What Is A Consumer Proposal?

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It's been over six years since the Canadian government made changes to the Bankruptcy & Insolvency Act (BIA) in Canada to make bankruptcy more expensive and to promote an alternative: a consumer proposal. Today they are more popular than ever because they have significant advantages over any other form of debt relief option in Canada. But since many still don't know a lot about what a consumer proposal is, I sit down with Ted Michalos and Joel Sandwith, trustees at Hoyes Michalos, to answer some of the top questions about consumer proposals in Canada.

A consumer proposal can be defined as a proposal, or arrangement, made to creditors under the Bankruptcy & Insolvency Act to settle debts for less than the full amount owing. As explained by Ted Michalos,

the easiest way to think of a proposal is it's a deal you make with your creditors.

The big difference between a bankruptcy and consumer proposal is that in a bankruptcy you are saying you can't afford to pay back any of your debt. The cost, then, is very clearly defined by rules set out in the Act based on your income and the assets that you own. In a consumer proposal, you repay part of the debt based on what you can afford because a consumer proposal is a negotiated deal. To continue with Ted's definition:

So, depending on how much it is that you owe, you enter into a negotiation where you offer to repay a portion of that. And the trick or the finesse with a consumer proposal, is figuring out how big that portion has to be.

A consumer proposal is not for everyone with debt. It is an alternative to bankruptcy for those individuals who are in severe financial trouble and cannot repay what they owe.

Consumer proposals have been around since the early 1990's. However, they were not used widely at that time. The BIA was changed in 2009 to mean that personal bankruptcy became more expensive by requiring anyone who earned above a certain amount to pay extra into their bankruptcy. The payment is called surplus income. In addition, the government legislated that if you earned enough to make surplus income payments, your bankruptcy, and thus your payments, would also last longer. The end result is that, for many people, the cost of bankruptcy increased dramatically. All of a sudden there was a significant financial benefit, in terms of monthly costs, to consider filing a consumer proposal. As we can see in the chart below, proposals have become significantly more popular since that time and by 2015, almost half of all insolvency filings in Canada are now consumer proposals, and this number is 55% in Ontario.

consumer proposal canada

Other reasons to consider a consumer proposal.

  • The satisfaction of repaying a portion of your debts.
  • Your record does not show that you filed a bankruptcy.
  • The process is cheaper than a debt consolidation and there is no need to qualify for a loan.
  • No interest, payments go 100% towards your reduced debt obligation.
  • Payments are fixed and do not change.

Who qualifies for a consumer proposal?

You must have a minimum debt of $1,000 and less than $250,000; mortgages and other secured debts are not included in this amount. The average person filing a consumer proposal with our firm owes approximately $52,000 in unsecured debts including credit card debt, bank & financing loans such as unsecured lines of credit, tax debts and payday loans.

the minimum level is $1,000, which is a little ridiculous. But the Bankruptcy Act was written back in the 20's when a thousand dollars was a lot of money.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcript below to learn more about:

  • How voting and creditor approval of a proposal works.
  • Does a consumer proposal stop a wage garnishment?
  • How long a consumer proposal lasts.
  • What is a lump sum proposal?
  • How a proposal will affect your credit report.
  • What happens if you pay off your consumer proposal early.

Useful Resources

FULL TRANSCRIPT show #56 with Ted Michalos and Joel Sandwith

what-is-a-consumer-proposal-transcript

Doug Hoyes: It's the last weekend of the month, so as is our custom, today's show is a Frequently Asked Questions show. This is show number 56 and since we do a show every week, that means, obviously, we've done over a year's worth of Debt Free in 30 shows.

Ever since our first Frequently Asked Questions show I've considered doing this topic, but I've hesitated cause it's not a topic we can easily squeeze into one show. However, this topic comes up on many of the shows we do so today we're going to finally get to this important topic.

To discuss it, I'm joined by Ted Michalos, my Hoyes Michalos co-founder and business partner. Ted, welcome back, how are you doing?

Ted Michalos: Not bad, how are things?

Doug Hoyes: Good today. So, today's first question, Ted, I want you to tell me about September 18th, 2009.

Ted Michalos: September 18th, 2009. I'm pretty sure it was a Friday.

Doug Hoyes: Yep, you're right.

