Category Archives: debt management

Fixing Your Credit After a Bankruptcy to Apply for a Mortgage

When I first started working with Charlie (not his real name) in 2005, his bankruptcy had just been discharged, meaning his remaining debt was cleared. His credit score was 526, and he didn’t think he had a chance to even get a credit card.

Charlie’s bankruptcy filing was needed after a difficult divorce and a medical emergency. In fact, a a majority of people who seek bankruptcy protection do so after a medical emergency, difficult divorce, job loss; or some combination of the three.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that his financial life was not over. Within a couple of months, he’d gotten more than a dozen credit card and other loan offers. After the discharge of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’re considered an even better risk than someone who still has a mountain of debt because you can’t file for bankruptcy for at least eight years. In reality, you can get a credit card immediately after your bankruptcy discharge.

Many people think, That’s exactly what got me into trouble in the first place, so I’m going to avoid plastic in my life forever. That’s a huge mistake if you want to buy a house. You need to rebuild yourcredit score, and the best way to do that is to show that you can manage credit wisely. A credit card history that shows you can pay your bills on-time every month is one of the best ways to rebuild that history.

With my help, Charlie’s credit score was back to 646 in about 2½ years, which is enough to qualify for an FHA and VA loan even in today’s rough mortgage marketplace. When we checked his score in January 2011 it was back up to 727; now he can qualify for some of the best interest rates.

The key is to work on three pieces of the puzzle at the same time immediately after the bankruptcy: Clean up your credit report, begin rebuilding a positive credit history and start saving. Now that you don’t have credit bills to pay any more, start putting as much of that money aside as you can to save toward the downpayment on your next home. The more money you can put down, the better you will look to a mortgage banker.

Fix Your Credit Report

The last thing you probably want to do after a bankruptcy is to review your credit report and see all the damage that you did. Get over it. The quicker you clean up that report, the faster you will be able to improve your credit score. You can get a credit report for free from each of the credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. By federal law you are entitled to one free report each year.

When you get that report, review it and note any errors you see on the report. For example, you may find accounts that are not yours or lenders who reported late payments that are not accurate. The credit reporting agency will send you instructions about how to make corrections. Follow those instructions carefully and make your corrections. Send any proof you have that the account reported is incorrect. The credit reporting agencies tend to believe your creditors rather than you, so the more proof you can send the better.

In addition to making corrections, also inform the credit reporting agency of your bankruptcy and note any accounts on that report that were discharged by the bankruptcy. The credit report agency will then note the bankruptcy, and that will start the clock for the debt to be removed from your credit history. Most negative credit accounts can stay on your report for seven years from the last date of activity. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for ten years.

But as a negative mark ages on your credit report its impact on your credit score becomes less and less significant, which is why you can rebuild your credit score even before the bankruptcy drops off.

You may find that you have to go through the correction process several times. Each time the credit reporting agency fixes a report, they will send you a corrected copy. Check it again for any errors and report any remaining errors until your credit report is accurate and all your discharged accounts are noted.

Rebuild Your Credit History

While you’re working with the credit reporting agencies to clean up your credit report, you should also be working on rebuilding your credit history by opening one or two credit accounts to begin positive reporting on your credit report. Each time you pay a bill on time that will be a positive mark and will help to minimize the negative marks.

You’ll likely have to start with a secured credit card. These cards usually require an annual fee and charge higher interest rates. While they’re not the best deal out there, they may be your only choice right after a bankruptcy. After about six to 12 months of using a secured credit card on time, you should be able to get an unsecured card with better terms.

You also may be able to get a retail credit card. Don’t go overboard with getting new credit now that you can. Stick to one or two credit accounts to show you can use credit wisely and pay it on time.

Monitor Your Credit Score

As you’re rebuilding your credit score, you may want to monitor your progress. If your score continues to go up, you’re on the right track. But if you find that your score goes down in any quarter, think about your credit activities. Did you charge a large item? Did you open a new account? That way you’ll learn what does positively and negatively impact your credit score so you can be sure you have the best score before applying for that mortgage in the future.

Six months before applying for a mortgage, don’t take on any new debt and risk ruining all the work you did to rebuild your credit score. Keep your credit accounts active but your balances low to get the best credit score.

