We’ve written a series of blog posts answering questions regarding your credit rating and bankruptcy, and their financial impact. Call (262) 827-0375

Ways You May Be Hurting Your Credit Score

Your credit score is important for all financial matters. When you want to get a credit card, finance a car, or take out a home equity loan, your lender will always consider your credit score before agreeing to a loan. And the terms of that loan will also depend on your credit score. If your credit score is near perfect, you may find that your lender will charge much less for closing costs, for instance. Finally, some employers are now checking prospective employees’ credit scores before finalizing job offers. Your credit score means a lot, so it’s crucial that you know how to maintain a positive one. In this post, we explore ways that you may be hurting your credit score.

Missing Payments

Late payments are the most common factor that hurts people’s scores. It’s so easy to miss a payment if your life is busy, and paying a little late may seem harmless. However, it has a disproportionate impact on your credit score. Your credit report indicates any payments that are late, and the length of time. Even one 30-day late payment can have a substantial negative effect. If at all possible, set up direct payments for your credit card payments and other monthly obligations. That way, you won’t unintentionally miss a payment due.

Balance to Credit Ratio

Your balance-to-limit ratio is also called your credit utilization. Here is a simple way to calculate it: add up separately all of your credit card balances and then all of the limits on your credit cards. Then divide the total balances by the total limits. This is your balance-to-limit ratio. As a general rule, a lower ratio means a better credit score. As a rule, you should try to keep your credit card utilization rate below 30%. However, it is also a bad idea to completely pay off your credit cards every month. You could be hurting your credit score without realizing it, even if you never make any late payments on those accounts. It’s a bit of a tightrope to walk; doing the calculation twice a year should keep you in the golden zone.

Hard Inquiries

Each time a lender requests your credit reports, a hard inquiry is recorded in your credit file. These inquiries stay in your file for up to two years. A hard credit pull can cause your score to go down slightly for a short period. Lenders look at the number of hard pulls to gauge how much new credit you are requesting. Too many inquiries in a short period of time can signal that you are potentially slipping toward financial problems by suddenly taking on a lot of new debt. Be aware when applying for new loans, and do not crowd applications together.

Timing of Closing Credit Card Accounts

Closing a credit card account can cause your overall balance to credit ratio to increase, which is a sign of risk. As a result, your credit scores may drop. Generally, a brief dip in your credit score won’t matter one way or the other, but If you are planning to make a major purchase (like a house or a car) in the next three to six months, it’s better to forego closing any open credit card accounts.

Beware of Cosigning Loans

You probably know that when you cosign for a loan, you are promising that if the person you are cosigning for doesn’t pay the debt, you will. What you may not know is that the loan will appear on both of your credit reports along with the payment history. If the primary debtor doesn’t pay their loan on time, that late payment will hurt your credit too.

These are some of the ways that you may be hurting your credit scores without really knowing it. Keeping in mind the tips above and maintaining an awareness of your financial situation should help you attain and keep a good credit score. Of course if you default on your financial obligations that will damage your credit score as well. For more advice particular to your personal situation, contact the professionals at Burr Law.

Consumer Credit Bankruptcy

What Is Consumer Credit?

Although any type of personal loan could be labeled consumer credit, the term is usually used to describe unsecured debt that is taken on to buy everyday goods and services. Credit cards issued by banks or other financial institutions, department store cards, gas cards–are all examples of revolving credit. Installment loans are another kind of consumer credit, and the most common installment credit example is an auto loan. Consumer credit is not usually used to describe the purchase of a house; that’s considered a long-term investment and is usually purchased with a secured mortgage loan.

Consumer Credit Causing Financial Distress

If you find yourself struggling every month to pay each of your credit cards as well as your department store cards, your gas cards, and make your car payments (not to mention continuing to live), your situation is not unusual. The average American had a credit card balance of $6,200 in 2019, according to Experian. And revolving credit with its high interest means disaster for those who can’t pay the balance in full every month. That means you continue to accrue additional interest charges from month to month. The average annual percentage rate on all credit cards was 20.21% as of August 2020. Department store credit cards averaged 24.22%. A single late payment can boost your interest rate even higher.

