COVID-19 has thrown the economy into a tailspin. Many people have been laid off, furloughed, or are working fewer hours. And as wages dry up, bills can pile up.
Debt can be tricky. Here are some ideas about how you can manage your debts and start regaining your financial well being.
- Gather your bills: Make a list of your monthly bills: rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities, student loans, medical bills, and anything else. Consider how much you need for food, medicine, and other necessities.
- Ask for help: Many companies have special programs to help people right now. Contact the companies you owe money to and try to work out a new payment plan with lower payments or delayed due dates. Make sure to get any changes in writing.
- Find out if your state or local government offers programs that will allow you to hold off on paying some bills right now.
- Trouble paying your mortgage? Here’s some advice on how to manage that problem. If you have a government-backed mortgage, you may be able to delay payment by contacting your servicer.
- Need additional help? Check out ftc.gov/creditcounselor for tips on how to choose a counselor who really helps you out.
- Prioritize if you need to: If you still can’t pay everything on time, look at what would happen if you couldn’t pay each bill and decide which bills to pay first. Would you lose your home? Would your car be repossessed? Would your debt go into collection and affect your credit report?
- Study up: Check out the FTC’s advice on how to cope with debt in the short term, and how to get out of debt when you are able.
- Watch out for scams: In stressful times, scammers are everywhere. Beware of any company that guarantees that creditors will forgive your debts, or makes you pay up front for help. If you are looking for debt relief, make sure to find help you can trust.
For more information, go to: click here.
- Ask students to develop a plan to manage their debts, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Ask students if they should turn to a company that claims to offer assistance in solving debt problems? Why or why not?
- Why should you avoid waiting until your account is turned over to a debt collector?
- What is a constant worry for a debtor who is behind in payments of bills?
Categories: Chapter 5, Debt
For many people, how to pay for a college education is one of the major financial decisions before deciding on a school. There are many different ways to pay for college. Understanding your choices can help you make the right decision for your situation.
Start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
A critical first step for many prospective students is to complete the FAFSA . FAFSA completion is an important part of the student aid process.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some states have extended their FAFSA deadlines. . Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out if their priority FAFSA deadline has been extended.
Why fill out the FAFSA?
Filling out the FAFSA is required if you want to apply for federal assistance, including grants, loans and work study. Your eligibility for need-based federal aid, such as Pell Grants and subsidized student loans is determined by your FAFSA submission.
Filling out the FAFSA does not commit you to taking out student loans or accepting the financial aid offered. However, if you do not submit a FAFSA you will not be able to access federal grants or other forms of federal financial aid.
In addition, states typically require students to complete the FAFSA to qualify for state grant programs, and most colleges and universities will not consider awarding any institutional aid, until the FAFSA has been submitted.
Even if you have not finalized your plans for this fall, consider filling out the 2020-2021 FAFSA sooner rather than later, many state and schools award aid on a first-come, first-serve basis and may have established earlier, “priority” deadlines. If you miss a key deadline to complete the FAFSA, you will limit your ability to qualify for state or institutional funding.
For more information:
- Ask students why it is important to complete the FAFSA form sooner than later?
- What basic information is needed before beginning the FAFSA application process?
- Where can you get assistance if you need help in filling out the FAFSA form?
- Why is important to take advantage of any scholarships and grants before applying for a federal loan?
If you’re overwhelmed by debt, it’s crucial to find a solution.
FDIC Consumer News offers a few tips.
- Contact your lender immediately if you think you won’t be able to make a loan payment.
- Reputable credit counseling organizations can help you develop a personalized plan to solve a variety of money problems.
- Be very careful of “debt settlement” companies that claim they can reduce what you owe for a fee.
- Avoid scams.
- Remember that you have rights when it comes to debt collection.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if they know anyone who has had financial difficulties and how they resolved their problem.
- Ask students to review the main provisions of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and how the law protects consumers from unfair debt collectors.
- Why is it critical to contact your mortgage lender immediately if you think you can’t make a loan payment on time?
- In what ways reputable credit counseling organizations can help you develop a personalized plan to solve financial problems?
- What are the warning signs of possible fraud by a debt settlement company or credit counselor?
In March 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on their 2017 activities to combat illegal debt collection practices. The CFPB handled approximately 84,500 debt collection complaints, making it one of the most prevalent topics of complaints about consumer financial products or services. The Bureau offered five sample letters that consumers may use when they interact with debt collectors.
The FTC resolved 10 cases against 42 defendants and obtained more than $64 million in judgements, focused on curbing egregious debt collection practices, including phantom departments, schools, non-profit organizations, banks, credit unions, other businesses and government agencies. The agency logged more than 60 million views on its webpages, with its videos seen more than 581,000 times at YouTube.com/FTC, and its consumer blogs reaching 199,860 (English) and 50,480 (Spanish) email subscribers.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students to review the major provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
- Let students debate the issue, “Can governmental agencies stop unlawful practices of the debt collection agencies that harm both consumers and legitimate business”.
