Walk Away from Your Boomtown Mortgage

Posted in Oilfield Family Finances

Walk Away from Your Boomtown Mortgage

Most of those who found jobs during the recent oilfield boom had a hard time finding housing near the oilfields where they worked. A few went as far as buying a home or condo as opposed to just renting a place to live. Unfortunately, the recent drop in oil prices might mean layoffs for some. That could put those who overpaid for housing in the proverbial tight spot. If this is you, it might be time to consider “walking away” from your boomtown mortgage. I’m not an attorney, tax professional, realtor, or accountant. However, I have dealt with foreclosure situations on four different occasions*. I was forced to walk away in two situations. Walking away from a mortgage isn’t unethical. A mortgage is nothing more than a contract between you and a bank. Big banks (and big companies) break or revise contracts all the time. Besides, homeownership is not always a worthy goal, as this article by Patrick Killelea argues, in great detail. What does it mean to “walk away” from a mortgage? To those who feel that walking away from a mortgage is somehow immoral: remember that the bank regains possession of the property. It’s not like the persons who walk away from a mortgage are keeping the house. If you are behind on your mortgage or live in a house that is hopelessly underwater, then walking away is an option. On this page are things I learned after being in your shoes – not once or twice – but four times. *FJ Note: the author of this piece has chosen to remain anonymous. However, we can vouch that the author has been through foreclosure or near-foreclosure situations on four different occasions. Here is what I discovered after being in four different foreclosure situations: You’ll probably have more time to stay than you think. Every state has different laws regarding foreclosures, and I don’t know what the laws are in your state. However, I’ve experienced foreclosure situations in two different states (I “walked away” from an investment property before walking away was cool). In every situation, a year elapsed before it was clear that I needed to vacate the property I happened to be inhabiting. Do I recommend this? No. But it helps to know that you probably have a little time to get your ducks in a row legally and financially before you have to find a new place to live. Use this time wisely. Pay off your other debts. If you are gainfully employed, then pay off your cars (or sell them), pay down your student loans, and pay off your credit cards. Better yet, get rid of the credit cards altogether and swear them off for good. Start banking some cash – you’ll need it for the inevitable security deposits and/or first and last month’s rent at your next residence. Face it: chances are, you’ll...

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Oil and Gas Pay Rates in North Dakota

Posted in Oilfield Family Finances

Oil and Gas Pay Rates in North Dakota

The Bakken Shale region continues to produce record amounts of oil and gas. Likewise, the demand for personnel to set up, move, supply, and service the rigs in North Dakota and Montana continues to grow. You’re probably aware that oil and gas pay rates in North Dakota are among the highest in the nation, but do you know by how much those pay rates have increased? Using data supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Fracking Jobs team offers the charts below to give you a snapshot of the oilfield pay rates in the Bakken for the years 2009-2013 (the most recent figures available). Now, keep in mind that while these pay rates are certainly worthy of anyone’s attention, the cost of living in North Dakota has gone up dramatically as well (especially around the Williston area where most shale activity is now taking place). Also, it’s fair to say that the recent drops in oil prices may impact pay rates going forward. Still, the impact that the shale boom has had on oilfield pay rates has been tremendous. Take a look below: The figures in the chart above are representative of the average weekly wages from Williams County, North Dakota (where Williston is located) between 2009 and 2013. These figures apply specifically to those who work in the “natural resources and mining” industries, which include oil extraction. (Of course, the pay rates for non-oilfield jobs in boom areas like Williston have increased dramatically, as well.) As you can see, the average weekly wage in 2009 was approximately $1,400. This average increased to about $1,937 by 2013, a nearly 40% increase in weekly pay. We included the average weekly earnings for all U.S. wage earners in the chart as a comparison. Not only do those in the oil and gas sector earn more, but they have enjoyed significant increases in earnings vs. those outside of the industry. So, how much did annual incomes increase in North Dakota? Take a look at the chart below: The weekly pay averages are dramatic enough, but the annual average pay rates for oilfield workers in the Williston area are even more so. And when compared to the average annual incomes of all U.S. wage earners, the numbers are incredible. Again, it’s fair to expect average wages to level off especially as the price of oil remains low as it has been in the latter months of 2014. However, few industries are offering the incredible pay rate increases that the oil and gas industry has produced. This, in part, is attributable to the need for qualified personnel to work in the shale industry. Increase your average wages by finding a fracking job...

