I am behind on my mortgage payments. Will my lender begin foreclosure proceedings?

Question:

I am behind on my mortgage payments. Will my lender begin foreclosure proceedings?

Answer:

When you buy a home using a mortgage loan, your home becomes collateral for the loan. If you do not repay the mortgage loan as agreed, your lender has the right to take your property and sell it to satisfy the debt, also known as foreclosure.

Whether or not your lender will begin foreclosure proceedings depends on exactly how far behind you are on your mortgage payments. If you are only a month or two behind on payments, your lender will not likely begin foreclosure proceedings. Typically, a lender will not file for foreclosure unless the lender is absolutely certain that the borrower is defaulting on the loan.

It is important to remember, however, that late mortgage payments can damage your credit rating. If you are more than 30 days late on a mortgage payment, it will appear on your credit report and can remain there for up to seven years. In addition, most lenders will charge a late fee if you miss the due date for your mortgage payment.

If you are in a situation that will impact your ability to make timely payments (e.g., you or your spouse has become disabled), you should seek advice on how to deal with your creditors rather than wait until you are at risk of losing your home.

I need money: can I take funds from my IRA?

Answer:

Yes, but the taxable portion of your distribution may be subject to a 10 percent penalty for early withdrawal if you’re not yet age 59½. If you are 59½ or older and take money from your traditional IRA, you will not be assessed a penalty, though you may still have to pay income tax on all or part of the distribution. The purpose of this premature distribution tax is to discourage you from exhausting your IRA savings too soon. However, the penalty can be a significant drawback if you need money to meet unexpected expenses.

If you are experiencing a cash crunch, it’s usually better to draw on other investments before dipping into your IRA. However, if your IRA is your only sizable asset, you may have no choice. If that’s the case, be aware that there are a number of exceptions to the premature distribution rule.

If you are disabled, you are exempt from the penalty, as long as you meet the IRS definition of disability. If an IRA owner dies before reaching age 59½, and you are a beneficiary of the account, distributions that you receive are exempt. If you need supplementary income, you can take IRA distributions as a series of “substantially equal payments” over your life expectancy or the joint life expectancy of you and your beneficiary. These distributions may avoid the penalty as long as you don’t modify the payments within certain time frames.

Subject to limits and conditions, the penalty tax generally will not apply to IRA distributions taken to pay qualifying medical expenses, health insurance premiums while you’re unemployed, higher education costs, and qualified first-time home-buyer expenses (up to $10,000 lifetime from all your IRAs). It also does not apply to amounts rolled over from one IRA to another (assuming you follow the rules for rollovers), to conversions of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, to amounts that the IRS levies from your IRA to cover your tax bill, or to qualified reservist distributions. Other exceptions may also apply.

Qualified distributions from your Roth IRAs are federal income tax–and penalty tax–free. Distributions are qualified if you satisfy a five-year holding period, and you are (a) age 59½, (b) disabled, (c) deceased, or (d) you have qualified first time home-buyer expenses. The taxable portion of nonqualified distributions from your Roth IRAs is subject to the same 10 percent penalty rules that apply to traditional IRAs. (Special rules may apply if you take a nonqualified distribution from your Roth IRA within five years of a conversion.)

Finally, education IRAs may be subject to special rules of their own

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I can’t pay my bills. Should I declare bankruptcy?

Question:

I can’t pay my bills. Should I declare bankruptcy?

Answer:

If you’re unable to meet your financial obligations, you should investigate a number of options before considering bankruptcy. If your income has been reduced (e.g., because of illness or unemployment), you might consider cutting down on your monthly expenses, taking advantage of unemployment and public assistance, and liquidating assets. Another option is to restructure your debts. Debt restructuring involves negotiating new repayment terms with creditors so you can meet your monthly expenses and pay off your debts within a reasonable amount of time.

You should consider hiring a professional credit counselor to assist you in restructuring your debts. Professional credit counselors will contact your creditors and attempt to negotiate affordable repayment terms for you. If you can’t afford to hire a credit counselor, you may find help at your local Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) office or other nonprofit credit counseling service. These nonprofit companies provide basically the same services as a professional credit counselor but at little or no cost to you. Hiring a credit counselor now will help you even if you decide to declare bankruptcy later, because you may need to submit a certificate to the bankruptcy court that states you’ve received a briefing from an approved credit counselor in the six-month period prior to filing.

If you decide that bankruptcy is your only option, you may file for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remove obligations to repay certain outstanding debts but requires you to liquidate certain assets and use the proceeds to pay creditors. You can only file under Chapter 7 if you pass an income eligibility test. Otherwise, you must file under Chapter 13 for relief, which institutes a payment plan to repay creditors over a three- or five-year period. A bankruptcy attorney can help you sort out your options.

I’m getting laid off. How am I going to survive financially until I find another job?

Question:

I’m getting laid off. How am I going to survive financially until I find another job?

Answer:

There are a number of ways you can smooth the transition to your next job. To begin, you’ll want to plan on your job search taking six months and budget accordingly. Your budget should reflect the money you’ll need to use while looking for your new position.

Because you’re being laid off, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits from your state as well as severance pay from your employer. If you have an emergency reserve set up, you can count on that, as well. Otherwise, you might have to dip into your savings account. You can consider taking a part-time job to supplement your income. If your search takes longer than expected, you may have to consider more radical ways to come up with income, such as borrowing against a life insurance policy that has cash value, borrowing from relatives, or withdrawing money from a tax-deferred retirement account. Each way has its drawbacks, but you’ll want to be particularly careful with retirement accounts because you may incur fees and penalties.

Review your budget to identify where you can lower or perhaps cut out expenses for entertainment, dining out, and vacation or holiday travel, for example. You can also reduce expenses in small ways that add up: cancel magazine subscriptions, eliminate extra phone services, and stop your cable service. Negotiate with your creditors to lower interest rates or receive temporary deferments, and review your car insurance policies to increase your deductibles or drop certain coverages.

If you have time to prepare for unemployment, you can take some steps immediately to help yourself. A home equity line of credit can give you funds to draw on (though you’ll have to make monthly payments) and may allow you to pay off credit card loans with higher interest rates. You can reduce or stop contributions to retirement or education funds and put the extra money into your emergency funds. Finally, you can also consider increasing your withholding allowances to reduce the amount taken from your paycheck.

By Kingdom Financial Ministries

A financial professional can apply his or her skills to your specific needs. Just as important, you have someone who can answer questions about things that you may find confusing or anxiety-provoking. When the financial markets go through one of their periodic downturns, having someone you can turn to may help you make sense of it all. Donald A. Galade is a self-starting motivated individual who believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Don is President of Galade Financial Services, Inc. a full-service insurance brokerage firm, and CEO of GFS Financial Advisors, LLC. which is a registered investment advisory (RIA) firm located in Drums, PA. Don is a home-schooling dad who blends his passion for others and his professional skills to help clients define and meet their financial goals. He has worked in the Financial Services industry since 1987 and has been a Financial Advisor since 2004 Don routinely attends intense training and continuing education sessions that deal exclusively with the financial needs of those who are near or currently in retirement and is well versed in the latest strategies designed to meet those needs. He is a former Vice President of the Hazleton, PA chapter of the Pennsylvanians for Human Life, and is also a former member of the Kiwanis, Unico, and Rotary clubs in North-East PA.