Jeff Kelly: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show today. Today’s guest is Mr. Don Golden. He is a bankruptcy attorney from Tampa, Florida. And he’s got a company called Fresh Start for Life. And it’s something that we actually offer to all of my clients. And so I am looking forward to talking here with Don and hearing more about fresh start for life. Don, welcome to the show.
Don Golden: Thanks for having me, Jeff.
Jeff Kelly: You’re welcome. So tell us a little about yourself. How long have you lived in Tampa?
Don Golden: So I moved here in 1997. I moved here right after I graduated from law school. So it’s been 23 years I’ve lived here
Jeff Kelly: 23 years you’ve been in practice?
Don Golden: No. Well, yeah. So I’ve been a practice in 1998. I had a little family emergency that prevented me from taking the bar exam. My dad died like two weeks before the bar exam in July. And I’m from Maine originally. So I had to go back up north and take care of some business and things. So I delayed taking the bar exam until February. So I didn’t actually start practicing law until February of 1998. That will actually April when I got my license.
Jeff Kelly: Okay. And then throughout your career, you’ve specialized in bankruptcy.
Don Golden: I have actually, except my first year I focused on Social Security Disability work. But after that first year, I started doing almost exclusively consumer bankruptcy work.
Jeff Kelly: Excellent. Excellent. Where’d you go to law school?
Don Golden: I went to law school at Thomas Cooley in Lansing, Michigan. Okay, it’s now part of Western Michigan University. But at the time, it was a private school just just a private law school.
Jeff Kelly: Yeah. Okay. And where did you undergrad?
Don Golden: you’ve ever seen me? demonstrate?
Jeff Kelly: All right.
Don Golden: Yeah. Excellent. So I went all over, I went from the New England to the Midwest to now, South, South, southeast.
Jeff Kelly: Okay, so tell me about so for those of you who don’t know, I know Don, Don are good friends, I know, we have the same business coach. And that’s how I got to know done. And I think we’re, we’re the first people sign up with you for this fresh start for life. So can you tell us a little bit here? For any of my clients who don’t know, what is fresh start, like, what’s it all about?
Don Golden: Well, so if you remember, our business coach actually gave us a book called lead for God’s sake. And I read that book, and I really felt like I was being led to do more for my clients. And it just helped them get out of debt. And I started putting some thought into it. And I, I like personal finance and things like that. So I really felt like I was being led in a direction to do more for my clients in the way of helping them after the bankruptcy was over with. So we, we want to be their guide that helps them not just get through the bankruptcy, but that helps them rebuild their life after the bankruptcy. And and what I’ve seen over the years, is is that, you know, after 20 years of doing bankruptcy work, sometimes we get repeat business. And, you know, although it’s it’s nice that they think about you when they come back to see you a second time, it breaks my heart to that they’re back again, filing bankruptcy for a second or sometimes even a third time. And I wanted to try to help people avoid getting into that situation. So I came up with a concept of fresh start for life. Because the reason for the name of it is is that when you file bankruptcy, you get a fresh start. But I want it to last a lifetime I want that fresh start to last you a lifetime. And and and that’s why I decided to do this fresh start for life business. And what what it is really it was originally planned to be two courses. The first course is teaching consumers how to rebuild their credit after their bankruptcy is over with. And then the the original plan was to have a second course that was going to be a budget and you know, mainly a budget course. As I was talking to my clients about about the whole idea, people were really really excited about the rebuilding the credit part and they were a little less excited about the budget side of it. So that kind of got put on the backburner even though it’s my passion, my passion is is helping them you know, learn how to budget manage their money going forward so that they don’t find themselves back in the situation. You know that that led them to meet with me in the beginning. But everybody was really interested in the rebuilding the credit portion. So that’s that’s the course that we created. And that’s the one course that we have available right now is it’s called rebuild your credit rebuild your life. And we make that available to all our clients for free after they get their discharge in bankruptcy and I think you do the same thing as well.
Jeff Kelly: Yes We do. Yes, we do. So tell me a little bit about future credit. And, you know, I think I kind of suspect that a lot of my clients don’t understand what difference will it make whether I have a, you know, 720 or 620 or a 520? How does that impact their lives?
