The Bankruptcy Law Clinic Blog

Friday, January 22, 2016

Credit cards and retirement

I spend a good amount of my time on the phone.  When you call our office and ask for a free consultation, you’ll spend a few minutes with me.  Since September of last eyar (2015) I have seen an increase in calls from people in their 70s.  Living on fixed incomes, struggling to make ends meet, they used their credit cards as crutches to help cover their monthly shortfall.  Fast forward a few month and they have maxed out their credit cards, the phone is ringing off the hook and creditors are calling day and night.

Most call, worried that their houses may be at risk, that they’ll have to ask their children for help, or even that they’ll have to go to jail.  Some others “heard on the internet” that since they only get social security, the credit cards can’t touch them and they have nothing to worry about.  They’re all wrong.

Here’s the short version- in Florida, no unsecured creditor (AKA credit card company) can put a lien on your house and/or force you into foreclosure and if the only income you get is social security, they can’t attach or garnish that.  HOWEVER once they obtain a final judgement anything else is fair game.  Have any savings?  At risk.  Got a paid in full car (or at least one that’s not upside down? They can get the sheriff to seize it and sell to help satisfy the debt.  Are you getting a few hundred a month from your kids to help make life easier?  At risk.  Cemetery plots?  At risk. Were you saving some money for a family vacation in August?  At risk.  Besides, do you want to keep looking over your shoulder over the next 20 years?  That’s how long a creditor can collect from you once a judgement has been obtained.  We’ve had clients who have had their bank accounts drained based on lawsuits from 1998!

One of the nice benefits of bankruptcy is that it stops all creditor efforts immediately (even if they have won judgements against you) and gives you a fresh start.  Imagine being debt free.  Isn’t that a nice way to start the next chapter of your life?

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