A recently published report by the Urban Institute says one in every three Americans has debt in collections and this widespread phenomenon can be found all over the country. Westchester, one of the wealthiest places on the map, is no exception.
As striking as this news is, it is no surprise to Leslie Tayne, Esq. and Managing Director of Tayne Law Group, a firm specializing in financial law and debt resolution. She calls it a debt epidemic, and goes so far as to say the economy has flat-lined.
Much of the consumer debt we see out there is directly related to the recent financial crisis, Tayne explains. It is taking longer to bounce back than other financial slumps. “There is usually a natural rise and fall, but there are no spikes and the lows are longer and that’s why we say it has flat-lined, she said in a recent interview.”
Much of the current consumer debt can be traced back to businesses that went under where the owner personally guaranteed loans, but there is plenty of student loan debt, credit card debt, personal bank debt and people who either have or are considering bankruptcy. And, this is all aside from mortgage debt and foreclosures.
“The first thing for people to know is that they are not alone,” Tayne emphasized.
It’s a common problem. Many people are struggling, but it is important to face the delinquencies and look at your credit reports to find out exactly where you stand.
Tayne says many people are afraid to look, either anticipating the worst or expecting they have solved all their problems, only to find the agreements they made were not binding in some way.
“We have people come in who expect to solve a $20,000 debt only to find they actually have a $30,000 problem,” Tayne said.
With more than a decade of experience in the practice area of consumer and business financial debt-related services, Tayne launched her law firm in 2001 and has become highly accomplished in negotiation and settlements with large national banks, credit unions, collection agencies and multiple creditor legal representatives.
It takes some clients a long time before they pick up the phone to get help, Tayne notes. “Many people think they can negotiate directly with a financial institution, but debt resolution is a legal matter and you really do need a lawyer,” she explains. “There is nothing to be ashamed of,” she adds. “Many of our clients are professionals. We see people with all kinds of jobs, good jobs.”
While the services offered are legal, Tayne says her practice charges differently from the ordinary law firm. “We don’t charge on an hourly basis and we don’t charge for the first sit-down.”
“I like to meet my clients face-to-face,” Tayne said. “We become partners, working out strategies. To solve the debt issue, many clients need advice on how to budget and to decide which expenses must be paid first. The process is totally nonjudgmental.”
This can be difficult for some Westchester clients, especially those in the 40 to 60 year-old age range, who have lived good lives and made plenty of money in the past. Today, they may find themselves out of a job or at a job paying much less with their retirement money spent and their children back in the house. “That’s a big strain on a budget,” Tayne said.
“There are still plenty of people out there paying back student loans, who have lost equity in their homes and their incomes have flat-lined.”
Tayne does not consider bankruptcy to be a viable alternative.
“Bankruptcy is not the answer,” Tayne believes. “People need to fulfill their obligations differently. It’s our job to help clients gain more control over their finances and to see them through. You don’t want to steal from Peter to pay Paul.”
One change Tayne has seen across the board is a move away from using credit to cash. “Many people are opting for debit cards,” she said, “and if they do get a credit card the limits are much lower than they used to be. We’re going through a change in lifestyle.”
With offices in White Plains, Mount Kisco and Manhattan, Tayne is available to see clients at different times and places. “If you think you need help, pick up the phone,” Tayne says. ‘There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You are not alone.”
For more information or to set up a free appointment call Tayne Law Group at 914-301-3300.