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The terrorist acts at the Boston Marathon were reprehensible, performed by a coward, or group of cowards and aimed at doing damage to so-called “soft targets”.  Let’s ditch the political correctness and call it what it is:  innocent, civilian men, women and children.  Yep, folks, it sure is a new era upon us.

Throughout the day yesterday, Gold was selling off in a hard way, as were other commodities.  stocks were in a steep descent, only deepended by the bombs at the Boston Marathon in the last hour of trading.  It was a brutal reminder just how fragile this economic recovery has been.

For those fortunate enough to have solid 401(k) and investment balances, the past few years have been quite good as the U.S. and other countries (most notably and recently Japan) have pumped trillions of printed dollars into the economies of the world, which has been driving the stock market to pre-crash highs once again.  The big question is whether those dollars have been chasing solid fundamentals in the underlying companies, or just fleeing low-return bonds and treasuries, and selling out of traditional safe-havens like gold.

There are two components to consider in the record sell-off in commodities:  First, in a world of hyper-inlfation that many think will eventually arise from all the monetary stimulous, commodities can help protect against the loss of purchasing power since they too will rise to meteoric levels if, in fact, inflation kicks in hard.  The second is in severe financial duress, commodities such as silver and gold are viewed as safe-havens against collapsing currencies, which can (and did in post WWI Germany) become literally worthless.

The only rational explanation for the recent sell off in gold is that despite slow growth and many fundamental problems in virtually every major economy world wide, the market thinks the net result of all the currency printing is still going to be slow growth.  With China, the world’s second largest economy logging a decrease in growth for the first quarter, yesterday’s steep sell-off  in both the stock markets and commodities, aggravated (although not caused) by the bombings in Boston show an incredible amount of uncertainty… the beneficiary?  U.S. Treasuries.  The good news for the U.S. is that with demand for treasuries comes more cheap money to further over-stimulate the economy.  The only rational conclusion I can draw is that the opium of trillions of stimulous being pumped into the economies world over will continue and the market will recover, until the next “trigger event” causes a decline of such epic proportions that we wont be able to recover.

Yes, the world as we knew it is gone for good.  We were reminded yesterday just how vulnerable we are to attack.  I believe that our financial world has changed as well as we are well beyond the point of no return with the reckless “print and spend” strategy of the federal government.  And I believe our day of financial reckoning is right around the corner, just when all of us were starting to feel some comfort again.  Shedding debt and acquiring safe-haven assets is now more important than ever to protect your family’s financial future.

Although I am not in the least an Obama fan (I am being kind here), at least I was happy to see some sense of vision for the future in Obama’s State Of The Union address last evening.  Some of Obama’s old fire was back, albeit misdirected once again.

I am sensing the same old disconnect again.  Sure, Wall Street is doing well recently, and hopefully it’s not a bubble and the Americans who still have some money in the markets were able to recoup some of their losses from the market highs of the past.  But make no mistake– Americans certainly arent feeling any richer.  Their home have lost value.  Their 401(k)’s are still down.  Jobs are still a big problem, and contrary to what appears as the officially published unemployment rate, things arent as good as the press wants everyone to believe.  There is once again a very serious disconnect between the bedfellows of Washington & Wall Street and the poor folks on main street.

I am not a census-taker.  My last name isnt Gallop.  But I do have eyes and ears, and I continually ask the question to many individuals, business owners, and just about everyone I come into contact with:  “do you feel richer, poorer, or what?”  “How do you feel now compared to four years ago?”  “are you more or less hopeful about your future than you were last year?   the year before?”.

The good news is that most Americans do believe that the worst of the financial hurricane is over.  They are looking around at the devastation it has caused in their lives, and now its time for the clean up.  Jobs are at the core of the American Psyche, and until employment improves, the sun may just be shining on the devastation in the wake of the storm. 

Certainly, we have had a glimmer of hope in recent months.  At least it is some improvement over the past couple of years for many.  But let’s be cognizant of the enormous debt we face, the Obama’s insistence on spending this country into oblivion, and the fact that any instability right now– whether it be a bursting of the stock market bubble, a financial crisis looming in a foreign country, steep inflation in cost of living (which is already underway if you look at prices at the pump, groceries and clothing), a war that develops (North Korea, the Middle East), and we are right back in a fix.  The only problem now is that people are just financially drained from trying to survive for the past two years. 