Ted Michalos: I think Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was out.

Doug Hoyes: Yes, that was the day it as released.

Ted Michalos: And I'm sure that I was watching the end of Guiding Light after its 72 runs.

Doug Hoyes: 72 years, The Guiding Light was on and that was its last show.

Ted Michalos: That's why I wasn’t around that afternoon. You may recall I took it off.

Doug Hoyes: I do remember that. But there was something else that happened that day. So, tell me what else happened September 18th, 2009?

Ted Michalos: Well on September 18th, 2009 significant changes were made to the bankruptcy and insolvency act, in particular around consumer proposals.

Doug Hoyes: Exactly so, that's what the topic of our Frequently Asked Questions session is going to be today. We're going to talk about why that day, just over seven years ago, was so important. But, first let's get to the basics. So, what is a consumer proposal?

Ted Michalos: The easiest way to think of a proposal is it's a deal you make with your creditors. So, depending on how much it is that you owe, you enter into a negotiation where you offer to repay a portion of that. And the trick or the finesse with a consumer proposal, is figuring out how big that portion has to be.

Doug Hoyes: So, that sounds kind of like bankruptcy, what's the difference?

Ted Michalos: Well, bankruptcy you're saying I can't afford to repay any part of my debt. And they're very specific rules for what it's going to cost you. It's all based on your income and things that you own. A proposal is literally a negotiated deal. You say look, I can't afford to repay all of it but I can repay part of it. And for a lot of people it's a lot more attractive solution. The whole idea of filing bankruptcy makes people upset. It shouldn’t because it's a procedure that you're allowed to use to solve your debt problems, but I get it; bankruptcy's got some bad connotations loaded with the word. A consumer proposal is that you repay part of your debt. And just about everyone we talk to feels better about repaying part of what they owe.

Doug Hoyes: So, in a real simple scenario then, the typical person we're dealing with is going to have 40, 50, $60,000 worth of unsecured debt. So, we're not talking about mortgages here, we're talking about credit cards, bank loans that sort of thing. And so, are you saying that everyone who has debt should automatically file a consumer proposal?

Ted Michalos: No, you got to remember a consumer proposal is designed to be an alternative to bankruptcy. So, when you're looking at bankruptcy as a solution you're saying, look, I really am in a lot of financial trouble and I can't afford to deal with these debts. With a proposal you're saying I can't afford to deal with part of the debt. So, I'm not ready to file bankruptcy, it's not the alternative I need, I can afford to repay part of what I owe. It's a win, win for everybody. The creditors get more money than they'd get if you filed bankruptcy, you feel better about yourself because you've repaid part of what you owe.

Doug Hoyes: So, you're kind of in a middle zone here. I owe too much money to pay it off on my own, which of course is always the best answer. I mean if you got $5,000 owing on your credit card and you want to make a budget, cut your expenses, get it paid off, we're certainly advocating doing that if at all possible. But if you got more debt than you can afford to pay off, but you don’t want to do the bankruptcy, then the proposal makes sense. And we'll get into some more details on that.

So, let's get back to September 18th, 2009. Prior to that date, our firm, Hoyes Michalos, filed more bankruptcies than consumer proposals. In fact, if you go back to our first year in business, which was 1999, that year we filed 209 bankruptcies, I actually looked it up, and only 89 proposals. So, that's more than twice as many bankruptcies than proposals. But the ratio last year was a lot different than that. We were 55/45. We filed more consumer proposals than bankruptcies.

Ted Michalos: And we've been doing that since 2009.

Doug Hoyes: Since these big changes.

Ted Michalos: That's exactly right.

Doug Hoyes: And in fact when you look at the province as a whole, that's pretty much the way it is everywhere. So, what's changed? Why is it that we used to file way more bankruptcies than proposals and now it's the other way?

Ted Michalos: Well let's go back to some even older history, then. Consumer proposals I think started somewhere in the early 90's. It was 92 or 93 that it became part of the law. And for a lot of existing trustees they didn’t fully grasp the concept. They weren’t convinced that it was a better solution for their clients. We've always believed that a proposal makes sense if you can afford to repay part of your debt, you should. So, even before the rules changed in 2009, we were filing more proposals than most people. I think partially because we're younger than these other guys, but that may not hold true anymore.

