09 Apr How Cognitive Biases Can Drive You Into Bankruptcy

Are you familiar with the term cognitive bias? A cognitive bias represents an error in reasoning or decision making when you disregard accurate information in favor of your subjective preferences and beliefs. In other words, you exhibit a cognitive bias when you “go with your gut” rather than more objective information. Taken to an extreme, cognitive biases can lead you into bankruptcy, or can prompt bad choices when you are in bankruptcy. Here are some examples.

Have You Fallen Victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy?

One cognitive bias I see frequently in my bankruptcy practice is the sunk cost fallacy. It usually takes the form of a client refusing to surrender an expensive and unaffordable house or car because “I have put so much money into that house/car I would be throwing all that money away if I gave it up.” Obviously, your financial capacity to pay a car note or mortgage in the future has nothing to do with what you have invested in that item in the past. Either you can comfortably afford your purchase or you can’t, and if you are contemplating bankruptcy you should fight against the sunk cost fallacy. There is an old saying “don’t throw good money after bad” which is the correct frame of mind if you are struggling with a sunk cost decision.
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06 Mar Are We Seeing a Return to Debtors’ Prisons?

Some time ago, I posted a video on my YouTube channel posing the question “Can I Go to Jail for Not Paying Credit Card Debt?” The answer to this question is “no” - if you don’t pay your credit card bill, the lender bank can sue you for money damages, but they have not power to throw you in jail. Only the state or federal government has the power to incarcerate you for not paying debts and the type of debts that could result in jail time include unpaid such obligations as past tax debt, fines due to governmental units, past due child support and other debts owed to governments. Interestingly I get comments on this video claiming that the commentator or someone the commentator knows has been put in jail for common private debt like unpaid credit card bills and other signature loan. It turns out that there is some truth to what my video viewers are saying.
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06 Feb Why Surrendering Your Car or House in a Chapter 13 May Create Unexpected Problems

One of the more powerful tools available to you when you file a personal bankruptcy has to do with your option to cancel an installment contract and surrender secured collateral. This applies to all forms of secured collateral, including such things as houses, motor vehicles, furniture, and jewelry. In a Chapter 7, your surrender of secured collateral will usually mean an end to your obligation to the secured creditor. Any remaining debt owed to the creditor for a deficiency balance will be treated as unsecured debt and unsecured debt is generally going to be eliminated with your Chapter 7 discharge. In Chapter 13, however, your act of surrendering collateral does not necessarily mean that you are done with the now unsecured creditor. Unsecured creditors often do get paid in Chapter 13 - sometimes as little as 1 penny on the dollar, but sometimes as much as 100 pennies on the dollar (i.e, they are paid in full).
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