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Small Claims Court Can Help You Get Back Pay

Posted in Oilfield Family Finances

Small Claims Court Can Help You Get Back Pay

Sadly, many oilfield workers are running into problems by working for smaller “fly by night” companies that treat their employees badly or force them to work in unsafe situations. When workers refuse to put up with shady behavior from these outfits, they might find themselves unable to get back pay once they quit. Unfortunately, I’ve been forced to use small claims courts against a few parties who attempted to rip me off. Small claims courts are a last resort when someone refuses to pay you for services rendered or grant you a refund after selling you a faulty product. With a 100% batting average in small claims cases – I’m four for four – I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about the process. If you feel that an employer, customer, or company has wronged you, small claims courts can solve your legal issues.  Here are some tips for making sure that small claims court can help you get back pay or fix other employment issues: Don’t bother unless you have a legitimate issue. In the case of small claims, the “issue” usually involves a party or employer that refuses to pay you for work which you performed. You may also be dealing with a large corporation that refuses to remedy a flawed product or service. I’ve dealt with both types of issues in small claims courts. While you shouldn’t dismiss the small claims process if you’ve been stiffed; don’t use small claims courts for “questionable” legal pursuits (do a web search on “Gloria Allred” if you want to learn more about what a questionable legal pursuit is.) Avoid filing frivolous lawsuits – even in small claims. Your goal is to right a wrong, period. Don’t be on a mission to screw an honest company that did you no harm. Do, however, recover money that is fairly owed to you, yet payment has not been forthcoming. Try to work it out before going to court. If someone isn’t paying you money that you’re owed, perhaps they have a good reason. Shoddy or unfinished work on your part shouldn’t mean that you’re entitled to what you originally quoted a customer. You may get the other party to agree to issue you a partial payment for services rendered as opposed to your full quote. The goodwill between your business and your local community might be worth it. However, some people are never satisfied no matter how much effort and/or materials you supply them, and these same folks may well have a track record of stiffing small businesses. Go ahead and take the “customer is always right” approach if you like; but at some point, a customer is stealing from you and from others. Encouraging that sort of thing benefits no one. You may have performed honest, satisfactory work, and it might be time to engage the legal...

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InstaVin Vs CarFax

Posted in Oilfield Family Finances

InstaVin Vs CarFax

Is your oilfield family in need of a used car? Our family recently purchased a used SUV which we found online. Now, as with any used car, we had reservations about the one we eventually decided to buy. We compared prices for similar vehicles in the same model year range, checked out plenty of online photos, read consumer reviews for the brands we considered, and talked to car-savvy friends and relatives to get their input. The SUV we found had very low miles compared to others in the same price and year range. We were a little suspicious. Still, we decided to check out the vehicle and take it for a test drive. It looked great, seemed to be in top mechanical shape, and there were no big problems. We found a few minor dings and scrapes on the body, but that’s to be expected with any used car that has a few years under its belt. The low mileage was very appealing, and it was a feature that the seller repeated over and over. Why did this particular SUV have such low mileage? We found out as soon as we looked at the license plates: the vehicle had apparently been sitting dormant for a number of years, as the latest registration tag was from three years before. We needed to check the vehicle out further. Now, the obvious choice for in-depth used vehicle “background checks” is CarFax. However, CarFax charges $39.99 for a used car report. That’s not only excessive, it’s downright, well – “highway robbery” (pun intended). Unfortunately, CarFax is the service that people think of first when they decide to order reports for used vehicles. Thank the CarFax marketing folks, who obviously are very good at what they do. It’s a fair bet that advertising costs are a big reason why CarFax reports are so expensive. (Ok, so in the InstaVin vs CarFax debate, score one for CarFax: marketing). There’s a better way. You can order reports from a number of different services that subscribe to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). The NMVTIS owes its existence to the Federal Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992, which was set up to protect the public from fraudulent used car sales as well as from vehicles deemed to be unsafe. The NMVTIS database is handled by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), and is regulated by the US Department of Justice. The NMVTIS is the only vehicle history database where all states, insurance carriers, and junk salvage yards enter their data, which they are required to do by law. For the used SUV we wanted to buy, we decided to get a report from InstaVin.com, which charges a fraction of what CarFax does. For $6.99, you can get all of the information you’d see on a CarFax report, and probably a few things you won’t,...