Source: AOL Real Estate – Lita Epstein Mar 4th 2011 

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Forgiven debt lingers on credit report for months

Wesley Harkness was evicted from a prior apartment he rented at 90 Jameson. The previous landlord, MetCap Living, claims he did not give them proper notice after they evicted him.

Evicted tenant was charged 2 months rent for not giving notice. The gov’t ruled this illegal, but the debt remained on his credit report for almost 3 months.

Almost three months after Wesley Harkness’ former landlord agreed to forgive his debt, the money was still outstanding on his credit report, downgrading his credit rating and harming his ability to take out a loan or get a credit card.

Only once the Star asked Equifax why his debt hadn’t been erased was the problem finally resolved.

 

Harkness’ five-year saga stands as a warning to how difficult it can be to get anything removed from your credit report – even when the debt is imposed illegally and when the lender agrees to drop the claim.

Harkness was evicted from his Jamieson Ave. apartment in 2010 and shortly afterward received a letter from his landlord demanding two months rent because he did not give proper notice.

 

MetCap, one of Toronto’s biggest corporate landlords with more than 10,000 units in the city, claimed that tenants still had to give 60 days notice to vacate an apartment,even when they were being evicted. After the Star exposed the practice in June, housing minister Ted McMeekin publically stated that it was illegal and MetCap agreed to stop pursuing evicted tenants.

 

Craig McDonald, collections manager at MetCap’s in-house collections agency, Suite Collections, sent a fax to the credit bureau Equifax on June 25th, asking that Harkness’ debt be marked as “settled.” But Equifax claims to have never received the fax.

Harkness only found out that his debt was still considered “outstanding” when he went to the Equifax office near Finch Ave. and Yonge St. to get his credit report this month, more than 11 weeks after Equifax received the request to mark it as settled.

But one debt expert says even if the debt is considered settled, “that’s not good enough.”

“There’s a distinction here between a debt being settled and if a debt should never have been put there in the first place,” said Mark Silverthorn, a former collections lawyer who quit the industry to share his insider knowledge with the public.

When a debt has been settled, it remains on your credit report for seven years, Silverthorn said. But if a debt was imposed illegally, the lender should have the debt removed from your credit report entirely.

 

“If the Ontario government has said that this practice is illegal, then there are no settlements. (The debt) shouldn’t be there,” Silverthorn said.

When the Star contacted Equifax and MetCap to inquire into the lingering debt, a second fax was sent to entirely remove the debt.

 

Equifax Vice President John Russo said a letter was sent to Harkness confirming that it had been removed entirely from his credit report last week.

Source: thestar.com –  Staff Reporter, Published on Thu Oct 01 2015

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5 things your debt collector isn’t telling you

1. You don’t have to pay me. In most provinces, there’s a two- to six-year statute of limitations for collecting debts that comes into play after you make your last payment. If the statute has expired, you don’t technically have to pay a cent. Be careful though: Making a new payment or a written acknowledgement restarts the statute.

2. My deadlines are bogus. “Whenever a bill collector gives someone a deadline, 99% of the time they’ve just picked it out of the air,” says debt expert and author Mark Silverthorn. He’s simply trying to create a sense of urgency to intimidate you. Your response? Keep calm and don’t rise to the bait.

3. I can’t contact you more than three times a week. After an initial conversation with you, most provinces forbid debt collectors from contacting debtors more than this—and phone calls, emails, even voice mails all count. So if a collector is exceeding this, inform him he’s breaking the law. Just the fact that you’re aware should spook him.

4. Evening calls are off limits. In most provinces, collectors can’t call early in the morning or late at night. Take Ontario, where contact between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. is forbidden. On Sunday, it’s limited to between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. If you’re getting contacted outside lawful hours, be sure to keep records of the phone number and time of call, and file a complaint with a provincial regulator.

5. I probably won’t be suing you. Original creditors usually decide to sue within six months and typically won’t do it for amounts under $4,000. (Worth noting: They are more inclined to sue home owners). Third-party collection agencies, on the other hand, collect commissions on the amount of arrears they can get from you, and generally aren’t in the business of suing, says Silverthorn. In fact, they pursue legal action on fewer than 10% of their accounts. “As long as you’re getting the collection calls, then you are probably not going to be sued.”

