Julie Steidl knows how difficult it is for someone to walk into her office and tell their financial life story. Their world has been turned upside down and now they are turning to a stranger for help. They are entering a financial confessional looking for direction and, in a sense, forgiveness.
“I tell my clients when they come in to see me, if they are worried or thinking they will be judged, they won’t find it here,” said Steidl, one of the attorneys who handles bankruptcy cases at the Law Offices of Steidl & Steinberg. “It doesn’t matter why this has happened. You don’t owe me an explanation of why things got to this point. We have to look ahead, not back, so I ask the client, what do you want to walk away with from our meeting today? I don’t want them walking out saying they are no better off now than they were when they walked in. The basic answer for them at the end of the consultation: we need to fix this.”
When a person calls Steidl & Steinberg for a free consultation, they are told to be prepared to compile a snapshot of their financial life. Clients are asked to provide complete information regarding bills, income, balances in all bank accounts, and any investments they may have. The attorney will ask about the client’s vehicles and what the payments are, as well as details about whether they own their home or rent. If they have a boat, motorcycle, hunting camp or other assets, that’s the time to tell the attorney.
Asking Important Questions to Understand Your Financial Situation
The process is a matter of compiling numbers for a typical month and the questions posed by the attorney are very direct. How much do you owe on your debts? How much money do you have to work with every month and how do you earn that money? The figure at the end of the income and expense sheet will clearly indicate where you are at the moment, and will give the attorney the direction your financial life needs to head.
“The key to looking at your financial situation is to be totally honest,” Steidl said. “You don’t get brownie points for claiming you are frugal. We often run into problems where people get loans or help from family or friends and they don’t want that mentioned in the bankruptcy. The Court doesn’t like it if you pay back grandma but didn’t pay back Macy’s. Just be honest.”
We all need help. The key is to call before you struggle needlessly.