Monthly Archives: November 2013

Weight Loss For Teens

Parents:  How to Help Your Teen Fight Obesity

Childhood obesity has risen in epic proportions since the 1980s.  According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 9 million children ranging in age from 5 to 19 who are at least twenty pounds over their suggested / ideal weight.

Who is at fault in this health crisis?  Most probably it’s the parents.  After all, it’s the mother who feeds the child early in life.  She shows him what an acceptable meal is.  She is responsible for giving him cookies instead of fruit, serving potatoes at every meal, and ordering take out food laden with fat and calories.  The child knows no other way of eating.

Compound a poor diet with a sedentary lifestyle, and you have a crisis waiting to happen.

Can the circle be broken?  Yes.  Once the child admits he needs help and makes a personal commitment to seek help, follow advice, stick with a program, and change his ways, success will follow.

This is not something the child can do alone, however.  He needs emotional support from his family and his peers.   If he decides to change his eating style, his parents need to make sure that the healthy food choices he needs are readily available.

Weight Loss For Teens – Tips and strategies for the entire family:

  • Weight is like a helium filled balloon.  It goes up quite easily, but it takes much more effort to pull it down.
  • The pounds didn’t get packed on in one weekend so no one should expect the pounds to fall off that quickly either.
  • Learn to take baby steps.  Sudden major changes just don’t work.  If he has been eating three large meals a day, he isn’t going to change quickly.  He can have three meals a day but help him substitute foods slowly.
  • Do not tell your 10 year old that “it’s baby fat and it will come off”.  It isn’t, and it won’t.  Certainly not without help.
  • If your teen has made an effort to eat more salads and vegetables, the parents might want to reconsider filling up on burgers and fries, especially in front of him.  This behavior is not fair to anyone.
  • Make it easy for your teen to stick to his commitment.   If you are still loading up the freezer and pantry with junk food, you need to make a concerted effort to buy the healthy alternatives he has agreed to eat.  If you baked a cake for dessert, make sure he has a similar low calorie frozen alternative (try Weight Watchers frozen desserts; they are excellent!).
  •  Obese children more often than not are raised by obese parents.  If you, the parent, are not willing to undertake the same dieting commitment as your child, at least admit to him that you know you have a problem!  This is vital to his personal success.   (Perhaps when you see how successful he is at losing those pounds, you may even want to join him in further dieting efforts!)
  • As soon as your child asks for or agrees to accept help, find a local support group for overweight children in his age group.   Socializing with children who have the same problem is critical.  Frequently, just knowing there are others like him can help him fight depression and ignore criticism from his “friends”.   Local youth centers frequently run programs for free.  Also check out local youth chapters of Weight Watchers.
  • Many times some early, simple dietary changes can produce remarkable results.  For instance, if your teen has learned to eat frozen pizza every day for an after school  snack, find low fat and low calorie pizza snacks for him instead.  Johnny will be more agreeable to trying a Lean Cuisine vegetable pizza rather than forcing him to eat a plate of celery and carrot sticks!
  • No matter what, he needs more exercise.   Chances are he’s not into team sports or he wouldn’t be overweight.  And, it’s not easy to get kids to a gym.  But it’s usually very easy to get them to walk the dog or take him to the park to play.   Don’t have a dog?  Run to your local humane shelter and bring one home.  Having the responsibility of a pet has shown incredible results in helping teens with almost all types of problems, including weight management and depression.  Don’t think you can afford a dog?  Stop buying all that junk food and you can easily feed the new pooch!
  • Let’s face it – we all cheat on diets.  And your teen will, too.  Don’t chastise him, don’t yell, don’t make threats, and don’t insult him.  Comments such as, “No wonder you’re fat!  You can’t stop eating!” could force him to turn to food for comfort.  Actually, what I call “regulated intermittent cheating” is a successful part of any diet program.  For instance, every weekend he is allowed a few “regular” meals, or perhaps on Wednesday night he can have a “normal” dessert with the rest of the family.  Sometimes a little cheating is the best thing!

Quick Weight Loss

Zap Fat Fast

Your cousin’s wedding is a few weeks away.  Your high school reunion is emerging and you want to stare your old high school rival in the face and let her know that you reign. You have a hot date with a long awaited lover in a few days.  Whatever your scenario is, you need to lose weight and you need to lose it fast.  You have no time to do a billion crunches to see little results.  You want to wake up one day and have that last bit of fat that seems to be attached to you like a leech holding on for dear  life until he can get the last ounce of  blood , gone.     Well what if I told you there was quick and effective ways of losing weight that will have you ready to bust out your bikini even when there’s six feet of snow on the ground.  There are a few factors that will help you reach your goal weight in no time.


The great news is that you don’t have a lot of weight to lose.  Even though it’s a little bit of weight it may feel like the hardest challenge of your life make those last few pounds vanish into thin air.   The first step to achieving your goal is making the decision that you are serious this time.  You are not going to say “I’ll start next week.  “I can’t quit cold turkey”.  You should not use these excuses or any other lame excuses that will leave you a few steps further away from your goal.


