Bankruptcy: When There Is No Where Else to Turn For Debt Relief


You have hit the point where there is nothing else you can do, bankruptcy is the only way out of the financial avalanche that is weighing you down.  You tried cutting back, you sold what you could, you have been working day in and day, and still find that you are not making a dent in your debt let alone continue to live a feasible lifestyle.  It is a conclusion that no one wants to get to because it comes with the stigmatism of failure.  The shame that comes with filing bankruptcy maybe real to you, it may be what you are feeling and experiencing however, you should know that there is no disgrace in finally deciding that you need help.  This help can make all the difference in your future.  A future that your past self wasn’t considering when mismanaging income vs debt.

Filing for bankruptcy can be quite confusing.  It is a very serious legal matter that should only be done with proper representation from a bankruptcy attorney.  Here are some things to take into consideration as you take the first steps towards financial freedom.

Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding that puts you in front of a judge where you explain that you can no longer financially afford to pay your debts.  The judge will work with trustees to look into your assets and liabilities to decide if the debt should be discharged or there are means to repay a portion or all of it.  If the court concludes that you cannot payback these debts, they will declare you bankrupt. 

Although bankruptcy can stop foreclosure, repossession, and garnishment of wages it doesn’t cancel all of your debts. Bankruptcy does not clear:

  • Student loans
  • Government debt: taxes, late fees, and penalties
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Expenses purchased right before declaring bankruptcy

Once you have filed the paperwork for bankruptcy, all creditors receive notice that they can no longer take steps to collect money from you.  Creditors will no longer be allowed to call, write, or take legal action of their own against you once the bankruptcy process has begun. 

There are many types of bankruptcy that can be filed both consumer and commercial.  The most common consumer bankruptcies files are Chapter 13 and Chapter 7.

In chapter 13 bankruptcy the court will approve a plan for you to repay some or all of your debt over the span of three to five years.  You will keep all of your assets and follow a strict timeline and monthly payment schedule set forth by the court.

In chapter 7 bankruptcy the court will decide what reasonable assets are vs “luxury” items. Things will be sold to pay off debt if they are deemed over and above what is reasonable.  Once you have paid back as much as is thought to be reasonable the remaining unpaid debt will be erased. 

Bohikian Law Group specializes in bankruptcy services including chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy. More information can be found at https://bohikianlaw.com.



Why 20 Million Americans Should File for Bankruptcy

A few years ago, Chris Saltzburg found himself at the intersection of an expensive divorce, the loss of his job and the rapidly declining health of his mother. The debts started piling up. American Express seized his bank account. After making a six-figure salary for most of his career as a model, Saltzburg was broke.

He began researching his options and found that filing for bankruptcy made the most sense. But the process seemed incredibly daunting, and he couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer. Saltzburg’s situation is all too familiar — it happens to people all over the country every day. While many fear the unknown or make false presumptions about filing for Chapter 7 …

More than 20 million Americans would benefit from declaring bankruptcy.

But in 2017, fewer than 500,000 actually did, according to a data analysis by Upsolve, a nonprofit software platform that helps people file for Chapter 7. Saltzburg came across Upsolve while looking for bankruptcy resources, and the company guided him through his filing, free of charge.

Rohan Pavuluri, the founder of Upsolve, was inspired to start the company two years ago after volunteering with Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab, which focuses on finding legal solutions for people who can’t afford lawyers. While developing a method for assisting in bankruptcy filings, Pavuluri quickly realized that tech could be the solution. He joined forces with bankruptcy attorney Jonathan Petts, who helped optimize Upsolve’s toolkit and resources, while the rest of his team coded the platform. Today, users who sign into the app are prompted to upload pay stubs and tax forms, which are then autofilled into their Chapter 7 filing. Other information is autofilled in by a credit check.

Pavuluri zeroed in on bankruptcy because he realized its potential was vastly underutilized, particularly for low-income Americans. Bankruptcy wipes their slate clean, improves their credit scores and can help them get a job. “It’s one of the most powerful poverty-fighting tools around, and we aim to make it accessible at scale,” Pavuluri says. Especially because the reasons people end up in debt resonate with most Americans. “The No. 1 reason [for filing bankruptcy] is medical debts,” he says. “Divorce and people who are victims of an abusive partner are also common.” By offering a free service, Pavuluri is helping people who may never have known that Chapter 7, a type of bankruptcy that liquidates a person’s existing assets to pay their debts, was an option. Currently, the organization is funded through philanthropy — the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is one of its donors — as well as through the government. It also asks Upsolve clients who’ve had successful outcomes to donate a small amount if they can.

