Saturday, December 26, 2009

Main Stream Media Continues The Strategic Default Drumbeat By Sharpening The Focus On The So Called Moral Imperatives

A few days ago, Newsweek, published the article Default Nation: If billionaires don't feel guilty about walking away from their debts, should homeowners?.

Essentially, the writer notes that strategic defaults are rising which is causing serious concern with mortgage bankers and business professors. The CEO of the Mortgage Banking Association is concerned about the message parents are sending to their kids. A business ethics professor firmly states that "borrowers who can afford to stay current are morally required to do so".

The writer correctly points out that corporations have been using strategic defaults since the dawn of time, so why shouldn't individuals. Hmmm. Let's think here. When a corporation decides not to pay its debts, even though it can afford to make payments, it is a wise business. When a citizen attempts to strategically default then it's Un-American; its destructive to the fabric of our society. By the way, do you know the definition of a Corporation? Just check Wikipedia's A corporation is an institution that is granted a charter...having its own rights, privileges, and liabilities...[and] are recognized by the law to have rights and responsibilities like actual people...[and] can exercise human rights against real individuals and the state..and...may be responsible for human rights violations". Seems that corporations are citizens too.

What's good for the goose....And by the way this brings up the strategic default principle of
definition :Maximize Cash Flow, Protect Wealth and Minimize Losses. Always remember, when deciding to strategically default, you must always maximize your cash flow, protect what wealth you all ready possess, and always minimize your losses. More on this principle in future posts.

So why the double standard. Why can corporations use strategic default to maximize profits and minimize losses and ordinary people cannot. In an excellent analysis of this double standard, University of Arizona, law professor, Brent T. White, analyzes the moral and social reasons why people do not strategically default even though its in their best interest to do so. In my opinion the most important text from his article states

"most underwater homeowners don’t default as a result of two emotional forces: 1) the desire to avoid the shame or guilt associated with foreclosure; and 2) fear over the perceived consequences of foreclosure - consequences that are in actuality much less severe than most homeowners have been led to believe...Moreover, fear, shame, and guilt are...actively cultivated by the government, the financial industry, and other social control agents in order to induce individual homeowners to act in ways that are against their own self interest...[u]nlike lenders who follow market norms, individual homeowners are encouraged to behave in accordance with social norms of 'personal responsibility' and 'promise-keeping.'"

This is good news for ordinary people. It's time to right side up the upside down notion that it's morally and ethically proper to commit to a financial plan of action, which is completely against your financial interest. It's time to right side up the upside down idea that you have a societal responsibility to pay debts that continue to bleed you dry.

The main stream media will continue to beat the strategic default drum because it raises issues beyond just the principles of a strategic default. It puts into focus individual responsibility and collective responsibility, especially in the age of multi-trillion tax payer, printed dollar bailouts for corporations that strategically default.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Take Active Control and Put It All Back On Track - Holiday Edition!!!

The inaugural post on this blog described my desire to provide links and commentary on the best strategic default advice. Once again, I reaffirm my commitment to give you, the reader, the best available information about strategically defaulting, so you can make an informed decision.

Well, this holiday season helped me realize why a blog like this is important. The holidays are usually a time for collective activity with family, friends, or even time by yourself. It's also a time of giving to those who you care about and to those who need help. It's a time for reflection on your position in life. For myself, I am thankful that there is support from my wife, family, friends, clients and readers of my words. It is the support that is most important. We all need it.

Yet, I am in deep reflection right now. Through a series of self-made choices, I find myself in a very difficult position. A position that requires accepting full responsibility for my actions. I am constantly asking “How must one accept responsibility for one’s actions?” Perhaps I could lower my head, beat myself up, be angry and full of regret. Rack my mind with "Why? Why? Why did I do what I did” and “How could I have let this happen”. Living in fear of the future. The feeling of being chained to the problem with no escape. This weird feeling of dread because I want to bury my head in the sand. Well, to tell you the truth, I TRIED IT and WENT THROUGH IT. I played into self-pity, disappointment and loathing. I became irritable and angry. LET ME TELL YOU FIRST HAND…IT DOESN'T WORK. It left me breathless and weak. I WAS FROZEN AS TIME WENT BY.

What I did find that worked was… TAKING ACTIVE CONTROL AND PUTTING IT ALL BACK ON TRACK. I committed to real action to make things better. It required a deep breath, a confident posture, and the knowledge that it can and will get better because I wanted it to. I did my LIFE MATH and found that the good was greater than the not-so-good. It required daily prayer, meditation, strong words from wise people, and the belief that I can get up from any fall. It also demanded complete honesty about my mistakes to those who love and depend on me and to myself. It required a discipline and commitment to the right action. The right action that would improve my position.