Source: MoneySense.ca by   January 18th, 2016

If you are not too sure what your next step is when it comes to dealing with collection agencies; give us at the Ray McMillan Mortgage Team a call, and you will walk you through your options. www.RayMcMillan.com

 

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CBC FORUM House keys sent to the bank? Your thoughts on mortgage defaults

The federal government is worried about Albertans making strategic defaults on their mortgages.

 

Some Albertans are walking away from their mortgages by putting their keys in the mail and sending them back to the bank.

It’s a phenomenon known as jingle mail — sparked by a combination of high debt and lost jobs — and was a big problem in Alberta back in the 1980s.

As a result, the federal government is watching the Alberta market closely. Jingle mail, or strategic defaults, weaken the housing market and increase loan losses among Canada’s banks, say experts.

We asked what this means to you: Does your mortgage keep you awake at night? What would make you send your house keys to the bank? Any personal mortgage anecdotes you want to share?

You weighed in via CBC Forum, our new experiment to encourage a different kind of discussion on our website. Here are some of the best comments made during the discussion.

Please note that user names are not necessarily the names of commenters. Some comments have been altered to correct spelling and to conform to CBC style. Click on the user name to see the comment in the blog format.

Many chimed in with their own mortgage advice.

  • “Sending house keys back to the bank seems very irresponsible. The banks are not going to absorb the costs — customers will be on the hook in the end.” — EOttawa​
  • “People who buy the McMansions in the hopes that someday they will become part of the upper class are the ones who should worry. Big risks have serious consequences. Good luck with it.” —Chris K
  • “No, it doesn’t keep me awake for the simple reason that we bought a home well within our means with a mortgage way lower than what the banks said we could borrow … It’s a question of common sense and priorities.” — docp

There was some discussion on who should be blamed.

  • “Lots of blame and finger pointing to go round. Bottom line, as many others have said, it falls on personal responsibility to make good decisions and sometimes circumstances outside our control force us to make tough decisions to survive — like using ‘jingle mail’ in Alberta.” — Don Watson

Several commenters even had their own jingle mail stories.

  • “My ex-husband and I returned the keys to the bank when it became clear that he was unable to maintain the mortgage payments on the home he had bought before we were married. This happened in the first year of marriage and it was a terrible blow to him. Later he declared bankruptcy.” — LinneaEldred
  • “We purchased our home within our means and have been able to keep up with the payments. We lived in Fort McMurray for four years, after they went through the downturn of the economy in the early 80s. Folks were turning in their keys then and walking away. People still don’t learn from past mistakes.” — Leslie Riley​

There were even some thoughts on the future … or lack of it.

  • “I have a mortgage and I also have a full-time job, yet I still worry about the future of my mortgage. I don’t believe that we need to point out the fact that even if you were or are smart about your money, you cannot predict your future.” — Samantha R.

You can read the full CBC Forum live blog discussion on mortgages below.

Can’t see the forum? Click here

Source: By Haydn Watters, CBC News Posted: Feb 09, 2016 12:26 PM ET

 

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The Best Credit Cards in Canada for People with Bad Credit

bad-credit

As the saying goes, past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour. And in that spirit, your credit history is what lenders use to determine your credit worthiness. In other words, they use your past financial history to judge how likely you’re able to repay your debts in full and on time.

If you have a poor credit history or no credit at all, then lenders either don’t trust that you’ll be timely and consistent in your repayments, or they have nothing with which to assess your risk—and lenders aren’t about to give you the benefit of the doubt.

So, how do you go about building (or rebuilding) your credit history? There are lots of credit cards for bad credit, most of them being secured credit cards. Secured credit cards differ from other credit cards in that they require you to provide a security deposit that’s equal to or greater than the credit limit. Here are three of what we think are thebest credit cards in Canada for people with bad or no credit:

Home Trust No Annual Fee Secured Visa Card

Apply Now Button-small

 

 

Highlights:

  • No annual fee
  • 19.99% interest rate
  • Your credit limit is set at the amount of the security deposit you put down
  • Applicants who have been discharged from bankruptcy are eligible to apply at any time

If you’re looking for a credit card with no annual fee but you don’t qualify for an unsecured credit card, then theHome Trust Secured Visa Card might be a good option for you. This card requires you to pay a security deposit equal to the amount of the credit limit you’d like. You can put down as little as $500 and as much as $10,000. This provides you with the opportunity to build your credit rating up at a rate that you’re comfortable with. If you want to use the card for small purchases to slowly regain creditors’ trust but you still want the freedom to buy those bigger ticket items, this card lets you do just that.