Bankruptcy filings go up when people get their tax refunds.

Michelle White, professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego

In 2005, Congress made changes to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in an attempt to make it more difficult for some consumers to file for Chapter 7. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) now requires anyone filing to meet certain criteria: Your income must fall below the median income for your state, and you must also pass a “means” test that calculates your debt to determine if you qualify. Before BAPCPA, anyone could file for bankruptcy, regardless of their income. “You could be wealthy and still file for bankruptcy — there was no income cap at all,” says Michelle White, professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego, who has studied bankruptcy since the 1990s. Some celebrities even filed for Chapter 7 before the code change went into effect. R&B singer Toni Braxton filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1998, alleging she was broke after being insufficiently paid by her recording label at the time, LaFace Records.

When White first began studying bankruptcy, she too was surprised at the number of people who not only qualified but would benefit from filing. It’s understandable, though, White says, that so many people don’t file. “The deterrent is usually the cost [of legal fees],” she says. “Bankruptcy filings go up when people get their tax refunds.” Surprisingly, the number of Americans who could benefit from filing for Chapter 7 is slightly higher than it was prior to BAPCPA. As of May, consumer debt levels were predicted to reach an all-time high by the end of 2018, according to consumer lending company, LendingTree. “Now, more than ever, people need the lifeline of bankruptcy to get back on their feet,” Pavuluri says.

Still, there are some financial situations that can’t be helped simply by filing for bankruptcy. Sometimes Pavuluri has to turn away people who don’t qualify for Chapter 7, usually because they’re homeowners or they earn above the median income, and direct them to a local attorney.

But the people who do file aren’t the only ones who could benefit. A crop of Americans with improved credit scores and the chance to increase their incomes could drive further economic growth. If Upsolve and other bankruptcy advocates can move the needle on the number of Americans who file for Chapter 7, the whole country would likely reap the benefits.

Original Source: https://www.ozy.com/acumen/why-20-million-americans-should-file-for-bankruptcy/90717

Original Date: Nov 29 2018

Written By: Molly Fosco

Five Things To Not Do Before Filing Bankruptcy

Believe it or not there are some things that you should not do before you file for Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy.  Finding debt relief in bankruptcy is not as simple as filing a few pieces of paper, appearing before a federal judge and whoosh all of your bills are gone.  There are a lot of considerations that go into the act of declaring bankruptcy and seeking relief from your debt.

One of the first steps to take when considering the different options available to you is to determine your totally debt.  When you are in a situation where you are experiencing stress financially, it may be tempting to do whatever you can to free yourself from that pressure.  However, bankruptcy discharge is a very serious, legal action therefore it is crucial that you understand what is going to happen before, during, and after bankruptcy.

Don’t Rush

Bankruptcy is a federally governed method of debt elimination.  There are limitations on how often you can file for bankruptcy.

  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge is something that can only be done once every eight years.
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy discharge is something that can only be done once every six years.

If you are considering bankruptcy due to medical debt but are still experiencing severe health issues it is probably important to wait until your health has stabilized before filing.  The last thing you want to do is to find yourself accumulating more and more debt after you have already discharged your initial debt. There are a number of problems that crop up when bankruptcy comes into view like unemployment, foreclosure, eviction, and car repossession.   It is important to file bankruptcy at a point when you know you are going to be able to get back on your feet once a discharge is granted.  The last thing you want is to have your debt cleared only to find yourself swimming in debt a year later when no relief can be given.

Don’t Wait Too Long

There are times however that bankruptcy can’t wait and that it is in your best interest to file for bankruptcy right away.  If a wage garnishing is in place, it is important to file sooner rather than later so that you have more money to pay bills.  Filing for bankruptcy in a timely manner is also important if a creditor has a lawsuit against you.  Your bankruptcy attorney will want to make sure to look at the complaint to see if it includes any allegations of fraud.  If it does, the matter will go into judgment and you likely won’t be able to wipe out this debt in bankruptcy.