Bankruptcy Can Offer Relief

If your consumer credit obligations are driving you to the breaking point, then bankruptcy may be your wisest option. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, consumer credit debt can be entirely eliminated. You also have the option of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy where you enter into an agreement with your creditors to repay a portion of your debt over 3 to 5 years.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is also called Liquidation Bankruptcy, but don’t let that name scare you off. While it is designed to repay a portion of your debts through the sale of your assets, there are exemptions, and the experts at Burr Law can make sure your car and your home remain yours. The truth is that using exemptions to their fullest, you can derive the benefit of eliminating consumer credit debt while retaining your most valuable possessions. There is no minimum or maximum amount of debt needed to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. There is an income status requirement, though. Your income needs to be equal to or below Wisconsin’s median income, which in 2018 was $62,629.

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 bankruptcy functions more like a reorganization. A trustee assigned by the bankruptcy court draws up a plan whereby you repay a portion of your debts over the course of 3 to 5 years. Your creditors then need to agree to the plan, and the bankruptcy court approves it. With this type of bankruptcy you will retain your car and your house as well. There is no income status requirement, though there is a maximum debt level. To be eligible to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must have no more than $394,725 in consumer credit debt and you also can have no more than $1,184,200 in secured debts, which includes mortgages and car loans.

Consumer credit obligations can be crushing, but they don’t have to be. Reach out to the professionals at Burr Law to discuss your financial situation. It may be that bankruptcy can entirely clear your consumer credit debt, or that it can be made into something manageable. You won’t know how close you are to relief unless you call now.

How Does Debt Relief Affect Your Credit?

The unrelenting pressure of overwhelming debt can cause all kinds of problems outside of the financial realm. It can affect your love relationship, your familial interactions, and your physical and mental health. You know you need debt relief, but worry that pursuing it may further deteriorate your credit score. In this blog post, we will examine the different kinds of debt relief and their implications for your credit.

 

Debt Management – What Is It

With debt management, the entirety of your financial situation is reviewed by a credit counselor, who then creates a debt management plan for you to follow. Generally these are for terms of three to five years, and often you must agree not to seek any additional credit during the time that the debt management plan is in place. Some organizations may take control of your monthly payments, making them on your behalf. You will pay a monthly fee for the service.

 

Debt Management – Credit Implications

The fact that you’re engaged in a debt management plan will be noted on your credit report. If you adhere to the regime for the entire time, your credit score should not be affected. However, at least half of clients do not successfully complete the plan. Obviously, failing to complete a debt management plan would have negative implications for your credit score.

 

Debt Settlement – What Is It

Debt settlement differs from debt management in that the organization you work with negotiates with your creditors on your behalf to decrease the amount you owe. Sometimes, they offer a lower lump sum payment to the creditor; sometimes, they seek debt forgiveness or lower interest. You will be expected to pay an enrollment fee as well as a monthly fee for each credit card on the plan. Also any forgiven debt is reported to the IRS who treats that as income.

 

Debt Settlement – Credit Implications

Debt settlement companies are not concerned with your credit report. Their job is to get the current debt lowered or forgiven. Most debt settlement companies ask you to suspend payments to your creditors while they negotiate on your behalf. This strategy has a tremendously negative impact on your credit report since the most significant factor is payment history.

 

Debt Consolidation – What Is It

In its most basic form, debt consolidation combines multiple debt payments into one monthly payment through obtaining either a secured or unsecured loan. That monthly payment is sometimes lower than the individual payments combined, and the interest you pay is sometimes lower as well. Sometimes you may risk losing collateral that you aren’t aware you have placed in jeopardy. That can happen when your debt consolidation loan has a cross-collateralization clause that lets the lender take other property it has financed if you default on the debt consolidation loan.

 

Debt Consolidation – Credit Implications

Because you are taking out an additional loan, your credit report will reflect a “hard inquiry” and that will lower your credit score. Often, your credit score decreases by a relatively small amount, and that decrease is temporary.

 

The ultimate debt relief, of course, is filing for bankruptcy. The general fear that filing for bankruptcy means the end of ever acquiring new credit or home ownership is unfounded. The experts at Burr Law can talk you through the different options and the various implications for your credit.

When Does Bankruptcy Clear From Your Credit Report?

If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Wisconsin, you probably have a lot of bankruptcy questions. It’s important for you to have all the information you need in order to make a truly sound decision, and in this post, we will look at one of the most commonly asked bankruptcy questions: When does bankruptcy clear from your credit report?

Credit reports are simply a fact of contemporary existence, and they are consulted every time you apply for a new credit card, or an automobile loan, or any type of financial undertaking. You may not be aware that in Wisconsin credit reports are also considered by landlords, and by some employers. So concern about your credit report is absolutely reasonable when making the decision to file for bankruptcy.

