Do you know if you’ve been affected by the Equifax Data Breach?

If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies.

Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.

The first thing you need to do is go to Equifax’s website so that you can take steps to protect your information from being misused.

  • Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
  • Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
    You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.

Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.

 

How To Sell Your Home Quickly When Facing A Foreclosure

If you’ve fallen behind on your mortgage payments and a foreclosure sale is looming, you may still be able to save your home. Read on to learn about how you can file bankruptcy or sell your home through a real estate investor.

File for Bankruptcy to Stop the Foreclosure (this option will affect your credit for many years)

If the foreclosure sale is scheduled to occur in the next few days, you can halt the sale immediately by filing for bankruptcy. Contact a local Bankruptcy Attorney near you for guidance and advice.

The automatic stay will stop the foreclosure in its tracks. Once you file for bankruptcy, something called an automatic stay immediately goes into effect. The stay functions as an injunction prohibiting your mortgage lender from foreclosing on your home or otherwise trying to collect its debt. This means that any foreclosure activity must be halted during the bankruptcy process.

The lender may file a motion for relief from the stay. The lender may attempt to have the stay lifted by filing a motion seeking permission from the court to continue with the foreclosure. Even if the bankruptcy court grants this motion and allows the foreclosure to proceed, the foreclosure will be delayed at least a month or two. This should provide you with time to explore alternatives to foreclosure with your lender.

Sell Your Home To Real Estate Investors (this option may preserve your credit)

Have you been receiving foreclosure notices? Is the bank threatening to reposes your home? If so, selling to a real estate investment company might be the solution you have been looking for. Not only do they buy homes as is, they will pay cash once you sign the offer acceptance sheet. In many cases, the real estate investment company can take over your mortgage, and allow you to rent the property from them, if you want to remain in the home.

It’s a great way to avoid having a foreclosure hit your credit score hard, and putting your family at risk. If you simply can’t sell it quickly enough, or don’t have the money to come up with if you are behind on mortgage payments, this is an option for you to consider as a homeowner who is struggling to make ends meet. It might not be the ideal situation, but it can get you out of a difficult situation you may currently be in.

This process is extremely quick compared to more traditional methods, often taking just 7-10 days.

If you need to sell your Las Vegas home very quickly, with little hassle, selling to a Las Vegas real estate investor is a great option.

When you work with a real estate investor… there usually aren’t any fees involved, as you don’t have to worry about paying an agent commission, and most often, the investor will cover the closing costs.

While real estate investors are often looking to purchase homes at a discount, allowing them to fix up the house if it needs repairs… then sell the home to another home owner.

Disclaimer

The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the website or any individual attorney.

 

A Las Vegas couple paid off $200k in student loans in 26 months!

 

By Katelyn Newberg Las Vegas Review-Journal

While living in a city known for extravagant spending, Sunethra Muralidhara conquered her $200,000 debt in just over two years.

With the help of her husband, Michael Mohan, Muralidhara repaid all of the money she owed from loans taken out for undergraduate and law school. After moving to Las Vegas for work in August 2014, Muralidhara and Mohan, her boyfriend at the time, lived off 25 percent of their incomes.

After 26 months, Muralidhara was debt-free.

“If we can inspire one person, then that’s our goal,” Muralidhara said. “It feels so financially freeing to not have that debt hanging over your shoulders anymore.”

The idea to tackle the debt came from Mohan in Feburary 2014, when the couple’s relationship was getting serious. When Mohan realized the extent of what Muralidhara owed, he began researching.

 He learned of Dave Ramsey, author and host of a radio show about finances, and wanted to apply Ramsey’s financial plans to Muralidhara’s debt.

At first, Muralidhara didn’t take it well.

“I felt like I had done something wrong,” she said, describing the first fight the two had after Mohan approached her about the debt.

But Mohan, 30, said he wanted to prepare for their future: marriage and owning a home. So the two started planning.

Muralidhara, 28, stopped getting her hair and nails done and gave up shopping. They used only cash, and every dollar was carefully budgeted.

Instead of going out after work, they biked together near their apartment in Centennial Hills. At most they gave themselves each $15 a month to dine out.