A creditor that has won money in a judgement against you, the lien that accompanies it allows the creditor to take wages directly from your check, attach to your bank accounts, repo cars, and foreclose on your home in an effort to reclaim the money that is owed.  If you file for and receive a bankruptcy discharge before the creditor wins a case against you, filing bankruptcy will stop the lawsuit in its track and wipe out that debt as well.

Don’t Drain Retirements Account

Retirement funds are protected from bankruptcy.  It is important not to withdrawal funds from your retirement accounts in order to pay off debts.  Before taking money from any type of account that is labeled for retirement speak with a bankruptcy lawyer to figure out the best option for you.  Most often you will find that your attorney will recommend that you do not deplete your accounts to better your financial situation.

Don’t Provide Information That Is Inaccurate

It is crucial to be completely open when it comes to your bankruptcy paperwork.  You are required to provide accurate information on your paperwork including your assets, debt, income, expenses, and financial history.  Misrepresenting information could lead to penalty of perjury.

Don’t Add in New Debt or Move Assets

Any debt that is incurred seventy to ninety days before filing bankruptcy paperwork, unless it is a necessity, a creditor may object.  Debt within this time frame may be considered fraudulent. As a rule, don’t take out cash advances or use credit cards to buy luxury items.  It is also critical that you don’t try to hide or move assets for safekeeping before filing for bankruptcy.  If you have sold property to pay for expenses before declaring bankruptcy it will be important to document the way in which you spent the money to pay for necessities.

As with any legal procedure it is important that the rules are followed to prevent any sort of confusion when it comes to discharging your debt.

 

Bohikian Law Group specializes in bankruptcy services including chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy.  More information can be found at http://bohikianlaw.com.

Bouncing Back From Bankruptcy

Original Source: https://www.fool.com/credit-cards/2018/11/01/bouncing-back-from-bankruptcy.aspx

Written By: Kailey Fralick

Published On: Nov 1, 2018

What Can You Expect from Your Bankruptcy Attorney?

One of the ways that people get out from under an oppressive debt is through filing for chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy.  Having debt discharged through bankruptcy can offer many people a great sense of relief.  The process itself however can be quite daunting without hiring a proper bankruptcy lawyer helping your through the process and forms.  When you are seeking an attorney’s assistance with the bankruptcy it is important to find one that offers you: competence, sound legal advice, preparedness, and representation.

Competence

Bankruptcy cases can range from straightforward to utterly complex.  The attorney you hire to handle your bankruptcy should have the skills that you need to have your bankruptcy proceed properly.  Your bankruptcy’s difficulty will range depending on a number of elements including:

  • The facts of your particular situation
  • The chapter of bankruptcy you are filing: chapter 7 or 13
  • The assets that will need to be sold
  • The status of employment and business ownership
  • The involvement of interested parties

Sound Legal Advice

Once you have established a relationship with a bankruptcy attorney a contract will be signed to specific the working agreement between you and your lawyer. This agreement will state what services you should expect that they will provide vs what you are to provide for yourself.  The first thing that your attorney will discuss with you is whether it is in your best interest to file for chapter 7, chapter 13, or another option.  This decision is based on what makes the most sense for you to achieve your financial goals. Your attorney should also brief you on what you can expect throughout the bankruptcy process along with the difficulties of your unique case.

Preparedness

Your attorney is in charge of making sure all of the paperwork that you need is filed and properly and within the timeline provided for your case.  You are required to disclose proper financial information to your attorney including: income, expenses, assets, and information pertaining to your debt.  Once this information has been received it will be processed and the two of you will review the information before it is filed.

You may be asked for more information by the court or the court’s trustee.  If you or your attorney fail to provide this information in a timely manner and you miss the deadline the following consequences may occur:

  • Delay in your bankruptcy proceedings
  • Dismissal of your case

Because of the serious nature of the consequences it is critical that the bankruptcy attorney you hire is diligent with paperwork and following required deadlines.

Representation

After the paperwork has been filed and the court has received everything it needs all debtors will be required to attend a hearing known as a 341 meeting of the creditors.  Depending on your case you or the bankruptcy attorney representing you may need to go to other hearings as well.  Your attorney will advise you when you meet with them on what type of hearings you will be required to attend.  Your bankruptcy lawyer should attend all hearings with you.  Some of these can include:

  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy confirmation hearing
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy reaffirmation hearing
  • Motion/objection hearings

 

Bohikian Law Group specializes in bankruptcy services including chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy.  More information can be found at http://bohikianlaw.com.

