Is there a way or place to go and get credit card relief so don’t have to pay it back?
– MaryAnn; Racine, Wisconsin
I completely understand why you may be feeling overwhelmed by your credit card debt — and you’re definitely not alone in this feeling. Many Americans are struggling with credit card debt right now, at a time when pandemic-related financial hardships are lingering and inflation is making covering everyday expenses more challenging.
When you’re hundreds or thousands of dollars in debt, it’s natural to want a solution and a fresh start. I spoke to some financial experts to find out what your options are.
Jay Zigmont, Ph.D., CFP, founder of Childfree Wealth, said that if you want to get your credit card debt forgiven completely, you would have to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
“Bankruptcy is expensive, but allows a fresh start,” he said.
However, it’s important to note that this isn’t a “get out of jail free” card, and there are some serious long-term consequences of filing for bankruptcy.
“Your credit score will be negatively impacted for up to seven years,” Zigmont said. This will make it harder for you get approved for any future loans, such as a car loan or mortgage.
If you are able to pay at least a portion of your debt, you may be able to negotiate with your credit card company to have some of your debt forgiven.
“Your credit card company may offer to settle for a lower amount than what you owe, but keep in mind that this will likely still be a negative hit to your credit because you are not paying the full amount,” said Kendall Meade, a CFP at SoFi.
Another possible way to lessen your debt burden is through debt consolidation.
“This can be helpful if you are able to get a lower interest rate, reducing the total amount you owe and allowing you to pay it off quicker,” Meade said. “It can also be helpful since credit cards have variable rates, hence the interest rate on your card may increase if interest rates increase. By refinancing this debt to a fixed rate, you can lock in your rate.”
There are a number of debt consolidation options you may consider, including personal loans, cash-out refinancing, and home equity loans or lines of credit.
“The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who does debt consolidation is to stop using their credit cards until they have paid off the debt in full,” Meade said. “I have seen many people consolidate their debts into a loan, but then continue to run the credit cards back up. Now, they have double the payments and may not have the option to consolidate again, making it much harder for them to get out of debt.”
I hope that one of these options will help you get your finances back on track ASAP!
‘GO Ask an Expert’ is a GOBankingRates column dedicated to helping our readers Live Richer by guiding them through every phase of their financial journeys. Do you have a question about saving for retirement, choosing the best bank account, where to invest your money or another financial issue? Our experts can help! Simply fill out our form here.
My ex-husband died. Am I entitled to his Social Security benefits? We lived together for 14 years and were legally married for eight years.
– Adrienne Bowman; Gainesville, Georgia
Rules about Social Security can be complicated, so I understand why you might have questions about what benefits you’re entitled to.
According to the Social Security Administration, you may be entitled to a survivor benefit if you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, provided:
- the marriage lasted 10 years or more
- you are at least age 60
- you are not remarried until after age 60 (50 if you have a disability)
If you are caring for a child under age 16 or who has a disability and the child receives benefits on the record of your former spouse, the length-of-marriage rule may be waived, provided the child is your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child.
To find out more information about your specific situation, I spoke with Mike Lynch, managing director of applied insights at Hartford Funds. Here’s what he had to say: “In your question, you mentioned being legally married for eight years, but living together for 14 years. While 10 years of a legal marriage is the stated minimum, in some states, the Social Security Administration has recognized common-law marriage in the past.”
Currently, Georgia is not one of the states where common law marriage is recognized; however, it’s possible you may still be able to receive this designation depending on when you lived together.
Katherine Tierney, senior retirement strategist at Edward Jones, explains: “According to Social Security regulations, there are 10 states that currently recognize common-law marriage: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, as well as the District of Columbia. Several other states previously recognized such relationships, and if your common-law marriage began when the practice was still legal, the SSA will affirm it.”
“I would encourage you to seek qualified legal advice about your situation to determine if this might be applicable,” Lynch said.
Lynch also recommends contacting the Social Security Administration directly.
“As each situation and details are different, they would be best suited to determine what exactly you are entitled to,” he said. “Have all the necessary information and paperwork available to explain your particular situation, and they should be able to provide you with information regarding your situation.”
In addition, you may want to consult with your accountant and/or financial advisor.
“I find it’s always helpful to work with a team of professionals to determine not only if benefits are available to you, but also what is the best option to receive them based on your individual situation,” Lynch noted.
Because your situation isn’t so clear-cut, it’s best to reach out to a professional who may be able to provide further guidance.
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