Release Yourself From The Burden Of Debt

by : Christopher D. Beard

Do you feel like you are in debt prison? Are you in financial turmoil wondering how you can continue to keep everything from imploding on you? Did you know that there were actually debtor prisons in America before the Revolutionary War? Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was imprisoned in the 1700's for failure to pay debts. The bible also warns against borrowing more than we can afford to pay. Proverbs 22:26-27 says do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.

Credit card use has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. From 1996 to 2005, the total number of bank credit cards almost doubled. In 2004 alone, credit card companies generated $43 billion in fee income from late payment, over-limit, and balance transfer fees. The Federal Reserve reports that the total US consumer revolving debt reached 2.46 trillion in 2007. This large increase in card usage has created a "fee feeding frenzy," among credit card issuers. The whole credit card industry has really evolved for the benefit of creditors in recent years, with the industry imposing fees and increasing interest rates if a single payment is late. Penalty interest rates usually are as much as 30-39%, while late fees now often are $39 a month and over-limit fees are as much as $35. If you consider how that can add up over just one year, it could be very expensive. Consider this: late and over-limit fees alone can easily rack up $900, and a 30 percent interest rate on a $3,000 balance can add another $1,000.

The bottom line is, credit card companies want to issue as much credit as possible to as many people as possible and hope you barely make the minimum payment. It's the exact same way these cash advance companies all over town work. They couldn't care less if you ever pay it off. In fact, they do not want you to pay it off. While most card issuers claim this is the cost of doing business, consumers should not be charged excessively for small errors. Ultimately we are responsible for our own financial choices and credit purchase decisions. However its clear to see that credit card companies will continue to entice and market low teaser rate introductory offers (the bate) and make it easy for us to use the cards. This is attractive to the consumer because they can avoid waiting and have the items or purchases they want now. But what price will we actually pay for these items?

That said, roughly $355 billion in mortgage loans are set to adjust during 2008, to significantly higher interest rates. This means many borrowers may face additional difficulties. Hopefully the Bush administrations plan for a rate freeze for adjusting arms and foreclosure prevention will help many consumers avoid catastrophe. The combination of mortgage woes and credit card debt pileup has made many people feel as though they just walked out on a pirate ship plank with nowhere to turn.

So, what is the best way to find the road to financial prosperity?

First and most importantly, if you are in an adjustable rate arm loan, check the date that it is set to adjust in your paperwork from your title closing. If you closed two or three years ago and took one of these teaser loans it will adjust 24-36 months from the original closing date. This is very important because when it adjusts it can increase by two or three interest points. Your lender should notify you 30 days prior to your reset date and you may get reminders from lenders vying for your business. Don't get yourself caught in this self destruction.

Mortgage interest rates are anticipated to remain steady or dip slightly in 2008; this may be a good opportunity to refinance into a 30-year fixed-rate. The FHA modernization act will make refinancing a good option for damaged credit borrowers to qualify for up to 95% of their homes value at competitive single digit interest rates and avoid incurring prepay penalties. The teaser arms sold over the past 2-3 years are under extreme scrutiny due to the explosive foreclosure epidemic and its effect on the overall economy. The FHA Secure is also a great option for those who need help to avoid foreclosure, allowing them to roll in the arrearage. The future of sub-prime lending appears to be bleak at best. Many borrowers had little options other than 2 or 3 year fixed rate sub prime arms over the last few years because of credit issues, and aggressive lenders pushing these loans on poor credit borrowers. Unfortunately, these same borrowers are now in trouble and imploding due to a cocktail of housing value depreciation, adjusting rates and maxed out credit cards. The bottom line to most of these issues is proper guidance and good decision making. Additionally, it is prudent that you choose an advisor that will educate you about any loans that are different than the norm, like arm loans, negative amortization loans and loans that do not collect escrows. Now, if that is not upsetting enough, federal regulators pressured credit card issuers to double the minimum payment requirements on credit card balances. This can be both good news and bad news for many Americans burdened by debt. While it may force you to pay the balance down, it can mean disaster for many who cannot afford the extra out-of-pocket expense each month.

