Greg Roberts

Greg Roberts

Would you believe that the total of all outstanding student loan debt is now $1.4 trillion? Since time immemorial, bankruptcy judges have virtually never been kindly disposed to eliminating student loan debt through bankruptcy. The Department of Education has even gone so far as to opine that student loans should only be canceled for a hardship that is expected to exist for the typical repayment period of 25 years. (How could that be proved?)

The problem has now reached epidemic proportions, since 45 million people have outstanding student loan debts. Thankfully, it now appears that bankruptcy judges are considering a more lenient definition of financial hardship, as well as the possibility of restructuring repayment schedules to make them more affordable. Since attorney costs for a bankruptcy filing can reach upwards of $10,000, some judges are asking attorneys to represent litigants pro bono.

According to The New York Times, “Several bills in Congress that would give even more flexibility to the courts to erase student loan debt in bankruptcy have stalled. Nonetheless, a movement appears to be growing amongst judges to at least consider cancellation, and the rising potential for student loan debt cancellation is in turn leading to more cases being filed to request it, which may mean it’s only a matter of time before the floodgates open.”

If you will be preparing your own tax returns this year without hiring a paid preparer like me, you will probably choose to use Turbotax software to prepare the forms. Turbotax has a huge market share of the tax software market – somewhere between 60 to 70 percent. As one who works for Turbotax during tax season, take it from me and purchase a CD from the Turbotax website or from your favorite retailer.

The CD (or downloaded version) has a terrific feature referred to as “forms mode,” which enables a user to preview each of the forms in the return. Moreover, using this mode will enable you to identify those forms in your return that contains errors. This feature is not available with the online version, but if you have a simple return, use the online approach.

As a result of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, it is now possible to freeze your credit without cost, but perhaps more importantly, it is now possible to freeze the credit of your children. Kids who are 16 and older are deemed to be adults for credit purposes, so you can use the “adult” forms available on the three major credit reporting companies’ websites: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

For younger children, the steps to freeze your under-15-year old’s credit are straightforward, since there are specific “Kiddie Freeze” forms and instructions online that outline what information to send in along with the completed forms. This required information is proof of your identity and that of your child. The completed forms and documentation must be faxed or mailed to the credit firm – they will not accept emailed forms. Once the forms are processed, a response is typically mailed back to confirm the freeze in a few weeks.

You may ask, why freeze my child’s credit? The answer is to prevent identity theft that may not crystallize until the child reaches adulthood and attempts to use credit for a loan.

Greg Roberts is a certified financial planner with 35 years of financial and estate planning experience. Do you have a financial planning question for Greg? Email him at greg@lifesolutionsonline.net.