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Battling the Shame of Credit Card Debt

Battling the Shame of Credit Card DebtThere’s no denying the fact that having large credit card debt can be extremely traumatic and stressful. It’s also humiliating. According to research, the most embarrassing thing that you could be asked on a first date is not your age or your bank balance, but your credit card debt.

The survey was conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and underscores just how traumatic the issue of credit card debt is for many Americans. About 7% of the respondents said that questions about their credit card debt would be the most embarrassing questions that they could possibly be asked on a first date. About 30% said that questions about their credit rating would be the most mortifying, followed by questions about weight accounting for 12% of the respondents, and bank balance accounting for 10% of the respondents.

Debt-related embarrassment is not a new phenomenon in the United States. Americans have been addicted to their credit cards for decades now, and many economists have predicted that the next major bubble to burst will be the credit card one. Although statistics show that Americans have recently become a little more responsible about managing their credit card debt and making payments diligently, the number of persons walking around with humiliating amounts of credit card debt is still far too high. According to data, the total level of consumer credit has only dropped once during the early 2000’s financial crisis. During most other times, the total consumer credit, or the amount of money that people borrowed, has actually increased.

Credit card debt is one of the easier types of debt to discharge in a bankruptcy. If your credit card debt has become so unmanageable that you are unable to make your monthly payments anymore without it dramatically affecting your life, then bankruptcy could be the answer.

However, bankruptcy is not the only option available to you. Before you go ahead and file for bankruptcy because of your credit card debt, check if you have other options to manage your debt. Speak to your credit card provider about a repayment plan. Bankruptcy is a major step. Sometimes , a debt settlement plan can help you navigate your way out of credit card debt without the need to go the bankruptcy route.

Cosigner’s Bankruptcy Could Leave Private Student Loans in Default

Cosigner’s Bankruptcy Could Leave Private Student Loans in DefaultSome of the biggest problems that student loan borrowers have to deal with when it comes to paying back their loans, are issues related to cosigners. Even when a private student loan borrower is prompt in his payments, he may still find that he is in danger of default when the cosigner either dies or files for bankruptcy. In many cases, private lenders require that a student pay out the full balance when the cosigner files for bankruptcy or dies.

According to new data released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as many as 60% of all complaints filed by student borrowers involve problems with cosigners. The report was based on an analysis of more than 2,300 complaints filed by borrowers, and more than 1,300 debt collection complaints, related to private student loans. Although the major portion of student debt, or approximately 80%, consists of federal loans which borrowers take out on their own, many students also take out private loans. For a private student loan, a borrower typically needs a cosigner. Usually, the cosigner is a parent or grandparent.

For a student who has been making prompt payments, the death of a parent or grandparent can be a traumatic time. This stress is only compounded when the loan provider gets in touch with the student, informing him that he must now pay back the loan in full. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there is reason enough to be concerned because many of these private student loans are long-term loans with a repayment plan that runs into several years.

A lot can happen over several years, and as the population ages, it is very likely that many students will find themselves in a position in which a parent or a grandparent has died, or has declared bankruptcy. These private loans are loans that already have a much higher rate of interest than federal loans, and a student is likely to be placed under severe financial stress when asked to pay back the loan in full. If the student fails to pay back the full loan, he may be held in default, which can cause long-term and severe damage to his credit.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the agency that is responsible for the regulation of private student loans. It suggests that lenders protect borrowers from automatic defaults for circumstances that are beyond their control, like the death or bankruptcy of the cosigner.

The Case for Driving Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

This year, the California Department Of Motor Vehicles will begin the task of issuing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in the state. California is one of the most recent in a series of states that have made the decision to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license. However, this state’s experience in allowing undocumented immigrants to have special driver’s licenses is likely to be especially closely scrutinized across the country, simply because of the huge immigrant population in the state – approximating roughly 2.6 million.

Immigration experts have frequently made the case for driving licenses for undocumented immigrants. There are a number of reasons why it’s dangerous to exclude undocumented immigrants from legal driving privileges. Having a driving license is key to enhancing your financial state, because it allows you to travel not just to work, but also to school and college. It increases immigrant economic participation in the community. Additionally, driving without a license is a major safety risk.

Most undocumented immigrants tend to belong to the Hispanic community, and these immigrants have been found to bring solid economic benefits to the community. Legal driving privileges for these immigrants can only be good for the local economies. Additionally, when large sections of the population are excluded from driving privileges, it only creates an undesirable and hostile environment that doesn’t spell good for the community. Immigrants bring tremendous benefits, and cutting off driving privileges for large sections of the population, actually hinders a community’s progress.