The next step is determination. You are determined to get this weight off no matter how hard and strenuous it may be.  Losing weight fast will take only a few weeks, but those few weeks of hard work will transition into a lifetime of optimum health.


You need to make a commitment just like how you get up at 6:00am every morning and get your sugar filled mocha from starbucks. I am pretty sure you can make a commitment depending on your goal and your time frame. Be active, even if it is for 10 minutes, because the last time I checked 10 was better than 0.


There are a number of ways that you can lose a considerable amount of weight in a short period of time. You have to be disciplined, motivated and focused to know that you will reach your goal.  Diet and exercise has always been the rule of thumb for a steady and healthy weight loss plan.  Invest in a food Journal; Plan your meals, Schedule in exercise like you would a regular doctors or business appointment. However, if you need to shed pounds fast check out these popular diets.


The Grapefruit Diet–  When you are on the grapefruit diet the rules are simple  eat   ½  a grapefruit before every meal or if you don’t have time to cut one, just guzzle down some unsweetened  grapefruit juice before every meal.

Breakfast- ½ grapefruit with 2 eggs and 2 strips of bacon

Lunch ½ grapefruit with salad and any type of dressing your heart desires with meat any style that you like

Dinner ½ grapefruit with salad or vegetables and meat any style

Bedtime:   A glass of skim milk or tomato juice.

The grapefruit diet claims that you will lose a pound a day if you follow these instructions step by step.  The benefit of the grapefruit diet is that it blocks the amount of fat you eat and shrinks your stomach before every meal causing you to feel more satisfied and not over eat.  This diet is not recommended to go past 2 weeks, since the caloric intake is about 800-1200 calories per day.    It is wise to consume at least 1200 calories per day.  If you consume any less than 1200 calories your body will go into starvation mode and actually hold on to fat so you can survive.

Detox Diets– Detox diets are not really diets.  Detoxing is used to clean out the liver and colon so you can get out the harmful and dreadful toxins in your body.  As a result of cleansing the system people are realizing that they can lose weight and inches as well.  Detox diets are a very controversial subject due to the fact of no food intake may cause certain illnesses and lead to malnutrition. Detox followers believe that detoxing gives your digestive system a break from chewing and breaking down foods and will help restore your digestive track therefore promoting better health.

Master Cleanse- is a popular diet that should be followed for 10 days.  Absolutely no eating.  You will consume nothing but the “special lemonade” which is made of lemons, cayenne pepper and maple syrup.  The results will have you feeling cleaner, lighter and full of energy.  No exercise is required on this diet due to the lack of calorie consumption.  You can lose 10 pounds in 10 days or a pound a day depending on how well your body reacts to this strict diet.

Juicing- This is a more effective way of getting the weight off and providing good nutrients to your body.  Juicing natural fruits and vegetable along with drinking soups and teas will have you feeling lighter in a matter of days.  For a powerful juicing experience colonics and enemas are able to assist in cleansing out your colon so you can absorb nutrients better thus creating an exceptional amount of weight lost in a matter of days.  Some people can lose up to 7-10 pounds in their first week of juicing.


Drink plenty of water; you should drink half of your body weight or at least a gallon if you are engaging in moderate and daily exercise.   Water helps you burn calories and acts as a natural appetite suppressant by keeping you full.  Drink water sporadically throughout the day.  If you can’t handle the taste of water spice it up with some lemon.  Lemon acts as a natural laxative to help clean out your digestive tract.


Be active, dieting alone can help you lose weight but if you are really serious about losing weight,  get those buns to the gym and start lifting weights and doing some cardio.   Lifting Weights!!!  Yes that is what I said, don’t worry ladies you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bikini, unless you want to.   Building muscle helps you burn more calories; even though muscle weighs more than fat it burns up to 10x more calories than fat does alone.   So a proven plan of strength training 3 or 4 times a week will have you become the envy of Richard Simmons.     Do some cardio work run on the treadmill, go roller skating, ride a bicycle any activity that will get your heart rate up and pumping that will help you blast that fat away.  Always challenge your body; you are stronger than you think you are.  Putting your body through strenuous but not dangerous exercise will actually shock your body making it turn into the ultimate fat burning machine.

Even though you have a major event coming up and you want to lose weight fast, you have to remember that patience is a virtue.  As the old saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day” I know that is a cliché but that is the best way to describe healthy and accurate weight loss.   Losing weight rapidly can cause many side effects such as dehydration, fatigue, malnutrition and loss of vital minerals and vitamins that your body needs to function properly.    Also losing weight fast can cause the weight gain to come back twice as fast as you lost it and even more added fat this time.  Many people don’t have an understanding of balanced healthy meals, so once they complete their fad diet they think they can go back to their old unhealthy habits.