It demanded a show of strength so grand, that even I could not believe it at first. I am a believer now.

There are some many people I have counseled and talked to who are taking their personal financial problems painfully. For many, it becomes an internalized personal failure. It has left some desperate and depressed. It has left all stressed. It has created this air of defeat…this idea of…”How Could I Have Let This Happen To Me”. It has frozen so many in time.

You are not the first or the last person to have financial problems. Especially now. I have worked with doctors, lawyers, policeman, business owners, teachers, accountants, financial advisors, retirees, the unemployed, real estate professionals, mortgage brokers, and other workers and professionals. I have counseled family, friends, and even acquaintances at events. I have worked with all types of people representing various races, ethnicities, and spiritualities. all spanning the socio-economic spectrum.

What I am trying to say is “You are not alone. We are all in this together. There is way forward.”

Everything you find on this blog and other blogs referenced here, are intended to keep you moving the right way on your financial path with confidence and the knowing that you can TAKE ACTIVE CONTROL and PUT IT ALL BACK ON TRACK. You are in control of your life.

I thank you for reading this holiday post and thank you for being an outlet for some of my feelings. The New Year is upon us. I am confident it will be good for you too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Strategic Default for the People, By the People : Act 1

Let's just say that practically, strategically defaulting makes financial sense in certain circumstances. The fact is smart businesses do it all the time in order to protect investors and shareholders. It's all about what's in the best financial interest of the business.

THAT SAID...the decision to strategically default is much more complicated for the individual and their family. Our daily research shows that there is a moral and ethical TUG OF WAR about whether it's right to just NOT PAY a debt, even if you have the money. Questions about values abound, seemingly and inextricably linked to perceptions of When Is It OK to Break A Deal. In general, once we sign the dotted line, we are (psychologically) chained to that deal. No key until the deal is over.

Well, it ends up being a very personal choice, so let's look at some personal expressions about strategic defaults. This post is the first Act of a continuing play that we will present to you as time goes on...

This writer powerfully links his and other active duty soldiers experience with purchasing a property and watching as all of the equity is wiped out. It's a good read on the moral and ethical questions some soldiers may have regarding whether to strategically default. Read the post : Strategic default: a soldier’s perspective -

Monday, December 21, 2009

Strategic Default Monitor...

I've been working with people regarding strategic default for years. Even though it seems to apply to real estate loans, it actually applies to any loan. Let me state my position right now: I believe that Strategic Defaults are an effective means of cash and wealth preservation. Of course before a decision can be made the benefits and risks must be made. It is our experience that after careful consideration of each persons' unique circumstances the rewards can outweigh the risks.

In any event I have decided to provide a link to the BEST strategic default articles all over the web. These articles best highlight the growing
phenomenon, the reward and the risk. You will learn the different perspectives and recognize that Strategic Default is here to stay.

For the next twelve months, I will provide up to date, relevant information about Strategic Defaults. If you want to learn more about it then this is the place to come. Also make sure you bookmark this link, there will be fresh updates:

An Honest Look At Homeowners Who Decide Not To Pay (Even Though They Have The Money) & The Real Risks. While looking at the real life decisions to Strategically Default, this article reminds those who decide to do it that there are risks. The biggest risk being that a lender can still sue for any deficiency if the property does not satisfy the entire debt. In fact, the same lender will probably sell the right to the deficiency to a third party. Read More from The Wall Street Journal: Debtor's Dilemma: Pay the Mortgage or Walk Away: In Down Real-Estate Market, Homeowners Are Deciding to Abandon Their Loan Obligations Even if They Can Afford the Payments

Morgan Stanleys Intentionally Defaults On A $6.5 billion Dollar Loan Obligation. When explaining the reason for a Strategic Default on 17 million square feet of office buildings acquired for $6.5 billion in 2007, a spokeswoman said “This isn’t a default or foreclosure situation...We are going to give them the properties to get out of the loan obligation.” Read More from Bloomberg: Morgan Stanley to Give Up 5 San Francisco Towers Bought at Peak

NYC Attorney Consults with Clients Who Intentionally Stop Paying Their Mortgage To Protect Their Savings Or To Make Money. NYC Attorney Augustine Diji advises his clients on how to property consider a strategic default. In some instances, his clients strategically default in order to make money. Read More from the Real Deal: Investors defaulting to make money, Some NY investors go into foreclosure on purpose

