The following are articles I have written for various clients:
Work Sample # 1
(Written for Life123.com, owned by IAC/Mindspark)
A Guide to Bankruptcy
The following guide to bankruptcy is designed to help you navigate a very serious decision: whether to file for bankruptcy or not. Filing bankruptcy seriously damages your credit score, remains on your credit report for ten years, and significantly complicates any opportunities to get further credit at reasonable interest rates. On the other hand, if you are in an overwhelming debt situation, filing bankruptcy may be the right answer for you since it will afford you a new start.
Is filing bankruptcy the right answer for you? Hopefully this guide to bankruptcy will help you figure out if the negative aspects of bankruptcy are worth the peace of mind that comes from wiping out the majority of your debts and starting fresh.
Understanding the Basics
Filing bankruptcy is a way to legally wipe out most of your debts and either start over fresh or repay an overwhelming amount of debt through a repayment schedule monitored by the court system. Bankruptcy protects you from your creditors, allowing you to keep some of your assets.
Before filing bankruptcy, try negotiating with creditors for settlements, long-term repayment plans, and deferments. Such negotiations require assertive, respectful discussions with your creditors about how much you can pay and what you can commit to. Expect to have to talk to many levels of management and for the negotiations to take a lot of time and effort. You may also want to consider an appointment with a credit repair agency (make sure the agency is certified and is considered reputable) for advice on how to solve your debt problems without filing for bankruptcy.
A good way to determine if bankruptcy is right for you is to check your options and emotional state. If you’ve exhausted the possibilities mentioned above and your debt is overwhelming you and threatening your emotional health, filing bankruptcy is a viable option.
It is essential to understand the difference between the two most common ways of declaring bankruptcy: chapter seven and chapter thirteen. A chapter seven bankruptcy rids you of almost all debt, but will result in you forfeiting many of your assets and will do the most damage to your credit score. A chapter thirteen bankruptcy is less taxing on your assets, but hinges on your commitment to repay most of your debts on a scheduled, court-ordered repayment plan using your expendable income over a three to five year time period.
Chapter Seven Bankruptcy
If you file a chapter seven bankruptcy, you can expect to lose most of your assets, but to gain a new start.
In exchange for court-determined assets, you will be absolved of most of your debts. The courts will determine what assets you will be allowed to keep, and collectors who are included in the filing will be told they can no longer contact you seeking repayment. The legal system will seize your assets, divide them up, and payoff your creditors as best they can with the amount of money the courts gain from the sale of your assets. You will have to go to court-supervised credit course to learn how to be a more responsible borrower.
However, not all of your debts will be erased. You will still have to pay any child support or alimony due, any taxes owed, any debt remaining on secured loans, and any restitution related to criminal convictions. Your lenders can still pursue repayment from any cosigners you may have on your debts.
If you are in a high enough income bracket (which is determined by figuring out if you have more than $100/month accessible as expendable income), you will not be allowed to file chapter seven bankruptcy.
You can only file for a chapter seven bankruptcy every eight years.
You will have a very hard time getting unsecured credit for quite a while – possibly years - after you declare a chapter seven bankruptcy.
Chapter Thirteen Bankruptcy
If you file for chapter thirteen bankruptcy, you will get to keep your assets and property, but you will be required to use a pre-determined portion of your income to repay whatever debt is owed via a court-ordered payment plan.
Choosing to file a chapter thirteen bankruptcy gives you some long-term advantages, even if it does not offer the level of upfront debt relief a chapter seven bankruptcy would provide. Creditors will view you more favorably (making it easier to get credit in the future) and some of your debts may be written off, since lenders are predisposed to go along with a court-monitored settlement or repayment plan. Because the court backs up the repayment plan, creditors are willing to settle because getting paid some of the debt is better than possibly not getting paid at all.
Chapter thirteen is unique in that cosigners not filing for bankruptcy are protected from collection efforts. This is significant if you have cosigned with any friends or family who would be negatively affected by a chapter seven bankruptcy.
It is also possible for only one person in a marriage arrangement to file a chapter thirteen bankruptcy, meaning your spouse can protect his or her credit rating, and only yours will suffer. This strategy is complex, so consult a bankruptcy lawyer before attempting to file for only one spouse.
You must be employed or bringing in some kind of steady income to file for a chapter thirteen bankruptcy.
1. Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for ten years.
This is one of the worst marks you can have on your credit report, and it will stick with you for a decade. It will significantly lower your credit score.
2. You may not have access to any new credit immediately after you file bankruptcy.
Creditors will be leery of lending you credit at all, and those that do offer you credit will most likely protect themselves by charging you fees and high interest. You may need to prove yourself with the use of a secured credit card before you qualify for unsecured credit cards or loans.
3. Everything related to credit is going to cost you more after you file bankruptcy. Your ability to get credit will be severely limited (especially if you filed for chapter seven), any credit that is available to you will be offered at high interest rates and accompanied by high fees, and even your insurance premiums will be higher. Most likely you will only qualify for sub-prime loans, if you qualify for a loan at all. Potential employers may look at your credit report and decide you are not a worthwhile risk.
1. If you are judgment-proof, reconsider before filing for bankruptcy.
If you don’t have any assets that can repossessed, you are what is referred to as judgment-proof, meaning collectors can’t force you to repay your debts because you don’t have any assets to seize and sell for the money. If you tell your debtors you are judgment-proof, they will be much more likely to negotiate a settlement or a long-term repayment plan you can handle.