The healthiest way to lose weight is at a slow and moderate pace.  It is recommended that you should lose no more than 2 pound s a week.  Don’t follow quick fad diets that will leave you feeling deprived and an enemy of your own body.  Find foods that are right for you and eat in moderation.  Learn how to read nutrition labels and calculate right portion sizes.  Eat diets that are composed of healthy fats, high fiber and high protein.   Healthy fats can assist in helping you burn fat faster.  Fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer.  Protein gives you a sense of satiety as well as builds lean muscle mass.   You should eat every 2-3 hours to keep your body fueled with energy thus creating a faster metabolism.

Don’t be fooled by a scale instead measure your success in how well your clothes fit and invest in a tape measure so you can see how many inches you lost.

Quick weight loss may cause more harm than good to your health.  Before you start any weight loss plan you should consult with your doctor to see what weight loss plan best fits your needs.

Help With Weight Loss

Help with Weight Loss: How to Keep on Track When You want to Give Up

Deciding to lose weight is always the easy part, sticking it out or even getting started is the hard part. However, if you really want to lose some weight it is possible, and it doesn’t even call for drastic changes on your part, especially if you set small, manageable goals.

Help with Weight Loss: What Not to Do

Four basic things that make losing weight seem like a burden are:

  1. Setting big goals: Don’t set out to lose 2 or 3 pounds per week, try losing 1 pound and then adjust when you have done that. Once you reach your target you will be motivated to do better.
  1. Being unrealistic: Do not promise to go to the gym five days per week when you know that you can only do so for two days. Be realistic and endeavor to do something that you can truly juggle with your busy lifestyle, such as walking up a flight of stairs or walking on the weekend for 30 minutes. Setting unrealistic expectations will derail any weight loss effort before you even get started.
  1. Going on a diet: Funny enough, many weight loss trains get derailed simply because of the use of the word diet or actually going on a diet. Don’t do it, make a conscious decision to eat properly.
  1. Doing it for someone else, instead of yourself: If your main reason for losing weight is to please someone else you are almost surely doomed from the get go.

So How Do You Lose Weight and Keep It Off?

For most of us, losing the weight, hard as it may be is the easy part, keeping it off is another story. Truth be told, the only way to lose weight and keep it off is to make smart lifestyle changes. Nothing drastic is needed, simply start by slowly eliminating the foods that make you put on weight. Again start small; if you normally use 3 spoonfuls of sugar in your coffee, cut it to two and then one and eventually you may find that you can cut out sugar all together.

Some proven tips for losing weight and keeping it off include:

  1. Eating smaller portions. It may be hard at first but as you get used to smaller portions, you will find that your stomach begins to feel full with eating less over time. If you really feel the need to eat something between meals, grab something nutritious, like a piece of fruit.  Drinking some water when you feel hungry will also help to fill you up without the calories.

An added benefit to eating less is the new found link between living longer and healthier by eating less. How’s that for motivation!

  1. If you find it hard to avoid junk food, don’t stock your refrigerator or cupboard with it. That is not saying that you cannot have the occasional piece of candy, but be moderate and have these only has a means of rewarding yourself for doing well.
  1. Make exercise a part of your lifestyle change: This simply means get active. Not everyone is able to or wants to go to the gym, but there are lots of other ways to get exercise. Love tennis but never got a chance to make the team? Why not give it a try as part of your healthier lifestyle? Other ways to get more exercise include walking more or starting a more physical type of hobby such as gardening.

If you have children go kick or throw a ball with them on a regular basis. Just keep moving and you will not only see the weight going, but you need not fear that it will come back.

Over time you will be surprised to find that your small changes to lose weight and keep it off have become a normal, natural part of your life.

Quick Weight Loss Tip

Weight Loss Tip: How to Make a Weight Loss Plan You Can Stick To

Everyday someone across the globe makes a weight loss plan, but just as often someone loses focus and falls off the weight-loss wagon. There is a reason for this, and it’s simply that often the plans are not realistic and therefore are difficult to maintain. So how do you make a weight loss plan and stick to it? You make one that is:

  1. Realistic: If your weight loss goal is unrealistic, you will eventually fail. Do you make a plan to lose 10 pounds in one month? This is an impossible task for most persons. Instead decide to that you will try to lose two pounds per week.
  1. Suits your lifestyle: Make a plan that suits your lifestyle. Persons who are extremely busy should make a plan that allows exercise periods which will fit with their schedules.
  1. Set a weight loss goal: Don’t just plan on losing weight, instead determine how much you plan on losing overall and how much that equates to per week. A weight loss of two pounds is easily manageable for most persons. Never beat yourself up if you fall short of your weekly goal.
  1. Make it time-specific: Determine how much weight you need to lose by a specific date and aim for that. Once you have a goal and a deadline it is more likely that you will stick to the plan.

Five Tips to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

The following tips are worth remembering if you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off:

  1. Drink water: Drinking the right amount of water is important for a healthy life, but also plays a role in weight loss. There are no hard and fast rules for how much water to drink, but some persons stick to the 8×8 rule of drinking eight, eight ounce glasses of water per day. Another method is to divide your weight in half and drink that amount of water in ounces per day, so if you weigh 180 pounds, you would drink 90 ounces of water daily.

