the value of the loan and that everything will be okay. The lender isn’t selling it direct; they won’t get the best price. Repossessed vehicles are sold cheaply, often for much less than their value, and in most cases, a balance remains. 

Lenders may be lenient with this balance as it’s not secured, so their options are limited. However, they can also file a judgment or sell it to a collection agency, at which point your problems increase and your credit score drops even further.

How Does a Repo Take Place?

If you have a substantial credit card debt and miss a payment, your creditor will typically take it easy on you. They can’t legally report the missed payment until at least 30-days have passed and most creditors won’t sell the account to a collection agency until it is at least 180-days overdue.

This leads many borrowers into a false sense of security, believing that an auto loan lender will be just as forgiving. But this is simply not true. Some lenders will repo your car just 90-days after your last payment, others will do it after 60 days. They don’t make as many allowances because they don’t need to—they can simply seize your asset, get most of the money back, and then chase the rest as needed.

Most repossessions happen quickly and with little warning. The lender will contact you beforehand and request that you pay what you owe, but the actual repo process doesn’t work quite like what you may have seen on TV. 

They’re not allowed to break down your door or threaten you; they’re not allowed to use force. And, most of the time, they don’t need to. If they see your car, they will load it onto their truck and disappear. They’re so used to this process that they can typically do it in less than 60-seconds.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at home or at work—you just lost your ride.

What Can You Do Before a Repo Hits Your Credit Score?

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the repo process and escape the damage. You just need to act quickly and don’t bury your head in the sand, as many borrowers do.

Request a Deferment

An auto loan lender won’t waste as much time as a creditor, simply because they don’t need to. However, they still understand that they won’t get top dollar for the car and are generally happy to make a few allowances if it means you have more chance of meeting your payments.

If you sense that your financial situation is on the decline, contact your lender and request a deferment. This should be done as soon as possible, preferably before you miss a payment.

A deferment buys you a little extra time, allowing you to take the next month or two off and adding these payments onto the end of the term. The FTC recommends that you get any agreement in writing, just in case they renege on their promise.

Refinance

One of the best ways to avoid car repossession, is to refinance your loan and secure more favorable terms. The balance may increase, and you’ll likely find yourself paying more interest over the long-term, but in the short-term, you’ll have smaller monthly payments to contend with and this makes the loan more manageable.

You will need a good credit score for this to work (although there are some bad credit lenders) but it will allow you to tweak the terms in your favor and potentially improve your credit situation.

Sell the Car Yourself

Desperate times call for desperate measures; if you’re on the brink of facing repossession, you should consider selling the car yourself. You’ll likely get more than your lender would and you can use this to clear the balance. 

Before you sell, calculate how much is left and make sure the sale will cover it. If not, you will need to find the additional funds yourself, preferably without acquiring additional debt. Ask friends or family members if they can help you out.

How Long a Repo Can Affect Your Credit Score

The damage caused by a repossession can remain on your credit score for 7 years, causing some financial difficulty. However, the damage will lessen over time and within three or four years it will be negligible at best.

Derogatory marks cease to have an impact on your credit score a long time before it disappears off your credit report, and it’s the same for late payments and repossessions.

Still, that doesn’t mean you should take things lightly. The lender can make life very difficult for you if you don’t meet your payments every month and don’t work with them to find a solution.

What About Voluntary Repossession?

If you’re missing payments because you’ve lost your job or suffered a major change in your financial circumstances, it may be time to consider voluntary repossession, in which case there are no missed payments and you don’t need to worry about repo men knocking on your door or coming to your workplace.

With voluntary repossession, the borrower contacts the lender, informs them they can no longer afford the payments, and arranges a time and a place to return the car. However, while this is a better option, it can do similar damage to the borrower’s credit score as a voluntary repossession, like a traditional repossession, is still a defaulted loan.

Missed payments aside, the only difference concerns how the repossession shows on the borrower’s credit report. Voluntary repossession will look better to a creditor who manually scans the report, but the majority of lenders run automatic checks and won’t notice a difference.