Banks’ balance sheets, in my opinion, are still not reflecting a ton of debt that is either in default or at risk for default.  Again, my opinion is not a scientific study, but what I see is some glimmer of hope amidst a real clean up mess.  The responses I get suggest the following among the “main-streeters”:

“THINGS ARE BOOMING”:                                                                virtually nil

“I’M SURVIVING”:                                                                                45%

“MY SITUATION IS STILL DETERIORATING                           35%

“I AM IN A CRISIS”                                                                               20% 

The concern I have with the numbers above from my independent study is this:  My offices is in a relatively upwardly mobile income area, and consists of many families, professionals, and business owners.  I would classify the study population as mostly middle to upper middle class families.  It exemplifies, and truly makes me wonder what results would occur if the study was taken involving all walks of life.  Over half of the people interviewed were not making any forward progress, and just still trying to stem the flow of blood.

When you really peel this proverbial “onion”, there are still a lot of layers to it all.  I sure hope we dont find a worm in the middle.  What I do know is that people are still concerned about jobs.  For those fortunate enough to have found jobs, there are many out there that are working for 1/2 to 2/3 of their former income.  Two-earner households are still living on one paycheck. 

It’s about the jobs, Mr. Obama.  You discussed the “jobs” problem, but offered no clear direction in your speech.  All the rosiness of the future you painted in your speech doesnt mean a hill of beans if people cant support their families.  All the clean air in the world doesnt feed the people.  Dont spend money on dumb stuff that no ordinary Americans care about.  Lower taxes, give small business a real chance to recover, and just get out of our way.  We are Americans, and we will survive.

Many people find themselves buried in debt; mortgages, credit cards and medical bills that appear to be endless. There are debt solutions to stop the landslide. Common reasons for spiraling debt include job loss, unforeseen emergencies, divorce and overspending. There are three primary options for an individual facing financial hardship and bad debt: debt management, debt settlement and bankruptcy.

Getting back on the right track can appear to be almost impossible, and individuals need to be aware that there are many scams and unethical advertisements for services that actually worsen their situation. To solve your debt problems, you need to understand your options and then seek out legitimate providers of debt settlement or bankruptcy services. In North Carolina, it is illegal for anyone other than a North Carolina licensed attorney or a non-profit organization to offer debt settlement services.

Harassing collection calls and billing notices can create high levels of fear and anxiety, and individuals will impulsively sign on with a pseudo-debt service without any research. High fees and fine print, which states that the fees must be accumulated first before paying $1.00 towards your debt, can make a bad financial situation even worse. Be wary of these illegal service providers- do your homework, ask for references, check that they are licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina.

Currently, the North Carolina Attorney General is actively prosecuting fraudulent debt service providers and individuals illegally engaged in debt settlement practice.

About the Author: Joseph M. Bochicchio, PLLC. is a licensed Charlotte, NC Bankruptcy Lawyer with nearly 2 decades of experience in finance and law. His Charlotte Debt Settlement Law Firm is committed to providing legal and ethical guidance for North Carolinians facing financial hardship.

Ignore what you see on television ads, hear on the radio or advice from your next door neighbor.  The aim of this article is to clear up some common misconceptions regarding bankruptcy alternatives.  First, there is Debt Management.  Debt Management programs are a form of consolidation of your existing unsecured obligations into one payment, usually at a lower rate, for an extended term.   You send one monthly payment, for a pre-negotiated amount to a not-for-profit, North Carolina LICENSED debt management company, who then distributes payments each month to your creditors in the program until your debts are paid off.

Debt Settlement is the process which in North Carolina, only a NC licensed lawyer or not for profit consumer credit counseling company licensed in this state may perform.  Debt Settlement involves contacting each of your creditors and negotiating reduced payoff balances, either in a lump sum payment or in a series of payments to settle your account in full.  Dont confuse this with debt management… Debt settlement will, in fact, negatively impact your credit, and is a final effort to prevent bankruptcy as an alternative solution.

It is important that you contact a qualified, North Carolina licensed attorney familiar with bankruptcy to advise you as to whether management, settlement, or bankruptcy is the best option in your particular circumstance. Financial hardship can get worse if you fall victim to one of the many unscrupulous and illegal scams out there.

About the Author: Joseph M. Bochicchio, PLLC., is a licensed Charlotte, NC Bankruptcy Lawyer with nearly 2 decades of experience in finance and law. His Charlotte Debt Settlement Law Firm is committed to providing legal and ethical guidance for North Carolinians facing financial hardship.

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