If you exercise or live in a hot, dry climate, you may find that drinking additional water is necessary. Once your urine is colorless or very light yellow, then you know that your fluid intake is adequate.

If you have certain chronic illnesses or kidney disease, talk to your doctor to get advice on how much fluid to consume.

  1. Change your lifestyle: If you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off, you will need to change your lifestyle habits. To make this easy, start small, for example, don’t suddenly cut your meal sizes. Start by cutting out something from your dinner menu, such as dessert or take a smaller than normal piece of cake.
  1. Exercise: No matter how little calories you consume, you need to exercise if you plan on losing weight naturally. Apart from the health factor, exercising while losing weight will help to tone your body so that loose hanging skin is avoided or minimized.

Remember that fewer calories and more exercise results in increased weight loss.

  1. Eat right: This means ensuring that you eat balanced meals. Be sure to include lots of vegetables and fruits in your diet plan.
  1. Reward yourself: Periodically reward yourself for taking off the weight. If you love chocolate, there is no harm in having a small piece once in a while. While you are working to lose weight and remain healthy, it shouldn’t be something that stops you from enjoying life and the things that give you pleasure.

Losing weight and keeping it off is possible, millions do it – you just need to be determined and slowly change unhealthy lifestyle habits until the right way becomes a way of life.

Pros and Cons of Bankruptcy

When bills are overwhelming, people feel like they are drowning in financial worries.  The phone rings with a creditor on the other end, demanding a date for payment.  When the money isn’t there, many turn to bankruptcy as a solution.  The pros and cons of bankruptcy should be carefully considered before making a final decision.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy gives people an opportunity to wipe out their debts to get a fresh start.  Also referred to as a straight bankruptcy, all non-exempt property is turned over to a bankruptcy trustee.  The property is converted into cash to payoff creditors.  The debtor gets relief from debts that are permitted to be discharged within about three to six months.  Often these debtors have little to lose and their major concern is to eliminate the pressure of debts they cannot cover.

Pros of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

There are several advantages to choosing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  The amount of debt that is erased is unlimited.  After the debtor’s assets are distributed, all other unpaid debt balances are discharged so the debtor no longer owes money.  While large debts can be erased, there is no minimum amount of debt required to claim Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

This type of bankruptcy is beneficial to people with both large and small debts based on the ratio of their income and assets.  Also, the wages earned and property acquired after Chapter 7 bankruptcy is filed belongs to the debtor with the exception of inheritance proceeds.  Typically, a Chapter 7 proceeding takes about four months so debtors gain quick relief from the stress of outstanding debts.

Cons of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

While there are many pros to claiming bankruptcy, there are also a few cons.  After the case is closed, some debts may continue such as mortgage liens.  Foreclosure proceedings are temporarily stalled by filing bankruptcy but may not be released.  Each situation is different and based on the decision of the bankruptcy trustee. Debtors should check with an attorney if they want to get out of a mortgage they cannot afford.

With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, certain non-exempt property is sold by the trustee.  When debtors must give up property, some feel violated by the loss.  If the debtor had co-signers on loans, they still owe the money unless they also file for bankruptcy protection.  Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy has a negative impact on the debtor’s credit rating for two to ten years.  Finally, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can only be filed every eight years.  Debtors must act conscientiously and avoid debts they cannot afford after the bankruptcy is finalized.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is typically for people looking to pay off their outstanding debts.  Also referred to as reorganization bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee creates a schedule for the debtors to pay off creditors over a period of three to five years.  For people with non-exempt property they don’t want to lose, this can be a viable option.  However, the debtor must have stable income that is enough to cover basic expenses and payoff the outstanding debts according to the schedule.  For those who are financially devastated, this might not be the best choice. It is essential to consider the cost of everyday life and rising costs versus potential income over the next few years.

Pros of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

One of the major pros of claiming Chapter 13 bankruptcy is debtors keep exempt and non-exempt property so they experience no major losses.  Debts are repaid within three to five years, buying the debtor more time to cover them.  Once the Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed, debtors are protected against their wages being garnished.  They also have the relief of being protected against collectors.  Those facing the loss of their home are also protected against foreclosure.

When Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves complete payment of debts, co-signers on loans are protected against creditors. This saves the debtor embarrassment and lost relationships over money problems.  On the other hand, if co-signers are still responsible for the loan, an adjusted percentage of payment is worked out.

Also, if a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is filed and liens remain, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be filed to make arrangements to pay them off.  Unlike Chapter 7, there is no limited to the number of times Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be filed.

Cons of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy has a few cons.  The debtor’s disposable income is used to pay off debts so their money is tied up for a few years. The debt goes on and continues to be a source of stress and financial concern. Typically, legal fees are higher as there are more details involved with Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

After Chapter 13 bankruptcy is closed, some debts may remain.  The debtor is responsible to keep paying them off.  There is also a maximum amount of debt to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  People with debts over $1,000,000 usually do not qualify for this relief.  It depends on the amount of secured and unsecured debt.

