Do I Need to Meet My Creditors?
The last people you want to meet when going through a bankruptcy in Ontario is your creditors, right? You know, the people who have been sending you notices, phoning you non-stop, garnisheeing your wages and generally making your life difficult.
What are the chances you will have to get face to face with people who definitely aren’t part of your fan club? The chances are very small. In our experience at Richard Killen & Associates, fewer than one in 100 personal bankruptcies will require such a meeting. The creditors have the option of requesting a meeting but rarely exercise this right, especially if yours is a “summary administration” (if your assets in a bankruptcy are valued under $15,000).
That said, there are two situations where a trustee must call a meeting of the creditors: If the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (OSB) tells the trustee to call one, or if creditors who are owed more than 25% of your total debt request one.
The main purpose of the meeting is to give your creditors a chance to learn all the ins and outs of your financial situation, and to give directions to the trustee on the administration of the estate, if they so choose. The creditors can also review the trustee’s preliminary report, review the OSB’s report, examine the proofs of claims of other creditors, vote on resolutions, perhaps appoint inspectors (to provide the trustee with direction and the authority to take certain actions) and so on.
While creditors can ask you questions about your finances, you don’t have to answer any queries that aren’t related to your financial situation past, present or future. You also have the right to bring a lawyer to the meeting, though this rarely done. The chairman (usually the trustee) keeps things on topic.
But, as we pointed out before, creditors aren’t quick to request meetings in consumer bankruptcies. They can usually find out what they need to know faster and easier by calling the trustee directly or sending him/her an email. Creditor meetings occur automatically in commercial bankruptcies, where the financial issues are often more complex and more creditors are involved.
While a meeting with creditors is nothing to look forward to, a meeting with Richard Killen & Associates will help you reduce your stress levels considerably. At your free consultation we will outline all your options, so you can meet your personal situation head on and take the first steps in getting your financial life back under control.
10 Debt Danger Signals
After the expense of the holidays, many of us wonder how much debt is too much. Yes, Canadians are used to carrying record debt loads, but there comes a point where the burden may become too heavy.
Here are 10 danger signs that could reveal your spending is out of control:
1. You are making only minimal payments on your credit card balances as you head towards maxing them out.
2. Even so, you continue to use them for everyday purchases, such as groceries or gas.
3. You are using one credit card to pay off another. The fact that you have more than one or two credit cards is in itself a danger signal.
4. You borrow money to make it from one payday to the next.
5. You miss payments and due dates for bills and loans.
6. Creditors are after you for payment, threaten to sue or repossess your car, furniture or television, or hire a collection agency to recover the money for them.
7. You argue a lot with family about money, or hide your spending habits from them.
8. The size of your debt grows month after month. Or it has grown so large that you are afraid to look at the real total.
9. Extra money earned through overtime, tips or bonuses is relied on as part of your regular monthly income.
10. Thoughts about money and debt crowd out all others and put your life under a cloud.
Although your situation may be dire, it is never hopeless.
If you feel your debt load is becoming too much, come into Richard Killen & Associates for a free assessment. As a federally licensed trustee, we can take you through all the possible financial coping strategies – whether it is debt consolidation, negotiating with creditors, a consumer proposal or even a personal bankruptcy – and find out what works best for your particular situation. And you make all the decisions.
After all, we’re talking about your peace of mind, right?
Gas Goes Down, Debt Goes Up
Apparently you can’t win. Gas prices go down, saving consumers money, but then the commodity-based Canadian economy is hurt by the shortfall in oil revenues, shown in the dropping loonie. You’ll have more money to spend on you next trip to Buffalo but it won’t go as far as before.
While less costly fill-ups are leaving us with more cash, it’s not staying in our pockets as Canadians take on unprecedented levels of debt.
According to a Financial Post article, the loss of oil revenues will hurt the housing market, which already saddled with “near-record levels of household leverage. . . . Canada’s ratio of household debt to disposable income rose to a record 162.6% between July and September, according to data released last month. Benchmark interest rates of 1% have fanned a house-buying frenzy that sent 2014 sales up 6.7% in Toronto and 16% in Vancouver.”
Then a Globe and Mail article points out: “Oil prices may be crashing and sparking fears of an economic downturn, but Canadian households continue to have few qualms about piling on debt. . . . Household credit grew by an annualized rate of 4.5% in November, a two-year high and the second month of strong gains, to top $1.8-trillion.”
Residential mortgage debt had the biggest jump, leaping 5.2% in November from the same month a year before. Other forms of credit, including credit cards, lines of credit and loans, grew by 3%.
Canadians have been able to service their high debt levels because of relatively low interest rates. But if the country’s unstable economic conditions lead to a spike in interest rates, then the load might become unbearable for many, leading to bankruptcies and other credit problems.
If you have any doubts about your own situation call Richard Killen & Associates and we’ll set up a free consultation to assess everything and review all your options. It is usually a good idea to get ahead of any potential problems that may lie just over the horizon.
How Much Debt is too Much Debt?
Canadians like their stuff. They’re not afraid to go into debt for their new cars, homes, large-screen TVs and other items, big ticket and small. As a result, many of us owe way too much.
Moody’s, one of the world’s leading credit agencies, recently gave Canada an AAA rating for its “relatively solid economic performance” and stable banking system. But at the same time it warns that the country’s high household debt levels and soaring house prices pose “a potential risk” to those strengths.
Even though debt isn’t usually a good thing, sometimes it can be justified. Rather than simply buying something we can’t afford, debt can be a shrewd way to get ahead if you’re reasonably sure that you will have the means to pay it off.
For example, a graduating lawyer expecting to make $250,000 could probably take on a mortgage and expect to pay it off in a decade, where someone freelancing in a shakier industry might find themselves on the road to financial disaster owing this much money.
So how much debt is too much?
A recent Financial Post article reports:
Statistics Canada says that the average level of household credit market debt to disposable income was 163.6% between April and June. That means we owe almost $1.64 for every $1 that we make. . . . Economists have said that a more stable ratio would be between 110% and 120%. The ratio was closer to those figures in the early 2000s when the economy was on firmer ground, says Cris deRitis, senior director at Moody’s Analytics.
From the bank’s point of view, when you total your monthly debt payments along with heating and taxes for your house, this number should not exceed 40% of your income. Lenders call this the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR). If you exceed this ratio, then you will have a hard time borrowing money.
When you make out a budget, you can figure out what minimal amount you need to support your lifestyle. Once you know this number, you can figure out how much money you can put towards your debts. If you don’t have enough money left over to pay these, then your debt level is too high.
And keep in mind that the bank doesn’t know this number when they offer you more credit. Just because you’re eligible for increased credit doesn’t mean you can afford it.
Generally speaking, if you’re worried that your debt level is too high, it probably is. The fastest way of all to measure this the 50% rule. If more than 50% of your income is going to servicing your debt load, your debt is too high. No question about it.
So in the end, if you’re having trouble servicing your debts and would like some help in assessing your prospects and options for dealing with the problem, call us at Richard Killen & Associates. We can help you sort it out and the consultation is free.
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