Explore Your Options
During your consultation with our office, we will gather some background information regarding assets, debt, income and expenses to assess your current financial situation with regards to cash-flow and net worth (is the fair market value of your assets greater than your total debt from all sources). Every financial situation is different so the initial assessment is an important first step to assess your overall financial health and to prepare a plan of action to achieve your financial goals. Furthermore, the initial assessment provides a snapshot of your current financial situation to establish a baseline so you will be able to track your performance as you move forward tackling your debt load.
After your initial assessment, we will explore methods to tackle your debts and provide you with the tools and resources to help you build confidence to effectively manage your financial affairs and achieve your goals.
For most individuals, they have two types of debt – secured debt and unsecured debt. Secured debt is debt specifically attached to an asset. Some examples could include a mortgage against your residence, a home equity line of credit, a loan against your vehicle, or a loan against an RV, ATV, heat-pump system, etc. Unsecured debt is debt not specifically attached to an asset. Some examples could include credit card debt, a line of credit not attached to your residence, personal tax debt, student loans, pay-day loans, etc. During an initial assessment, we will review all of your debts to determine whether they are secured or unsecured as well as any other areas of concern.
Determining which of the following options to tackle your debt is best for you, depends on your current ability to manage your existing debt load. The following is a break-down of options grouped according to their impact on your credit report and score.
GROUP A – Little or no effect on credit or credit score
➔ Budget / Cash-flow analysis / Plan of repayment / Set goals
If the initial assessment shows you have sufficient resources to come up with a realistic plan of repayment for your debt, we can help you with any of the following:
- Prepare a realistic budget that accounts for regular and irregular expenses
- Create a “shadow budget” for what retirement might look like based on your current situation
- Develop a system of managing and tracking future cash-flow
- Tips for how to structure day-to-day banking whether an employee or self-employed
- Set financial goals to work towards and measure success
- Develop a plan to pay off your unsecured debt within a specific time frame
- Discuss strategies for determining a priority of allocating debt repayments
- Develop long-term plans and discuss strategies to pay-off secured debt (ex. Mortgage) as soon as realistically possible
- Identify possible threats to your plan and attempt to manage those threats accordingly
- Tips for acquiring and successfully managing credit and credit score
- Discuss realistic strategies to prepare for retirement over time
If you are struggling with debt, we will help you with any of the above, however, we will need to consider other options to tackle your debt.
➔ Refinance of Existing Debt/Consolidation
If you are a homeowner with available equity in your home, it might make sense to refinance your existing mortgage to pay off higher interest unsecured debt. If there is not enough equity to pay off all of your unsecured debt, we might need to look at other options.
If you are not a homeowner, it might make sense to look at a loan to consolidate higher-interest unsecured debt, depending on the interest rate you are able to obtain. If you are only able to qualify at a higher interest rate, we might need to look at other options.
If you are able to successfully refinance or consolidate debt, we will look at strategies using the extra cash-flow from refinancing/consolidating your debts to pay-off the newly refinanced/consolidated loan sooner.
➔ Contact your creditors
If you are experiencing a cash-flow crunch that you feel will be temporary in nature, it might make sense to call your creditors before you miss payments to see if some temporary payment relief might be extended. It is better for your creditors to try to work with you to get you back on track rather than jump to aggressive collection tactics.
If your cash-flow problems are not temporary or if your creditors are not able to extend payment relief, we might need to consider another option.
GROUP B: Will impact your credit or credit score
➔ Credit Counselling
Credit Counselling is an option where you agree to pay 100% of your unsecured debt over a period of time, with reduced or no interest, not to exceed 60 months. Credit counselling programs do not allow for the repayment of a portion of your total unsecured debt in the event you cannot afford to repay 100% of your unsecured debt in 60 months or less. Credit counselling programs do not have the ability to force your creditors to accept reduced or no interest – your creditors must agree. Furthermore, if you owe money to the Canada Revenue Agency or if you have Federal/Provincial Student loans, these creditors will not participate in a Credit counselling program offering repayment with reduced or no interest.
If you cannot realistically afford to repay 100% of your unsecured debt in 60-months or less but are able to pay a portion of your debt, a Consumer Proposal would be a better option to consider.
➔ Debt Settlement Plans
There are some companies offering to settle your debt after you have paid them a sum of money over time. Some of these companies claim they will be able to use the funds you have paid over time to settle your debts, however, in many cases, you will not know whether your debt settlement plan will be successful and often have little recourse in the event it is not successful. Furthermore, there is no legislation protecting you from collection efforts on behalf of your creditors while making payments under a Debt Settlement Plan, and in the event the plan is not successful, you likely will not be able to recover all of the funds you have paid to the Debt Settlement firm – leaving you out-of-pocket, and no further ahead than when you started.
Filing a Consumer Proposal will provide you with protection and certainty before you start any payments to deal with debt. If you were to file a Consumer Proposal with our firm, you will not be required to start making payments under the proposal until after your creditors have voted on the offer and the exact amount to be repaid under the terms of the proposal are known. Furthermore, a Consumer Proposal will be deemed accepted and legally binding on all of your unsecured creditors as long as a majority, by dollars owed, accepts the offer.
➔ Consumer Proposals
A Consumer Proposal is an offer made to creditors to pay a percentage of what you owe over a specific period of time, not exceeding 60 months, however, your offer can be paid off at any time. Although there may be organizations claiming they can help you with a proposal, please note, a Consumer Proposal can only be filed by a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT). After a Consumer Proposal is filed, your creditors will vote on the offer to repay a percentage of what was owed. Your creditors can accept, reject, or counter the offer you have made. Generally, a Consumer Proposal will be deemed accepted by all unsecured creditors provide a majority of creditors (by dollars owed) have voted to accept the offer. Once an offer has been accepted, your proposal will legally bind all unsecured creditors; including the creditors who might have voted against your proposal offer or failed to vote at all within a specified time frame.
For more information about Consumer Proposals, please click here!
Bankruptcy is a legal process designed to relieve honest but unfortunate debtors of their debts. Upon completing the Bankruptcy process by obtaining a discharge from bankruptcy, the bankrupt person is released from their obligation to repay the debts existing at the time the bankruptcy was initially filed. Bankruptcy will eliminate most, if not all debts, however, there are some exceptions. Exceptions, if any, for your particular financial situation would be discussed thoroughly during your free consultation with our office.
For more information about Bankruptcy, please click here!
Summary of Group B Options
|Credit Counselling||Debt Settlement||Consumer Proposal||Bankruptcy|
|Legal stay of Collection Activity||NO||NO||YES||YES|
|Able to repay less than 100% of debt owing||NO||MAYBE||YES||YES|
|Can include debt owed to Government||NO||NO||YES||YES|
|Certainty of total payment required to complete from the start of process||YES||MAYBE||YES||NO|
|Time remaining on credit report after completion||3 Years from date of completion||3 Years from date of completion||3 Years from date of completion;
or 6 years from the date of initial filing;
whichever is earlier
|1st Time – 6 years (Equifax);
7 years (TransUnion) 2nd Time – 14 years