Whether a debtor files Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, they lose all credit cards unless they are completely paid off prior to filing.  Obtaining a mortgage usually impossible for about five years.  It is harder to get any type of credit, qualify for certain jobs or purchase life insurance.  On the plus side, debtors no longer face the actions or harassment of creditors.  Most are able to keep essential property such as a vehicle for transportation, home goods and a home while making a new start.

What Are Exemptions?

Certain debts are exempt from Chapter 7 bankruptcy so the debtor can keep them such as a home, land and some equity, vehicle, business equipment, pension and insurance, some jewelry, clothing, appliances, furniture and public benefits.  The court allows the debtors to keep basic items to carry on with everyday life after bankruptcy.   Certain items might not be exempt such as vacation homes, family heirlooms, collectibles, bank accounts, cash, bonds, stocks and additional vehicles.

Debts That Live On

Some debts are not wiped by by Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  After filing, a 341 meeting with creditors is scheduled by the trustee of the bankruptcy court.  All debts that are not included on the creditor list are not part of the bankruptcy.  Debtors must carefully review what they owe prior to filing.  Other debts that may continue include student loans, damages for injury, child support, alimony, certain luxury consumer debt and cash advances, certain taxes, governmental penalties, personal injury debt and credit obtained on false pretenses.

While debtors are allowed to file bankruptcy on their own, it is wise to consult with an attorney to verify rights, exemptions, non-exemptions and current rules.  Claiming bankruptcy may impact credit, but that is what brought the debtors into problems in the first place.  In most instances, bankruptcy provides sweet relief from debt and a chance to start over.

Types of Bankruptcy

When most people think of bankruptcy, Chapter7, 11 and Chapter 13 tend to come to mind. However, there are a few other types.  The first distinction is that there are some which relate to business and other types for individuals. Before looking at the various types of bankruptcy, it makes sense to know what it is.

What is Bankruptcy?

This is a legal process through which people and businesses can repay part of their debts. In some cases all debts are cleared under certain conditions. The two main ways filing bankruptcy can be used to help manage debt is via processes known as reorganization and liquidation.

Liquidation Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 falls under the liquidation banner. It is called liquidation bankruptcy because the individual’s or company’s assets are sold (liquidated) to pay down or clear outstanding debts. This type of bankruptcy is discussed below:

Chapter 7

This can be filed by both individuals and businesses and is one of the better known types. Chapter 7 generally lasts for a minimum of three months and a maximum of six months.  When filed by a company it is called Business Chapter 7 bankruptcy. On the other hand, when filed by an individual, it is referred to as Consumer Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Under this type of bankruptcy, most unsecured debts will be cleared by a court, that is, they will no longer exist. The assets of the debtor are sold off by a trustee appointed by the court. However, this type of bankruptcy filing means that the company will cease to exist.

Many advisers recommend finding an alternative to Chapter 7. However, there are cases when it is the best way out of debt.

Reorganization Bankruptcy

There are also various types of reorganization bankruptcy. This one refers to situations where the debtor does not need to sell off assets to clear debts. Instead, special arrangements are made to restructure and reschedule debt repayments. Of course special conditions will need to be met.

Chapter 11

While mostly filed by companies, individuals can also file Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This type of situation enables a business to continue operating while putting in place repayment plans to clear debts. In fact, it allows a company that is facing financial difficulties time in which to try and turn their operations around. Chapter 11 is said to be one of the most expensive and difficult types of bankruptcy to file.

Chapter 12

This type is generally filed by fishermen and farmers. With this plan, the affected person will need to detail how they will pay off or reduce their indebtedness. The period given for this repayment is between three to five years. The repayment plan will be based on the person’s income.  Persons in this category who only earn seasonally have special alternative requirements for filing.

Chapter 13

This type of reorganization bankruptcy is for individuals and some small businesses. Only people who have an income can file under Chapter 13, hence the name wage earners’ bankruptcy. Since they have a source of income they are expected to develop a repayment plan. All debts incurred prior to filing must be paid off within three to five years. There is also no deadline as to when someone can file Chapter 13. The good thing about this type is that the debtor’s property is not taken away and sold.

Thankfully, bankruptcy is not the end of the world. However, knowing about each type is helpful just in case you ever have to consider going this route.  When faced with financial problems that may lead to bankruptcy, it is advisable that you contact a bankruptcy attorney or another person experienced in bankruptcy matters.

Information on Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy Basics You Need to Know

Bankruptcy may not be for everyone who is behind on bills, but for some, bankruptcy can provide the fresh start they need to free them from financial ruin and get on with their lives.  As the American economy flounders, many people who used to live at a fairly high standard of living are finding themselves in financial trouble.  The news runs rampant with stories of credit card payments doubling, interest rates being hiked up, and credit limits being spontaneously lowered by banks to amounts lower than what debtors already owe on their unsecured credit card debts.  Then there are the American mortgage industry’s recent, totally outrageous tactics, which need not be repeated here, as they have been highly-publicized.   People who were financially secure just a few years ago are having to tighten their belts now.