Don Golden: Well, so 720 is a good credit score, I mean, it’s not outstanding, but it’s considered very good, it’s a very good credit score, and the interest rates that you’re going to get with a 720 credit score, as opposed to a 600, or 650, or something like that, it’s, it’s a really good difference. You know, if it’s a 1.21, or two point savings on a mortgage, or or car loan, you’re saving 1000s of dollars on the life of your loan. If it’s a mortgage, you’re saving, sometimes 10s, of 1000s of dollars on the life of the loan. So it really is important to get your credit rebuilt after your bankruptcy is discharged, so that you can take advantage of the lower interest rates you get. And that’s just one of the benefits. One of the other things that most consumers don’t realize, and this is one of the things we go over in the course, is is that your credit score actually impacts your auto insurance rates. So if you have a bad credit score, for whatever reason, the auto insurers will charge you more money. I don’t know if they think that is because you’re, you know, thinking about your debt, and as opposed to focus on driving and you’re more likely to get in an accident. I don’t know why. Or maybe it’s just because they can’t. But for whatever reason, if you have a bad credit, you’ll probably pay more and auto insurance than you need to. So getting your credit score rebuilt after your bankruptcy is going to help you in so many ways, including lower interest rates and lower insurance rates, believe it or not.
Jeff Kelly: Wow, so not only is it going to lower your interest rate, but you’re going to get a better insurance on your car as well. Wow.
Don Golden: Most of the time. That’s correct. That is correct.
Jeff Kelly: However, it is the same way with your house house insurance. I’m just curious.
Don Golden: I you know, I don’t think it plays as big a role in homeowners insurance as it does auto insurance.
Jeff Kelly: Yeah,
Don Golden: that I don’t know for certain.
Jeff Kelly: Yeah. What about buying a house, how important is this credit score for buying a house.
Don Golden: So it’s really important for buying a house. You know, as you know, Jeff, FHA, or VA, they’ll guarantee a home mortgage two years after bankruptcy discharge, and there is a certain credit score you need to get in order to qualify for that type of loan. Now, it’s not astronomically high, you don’t need a 720 credit score to qualify for an FHA or VA loan typically. But there again, if you do get that high of a score, it is going to give you a lower interest rates traditionally, and the better your better your credit score, the lower your interest rate, and the less you’re going to be paying for that loan. So saving 1000s and 1000s of dollars that hopefully, if you’re smart, you’ll be investing that in your 401k or you know, some savings, you know, so for your future.
Jeff Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. What do you think the biggest thing is that holds people down and keeps them from getting their credit score up after filing a chapter seven.
Don Golden: I think there’s a couple things really, number one, they don’t know how to do it, they don’t know where to start. Most people don’t even check their credit report, after they file bankruptcy, they just assume everything is going to disappear from their credit report. And it’s just going to magically be fixed. And sometimes that happens, you know, sometimes the credit score is fine, and it just automatically starts going up after the bankruptcy. But a lot of times it doesn’t, because not all of the creditors are going to issue updates to the credit reporting bureaus. So that’s the thing that the consumer needs to look for, they need to make sure that following the discharge of their bankruptcy, the credit, the credit report has been updated by their creditors to show that the debt was discharged in bankruptcy. And most people just don’t do it. They just assume it’s going to happen and they don’t do it. So that’s one of the big reasons why people stay bogged down with bad credit, even after a bankruptcy.
Jeff Kelly: we are gonna start doing that we’re going to check the credit reports 90 days after discharge.
Don Golden: That’s exactly what I tell people is 90 days after discharge.
Jeff Kelly: So for my listeners, can you explain what what can potentially happen to a creditor who screws up and fails to report correctly on their credit report?
Don Golden: Yeah. So if if it’s not updated on the credit report, there’s various steps that you should take. But you know, to get it fixed, I don’t recommend you just go out and sue a creditor if they don’t update your credit report right away. But if you take the steps of doing a dispute and things like that, the thing is if you follow the steps that we teach in the course, and they still don’t correct it, after you’ve taken all taken all the steps that we teach in the course, then you have the right to sue them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, probably because they reporting information that’s not accurate on your credit report, which is a violation of a federal statute, and it’s probably also a violation of the discharge injunction. So you probably have at least two causes of action that you can against the against the debt collector or the creditor that fails to update the credit report.