2. Consider how filing bankruptcy will affect co-signers on your debts.
If you have cosigners on your debts who will be negatively impacted if you file bankruptcy, you need to weight the benefits of bankruptcy against the potentially disastrous impact of your creditors pursuing your cosigners for immediate repayment of your debts. Consider filing a chapter thirteen bankruptcy (if you decide you must file) if you are in this situation.
3. Determine if you will need access to credit anytime soon.
Examine your financial situation and decide if you can go years without access to credit before filing for bankruptcy. If you’re going to need credit extended to you anytime soon, you’re better off finding some way to borrow money or negotiate deferments, settlements, or repayment plans.
A legal way to relieve yourself of overwhelming debt and start over, monitored by the courts.
An agreed-upon amount to be repaid by a debtor in one lump sum, usually significantly lower in amount than the total debt owed.
A temporary reprieve from payments, generously extended by a creditor.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Filing bankruptcy is a significant financial move. It’s imperative that you understand the benefits and negative consequences of filing for bankruptcy before you agree to do so. This primer explains the differences between filing for chapter seven and chapter thirteen, and is intended to help you make an educated decision about filing bankruptcy.
Work Sample #2
(Written for The Frisky Geezer Magazine, April 2011)
Mind and Body: Do Your Laugh Lines Make You Cry?
Crow’s feet. Laugh lines. You know what I’m talking about: the evidence that you’ve enjoyed your life. Of course you’re proud that you’ve had such a good time, laughing and crying and living as a fully-engaged human being, but some nights we’re left standing in front of the mirror, make up removed, wrestling with the unspoken question: What on God’s green earth did I do to deserve to have these valleys etched into my face?
So much as you’ve sworn you’d never do anything to change your appearance (I’m going to age gracefully, you say. Naturally. Loved for who I am, not how I look), you find yourself eyeing $100 anti-aging creams, telling yourself a dollar a day isn’t too costly if it actually works, right?
If you’ve found yourself in this position (and if you haven’t, please do tell us your secrets because we’re dying to know what makes you the super-confident goddess that you are) you can consider the following options:
Just for the fun of it (because none of us are really going to let someone inject a bacteria that causes botulism into our faces, now are we?), let’s talk about this popular option. To get the low down, I spoke to Jo Furr, Registered Nurse and Manager of Yuvan Medical Spa and Wellness Center of Cornelius, North Carolina. Botox works by relaxing specific muscles that cause your face to develop those creases we’re so unhappy about. If the muscles can’t contract, no wrinkles appear.
Botox costs between $10.99 and $14.99 per unit, and a Botox treatment lasts on average about three to four months. How many units will you need? It all depends on how many wrinkly spots you want to tackle. For a wrinkle-free forehead (including those lines between your eyes that deepen every time you concentrate on something – and we like to concentrate, don’t we?) you’ll probably only need around twenty units, depending on how strong those scowling muscles of yours are. The whole process only takes fifteen to thirty minutes and is relatively pain-free. (You can handle it. How do I know? Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies.)
If you’ve got a few lines in particular that really bother you (like the ones on either side of your mouth, those ones that make you look a bit like a mannequin), you can get those folds filled with hyleroronic acid filler such as Restylane or Juvaderm. The nurse will simply inject filler just under the surface of your skin under those lines and then will massage the filler until it props up the skin, diminishing the folds.
Filler costs between $500-$750 per syringe, but Restylane lasts for six months, and Juvaderm lasts nine months to a year. Most fillers contain a form of analgesic, so it doesn’t hurt any more than the Botox. Chances are you’ve been comparing yourself to someone who’s had this done, which is unfair to your natural self.
Smother the Mother…
Alrighty. You’re the natural type. You will not let any kook inject crap into your face for any reason, never mind pay someone for such an indignity. I get it. But you’re still wondering what you can do to at least de-emphasize those wrinkles under your eyes…
First off, you know not to go outside without sun block, right? NEVER. Okay, you can get the mail without sunscreen, but other than that, you gotta make sure you slather on SPF30 every time. If you hate the greasy feeling you sometimes get with sunscreen, try Dermalogica’s SPF30 light moisture sun block. You won’t even know you have it on.
Furr reminds us that “your skin is an organ—your largest organ—and as such it needs to be cared for, just as you would care for any other organ, such as your heart or lungs.” As such, you’ll want to establish a skin care plan. Furr suggests you check out iS Clinical Youth Complex, which combines antioxidants with natural hydrators to plump your skin, improve elasticity and stimulate collagen production and iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex for around your eyes.
One of the easiest ways to deal with your wrinkles is to pull attention away from them by accentuating your features. Wear mascara, slap on some lipstick, color in your eyebrows, dye your hair a ravishing shade, and wear something fun. Put on a pair of sparkly or dangly earrings and most importantly, SMILE! It’s the best accessory there is.
Sometimes the best way to deal with wrinkles is to recover the mindset that you’ve earned them with that beautiful rich life of yours. You’ve laughed, you’ve cried, you’ve lived. Hallelujah! Who gives a damn about wrinkles anyway? Certainly only women who are shallower than you.