Meanwhile, people who were already having financial difficulty before the current troubles may have plummeted now to the point of severe problems, insolvency, inability to make all of their credit payments as they come due.  Many people are taking advantage of lowered monthly payments obtained with the help of credit counseling companies that negotiate with creditors.  For those whose creditors refuse to negotiate, bankruptcy may be their only option.

If your creditors are threatening collection and foreclosure lawsuits against you in your local courts, the higher authority of the federal bankruptcy court may be your best protection.  Once a bankruptcy suit of any kind is filed, all creditors and courts that receive notice of your bankruptcy are automatically “stayed” from pursuing further collection efforts against you.  After that, they must all file claims with the federal bankruptcy court, and only the bankruptcy court will determine who gets paid, how much they get paid, and when they get it.

There are two main types of bankruptcy available to individuals in the United States.  One is the “Chapter 7,” a bankruptcy that discharges the debtor from the obligation to pay most of the debts involved in the bankruptcy.  The other is a “Chapter 13,” sometimes also called an “Adjustment,” and commonly referred to also as a “Wage Earner’s Plan,” which requires the debtor to make payments on outstanding debts.  These bankruptcy nicknames are taken from the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which divides bankruptcy law into various chapters, some of which apply to individuals and some of which apply to businesses.

When Congress amended the federal bankruptcy code in 2005, rumors flew widely to the effect that Congress was nearly outlawing Chapter 7 discharges.  This was not exactly true.  Congress did amend the code in a couple of ways, making it more difficult for certain persons to qualify for Chapter 7, in order to curb “abuse” of the system, but most people who need Chapter 7 discharge can still get it.  Although a Chapter 7 does set a person free from overwhelming debt, it may not be the preferred path.  If a person owns real estate and other valuable property that he would like to keep, it is important to know that aside from certain “exempt” assets, a Chapter 7 action may liquidate your property and use the money to pay toward the debts that you are discharging.  That means that you could lose your home, for example, if it has value above the exemption amounts, or even business property that you own as an individual.

Before filing a Chapter 7 now, a person must have undergone credit counseling from an approved agency within 180 days of the date of filing.  Beyond that, the law now utilizes a mathematical formula, in the form of a so-called “means test,” to further determine whether you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  The test deducts certain expenses from your income to determine what amount you would be able to pay to your unsecured creditors (like credit cards, medical bills, or unsecured loans, for example) under a Chapter 13 proceeding.  If you could not pay enough, you “pass” and can file a Chapter 7.  (A means test “calculator” is readily available on the federal bankruptcy court’s website.)  Even if you fail the “means test,” a bankruptcy court judge can still allow you to file a Chapter 7, if you can show “special circumstances,” as described in the bankruptcy law.  However, if you would be able to pay a certain amount toward your unsecured debts, and you have no “special circumstances,” you must instead turn to a Chapter 13 proceeding.

Chapter 13 bankruptcies, generally speaking, involves repaying your debts, either in whole or in part, over the course of three to five years.  It is often preferred by individuals who are self-employed or own their own businesses.  It also offers people a chance to save their homes from foreclosure, without losing them to liquidation as in a Chapter 7 proceeding.  In order to be eligible, an individual must have less than $336,900 in unsecured debt and less than $1,010,650 in secured debt.  You must file statements with the Court listing your assets, liabilities, income, tax returns, and other information, and the Court will develop a repayment plan which you must follow.

In either “Chapter” of bankruptcy, a husband and wife may file a joint petition, or either of them may petition individually.  Currently, the filing fees are set at just under $275, but filing fees are subject to change from time to time.  It is also important to realize that in any bankruptcy action, what happens to individual assets is largely a matter of state law in your state of residence.  The bankruptcy code and other federal court rules prescribe the procedure followed, and to a certain extent, the substance of bankruptcy law, but that federal law itself defers to state law on a number of issues.  Other forms of bankruptcy may apply to you if you do not fit into the eligibility requirements described above.  Corporations or partnerships, for example, file “Chapter 11” bankruptcies.  Bankruptcy law involves a complex synthesis of federal and state law.  It is a very specialized area of legal practice, and if you’re considering bankruptcy to deal with debt problems, you should gather the kind of financial information described in this article and seek the advice of a qualified bankruptcy attorney to find out whether bankruptcy may really be the best solution for you.

Alternatives to Bankruptcy

Record levels of American consumers file for bankruptcy each year.  The idea of putting an end to overwhelming debt and silencing the calls of harassing creditors can make this seem like an undeniably appealing option.  While declaring bankruptcy may seem like a quick fix for financial hardships, in many cases it causes new kinds of challenges and stresses for years to come.

Bankruptcy is far from a simple answer to rising debt.  It has a profoundly negative impact on your credit score, can result in the loss of valuable possessions, and can make it extremely difficult to secure new bank accounts, credit cards, or loans.  Having such a blight on your credit record can make moving on with life after bankruptcy – buying a car, renting a house, getting insurance, or even finding a new job – more challenging than ever.

What are some alternatives to bankruptcy?