Jeff Kelly: Wow. What are in? I’m just curious in your area, what what kind of settlements? Do you see for like a low end discharge violation or a Fair Credit Reporting violation?
Don Golden: Well, to be honest with you, we don’t do a whole lot of it. Because, you know, my clients are usually successful in getting their credit reports fixed by doing, you know, the steps that we teach them to take. So, you know, I had one case where it was like, $3500, you know, in settlement money. You know, a lot of that is attorneys fees. There’s a lot of work that goes involved in the filing of the case, you know, 3500, I would say on the low end, and I think we’ve had one that was like, 10,000, on the high end.
Jeff Kelly: Okay. Wow. That’s, that’s good stuff. Good to know. Tell me about so my client gets a discharge, I’m gonna send an email and say, Okay, let’s get you signed up for fresh start for life. What should they expect? Are they going to be reading emails are we going to hear some what’s going to happen?
Don Golden: So what happens is, is they will get in, the way that set out to Jeff is, is your assistant, you probably don’t know this, because you don’t deal with it. But your assistant gets in touch with one of my staff members, my staff member will put their information into our software, and then that’ll generate an automated email to your client, your client will get an email with a login and password information, and a link to the site so they can get started. Now, I’m going to warn you, we just recently updated the course and it moved to a new new platform. And so even your old clients, you may want to tell your old clients about this, Jeff, because the people that you’ve enrolled in the course, their old passwords aren’t going to work right now.
Jeff Kelly: Okay
Don Golden: you might want to send something out to your clients to let them know that they got an email with a new login and password information. In case some of your old clients are trying to access the site. And a lot, I found out just today that a lot of those emails have gone to junk mail, so they may not have seen them. So make sure that they check their junk mail to make sure that they’ve seen any updates that they’ve received from fresh start for life. But anyway, what happens is they get their login, a password, and they log in. And now I haven’t restructured that before, it was just a like eight videos that they would watch and with a little homework assignment after each one. But now we have 19 lessons set up in the system. And after each lesson is a short, short test, you’re not a test, but a little quiz to make sure that they actually, you know, kind of learn the material, he thought I mean, and can apply it and stuff like that. It’s not really it’s not nice, I take that back. It’s not 19 videos, it’s it’s 19 19 assignments, basically, which includes the test. So it’s like five or six question true false test after each after each video lesson, so that we know that they learn the material and they can they can put it to use and they really get benefit from it.
Don Golden: We’ve also included a sample dispute letters, and I have a video that I recorded teaching them exactly how they can go pull all their credit reports for free every single year.
Jeff Kelly: Excellent. Excellent. So that quiz, is it kind of like a game?
Don Golden: That’s not a game? It’s just a true false quiz.
Jeff Kelly: Okay, I gotcha. Just want to make sure they get it. All right. Well, that’s good stuff. You You mentioned like, it’s really your heart’s desire to see people, you know, not only get get rid of the dead and move on to a better future and sane and buy a house and whatnot.
Don Golden: Exactly.
Jeff Kelly: What What would you say to people, you know, do you ever run into people, I’ve run into some good bit. Some people just have a mindset of, I just got to get through the storm, and I’m not worried about anything else. What do you think people need to do to move move from one mindset to another?
Don Golden: I think that, you know, after they file bankruptcy, now they’re through the storm, right? And it’s okay to take a minute to say, Okay, I’m through this storm. But after that, after you’ve taken a moment to reflect and take a take a breath, and feel that relief, because now you’re not going through the storm anymore. Now it’s time to focus on the future. And so this is the exciting thing. And it’s really cool that you called me to talk about this today. Because, you know, as I said, earlier, I came up with this idea of doing a second course, you know, that was gonna be around budget and things like that. And I just got stuck, because my clients weren’t all that interested. And I really didn’t know where to take it. But in the last last week or so I’ve had some inspiration. And I’m working on some concepts right now that I don’t know if we’re going to create it into a course or if it will just be an email sequence. But I think what we’re going to do is we’re going to have all the people that are enrolled in fresh start for life. There’ll be like lifetime members and they will continuously get content from us. That will be on the issues about reading After after you’ve rebuilt your credit what do you do you know. And you remember Mike McCalla Wits the book we read to fix this next with by Mike McCalla, it’s a business book, and he had the mass Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Well, I’ve kind of I’ve taken that. And I’ve applied it to personal finance. So I have like, five levels of personal finance hierarchy of needs. And I’m going to start doing some some content based on the five levels of personal personal finance needs. And I really hope will help people, you know, get to the point of financial freedom, because that’s what I think my mission is my mission is to take people from being broke, broken, bankrupt, to financial freedom, and and that’s what I hope they get out of filing bankruptcy, and going through the fresh start for Life program.