Summary: Act Quickly

If you have student loan, credit card, and other unsecured debt, a repo could reduce your chances of a successful debt payoff and potentially prevent you from getting a mortgage. But it’s not the end of the world. You can get a deferment, refinance or reinstate the loan, and even if the worst does happen, it may only take a year or so to get back on track after you fix your financial woes.

Repossession Credit Scores: What You Need to Know is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How to Become a Career Coach: 3 Success Stories

When you hear the term “coaching,” it’s easy to think of the whistle-blowing leader of your child’s little league team or a motivational life coach who pens self-help books.

Yet a stream of young professionals are now giving that term new meaning. They are spinning off parts of their businesses — and even creating whole new businesses — on the idea of coaching a specific skill, tool or industry.

How did they get started? Where did they find clients? And, perhaps the most perplexing question in the work-for-yourself world, how did they decide what to charge?

We talked to three pioneers in the career coaching world about how they got to where they are and what they want to do next.

Coaching the Business of Freelance Writing

Jenni Gritters and Wudan Yan, The Writers’ Co-op

Freelance writers Jenni Gritters and Wudan Yan both got into coaching after a continued flurry of requests for advice. Both have a presence on social media and had written viral articles about their professional experiences.

For Gritters, it was a piece she wrote on Medium in June 2019 with an eminently clickable headline: “How I made $120,000 in my first year as a freelance writer.” For Yan, it was a piece published around the same time about her saga of successfully extracting late fees from publications that were late paying her. In both cases, Yan and Gritters found themselves inundated with requests from people who wanted to “pick their brains” and ask for career advice.

At some point, they both decided that offering their time for free was not financially sustainable.

To streamline their advice in one place, Yan and Gritters decided to start a podcast, The Writers’ Co-op, which has since become a guidebook for freelancers with worksheets, webinars and even coaching. They also started their own individual coaching businesses, offering one-hour sessions with prospective and experienced freelancers.

A woman smiles outside while sitting next to a flower bush with white flowers on it.

Finding clients was never too much of an issue. Yan’s and Gritters’ relative internet fame assured some level of success. But deciding what to focus on and how much to charge posed bigger problems. Both Yan and Gritters lowballed their rates at first — Yan was charging $35 a session while Gritters was charging $50. Both have since raised their fees: Gritters is at $150 while Yan is at $200.

They advise being realistic about how much work coaching will take and charge accordingly. Remember that a one-hour coaching session does not just take one hour: It takes time to schedule the session, prepare for it and send a follow-up email with tangible guidance, as Yan and Gritters do.

Remember, also, to be thoughtful about what topics you choose to coach. Although Gritters was a longtime editor and once taught high school journalism, she knew she did not want to teach the creative elements of writing. She wanted to save her creative energy for her own work. Instead, she focuses her coaching on the business of freelancing.

Coaching Social Media for Nonprofits

Dana Snyder, Positive Equation

When Dana Snyder initially started her own social media marketing business for nonprofits four years ago, she wanted to emulate an agency. Her plan was to be on monthly retainers with nonprofits managing their social media.

But once those contracts ended, she quickly saw that her clients went back to their previous practices. She wanted to help them long-term.

Much like Gritters and Yan, it was a sort of serendipity that pushed Snyder into coaching. In the first year of her business, a nonprofit reached out asking if she would be willing to work with an internal employee. The leaders knew enough to know what they didn’t know — and that was social media and the digital world.

The coaching paid off. At the end of the year, the nonprofit’s CEO reached out to Snyder to tell her that they had had unprecedented success on social media channels.

Since then, Snyder has made the pivot from the agency model to business coaching and speaking engagements. In a twist of fate, 2020 was the first year Snyder decided to focus 100 percent of her business on online courses, coaching and speaking engagements.When COVID-19 hit, she saw a rush of demand for virtual professional development sessions and planning virtual events.

She offers pre-recorded online courses for purchase on topics like Facebook and Instagram, planning a virtual event and reaching ideal donors. Those range from about $39 to $70 per course. She also offers social media audits to nonprofits, which function as a one-time coaching session. Snyder asks about an organization’s business goals, researches their competitors and the nonprofit’s own content before presenting them with digital strategies for the future. Those start at $1,000.

