Vanessa’s story (single working mom)
Vanessa, a single mom, owed $27,000 in unsecured debt (VISAs, line of credit, Zeller’s/Hudson’s Bay card). She was working full-time as an accountant, but her take-home pay of $3,300/month, plus child support just wasn’t enough to make ends meet. Her minimum payments per month on her debts totalled $750, but with interest added, she ended up owing the same amount every month. She also had a student loan balance of $6,000. She wasn’t able to save for her two kids’ education or pay for her own medications without relying on credit. She does not own a house and drives an old paid-off car.
When we met we realized it had been 8 years since she had last been a student, so her student loan could be included as a debt in a bankruptcy or consumer proposal. She opted to attempt a proposal to pay off her debts.
We advised her that a proposal would likely be accepted by her creditors at a rate of $450/month for 3 years. Considering that her average monthly minimum payments on her credit had been about $950 and would have taken her roughly 30 years to pay off, she decided to go ahead with the proposal. She had a good chance for a raise in the near future, so we told her she could speed up the payments if she wished. The proposal was accepted without changes.
We worked out a money-management plan and a budget to allow her to still have reasonable monthly expenses for her kids’ activities as well as paying for her medications.
She told us she only regretted not having done this sooner. We hear that a lot.
Milena’s story (business struggling)Milena, a small business owner, had separated from her husband and struggled for a few years with her business. She lived in the house from the marriage (it was in her name only) with her son but found it harder and harder to keep up the mortgage payments. The business (a limited company) was going downhill and demanded more and more of her time.
Milena’s debts were about $80,000 (income tax arrears, credit cards, retail cards and a business line of credit that she personally guaranteed). Despite paying her minimum payments each month, she was getting nowhere and there was never enough extra to bring down the balances significantly.
She decided to come in for a consultation to discuss her options. Her house had about $25,000 equity in it, mainly from the downpayment years ago. (“equity” meaning if she were to sell, she would take home $25,000 after all fees and penalties). Her only other asset was an old car.
Her plan was to close the business down. There were no assets in the business. She was lining up a job on payroll in a friend’s business. She wanted to avoid bankruptcy as she had a prior bankruptcy.
We advised her that the debts in the business were separate from her personally, except the personally guaranteed line of credit. Since she wanted to keep her house, we recommended she arrange a second mortgage against the equity in the house. She could then use that money to offer a consumer proposal to her creditors to pay $25,000 on the $80,000 she owed to clear it all off.
She was able to keep her house, pay off all her debts, close her business and start a new job. Without the minimum payments on all her debts, her monthly finances were in much better shape and the mortgage balance, even with the second mortgage, was much easier to handle.
The proposal was accepted at $25,000, paid out in one lump payment. This meant all of Milena’s debts were cleared legally, and her improved credit rating started almost immediately. She could focus on her new job and her son without the stress of all of her debts overwhelming her.
She said her only regret was not having done something like this sooner.
Rahim’s story (lost job)
Rahim, a machine operator, lost his job at a car components supplier. His wife was working, but the bills were piling up. He had $45,000 in debts in his name. After searching for work for months and cashing in RRSPs to help pay the bills, they came to Cooper & Co. for help. He and his wife were worried about losing their house, car and RRSPs.
We sat down and assured them they could keep their assets. We reviewed their total debts and their monthly expenses to determine if a consumer proposal was an option for him to avoid a bankruptcy. We also estimated the amount it would take to get a proposal accepted by their creditors.
After talking about budgeting and how to keep track of expenses, we came up with a plan that would allow them to pay only 30% of their total debts in a single payment over 4 years.
The proposal was accepted and they were able to keep their house, car and RRSPs. The monthly payment for the proposal was much less than their previous total minimum payments. They no longer have creditors calling them and they know how long it will take to pay off the proposal. Rahim has a chance at a job, and if he gets it he will speed up his payments to get his credit rating improved sooner.
Vladimir’s story (recent immigrant)
Vladimir, a Russian immigrant in Canada for two years, was finding it hard to keep up with his bills. Since the recession, his hours had been cut back where he worked as a fork truck driver. He had also sponsored his mother’s emigration, which had cost him several thousand dollars. He had relied on credit to maintain his apartment. He had also not done taxes since living in Canada and owed Canada Revenue Agency income taxes totalling $12,000.
More recently, with money tight, he had gone to a payday loan agency for a paycheque advance. Then he realized he was forced to go to another such agency to pay the first one back, and so on until his total payday loan debts were $9,000. The interest rates on these were 60-80%.
Vladimir told us that much of the debt he acquired was early on in his time in Canada, when his English was still not very good. He was unsure what he was getting into. He intended to ‘clean the slate’ in a bankruptcy and start fresh. He was concerned about his mother being sent back home if he went bankrupt, but we assured him this was not the case – that he could not be a sponsor during a bankruptcy, but since his mother was already in Canada with citizenship, it was fine.
Vladimir decided to file a bankruptcy. He would be bankrupt for 9 months at $200 per month. The bankruptcy would be on his record for 6 years after his discharge, but we gave him tips to rebuild his credit as quickly as possible. He was glad to be rid of the debts, phone calls and stress and move on.
Richard and Doris’ story (seniors/fixed income)
Richard and Doris, a retired couple, were living on fixed work pensions and their government pensions. They had helped their son pay for an expensive divorce a year ago and had depleted most of their life savings. Richard had to take a security job, but was forced to quit due to health problems. They could not afford to keep up and came to Cooper & Co. after talking to a friend, a prior client of ours.
In our initial meeting, we reviewed their monthly expenses and laid out some options for them. They had small investments remaining and a paid-off car, which was exempt due to its low book value.
Richard owed $29,000 and Doris $50,000 for a total debt of $79,000. They said they wanted to avoid a bankruptcy at their age, after having worked hard all their lives. We determined that, with the creditors they had, they could offer a strong consumer proposal of $400/mo. for 5 years. With significant tax refunds expected due to their rent expenses being claimed, they could pay this down sooner if they wanted, since any tax refunds can be kept when doing a proposal.
Wayne’s story (divorce)Wayne, a stockbroker and divorced father of two, owned a house he could no longer afford. He had taken a second mortgage to help pay his legal bills, but his credit cards and lines of credit were overwhelming him. He had also just received a garnishee on his wages of $400 per pay. He had a lien against his car and a judgement against him by a creditor. He came to us desperate for help after being recommended by a friend.
We met with Wayne to review his options. He was paying $1,450 per month in credit card payments, and the interest meant he wasn’t making any progress. Collectors were calling him every day and he was falling further behind. He was paying his mortgage to keep the roof over his head at the expense of his other bills.
He wanted to avoid bankruptcy due to a concern over losing his professional license. He wanted to walk away from his house as he could not afford it, so we included the amount left in the mortgage as a debt in a proposal. He would move into a large rented apartment, which was much cheaper than his mortgage and property taxes, allowing us to budget reasonable proposal payments and get rid of his $109,000 in debts. He kept his car because his personal exemption amount was less than what he owed, and he could afford the car payments.
Wayne’s proposal of 25% was accepted by the creditors. The garnishee was lifted immediately. He was then able to pay off his debts at $500 per month within five years and was able to get out of the house he couldn’t afford. His wages are now his, and he can focus on work and enjoy his time with his kids.