In 2009 one of the major changes to the rules was bankruptcies became longer and much more expensive. And because of that, trustees then took a look at this and saying you know what? Maybe proposals are a better deal for our clients. And so many more people got involved that way. In our particular case, cause we were already doing a lot of proposals, it just made another segment of our client base, the folks that had expensive bankruptcies - and I can explain that to you some day if you like - proposals became much more attractive for them.

Doug Hoyes: Well, so let's talk about this whole concept of the expensive bankruptcy. So, then what makes a bankruptcy expensive?

Ted Michalos: Well, the whole idea behind bankruptcy is you're saying I can't afford to repay any part of my debt. But the rules say you've got to contribute something based on your income and the things that you own. So prior to 2009, the rules were a little loosey goosey. They were optional, they weren't always enforced properly. So, they said that you're making this amount of money you should pay more but you didn’t always have to. As of 2009, the government set up very strict regulations. If you're making more than the allowable amount, you will pay penalties and instead of a bankruptcy being nine months long it will be 21 months long. Well, suddenly the cost of bankruptcy more than doubled over night.

Doug Hoyes: So, let's take a real simple example. I'm a single guy, I make around three grand a month. So, under the old rules, well, you know, it was kind of up to the trustee what I was going to pay. It wasn’t strictly enforced. Under the new rules -

Ted Michalos: Under the new rules you're going to pay roughly $450 a month. And you're going to do that for 21 months. So the old rules, the bankruptcy cost you $1,800, $2,000. The new rules the bankruptcy's going to cost you $4,500 to $5,000.

Doug Hoyes: So, the government sets these income limits. If I'm over them, an extra year gets added to my bankruptcy.

Ted Michalos: That's right and your payments during that entire year.

Doug Hoyes: And I'm paying. And if I've been bankrupt before it's still an extra year that gets added. But I'm starting from, instead of nine months -

Ted Michalos: Two years. So, it used to be if you had a previous bankruptcy at the end of nine months we'd put you in front of a judge. Now the government said, well nope you will be bankrupt for a minimum of two years and if you're earning more than the guidelines, it'll be three years. So, it's significantly more expensive.

Doug Hoyes: And this is the reason why consumer proposals have become such a good option, then.

Ted Michalos: Yeah, it's certainly one of the reasons. When bankruptcies became more expensive more people said well wait a minute there's value in me not filing bankruptcy. I'm willing to pay a little bit extra into a proposal because the monthly payment will be lower. I'll repay my debts and I won't have a bankruptcy on my record.

Doug Hoyes: So, instead of going bankrupt and paying perhaps 4 or $500 a month for 21 months, maybe I can do a proposal and only do 2 or $300 a month over a longer period of time.

Ted Michalos: That's right. The example you were giving, the guy making that $3,000. Let's say he had $50,000 worth of debt, that's a pretty common number. In the proposal he'd probably have to offer $250 a month for five years as a settlement. He's been offered $15,000 of the 50 that he owes. The bankruptcy that we just said is going to cost him somewhere around $5,000. So, the proposal's a lot more money, but that $250 payment is a lot easier than the $450 or $500 the bankruptcies going to require.

Doug Hoyes: And that becomes the big advantage of a consumer proposal. Now you were talking about offering this settlement and how that all works, I'd like to get into a bit of that but we're going to take a quick break first, and we're going to come back and talk more about consumer proposals with Ted Michalos here on Debt Free in 30.

Doug Hoyes: We're back here on Debt Free in 30. We're talking about consumer proposals. So, before the break, Ted, you were talking about the advantages of a consumer proposal, particularly as compared to a bankruptcy.

So, spell it out for me then. In general, why would someone be doing a consumer proposal instead of a bankruptcy cause the conventional wisdom is well you go bankrupt, your debts are gone, it takes nine months and your done. Why would you do a consumer proposal where you have to pay a whole bunch of money over a period of time? What's the reason I would be picking a consumer proposal?

Ted Michalos: I think the biggest reason really is an emotional one. There's still a lot of baggage associated with filing bankruptcy. And for a lot of people the thought that you know what, I repaid part of what I owed, I incurred the debt, I can repay part of it I just can't deal with all of it makes them feel better. I think the biggest single advantage is you feel better about yourself; you're repaying part of what you owe. Now, from a financial standpoint it's a huge savings. The example we used before the break you owe $50,000 you offer to pay back 15, $35,000 worth of debt and interest and all those penalties is just gone. So, it's like winning the lottery.