 

What Is Bankruptcy? Different Types and Why People File

The debts and income an individual or company has will determine what type of bankruptcy they are eligible to file for. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Bankruptcy? Different Types and Why People File

Bankruptcy is usually seen as such an extreme situation, mostly associated with a failing business being forced to close down than anything else.

But as the amount of debt individuals and families are forced to accrue in order to survive increases, bankruptcy has become more common. A recent study showed a large increase of older Americans filing for bankruptcy, as different combinations of loans continue to put the average household in tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

It’s important to consider before filing: What is bankruptcy, what different types are there, and what could cause someone to file for it?

What Is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal process, an option for an individual, family, or corporation who finds themselves unable to pay off their debts.

The bankruptcy courts will go over your debts and liabilities, and will track your assets as well. Some of your assets may be used as repayment. These debts can be reduced or done away with altogether.

The ideal goal behind this system is to give people a second chance and a fresh start. Debt hangs over your head, and interest means it just continues to grow. It makes it harder to pay off, increases the number of predatory phone calls and voicemails you hear and can bring unmanageable stress into your daily life. Should the bankruptcy process work as it’s intended, you may have a chance at life without this.

How to File for Bankruptcy

The first part of filing for bankruptcy is determining whether it is the right call for you. It’s a huge undertaking, so ask yourself the important questions. How long will you likely have to repay these debts for? Are you legitimately unable to make the necessary payments? Can you compile the necessary information and documents? And are you prepared to deal with any fallout that comes with filing for bankruptcy? It can do significant damage to your credit score. Does your existing debt outweigh that consequence?

Filers will also want to look into a bankruptcy lawyer. It’s possible to file for certain bankruptcy types without one, but at a time when you’re at your most vulnerable financially, find someone who understands how to guide you through the various intricacies of filing.

Before one can file for bankruptcy, United States Courts require you to take credit counseling, and after you file, it requires debtor education courses. Certificates of completion are required before debts are discharged.

With credit counseling courses completed, the next step is to fill out the petition to file for bankruptcy. This and other bankruptcy forms are available on the U.S. Courts website. A bankruptcy attorney can help determine which other relevant forms will need to be filled out, based on what type of bankruptcy the filer is filing for, and how the specific local laws affect the case.

If the petition gets accepted, the case is usually given to a trustee, a party not employed by the courts who can help oversee the case. The trustee will comb through documents to make sure all assets have been accurately collected and that no fraud has been committed. They will also set up a meeting with the creditors wherein the party who filed for bankruptcy must testify under oath.

Bankruptcy Types

With bankruptcy being such a complicated issue that can affect so many different parties, there is much more to it than just “declaring bankruptcy.” Are you an individual or a business filing for bankruptcy, and how do your income and assets impact the plan for repaying debts? The U.S. has an entire court system dedicated entirely to bankruptcy cases, so it’s not afraid to get very intricate with the details.

There are several different types of bankruptcy. The most common ones, though, are likely Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

The most common form of bankruptcy is likely Chapter 7. This is also often known as liquidation bankruptcy. Unable to pay off debts with money, the party must, with the help of the trustee, liquidate their non-exempt assets and divide the money to give to creditors.

Much of the aforementioned process comes into play for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Anyone who files for it will need to take the credit counseling courses within six months of filing. The relevant forms relating to Chapter 7 will need to be completed providing key information on your situation.

There will be means testing to determine whether someone has a way to pay off a significant portion of that debt with the provided information, including income. If it is determined they cannot, it continues as Chapter 7. If it is determined that they have enough means to pay off most of the debt, they likely won’t be able to file for it and will need to instead look into Chapter 13 bankruptcy (more on that later).

The trustee will set up the meeting the debtor has with creditors, and is able to sell non-exempt assets to pay creditors. The assets that are exempt from this may vary from state-to-state. The equity in your home, as an example, varies in how much is and isn’t exempt.

Debtors will likely need to take debtor education courses prior to successfully being discharged. It is important to note, especially before beginning the process, that not every debt can be discharged. Debt stemming from child support payments cannot be discharged.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Individuals can file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it is primarily known as a bankruptcy option for businesses. With Chapter 11, businesses can restructure their debts and potentially save themselves from going out of business. Huge companies like General Motors have used it to their advantage.