In a state like California for instance, public transportation is inconvenient, and being forced to depend on mass transit can hinder a person’s financial and economic prospects. Studies have found that people who are can drive legally are much more likely to find good jobs, work more and earn more.

However, California’s move to provide driving licenses for undocumented immigrants has faced some amount of trepidation and concern from the immigrant community. People are skeptical about whether their names, addresses and other information provided to authorities for a license could actually be used against them.

The experience of other states has been encouraging. A similar experiment in Nevada has proven to be quite successful. Thousands of undocumented immigrants in Nevada have applied for special driver authorization cards.

Medical Debt and Bankruptcy

Medical Debt and BankruptcyMedical debt is one of the biggest causes of personal bankruptcy, and according to one study, in 2013, bankruptcies caused a result of medical debt affected close to 2 million people. However, there are signs that the influence of medical debt in causing bankruptcy could be on the decline. According to new data, there are fewer Americans who admit to struggling with medical debt now, compared to just a few years earlier. The data came from a report by experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the data, the percentage of people below the age of 65 and belonging to families which had problems paying medical bills actually dropped to 19.8% during the first six months of 2013. Two years ago, the same report released by the same researchers pegged that figure at 21.7%. According to the researchers, the reports which are released every six months seem to indicate a downward trend in medical debt. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of Americans who reported that they were having trouble paying their medical bills, was 20.3% during the first six months of 2012. That figure was lower than the same period of time in 2011. Females were much more likely to belong to families that had problems paying medical bills. Even though the number of people who report having trouble paying medical bills is on the decline, medical bills, or health-care-related factors still remain the single biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States. Even among those who did not file bankruptcy, approximately 56 million adults, or more than 20% of Americans between the between 19 and 64 of age, had problems with medical bills in 2013. What’s more, the problem is not expected to go away anytime soon. Experts believe that the medical debt problem will plague Americans, even with the increase in medically insured numbers under the Affordable Care Act. Although more people will be bought under coverage under the Affordable Care Act, millions of people will continue to have trouble paying medical bills. Medical bills are linked to approximately 3 out of every five bankruptcy filings. Even though families may seem much more capable of paying their medical bills now, the number of bankruptcy filings with medical debt may not drop anytime soon.

More Reasons to Pass Immigration Reform Legislation

More Reasons to Pass Immigration Reform LegislationBipartisan immigration reform legislation may have stalled in Congress for the time being, but the longer lawmakers drag their feet on passing this important legislation, the higher the revenues that the country will miss out in terms of tax revenues.

According to an essay by American Progress, the failed immigration system in this country actually impacts tax revenues.   The procrastination by lawmakers has only meant that the company has missed out on potentially billions of dollars in tax revenues.

The essay provides five reasons how immigration reform would actually increase tax revenues for the country.  Currently, undocumented immigrants contribute approximately $13 billion in payroll taxes every year, but many undocumented immigrants are employed informally, and therefore, are being paid off the books, which means that payroll taxes are not being paid in most cases.  Estimates peg the number of undocumented workers and employers who do not pay payroll taxes at approximately 63%.  Immigration reform that gives these undocumented immigrants a path to full citizenship would actually mean that payroll taxes make it back to the books, and fill up government coffers.

Unauthorized immigrants when they are granted full residency and legal citizenship will also pay more than $100 billion in federal, state as well as local taxes.  Earlier research has indicated that undocumented immigrants’ earnings increase by approximately 15% when they obtain legal status, and by 10% more after they become citizens.  When these undocumented immigrants are made legal residents, they are eligible for payroll, income and other taxes which only add to revenues.

Another major source of revenue for the government would be the additional billions of dollars that would be added to the Social Security fund from the legalization of undocumented immigrants.  More than $600 billion net would be added to the Social Security system, which is in dire need of funds right now.  The system, which is typically funded through payroll taxes, could have an influx of revenue if undocumented immigrants were placed on the path to legal status and full citizenship.

Immigration reform would also delay the insolvency of the Medicare trust fund by as much as four years, and would help reduce the deficit by as much as $820 billion over the next 20 years alone.

For all this however, lawmakers need to get cracking on passing immigration reform and putting undocumented immigrants to on the path to full citizenship.