 

Alternatively, if you like the credit limit this card offers but would like a lower interest rate, you have the option to apply for the Home Trust Secured Annual Fee Visa Card. This card comes with an interest rate of 14.9% and an annual fee of $59, which you can choose to pay at $5 per month. This is an excellent alternative because applicants are just as likely to get approved for this card as they are for the no annual fee version, and yet the interest rate is five percentage points lower. This card would be the preferred choice for those looking to re-establish their credit rating and who trust themselves to not often carry a balance.

The Affirm MasterCard

affirm-mastercard

Highlights:

  • Annual fee of $84.00 ($7/month)
  • Interest rate of 29.99%
  • No security deposit required

The Affirm MasterCard is an unsecured credit card so it’s an excellent option for those who have bad credit but don’t want a card that requires a security deposit. It comes with a $3,000 credit limit and has a $7 monthly fee. The idea here is that they’re taking a bigger risk in offering a true line of credit to individuals with low credit ratings, so they’re asking for a fee to be paid monthly and not annually as a way to reduce this risk. Another way Affirm manages its risk is by requiring you to make a minimum monthly payment on your outstanding balance: either $30 or 4% of your balance—whichever is greater.

This card has an interest rate of 29.99% on all purchases and doesn’t have a cash advance option. This interest rate is extremely high and is designed to encourage users to rarely carry a balance, if ever at all. Since the whole purpose of getting a credit card for bad credit is to slowly regain the trust of lenders, it’s very important that you pay off your balance in full and on time with this card because with the combination of a $3,000 credit limit and a 29.99% interest rate, it’s very easy to slip into debt. There are no administration or pre-payment fees and you can use this card anywhere MasterCard is accepted. Once you’ve established a good rapport with Affirm and have built up your credit history, they can even re-evaluate and consider granting you an increased credit limit if that’s something you want.

Peoples Trust Secured MasterCard

Highlights:

  • $69.60 annual fee ($5.80/month; collected monthly)
  • 12.99% interest rate on purchases
  • 24.5% interest rate on cash advances

The Peoples Trust Secured MasterCard is a secured credit card with an incredibly low rate of 12.99% on all purchases. This is a good option for those who are trying to build a strong credit rating but may carry a balance every so often. However, this card requires you to make a minimum monthly payment on your balance: the greater of $10 or 3% of your outstanding balance. If you don’t meet this minimum requirement, the interest rate will go up to 24.5% on your next statement so it’s important to keep up with payments.

Virtually everyone who applies for this card is approved, so it’s an ideal card for those who have been discharged from bankruptcy, or have a rocky financial past. The only requirement besides being a Canadian resident is that you have a verifiable source of income. Similar to the Affirm MasterCard, this card’s annual fee of $69.60 is charged monthly at $5.80/month. Finally, the security deposit that you’re required to put down can be as little as $500 and up to a maximum of $25,000, which most credit cards don’t even come close to.

Source: RateHub.ca by Bassel Abdel-Qader  January 31, 2016

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Get your debt under control before building a nest egg

Financial experts say the key to saving enough for retirement is getting your debt under control early.

It seems obvious: save as much money as early as you can. You’ll benefit from compound interest and you’ll build a savings habit that will serve you well when your pay goes up.

But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s easy — or even possible.

Financial advisers know that real life — schooling, cars, homes, kids — can get in the way.

Three experts who spoke with CBC News say because people are investing in themselves early in their adult lives, the goal isn’t necessarily to save early so much as getting all their ducks in a row for later in life.

One of the most obstinate ducks to manage is debt.

“If you’re in your 20s or 30s, it would be nice to have some savings,” said Preet Banerjee, author of Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!

“But if you are starting a family, getting a new house, etc., it can be pretty tough. So I don’t think you should be freaking out that you haven’t started aggressive savings just yet.”

