Nearly everyone experiences some type of financial setback during their lives. It might be due to external causes like a drop in the stock market, job loss, natural disaster, etc., or a more personal event such as a divorce, illness, overwhelming debt, or falling for a costly scam.
No matter the cause, stuff happens. USA Today reports that 10% of wealthy individuals — those with investable assets up to $10 million — are even living paycheck to paycheck. So, now is the time to move past the event and use this life experience to recover and build a stronger financial future. Fortunately, there are many resources and support services to help us during down times and as we struggle to get back on track. Share these tips with those who may need a helping hand.
- ..avoid scams — Scam artists are everywhere, and often target those who are most ulnerable financially. One positive way to stay on track toward recovery is to avoid the latest financial traps. This information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlights the creative strategies crooks are using to separate you from your money, and provides links to these and other specific types of scams: Credit & Loan Offer Scams, Debt Relief Scams, Identity Theft Scams & Recovery, Investment Scams, and Online Scams.
- Crowdfunding to help eliminate debt — Crowdcom offers a list of some of the top debt crowdfunding sites, as well as 16 sites specifically to help cover college and education costs. Caution: If the crowdfunding is a loan, be sure to read the fine print, identify the APR and related costs, the time frame, and what could happen if you default. Remember, you’re trying to recover, not add additional debt worries.
- Prescription drugs — Pharmaceutical companies often provide no- or low-cost medications for individuals who are unable to pay for them through Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). For more information, see PPARx.org, RxAssist.org, and Medicare.gov: PAP.
- Food — Public assistance programs, food banks, and food pantries provide food or assistance to those in need.
- Tax liabilities — Those who cannot meet their tax obligation can submit an Installment Agreement Request (IRS Form 9465-FS [PDF]; form instructions). The IRS will continue to add interest and penalties, so the sooner the taxes are paid, the faster the recovery will be. The IRS Fresh Start Program helps taxpayers remove tax liens from their credit reports…maybe even before the debts are fully paid.
- Student loans — If federal student loans have gone into default, consider student loan rehabilitation. It will remove the default, stop garnishments, and allow you to use an income-based repayment plan that may be as low as $50/month. Caution: This benefit can only be used once, so use it wisely.
- Medical bankruptcy — According to NBC News, medical bills contribute to almost two-thirds of all S. bankruptcies. Bankruptcy can have long- term drawbacks, but can also help wipe the slate clean for those whose finances have been devastated due to an accident or illness. Learn more about your options at AllLaw.com: eliminating medical bills in bankruptcy. As an alternative to bankruptcy, GiveForward is another crowdfunding source to help Americans reduce some or all of their healthcare bills, or help a loved one in need.
- Military families — Some of the many services available to military families who have suffered a financial setback or disaster include Operation We Are Here, Asset Recovery Kit (ARK), USA Cares, and MilitaryOneClick: Veterans.
- Mortgages — Talk to your lender about mortgage modification or refinancing your current lo For those who are behind on payments, go to MakingHomeAffordable.gov. Freddie Mac offers Relief Refinance Mortgages for those who have been unable to refinance due to declining home values. Many states also offer mortgage assistance, so check available options by Googling “mortgage reinstatement program [name of state].” The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program provides homeowners who owe more than their home is worth the option to avoid foreclosure through a deed-in-lieu (DIL) or a short sale. With a DIL, the homeowner simply transfers ownership to the lender; in a short sale, the mortgager agrees to allow the homeowner to sell the home for less than the mortgage. Caution: Be sure all lenders waive their rights to future collections once the home is sold.
- Covering the basics — Sometimes, just keeping the electricity and heat on can be a One resource that can help is Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This government program offers help with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and energy-related minor home repairs. Many states offer assistance as well. To locate these programs, go to Benefits.gov: Energy Assistance.
- Credit repair — Repairing your credit should be a priority after any setback, but don’t be fooled by credit repair companies claiming to help fix your credit or provide a new “credit identity.” The truth is, they cannot change anything that is accurate, and adopting a new identity — except in rare cases — is considered a felony, punishable by prison and/or a hefty fine. This FTC.gov page provides step-by-step instructions to repair false credit information. Obtain a free credit report (not just a score) from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Bouncing back after a financial setback is not always easy, but we hope these tips can help you overcome adversity and recover to become financially stronger than ever.