USCIS Announces Changes in International District Names

In an important development, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced new international district names, that will be used for international districts henceforth.  According to the notice, the new names are effective from April 10, 2014. Under the announcement that was posted on the Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the Asia-Pacific district which was formally known as the Bangkok district, will now be known as the Asia Pacific (APAC) district.  The Asia-Pacific District is located in Bangkok, and has jurisdiction over the field offices located in Seoul, Beijing, Guangzhou, New Delhi, and Manila. The Europe, Middle East and African region, which was earlier known as the Rome District will now be known as the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) district.  The office of the international District will remain in Rome as it currently is.  This district has administrative jurisdiction over field offices that are located in Accra, Ghana; Amman, Jordan; Athens, Greece; Frankfurt, Germany; Johannesburg, South Africa; London, United Kingdom; Moscow, Russia; Nairobi, Kenya; and Vienna, Austria. Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada, which were earlier clubbed as the Mexico City District will henceforth be known as the Latin America, Canada and the Caribbean (LACC) district.  The office of the LACC international District will remain in Mexico City.  This district has jurisdiction over field offices that are located in Mexico City, Mexico; Monterrey, Mexico; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Guatemala city, Guatemala; San Salvador, El Salvador; Havana, Cuba; Lima, Peru; Port au Prince, Haiti; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic;. Effective April, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has begun referring to these international districts by their new names.  According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the decision to change the names has been made to ensure that the names are much more able to reflect the jurisdictions covered by these international districts. If you’re facing immigration-related service delays with the United States Customs and Immigration Services, a qualified immigration lawyer can help resolve these delays and denials.  An immigration lawyer can help clients who are facing the possibility of deportation from this country, help you on your path towards naturalization and becoming a US citizen, and help with acquiring visas and green cards.  American immigration laws are extremely complex, and on your own, you are at risk of making serious mistakes that could severely jeopardize your chances of entering or remaining in the country.

Americanization of Names Linked to Increased Earnings for Immigrants

Americanization of Names Linked to Increased Earnings for ImmigrantsThe practice of adopting a common American name is not an uncommon one among immigrants.  In fact, ever since the first immigrants began pouring into this country, the practice of using “American-sounding” names has been popular.  According to research, immigrants who adopt Americanized names upon entering this country are likely to have much better employment and earning prospects, compared to those who retain their ethnic-sounding names.

“Name Americanization” is the adoption of a popular name from among the local American-born population in substitution of one’s own ethnic-sounding name.  The use of American-sounding names in many cases is done to assimilate into the new culture, and not seem different from US-born locals, but the practice does have a significant impact on a person’s earning potential.  According to a study titled The Economic Payoff of Name Americanization, the more typical or common the American name, the higher the pay off.  Immigrants, who adopt popular American-sounding names like George, John, and Charles, are likely to see a jump in earnings that could be as high as 14%.

This practice of changing names to sound more American and assimilate into the local culture has been around since the very beginning of the American immigration story.  In fact, by 1930, as many as one- third of immigrants in this country who had become naturalized citizens, had adopted a popular American name in the place of their original first name.

Earlier research has indicated that job applicants, who have ethnic-sounding names, names that are “foreign” sounding, or names that are difficult to pronounce, may be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to landing the job.  For instance, one study found that persons with much shorter, easier- to- pronounce names, like Sarah, are likely to earn more, compared to persons with longer more names.

Immigrants may face some amount of discrimination when they first enter this country, because of a number of factors including non-employable skills.  They are also at a higher risk of discrimination at work.  Many immigrants choose to get around those obstacles by choosing a name that’s more popular with the American-born population, and this research proves that, very often, this is the right employment decision for them.

American Public Supports Path to Legal Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants

American Public Supports Path to Legal Citizenship for Undocumented ImmigrantsRegardless of the fate of immigration reform in this country, the American public is strongly in favor of the path to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Statistics by the Pew Research Center indicates very little change in the overall public opinion about immigration reform.  At least three quarters of Americans actually believe that undocumented immigrants, who have been living in the United States for years, should be allowed to stay here, as long as they meet certain requirements.  Only under a quarter of Americans oppose such reform.    However, when it comes to full citizenship, public opinion is fairly divided.  Approximately 46% of respondents in the Pew Research Center poll believed that people who were living in the United States without proper documents, should be allowed to apply for legal citizenship.