But in the age of COVID-19, Snyder has found real success in webinars. She offers professional development series for nonprofits that can book her as a speaker. She also received the unique opportunity to become an approved speaker through CharityHowTo, a site that connects nonprofits with relevant webinars. That has both increased her presence in the community and taught her more about how to make an engaging presentation.

Snyder is an example of the power of having a diversified revenue stream — audits, online courses and speaking engagements — at a variety of price ranges.

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Coaching How to Pitch to News Outlets and Brands

Austen Tosone, Keep Calm and Chiffon

Austen Tosone did not initially become a full-time freelancer by choice. After getting laid off from two different magazine jobs, Tosone decided to pursue her blog, Keep Calm and Chiffon, and while writing freelance full-time.

As her work was getting published in publications like Refinery29, Teen Vogue, Bustle and The Zoe Report, she started receiving messages from people wondering how she got there.

“I really want to get into pitching magazines,” they would say, “and I would love any advice.”

But Tosone didn’t have the time to answer every one-off message. She decided to compile a resource that she could hand off to anyone with questions — for a price. That’s how she created her e-book, “Right On Pitch.”

The e-book focuses on the making of a successful pitch and looks at pitching brands and publications. She also has a section on negotiating rates. The book is priced at $9, which Tosone reasoned would be the cost of an actual coffee date, if each person who messaged her were actually able to take her out for coffee.

A woman sits at her home desk.

Tosone also learned the power of sharing your work with a small group before releasing it out into the world. Before launching her e-book, she shared it with about 12 beta-testers of freelance writers and influencers to get feedback. That helped her tweak the product to be ready to go.

The bulk of Tosone’s marketing for the e-book occurs on her own social media platforms, but she has paid to advertise in freelance writer Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week newsletter. She continues to do that, because she’s seen a good return from that $25 investment.

On top of her freelance writing career, Tosone now works full-time as a beauty content director at Jumprope, a company that helps users create how-to videos. But she’s still managed to find time to grow her e-book sales. In 2019, the e-book made up nine percent of her total freelance income. In 2020, it grew to 16 percent.

Tosone found success by compiling all of her advice in one place and marketing it as a low-cost product. Her decision to use beta-testers shows how fine-tuning a product with potential clients can help identify issues on the front end.

Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

By: Kylee Dennis

I took out a credit card 4 years ago. At the time I had a job. A few months later I ended up getting pregnant and my morning sickness was so bad 24/7 I had lost my job, then was put on bed rest for my last 4 months of my pregnancy. After my daughter was born I could not afford daycare and my significant other made to much to get state assistance. I wasn’t able to pay back my credit card debt.it went into collections in 2013. I have not received any paperwork on the credit card or collection agency since early 2014. Now I received a paper in the mail for a summons to appear in court. I am still not working and have no income to pay for this and my boyfriend doesn’t make enough to help pay. I also have no family to help me. What should I do?

Source: credit.com

How to Avoid Racking Up Debt During the Holidays

The holidays bring a lot of excitement and cheer. But is also a time characterized by a lot of spending. Statistics show that holiday spending goes up every year in the last few years. Unfortunately, holiday expenditure can take a big chunk out of your credit card. It may feel great while the holidays last […]

The post How to Avoid Racking Up Debt During the Holidays appeared first on Credit Absolute.

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Debunking credit card myths: Do my assets affect my credit score?

It’s no surprise that travel rewards credit cards get a lot of coverage here at TPG. By strategically applying for and then utilizing these cards, you’ll unlock the ability to redeem your hard-earned points and miles for things such as first-class flights and luxurious hotel rooms. However, there are a number of misconceptions out there when it comes to credit …

Source: thepointsguy.com

Reader question: Can I use multiple Priority Pass memberships to bring in extra guests?

Airport lounges provide a comfortable place to relax before your flight or during a layover. You don’t need to fly in business or first class to get airport lounge access, though. Instead, you can use the Priority Pass membership provided by several travel rewards credit cards to access more than 1,300 lounges worldwide. The Priority …

Source: thepointsguy.com