“Were basically decided and prioritizing where our money is going, so it goes to things that are important to us,” Mohan said.

Muralidhara said the hardest part was not allowing others to “spend your money.” When friends or co-workers asked them to go to a bar or restaurant, she would either say no or go without ordering anything.

“It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward and I hated doing it,” she said.

When it came time to marry in August 2016, the two said they spent about $35,000 in cash for every aspect of the wedding, which included plane tickets to Chicago and hotel rooms for their family. They bought rings in Las Vegas after negotiating prices.

 Muralidhara said by using cash, it’s easier to bargain large items costs.

“Vegas is such a money town,” she said. “It’s upfront — they just want the cash.”

For date nights, the two rented cheap movies or bought one drink and walked down Fremont Street. They took advantage of national parks surrounding the valley with free admission on government holidays.

“We found the pleasure of just hanging out one-on-one,” Muralidhara said.

The couple said neither has a large salary — Muralidhara works as an assistant federal public defender with Las Vegas’ office of the federal public defender, and Mohan works in the same office as a financial administrator — but now that the debt is gone their future feels secure.

Christie O’Melia, chief operations officer for the Financial Guidance Center in Nevada, said Muralidhara and Mohan’s plan is possible, but expensive for the average person under debt. O’Melia said the majority of the center’s clients have the ability to pay off their debt in five years.

“A lot of it is sacrificing,” she said. “It just depends on the client and their ability in their financial lives to pay their debt off.”

O’Melia said that Muralidhara and Mohan’s strategy of paying for everything in cash is the way to go, and that the center’s program to pay off debt calls for the same thing. She said those with debt should explore all of their options instead of assuming bankruptcy is the only way out.

“Every situation is case by case,” she said. “For some, there’s the option of tackling a little debt at a time.”

In order for clients to rid themselves of debt, O’Melia said they have to start sacrificing small expenses, or put more time into saving money. People could track what they spend each month, decrease entertainment and dining out costs, or shop for cheaper alternatives for things like car insurance.

“Anyone can do it,” she said. “It’s just really understanding the money coming in and the money going out.”

Muralidhara said now that her debt is gone, she and her husband won’t go back to spending the way they used too.

“I don’t really feel the need to go back to the hair and the nails,” she said. “Because now I have this dream of owning a home.”

Mohan said millennials in similar situations with student loans or credit card debt need to start planning.

“Sacrifice now for your future,” he said. “You want to take care of it as soon as possible.”

Now that Muralidhara’s debts are paid and they’re saving to buy a home in cash, they’re looking forward to one “unnecessary” expense: traveling. Their destinations include the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and San Diego, Muralidhara said.

“We really don’t need much to be happy,” she said.

What will $200,000 get you?

■ 40,000: medium mochas (30,800 if purchased on Strip)

■ 18,519: 24-hour Las Vegas monorail passes

■ 10,000: Las Vegas dice clocks

■ 6,782: rides on the VooDoo zip line at the Rio

■ 500: helicopter tours from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon

■ 160: 24-hour rentals of a Lamborghini Huracan from LV Cars Luxury Rentals

■ 20: entires into the World Serie of Poker Main Event

■ 11: Row T floor seats for the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight at T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 26

■ 8: nights at The Palms’ Hardwood Suite, a 10,000 square-foot room that includes a pro locker room and a basketball court

■ 1: two-bedroom, two-bath house in some areas of Las Vegas

Anything is possible if you’re willing to commit to it! Also, make a financial plan and stick to your plan!  Remember that progress is incremental….positive changes don’t happen overnight but over time!

 

Avoid Foreclosure

How to Avoid Foreclosure

Written By: NOLO

Steps to avoid foreclosure—or at least minimize its impact.

Need Professional Help? Talk to a Real Estate attorney.

Millions of Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure in the last few years. If you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, learn about the steps you can take to avoid foreclosure or to minimize your debt after it happens. Quick action is the key to success — it can save your home and/or help protect your credit rating.