Should you use a mortgage refinance as an Option to Debt Consolidation? If you are a homeowner with verifiable income, who pays their bills on time for the most part, but who would sincerely like to be debt-free and financially secure while still young enough to enjoy it, maybe even become wealthy. Whether you've had some credit problems and have a blemished credit report, whether you're struggling now and need immediate help to avoid foreclosure, or are doing okay but wish there was a strategy to get out of debt and build some net worth. Then this could be a possible option.

When you really analyze your financial situation, are you using too much of your income just servicing debt making the minimum payments? You absolutely can not build wealth overusing your credit cards you have to make a conscious decision not to make purchases with credit cards unless you can payoff the balance. While home equity has been reduced dramatically in some declining markets, many people may still be able to benefit from restructuring the way they pay their bills and by using their home's equity as the means of accomplishing this.

Do you have two loans with one of them adjustable? Consider consolidating your 1st and 2nd mortgage loans. Do you have high balance credit card in which you are being charged late fees, over limit fees and excessive interest? Consider paying off obligations such as auto or high rate credit cards, overdue property taxes or insurance premiums.

This will wrap up your existing obligations into one tax-deductible payment and puts you back in control of your debt with one manageable payment. Consult your accountant or tax advisor on this as it could equate to a 20-30% savings in interest and your overall Net Effective Rate. If you can eliminate your credit card payments, late fees and penalties and start enjoying increased monthly disposable cash flow, you may actually be able to make financial choices that will help you build a positive net worth. Another way you can reduce mortgage interest further is by signing up for a biweekly repayment plan that splits your mortgage into two monthly payments, this forces you to pay down your mortgage interest much faster. I know, I know your friend said just make one additional payment per year to accomplish this, seriously! Who does this? I say forced biweekly, kind of like forced property taxes through escrows, you get the idea! Then take the savings, say for example $200 a month, and purchase an equity indexed life insurance policy that will protect your family if you die to cover the mortgage balance. More importantly, if you live, the account your premiums go into is tied to an investment account so that it will accumulate a cash value that could be drawn on at retirement, and essentially you could pay off your mortgage tax free. Imagine the benefits of having fewer bills to deal with every month and simplifying your financial life!

Here are a few things to consider to decide if you could benefit from a refinance consolidation:

Do you have equity based on a current appraised value?

Do you have a home equity line of credit that's increasing out of control?

Do you have a loan that does not collect escrows for taxes and insurance and have difficulty paying them at the time they are due?

Do you have too many credit cards that are near or above the credit limit?

Do you have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage on the brink of spiking Up?

Do you make minimum payments on credit cards and are unable to make a dent in the balance?

Are you saving and investing less than 15% of your income?

Would you like to take advantage of the FHA Modernization and qualify for a great rate?

Would you like to get out of that high interest rate sub-prime loan and qualify for a single digit 30 year fixed rate loan without a prepay penalty?

Are there tax-deductible savings opportunities like pension plans, IRA, Keogh, Medical Savings Accounts, etc. that you are missing out on because you don't have enough money after paying bills to participate in them?

Would you like to take a really nice vacation or make some improvements to your home this year without going into debt to do it?

Would you like to eliminate years off of your mortgage balance?

Do you have a mortgage protection insurance plan to protect your home and family should you die or become disabled?

If any of these questions apply to you, consider the following:

The average personal savings of a retiree amounts to about $6,500. The average benefit check is about $968.00 according to the Social Security Administration. Baby boomers are expected to enter retirement starting in 2010 and considering people are living longer, it is expected that these funds will be exhausted by the year 2040 and will create a deficit in the trust, only providing 72% of what is needed.

The key thing to consider with proper debt management is to make a conscious effort to avoid using credit cards for unnecessary purchases. If you cannot afford it, do not buy it! More simply said than done, I know. Look for ways to curtail extra activities such as eating out everyday, soft drinks, anything you can do without. Use the extra savings to pay off your high interest cards first. Contact a credible mortgage advisor to see if you qualify for a debt consolidation loan at a competitive interest rate. Transfer non tax deductible interest from other debts to a tax deductible loan. If the loan will not create a tangible benefit to your financial picture do not do it.