Surviving the End of the World
The fear is eating away your stomach lining. You can’t sleep. You can’t concentrate. You feel like a failure in the eyes of the world.
The envelopes of the unopened bills have changed to new ominous colours. The days you could juggle minimum payments between credit cards is coming to an end as you reach your limits. You stop answering the phone calls for fear of bill collectors . . . and then the phone stops working altogether.
Many people come to Toronto Licensed Insolvency Trustees gripped by the worst fear of their lives. They are looking at the end of their world, and who could be complacent in the face of that?
When people arrive at one of our offices for the first time, turning the handle of the front door feels as hard as moving a boulder. What our trustees try to convey at this meeting is that their visitors are not the first to have faced this situation. And while things might be dire, we are no longer a society that sends people to debtor prison. You can take concrete steps to deal with the crisis and begin the trip back to solvency and self-respect.
Of course, not all severe debt problems need to be dealt with by bankruptcy. But let’s assume you must face the worst. Does it mean that your world is over? No, absolutely not. While we cannot wave a magic wand and make everything go away, we can help you manage the process so that the road to recovery is seen clearly and followed sooner.
People ask if they will lose everything they have. No. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t lose all your assets when you go bankrupt. While there might be some things you have to give up, you will probably get to keep your furniture, personal effects, car and business tools.
What will stop the lawsuits and wage garnishees? some ask. A bankruptcy immediately stops anyone from suing or garnisheeing you, even the CRA. Only Family Responsibility Office Garnishees aren’t stopped.
Will my spouse and their property be affected by my bankruptcy? Probably not, except perhaps indirectly.
The above only touches on some of the issues a first free assessment covers. To get a full appraisal you need to come in and move the boulder on our front door. We guarantee that the knob will be a lot easier to turn on the way out.
The Road to Recovery
It was a perfect storm of personal and professional misfortunes. Bryan was a successful independent marketing communications consultant, well respected in the business with a good network of friends. But in his late 50s he discovered that he had adult attention deficit disorder (ADD), with a host of problems, ranging from an inability to focus to poor organization skills and depression. After years of laboured compensation for the symptoms, he felt the copying structure he had carefully built begin to fall apart.
Then he lost his biggest client. With the onset of a deep depression, he found it harder and harder to do work and make up for the lost income. He started to drain his savings and line of credit to stay afloat.
He took a consolidation loan. The Canadian Revenue Agency called about missed tax installment payments. He had to ask for a personal loan from a friend to pay for a month’s apartment rent. He spent a Christmas without money to buy presents. He missed a bank loan payment.
“It was the lowest ebb in my life. I felt like a complete failure,” says Bryan in his quiet voice. “My parents were alive at that point. They berated me for my financial mismanagement. My father had been a bank manager. He told me that if I went bankrupt I would never be able to get credit again.”
With this sword hanging over his head, and not much hope to propel him forward, Bryan went to an assessment with Richard Killen. He may have gone into the meeting with intense sense of “embarrassment” at winding up in this precarious financial position, but he was soon reassured to learn that his problems were manageable.
After a detailed evaluation of his situation and going through the ins and outs of a consumer proposal versus a bankruptcy, Bryan felt the latter would best suit his situation. The instability of his income at the time would have made it difficult to commit to the monthly payments a consumer proposal would demand. But the most important thing was that the decision was his to make. This helped put him back in control of his financial life – a luxury he had not experienced in a long time.
Almost immediately Bryan felt a surge in spirits knowing that the burden of debt would be lifted. “It was this huge sense of relief,” he recalls. “I was told by Howard that when the phone rings, just to give them his name and number, and he would take it from there. When the bank called the next week, they were very matter of fact and nice about it when I told them. It was just business for them.”
Filing for bankruptcy in 2003, Bryan was able to keep his car, since he used it for work purposes, as well as his personal assets. And he didn’t have to pay any portion of his income to creditors, since it fell under the legal threshold set in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
During the bankruptcy, he attended the mandatory credit counselling sessions held at Richard Killen & Associates. At the same time, he underwent treatment for his ADD, getting it under control with therapies that included learning the complex body motions of the martial arts.
Nine months after filing for bankruptcy Brian was discharged and able to make his life anew. What about his father’s dire prediction that he would never get credit again? “Evenbefore I was discharged, credit card companies were calling me and offering me credit. I applied for a Royal Bank Visa after discharge and have never missed a payment,” he says.
Since then, Bryan has gone from strength to strength in his life. The return of his self-esteem has enabled him to rebuild his business. He has co-founded a company that will create a smartphone app to help kids with ADD. He is poised to take his third-degree black exam in karate. He has downsized and simplified his life to better protect him from financial vagaries and to minimize the disorganization associated with ADD.
Bryan adds with pride, “It’s a great feeling to get your life back and become a fully contributing member to society again.”