Though recent headlines suggest Canadians are in fact saving enough money for retirement, Banerjee says the general trend has been a decline in savings — a pattern he attributes to low interest rates and people “launching later,” waiting longer to leave school, get married, have children and buy a home.

Banerjee says that means savings are delayed, too, but he stresses that it’s not necessarily a bad thing, so long as people are moving in the right direction by reducing their debt.

‘Just start with the basics’

“Just start with the basics, which is being able to figure out your monthly cash flow and making sure that you’re running a surplus, and how to figure out your net worth,” he said. “You do those two simple things … you’re going to be in a fairly good situation overall.”

Don’t worry about investing until you’re in a position to invest, he said.

‘If you don’t have anything in savings by the time you’re 40 or 45, it’s hard to have a million by the time you’re 65. So the response is to avoid.’– Melanie Buffel, Money Coaches Canada

“Living within your means is quite a bit different than living at your means, which I think is what people naturally default to,” he said.

Cherith Cayford, a financial educator at CMG Financial Education in Victoria, stressed the importance of getting your debt under control early.

“For millennials the focus should be debt reduction, debt elimination, not putting on more debt, being very focused on that level before they start planning for their retirement.”

She said no 20-year-old is thinking about their golden years, anyway.

 

“We’ve got to get real,” she said. “I wouldn’t even be worrying about it in my 20s. Maybe start thinking about it in your 30s, but sort of position yourself so that you are debt-free so that you can actually start accumulating wealth.”

Cayford lays out a simple plan:

  • Establish a specific year when you plan to be debt-free. “It can’t be on the never-never plan.”
  • Focus on eliminating the debt with the highest interest rate, while making the minimum payments on the others.
  • Continue that process until all the debts are paid off.
  • Use the money with which you’d been paying down your debts to build life savings rather than “living higher.”

While many people, especially in the biggest cities, won’t pay off their mortgage until their 50s or 60s, it’s important to have a handle on it so savings can begin.

Without a proper debt-reduction plan, you might not save a dime until your 50s.

‘It’s going to be very difficult’

Cayford says that’s too late to save enough for retirement from nothing, and you’d likely have to rely heavily on Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan. That might mean living with less during retirement.

“It’s going to be very difficult, because CPP was only intended to replace 25 per cent of the average industrial wage,” she said. “And if you haven’t been able to max out your contributions, then that’s even less to try to live on.”

Preet Banerjee

Financial analyst Preet Banerjee says savings can quickly accumulate once your debts are paid. (CBC)

Melanie Buffel, a money coach with Money Coaches Canada in Vancouver, said if people begin saving only at a late age, they can become discouraged.

“It frightens people,” she said. “The numbers just don’t work. If you don’t have anything in savings by the time you’re 40 or 45, it’s hard to have a million by the time you’re 65. So the response is to avoid. This is when it becomes really important not to jump to the big numbers, which will add to the stress, which will add to the avoidance, and then they’re going to go into debt even further.”

She said when people start saving in their 40s and 50s, it’s important to have a clear idea of what they want their retirement to look like. What quality of life do you want? How long do you want to keep working?

Banerjee says if you can get your non-mortgage debts paid off and have a clear end in sight for a responsibly sized mortgage by your mid-40s, there’s no reason to panic.

Once debts such as the mortgage are paid off, people often find themselves with $1,000 to $2,000 free monthly, he said.

“That can do a lot of work for you,” he said. “That’s still a relatively long period of time for people to accumulate the savings they need to retire.”

Source: CBC News Posted: Jan 15, 2016 5:00 AM ET

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Sean Cooper pays off mortgage in 3 years and earns online hate

Sean Cooper torches his loan papers at a mortgage burning party in Toronto. Not everyone admired his efforts.

When Sean Cooper burned his mortgage papers after going to extremes to pay off his house in three years, he never imagined it would get folks so fired up.

But after CBC News reported Cooper’s story late last year, reader comments flooded the internet, either praising or reviling the 30-year-old’s financial achievement.

“What is he going to do next, buy a car and sell one of his kidneys to pay for it?” snarled one reader.

An era of cheap interest rates has helped ignite an escalating and troubling household debt binge. The topic has become such a touchy one it can spark polarized opinions, finger pointing and even contempt.

