Do you feel like you are in debt prison? Are you in financial turmoil wondering how you can continue to keep everything from imploding on you? Did you know that there were actually debtor prisons in America before the Revolutionary War? Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was imprisoned in the 1700’s for failure to pay debts. The bible also warns against borrowing more than we can afford to pay. Proverbs 22:26-27 says do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.
Credit card use has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. From 1996 to 2005, the total number of bank credit cards almost doubled. In 2004 alone, credit card companies generated $43 billion in fee income from late payment, over-limit, and balance transfer fees. The Federal Reserve reports that the total US consumer revolving debt reached 2.46 trillion in 2007. This large increase in card usage has created a “fee feeding frenzy,” among credit card issuers. The whole credit card industry has really evolved for the benefit of creditors in recent years, with the industry imposing fees and increasing interest rates if a single payment is late. Penalty interest rates usually are as much as 30-39%, while late fees now often are $39 a month and over-limit fees are as much as $35. If you consider how that can add up over just one year, it could be very expensive. Consider this: late and over-limit fees alone can easily rack up $900, and a 30 percent interest rate on a $3,000 balance can add another $1,000.
The bottom line is, credit card companies want to issue as much credit as possible to as many people as possible and hope you barely make the minimum payment. It’s the exact same way these cash advance companies all over town work. They couldn’t care less if you ever pay it off. In fact, they do not want you to pay it off. While most card issuers claim this is the cost of doing business, consumers should not be charged excessively for small errors. Ultimately we are responsible for our own financial choices and credit purchase decisions. However its clear to see that credit card companies will continue to entice and market low teaser rate introductory offers (the bate) and make it easy for us to use the cards. This is attractive to the consumer because they can avoid waiting and have the items or purchases they want now. But what price will we actually pay for these items?
That said, roughly $355 billion in mortgage loans are set to adjust during 2008, to significantly higher interest rates. This means many borrowers may face additional difficulties. Hopefully the Bush administrations plan for a rate freeze for adjusting arms and foreclosure prevention will help many consumers avoid catastrophe. The combination of mortgage woes and credit card debt pileup has made many people feel as though they just walked out on a pirate ship plank with nowhere to turn.
So, what is the best way to find the road to financial prosperity?
First and most importantly, if you are in an adjustable rate arm loan, check the date that it is set to adjust in your paperwork from your title closing. If you closed two or three years ago and took one of these teaser loans it will adjust 24-36 months from the original closing date. This is very important because when it adjusts it can increase by two or three interest points. Your lender should notify you 30 days prior to your reset date and you may get reminders from lenders vying for your business. Don’t get yourself caught in this self destruction.
Mortgage interest rates are anticipated to remain steady or dip slightly in 2008; this may be a good opportunity to refinance into a 30-year fixed-rate. The FHA modernization act will make refinancing a good option for damaged credit borrowers to qualify for up to 95% of their homes value at competitive single digit interest rates and avoid incurring prepay penalties. The teaser arms sold over the past 2-3 years are under extreme scrutiny due to the explosive foreclosure epidemic and its effect on the overall economy. The FHA Secure is also a great option for those who need help to avoid foreclosure, allowing them to roll in the arrearage. The future of sub-prime lending appears to be bleak at best. Many borrowers had little options other than 2 or 3 year fixed rate sub prime arms over the last few years because of credit issues, and aggressive lenders pushing these loans on poor credit borrowers. Unfortunately, these same borrowers are now in trouble and imploding due to a cocktail of housing value depreciation, adjusting rates and maxed out credit cards. The bottom line to most of these issues is proper guidance and good decision making. Additionally, it is prudent that you choose an advisor that will educate you about any loans that are different than the norm, like arm loans, negative amortization loans and loans that do not collect escrows. Now, if that is not upsetting enough, federal regulators pressured credit card issuers to double the minimum payment requirements on credit card balances. This can be both good news and bad news for many Americans burdened by debt. While it may force you to pay the balance down, it can mean disaster for many who cannot afford the extra out-of-pocket expense each month