Jeff Kelly: What would you say to somebody who, who just has this attitude of, you know, I’m just, I’m paycheck to paycheck? I’m stuck. I’m never gonna get to like, I mean, financial freedom, that’s just a pipe dream. I mean, sometimes I want to shake people to come on and get a dream with me, what? What would you say to someone like that?
Don Golden: Sorry about that. Um, excuse me.
Jeff Kelly: You’re good.
Don Golden: So, I’m going to tell you, Jeff, that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink, right? So not everybody is going to share our vision for their life, you know what I mean? And if they don’t, that’s okay. You know, maybe they’ll get there someday, maybe they won’t, maybe they’re just be satisfied with the status quo. And, and I can’t, you know, I want to help them, and I will help them as best I can. But if if they’re not willing to change, then there’s really not much we can do to help them. You know, you have to have it in your heart, that you want something more than where you’re at right now. And if you take a step back, and you think I just went through one of the worst experiences of my life of bankruptcy, you know, there’s very few things that are more difficult for people to go through. I mean, it’s not bad. I mean, at the end of the day, they’re very happy because they have a sense of relief. But in their mind, they’ve gone through something traumatic, which is financial hardship, and a bankruptcy. And my hope, and my prayer is, is that people will absolutely not want to suffer through that again, and will look back and say, What did I do wrong? What can I do better? And how can I get to the point where I’m not living paycheck to paycheck, where I actually have an emergency fund, you know, so that I don’t have to rely on using your credit card, if I need to send in new tires, you know, that’s the thing that I’m focusing on from here on out, is teaching people how to how to rebuild your credit, but then how not to need it. You know, that’s my goal for people. That’s because debt, although you need to have access to it. debt is what prevents people from reaching financial freedom. And without debt, it Well, let me let me say it this way, if you have debt, I think you will almost never reach financial freedom, you have to get rid of your debt in order to get there. And if you go into bankruptcy, and you come out of it with a discharge, and you go right back into debt, and you don’t change your mindset, you’re never going to get there. But if you do change your mindset, and your heart says, I want more for myself and my family. I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore. You can do it. It’s there for you. There’s simple steps to take.
Jeff Kelly: Yeah.
Don Golden: And that’s one of the things that we’re going to be providing to my clients and your clients, because they’re, they’re part of our fresh start for life family.
Jeff Kelly: Yeah.
Don Golden: So that they will get the information that I hope they need and want to live a better financial life.
Jeff Kelly: Yeah, you know, I, along this topic, I read something by Jay Henderson, this past week. And you know, along the lines of you know, where are you going? Where are you going to be 10 years from now. And he had written something on Facebook about how when he was younger, he asked his father, you know, where do you think I’m going to be 10 years from now. And his dad looked at him and said, Son, 10 years now you’re going to be wherever you visualize yourself being today, 10 years from now. And I may have like worried that he were way better way said it. But, you know, it really hit me that, Hey, where are you going to be 10 years from now? is where you visualize yourself. If there’s no vision, there’s no goal. There’s no nothing, you know, you aim for nothing. You’re gonna hit nothing.