Fuelling the debt fire

Not wanting to face a lifetime of debt, Cooper sacrificed three years of his life to pay down a $255,000 mortgage on a $425,000 Toronto home he bought in 2012.

He worked up to 100 hours a week at three jobs: pension analyst; financial writer; and supermarket clerk. Naturally, the bachelor’s social life suffered. Cooper also lived like a pauper, maintaining a strict budget and residing in the basement so he could collect rent on the rest of his house.

His story generated more than 2,000 comments on CBC News sites.​

“Well done! Worked your butt off to get away from debt,” wrote a jubilant reader about Cooper’s accomplishment. But others had only harsh words.

“He’ll probably die young,” opined one reader. “What a load of horse patty,” posted another, adding, “Work yourself to an early grave!”

Someone else chided, “Sean Cooper is the most boring man on earth. Life’s [too] short to live like a hobbit.”

Readers also invented details about Cooper’s life such as claiming he got his $170,000 down payment from his parents. Cooper said he saved the cash himself by, yes, living frugally.

Media across the globe have now jumped on the story and also taken sides. “Well done, big fella, congratulations, an inspirational guy,” gushed host David Koch on the Australian breakfast television program,Sunrise.

Sean Cooper on Aussie TV

Cooper appeared on the Australian breakfast television program Sunrise in December, where the hosts praised his accomplishment. (Sunrise)

But America’s Slate magazine had a different take, stating Cooper’s story implied our money troubles were entirely our own fault. The Slate article suggested cash-strapped people wanted real economic change rather than just “inspirational stories of sacrifice and pluck.”

Shaming and blaming

So just how much of our debt is our fault and why has Cooper’s story ignited such a furor?

There’s no denying some Canadians have money troubles. Thanks in large part to fat mortgages, Canada’s debt-to-income ratio is at a record high — on average people now owe $1.64 for every dollar of disposable income they earn.

Cooper said he understands not everyone is in a position to live the single, super frugal life. But he believes many lack the willpower to pay down their mortgage more quickly and that’s what inspired the nasty comments.

“They have different priorities in life, so I guess it’s just easier to kind of hate-on me for trying to accomplish this because they aren’t willing to do [it],” he said.

Financial writer Kerry K. Taylor agrees many people are not motivated to make the extra effort.

“Saving’s hard,” she said. “We want our stuff and we want it now,” added Taylor, who lives her own frugal lifestyle with her family in Toronto.

She has also written about the Cooper story and suggests his feat inspired hate because many of us don’t want to confront our own money problems. “It’s easier to poke holes in his lifestyle rather than take nuggets of advice from it.”

Taylor added that we have no one to blame but ourselves for our debt. “Look in the mirror,” she said.

Understanding the haters

Kitchener-based bankruptcy trustee Doug Hoyes is more sympathetic to the haters. While he applauds Cooper’s accomplishment, he said the 30-year-old’s extreme methods are out of reach for many. “That is not realistic for a single mother of a two-year-old kid,” he said.

He suggests some people find Cooper’s story offensive because they are not in a position to achieve the same goal.

“It could be interpreted that the finger is being pointed at me. Why am I not working 100 hours a week?”

Hoyes also believes individuals shouldn’t shoulder all the blame. While he feels personal choice definitely contributes to debt, so can many other factors such as bad luck, one’s health, a tough economy and policies that allow easy access to massive loans.

Cooper takes it in stride

For those who are inspired by Cooper’s achievement, he’ll soon be offering his services. In addition to his current pension analyst and freelance writer gigs, he’s planning a new venture: advising people how to get rid of their mortgage faster.

He’s working on a book on the same topic. The working title is “Burn Your Mortgage.”

He admits if he had do it again, he’d probably take a couple of more years to wipe out his debt so he would have had more time for socializing. But Cooper wants the haters to know that mortgage-free life is great.

“I’m in a financial situation that people are typically in in their 50s or 60s and I’m only 30 years old, so that’s a nice feeling to have,” he said.

Sean Cooper morgage burning

Cooper’s now owns his $425,000 home mortgage free. To help quickly pay off his mortgage, Cooper lived in the basement and rented out the rest of the house.

Source: By Sophia Harris, CBC News Posted: Jan 14, 2016 5:00 AM ET

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