Doug Hoyes: But why not just do a debt consolidation, then? Why would I go the consumer proposal route?

Ted Michalos: So, a debt consolidation, if you qualify, is not a bad solution. For people that don’t understand it: consolidation loan, you go to a bank you get a line of credit or a loan to repay all of your debts. Now usually it's at a much better interest rate, you're paying over an extended period of time so the payments are lower than what you used to be banking. Now compared to a proposal, the payments are significantly higher. One of the features of a proposal is that there are no new interest charges. And so not only are you repaying a portion of what you owe, you're also not being charged any more interest. So, your payment every month pays down the debt that you've agreed to repay as opposed to going towards interest and then towards the principle. I mean the cash savings are huge.

Doug Hoyes: And in most consumer proposals, you're paying less than the full amount owning, that's the whole point.

Ted Michalos: Yeah, I mean the average consumer proposal is probably somewhere around a third of what you owe. The rules are fairly specific. You need to offer a greater benefit than your creditors would get in a bankruptcy. But you also need to offer them enough money that they'll agree to it. And so most of the Canadian commercial lenders, the banks, the credit card companies have told us they're looking for about a third of what you owe.

Doug Hoyes: So, how do I know then if I qualify for a consumer proposal or if I should be going for one of these other options?

Ted Michalos: The best thing to do is to actually sit down with someone licensed by the government to deal with these things. It sounds self-serving, but I'm a licensed trustee, you're a licensed trustee, trustees will talk to anybody for free.

One of my big bugaboos or gripes, if you want to use a different term, is that they're all sorts of people advertising debt reduction to consumers. We'll reduce your debt by 60, 70%, you can avoid bankruptcy. All of that's true, but these guys are just consultants. They're going to charge you a fee and then refer you to somebody like me that's actually licensed to do the work. So, if you want to save yourself some money look for a licensed trustee or consumer proposal administrator. Talk to them, the conversation will be free; they'll tell you whether or not you qualify.

Doug Hoyes: So, and I get it. You're saying that there's going to be some math that the trustee's going to have to do. In general terms, so someone's listening to this today and they go okay I got a lot of debt. I don’t know if I should just try to pay if off myself or if I can't is there any kind of rule of thumb that you would use? I mean if it's going to take me 50 years of minimum payments to pay off my debt, then I guess I'm going to need to get help.

Ted Michalos: Yes. I mean the decision you've got to make is when you look at your monthly budget, how much have you got available to pay towards your debt? If all you've got at the end of the month is enough to make the minimum payments, then you've seen the notes on your credit cards; It'll take you 30, 40, 50 years to pay off your debt. Well, all you're really doing is making money for the bank. If you can't afford to pay more than minimum payments, if you can't even make the minimum payments then probably you need to find another solution. And the solution we're talking about today is a consumer proposal.

Doug Hoyes: So, if it's going to take me many, many years to pay off my debts then you should be coming in and talking to us. So, in terms of qualifying for a consumer proposal, how much debt do I have to owe in order to qualify?

Ted Michalos: I mean the minimum level is $1,000, which is a little ridiculous. But the Bankruptcy Act was written back in the 20's when a thousand dollars was a lot of money.

Doug Hoyes: And what's the maximum?

Ted Michalos: The maximum is a quarter million dollars of debts, excluding the mortgage on your house, and that's an awful lot of money. The average person that we talk to owes between 50, $60,000. That seems to be the critical level when people really feel a lot of pain.

Doug Hoyes: So if you owe something less than $250,000, not including the mortgage on your principle residence, if you're unable to pay your debts, that's the kind of person who would qualify for a consumer proposal.

Ted Michalos: Now having said that, the lowest number I think I've seen, I've done proposals for people with debts as low as $7,500. And the reason a proposal worked for them was they had all kinds of payday loans and stuff coming right off their paycheques; so, they were in a cycle they couldn’t break. So, even though it wasn’t a lot of debt, it was more debt than they could deal with. The thing is if you're experiencing financial difficulty, find somebody that you trust that you can talk to; we're suggesting you talk to a trustee. You could also find a not-for-profit credit counselling agency. You could make an appointment to talk to somebody at the bank, but they'll probably tell you that they're not qualified to help you deal with your debts - they'll help you incur more debt, but they won't help you sort out the mess.