USA Today Reports on the Growing Trend of Strategic Default. This report begins with a recently laid off homeowner who decided NOT to use all of her savings to pay her mortgage. Instead she decided to stop because it did not make sense since her house was worth less than the mortgage. This continues to confirm that Strategic Default is a growing trend. Media, banks, and government officials are beginning to take notice. Read More from USA Today: More walk away from homes, mortgages

A Law Professor Effectively Argues Why It's in the Best Interest of A Homeowner To Strategically Default When Necessary and Not Feel Guilt or Shame. Brent White, an associate law professor at the University of Arizona has written the best and most comprehensive argument regarding Strategic Defaults. He strongly argues that property owners should make the decision on whether to continue mortgage payments based on their own interests that are “unclouded by unnecessary guilt or shame.” He says "strategic default might not only be a viable option, but also the wisest financial decision". He correctly points out that lenders do the same thing, when they “ruthlessly seek to maximize profits or minimize losses irrespective of concerns of morality or social responsibility.” So it's TIME FOR TO BE RUTHLESS ABOUT YOUR FINANCIAL CONCERNS. Read Brent Whites Paper: Underwater and Not Walking Away.

The Moral and Social Issues of Deciding NOT To Pay A Mortgage (Even If The Property Owner Can Afford Payments) Can Keep A Property Owner From Using A Strategic Default. This research paper explores the moral and society norms factor heavily when deciding to strategically default. Essentially, the researchers found there is a correlation between people who believe it is immoral to strategically default and amount of negative equity in their property. The greater the value of their property is below the mortgage balance, the more likelihood the property owner will use a strategic default. Read More from Luigi Guiso, Paola Spaienza, & Luigi Zingales, Moral and Social Constraints to Strategic Defaults on Mortgages

There Are Two Sides To The Strategic Default Coin.
This writer argues that "the greatest cause of the rise in mortgage defaulters is the gradual erosion of social and moral standards in a market where cheating became common and a loan nothing more than a financial strategy to be discarded at the first sign that it no longer made sense." Huh!!!?!!. I am unabashedly in favor of strategic default. However, the arguments on both side are very important and very serious. You should never take anything for granted when considering the implications of a strategic default. Mortgage Deadbeats Plague Home Market by Steven Malanga.

Please bookmark this page. We will continuously update.

A Brief Intro about Strategic Default

At this point of time, there is a financial crisis facing millions of people and businesses in the United States. The crisis is not limited to a specific socioeconomic group of people. Across the income spectrum, the primary financial problem is debt. What is unique about this current economic crisis is that the debt contagion has also infected financial institutions and has affected local, state, and federal government.

Many people are heavily indebted and are seeking a way out. Financial institutions are not extending credit unless the borrower meets a strict set of criteria. In order to obtain a loan, one must have excellent credit, verifiable income, and substantial cash reserves. This is a tall order for many people and business alike.

One of the greatest forms of wealth comes from real estate ownership. It is now estimated that trillion dollars of real estate wealth has been lost. Furthermore, individuals and investors own properties with unaffordable mortgages payments that have principle balances greater than the value of the property.

There are many people who have decided to “intentionally” stop making mortgage loan payments, even if they can afford to do so. They have decided to make a so called “strategic default”. Generally, the primary rational for a strategic default is economic. Currently, strategic default is associated with home mortgage loans. However, strategic defaults is a tool used for credit card debt, business loans, home equity lines of credit, and personal loans.

There are moral and social issues that arise when making a decision to stop making loan payments even if the money is available. These moral and social issues intersect with an individual’s “rational” decision to stop losing money. Our society general places a strong taboo against breaking an agreement. Furthermore, there are social costs to consider when an individual decides to abandon a property and stop making mortgage payments.

What is a Stategic Default?

Generally, it is considered, a property owner’s decision to stop making mortgage loan payments even if the property owner can afford to make the payments. A property owner normally considers a strategic default when the value of the property is below the mortgage balance due a lender. Furthermore, there is a concern that monthly mortgage loan payments will become a permanent drain of available cash savings with little chance of recovering the loss. The rationale is that it does not make economic sense to make mortgage loan payments on a property that has no equity or any hope of gaining equity.

Strategic defaults are generally associated with individuals who stop making mortgage loan payments. However, we are finding that strategic defaults are being used for credit card payments, business loans, and various personal loans.

I will be discussing strategic defaults in depth in later entries. I am an advocate of stategic defaults when properly considered and effectively implemented.

For now think about it. You may decide to use it yourself.