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How to Dispute Your Credit Report

Posted in Oilfield Family Finances

How to Dispute Your Credit Report

Whether you are looking for a new fracking job or you already started working in the oilfields, it pays to take a look at your credit reports. While not terribly common for oilpatch jobs (unless an employer is eager to fill a lot of open positions quickly), some employers check credit backgrounds before they consider interviewing job candidates. It pays to take a look at your credit reports at least once a year. Keep in mind that most negative (or “adverse”) accounts will fall off of your credit reports over time. For those adverse accounts that are still on your report, you should dispute them when possible. All three major credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) have online mechanisms to deal with the negative accounts on your file. “Negative” accounts can be: Outdated. If the last activity involving a negative account happened over seven years ago, it should be removed. You may have to do this yourself if the account doesn’t fall off automatically. Fraudulent. It’s not very common, but once in a while a negative account might appear on your credit reports that got there via out-and-out fraud. Identity thieves might be at work if this is the case. Just plain incorrect. Credit reporting agencies are run by humans (well, ok – humans using computers). Those computers, and the humans who use them, make mistakes. Quite often, in fact. Disagreements. This is the kind of negative issue you need to be the most proactive with. Read on. Negative issues on a credit report can highlight a disagreement between you and the party that believes you owe it money. Large corporations – especially cell phone and cable companies – are notorious for providing lousy customer service and then reporting you to the credit bureaus even if they are in the wrong. If you have been mistreated by a corporate entity, and they place a “negative” on your reports – then you need to dispute that negative account. Once upon a time, I had an issue with a certain cell phone provider (T-Mobile) that led me to cancel my service with it. Surprise, surprise – I “broke” the provider’s contract (I don’t do cell contracts anymore, I prefer “pay-as-you-go” plans*); and my account was immediately sent to a third-party collector. Of course, the collector placed a “negative” on my credit report. This means I had to file a dispute with, in this case, Equifax. I lodged my dispute, the collector confirmed with Equifax that (as far as they were concerned) I “owed” the debt, and so the negative report remained. Case closed, right? Wrong… A dispute over the same issue can be reopened by you, the mistreated party. In the case of Equifax, when you initiate a dispute on certain items in your report, you’ll be presented with checkboxes that give the reasons for your dispute. Check the box...

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How to Fight Debt Collectors

Posted in Oilfield Family Finances

How to Fight Debt Collectors

You might be looking for a job in the booming oil shale industry so that you can get back on your feet after a long financial drought. If so, good for you. But until you find a high-paying oilfield job, you’re going to be dealing with a number of money issues, one of which will be: the dreaded debt collector. Debt collectors are a nuisance that anyone who is behind on bills has to deal with, and they are more and more common these days. If you have older unpaid debts, like credit card debts, those accounts will eventually be “charged off” by the credit card companies involved. These charged-off accounts will then be sold to collection companies for pennies on the dollar. If these companies have your current phone number and/or address, you can expect debt collectors to start hassling you for money (whether you are working or not). However, even though you’re likely behind on your debts or have some bills you haven’t paid in years, don’t allow debt collectors to intimidate or manipulate you. Read on for tips on how to fight debt collectors… Develop a thick skin. Some collection companies are actually law offices. They will use this status to intimidate you, and are pretty good at doing so. However, if you are struggling to keep a roof over your head, then you need to worry about keeping the roof over your head, period. The collector is not your friend, or responsible for providing you with shelter or food, and may be blowing hot air when trying to scare you with legal jargon. They are not your priority regardless of what they tell you. Never forget this, because you will need to remind yourself of it often. Are you sure that you owe the debt? Make sure that you owe the debt that a collector claims that you owe. Now, in most cases, you’ll probably be familiar with a debt that a collector attempts to get payment for. But what about a debt that doesn’t seem familiar? Get in touch with the collector – in writing – and demand that you receive debt validation. If the debt is legitimate and you are the party who actually owes the debt, then the collector should have this validation (proof that you owe the debt). If they don’t, then you may not be liable for the debt at all. In fact, you could even be dealing with a fraud situation, which is a growing problem. Make sure you are dealing with a verified, actual debt. You’re dealing with a third party, not the original lender. Always remember: while the collector legally has the power to collect the debt from you, your debt was in fact purchased. This means that the collector is not the original party that you owed money to. Yes, you are still obligated to pay...

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