Doug Hoyes:   Yeah, they're lenders. So, you said that the way a proposal works is we come up with this deal, we're gonna pay this much for this long, and then we do up the paperwork, we send it out to the creditors, they then say yes or no. Is that how it works?

Ted Michalos: Yeah. A creditor can say yes, no or counter offer. In the majority of cases, if your trustee and you have come together with a deal that makes sense to everybody, they just say yes. And that literally is a majority of the cases. But there are cases where the creditors say, you know what, I think maybe you could pay a little bit more. So, the example we've been using this whole program was that $250 a month, maybe they come back and say, you know what, I think you can probably afford to pay $300 or maybe $325. Then you get to decide, well do you agree to that, or do you counter their counter offer? It's called a proposal because you're making a proposal - an offer - and sometimes there's a negotiation involved.

Doug Hoyes:   And how does the voting work then?

Ted Michalos: So, every dollar you owe is a vote and we need a majority of the dollars to say yes. One of the beauties of a consumer proposal is that if we have a majority of the dollars say yes, then they're all forced to accept it. So, let's say you owe that $50,000 and $30,000 agrees to the proposal and $20,000 doesn't, well because 30 is more than half, all 50 is forced to accept the terms.

Doug Hoyes: So, it's simple math. And we're simplifying this a little bit in terms of how the voting and the meetings work -

Ted Michalos: We are.

Doug Hoyes:  - but that's the concept, if you owe $50,000 in debt and we can get $25,000 and one of the dollars to say yes, then the proposal is going to be accepted.

Ted Michalos: And don't be intimidated by this whole voting concept, this is what your trustee is doing for you. So, this is all done behind the scenes. You show up at the office, we calculate what we think a reasonable deal is - something that you can afford and we think the creditors will agree to - the proposal is filed and the voting is all done by fax and phone back and forth between you and the trustee and the creditors. You're never talking directly to the creditors, so there's a buffer, you don't need to be intimidated; you don't need to be afraid of the process.

Doug Hoyes: And that's why we're there. So, let's do some real quick answers, yes, no, see if we can bang through some of the questions that people typically ask us about this. So, will a consumer proposal stop collection calls?

Ted Michalos: Yes, it will.

Doug Hoyes: Okay, that's pretty simple. Will a consumer proposal stop a wage garnishment?

Ted Michalos: For anything other than a support payment. So, if somebody's got a judgement against you, certainly it stops it; if you're paying child support or spousal support, I can't help with that.

Doug Hoyes:  Because that's a separate piece of legislation. So, get us the details on who's garnisheeing you and we can get that stopped. So, we already, I think, kind of addressed what a consumer proposal costs. It's going to be, without knowing anything, around a third of your debts -

Ted Michalos:  Yeah, that's always a good guess; use that as a starting point.

Doug Hoyes: And it could be more if you happen to have higher income or assets, or something. How long does a consumer proposal last?

Ted Michalos: So, the maximum time period you're allowed to offer payments is 60 months. And in most cases, that's where we start. And the reason we do that is because it produces the lowest monthly payment. But quite frankly, you can offer a proposal that says, if you guys agree to this deal, I'll write you a cheque in 30 days and it's done. And we see those - well, one or two of those a month, anyway.

Doug Hoyes: So that's a lump sum proposal, it can be done a lot quicker. And how long is the   consumer proposal going to stay on my credit report for?

Ted Michalos: So, while you're actually making payments, it'll show on your credit bureau that you're in a proposal, and then when it's done, there'll be a warning in the legal section for up to three years. And that's important to note because a bankruptcy that warning is there for up to six years. If your wages were garnisheed, it's six years; if a debt was written off it's six years. So a proposal actually cleans things up in a much nicer way, much more quickly.

Doug Hoyes:  What about tax debts, can they be included in a consumer proposal?

Ted Michalos: They certainly can and it's a pretty common debt to include. Now, if the only person you owe is the government, negotiating can be a little more difficult, but tax debts are certainly included and it's very common.