Once a person or company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they become a debtor-in-possession. This means they still have many of the same responsibilities for operating the businesses, and will then work with the trustee for a plan to reorganize their debts. If the creditors and a bankruptcy judge approve, the trustee puts the plan into action.

Though the debtor-in-possession still maintains various responsibilities in running the business, they are also unable to make other decisions independently, such as making expansions to the business.

How can an individual qualify for Chapter 11 bankruptcy? They need to have more debt than would qualify them for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a bit different for individuals compared to Chapter 7. It is an option for individuals and families whose income makes them ineligible for Chapter 7, and is a bankruptcy plan that does not involve liquidating their non-exempt assets.

Like Chapter 11, it is a way to try and restructure and reorganize debt, but more geared toward people and families as opposed to corporations. Restructuring debts instead of liquidating assets lets people avoid having their houses foreclosed on.

It does, however, last much longer than Chapter 7. Having a trustee liquidate assets can get a debtor discharged in 6 months; in Chapter 13, in addition to providing crucial financial information in their forms the debtor creates a plan to use any disposable income they have left to make monthly payments toward their debt. Depending on the dollar amount going toward those payments, the process to getting discharged could take upward of 3 to 5 years. In that time, debtors are also not allowed to take on any additional debt.

The trustee in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case will review the debtor’s proposed plan, as well as the information they provided about finances to make sure everything is accurate. If they and the creditors find the plan to be fair and trustworthy, the plan goes into action, and the trustee will divvy the monthly payments up to the creditors.

Why Do People File for Bankruptcy?

The amount of debt the average American has continues to rise exponentially each year. There’s now over $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt alone in the country. With such astronomical debt hanging over so many American households, people look to drastic measures.

Emergency medical situations have put many Americans in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt. Medical debt and student loan debt can be a toxic combination for someone’s bank account, especially if they are also dealing with a loss of their job.

A combo of these three is an extreme, but many feel bankruptcy is still the “extreme” option, a last resort. Filing for bankruptcy can wreck a person’s credit score and take years to recover; for someone to declare bankruptcy, taking the time to build their credit score back up would have to outweigh the difficulties of living under their existing financial struggles and debt.

Bankruptcy and Lehman Brothers

Because bankruptcy among individuals is still seen as a last resort, the term is still thought of more for when businesses run out of money and are forced to shut down. As the anniversary of its bankruptcy declaration approaches, let’s look at the most notable bankruptcy event of the 21st century: The collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Lehman Brothers was an investment bank and global financial services firm who spent the first several years of the 2000s riding high. This can be attributed to what was, at the time, a booming housing market.

More and more Americans were buying houses, thanks to a major increase in subprime mortgages being given out by institutions like Lehman Brothers. Subprime mortgages were the loans offered to prospective homeowners with poor credit, and financial institutions were happy to give them out in the early 2000s when interest rates were historically low. But when the housing bubble burst, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates several times. People suddenly could not make their monthly mortgage payments; they defaulted and homes went into foreclosure. What was a thriving market turned into a subprime mortgage crisis.

Mortgages were not getting paid, and real estate prices kept falling. This was bad news for lenders, banks and investors who had put quite a bit of time and money into the market. Lehman Brothers began to fail. Mortgage lenders they had purchased were shut down. Their financial leverage of assets to equity was unsustainably high. They liquidated assets, they issued stock, but nothing was able to stop the bleeding. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008. Their assets and various businesses were sold off, and the financial services giant was no more.

Costs Involved with Filing Bankruptcy

When you are considering bankruptcy as an option to relieve your financial burdens the last thing you want to be worrying about is how much it is going to cost to hire an attorney and file the necessary paperwork.  After all, money is tight which is the reason you are contemplating this option in the first place.  In this installment we will discuss the fees involved with filing, hiring an attorney, and additional fees you may encounter.

Fees for Filing Bankruptcy

There are many bankruptcy options to choose from but the most popular being Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.   The filing fee for Chapter 7 is $335 and for Chapter 13 is $310.  There may also be a fee charged by the Bankruptcy Trustee which can range between $15 and $20 dollars.  Another fee you may need to cover is the cost for mandatory credit counseling and financial management classes.  These classes can cost upwards of $100 depending on where you are filing for bankruptcy and the options that are available.

