Category: Financial Freedom


Dividing debts during divorce

Debt division is often overlooked during the divorce process. Most couples and divorce attorneys focus on dividing assets rather then liabilities. Before finalizing your divorce we recommend meeting with an attorney who is experienced in resolving and dividing debt.

1 Get Organized: Create a list of all of your secured and unsecured debts. Include balances, interest rates, early payment discounts, tax benefits, and monthly payment amounts. Pull both your credit reports from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax at AnnualCreditReport.com. Don’t assume all your debt will be on your credit report.

2 Credit Freeze: Consider a credit freeze so no additional debt is incurred. Learn how and review FAQs about freezing your credit at the FTC website.

3 Start Dividing: Divide your debts based on advice from your divorce attorney and the factors listed on your debt list.

4 Remove Joint Liability: Insist your spouse refinance all debt in their name and remove any joint liability. They may be able to do this with credit card balance transfers, debt consolidation, and assistance from family co-signors. If they are unable to remove your name from a secured debt insist that the asset be sold to pay off the debt. If they cannot remove your name go back to step three and reconsider the division.

5 Worst Case Scenarios: Talk to your attorney about your options if your spouse files bankruptcy, passes away, or stops paying on any debt remaining with joint liability.

6 Hold Harmless Clauses: Ask your divorce attorney about the positives and negatives of including a hold harmless clause in your divorce agreement.

  • Need help? Call 608-829-1112 or email us.

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Divorce, Financial Freedom, Mortgage


FoodShare (Food Stamps) in Wisconsin

Food Stamps are called FoodShare in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department Of Health Services (DHS) administers the program. FoodShare provides financial support for low-income families and individuals to buy nutritious foods. The amount of FoodShare benefits you receive is based on the number of people in your household and your total net monthly income. The DHS defines a household as people who live together and buy food and prepare meals together. To be eligible for FoodShare you must be a U.S. Citizen or in the United State legally.

To apply for FoodShare online visit getaquestcard.org. To do it over the phone call 1-877-366-3635. You can download and review the FoodShare application here.

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If you are eligible for the program your benefits will start within 30 days of applying. If you are not eligible you will get notice stating so within 30 days. There is an appeals process if you believe you were unfairly denied.

In certain urgent circumstances benefits are started within seven days of applying. You are eligible for expedited benefits if your household has $100 or less available in cash or in the bank and

    • Expects to receive less than $150 of income this month; or
    • Has rent/mortgage or utility costs that are more than your total gross monthly income, available cash or bank accounts for this month; or
    • Includes a migrant or season farm worker whose income has stopped

     

After you are accepted into the program you will receive a Wisconsin QUEST card. Your benefits will be credited to the card every month. The card works like a check card. Your social security number determines the day of the month your benefits are credited to the card.


FoodShare Wisconsin – A Recipe For Good Health

You can use your card at farmers markets and at grocery stores that have the Quest sign. Benefits can be used to by foods such as:
– Breads and cereals
– Fruits and vegetables
– Meats, fish and poultry
– Dairy products
– Seeds and plants to grow food for your family to eat.

You cannot use your benefits to buy the following.
– Nonfood items
– Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
– Food that will be eaten in the store
– Hot foods (example; food that is purchased and cooked at the store)

FoodShare Statistics
14.4% of the 5.7 million people in Wisconsin receive FoodShare.
55% of the recipients are female and 45% are male.
57% are adults and 43% are minors.

eligibility-oct-2014

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Credit, Financial Freedom


Get Out of Debt Without Filing Bankruptcy

Before deciding to file bankruptcy we always ask our clients to look at alternatives to getting out of debt. The most obvious option is to pay everything off. We created the following exercise to figure out if you can afford to get out of debt and how long it will take.

1. The Form: Take out a piece of paper and draw a table with five columns and enough rows to include all of your creditors. Label the first column CREDITOR, the second column BALANCE, the third column INTEREST RATE, the fourth column MNIMUM PAYMENT and the last column MONTHS. Click here to download the form.

2. Gathering information: Fill out the first four columns by looking at your account statements or calling your creditors. If you don’t know who all of your creditors are visit AnnualCreditReport.com and request a free copy of your credit report.

3. Total Minimum Payments: Add up all the minimum payments and put the total under that column. Circle the number.

4. Budget: Look at your budget and figure out how much a month you can afford to spend on getting out of debt. Write that number under the circled number on your debt list and draw a square around it.

5. Can You Do It?
If your squared number is less then your circled number go back to step four and adjust your budget.

If the squared number is equal to your circled number move on to step 6.