- Is it possible to live without using any form of consumer credit?
- What can the governmental agencies do to protect the legal rights of all consumers in a manner that is efficient, effective, and accountable?
Millions of Americans are dealing with debt overload every day. If you’re struggling to pay your loans, credit cards or other bills, here are some steps you can take to begin managing your debt problems.
- Create a budget.
- Try to get a clear picture of your monthly income and expenses.
- Contact your creditors about easier ways to make your most important bill payments.
- Have a strategy for saving money on interest and fees.
- Consider getting help from a reputable credit counselor.
- Know your rights if a debt collector contacts you.
For more information, click here.
- Have students debate this issue “Is it possible to live without using any form of consumer credit”.
- Ask students if they have created a budget, borrowed to finance a car, and have a strategy for saving money on interest or fees.
- What factors should be considered when a person is determining the amount of credit he or she should take on?
- What actions are commonly recommended if a person has difficulty making credit payments?
Know someone who’s behind on their bills? Maybe debt collectors are calling for payment? The Federal Trade Commission’s new debt collection video can help you understand your legal rights – and may lower your stress level. In the video, you’ll see how bad debt collectors try to get you to pay up. Bad debt collectors will say anything to get you to pay – and they’ll make it feel urgent to get you to pay immediately. But there are laws to protect you. Debt collectors:
- Can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Can’t use profanity, threaten violence or harass you to pay
- May not lie or pretend to be someone they’re not
- Cannot ask you to pay a debt that doesn’t even exist
- Can’t threaten you with arrest or deportation
- Cannot tell anyone – except your spouse or attorney – about your debt
If a debt collector calls and uses any of these tactics, hang up and report it to the FTC. Remember: you have the right to be treated fairly – no matter what.
For more information go to: consumer.gov/debt.
To view the video, click here.
- Ask students to summarize the steps they may take if a debt collector calls.
- Let students make a list of danger signals of potential debt problems.
- Which federal law regulates debt collection activities and protects consumers from abusive collection practices?
- Does the law erase the legitimate debts consumers owe?
Consumers across the country report that they’re getting telephone calls from people trying to collect loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive for amounts they do not owe. Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect them.
The FTC is warning consumers to be alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors. It may be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one.
A caller may be a fake debt collector if he/she:
- is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
- refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
- asks for personal financial or sensitive information; or
- exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students to make a list of protections provided by the Fair Collection Practices Act.
- Ask students to prepare a list of steps they should take if the harassment continues.
- If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, why is it important to ask the caller for his name, company, street address, or telephone number?
- If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, should you stop speaking with the caller? Why or why not?
New Protections Would Limit Collector Contact and Help Ensure the Correct Debt is collected
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering to overhaul the debt collection market by capping collector contact attempts and by helping to ensure that companies collect the correct debt. Under the proposals being considered, debt collectors would be required to have more and better information about the debt before they collect. As they are collecting, companies would be required to limit communications, clearly disclose debt details, and make it easier to dispute the debt. When responding to disputes, collectors would be prohibited from continuing to pursue debt without sufficient evidence. These requirements and restrictions would follow the debt if it were sold or transferred.
For more information about the proposals under consideration, click here.
- Ask students what federal laws already prohibit debt collectors from harassing, oppressing, or abusing consumers.
- Ask students if they, their friends or relatives, have ever been harassed by creditors. If so, what were their experiences?
- Debt collection market generates more complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau than any other financial product or service. Why?
- What might be some common complaints against debt collectors seeking to collect debt from consumers?
In late July 2016, filed as part of Operation Collection Protection, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged that BAM Financial used lies, threats, intimidation, and other illegal practices to extract payments from consumers. When obscene language, incessant calls, and harassment of family members didn’t get the results they wanted, the defendants got personal. For instance, the defendants told the parent of one purported debtor “No wonder your daughter is in such predicament with a mother like you.” The FTC alleges that they falsely stated to another consumer’s 84-year-old mother that they had a warrant for her daughter’s arrest and later told the consumer they were bounty hunters.
The FTC says BAM’s letters and phone calls were riddled with false threats of litigation. The complaint also charged that in numerous instances, the defendants didn’t follow up within five days of their initial communications with proper validation notices as the law requires.
The settlement with BAM Financial, Everton Financial, Legal Financial Consulting, Luis O. Carrera, and Robert Llaury bans them for life from debt collection agency industry.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students what consumer rights they have when dealing with debt collection agencies.
- Ask students to list important provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
- Nearly 30 million Americans have their accounts in collection, and debt collectors make as many as one billion contacts with people every year. Are these contacts legal?
- What types of debts are covered under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?
- How can you stop a debt collector from contacting you?