Doug Hoyes:    How long does it take the creditors to approve the proposal, then? If I file it today, when do I know that they're going to say yes?

Ted Michalos: So, they get 45 calendar days to vote. If a majority haven't asked for - voted against it or asked for a meeting of creditors, then it's approved at that 45 day mark. Oh no, that's not true. That's when the creditors are done with it, you get another 15 days where you can still change your mind. So on day 60, if everybody's in agreement, the proposals approved.

Doug Hoyes:    But in the vast majority of cases, after 45 days you know if it's a yes or a no.

Ted Michalos: That's right. So, on day 46 we'll notify you and say yes the creditors have agreed. You then, still have that 15 days where you could call us and say, you know what, I just don't want to do this, it's a bad idea.

Doug Hoyes:  Which is highly unlikely, cause we've got them to agree, that's kind of what you're doing. So, what is the acceptance rate? So, if you file a proposal, what are the chances of it going to be accepted?

Ted Michalos:  I can't tell you what the overall rate is for everybody in the industry; I can tell you that it's something like 99% of all of our proposals are accepted either as filed or amended. So, we're going to get you a deal unless there's something very interesting about your history.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah. If you've committed some massive fraud then we may have a bit more difficulty. Final question, can I leave a creditor out of my proposal?

Ted Michalos: Your proposal has to treat everybody the same way. So, credit cards, lines of credit, income taxes, payday loans - all of these people have to be included. You can't say, you know what, I'd really like to keep my Acme credit card so I can still do some shopping, I need it for emergencies. Everybody's in or everybody's out.

Doug Hoyes:  And that's what makes the process fair. Great, thanks very much for being here, Ted.

Ted Michalos:  Always a pleasure.

Doug Hoyes:  We'll be right back to wrap it up, you're listening to Debt Free in 30.

Let's Get Started Segment

Doug Hoyes: It's time for the Let's Get Started segment here on Debt Free in 30 and we're talking about consumer proposals.

So I'm joined now by Joel Sandwith who is a bankruptcy trustee and consumer proposal administrator with Hoyes Michalos is London and Sarnia. Joel I'd like you to explain what happens if someone pays off their proposal early. So, a typical proposal you do, I assume, is I'm paying this much over this amount of time; the maximum period would be five years, some of them might be less than that.  So let's say I start a proposal with you and I'm paying, I don't know, $300 or $400 a month for five years and things start going pretty good for me; I've got extra money, I get a raise at work, whatever. So, first question: can I pay off the proposal early?

Joel Sandwith: Absolutely. No question about it.

Doug Hoyes: Is there a penalty for paying off the proposal early?

Joel Sandwith: None whatsoever.

Doug Hoyes:   So, it's not like a mortgage where I gotta pay three months extra if I want to pay it off early, once I've agreed to a $20,000 proposal, let's say, I can pay that $20,000 as quick as I want. So, do you recommend someone should pay off their proposal early or is that the sort of thing that, well, maybe you're going to be stretching yourself too thin and you shouldn't? How should I think through that thought process?

Joel Sandwith:  It's going to be a very individual answer. There are some situations where paying off the proposal more quickly is going to be hugely advantageous, to be able to move on with credit rating, to save money for other things. In some cases, we would possibly suggest that a person not pay too quickly and put themselves at risk of being in another financial bind. But for the most part, the suggestion that we're going to have is, if you're in a position to pay the proposal more quickly, creditors will be happy to take the money more quickly, proposal is done more quickly, comes off your credit report faster.

Doug Hoyes: Now, you used the term paying the proposal off more quickly. So, if I'm set up to pay, let's say it's a $300 a month proposal, and I get paid bi-weekly, so I can set that up with you to pay $150 every two weeks, right?

Joel Sandwith: Absolutely. And then you're done in four years and seven months.

Doug Hoyes: So, by taking the monthly payment and cutting it in half and making it a bi-weekly payment, I'm obviously paying it off quicker anyways. What if I phone you up and say, hey you know what, I just got a little bit of a raise at work, so instead of paying $150 every two weeks, I'd like to pay $175 every two weeks. Is that possible?

Joel Sandwith: Certainly. When you're working with Hoyes Michalos, you're working with a very well structured payment system and if you have an adjustment that needs to be made, that will help you to get your proposal done more quickly, we're happy to accommodate that.