Where deportations are concerned, public opinion seems to be fairly divided.  Just as many respondents seem to be in favor of the White House policy of increased deportations adopted under the Obama administration, as those who believe that the deportation policies are too stringent and lead to families being torn apart.  Deportation rates have touched record levels under President Obama.  The Department of Homeland Security estimates that in fiscal year 2012, as many as 419,384 immigrants were deported from the country.

Not surprisingly, Hispanic American respondents in the Pew Research Center study were less likely to perceive deportations as favorable.  About 60% of Hispanics viewed these higher deportation rates unfavorably, while 35% were in favor of stringent deportation policies.  Among white Americans, 49% of the respondents believed that increased deportations were a good thing, while 42% viewed it unfavorably.  The administration in fact has been under pressure from Latino leaders, who believe the administration’s deportation policy have soured the Democrats’ relationship with Hispanic voters.

Other research has indicated in the past that Hispanic American immigrants are much more worried about the risk of deportations, and are more interested in deportation reprieves and being allowed to live freely in this country, than any path to legal citizenship.  Hispanics are also much more worried about the passing of immigration reform laws, and seem to believe that this is much more important, compared to blacks or whites.

Credit Card Debt and Bankruptcy

Credit Card Debt and BankruptcyOne of the debts that you will be able to discharge during a typical Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is credit card debt.  While the average amount of American credit card debt continues to remain high, there are signs that many Americans now are using their credit cards for payment purposes, and not as a line of credit.  Moreover, more people are now paying off their monthly balances.

According to a report by the American Bankers Association, monthly credit card purchase volumes are increasing, but ending balances for credit cards are declining.  Besides, the report also spotlights the increasing health of credit card portfolios.  Credit card debt as s share of disposable income stayed at 5.4%, the lowest levels in more than a decade.

According to the report, it now seems that American consumers are using credit cards to pay for goods and services, and not necessarily to obtain credit as was the case earlier.  That is definitely good news, and points to a lower risk of accumulating large amounts of credit card debt.  American consumers now are also much more likely to pay off or pay down their monthly balance which is also a good sign.

If you have accumulated large amounts of credit card debt, are finding it difficult to pay your credit card bills, and are being harassed by debt collectors, know that these types of debt are dischargeable when you file for bankruptcy.

However, not all types of credit card debt are dischargeable under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  For example, any charges on your credit card that are the result of fraud, or misrepresentation or based on a false pretense may not be discharged as part of your bankruptcy.  Your credit card debt could be perceived to be a result of fraud if you have used a credit card to take an advance of more than $925 in cash within 30 days of filing bankruptcy papers.  Also, if you have used a credit card to buy luxury goods or services worth more than $650 in value within 90 days of filing bankruptcy papers, the debt may not be discharged as part of your bankruptcy.

Deportations, Not Citizenship, Major Concern for Immigrants

Deportations, Not Citizenship, Major Concern for ImmigrantsWhile much of the current debate on immigration reform in this country centers on the need for forging a path towards citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States, many of the subjects of the discussion don’t care that much about citizenship.  They would much rather have protection from random deportations.

According to research by the Pew Research Center, both Hispanics and Americans support a policy that would create a pathway to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  However, at the same time, in both of the groups, the larger concerns were minimizing the threat of deportations.

Those concerns about deportation were much higher among Hispanics.  Approximately 55% of the Hispanic Americans in the study by the Pew Research Center admitted that they believed removing the specter of deportation dangling over their heads, and being allowed to live, work and be free and happy in this country, were much more important than gaining citizenship.  In contrast, 35% of Hispanic Americans preferred citizenship over deportation reprieves.  When it came to Asian Americans, approximately 49% of the respondents were in favor of living free in the country without the threat of deportation, while 44% wanted a legal path to full citizenship.

Asian-Americans and Hispanic Americans comprise approximately 2/3rd of legal immigrants in the United States.  Of the 35 million Hispanic adults in the United States, just over half are immigrants.  Out of the 12 million Asian-American adults currently living in the country, as much as a quarter are immigrants.

The results of the study are interesting, but not really surprising, and not just because these two groups comprise the majority of all immigrants in the country.  Clearly, for many immigrants, the stresses and trauma of living in an environment in which the threat of deportation is ever present, has become very too much to handle.  While citizenship still remains a long-term goal for most immigrants, the more pressing, short-term need is to be able to live in this country and earn a living for their families.

Deportation rates have spiked under the Obama administration, and many immigrants believe that   being given some kind of relief from such threats of deportation, and being allowed to live peacefully with their families here, is much more important than   any path to citizenship.

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This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.