Filing for bankruptcy becomes part of the public record, so if anyone is truly interested in the bankruptcy filing itself, they can access that information.

Generally speaking, bankruptcy stays on your credit report in Wisconsin for about 10 years. Remember, though, that even if you don’t file bankruptcy, your creditors can obtain a judgment against you for your debt, and that judgment would appear on your credit report. A judgment can remain on your credit report for seven years or until the statute of limitations expires, whichever is longer. In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations on a judgment can be up to 20 years! So a bankruptcy may well fall off of your credit report before a particular judgment.

Bankruptcy will mean a drop in your credit score immediately after filing, but about 12 to 18 months after you receive your bankruptcy discharge your credit score should go up because your debtor to income ratio becomes much better than when you filed the bankruptcy. However, you may already have a poor credit score due to your debt-to-asset ratio (your debt is high compared to your available credit) and delinquent accounts; in that case, the decrease in your credit score may be less than you suppose. If your credit score was good before filing bankruptcy, the drop may be more pronounced.

The type of bankruptcy that you file may also affect how its presence on your credit report is viewed by prospective lenders. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy completely wipes out your debt by selling whatever eligible assets you have; Chapter 13 Bankruptcy sets up a three to five year plan to repay a portion of your debt. Obviously, prospective lenders would consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in a more favorable light than a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. When applying for credit after bankruptcy, you should be straightforward about the bankruptcy and your reasons for choosing that option.

Attorney Michael Burr and the Burr Law Offices can answer all of your bankruptcy questions. You concern about your credit report is certainly warranted, and we can help you understand all the implications of a decision to file bankruptcy. Consult the experts in Wisconsin bankruptcy law at the Burr Law Offices, and bring all your bankruptcy questions with you.

Bankruptcy Pros and Cons

When you’re in financial distress, it can sometimes seem like there is no way out. There are all different kinds of reasons people find themselves flailing in a sea of debt. Whatever the reason, when creditors are circling sharks, bankruptcy may be the lifeboat you need. Over 12,000 Wisconsinites have filed bankruptcy so far this year (January 1 through September 30, 2019). In the Eastern District of Wisconsin (including Milwaukee and its surrounding areas), 9,466 bankruptcy cases have been recorded
(www.wiwb.ucourts.gov, www.wieb.uscourts.gov). So bankruptcy is neither shameful nor unusual.

Filing for bankruptcy is a serious decision, though. You want to have all the information and understand all the implications before proceeding. Let’s take a look at some of the bankruptcy pros and cons.

PRO: Bankruptcy Stops All Collection Activities By Any And All Creditors. When your debt is crippling, it comes with collection agents working relentlessly to extract money you don’t have. Letters that threaten dire consequences, phone calls that badger you at all times of day or night, these tactics can make you feel hunted, haunted, or both. The moment you file bankruptcy, all collection activities must stop, including any garnishment, foreclosure or repossession.

PRO: Bankruptcy Eliminates or Decreases Debt. With bankruptcy, all your unsecured debt is either eliminated or reduced. Most people file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, and with that type, you don’t need to worry about any sort of repayment. “The entire process takes from 3-6 months, after which your debt is cleared” (David Chandler, https://www.consumeraffairs.com/finance/bankruptcy_02.html). Some people choose Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, and with that type, you do repay a portion of your debts, determined with the court. This process lasts from 3 to 5 years. In both cases, your debts are cleared, once and for all.

PRO: Bankruptcy Avoids Draining Resources. The bill collectors don’t care where you get the money to pay them, and you may be tempted to take it from your retirement funds, social security or other protected assets. When you declare bankruptcy, not all your assets are liable for your debt repayment. Social security and retirement funds are protected. Filing bankruptcy allows you to retain those protected assets while getting rid of the debt.

CON: Bankruptcy Means No Credit Cards Until You Receive Your Bankruptcy Discharge. While bankruptcy rids you of your debt, it also rids you of your credit cards. Not having credit cards makes some things more difficult. For instance, car rental agencies usually require credit cards; hotels often do too. It also means that unexpected large expenses cannot be paid with a credit card; car repairs may need to wait. Once you receive your bankruptcy discharge you can apply for credit, including credit cards and you should receive that credit or credit card.

CON: Bankruptcy Complicates Credit/Loan Prospects. Bankruptcy remains on your credit record for 10 years, and it can make getting an auto loan or other kind of loan more difficult, but not impossible. And while you may receive credit card offers shortly after declaring bankruptcy, they often come with high interest rates. Naturally, your credit rating will drop, but will improve and be back to normal about 1 year after bankruptcy discharge. Professional advice can assist in charting a positive strategy and ways to improve your credit score.