Attorney Fees in Bankruptcy

Many people will unsuccessfully file for bankruptcy without the help of an attorney.  Paperwork often is incorrectly filed, the steps necessary are not taken, and many other hiccups plague individuals filing “pro se”, (without the help of an attorney).  The truth is that filing for bankruptcy successfully most often requires the help of a bankruptcy attorney.

Bankruptcy attorneys are responsible for setting their own fees.  On average bankruptcy attorneys charge $1,250 for their services.  This fee varies depending on where you are filing, the complexity of your litigation, your attorneys experience and reputation. The fees for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy are often less than those found in filing for Chapter 13.  This is most likely due to the extra services that go into filing Chapter 13 such as setting up a repayment schedule and executing automatic payments.

This fee may seem like a lot at the moment.  It is to be assumed that your filing bankruptcy because you are lacking the ability to pay the debt.  When you take into consideration the average debt that is written off in bankruptcy is $15,000 that fee seems relatively reasonable as it takes a large debt down to pennies on the dollar.

Filing for bankruptcy isn’t an option that is easy for individuals to make.  It is one that should be made only after much research and contemplation.

Bohikian Law Group specializes in bankruptcy services including chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy.  More information can be found at http://bohikianlaw.com.

The Graying of Bankruptcy

For decades, capitalists have held down wages and cut social programs. Now the chickens have come home to roost: older Americans are going bankrupt at record rates.

In old age, health declines. This is obvious, but its implications for social well being are enormous.

In a system where the majority of people have to sell their labor for wages to survive, people’s ability to support themselves financially almost always decreases as they age. Without public assistance, therefore, old age is comfortable only for those with savings, and uncomfortable if not downright miserable for those without.

This is why the United States passed the Social Security Act in 1935, which guaranteed a source of income to replace wages for all people 65 and older, along with the Social Security Act Amendments in 1965, which created Medicare, a public health insurance program for the same population. These programs are financed socially, by adjusting the tax rate schedule to accommodate them — that is, by requiring everyone in society to contribute, based on their ability to pay, for benefits that they will be entitled to after a certain age.

These and other mid-century programs made it a little bit easier to grow old in America, for a while. But they have come under strain as wages have stagnated and the cost of housing and education skyrocketed, placing a greater burden on social welfare programs to achieve adequate income for people. Meanwhile, programs themselves have been systematically starved of resources or outright eliminated.

Older Americans haven’t fared well. In fact, they’re filing for bankruptcy in record numbers. A new report from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project called “Graying of US Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society” contends that, while it took a few decades to fully set in, older Americans are now experiencing the consequences of the assault on the social safety net that began under Reagan and has persisted, with leadership from both parties, ever since.

Running the Risk

“Government is not the solution to our problem,” Reagan was fond of saying. “Government is the problem.” His election inaugurated the reign of the free-market neoliberals, who advocated supposedly leaner and more efficient market-based alternatives to socially-funded government programs. Not coincidentally, these alternatives were friendly to capitalists — lower taxes, new lucrative private markets.

In 1982, Reagan established a commission made up of corporate executives whose task was to “root out inefficiency” in government spending. The Grace Commission issued “2,478 cost-cutting, revenue enhancing recommendations” that took aim at federal wages, retirement systems, healthcare programs, and a variety of federal subsidies which were deemed wasteful. The chairman of the commission, successful businessman J. Peter Grace, wrote to Reagan, “If the American people realized how rapidly Federal Government spending is likely to grow under existing legislated programs, I am convinced they would compel their elected representatives to ‘get the Government off their backs.’”

One man’s “getting the Government off their backs” is another’s evaporation of opportunity. As social programs have withered, wages have stagnated, and inequality has skyrocketed, many ordinary working people have lost their financial footing and their retirement prospects have dimmed. Today, just one hundred CEOs have the same amount of money stored away for retirement as the bottom 41 percent of the American population.

Meanwhile the age at which a person is eligible for full Social Security benefits has risen from 65 to 70, and the penalty for early retirement has increased up to 30 percent. Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket costs are ballooning. Defined benefit pensions have been replaced with unpredictable and risky employee-owned 401(k)s. The list goes on.

And now the chickens are coming home to roost. The Consumer Bankruptcy Project found that since 1991, the rate of Americans age sixty-five to seventy-four filing for bankruptcy has doubled. The rate for those age seventy-five and over has tripled.