Don Golden: Yep. And I agree with that. It reminds me of our friend Blaine Alcorn, who has the saying, what you think about you bring about right from thinking grow rich. You know, if you if you think that if you start to think that I am rich, and you start to think about that every single day, and you tell yourself that every single day through self affirmation, you can get there. But you know, you have to you have to believe it. And you have to tell yourself every day and you have to picture it and visualize it. You’re saying, and you absolutely can get there, you just do it step by step day by day. And it’s doable. I don’t care. If you make $15 an hour, you know, you can do it. But you just have to change your mindset about what makes you happy and what you need in life, is it? Is it having a, you know, a car payment all the time? Is that what makes you happy? Or is it having money in your bank account so that you’re secure, and you know that you’re going to be able to keep the lights on in the house, and keep your car on the road? If you have an emergency, you know, things like that. So it’s just little things. And I’m not saying that you can’t live a happy life. And I’m not saying you can’t spend any money. That’s absolutely not what I’m talking about at all. I want people to live a full and healthy happy life, including, you know, recreational activities and stuff like that. But I just want people to think about what your priority is. Is it having this meal at this restaurant tonight? Is that what’s most important to me? Yeah. Or is it more important to me to have this money in my in my savings account for my retirement, you know, or something. So that’s, that’s kind of where it’s at. But it’s finding that happy mix of spending the right amount of amount of money on your joy and your entertainment, but still having enough leftover to invest in your retirement fund, because I meet so many people that say, I just can’t afford to put money into my retirement account, but I look at their budget, and they’re just spending money on things that they really don’t need to be spending money on. Like, like Starbucks and things. Now, I’m not saying you can’t go to Starbucks, either, you know, you there’s a place for that and a budget. But going to Starbucks two or three times a day, you know, it’s just not reasonable. And that money would be better spent, you know, in a retirement account. So anyway, that’s, that’s my theory on things I want. I want to be able to leave something for my children, when I die. That’s the legacy level of the hierarchy of needs, personal finance hierarchy, hierarchy of needs. That’s my goal, his legacy level. But But financial freedom to me is not having to work anymore, when you get to the point where you can sustain your lifestyle, and you don’t have to work anymore. And that’s what I want, I want to be able to get to the point where I have enough money in the bank to live off of it and not have to work anymore at some point. And that’s that, to me, that’s financial freedom.
Jeff Kelly: So that’s a great goal. You’re talking about budgeting there. And I don’t know about you, but the issue that comes up a lot in North Georgia, is Harley Davidson
Don Golden: believe that, yeah,
Jeff Kelly: I am not getting rid of my Harley. I haven’t had one guy look at his wife. Instead, I’ll get rid of her before I get rid of them. There’s no way I’m getting for the Harley. Yes, but what if you could have some financial freedom? You know, what if you could have you know, that emergency fund saved up so that when the car is going to break, and it’s guaranteed the car is going to break?
Don Golden: Absolutely
Jeff Kelly: You’re going to have $2,000 worth of tires or something to do with that car? How are you going to pay for it? And, you know,
Don Golden: think, Jeff, I want people to have their Harley, if they want to have the Harley, but I want them to do it without breaking their back financially with a high payment, you know, paying a lot of interest and things like that. So why don’t we come up with a plan to get that Harley, but let’s save enough money so that we can put like 50% down, you know, or something, so that we are not breaking our bank every single month making that Harley Davidson payment? These are the kinds of things that I want people to think about, instead of getting my Harley with zero down 100%, finance, you know, 15 16% interest, how about I save up enough and I buy a used one, and I put at least half of it down in cash after I’ve saved up? You know, that’s the kind of choices that I’m hoping people will make going forward that will make an infinite difference in their financial future.
Jeff Kelly: And I couldn’t agree with you more amazing, amazing stuff. Well, hey, Don, I appreciate you talking to me today. I’m looking forward to getting this out to all my clients and all the clients as well. And let’s get him signed up. And let’s get him all pointed in a new direction for financial freedom. I love it.
Don Golden: Man, thank Thanks for having me. I love talking about this. I don’t know if you can tell that I’m fired up about it is my passion. And I’m excited. I’m excited for my clients feature and I’m excited for your clients features too.
Jeff Kelly: All right, well, thank you so much Don.
Don Golden: Thanks.
Outro Speaker: You’ve been listening to KellyCanHelp with Jeff Kelly reached out to the law office of Jeffrey B. Kelly today by phone 706-295-0030 in Rome or visit Kellycanhelp.com.