CON: Bankruptcy Becomes Public Record. When you file for bankruptcy, it becomes a matter of public record, and anyone can request those records. Except it will not appear on the State of Wisconsin, CCAP website, which list case filed in Wisconsin.

A Wisconsin legal team that specializes in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings can help you make the right decision for you and your family. If you need help with dealing with debt in Wisconsin, Burr Law Office can provide you with practical solutions that suit your needs. We can help you make the best possible decisions for yourself, your family and your future. Call us today at (262) 827-0375 to schedule a free bankruptcy evaluation. At Burr Law Office, we are here to help.

How Will Bankruptcy Change Your Life? 7 Ways . . .

Filing for bankruptcy is a major decision. The circumstances that lead to the decision are usually not very pleasant either. Whether it’s the loss of a job, a major medical procedure, or simply overspending, overwhelming debt can be a major stressor on you and your family. And once you’ve filed for bankruptcy, your life will change. Here are seven ways that bankruptcy will change your life, and what you can expect.

Waukesha bankruptcy attorneyWhile the final outcome of filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is intended to be positive, there are negatives that come with it. If you decide to file, here’s the bad news that you can expect:

The Bad

  1. Credit Score
    According to Experian, one of the major crediting companies in the U.S., filing for bankruptcy drops credit scores by an average of 80 points. However, it could be much more depending on your specific situation. This reduction in credit rating leads to less trust from future creditors, which ultimately leads to you paying higher interest rates and fees. The bankruptcy will also remain on your credit report for 7-10 years. However, all is not lost. With a newfound emphasis on paying your bills on time, you may be able to establish a more favorable credit rating in as little as two years.
  2. Credit Cards
    Milwaukee bankruptcy no credit cardsYou may be wondering, how or why you’d get a credit card after bankruptcy. As for how, once you file for bankruptcy there’s a good chance you’ll receive new offers for credit cards. While it may seem odd that credit card companies offer credit to people who’ve previously filed for bankruptcy, there are actually creditors who target this high-risk pool. Why? Because they charge higher interest rates and fees, and with these higher fees it’s profitable for them.While the higher rates can seem overwhelming, the opportunity to reestablish your credit rating is actually a plus. If you’re able to consistently pay off your credit card bill each month, it can help improve your credit rating. However, the last thing you want to do is get caught up in more debt. But if you have the money and commitment to paying your bills in full each month, this can be a good option.
  3. Housing
    Once again, we’re going back to your credit rating… Once you’ve filed for bankruptcy, and your credit rating has taken a hit, it can be difficult to find housing. Simply put, you’re seen as a higher risk. So whether you’re trying to rent a new apartment, or applying for a mortgage to buy a new home, expect that you’ll pay higher fees. That may be in the way of a higher interest rate for a new home loan, or a larger deposit for a rental. Yes this is annoying, but it’s important to understand that creditors are merely trying to protect themselves against potentially not being paid.
  4. Employment
    It’s true that it is illegal for employers to ask you about your credit during an interview. However, employers can legally run a background and credit check on you. This may not be an issue in some industries, but in others, such as the financial services industry, it’s common practice. If you are subject to a credit check, and you sign a release letting a prospective employer review your credit, your prior bankruptcy and lower credit score may make it difficult to land the position. Right or wrong, some employers view low credit as a sign that you’re not very responsible.

This may all sound overwhelming. But now that we’ve got the negatives out of the way, let’s look at how bankruptcy can have a positive impact on you and your family.


The Good

  1. Debt eliminated and stress reduced
    No longer having to carry burdensome debt is a huge relief. Over the years we’ve had clients tell us that after their debt was eliminated, they slept better, were less anxious, were happier, and their family life improved. And despite some the aforementioned downsides of bankruptcy, life following bankruptcy was significantly better. With both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your unsecured debt will be discharged. This includes credit cards, car payments, and medical bills. (However, it does not include some debt, such as alimony, child support, and student loans.)
  2. No more collection calls or lawsuits
    Milwaukee bankruptcy don'tsConstant calls from collection agencies can be extremely stressful. If you’ve ever received these calls, you may have noticed that the collection agents can be very harsh, and even threatening. And the longer you owe creditors, the longer the calls go on for.However, the good news is that once you file for bankruptcy, creditors are no longer legally allowed to make such calls. In addition, creditors are no longer able to sue you, or repossess your possessions.
  3. No one has to know
    Many of our clients come to us with lots of embarrassment about their financial situations. And yes, in some instances, this may be justified. We won’t sugarcoat it. But in many cases, especially in cases involving medical bills and job loss, there’s no reason to be embarrassed. Life happens. Still, most of our clients are concerned about privacy. They don’t want people they know to find out about their bankruptcy.The good news is that your finances are your business. Your family, friends, and co-workers don’t need to find out. You can keep it private. The only time your bankruptcy filing would come out would be if you file for a new loan or credit line.