Considering the far-reaching, long-lasting, negative implications of bankruptcy, it should be the last step taken after every other option has been exhausted.  So what are some alternatives to bankruptcy?

Sell Your Assets

When you file for bankruptcy, you risk losing some of your most valuable assets.  With this in mind, an alternative to bankruptcy would be taking a proactive approach to your financial situation by selling the items that you no longer use or you can realistically live without.  If you have more than one car, consider selling one and carpooling or using public transportation for your commute.  Look around your house and decide which items of value you’re willing to part with, including jewelry, furniture, and electronics.  You most likely own a number of items that other people would be willing to buy from you.  Use the proceeds from the sale of your assets to pay down your debt.

Consolidate Your Debt

If your debt is spread out across many sources and you’re struggling with high interest rates, consolidating your debt may be a smart alternative to bankruptcy.  The goal of debt consolidation is to lower your overall costs by reducing interest fees and lowering the total amount of your monthly payments.  For example, if you have multiple credit cards with high interest rates, consider transferring your balances to one card with a low APR.  Make sure that the APR is not higher for balance transfers, and also ask the credit card company about transaction fees that may be charged.

Negotiate with Creditors

If you have some income but are finding it impossible to make all of your minimum payments each month, negotiating with creditors may be a viable alternative to bankruptcy.  Many creditors would rather receive some portion of the debt that you owe than to have your debt completely discharged when you declare bankruptcy.  Call your creditors to talk about your options.  You may be able to negotiate a better finance rate or better payment terms.  Some creditors may even agree to settle your debts for less than you owe.

Seek Help from a Debt Counseling Agency

You may not be comfortable with the thought of negotiating with creditors or collection agencies – especially if you’ve been receiving harassing and menacing phone calls from them.  If so, seeking professional help from a reputable credit or debt counseling agency may be your next best alternative to bankruptcy.  These agencies will look at your financial situation and work with you to lower your debt through a debt management plan (DMP).  A DMP can help you to repay your debts over a period of time through reduced payments, fees, and finance rates.  Over time, your financial picture will look far more promising.

It is critical to understand that bankruptcy is not a simple solution to one’s financial hardships.  There are a number of alternatives to bankruptcy that can ease the burden of growing debt without ruining your credit or threatening your most valuable assets.  Take some time to investigate the many options that are available to you, from consolidating loans, to communicating with creditors, to seeking the services of a debt counseling agency.  Considering all of your financial options today will give you a brighter financial outlook tomorrow.

When to File For Bankruptcy

Should I Claim Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a major decision when you are facing mounting debt.  For those who cannot pay off their debts, bankruptcy is a way to maintain essential assets while getting creditors off your back.  On the other hand, bankruptcy also impairs your ability to get credit for up to 10 years.  So how do you know when to file for bankruptcy?

Consult With An Attorney

Ultimately you will need to consult with an attorney to claim bankruptcy.  Filing for bankruptcy is a detailed procedure that requires professional expertise.  An attorney will discuss all possible options with you to improve your financial situation.  Often the initial consultation with an attorney is free.  If you decide to claim bankruptcy, the court and attorney fees are likely to be anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000.  To file for bankruptcy, you need to be able to pay the required legal and court costs.

Review Your Finances

Prior to consulting with an attorney, carefully review your finances so you know your financial bottom line.  Gather all your bills and tally what you owe.  List your valuable assets.  Determine your annual income.  Write down a list of your debts, necessary expenses and income so you can easily present the facts to an attorney.  Order your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.  You don’t have to join any type of credit repair service to get your credit reports.  By law, you are entitled to a copy of your credit report once annually.

Review Your Credit Reports

Contact TRW, Experian and Equifax directly for copies of your credit reports.  Once you receive your credit reports, carefully review your outstanding debts.  Make sure nothing is listed that does not belong to you.  Old debts are often sold to collection agencies that may attach them to the wrong person.  Admitting to a debt that is not yours means you are still responsible for paying it.  An attorney can help you dispute debts that are not legally yours so you do not have to pay for them.

What Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges all your unsecured debts.  Typically you are not required to make repayments and debts are simply eradicated.  Within just a few months, all your unsecured debts can be discharged.  A debtor must qualify under the “means test” for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  The test was established in 2005 and currently 96 percent of applicants pass to claim Chapter 7.  You must complete a pre-filing session with a credit counselor to review your finances before you can formally claim Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Creditors cannot contact you once a stay is filed for bankruptcy.  Certain secured assets such as a car may be renegotiated so you can keep them if payments are made in a timely manner.

Who Files For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

People who benefit from Chapter 7 bankruptcy usually have few assets other than clothing and furniture.  They may rent their home or have no equity left if they are homeowners.  Usually there is little or no money left in the monthly budget after paying for basic expenses.  Chapter 7 helps people get rid of outstanding medical bills, credit card bills and payday loans that they are simply unable to cover.

What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy establishes a repayment schedule with your creditors.  A single payment is made to the Bankruptcy Trustee to distribute to all creditors accordingly.  With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have 3 to 5 years to repay all delinquent accounts per the court’s schedule.  Creditors cannot directly contact you during this period.  When all your debts are repaid, your bankruptcy is discharged so you are financially free.  To qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your unsecured debts must not exceed $307,675 and your secured debts must be less than $922,975.