“The changes are so great,” they found, “that the broader trend of an aging US population can explain only a small proportion of what is happening in the bankruptcy courts. Older Americans’ reported reasons for filing strongly suggest that they are experiencing the fallout from our current individualized risk society and the corresponding shrinkage of their social safety net.”

The researchers’ data backs this up, suggesting that “that financial crises associated with living in America’s high-risk society are highly correlated with older Americans’ increasing use of the bankruptcy system.” As risk and responsibility have shifted from society as a whole onto individuals to pay their own way — even when they can’t work at all — older Americans are increasingly vulnerable to financial ruin.

The Means of Life

The responses to the questionnaires collected by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project illuminate the predicament that working-class older Americans are in. When asked the reason for bankruptcy, one respondent said:

All things went up in price. Retirement never went up. Had a part time job that was helping to meet monthly payments. House payment kept going up. Was fired from my part time job that I had for over 10 years without any warning. Being 67 and having back problems, not many people will hire you even as part time worker.

Here we can see the complex of problems that give rise to financial difficulty in old age. Income in retirement isn’t sufficient to cover the rising cost of living, including healthcare costs and payments on debt. After a lifetime of depressed wages, many people don’t have the savings to meet their financial responsibilities, yielding need employment to supplement their income.

But the aging body leads to a (real or perceived) inability to do the work needed to secure a wage. As a result, older Americans are increasingly left without much financial recourse besides personal bankruptcy — which is not a panacea, just a last-ditch effort to eliminate personal debt and stop the multiplication of costs.

One path to solving this problem is to make a concerted effort to drive up wages, control living costs, and repair the social safety net, so that people enter old age with savings instead of debt, and so that older people who can’t work still have a way to sustain themselves in their final decades. The Left should pursue this approach without reservation.

And there is a deeper issue, too, which requires a more radical solution in the long-term. The problem is that people are required to sell their labor to capitalists in order to have access to the means of life to begin with. What if, instead, we had a society where everyone was guaranteed a decent living just because they’re alive, not on condition of employment, and we pooled our resources and our productive capacities to make good on that guarantee? Then perhaps all people, young and old, could live with dignity.

The Purpose of Bankruptcy

No one ever really wants to file for bankruptcy, but there are times when it can be unavoidable for many.  People will want to file for bankruptcy if they have quite a bit of debt and no way to possibly pay it off during their lifetime.

The main purpose of bankruptcy is to give everyone a fresh start in life without a mountain of debt hanging over their head, while also allowing their creditors to collect at least some of the money that is owed to them.  After paying their creditors the amount that the bankruptcy courts tell them to, they will no longer be responsible for any of their remaining debt to those creditors.

There are six different types of bankruptcy filing options, although, only two of them are meant for regular people.  Chapter 7 bankruptcy will find people liquidating everything that they own to pay off their debts, while Chapter 13 will allow a person to keep their home as they are repaying all their creditors.  However, both options will allow everyone to keep most of their property and assets in the end if they qualify for certain exemptions.

The other four bankruptcy options include Chapter 9, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 15.  Chapter 9 can only be filed by a municipality and basically requests a reorganization process for that area.  Chapter 11 is usually used by commercial organizations as they try to reorganize their assets to pay off debts.

Chapter 12 is the bankruptcy code that farmers and fishermen need to file under if their business is not going well due to circumstances out of their control.  Through this process, a bankruptcy lawyer can help them create a plan to get out of debt within three years, unless the court allows for a longer time frame.

Chapter 15 is for cross-border cases, where the creditor and debtor live in different countries.

Everyone is encouraged to hire a bankruptcy lawyer to assist them through the entire bankruptcy process, so that they can file for the proper chapter of bankruptcy.  After all, the entire bankruptcy system is quite complex and there are many legal terms and phrases that people may not know or understand.  It can be quite easy for a person to get lost in the process, which is why the guidance of a bankruptcy lawyer is always a good option.

Anyone that chooses to not hire a bankruptcy lawyer may find themselves worse than they were before, especially if they need to pay their creditors more than they should in a shorter amount of time.  The goal of bankruptcy is to get out of debt and move on with life, not continue to feel stuck for a longer period of time.