So there you have it, the good and the bad of filing for bankruptcy. Just remember, bankruptcy isn’t forever. After 7-10 years it’s wiped from your record. If you pay your bills on time following your bankruptcy, you’ll be well on your way to reestablishing your credit.  And in the meantime, you’ll get a fresh start financially and, in all likelihood, be much happier once you file bankruptcy, stop the credit harassment, and have a clean slate for you and your family.

And of course, if you live in the Milwaukee / Waukesha area, and need someone to talk to regarding your financial situation, don’t hesitate to give Burr Law Office a call at (262) 827-0375.

Important Factors in Making a Decision about Bankruptcy

For most people, the decision of whether or not to file for bankruptcy is not one to be taken lightly. After all, there are implications that go along with the decision. Today we’d like to take a look at a few things you should think about and discuss if you find yourself making the decision of whether to file for bankruptcy.

First of all, it’s important to reiterate that everyone’s situation is unique, and there are no “one-size-fits-all” approaches to handling financial matters. Similarly, not everyone is in the same place in life either, and all those factors need to be taken into account when making a big financial decision such as whether or not to file for bankruptcy. Because of the case-by-case nature of bankruptcy, it’s always best to consult a qualified bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options and to explain your specific situation. These attorneys are trained and are experienced and will be able to give you advice based on the information you have given them.

That being said, there are a few things most people can think about when deciding whether or not to file for bankruptcy – these are very common considerations which are likely to apply to many people, despite their different places in life and different situations.

First of all, if you do decide filing for bankruptcy is your best option, you’ll have to determine which type of personal bankruptcy to file. This decision is best made in consultation with your attorney, as each type makes sense in certain situations. Chapter 13 bankruptcy creates a repayment plan in which the filer uses a payment plan to pay off his or her debt in three to five years. This is often chosen if there was a temporary event that caused someone to get behind financially, such as a loss of a job, that has since been rectified. Chapter 13 allows you to keep your assets while requiring you to repay your missed payments via your payment plan.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes away all debt, and this option is often chosen when debt is extremely high or when there is simply not enough income to come up with a payment plan. There are laws requiring being qualified for chapter 7, so this is not always an option for everyone.

Another thing to consider is whether you’ve had a major life event lately. Maybe, completely out of your control, a major medical event, divorce, or loss of a job might have increased your debt significantly or reduced your income significantly. A qualified attorney can help you evaluate your situation and help you decide what your options are.

There is then the matter of considering how bankruptcy will affect your credit. Typically, a bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for about ten years. But, depending on what your current financial situation is, a bankruptcy can actually help improve your credit score in as little as a year or two. If you’ve missed payments and have bill collectors or other agencies reporting your missed payments, getting on a chapter 13 payment plan together and starting to rectify the debts and missed payments can actually help you to boost your credit score. If, however, you have plans to buy a house in the next few years, or if you know you will need an auto loan or need to take out a line of credit, you may want to re-consider bankruptcy unless it is absolutely necessary. It might be very hard to make any of these things happen with a recent bankruptcy on your credit report.

If you have any joint accounts, another thing to consider is how bankruptcy will affect these. While bankruptcy will dissolve your financial obligations, if you have a spouse or someone else on a joint account, that co-signer will now become solely responsible for the debt. This is common after a divorce. One way to avoid this from happening is to pay off the debt before filing or by placing the debt into only one person’s name.

Finally, it is important to know that filing for bankruptcy is a matter of public record. Anyone who is interested can look into this information. Many times, people don’t realize this or bother to look; however, you should be aware that it will be a matter of public record and available for anyone who would want to look into it. Depending on your public profile, this piece of information might help you make your decision.

At Burr Law Office LLC, as expert Milwaukee bankruptcy attorneys, we want to help you make the right decision for your unique situation by taking all the factors into account. If you are considering bankruptcy as an option, talk to us and get the benefit of our expertise and experience. Call (262) 827-0375 today!