Don’t Walk Away: Consider Your Options

Don’t give up and let the lender foreclose on your home without considering your options. A foreclosure will hurt your credit rating and make it difficult to buy another home anytime soon. In addition, if the profits from selling your home don’t cover the unpaid portion of your loan, your lender might sue you for the rest.

Your best options if you’re having trouble making mortgage payments include:

  • working out a foreclosure alternative with your lender
  • getting government help
  • filing for bankruptcy
  • selling your home yourself, or
  • giving your home deed to the lender.

These options are described in more detail below.

Beware of scam artists. People facing foreclosure are often preyed upon by others claiming they’ll help. Some homeowners have unwittingly signed documents giving these scammers title to their property, thus turning themselves into renters. Don’t sign anything without getting a professional opinion first.

Working Out a Deal With Your Lender

As soon as you realize you’ll have trouble paying your mortgage—ideally, before you’ve missed any payments—contact your lender or mortgage servicer (the company you send your monthly payments to). Lenders have an incentive to work out an alternative to foreclosure with home loan borrowers, if only to reduce the number of foreclosures they’re dealing with.

Do it sooner rather than later. If you call soon, you may be able to work out a solution with your lender. It’s easier to get caught up or work out another solution if you haven’t fallen too far behind in payments.

Possible solutions. The lender may accept partial payments for a few months (though you may have to agree to make up the difference later), accept a late payment, or agree to redo the terms of your loan.

What to say when you contact your lender. Here’s what you should ask for, in lender-language. (You’ll probably need to get to the right department first—it may have a name like “loss mitigation.”)

  • Forbearance. You make a reduced payment, or no payment, for an agreed-upon period of time. Usually, the lender requires you to make up the difference at a later time. The lender is most likely to agree to this if you can demonstrate that you will soon receive a bonus, tax refund, or some other extra cash.
  • Loan reinstatement. You agree to make up your missed (or reduced) payments by a specific date.
  • Loan modification. Your lender agrees to alter the terms of the loan so that you can better afford the payments. For example, the lender may agree to add your missed payments to your loan balance, to stretch out your loan over a longer term (which will lower your payments but result in more interest over the life of the loan), or to convert an adjustable rate to a fixed rate mortgage.

Getting Government Help

Through the U.S. government’s Making Home Affordable program, you may be able to refinance your loan.

The Home Affordable Refinance Program. The Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, was created to help homeowners who are current on their mortgage payments but expect to have difficulty paying their mortgages in the near future, and whose loans are owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. Under HARP, distressed borrowers may be able to refinance their mortgages into a fixed-rate, low-interest loan. HARP is scheduled to end on September 30, 2017. For more information, see the website for HARP.

For more information on HARP, see our article on refinancing your mortgage under the Making Home Affordable program.

Filing for Bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy may help you keep your home or, at least, get you out from under your mortgage. When you file, the foreclosure process is legally stopped (called an “automatic stay“). It can’t be reopened until your bankruptcy case closes or the lender gets court permission to proceed (called “lifting the stay”). For more information, see How Bankruptcy Can Help With Foreclosure.

Selling Your Home To A “We Buy Houses” Company

If you simply can’t afford the house you own, the above options won’t help. You will probably lose your home. But don’t wait for your lender to make the first move. If your home has appreciated in value since you bought it, you may be able to sell it yourself. Sometimes Real Estate Investors are able to help homeowners STOP FORECLOSURE completely by buying their home in as-in condition.  Again, contact your lender, who may let you stop making payments until the house is sold.

Ideally, the proceeds from the sale will cover your mortgage and selling costs. But, if they won’t, ask your lender to consider accepting what’s called a “short sale.” That means that the lender accepts the sale proceeds even if they’re less than the amount you owe. One issue with short sales is that some lenders will keep trying to come after you for the remainder of what you owe. Contact an experienced real estate agent or attorney before proceeding with a short sale.

Handing the Deed Over to the Lender

If no one is interested in buying your house, your lender may agree to take the deed and cancel your debt. This is called a deed in lieu of foreclosure. The idea is that the bank can then sell your house (as with an actual foreclosure) but won’t report it as a foreclosure to the credit rating agencies — in fact, you can negotiate with the bank about how it can help you better preserve your credit rating. (To learn more about this option, read Short Sales and Deeds in Lieu of Foreclosure.)

