GREENSBORO, NC- We all want to keep more of the money we work hard for. So, what do we do? We step up, make budgets, work side jobs, perhaps ask for raises.
But, sometimes those steps aren’t enough. Sometimes, we simply don’t understand or were unaware of how debt works.
So, 2 Wants to Know went to an expert. Ja’Net Adams, entrepreneur and a hardworking wife and mom of two that once saw herself $40,000 in debt. Through hard work, and grasping an understanding of debt, she and her husband pulled their family out of debt and now live a life where they make sure never to pay full price for anything.
Adams is now a successful speaker, author and money expert.
We wanted Adams to explain to us seven ways people were “doing debt wrong.”
COUNTING FUTURE MONEY
First, we’ll look at debt problem. Currently, 73 percent of Americans have outstanding debt and most Americans will die owing $62,000 on average.
How do we end up racking up that much debt? Adams said the easiest way to find yourself in debt is making large purchases, like buying a house or car outside of your price range, because you’re anticipating making more money.
“The problem is sometimes they might get laid off or they never get that raise and guess what? Now, they have that debt on their backs and they can’t get out of it,” Adams explained. “So, that’s where you see the foreclosures and you see repossession.”
This is called “counting future money,” and we shouldn’t rely on the process to make purchases.
“Don’t count future money. Even if it’s buying a jacket that might cost too much.”
THE SMALL THINGS
Ever go on vacation and a few months later you get a parking or toll ticket in the mail you were unaware of? Or, have you ever thought about not paying a $10 parking ticket in your city?
That inexpensive ticket can end up hurting you the most.
“It’s a surprise to a lot of people that that ends up on your credit report but that’s just like any other judgment,” said Adams.
The $10 ticket might not mean much at first, but fees add up and the ticket can end up on your credit report. Once it’s there, if you don’t pay it, it’s considered skipping a payment and could lower your credit score, affecting future loans and purchases.
ADMITTING YOU OWE DEBT
Speaking of credit reports, we know most debts have a sort of expiration date, known as the statute of limitations, which stops debt collectors from pursuing you.
“The only thing a statute of limitations means is the creditor can’t sue you after that period,” said Adams.
Statute of limitations can be three, five or seven years. But, there’s a catch. If you call the creditor on year six, day 364, the clock starts over.
“If you call them and acknowledge that you have that debt, then that starts it over to zero. You admitted the debt is yours, so now they can keep pursuing you.”
If you’re hoping a debt will fall off, Adams said don’t admit to the creditor you have the debt. Or, the best plan is to go ahead and pay the debt and have it removed from your credit report.
Besides houses and cars, student loans are probably one of the biggest debts most Americans have.
Americans owe $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. So, many might opt to have their loan forgiven. But, Adams warns, that doesn’t mean you debt goes away.
“Your student loans that will be forgiven, can be taxed.”
Ah yes, the two things you can count on; death and taxes. If you have a $40,000 student loan forgiven, you'll have to pay almost $10,000 in taxes. So, yes, your loan is forgiven and you’ll save money in the long run, but make sure to put aside money for taxes. Adams explained you can set up a payment plan with the IRS to pay your student loan taxes. And not all loans will be taxed.
“Only loans that cannot be taxed are those teacher repayment programs as well as public service loan forgiveness programs. Those are not taxed,” said Adams.
Keeping on the topic of student loans, Adams explained college students should be aware a student loan can end up on their credit report, while they’re still in college.
“It’s still a loan you’re going to have to pay month by month so creditors have the option to put the student loan on your credit report before you graduate.”
While the loan can end up on your credit report, Adams said not to fear. Student loan repayments don’t begin until after graduation, so if you’re not obligated to pay the loan just yet, the loan won’t affect your credit score. However, Adams warns students to check their report, to make sure the loan isn’t counting against you. If it is, make sure to call the bank or lender to fix the mistake.
“Let them know, you haven’t graduated or it’s not six months after graduation and the loan shouldn’t be affecting your score,” said Adams.
STAND FOR WHAT YOU OWE
It can be a conversation children never want to have with their parents and grandparents. But, when it comes to someone you love owing a debt, and then passing away, it’s important to know how much they are in debt.
If a parent dies and leave their child a house or car, the child may not be able to keep the house or car, depending on how much debt their parent had.
“A lot of children, when their parents die or grandparents die, they think they are going to get all this inheritance. But, then they realize their parents have debt and they must sell this stuff to pay it off,” Adams explained.
This is called “what you own stands for what you owe.” So, if your parent leaves you a $200,000 house, but they were $30,000 in debt, creditors will make a claim against the estate. So, you would either sell the house or pay their debt out of your own pocket to keep the property.
However, if your parent dies with zero large assets, like a house or car, their debt usually doesn’t fall on you. Unless you’re the co-signer on credit card or the executer, the credit card debt is not your problem.
CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU
If a bank, lender or other creditor is misbehaving, there is an agency that will investigate and fight for you.
It’s called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Adams said many people are unaware it exists.
“It was established after the great recession, when people realized it was time to put in some protections for the average person,” Adams began. “If someone or a bank or a company or anything is doing something wrong, you can call them (CFPB) and complain to them and when they get enough calls they start to investigate.”
The CFPB is responsible for investigating banks, like Wells Fargo, which was fined heavily after it was discovered the bank was opening fake accounts. Adams warned, the agency is there to investigate and protect the consumer from misbehaving creditors. But, simply because a creditor calls you a lot, doesn’t mean they're misbehaving. A creditor, bank or lender, must violate ethics and fair practices to be investigated.
“Like with Sallie Mae. They are getting sued now because they were doing some wrong practices in collecting student loan debt,” said Adams. “Sallie Mae was letting things go passed a certain mark so they could add fees on loans. They were misbehaving. You may have owned the debt but they were adding more to your debt, and the CFPB caught that.”
UPDATE: After the story was published, a representative from Sallie Mae contacted News 2, correcting Adams' statement about them being sued, stating Navient Corp is the one being sued. The attorney generals of Illinois and Washington and the CFPB sued Navient In January of 2017. The suits alleged Navient, when it was a part of Sallie Mae, made subprime loans to students. Navient broke off from Sallie Mae Bank in 2014.
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