Bohikian Law Group specializes in chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcies in Michigan. Contact us today to find a bankruptcy attorney that will help you in debt relief at http://www.bohikianlaw.com/ today.

Brookstone files for bankruptcy and will close all of its mall stores

Brookstone filed for bankruptcy and will close its remaining 101 mall stores.

The mall and airport seller, best known for massage chairs, quirky gadgets, and travel luggage, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court on Thursday. It was Brookstone’s second bankruptcy round in four years.

The company will keep its 35 airport stores and website open and running while it attempts to find a buyer.

It has secured a $30 million loan to finance operations during the sale. In a bankruptcy filing, Brookstone said it had liabilities totaling up to $500 million and assets between $50 to $100 million.

Brookstone’s CEO said in a statement that its airport and online businesses were successful, but an “extremely challenging retail environment at malls” forced the company to close its stores there.

Unabated traffic losses at malls have plagued brick-and-mortar sellers. Mall vacancies reached a six-year highlast quarter as a wave of stores closed, including Walgreens, Bon-Ton, Sears and Kmart, Best Buy, Kay and Jared, Matress Firm, and GNC.

“They’re trapped in hundreds of these B and C malls, whose traffic has been in serial decline,” said Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia Business School. “Where they are in triple-A malls, they’re faced with very high rent.”

The company got its start in 1965 with a classified ad in Popular Mechanics magazine for hard-to-find tools. Brookstone opened its first retail store in 1973 and moved into malls in 1980. It later opened smaller airport stores.

“Brookstone had a unique value proposition,” said Sean Maharaj, a director in the retail practice of consultancy firm AArete. “They had a sophisticated offering. It was more boutique-like and felt a little white glove.”

Best-selling products in Brookstone’s history include the Big Blue Bluetooth speakers, Nap weighted blankets, and Rock & Recline Shiatsu massage chairs, according to a spokesperson for the company. It was a launching pad for popular brands such as Tempur-Pedic, Fitbit, Indiegogo, and Segway.

The company also had a thriving catalog business during those years, selling consumers moderately priced novelty items. In 2006, the last year public filings were available for the company, it circulated close to 60 million catalogs.

“We believe our strength is identifying, developing and selling products that are functional in purpose, distinctive in quality and design and not widely available from other retailers,” Brookstone said in the filing.

In the mid 1990s, Bain Capital, then led by Mitt Romney, took the company public. It operated publicly for close to a decade and then was sold in 2005 to a group of buyers that included a private equity firm in the United States and a Chinese-based retailer.

brookstone mall store

“When the company went private it was probably coming off of the most successful run in its history,” Steven Schwartz, Brookstone’s former chief merchandising officer and interim CEO, said in a phone interview last week.

The two ownership groups did not share the same priorities and Brookstone cycled through around 10 CEOs during the same stretch, Schwartz said. Turnover made it hard to implement a consistent strategy and vision.

“We were an amazing store company, but we didn’t have our eyes on the ball the right way digitally,” he said.

In 2014, Brookstone filed for bankruptcy and was sold to a Chinese consortium for $136 million. At the time, Brookstone operated 240 stores, 70 fewer than it had in 2006.

As the company struggled internally, shoppers found more places online to buy the speakers, headphones, and tech tools they once were only able to get at Brookstone or rivals like Sharper Image.

“The category is Amazon bait,” said Columbia’s Cohen. Smartphones and apps, not gadgets, satisfy many consumers’ hunt for new technology.

“They weren’t able to support the endless procession of new and engaging ideas and categories that a consumer who is curious expects,” he said. “It’s a treadmill that’s difficult to stay on.”

Brookstone was known as a place where shoppers could find innovative gifts, usually for men, Schwartz said. (Its headquarters in New Hampshire are located at One Innovation Way.)

Customers didn’t always know what they wanted when they went into a store, but they would wander around, try out products, and purchase an audio or travel product they found useful and engaging.

Brookstone had difficulty distinguishing itself from new competitors and telling its story online, where it’s harder to shop without knowing exactly what you want. It lost relevancy with many shoppers and fell out of mind.

The company’s troubles were an early sign of legacy retailers grappling with creating a new digital identity, Schwartz said: “We were the canary in the coal mine for the internet and for the digital age.”

Original Source: https://money.cnn.com/2018/08/02/news/companies/brookstone-bankruptcy/index.html

Original Author: Nathaniel Meyersohn