Next Steps

For more detailed information on how bankruptcy can help you if you face foreclosure, get Nolo’s book Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Keep Your Property & Repay Debts Over Time, by Patricia Dzikowski and Stephen R. Elias. Also, Solve Your Money Troubles: Debt, Credit & Bankruptcycontains everything you need to know to get out of debt and repair your credit.

If you’re having trouble making your mortgage payments or are already in jeopardy of foreclosure, see Nolo’s Bankruptcy, Debt & Foreclosure Blog or the bestselling The Foreclosure Survival Guide.

How To Start Rebuilding Your Credit

How to Start Building Credit History

By Guest Blogger: Alex Saplala

If you’re a recent graduate looking to start building your credit history, have no fear. Follow these simple tips to start your financial life on the right foot.


Start With One Credit Card

Don’t open too many credit cards right off the bat. Not only will it be difficult to keep track of all your expenses and dues, having more credit might encourage you to spend more. Too many new cards opened in a short time span can actually negatively affect your score.

Make All Your Payments in Full

No matter how large or small the expense is, make sure all of your payments are made on time and in full. Paying off your entire balance each month shows you’re capable of effectively managing your finances.

Let Your Accounts Age

When you’re ready to open new accounts, don’t be in a rush to close your old ones. The longer your credit history, the better it is for your credit score. Credit bureaus will automatically drop closed accounts from your report after several years but, in the meantime, they can help boost your score.

Pay Off Student Loans

While your student loans might prevent you from making large purchases anytime soon, they can actually help you build credit. Regularly paying your student loans on time will improve your score the same way paying off any other loan or credit charges would.

Give It Time

A good credit score doesn’t appear overnight. While it can take a year or two to build an average or good score, reaching the 700 or 800 level could take up to seven years. With a long financial future ahead of you it’s important to start small and focus on managing your current credit.

How to work through financial troubles

Working through financial troubles

When it comes to establishing a plan for your financial future, its imperative to know your starting line. That’s where a financial assessment comes in. A financial assessment usually comes in the form of an online questionnaire, in-person meeting, or phone call with a financial planner. The purpose of the assessment is to understand where you stand today, and where you want to be in the future, so that you can get accurate recommendations for how best to achieve your financial goals.

A good financial assessment will most likely ask questions about:

  • Your current sources of income, bills, and expenses
  • Basic financial health, including your current retirement savings, emergency savings, and debt
  • Financial obligations, like caring for elderly parents
  • Your short and long-term goals, such as saving for a wedding, buying or selling a house, or sending kids to college
  • Your credit score and current credit card payments and interest rates
  • Your mortgage or rent details
  • Are you having problems making payments on your current house and may have to sell your house fast?  Our goal is for you to avoid foreclosure.

An in-depth or more personal financial assessment might also ask questions about:

  • Retirement options available to you through your employer
  • The types of accounts you currently have, rates, and current savings contributions
  • Your approach to money, and areas you want to work on
  • Your ideal balance between saving and lifestyle spending

A financial assessment may focus on different areas of your money life depending on who is giving it. Companies that sell financial products, such as insurance policies, brokerage accounts, or investment advice, may orient their questions and advice around the type of product they are selling. So always enter these evaluations with your “Eyes Wide Open”.

At “Financial Freedom X” we don’t manage wealth or sell financial products, like stocks, bonds or even insurance policies. Instead we focus on helping people simplify their life by giving them clear guidance for their money, including around achieving their goals, and a budget that takes their lifestyle into account. We also focus on helping them build better money habits over time, and giving them the resources they need to help them feel empowered and confident about their financial decisions.

Whatever financial assessment you choose to take, consider keeping in mind what your ultimate goals are, and how the company offering the assessment fits with those goals. If you are looking for a budget, an insurance company’s assessment might not be the right place for you. If you are looking for investment advice, keep in mind that your advisor might be earning fees or commissions on the investments they recommend.