Doug Hoyes: And what's the lead time on that? So, you know, my payday is next Friday and that's when my payments are coming out, do I have to give you two weeks notice that I want to make that change?

Joel Sandwith: It wouldn't be necessary to give us that kind of a time frame. If you can let us know a day or two ahead of when you want the change made, we'd be happy to do that for you.

Doug Hoyes: And then you're up and running. You know, my own opinion is, rather than trying to save up a whole bunch of money so that you've got the final $10,000 of your proposal and you can bring it in; the much simpler way to do it is to make gradual small changes in the bi-weekly or weekly or monthly payments that you're making. An extra $25 probably isn't going to make that big a difference to you. And then you're gradually chipping away - it's not going to seriously impact your budget, but you get it paid off quicker.

You mentioned credit report. So, in a consumer proposal, how long does a consumer proposal stay on your credit report?

Joel Sandwith:  What you'll find is that a consumer proposal will stay on your credit report for three years once you've completed the payments. So, to be clear, it's not three years from when you've agreed to completing the payments, it's three years from when you actually complete the payments. So, if you can do it two years faster, that's two years less time you have on your credit report.

Doug Hoyes:   And therefore makes it that much quicker to rebuild your credit. Excellent. So your advice is, take a look at your budget, don't put yourself too far out there, but if you can afford to increase the payments a bit, great, get it paid off earlier; it's going to make your life that much better and help you repair your credit that much quicker.

Joel Sandwith: Absolutely. And if you find a lot of money, you can pay it off all at once if you like.

Doug Hoyes: Perfect, and that's a win-win for everybody. Great, thanks very much, Joel.

So that was Joel explaining some of the intricacies of a lump sum proposal. Final question in this Let's Get Started segment, I've got Ted Michalos back here, so Ted, what happens if I'm in a proposal but then I miss a proposal payment?

Ted Michalos: If you only miss one payment, it's not a big deal. Standard clause in every proposal that we file says that you can fall two payments into arrears and there really are no consequences. Difficulty arises if you fall three payments into arrears. What happens is the court automatically cancels or annuls your proposal and then we've got to do some dancing to get it reinstated.

Now, from my experience what we normally try to do with people, if you miss one payment, all right well, we usually just tack it on to the end or we try to get you to catch up. If you miss two, I'll ask you to come in and talk to me because maybe the proposal's not the right solution; maybe we need to tweak it, try to change the terms. We need to find some way to get you back online to make sure it isn't gonna fail, if continuing it makes sense.

Doug Hoyes:  And that's why we like to set proposal payments up - even though it says it's monthly - we have you pay that half the amount every two weeks because you get paid bi-weekly or a quarter of it every week, and that way you're always ahead and you can never get into trouble.

Ted Michalos: The sooner it comes out of your account, the sooner you don't have to worry about spending it some place else.

Doug Hoyes: And that's the key to a successful proposal; having a plan up front, coordinating the payments so they match your paycheque; so if you get paid weekly, you're paying weekly and so on. And as Joel said at the start of the segment, if you've got extra money and can make a lump sum payment, great, you can get the whole proposal paid off really quickly and be done with it.

That's the Let's Get Started segment, we'll be right back to wrap it up right here on Debt Free in 30.

Doug Hoyes:   Welcome back. It's time for the 30 second recap of what we discussed today. On today's show, Ted Michalos explained the advantages of a consumer proposal; what it costs, how long it lasts, and why in many cases, why it's a better alternative than bankruptcy. That's the 30 second recap of what we discussed today.

As I said in the opening, it's impossible to cover everything there is to know about a consumer proposal in a 30 minute show. But here's the key: if you have more debt than you can pay off on your own, or if your wages are being garnisheed or your creditors are taking legal action against you, a consumer proposal is a legally binding deal that stops court actions and wage garnishments and allows you to make a deal, often, for less than the full amount owing with your creditors. You avoid bankruptcy, but you still get relief from your debts with a reasonable monthly payment, and that's a great feeling.

That's our show for today. Full show notes are available on our website, including lots more information on consumer proposals, so please go to our website at hoyes.com, that's h-o-ye-s-dot-com for more information. Thanks for listening. Until next week, I'm Doug Hoyes, this was Debt Free in 30.