Who Claims Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

If you have home equity you want to protect and outstanding bills you cannot pay, Chapter 13 is a viable solution.  Your regular income may cover all your basic expenses but you just cannot make your minimum credit card payments.  Chapter 13 helps you get back on track so you are debt free within 3 to 5 years.

What Is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 11 is predominantly for corporations and companies.  It works much like a Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding.  Businesses prove their earnings versus what they owe then the court determines whether they must pay back what they owe.

Am I Protected Against Creditors When I Claim Bankruptcy?

Once you receive your bankruptcy discharge, creditors cannot bother you anymore.  Outstanding debts are wiped out so you no longer owe anyone.  For a Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy, this occurs after all repayments are rendered according to schedule.  When you claim Chapter 7, your debts are discharged within a few months.

There are several exceptions:

–  taxes, child support and other government debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy;

–  secured debts require assets be liquidated to pay a portion of the outstanding debt; and

–  personal injury claims, acts of fraud and court fines are not included in bankruptcy.

Will I Lose All My Major Assets If I Claim Bankruptcy?

In some instances, the court may require you to liquidate certain assets to repay your creditors.  To protect your assets, make sure you are represented by a competent attorney who will negotiate to protect your home, car and other major assets so you don’t lose them during bankruptcy.

Can I Get Turned Down For Bankruptcy?

In rare circumstances, you may be turned down by the courts for bankruptcy.  If you are represented by an attorney, it is highly unlikely you will be turned down.  Even if you get turned down, you can attempt to file bankruptcy again after 180 days.

Can I Get Credit Again After Claiming Bankruptcy?

An increasing number of people are facing financial trouble and filing bankruptcy.  Because of this, the ramifications of claiming bankruptcy are less severe than several years ago.  Typically, a bankruptcy remains on your credit report for 8 to 10 years.  You are likely to have a more difficult time obtaining credit and may have to pay higher interest rates.  It becomes easier to obtain credit within 2 to 3 years after claiming bankruptcy.  Additionally, claiming bankruptcy may have an impact on your future in certain careers such as politics, law and accounting.

Bankruptcy can be a relief if you are stressed about outstanding debts and have no way to pay them.  Although your credit is impacted, bankruptcy gives you the chance to make a fresh start.

New Bankruptcy Law

On October 17, 2005, new bankruptcy laws took effect. Congress felt these new laws were needed for several reasons:

  • When a person files for bankruptcy, the companies who do not get paid pass those expenses on to their other consumers in the form of higher prices.
  • More and more Americans were filing bankruptcy, so more and more other Americans were paying the price. This was having a major impact on the nation’s economy.
  • Congress felt that the laws then in place made it too easy for people to abuse the privilege of declaring bankruptcy, and that many people who filed for bankruptcy were able to pay at least some of their debts. One bill-collector noted the attitude of many people with this true example of a debtor. When the bill-collector called (for the umpteenth time) and finally got the debtor, the debtor said, “You people are driving me nuts with your calls.” The bill collector said, “But, sir, you readily took—and kept—our money.”

In order to try and solve these problems, the new bankruptcy laws have the following changes or additions to the old law:

  • You must complete a government-approved credit-counseling program with six months of applying for bankruptcy. A list of approved credit-counseling programs may be found at the U.S. Trustee Program’s Website:
  • You must show proof of income by providing a federal tax return from the most recent tax year. If you have not filed a return, you must do so before you can declare bankruptcy.
  • If tax returns show your income is above the median income of your state, and if you are able to pay $100 a month to reduce your debt, you must file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, not a Chapter 7. A formula, not your word, is used to determine if you can afford the $100 per month.

Note: A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is usually best if your income is very modest, your assets are few (because you may be required to give up some of them), and your debts are relatively high. Often called a “straight bankruptcy,” it allows for liquidation of some, but not all, types of debt.

On the other hand, with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, often called a “wage earner bankruptcy,” you can keep all of your assets, but you must pay all or some of your debts, paying the same amounts as you would without the bankruptcy. A difference is that you do this under the protection of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

  • Some automatic protections for those who have filed bankruptcy are no longer in place. For example a spouse can still take legal action to get child support, your landlord can still evict you, and the state can still suspend your driver’s license.
  • If you owe child support or alimony, those “bills” take supremacy over other kinds of bills.
  • Even though you had a credit counseling program before you started the bankruptcy proceedings, once you have finished the bankruptcy proceedings you must take another government-approved education program in financial management before any debt can be discharged. The U.S. Trustee Program also offers a list of approved financial management programs:
  • You are allowed to contribute up to 15% of your income to charity. Some people oppose this, seeing it as a loophole that could permit people who are on the income borderline to go with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, rather than Chapter 13.

If you would like to read the new bankruptcy law for yourself, the Library of Congress has it online:

A summary of the law can be found at

The full law may be read at