If the squared number is greater then your circled number increase your payment amount on the debt with the highest interest rate. Increase the payment by exactly how much more you have in your squared number. (Redo this every time you pay a debt off.)

6. How Long Will It Take: Use the calculator below to figure out how many months it will take you to pay off each creditor. Fill out the final column for each creditor. (If the calculator says 0 months it is because your payment is not high enough to ever pay off the debt. You have to increase the payment amount.)

7. Are You Willing to Commit?
If you are happy with your results start following your plan to becoming debt free.

If you are not happy with your results consider going back to step four or seeking professional advice regarding other alternatives.

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Credit, Financial Freedom


Create An Emergency Fund To Stay Out Of Debt

When I bring up emergency funds some people start laughing. Why am I advising them to save money when their paycheck is already coming up short? After creating a budget, an emergency fund is my second most important step to financial freedom. Without one you will always be in debt. Why? What do you do when your car breaks down or you have unexpected medical bills? You pull out your credit card. If that is already maxed out you head over to your local payday lender and grab some quick cash. Problem solved? No!

Flagler, CO 5/17/11

Pull out a list of all your creditors and how much you owe them. How much of that debt started out as an emergency expense? Did you stick to the plan? Use the card for emergencies and pay it off before something else comes up…of course not. You’re only human and the temptation to spend is hard to resist. Constant marketing surrounds us and the pressure to spend has never been higher.

Don’t make things worse. Create an emergency fund and plug the problem. If you’re completely drowning in debt consider filing bankruptcy and starting over fresh.

If you’re ready to get started keep reading. If not, click here.

Creating an Emergency Fund In Four Steps

1. Open A New Savings Account: Don’t use an account your already have. Open a completely new account. Try to get something without fees and high interest. Make sure you can pull a majority of the money out within 24 hours. If you don’t need the money fast it may not be an emergency.

2. Figure Out How Much You Want To Save: Most experts say save three to six months of your income. For most people who are already in debt that isn’t realistic. Set a small goal of $1,000 and aim higher once your there.

3. Start Saving: The easiest way to build an emergency fund is to use your tax refund. If tax time is months away don’t wait! Look at your budget and work it in. Automatically deposit a set amount into your emergency fund every month. I don’t care if it is just $20 a month. Just get the ball rolling.

4. Only Use The Money For an Emergency: If you need a new car start budgeting for a new car. If your car breaks down look at your other options first. You may be better off getting a ride or using public transportation until you have saved up enough to fix your car. Be proud of yourself for building an emergency fund. Don’t force yourself to start over for a wasteful expense.

  Tags: Bankruptcy, Financial Freedom


Creating a Budget in Ten Steps

Most people I meet do not know how much they make and have no idea how much they spend every month. You cannot expect to make ends meet if you don’t have a budget. It doesn’t have to be complicated and it is never to late to start. Try following our simple guide to creating a budget.



1. Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom. On the top of the left side write INCOME. Split the right side of your paper into two rows by drawing a line down the middle from left to right. Label the top box FIXED EXPENSES and the bottom box VARIABLE EXPENSES. Click here to download a form.

2. List all of your sources of income on the INCOME side. Next to each source of income write down a conservative estimate of how much you receive every month after all of your deductions. (If you get paid weekly multiply your average net income by 4.3. If you get paid every other week multiply your average net income by 2.15. If you don’t know what your average net income is look at your last pay stub during the most recent calendar year. If your income has not changed you can just take your YTD net income and divide by 12.)

3. List all of your expenses that are the same every month in the FIXED EXPENSES box. (If your insurance and utility payments are not the same every month call your provider and ask them to put you on a budgeted monthly plan so that you pay the same amount every month.)

4. List all of your expenses that change every month in the VARIABLE EXPENSES box. Include food, gas, clothing, entertainment, retirement, emergency fund etc. Write the amount next to each expense.

5. List all of your infrequent expenses in the VARIABLE EXPENSES box. Include gifts, vacation, medical expenses, car maintenance etc. How much on average so you spend every month for your variable expenses? Write those numbers down next to each expense.

6. Add up your INCOME and write it down at the bottom of that section.

7. Add up your FIXED EXPENSES and write that down at the bottom of the box.

8. Take the difference between your income and your fixed expenses and write it next to the words VARIABLE EXPENSES. Circle that number.

9. Add up your VARIABLE EXPENSES. Write that down at the bottom of the box and circle it.

10. Do the two circled numbers equal each other? If your variable expenses are too high you need to adjust one of your sections. Increase income or decrease one of the expense boxes.

Share your budgeting tips and advice in the comments below.

Remember creating a budget is a waste of time if you don’t follow it and adjust it regularly!

  Tags: Financial Freedom